Ruling class

Ruling class

The term ruling class refers to the social class of a given society that decides upon and sets that society's political policy.

The ruling class is a particular sector of the upper class that adheres to quite specific circumstances: it has both the most material wealth and the most widespread influence over all the other classes, and it chooses to actively exercise that power to shape the direction of a locality, a country, and/or the world. Most of the upper class does not fit the fundamentals of this description, but some do.

Most stable groups of social animals (including humans) have a visible and invisible "ruling class". The decision makers in the group may change according to the decision-type and/ or the time of observation. For example, it used to be assumed that modern societies were patriarchal and the elders dominated the real decisions, even though many market economies focus on the decisionmakers of each particular (assuredly minor) market sector, who may in fact be children or women.

The sociologist C. Wright Mills argued that the ruling class differs from the power elite. The latter simply refers to the small group of people with the most political power. Many of them are politicians, hired political managers, and military leaders.

In Marxist political economics, the ruling class refers to that segment or class of society that has the most economic and -- only in second line -- political power. Under capitalism, the ruling class -- the capitalists or bourgeoisie -- consists of those who own and control the means of production and thus are able to dominate and exploit the working class, getting them to labor enough to produce surplus-value, the basis for profits, interest, and rent (property income). This property income can be used to accumulate more power, to extend class domination further. The economic power of a class gives it extraordinary political power so that state or government policies almost always reflect the perceived interests of that class.

Ruling classes tend to be looked at in a negative light because they are often viewed as having little respect or care about the rights of the inferior classes.

Examples of Ruling Class

In other modes of production, there are other ruling classes: under feudalism, it was the feudal lords, while under slavery, it was the slave-owners. Under the feudal society, feudal lords had power over the vassals because of their control of the fiefs. This gave them political and military power over the people. In slavery, because complete rights of the person's life belonged to the slave owner, they could and did every implementation that would help the production in the farm. [ [ Slave Ownership ] ] The Ruling Class does not necessarily have to belong to the majority. In some cases of prejudice, they can belong to the minority. In South Africa, many black and mixed race families were subjected to Apartheid. Apartheid stripped away the citizenship from some families and legally separated the country by race and creed. [ [ OHCHR ] ] Nazism is the prime example of a ruling class gone wrong. The ruling class deceived the citizens to believing whatever thoughts they wanted to, without fear of losing control of them. [ [ Nazi Beliefs ] ]

Mattei Dogan's recent studies on elites in contemporary pluralist societies have shown that in these kinds of societies, precisely because of their complexity and their heterogeneity and particularly because of the social division of work and the multiple levels of stratification, there are not, or can not be, a coherent ruling class, even if in the past there were solid examples of ruling classes, like in the Tsarist Regime, the Ottoman Regime, and the more recent totalitarian regimes of the 20th century (communist and Nazi).

Ruling Class in the Media

There are several examples of ruling class systems in movies, novels, and T.V. shows. In the novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, everyone is genetically made and classified into class. The Alpha class is the ruling class because they have the highest positions possible and control most of the world in the novel. This situation can also be found in the George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four where Big Brother and the government literally control what the nation hears, sees, and learns. L. Ron Hubbard's story, Battlefield Earth, has an alien race, the Psychlos, having full power over the humans in the future. Examples in movies include Gattaca where the genetically-born were superior and the ruling class and V for Vendetta which had a severe totalitarian government in Britain. There is also a movie called The Ruling Class which is a comedy that does not really deal with the topic, but helped provide evidence that feudal Lords received much wealth.


See also

* Overclass
* Upper class
* Social class
* The Man
* Totalitarianism
* The Superclass List

Dogan, Mattei (ed.), "Elite Configuration at the Apex of Power," Brill, Leiden, 2003.

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