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Social Class System – explain it like I’m 5

social class system explained in simple terms

Social class is a term used to describe the different groups of people in society based on things like wealth, income, education, and occupation. 

It’s important to understand social class because it affects our lives in many ways, including our opportunities, social status, and the types of experiences we have.

Why should I care about social class?

Because it matters. Think of social class like a big group of people standing in line. 

Some people are at the front of the line, while others are at the back. 

The people at the front of the line are the richest and most powerful, while the people at the back of the line are the poorest and least powerful.

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Social class is determined by a combination of things, including:

  • Wealth: This refers to how much money and assets a person has. The more money and assets someone has, the higher their social class.

  • Income: This refers to how much money someone earns each year. People with higher incomes are usually in higher social classes.

  • Education: This refers to how much schooling and training someone has. People with more education are often in higher social classes.

  • Occupation: This refers to the type of job someone has. Jobs that require more education and training, and pay more, are often held by people in higher social classes.

Different Social Classes

There are many different ways to divide society into social classes, but one common way is to use the following categories:

  • Upper Class: These are the richest and most powerful people in society. They have a lot of money, often inherited from their families, and usually hold high-level positions in government, business, or finance.
  • Middle Class: These are people who have a comfortable lifestyle, but are not as wealthy or powerful as those in the upper class. They usually have jobs that require some education and pay a decent salary.
  • Working Class: These are people who have jobs that require little education and pay lower salaries. They often work in manual labour, service jobs, or other jobs that don’t require a lot of specialised training.
  • Lower Class: These are people who are very poor and often live in poverty. They may not have regular employment or access to basic necessities like food, housing, or healthcare.
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Why Does Class Matter?

Social class matters because it can determine a lot of things in our lives, including:

  • Opportunities: People in higher social classes often have more opportunities for things like education, travel, and career advancement.

  • Social Status: People in higher social classes are often seen as more important or respected in society, while those in lower social classes may be stigmatised or marginalised.

  • Life Experiences: People in different social classes may have very different experiences of the world, depending on factors like where they live, who they interact with, and what they can afford.
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Social class is a complex concept, but it’s important for us to understand because it affects so many aspects of our lives. By understanding social class, we can better understand the inequalities and injustices that exist in society, and work to create a more equitable and just world for all.

Why is social class even a thing?

Because the upper class, which includes the wealthiest and most powerful individuals in society, has a significant influence on maintaining the current system for their own benefit. They do this through various means, such as economic and political influence, cultural dominance, and social control.

Economic Influence

The upper class wields significant economic power, which they use to maintain the status quo. They control a significant amount of the world’s wealth, which they use to influence economic policies and regulations that favour their interests. For example, they often advocate for lower taxes on the rich and corporations, and oppose policies that would increase taxes or regulations that could negatively impact their profits.

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Additionally, the upper class often controls key industries and businesses, which gives them a considerable influence over the economy. They can use their power to shape markets, create monopolies, and influence prices, which can result in significant economic advantages for themselves.

Political Influence

The upper class also uses their significant political power to influence policies and regulations that benefit them. They often have close ties to politicians and government officials, which allows them to exert significant influence over policies that impact their interests. For example, they may lobby for policies that protect their wealth and assets, such as lower tax rates and fewer regulations.

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Moreover, the upper class can also use their political influence to prevent changes to the current system that could benefit the rest of society. They may oppose policies that would create greater economic or social equality, such as progressive taxation, affordable healthcare, or higher minimum wages.

Cultural Dominance

The upper class also exerts a significant influence on cultural norms and values, which can reinforce their position of power. They often control the media, entertainment, and other cultural institutions, which allows them to shape public opinion and promote their own interests.

For example, they may use media outlets to promote the idea that the wealthy are the most deserving and hardworking members of society, while portraying the poor as lazy or undeserving. This can create a cultural narrative that reinforces their economic and political power, and discourages efforts to change the status quo.

Social Control

Finally, the upper class can use social control to maintain their position of power. They often have significant influence over social institutions, such as education, religion, and the justice system, which can impact the behaviour and beliefs of the rest of society.

For example, they may use education systems to promote a particular worldview that supports their interests, or influence the justice system to protect their wealth and assets. This can create a society where the upper class is seen as the natural rulers, and any efforts to challenge their position are seen as disruptive or even dangerous.

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So here we are. The upper class has a significant influence on maintaining the current system for their own benefit. 

They use their economic and political power, cultural dominance, and social control to ensure that the current economic and political structures remain in place, and that their interests are protected. 

This can create significant inequalities and injustices in society, which can have a negative impact on the lives of millions of people.


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