chapter  27
10 Pages

: Class Identity and Postcolonialism

ByGavin Lucas

The concept of class is a highly complex and contested notion used in various ways by different authors (e.g., Wright 2004; Wurst and Fitts 1999). However, there are perhaps two critical dimensions to consider. The first is the distinction between class as a question of ideology (i.e., class consciousness) and class as an economic division within society (i.e., inequalities in material standards of living). The second is the distinction between a gradational characterization of class versus a relational one-that is, between class as an empirical, economic division based on a simple hierarchy or ranking (usually after income), on the one hand, and as a relational term between a person or group and the social organization of material resources, on the other (Wright 2004). Of the latter, the two most influential and important approaches are those of Weber and Marx. For Weber, this relationship is defined in terms of the

opportunities (or life chances) that inherited resources give to a person or group. It is very much a relational concept of class focused on consumption. For Marx, class identity is based primarily on the relationship to the means of production. The latter essentially divides classes into two antagonistic types: those who own the means of production (bourgeoisie/capitalists) and those who do not (labor/proletariat).