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The Fallacy of the Middle Class: Overcoming Social Resentment (IV). Towards a multidimensional definition of social class.

Toward a new integral definition of social class. Why do we want to stick to history and archaeologists´ line of thought to explain the social classes? Why do you think we have shown you a different approach to understand the concept of social stratification? Why do you think anthropologists and historians can provide such valuable keys in our quest to define the concept of social classes, beyond what is being taught nowadays in our economic or social courses that have been slanted by the theories of the 200 last years of contemporary sociologists?

On my last post, we left the last paragraph unanswered.

“Middle Class begins”. An aquarelle by Eleonora Escalante. Size: 7 inches x 5 inches. Handmade with love on Fabriano 5 Paper. Reference picture utilized to paint this bunny:

We will begin by providing some hints of replies that could be the trigger for you to answer by your own, and these are not based in numbers or data. Eleonora Escalante Strategy wanted to stick to history information (not in salaries per year ranges or GDP per capita) because this saga is out of bias. It also has a global approach. We want to show you that the term Middle-Class is the term that we choose instead of Middle-Income Class, because, we won´t use the variable income to define it.

Middle-Income Class is a term that has been coined and used by experts and the most representative cooperation entities in the world. If we define a social class merely based on “income” or sources of revenues for an individual and family, that is not a complete definition of a social class.

A social class has to be defined in a multidimensional context, because our societies are complex. The capacity of innovation that has characterized the major turning points in the industry since the 1500s has been quite remarkable. When people started to read books (after Gutenberg´s printing press discovery), the expansion of knowledge and study of books began. Books were not only sources of information and knowledge, but also sources of innovation, more and more, and more and more. This new way of living originated new ways of doing things, not just multiple new industries, but then during the last century, the new disruptive technologies or NAIQIs are the consequence of centuries of knowledge accumulation. When societies began to explore new ways of doing things, the sophistication and expansion of multiple skillfulness and roles triggered multiple variables in our life-style, status and social classification. These variables are not merely defined by the wage or the salary annual range. We are talking about a multidimensional concept. By studying our history, we can clearly understand that before the 1800s, the members of any society in the Old World were basically classified in three main groups: (1) Those resources owners who exercised power and authority as kings and queens or emperors; (2) Those who accompanied the exercise of power and authority based on religion, as priests and spiritual leaders; and (3) The followers, the flock, the working class, the slaves, who served their leaders. Before the French Revolution, the concept of democracy was non-existent, and so the concept of Middle-Class was not apparently subsisting either.

As usual, human beings tend to define things in monetary-economic terms. By the amount of material possessions, assets, money. In one word by wealth.  So it is clear to me, that the concept of social classes and its categories (regardless of the studious sociologist that you wish to recall) was done in terms of economic terms. That is why we have ended in the year 2020, with a general classification utilized even by the World Bank. In general, currently we have landed in three main groups: High-Income Class, Middle-Income Class and Low-Income Class. it is a popular simplistic dogma to consider that each country has at least 3 big social layers of classes (each of them with three subcategories each).

  1. Upper Class – Elite: This social layer owns the majority of industries (economic sectors) and world-wide assets. These families are usually listed in the magazines Fortune and Forbes as the wealthiest families of the world. Many of these families have accumulated wealth through history industries (by inheritance), meanwhile the newly rich are those who began their fortunes after the WWI and the WWII, by creating new enterprises and industries (such as automobile, the aeronautical or aviation, communication and information technologies as Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and the restaurant global chains as Starbucks, Mc Donalds, etc). The upper class usually are the ones that decide, control power in democracies or any other type of political system, and exercise the authority.
  2. Middle-Class: Here the popular concept includes those who have scientific, technical and any type of intellectual knowledge that allows them to work for the Upper-Class indistinctly of the public, private or NGO´s organization to which they belong. The common source to grow up as a middle class is education. And you can find in this group, all who have a professional career (doctors, engineers, lawyers, financial experts, artists, bankers, architects, engineers, etc) who have accumulated from high to some social kind of prestige, managers, successful entrepreneurs, directors of companies (local, regional and multinational), professors of top universities, administrators, and any role that provides skilled support to professionals hired by the Upper-Class.
  3. Low-Class: In this group the popular wisdom positions the society members that belong to the working class, with minimum levels of education (many times without high-school degree). These workers can be janitors, gardeners, laborers in factories, servers in restaurants, nursing staff, delivery services personnel, clerks, repair and maintenance workers, domestic employees, etc.  This layer includes the extreme poor -at the bottom line- with full-time salaries below extreme poverty line (US$1.90/day)

Now that we have read what is the popular simplistic classification of social classes, let´s proceed to our strategic approach definition. For us, a social class has to be defined integrally, according to 8 dimensions (from an inside-out perspective):

  1. Internal Well being: This is the state of being physically and mentally overall condition of our organisms. Our inner well being is often expressed in two levels:
    1. Physical well-being: It requires three variables to be fulfilled: the variable of proper and good quality nutrition, the variable of practicing a physical activity that make our bodies healthful, and the variable of sleeping right.
    2. Mental well-being: This requires that a person doesn´t have any type of mental illness or mental disorder associated to its social class. Here, we include any disorders of thought, mood, somatization, substance-related, dissociate, psychotic, sexual-gender deviations, personality, and personal behavior.
  2. Education: The years of schooling K-12 (kindergarten, primary and secondary), superior Education (as a University Bachelor Degree and a Ph.D.) or Technical-vocational education. In addition it is required to classify by the quality of the institutions where the members of a social class get their training, professors quality, etc. Here we also consider the prestige that is won by the accumulated experience that comes under the practice. The enlightenment resulting from such years of training , so the development and refinement formed is observed in behavior, attitudes, character actions and daily practices.
  3. Access to Medical Care or Health systems to cure any type of sicknesses: This dimension expresses the degree of availability to hospitals and good quality medical treatments, either at the private or public health care, when is required by the population.
  4. Living Standards: In this dimension we have to explore certain variables as much as it have been considered when defining the multidimensional poverty. The Oxford Framework of Multidimensional Poverty Index (OPHI) and the ACS-US Census Bureau Methodology have offered some basic living standards for the measurement of poverty (low-class), which I will re-call for the purpose of defining a social class.
Living Standards VariablesIndicator
Appropriate Primary Housing Unit AreaSpace (square meters)/household member
Ownership of the Primary HousingCompletely acquired or not paid yet (Mortgage Bank) or Rented
Primary Housing QualityIs the house whole and complete? Proper ceilings of good quality? Excellent quality of toilet-tub-shower? Does it have electricity 24/7, pipe plumbing drinking water system at 24/7, a yard or garden (or in the case of apartment, a balcony), a proper parking spot, etc
Accolade of Home appliancesIs the house with a complete set of home kitchen appliances such as dishwasher, washing machine, clothes dryer, kitchen-oven, refrigerator, vacuum cleaner, heater and air-conditioner, consumer electronics for entertainment, communications and recreation, computer, laptop, and small kitchen appliances as blender, electric mixer, coffee grinder, toaster, etc.
Neighborhood and locationDegree of good attributes of the locality and vicinity (air quality, security, cleanness, municipal waste collection, park, type of neighbors, etc.)
Mobility caliber of public transportation systemsThe level of easiness to take a bus, metro near the primary housing unit.
Economic SecurityThe employment or business owner security of the household (as employees or business owners of their own enterprise), access to pension funds plans, social security income, asset and income insurances.
Grade of IndebtednessThe ratio or the proportion of the income that goes to pay debt (short and long term debt)
Environmental Life-StyleClean energy, degree of recycling, vegetables home gardening, rural vs urban or suburban
Internet CoverageHousehold with a fixed and mobile internet access
  1. Social mobility: This dimension incorporates the vicissitudes and difficulties that arise when one lower class tries to rise up in the ladder of the social classes.
  2. Human Rights: What level of hidden slavery exist? What type of liberty does the members of the social class have to choose their occupations, regardless their parents embankment. Is it possible to change jobs or cities or countries with freedom?. Here in this dimension, we also include the liberty of expression, the degree of repression or persecution when people decide to reclaim for their rights in pacific manners, the love of life and respect.
  3. Capacity or Promise to grow new types of wealth (economic or not economic): This is the most critical dimension when we are defining social classes in a specific society. If a person (household) is able to grow its assets, how long it takes to own something else beyond the primary housing unit? For example a vacations property or a resort weekend house (in the beach or forest). Non economic wealth can come from a Life-Style and cultivation: This explores the capacity of a social class member to spend time in growing their horizons by leisure, traveling, social experiences outside their own territory, cultural cultivation, degree of politeness, or the capacity to cultivate intellectual wealth through art and be recognized by the society.
  4. Status of Happiness: This is the dimension of contentment. Any social class can be happy with their own social status. This dimension is measured in the enjoying, satisfaction and joy of the accomplishments of the social class in their own category.

What is social class? Now that we have defined the latter 8 dimensions and its respective variables, we will try to define this concept, in our own terms.

For Eleonora Escalante Strategy, a social class is an aggregated concept. A set or a base of a configuration system that tries to group members of a society which have certain traits in common, in relation to the last 8 categories described. This configuration system tries to set and delimit several social layers, in which for each stratum, their members share certain equivalent characteristics.

The reason why I will not use the economic numbers to define social classes is simple but complex. Once societies started an erudition sophistication through education, we can find people with a low economic security but elevated elegance of knowledge, manners and education. Or the other way around, we can find people with high-end wealthy and inherited means of living standards (money, land, assets, investments, physical beauty, economic opportunities) with low intellectual capacities and fragile decision making, to a point that when it is their turn to exercise power and authority, they mislead societies into inequalities and social disasters. So what to do with such discrepancies?

Now that we have defined the term social class, this saga will glow and will be overjoyed of discoveries. As explorers of knowledge, the next 12 coming episodes will be used to define the Middle Class concept in our own integral terms. By December 8th, you will know what is the Middle Class, as the summary of all what we will write. Have a beautiful weekend. See you next Tuesday.

Disclaimer: Illustrations in Watercolor are painted by Eleonora Escalante. Other types of illustrations or videos (which are not mine) are used for educational purposes ONLY.  Nevertheless, the majority of the pictures, images, or videos shown on this blog are not mine.  I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.

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