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New 7 social classes

Posted April. 06, 2013 07:39,   


“You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to win. Proletarians of all countries, unite!” When authoring the book “Communist Manifesto” in 1948, Karl Max and Friedrich Engels divided social class into two: bourgeois who have means of production; proletariat who only have labor to sell. If the two thinkers are revived today and see modern society, what will they say? Can they call laborers who own stocks bourgeois? Can they call entertainers who earn annual income of millions of dollars proletariat?

Since the class struggle of the Communists was declared dead, the traditional categories of working, middle and upper class have been considered norm. In the wake of economic crises, social diversification and emerging technologies, however, new social classes, which cannot be included in middle class of traditional categories, have emerged. BBC presented a model of seven social classes in the modern U.K. society based on in-depth interviews, drawing keen attention.

The new seven classes are elite, established middle, technical middle class, new affluent workers, traditional working class, emergent service workers, and precariat or precarious proletariat. The most important characteristic of this model is that it has measured cultural capital on top of economic capital, such as income and wealth, and social capital including occupation. Depending on whether they play computer games or sports; whether they listen to classical music or jazz, they are classified into different classes. Regardless of the wealth, people with a cheap hobby belong to a lower class.

Different criteria of the middle class in Korea and France were circulating on the Internet last year. The criterion for middle class in Korea was related with money; whether one owns an apartment unit, which is larger than 100 sq. meters, without loaning, earns 5 million won (4,500 U.S. dollars) or more a month, has a car over 2000cc, takes an overseas trip once a year, and holds 100 million won (90,000 dollars) in cash, while those in France were related with culture; whether one can speak at least one foreign language, play at least one musical instrument, has special recipes different from others, and fight unjust to help the underprivileged. According to the model presented by BBC, people will see their status elevates when they change values of materialism and gain elegant preferences. If you want to know what social class you fall into, please go to the BBC website (www.bbc.co.uk) and fill out questionnaires. But you’d better take it lightly, and just enjoy it.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)