Working class (or lower class, labouring class, sometimes proletariat) is a term used in the social sciences and in ordinary conversation to describe those employed in lower tier jobs (as measured by skill, education and lower incomes), often extending to those in unemployment or otherwise possessing below-average incomes. Working classes are mainly found in industrialized economies and in urban areas of non-industrialized economies.
As with many terms describing social class, working class is defined and used in many different ways. When used non-academically, it typically refers to a section of society dependent on physical labor, especially when compensated with an hourly wage. Its use in academic discourse is contentious, especially following the decline of manual labor in postindustrial societies. It is often used synonymously for proletariat, particularly amongst Marxist authors. Some academics question the usefulness of the concept of a working class.
The term is usually contrasted with the upper class and middle class, in general terms of access to economic resources, education, cultural interests, and other goods and services. The cut-off between working class and middle class is more specifically where a population spends money primarily as a lifestyle rather than for sustenance (for example, on fashion versus merely nutrition and shelter). Problematically, relying on this method of distinction would rule out many of the people who are often identified as working class.
Its usage can alternately be derogatory, or can express a sense of pride in those who self-identify as working class.
Famous quotes containing the words working and/or class:
“What exacerbates the strain in the working class is the absence of money to pay for services they need, economic insecurity, poor daycare, and lack of dignity and boredom in each partners job. What exacerbates it in upper-middle class is the instability of paid help and the enormous demands of the career system in which both partners become willing believers. But the tug between traditional and egalitarian models of marriage runs from top to bottom of the class ladder.”
—Arlie Hochschild (20th century)
“Each class of society has its own requirements; but it may be said that every class teaches the one immediately below it; and if the highest class be ignorant, uneducated, loving display, luxuriousness, and idle, the same spirit will prevail in humbler life.”
—First published in Girls Home Companion (1895)