Working class - definition

Updated: 21 May 2008, 23:59

The working class is people dependent upon a wage or salary. This includes: Class is not determined by one’s income. Some workers, whose skills are in high demand, have salaries exceeding $100,000. The key is that they must work for a living. They do not own enough capital (such as stocks or bonds, or direct ownership of a business) to be able to live comfortably on the income generated by that capital. They must work for a living.

Class is determined by one’s relation to the means of production. If one owns a factory, one is a capitalist. Those who work in the factory are workers — members of the working class.

Some examples of working class occupations often thought not to be working class: There are shades of gray, but it is not really very important whether one can immediately decide if someone is a worker or a capitalist. The important factor is that for the most part (whether a person agrees that they are a worker or not) workers have different economic interests than capitalists. Considering the entire population, the “gray area” is not a very significant issue in terms of class interest.

Consider the following “gray area” example.

A self-employed plumber employing two other plumbers, probably does not receive enough income, by employing the other two plumbers, to live entirely off that income. The self-employed plumber must still work for a living. So, although the plumber does have a source of “capitalist” income, it is insufficient and the earnings from his own work are necessary.

That plumber has much more in common with the two clearly working class plumbers, than with the clearly capitalist owner of a company with after-tax profits of $250,000, a retail store, employing 50 plumbers, 5 store clerks, and a manager to run the business. That owner need not work.
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