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In sociology, the ruling class of a society is the
social class A social class is a set of concepts in the social sciences Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those soc ...
who set and decide the political agenda of
society A society is a group A group is a number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, label. The original examples are the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and so forth. Numbers can be ...

society
. In Marxist philosophy, the ruling class are the capitalist social class who own the
means of production The means of production is a concept that encompasses the social use and ownership Ownership is the state or fact of exclusive right In Anglo-Saxon law Anglo-Saxon law (Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest record ...
and by extension determine and establish the
dominant ideology In Marxist philosophy Marxist philosophy or Marxist theory are works in philosophy that are strongly influenced by Karl Marx's Historical materialism, materialist approach to theory, or works written by Marxists. Marxist philosophy may be broadly ...
(culture, mores, norms, traditions) of society by way of
cultural hegemony In Marxist philosophy, cultural hegemony is the Dominance hierarchy, dominance of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class who manipulate the culture of that society—the beliefs and explanations, perceptions, Value system, values, and mor ...
. In the 21st century, the worldwide political economy established by
globalization Globalization, or globalisation (Commonwealth English The use of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which ha ...

globalization
has created a
transnational capitalist class The transnational capitalist class (TCC), also known as the transnational capitalist network (TCN), in neo-Gramscian and Marxian-influenced analyses of international political economy International political economy (IPE), also known as global p ...
that is not native to any one country.


Background

In previous
modes of production In the Marxist theory of historical materialism Historical materialism is a Historical method, methodology to understand human societies and their development throughout history, arguing that historical changes in social structure are ultim ...
, such as
feudalism Feudalism, also known as the feudal system, was the combination of the legal, economic, military, and cultural customs that flourished in Medieval Europe In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the disc ...
(inheritable property and rights), the feudal lords of the manor were the ruling class; in an economy based upon
chattel slavery Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave, who is someone forbidden to quit their service for an enslaver, and who is treated by the enslaver as their property Property is a system of rights that gives ...
, the slavers were the ruling class. The political economy of the
feudal system Feudalism, also known as the feudal system, was the combination of the legal, economic, military, and cultural customs that flourished in Medieval Europe In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the disco ...
gave socio-economic and legal power to the feudal lord over the life, labour, and property of the
vassal A vassal or liege subject is a person regarded as having a mutual obligation to a lord Lord is an appellation for a person or deity who has authority, control, or power (social and political), power over others, acting as a master, a chief ...
, 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. In
Marxist philosophy Marxist philosophy or Marxist theory are works in philosophy that are strongly influenced by Karl Marx's Historical materialism, materialist approach to theory, or works written by Marxists. Marxist philosophy may be broadly divided into Western Ma ...
, the
capitalist Capitalism is an economic system An economic system, or economic order, is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, ...

capitalist
society has two social classes: (i) the ruling-class
bourgeoisie Bourgeoisie (; ) is a polysemous Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple meanings, usually related by contiguity of meaning within a semantic fieldIn linguisti ...

bourgeoisie
(capitalist class) who own the means of production as
private property Private property is a legal designation for the ownership of property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themselves. Depending on the nature of the prope ...
; and (ii) the working-class
proletariat The proletariat (; ) is the social class of wage labor, wage-earners, those members of a society whose only possession of significant economic value is their labour power (their capacity to work). A member of such a class is a proletarian. Marx ...

proletariat
whom the bourgeoisie subject to the
exploitation of labour Exploitation of labour is a concept defined as, in its broadest sense, one agent taking unfair advantage of another agent. It denotes an unjust based on an asymmetry of power between workers and their employers. When speaking about exploitation, t ...
, which form of
political economy Political economy is the study of production Production may be: Economics and business * Production (economics) * Production, the act of manufacturing goods * Production, in the outline of industrial organization, the act of making products (g ...
is justified by the
dominant ideology In Marxist philosophy Marxist philosophy or Marxist theory are works in philosophy that are strongly influenced by Karl Marx's Historical materialism, materialist approach to theory, or works written by Marxists. Marxist philosophy may be broadly ...
of the ruling class.To replace the capitalist mode of production in a society, Marxism seeks to void the
political legitimacy In political science Political science is the scientific study of politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, suc ...
of the ruling class to hold power of government. Afterwards, the proletariat (the urban working class and the
peasantry A peasant is a pre-industrial Pre-industrial society refers to social attributes and forms of political and cultural organization that were prevalent before the advent of the Industrial Revolution The Industrial Revolution was the tra ...
) assume political and socio-economic power as the ruling class of society. In the political economy of a Communist society, the
nomenklatura The ''nomenklatura'' ( rus, номенклату́ра, p=nəmʲɪnklɐˈturə; la, nomenclatura) were a category of people within the Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a Federal ...
are the ruling class who control the means of production of the society, per the directions of the Communist party. As the administrators of the
bureaucracy The term bureaucracy () may refer both to a body of non-elected governing officials (bureaucrats A bureaucrat is a member of a bureaucracy and can compose the administration of any organization of any size, although the term usually connotes ...

bureaucracy
required to realise the socio-economic functions of the state. In that vein, the sociologist
C. Wright Mills Charles Wright Mills (28 August 1916 – 20 March 1962) was an American sociologist, and a professor of sociology at Columbia University Columbia University (also known as Columbia, and officially as Columbia University in the City of New Y ...

C. Wright Mills
identified and distinguished between the ruling class and the power élite who make the decisions for society. Likewise, to establish a society without social classes,
Anarchism Anarchism is a political philosophy Political philosophy or political theory is the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge ...

Anarchism
seeks to abolish the ruling class. Unlike the Marxist perspective, anarchists, such as
Mikhail Bakunin Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin (; – 1 July 1876) was a Russian revolutionary A revolutionary is a person who either participates in, or advocates a revolution. Also, when used as an adjective, the term ''revolutionary'' refers to somethi ...

Mikhail Bakunin
, seek to abolish the
state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, Un ...
, because, despite revolutionary change, the (captalist) ruling class would be replaced by another ruling class (the proletariat), which is a political cycle that voids the social-change purpose of a
revolution In political science Political science is the scientific study of politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, suc ...

revolution
. Concerning the existence of a functional ruling class in 21st-century societies,
Mattei Dogan Mattei Dogan (16 October 1920 – 10 October 2010) was a Romanian-born French political sociology, political sociologist and senior research officer emeritus of the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and professor emeritus of pol ...
said that the political and socio-economic do not form a cohesive ruling class within their societies because of the
social stratification Social stratification refers to a society's categorization Categorization is the human ability and activity of recognizing shared features or similarities between the elements of the experience Experience refers to conscious , an English ...
and the narrow specialisation of labour consequent to the globalization of the world economy. That, in the 20th century, the decentralised political economy of the world had allowed the existence of ruling classes in the
Russian Empire The Russian Empire, . commonly referred to as Imperial Russia, was a historical empire that extended across Eurasia and North America from 1721, succeeding the Tsardom of Russia following the Treaty of Nystad that ended the Great Northern War. ...
and in the
Ottoman Empire The Ottoman Empire (; ', ; or '; )info page on bookat Martin Luther University) // CITED: p. 36 (PDF p. 38/338). was an empire that controlled much of Southeastern Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa, Northern Africa between the 14th ...
s.


In the media

There are several examples of ruling class systems in films, novels, television shows, and video games. The 2005 American independent film ''
The American Ruling Class ''The American Ruling Class'' is a 2005 dramatic documentary film written by Lewis H. Lapham and directed by John Kirby that "explores our country’s most taboo topic: class, power and privilege in our nominally democratic republic." It seeks to ...
'' written by former ''
Harper's Magazine ''Harper's Magazine'' is a monthly magazine of literature, politics, culture, finance, and the arts. Launched in New York City New York City (NYC), often simply called New York, is the List of United States cities by population, most populo ...
'' editor Lewis Lapham and directed by John Kirby is a semi-documentary that examines how the American economy is structured and for whom. The 2017 Philippine political crime-suspense epic ''
Wildflower A wildflower (or wild flower) is a flower A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom Image:Cerisier du Japon Prunus serrulata.jpg, Cherry blossoms in Paris in full bloom. In botany, blossoms are the flowers of stone fruit fruit tree, ...
'' is about a rich influential and corrupt political family, the Ardientes, ruling over a town where a wave of murders and crimes which they have committed washed over. Society, in the novel ''
Brave New World ''Brave New World'' is a dystopian File:Die Dekonstruktinsmaschine.jpg, 275px, Landscape painting with dystopian atmosphereThe deconstruction machine, 2005Acrylic on canvas, 50 × 300 cmLocation: :de:Aargauer Kunsthaus, Museum of Art ...

Brave New World
'', by
Aldous Huxley Aldous Leonard Huxley (26 July 1894 – 22 November 1963) was an English writer and philosopher. He wrote nearly 50 books—both novels and non-fiction works—as well as wide-ranging essays, narratives, and poems. Born into the prominent Huxl ...

Aldous Huxley
, is
eusocial Eusociality (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 mil ...
with a genetically engineered
caste system Caste is a form of social stratification characterized by endogamy, hereditary transmission of a style of life which often includes an occupation, ritual status in a hierarchy, and customary social interaction and exclusion based on cultural no ...
. The is the ruling class having been bred as scientists and administrators and control the World State in the novel. This situation can also be found in the
George Orwell Eric Arthur Blair (25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950) known by his pen name A pen name, also called a ''nom de plume'' () or a literary double, is a pseudonym (or, in some cases, a variant form of a real name) adopted by an author and printed ...

George Orwell
novel ''
Nineteen Eighty-Four ''Nineteen Eighty-Four'' (also stylised as ''1984'') is a dystopian social science fiction novel and cautionary tale written by English writer George Orwell. It was published on 8 June 1949 by Secker & Warburg as Orwell's ninth and final boo ...
'' where the inner party as symbolized by the fictitious Big Brother literally controls what everyone in the outer party hears, sees and learns, albeit without genetic engineering and on the model of
Stalinist Stalinism is the means of governing and policies which were implemented in the Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a Federalism, federal socialist state in Northern Eurasia tha ...
communism having taken over the Anglosphere (Oceania). In Oceania, the ignorant masses ("proles") are relatively free as they pose no threat to oligarchical collectivism ("Big Brother"). Examples in films include ''
Gattaca ''Gattaca'' is a 1997 American dystopian science fiction film Science fiction (or sci-fi) is a film genre A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of visual art used to simulate experiences that commun ...

Gattaca
'', where the genetically-born were superior and the ruling class; and ''
V for Vendetta ''V for Vendetta'' is a British graphic novel A graphic novel is a book made up of comics content. Although the word "novel" normally refers to long fictional works, the term "graphic novel" is applied broadly and includes fiction, non-fict ...
'', which depicted a powerful
totalitarian 259x259px, Democracy Index by the Economist Intelligence Unit (2020): perceived authoritarian regimes in red, democracies in green, and color intensity ≈ regime intensity Totalitarianism is a form of government and a political system that prohi ...
government in
Britain Britain usually refers to: * United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United ...

Britain
. The comedic film '' The Ruling Class'' was a satire of British
aristocracy Aristocracy ( grc-gre, ἀριστοκρατία , from 'excellent', and , 'rule') is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: A ...
, depicting nobility as self-serving and cruel, juxtaposed against an insane relative who believes that he is
Jesus Christ Jesus, likely from he, יֵשׁוּעַ, translit=Yēšūaʿ, label=Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it i ...

Jesus Christ
, whom they identify as a "bloody
Bolshevik The Bolsheviks (Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (росс ...

Bolshevik
".


See also


References


Further reading

* * Dogan, Mattei (ed.), ''Elite Configuration at the Apex of Power,'' Brill, Leiden, 2003. {{Social class Social classes Social inequality High society (social class) Upper class Power (social and political) concepts Decision-making