Classless Society: The Issue in the History of Old and Modern Britain


Class has always been an issue in the history of old and modern Britain for the goggles, it has given the society to view the class system not only in the context of historians, but also regarding the current social and political scenarios. Classes are distinguished based on social production, means of production and social wealth. Classes are formed when social wealth is acquired in different contexts, places and different positions. This is how Marxists have always understood the ways of categorizing people according to classes.

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The ‘class’ concept

Both the past and present of Britain is influenced by the Marx’s Theory of class formation in which according to Marx, class is nothing but a human behavior. Marxists define capitalism as a system in which the great majority of people own no means of production but work for wages and salaries, and in which the owners of means of production the capitalist class acquire wealth in the form of profits made out of the labor of the majority. In this system the capitalist class is the ruling class, because it is able to control and direct the resources of social production for its own profit (Aaronovitch, 1979, p. 9).

The ‘class’ concept in Britain emerged after the Second World War and remained until the 1970s. Historians have revealed about the formation of only three classes, ‘upper’, ‘middle’ and ‘working class’. According to Gareth Stedman Jones “Class serves as a fixed point of intersection between competing, overlapping or different forms of political, economic, religious, and cultural discourse” (Stedman Jones, 1983, p. 2).

The foundational research work on class by Marx and Thompson suggests that those classes that limit themselves with other classes are the working classes. This is the main reason why many historians have shown disappointment about those British workers that did not consider themselves bounded by their class ties (Silbey & Cass, 2005, p. 3). They were the ones that came from mines, factories, workshops, and different cities of Scotland, Wales, and England. Irrespective of the fact that employment was plentiful, scarce, or non-existent, this working-class had experienced stagnant wages and rising unemployment.

Working-class men had practical reasons to join posts even in military and armed forces. The state of the British economy was aware that economic motivations to help the working class enlist in forces possessed significant importance.

Not only the military served as an avenue of economic advancement, but a way to improve their skills, gain new ones, or find a job. The wages were handsome as compared to those of many working-class industries with free food, housing, and clothing. Among the many benefits is a separate allowance for the family of the enlistee. In an uncertain economic condition, this was a reasonable bargain for many working-class men and better than those who were exposed to limited access with limited working conditions and were therefore the employees of Capitalist ruling class.

Capitalist ruling class

The main purpose of a capitalist ruling class was the ownership of capital, distribution of income and exercise and aims of control. The ruling class understood British Institutions in context with the fusion of banking and industrial capital in Britain. Not only the special features of joint-stock banking in Britain must be taken into account, but the role of other types of financial institutions and the growth of large combines as financial institutions. The insurance companies, banks and nominees, for example, are now the largest distinct group of investors in ordinary shares; and the process of integration has developed irrespective of whether a particular financial institution has become tied with a particular industrial or commercial firm.

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The relation of particular groupings to general class interests and shifts of power within that class can only be understood in relation to the total connections of the class with the rest of society and with the particular institutions, ideologies and traditions which operate at the time. The analysis of the main groupings of finance capital cannot, therefore, serve as a substitute for examining all the factors which from time to time determine the actions of the capitalist class or the movement of the British economy. Such class study can throw light on the historical development of the British capitalist class, make clear the main lines of policy pursued by it, and illuminate the real centers of economic and political power (Aaronovitch, 1979, p. 75).

Modern sociology, however, rejects the Marxist view of class society and of the ruling class for many of the ideas employed are contradictory, but this has made it easier to criticize Marxism from different angles. Today, the concept of ruling class exists to an extent where a common man who belongs to a working-class or middle class, can achieve whatever he aims as his goal.

However we define ‘class’, so the argument runs, individuals now more than ever move up and down the social scale. More and more they move up according to their intelligence, especially now that educational opportunity is open to all. Those at the top form elite, a natural aristocracy of talent but there is no ruling class. Society presents the picture of a series of power structures dividing those who possess different kinds of power from those excluded from it, but there is no ‘closed’ group monopolizing economic and political power, of the sort implied by the term ‘ruling class.

In practice, working-class resistance and working-class struggle continually circumscribe the power of finance capital to pursue its aims. And since the working-class movement always pursues the aim of extending democratic rights, the State power in Britain has, again and again, had to make democratic concessions in order to enable finance capital to continue exercising effective political power (Aaronovitch, 1979, p. 134).

Differences in the ownership of property and in the distribution of income are not crucial and in any case, are lessening. As a result, class in the Marxist sense has become almost irrelevant in contemporary society. Other important questions have come to the fore: the problem of leadership, the control of the big corporations, the aims of political democracy in a period of mass prosperity.

Another reason for being a classless society is being under the influence of multiculturalism. Transnationalism is a modality of lived experience in which migrants constantly recreate globalization through their choices and negotiations of identification. Today, the concern is not about class, but of a ‘third space’ which disrupts any easy understandings of identity and instead emphasizes analytical framework of the play between constructions of being British and becoming South Asian (Raj, 2003, p. 84).


The shifting sense of English identity has variously encouraged solidarity around the people, church, Parliament, and crown. Although class identity played a significant role in shaping British identity, a term with origins designed to unite the aristocracy but then the minorities, particularly religious minorities such as the Catholics, the Huguenots, and the Jews, variously experienced being ‘second-class citizens’ (R. Ballard 1999). Therefore the above two are the reasons for considering Britain a classless society where it is on the threshold of a regime free of ‘British Middle Class’.

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Works Cited

Aaronovitch Sam, (1979) The Ruling Class: A Study of British Finance Capital: Greenwood Press: Westport, CT.

Ballard, Roger. (1999). Polyethnic Britain: A comparative and historical perspective.

Gareth Stedman Jones, (1983) Languages of Class: Studies in English Working-Class History, 1832-1982 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Raj S. Dhooleka, (2003) Where Are You From? Middle-Class Migrants in the Modern World: University of California Press: Berkeley, CA.

Silbey David & Cass Frand, (2005) The British Working Class and Enthusiasm for War, 1914-1916: Frank Cass: New York.

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StudyCorgi. "Classless Society: The Issue in the History of Old and Modern Britain." September 14, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Classless Society: The Issue in the History of Old and Modern Britain." September 14, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Classless Society: The Issue in the History of Old and Modern Britain'. 14 September.

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