Perception of class is relative, i.e, the distinctions are not clear-cut. People within a particular class—the rich, e.g.—
will themselves consider some people within their class and others not within it, while people outside the rich may
consider a different set as belonging.
Class designation does not always refer to economic
factors like brand of car.
People may be considered high or low class in terms of taste, for example (preferring opera is considered high class
in Western society, while preferring country music is considered low class).
differentiation depends upon a variety of interacting factors (economics, social status,
aesthetic preferences, behavior, occupation, appearance, civic involvement)
Caste systems, being endogamous, are much more clear-cut. India is the most famous example.
Caste is a special form of social class in which membership is determined by birth
and remains fixed for
Literally thousands of castes exist in India, based on birth and on occupation, these thousands are divided up into
four major groups – Brahmins, warriors, artisans and laborers.
In India, the untouchables
, or outcasts, own nothing - neither land nor tools.
They provide all of the unskilled and menial labor. The Indian caste system is considered by some to be unique.
Some think the Indian caste model applies to other systems, such as apartheid in South Africa (where
blacks served as the landless untouchables
who served as the mobile available work force).
This has now been abolished. A similar mobile, landless work force developed in China about 2200 years ago, about
the same time as the caste system in India.
"The basis of social class
structure is role differentiation". It also requires formalized, institutionalized
methods for assessing whether particular roles are valued or not valued, desirable or undesirable.
In such a society there is restricted access to the roles that are most highly valued. In societies that are the most