Tuesday, April 23, 2019

It's better to separate social class and economic class than blur them as "socioeconomic" class

I don't find "socioeconomic" useful. Economic class and social class are distinct if you are willing to look closely—a member of the social elite can be unlucky enough to become working class, and someone who the elite consider "trash" can be lucky enough to join the rich. A sneer is a powerful weapon in a conflict about social class, but when the war is about economic class, only capital matters.

Some people insist social and economic class are too often aligned to separate, but that's obviously not true when your wealth grows or plummets: You keep your social class and lose your economic class. Social class is an identity like race or gender—it stays with you. Economic class is a relationship to capital—it can change in an instant.

Many who change their economic class try to pass as a member of the social class that’s associated with their new economic class. That the first generation in a different social class usually fails shows how hard that is. But with a change of economic class, they immediately gain or lose the things that come with that class, from health care to education to housing, clothing, and food.


  1. I use the distinction Max Weber made between class (economic) and status (cultural). It's a pity it never took off as it makes sense.

    1. Nice. I'll use that from now on, I suspect. Thanks!