In sociology, the ruling class of a society is the social class who set and decide the political and economic agenda of society.

In Marxist philosophy, the ruling class are the class who own the means of production in a given society and apply their cultural hegemony to determine and establish the dominant ideology (ideas, culture, mores, norms, traditions) of the society. They are also called the bourgeoisie.

In the 21st century, the worldwide political economy established by globalization has created a transnational capitalist class who are not native to any one country.[1]

Background edit

In previous modes of production, such as feudalism (inheritable property and rights), the feudal lords of the manor were the ruling class; in an economy based upon chattel slavery, the slave owners were the ruling class. The political economy of the feudal system gave socio-economic and legal power to the feudal lord over the life, labour, and property of the vassal, including military service. The political economy of a slave state gave the slaver socio-economic and legal power over the person, labour, and property of a slave.[2]

In Marxist philosophy, the capitalist society has two social classes: (i) the ruling-class bourgeoisie (capitalist class) who own the means of production as private property; and (ii) the working-class proletariat whom the bourgeoisie subject to the exploitation of labour,[3] which form of political economy is justified by the dominant ideology of the ruling class.[4] To replace the capitalist mode of production in a society, Marxism seeks to void the political legitimacy of the ruling class to hold power of government. Afterwards, the proletariat (the urban working class and the peasantry) assume political and socio-economic power as the ruling class of society.[4]

In the political economies of the former Marxist-Leninist states, the nomenklatura are the ruling class who control the means of production, allocate resources, etc for the society, per the directions of the party. As the administrators of the bureaucracy required to realise the socio-economic functions of the state.[5][page needed] In that vein, the sociologist C. Wright Mills identified and distinguished between the ruling class and the power élite who make the decisions for society.[6]

Likewise, to establish a society without social classes, Anarchism seeks to abolish the ruling class.[7][8] Unlike the Marxist perspective, anarchists, such as Mikhail Bakunin, seek to abolish the state, because, despite revolutionary change, the (capitalist) ruling class would be replaced by another ruling class (party leaders), which is a political cycle that voids the social-change purpose of a revolution.[9]

Concerning the existence of a functional ruling class in 21st-century societies, Mattei Dogan said that the political and socio-economic élites do not form a cohesive ruling class within their societies because of the social stratification and the narrow specialisation of labour consequent to the globalization of the world economy.[citation needed] In contrast, for the 20th century, he identifies the combination of military defeat, political implosion and the presence of a charismatic leader as the drivers for the downfall of ruling classes in the Russian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and later for the creation of Vichy France.[10]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Transnational Capitalist Class Archived 2010-08-16 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Slave Ownership". Archived from the original on 2007-12-03.
  3. ^ "Sociology: Marxism" (PDF). Oxford Cambridge and RSA. 2015. p. 11.
  4. ^ a b Abercrombie, Nicholas; Turner, Bryan S. (1978). "The Dominant Ideology Thesis". The British Journal of Sociology. 29 (2): 149–170. doi:10.2307/589886. JSTOR 589886.
  5. ^ Wasserstein, Bernard (12 February 2009). Barbarism and Civilization: A History of Europe in our Time. OUP Oxford. ISBN 978-0-19-162251-9.
  6. ^ Codevilla, Angelo. "America's Ruling Class — And the Perils of Revolution". The American Spectator. 2 (July 2010): 19. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  7. ^ Deirdre Hogan (2007). "Feminism, Class and Anarchism". The Anarchist Library.
  8. ^ Benjamin Franks. "British Anarchisms and the Miners' Strike": 229. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.604.4418. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. ^ Patrick Cannon (2019). "Marx's Leviathan". Philosophy Now (131).
  10. ^ Dogan, Mattei; Higley, John (2012). "Elites, Crises, and Regimes in Comparative Analysis [1998]". Historical Social Research / Historische Sozialforschung. 37 (1 (139)): 278. JSTOR 41756461.

Further reading edit

  • Domhoff, G. William (April 2005). "The Class-Domination Theory of Power". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Dogan, Mattei (ed.), Elite Configuration at the Apex of Power, Brill, Leiden, 2003.
  • Osnos, Evan, "Ruling-Class Rules: How to thrive in the power elite – while declaring it your enemy", The New Yorker, 29 January 2024, pp. 18–23. "In the nineteen-twenties... American elites, some of whom feared a Bolshevik revolution, consented to reform... Under Franklin D. Roosevelt... the U.S. raised taxes, took steps to protect unions, and established a minimum wage. The costs, [Peter] Turchin writes, 'were borne by the American ruling class.'... Between the nineteen-thirties and the nineteen-seventies, a period that scholars call the Great Compression, economic equality narrowed, except among Black Americans... But by the nineteen-eighties the Great Compression was over. As the rich grew richer than ever, they sought to turn their money into political power; spending on politics soared." (p. 22.) "[N]o democracy can function well if people are unwilling to lose power – if a generation of leaders... becomes so entrenched that it ages into gerontocracy; if one of two major parties denies the arithmetic of elections; if a cohort of the ruling class loses status that it once enjoyed and sets out to salvage it." (p. 23.)