"Class" is a set of connected, but not identical, theoretical approaches to social division in human societies, including past human societies. Historians regularly make use of "class" in their writings, but with so many approaches to "class," how can we tell which approach a historian is using in their writing?

What major approaches to "class" as a theoretical category do historians commonly use?

An ideal answer would outline a summary name for each approach, describe how it approaches class and what class means in this approach, and point to major theoreticians or historians using their approach. A "Heads of Title" approach would be the ideal answer.

An ideal answer would not need to fully specify each approach to class. Hopefully a subsequent series of questions could ask for the use of class in particular ways in historiography if these are of interest.

  • 2
    What's wrong in your opinion e.g. with, say, Wikipedia's treatment of theoretical models of class?
    – Drux
    Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 9:49
  • 4
    Good comment. Wikipedia's article doesn't reflect historiographical uses; is reductionist; generalist; fails to adhere to high quality sources (and thus doesn't meet its own NPOV policy); suffers from NPOV policy; and, going back to the first point, doesn't draw out the peculiarly historical uses of class. I think there's space for this answer largely due to the appalling quality of wikipedia's answer, and wikipedia's inability to write answers on humanities and social sciences theoretical topics at high quality. Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 10:08
  • Thx, fair enough.
    – Drux
    Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 10:41

1 Answer 1


The most common approach to class, especially class conflict in the, is a Marxist approach. Marx took a cyclic view of history from Hegelian "thesis antithesis." he ultimately viewed the synthesis of the thesis, bourgeois, and the antithesis, proletariat, in to a Marxist communist state. Postmodernist are also extremely class conscious, dealing with Deconstructionist and Poststructuralist movements.The most prominent Historian to come out of this was Foucault. The new left, although not as theoretical, was still highly class conscious. This era of historians came out of the Vietnam conflict and the Cold War. The new left was critical of class interests, but also social and diplomatic interests.

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