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Class Societies

Class societies categorize their people into different groups or strata. The term class refers to a stratum in a hierarchically ordered social system. Membership in a class is defined by the criterion of economy or property. The greater the accumulation of wealth, the higher the position in the hierarchical rung. An individual’s class position correlates quite closely with his social status and political power. The upper classes thus have the greatest access to property; prestige and power while the lower classes have the least access to the above three. The membership to the social class is achieved and thus theoretically open to all. There are no known societies that have completely open classes. An individual can become a member of higher class by fulfilling certain pre-requisite conditions like earning greater income, holding a particular position in an office, obtaining a degree or paying an admission fee. Class societies have developed certain concomitant features such as class-consciousness, class solidarity and class conflict. Class-consciousness refers to the recognition by a class of its inevitable role in the productive process. This consciousness also involves an awareness of the extent to which the upper classes exploit the lower classes. The unity in consciousness and the unified action of the people in order to achieve their goals is an expression of class solidarity. Class divisions are more predominant only in the advanced agricultural societies and industrial societies. The classes tend to emerge generally in societies that are sufficiently developed technologically to produce a surplus because it is this surplus that makes possible the accumulation of private wealth leading to the formation of wealthy classes and the precipitation of poor classes.