Classless society refers to a society in which no one is born into a social class. Such distinctions of wealth, income, education, culture, or social network might arise and would only be determined by individual experience and achievement in such a society.

Codere defines social class as a segment of the community, the members of which show a common social position in a hierarchical ranking.[1] Codere suggest that a true class-organized society is one in which the hierarchy of prestige and status is divisible into groups each with its own social, economic, attitudinal and cultural characteristics and each having differential degrees of power in community decision.[1] However class organised societies rarely follow this structure, suggesting that a classless society might be better.

Since determination of life outcome by birth class has proved historically difficult to avoid, advocates, such as anarchists, communists, etc. of a classless society propose various means to achieve and maintain it and attach varying degrees of importance to it as an end in their overall programs/philosophy.


The term classlessness has been used to describe different social phenomena.

In societies where classes have been abolished it is usually the result of a voluntary decision by the membership to form such a society, to abolish a pre-existing class structure in an existing society or to form a new one without any. This would include communes, of the modern period, such as various Utopian communities, the kibbutzim, etc. as well as revolutionary and political acts at the nation-state level such as the Paris Commune, Russian Revolution, etc. The abolition of social classes and the establishment of a classless society is the primary goal of communism, libertarian socialism and anarchism.

Classlessness also refers to the state of mind required in order to operate effectively as a social anthropologist. Anthropological training includes making assessments of and therefore becoming aware of one's own class assumptions, so that these can be set aside from conclusions reached about other societies. This may be compared to ethnocentric biases or the "neutral axiology" required by Max Weber. Otherwise conclusions reached about studied societies will likely be coloured by the anthropologist's own class values.

Classlessness can also refer to a society that has acquired pervasive and substantial social justice; where the economic upper class wields no special political power and poverty as experienced historically is virtually nonexistent as it cannot be achieved.

According to Beck, classlessness is achieved with class struggle,"It is the collective success with class struggle which institutionalizes individualization and dissolves the culture of classes, even under conditions of radicalizing inequalities."[2] Essentially classlessness will exist when the inequalities and injustice out ranks societies idea of the need for social ranking and hierarchy.

Social classes in present day

The state of social classes in society today is disputed. If the actual development is taken by the discussion,[citation needed] then western society has moved passed classes to a classless society.[citation needed] This is reinforced by the statement from Becker and Hadjar, "The weakening of class identities is also postulated by Savage (2000, p.37), who assumes that although individuals may still refer to social class, class position no longer generates a deep sense of identity and belonging."[3] Some say that society today has not completely abolished classes, but that distinctions can be only attributed to experience and success (meritocracy).[citation needed] Others maintain that the class system remains in place, e.g. by showing that children's success in education correlates with their parent's wealth, and wealth being inherited.[4]

Marxist definition

In Marxist theory, tribal hunter-gatherer society, primitive communism, was classless. Everyone was equal in a basic sense as a member of the tribe and the different functional assignments of the primitive mode of production, howsoever rigid and stratified they might be, did not and could not, simply because of the numbers, produce a class society as such. With the transition to agriculture, the possibility to make a surplus product, i.e. to produce more than what is necessary to satisfy one's immediate needs, developed in the course of development of the productive forces. According to Marxism, this also made it possible for a class society to develop, because the surplus product could be used to nourish a ruling class, which did not participate in production.

Social libertarianism

Social libertarianism, also called social anarchism, left-libertarianism and socialist libertarianism, is a group of anti-authoritarian political philosophies that rejects socialism as the centralised state ownership and control of the economy. Political philosophy is the study of fundamental questions about the government, state, justice, politics, liberty and the enforcement of a legal code by an authoritative body. According to Larmore, the second approach sees political philosophy as the freedom to discipline one-self from the basic features of the human condition that make up the reality of political life.[5]

Libertarianism includes various political philosophies including social libertarianism. The philosophies each share the common overall goal of minimal government. Prioritizing freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to bear arms, freedom of and from religion, freedom of the press, freedom of ownership and economic freedom. It promotes personal responsibility and privatisation as opposed to the provision of services by the state, rejecting the compulsions of communism and socialism.[6]

Past and present political philosophies and movements commonly described as libertarian socialist include anarchism (especially anarchist communism, anarchist collectivism, anarcho-syndicalism,[7] and mutualism[8]) as well as autonomism, communalism, participism, guild socialism,[9] revolutionary syndicalism, and libertarian Marxist[10] philosophies such as council communism[11] and Luxemburgism;[12] as well as some versions of "utopian socialism"[13] and individualist anarchism.[14][15][16][17]

See also


  1. ^ a b Codere, H.. (1957). Kwakiutl Society: Rank without Class. American Anthropologist, 59(3), 473–486. JSTOR 665913
  2. ^ Beck, U. (2007). Beyond class and nation: Reframing social inequalities in a globalizing world. The British Journal of Sociology, 58(4), 679-705. doi:10.1111/j.1468-4446.2007.00171.x
  3. ^ Becker, R. and Hadjar, A. (2013), “Individualisation” and class structure: how individual lives are still affected by social inequalities. International Social Science Journal, 64: 211–223. doi:10.1111/issj.12044
  4. ^ Of course class still matters – it influences everything that we do, Will Hutton, The Guardian, January 10, 2010
  5. ^ Larmore, C. (2013). What is political philosophy? Journal of Moral Philosophy, 10 (3), 276-306. doi:10.1163/174552412X628896
  6. ^ Libertarianism - By Branch / Doctrine - The Basics of Philosophy. (n.d.). Retrieved May 8, 2016, from http://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_libertarianism.html
  7. ^ Sims, Franwa (2006). The Anacostia Diaries As It Is. Lulu Press. p. 160. 
  8. ^ A Mutualist FAQ: A.4. Are Mutualists Socialists? Archived 2009-06-09 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ "It is by meeting such a twofold requirement that the libertarian socialism of G.D.H. Cole could be said to offer timely and sustainable avenues for the institutionalization of the liberal value of autonomy..." Charles Masquelier. Critical theory and libertarian socialism: Realizing the political potential of critical social theory. Bloombury. New York-London. 2014. pg. 190
  10. ^ "Locating libertarian socialism in a grey area between anarchist and Marxist extremes, they argue that the multiple experiences of historical convergence remain inspirational and that, through these examples, the hope of socialist transformation survives." Alex Prichard, Ruth Kinna, Saku Pinta and Dave Berry (eds) Libertarian Socialism: Politics in Black and Red. Palgrave Macmillan, December 2012. pg. 13
  11. ^ "Councilism and anarchism loosely merged into ‘libertarian socialism’, offering a non-dogmatic path by which both council communism and anarchism could be updated for the changed conditions of the time, and for the new forms of proletarian resistance to these new conditions." Toby Boraman. "Carnival and Class: Anarchism and Councilism in Australasia during the 1970s" in Alex Prichard, Ruth Kinna, Saku Pinta and Dave Berry (eds). Libertarian Socialism: Politics in Black and Red. Palgrave Macmillan, December 2012. pg. 268.
  12. ^ Murray Bookchin, Ghost of Anarcho-Syndicalism; Robert Graham, The General Idea of Proudhon's Revolution
  13. ^ Kent Bromley, in his preface to Peter Kropotkin's book The Conquest of Bread, considered early French utopian socialist Charles Fourier to be the founder of the libertarian branch of socialist thought, as opposed to the authoritarian socialist ideas of Babeuf and Buonarroti." Kropotkin, Peter. The Conquest of Bread, preface by Kent Bromley, New York and London, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1906.
  14. ^ "(Benjamin) Tucker referred to himself many times as a socialist and considered his philosophy to be "Anarchistic socialism." An Anarchist FAQ by Various Authors
  15. ^ French individualist anarchist Émile Armand shows clearly opposition to capitalism and centralized economies when he said that the individualist anarchist "inwardly he remains refractory – fatally refractory – morally, intellectually, economically (The capitalist economy and the directed economy, the speculators and the fabricators of single are equally repugnant to him.)""Anarchist Individualism as a Life and Activity" by Emile Armand
  16. ^ Anarchist Peter Sabatini reports that in the United States "of early to mid-19th century, there appeared an array of communal and "utopian" counterculture groups (including the so-called free love movement). William Godwin's anarchism exerted an ideological influence on some of this, but more so the socialism of Robert Owen and Charles Fourier. After success of his British venture, Owen himself established a cooperative community within the United States at New Harmony, Indiana during 1825. One member of this commune was Josiah Warren (1798–1874), considered to be the first individualist anarchist". Peter Sabatini. "Libertarianism: Bogus Anarchy"
  17. ^ "It introduces an eye-opening approach to radical social thought, rooted equally in libertarian socialism and market anarchism." Chartier, Gary; Johnson, Charles W. (2011).  Markets Not Capitalism: Individualist Anarchism Against Bosses, Inequality, Corporate Power, and Structural Poverty. Brooklyn, NY: Minor Compositions/Autonomedia. Pg. Back cover
  • Anarchism. (2015). In The Hutchinson unabridged encyclopedia with atlas and weather guide. Abington, United Kingdom: Helicon.
  • Beitzinger, A. J., & Bromberg, H. (2013). Anarchism. In R. L. Fastiggi (Ed.), New Catholic Encyclopedia Supplement 2012-2013 (Vol. 1, pp. 70–72). Detroit: Gale