Social class refers to the hierarchical distinctions between individuals or groups in societies or cultures. Anthropologists, historians, and sociologists identify class as universal, although what determines class will vary widely from one society to another. Even within a society, different people or groups may have very different ideas about what makes one "higher" or "lower" in the hierarchy. Different defining characteristics have developed in societies around the world and have changed through history. Depending on the definition used, class can also be associated with social status, or one's social position in a culture. Because of the vagaries of the word, the idea of social class has been the object of much study in fields such as sociology and economics. Some of the more famous theorists of class include Karl Marx and Max Weber. Despite the work of these intellectual heavyweights, the value of the notion of social class is still questioned as it becomes even more difficult to define in an increasingly fluid and globalized society. Beyond the problems in theoretical conceptualizations, the practical impact of social class on society is important. Any system that divides people and then assigns different values to the groups is inherently problematic in the establishment and maintenance of a harmonious society. If vertical divisions among people can connote no difference in value, only in role, experience, or responsibility in society, then social class may be considered a useful concept [continues]
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