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There have been several different approaches to defining this term. (1) In Karl Marx's (1818-1883) analysis of class, the middle class is the ‘petite bourgeoisie’ who are in small scale independent business or craft or who have special skills that provide an income outside the wage system of employed labour. Marx assumed that this class would diminish in number as capitalist enterprises developed, consolidated into larger units and eliminated small-scale competition. (2)The term can also be used statistically to define a group of individuals who occupy an intermediate position in a society's income strata: for example those who earn between 66% and 133% of a society's average family incomes. These are attempts to define the ‘middle class’ objectively, by some standard of measurement, but a more subjective view is possible: the middle class are those individuals who orient themselves to the values and expectations they consider normative for average members of their society. This approach is useful for understanding why most Canadians irrespective of occupation, wealth or income identify themselves as middle class.

Last updated 2002--0-9-

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Athabaca University ICAAP

© Robert Drislane, Ph.D. and Gary Parkinson, Ph.D.
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*This social science dictionary has 1000
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