The Info List - Social Class

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A SOCIAL CLASS (or, simply, CLASS), as in CLASS SOCIETY, is a set of subjectively defined concepts in the social sciences and political theory centered on models of social stratification in which people are grouped into a set of hierarchical social categories, the most common being the upper , middle , and lower classes .

Class is a subject of analysis for sociologists , political scientists , anthropologists , and social historians . However, there is not a consensus on a definition of "class", and the term has a wide range of sometimes conflicting meanings. In common parlance, the term "social class" is usually synonymous with "socio-economic class", defined as "people having the same social, economic, cultural, political or educational status", e.g., "the working class "; "an emerging professional class". However, academics distinguish social class and socioeconomic status, with the former referring to one’s relatively stable sociocultural background and the latter referring to one’s current social and economic situation and, consequently, being more changeable over time.

The precise measurements of what determines social class in society has varied over time. Karl Marx thought "class" was defined by one's relationship to the means of production (their relations of production ). His simple understanding of classes in modern capitalist society , are the proletariat , those who work but do not own the means of production; and the bourgeoisie , those who invest and live off of the surplus generated by the former. This contrasts with the view of the sociologist Max Weber , who argued "class" is determined by economic position, in contrast to "social status " or "_Stand_" which is determined by social prestige rather than simply just relations of production.

The term "class" is etymologically derived from the Latin _classis_, which was used by census takers to categorize citizens by wealth, in order to determine military service obligations.

In the late 18th century, the term "class" began to replace classifications such as estates , rank , and orders as the primary means of organizing society into hierarchical divisions. This corresponded to a general decrease in significance ascribed to hereditary characteristics, and increase in the significance of wealth and income as indicators of position in the social hierarchy.


* 1 History

* 2 Theoretical models

* 2.1 Marxist * 2.2 Weberian * 2.3 Great British Class Survey

* 2.4 The common three-stratum model

* 2.4.1 Upper class * 2.4.2 Middle class * 2.4.3 Lower class

* 2.5 In the United States

* 3 Consequences of class position

* 3.1 Education * 3.2 Health and nutrition * 3.3 Employment

* 4 Class conflict * 5 Classless society * 6 Relationship between ethnicity and class * 7 See also * 8 References * 9 Further reading * 10 External links


_ THIS SECTION NEEDS EXPANSION. You can help by adding to it . (June 2013)_

Burmese nobles and servants

Historically social class and behavior was sometimes laid down in law. For example, permitted mode of dress in some times and places was strictly regulated, with sumptuous dressing only for the high ranks of society and aristocracy ; sumptuary laws stipulated the dress and jewelry appropriate for a person's social rank and station .


Definitions of social classes reflect a number of sociological perspectives , informed by anthropology , economics , psychology , and sociology . The major perspectives historically have been Marxism and Structural functionalism . The common _stratum model of class_ divides society into a simple hierarchy of working class , middle class and upper class . Within academia, two broad schools of definitions emerge: those aligned with 20th-century sociological stratum models of class society, and those aligned with the 19th-century historical materialist economic models of the Marxists and anarchists .

Another distinction can be drawn between _analytical_ concepts of social class, such as the _Marxist_ and _Weberian_ traditions, and the more _empirical_ traditions such as socio-economic status approach, which notes the correlation of income, education and wealth with social outcomes without necessarily implying a particular theory of social structure.


Main article: Class in Marxist theory " large groups of people differing from each other by the place they occupy in a historically determined system of social production, by their relation (in most cases fixed and formulated in law) to the means of production, by their role in the social organization of labor, and, consequently, by the dimensions of the share of social wealth of which they dispose and the mode of acquiring it." Vladimir Lenin , _A Great Beginning_ - June, 1919

For Marx, class is a combination of objective and subjective factors. Objectively, a class shares a common relationship to the means of production . Subjectively, the members will necessarily have some perception ("class consciousness ") of their similarity and common interest. Class consciousness is not simply an awareness of one's own class interest but is also a set of shared views regarding how society should be organized legally, culturally, socially and politically. These class relations are reproduced through time.

In Marxist theory , the class structure of the capitalist mode of production is characterized by the conflict between two main classes: the bourgeoisie , the capitalists who own the means of production, and the much larger proletariat (or 'working class') who must sell their own labour power (See also: wage labour ). This is the fundamental economic structure of work and property, a state of inequality that is normalized and reproduced through cultural ideology .

Marxists explain the history of "civilized" societies in terms of a war of classes between those who control production and those who produce the goods or services in society. In the Marxist view of capitalism , this is a conflict between capitalists (bourgeoisie ) and wage-workers (the proletariat). For Marxists, class antagonism is rooted in the situation that control over social production necessarily entails control over the class which produces goods—in capitalism this is the exploitation of workers by the bourgeoisie.

Furthermore, "in countries where modern civilisation has become fully developed, a new class of petty bourgeois has been formed". "An industrial army of workmen, under the command of a capitalist, requires, like a real army, officers (managers) and sergeants (foremen, over-lookers) who, while the work is being done, command in the name of the capitalist".

Marx makes the argument that, as the bourgeoisie reach a point of wealth accumulation, they hold enough power as the dominant class to shape political institutions and society according to their own interests. Marx then goes on to claim that the non-elite class, owing to their large numbers, have the power to overthrow the elite and create an equal society.

In _ The Communist Manifesto _, Marx himself argued that it was the goal of the proletariat itself to displace the capitalist system with socialism , changing the social relationships underpinning the class system and then developing into a future communist society in which: "..the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all." This would mark the beginning of a classless society in which human needs rather than profit would be motive for production. In a society with democratic control and production for use , there would be no class, no state and no need for financial and banking institutions and money.


Main article: Three-component theory of stratification

Max Weber formulated a three-component theory of stratification , that saw social class as emerging from an interplay between "class", "status" and "power". Weber believed that class position was determined by a person's relationship to the means of production, while status or "Stand" emerged from estimations of honor or prestige.

Weber derived many of his key concepts on social stratification by examining the social structure of many countries. He noted that contrary to Marx's theories, stratification was based on more than simply ownership of capital . Weber pointed out that some members of the aristocracy lack economic wealth yet might nevertheless have political power. Likewise in Europe, many wealthy Jewish families in lack prestige and honor, because they were a member of a "pariah group" like the Jews.

* CLASS: A person's economic position in a society. Weber differs from Marx in that he does not see this as the supreme factor in stratification. Weber noted how managers of corporations or industries control firms they do not own. * STATUS: A person's prestige, social honor, or popularity in a society. Weber noted that political power was not rooted in capital value solely, but also in one's status. Poets and saints, for example, can possess immense influence on society with often little economic worth. * POWER: A person's ability to get their way despite the resistance of others. For example, individuals in state jobs, such as an employee of the Federal Bureau of Investigation , or a member of the United States Congress , may hold little property or status but they still hold immense power.


Main article: Great British Class Survey

On April 2, 2013 the results of a survey conducted by BBC Lab UK developed in collaboration with academic experts and slated to be published in the journal _ Sociology _ were published online. The results released were based on a survey of 160,000 residents of the United Kingdom most of whom lived in England and described themselves as "white ". Class was defined and measured according to the amount and kind of economic, cultural, and social resources reported. Economic capital was defined as income and assets ; cultural capital as amount and type of cultural interests and activities, and social capital as the quantity and social status of their friends , family and personal and business contacts. This theoretical framework was developed by Pierre Bourdieu who first published his theory of social distinction in 1979.


Today, concepts of social class often assume three general categories: a very wealthy and powerful _upper class_ that owns and controls the means of production; a _middle class_ of professional workers, small business owners, and low-level managers ; and a _lower class_, who rely on low-paying wage jobs for their livelihood and often experience poverty .

Upper Class

Main article: Upper class See also: Elite , Aristocracy , and Oligarchy A symbolic image of three orders of feudal society in Europe prior to the French Revolution : The rural third estate carrying the clergy and the nobility.

The upper class is the social class composed of those who are rich , well-born, powerful, or a combination of those. They usually wield the greatest political power. In some countries, wealth alone is sufficient to allow entry into the upper class. In others, only people who are born or marry into certain aristocratic bloodlines are considered members of the upper class, and those who gain great wealth through commercial activity are looked down upon by the aristocracy as _nouveau riche _. In the United Kingdom, for example, the upper classes are the aristocracy and royalty, with wealth playing a less important role in class status. Many aristocratic peerages or titles have 'seats' attached to them, with the holder of the title (e.g. Earl of Bristol) and his family being the custodians of the house, but not the owners. Many of these require high expenditures, so wealth is typically needed. Many aristocratic peerages and their homes are parts of estates, owned and run by the title holder with moneys generated by the land, rents, or other sources of wealth. In America, however, where there is no aristocracy or royalty, the upper class status belongs to the extremely wealthy, the so-called 'super-rich', though there is some tendency even in America for those with old family wealth to look down on those who have earned their money in business, the struggle between New Money and Old Money.

The upper class is generally contained within the richest one or two percent of the population. Members of the upper class are often born into it, and are distinguished by immense wealth which is passed from generation to generation in the form of estates.

Middle Class

Main articles: Middle class and Bourgeoisie

The middle class is the most contested of the three categories, the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the lower and upper classes. One example of the contest of this term is that in the United States "middle class" is applied very broadly and includes people who would elsewhere be considered working class . Middle-class workers are sometimes called "white-collar workers ".

Theorists such as Ralf Dahrendorf have noted the tendency toward an enlarged middle class in modern Western societies, particularly in relation to the necessity of an educated work force in technological economies. Perspectives concerning globalization and neocolonialism , such as dependency theory , suggest this is due to the shift of low-level labour to developing nations and the Third World .

Lower Class

In the United States the lowest stratum of the working class, the underclass , often lives in urban areas with low-quality civil services . Main articles: Working class and Proletariat

Lower class (occasionally described as working class) are those employed in low-paying wage jobs with very little economic security. The term "lower class" also refers to persons with low income.

The working class is sometimes separated into those who are employed but lacking financial security , and an underclass—those who are long-term unemployed and/or homeless , especially those receiving welfare from the state . The latter is analogous to the Marxist term "_lumpenproletariat _". Members of the working class are sometimes called blue-collar workers .


Main article: Social class in the United States

There are usually four social classes that are described in America: the upper class, the middle class, the working class, and the lower class. The upper class typically earns above $250,000 per year; the middle class earns between $48,000 and $249,000 per year; the working class up to $48,000; and the lower class up generally receives a minimal income that is not enough to sustain themselves. These large income gaps are thought to be one of several root causes of class warfare. While income is a large indicator of class, general wealth and accumulated assets plays a large role in class position because those things have value that can be exchanged for money and thus grant power.


A person's socioeconomic class has wide-ranging effects. It can impact the schools they are able to attend, their health, the jobs open to them, who they may marry, and their treatment by police and the courts.

Angus Deaton and Anne Case have analyzed the mortality rates related to the group of white, middle-aged Americans between the ages of 45 and 54 and its relation to class. There has been a growing number of suicides and deaths by substance abuse in this particular group of middle-class Americans. This group also has been recorded to have an increase in reports of chronic pain and poor general health. Deaton and Case came to the conclusion from these observation that because of the constant stress that these white, middle aged Americans feel fighting poverty and wavering between the lower and working class, these strains have taken a toll on these people and affected their whole bodies.

Social classifications can also determine the sporting activities that such classes take part in. It is suggested that those of an upper social class are more likely to take part in sporting activities, whereas those of a lower social background are less likely to participate in sport. However upper class people tend to not take part in certain sports that have been commonly known to be linked with the lower class.


A person's social class has a significant impact on their educational opportunities. Not only are upper-class parents able to send their children to exclusive schools that are perceived to be better, but in many places state-supported schools for children of the upper class are of a much higher quality than those the state provides for children of the lower classes. This lack of good schools is one factor that perpetuates the class divide across generations.

In 1977, British cultural theorist Paul Willis published a study titled "Learning to Labour", in which he investigated the connection between social class and education. In his study, he found that a group of working-class schoolchildren had developed an antipathy towards the acquisition of knowledge as being outside their class, and therefore undesirable, perpetuating their presence in the working class.


A person's social class has a significant impact on their physical health, their ability to receive adequate medical care and nutrition , and their life expectancy .

Lower-class people experience a wide array of health problems as a result of their economic status. They are unable to use health care as often, and when they do it is of lower quality, even though they generally tend to experience a much higher rate of health issues. Lower-class families have higher rates of infant mortality , cancer , cardiovascular disease , and disabling physical injuries. Additionally, poor people tend to work in much more hazardous conditions, yet generally have much less (if any) health insurance provided for them, as compared to middle- and upper-class workers.


The conditions at a person's job vary greatly depending on class. Those in the upper-middle class and middle class enjoy greater freedoms in their occupations. They are usually more respected, enjoy more diversity, and are able to exhibit some authority . Those in lower classes tend to feel more alienated and have lower work satisfaction overall. The physical conditions of the workplace differ greatly between classes. While middle-class workers may "suffer alienating conditions" or "lack of job satisfaction", blue-collar workers are more apt to suffer alienating, often routine, work with obvious physical health hazards, injury, and even death.

A recent UK government study has suggested that a 'glass floor' exists in British society which prevents those who are less able, but whom come from wealthier backgrounds, from slipping down the social ladder. This is due to the fact that those from wealthier backgrounds have more opportunities available to them. In fact, the article shows that less able, better-off kids are 35% more likely to become high earners than bright poor kids.


Main article: Class conflict

Class conflict, frequently referred to as "class warfare" or "class struggle", is the tension or antagonism which exists in society due to competing socioeconomic interests and desires between people of different classes.

For Marx, the history of class society was a history of class conflict. He pointed to the successful rise of the bourgeoisie, and the necessity of revolutionary violence—a heightened form of class conflict—in securing the bourgeoisie rights that supported the capitalist economy.

Marx believed that the exploitation and poverty inherent in capitalism were a pre-existing form of class conflict. Marx believed that wage labourers would need to revolt to bring about a more equitable distribution of wealth and political power.


Main article: Classless society

"Classless society" refers to a society in which no one is born into a social class. 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.

Since these distinctions are difficult to avoid, advocates of a classless society (such as anarchists and communists ) propose various means to achieve and maintain it and attach varying degrees of importance to it as an end in their overall programs/philosophy.


Further information: Racial inequality Equestrian portrait of Empress Elisabeth of Russia with a Moor servant.

Race and other large-scale groupings can also influence class standing. The association of particular ethnic groups with class statuses is common in many societies. As a result of conquest or internal ethnic differentiation, a ruling class is often ethnically homogenous and particular races or ethnic groups in some societies are legally or customarily restricted to occupying particular class positions. Which ethnicities are considered as belonging to high or low classes varies from society to society.

In modern societies, strict legal links between ethnicity and class have been drawn, such as in apartheid , the caste system in Africa , the position of the Burakumin in Japanese society, and the Casta system in Latin America.


* Sociology portal

* Drift hypothesis * Elite theory * Elitism * Health equity * Inca society * Korean ruling class * Mass society * National Statistics Socio-economic Classification * Passing (sociology) * Ranked society * Raznochintsy


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_ This article's further reading MAY NOT FOLLOW\'S CONTENT POLICIES OR GUIDELINES . Please improve this article by removing less relevant or redundant publications with the same point of view ; or by incorporating the relevant publications into the body of the article through appropriate citations . (September 2016)_ _(Learn how and when to remove this template message )_

* Archer, Louise et al. _Higher Education and Social Class: Issues of Exclusion and Inclusion_ (RoutledgeFalmer, 2003) (ISBN 0-4152-7644-6 ) * Aronowitz, Stanley , _How Class Works: Power and Social Movement_, Yale University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-300-10504-5 * Barbrook, Richard (2006). _The Class of the New_ (paperback ed.). London: OpenMute. ISBN 0-9550664-7-6 . * Beckert, Sven, and Julia B. Rosenbaum, eds. _The American Bourgeoisie: Distinction and Identity in the Nineteenth Century_ (Palgrave Macmillan; 2011) 284 pages; Scholarly studies on the habits, manners, networks, institutions, and public roles of the American middle class with a focus on cities in the North. * Benschop, Albert. _Classes - Transformational Class Analysis_ (Amsterdam: Spinhuis; 1993/2012). * Bertaux, Daniel _Pathways to Social Class: A Qualitative Approach to Social Mobility_ (Clarendon Press, 1997) * Bisson, Thomas N.; _Cultures of Power: Lordship, Status, and Process in Twelfth-Century Europe_ (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995) * Blackledge, Paul (2011). "Why workers can change the world". _Socialist Review_ 364. London - A useful analysis of class generally and nature of working class more specifically. * Blau, Peter _The American Occupational Structure_ (1967) classic study of structure and mobility * Brady, David "Rethinking the Sociological Measurement of Poverty" _ Social Forces _ Vol. 81 No.3, (March 2003), pp. 715–751 (abstract online in Project Muse). * Broom, Leonard _Opportunity and Attainment in Australia_ (1977) * Cohen, Lizabeth; _Consumer's Republic_, (Knopf, 2003) (ISBN 0-375-40750-2 ). (Historical analysis of the working out of class in the United States). * de Ste. Croix, Geoffrey (July–August 1984). "Class in Marx’s conception of history, ancient and modern". _ New Left Review _. New Left Review. I (146): 94–111. (Good study of Marx's concept.) * Dargin, Justin _The Birth of Russia\'s Energy Class_, Asia Times (2007) (good study of contemporary class formation in Russia, post communism) * Day, Gary; _Class_, (Routledge, 2001) (ISBN 0-415-18222-0 ) * Domhoff, G. William , _Who Rules America? Power, Politics, and Social Change_, Englewood Cliffs, N.J. : Prentice-Hall, 1967. (Prof. Domhoff\'s companion site to the book at the University of California, Santa Cruz ) * Eichar, Douglas M.; _Occupation and Class Consciousness in America_ (Greenwood Press, 1989) * Fantasia, Rick; Levine, Rhonda F.; McNall, Scott G., eds.; _Bringing Class Back in Contemporary and Historical Perspectives_ (Westview Press, 1991) * Featherman, David L. _Opportunity and Change_ (1978). * Fotopoulos, Takis , Class Divisions Today: The Inclusive Democracy approach, _Democracy _Class (a painfully accurate guide through the American status system)_, (1983) (ISBN 0-345-31816-1 ) * Giddens, Anthony ; _The Class Structure of the Advanced Societies_, (London: Hutchinson, 1981). * Giddens, Anthony & Mackenzie, Gavin (Eds.), _Social Class and the Division of Labour. Essays in Honour of Ilya Neustadt_ (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982). * Goldthorpe, John H. _The Constant Flux: A Study of Class Mobility in Industrial Society_ (1992) * Grusky, David B. ed.; _Social Stratification: Class, Race, and Gender in Sociological Perspective_ (2001) scholarly articles * Hazelrigg, Lawrence E. _Class, Conflict, and Mobility: Theories and Studies of Class Structure_ (1972). * Hymowitz, Kay; _Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age_ (2006) ISBN 1-56663-709-0 * Kaeble, Helmut; _Social Mobility in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: Europe and America in Comparative Perspective_ (1985) * Jens Hoff, "The Concept of Class and Public Employees". _Acta Sociologica_, vol. 28, no. 3, July 1985, pp. 207–226. * Mahalingam, Ramaswami; "Essentialism, Culture, and Power: Representations of Social Class" _Journal of Social Issues_, Vol. 59, (2003), pp. 733+ on India * Mahony, Pat _Class Matters: 'Working-Class' Women's Perspectives on Social Class_ (Taylor & Francis, 1997) * Manza, Jeff _Social Cleavages and Political Change: Voter Alignments and U.S. Party Coalitions_ (Oxford University Press, 1999). * Manza, Jeff; "Political Sociological Models of the U.S. New Deal" _Annual Review of Sociology_, (2000) pp. 297+ * Manza, Jeff; Hout, Michael; Clem, Brooks (1995). "Class Voting in Capitalist Democracies since World War II: Dealignment, Realignment, or Trendless Fluctuation?". _Annual Review of Sociology_. 21: 137–162. doi :10.1146/annurev.soc.21.1.137 . * Marmot, Michael; _The Status Syndrome: How Social Standing Affects Our Health and Longevity_ (2004) * Marx, Karl _The Communist Manifesto_, (1848). (The key statement of class conflict as the driver of historical change). * Merriman, John M.; _Consciousness and Class Experience in Nineteenth-Century Europe_ (Holmes _Women of the Upper Class_ (Temple University Press, 1984). * Owensby, Brian P.; _Intimate Ironies: Modernity and the Making of Middle-Class Lives in Brazil_ (Stanford University, 1999). * Pakulski, Jan _The Death of Class_ (Sage, 1996). (rejection of the relevance of class for modern societies) * Payne, Geoff; _The Social Mobility of Women: Beyond Male Mobility Models_ (1990) * Savage, Mike; _Class Analysis and Social Transformation_ (London: Open University Press, 2000). * Stahl, Garth; "Identity, Neoliberalism and Aspiration: Educating White Working-Class Boys" (London, Routledge, 2015). * Sennett, Richard _The Hidden Injuries of Class_, (Vintage, 1972) (classic study of the subjective experience of class). * Siegelbaum, Lewis H. eds.; _Making Workers Soviet: Power, Class, and Identity._ (Cornell University Press, 1994). Russia 1870-1940 * Wlkowitz, Daniel J.; _Working with Class: Social Workers and the Politics of Middle-Class Identity_ (University of North Carolina Press, 1999). * Weber, Max. "Class, Status and Party", in e.g. Gerth, Hans and C. Wright Mills, _From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology_, (Oxford University Press, 1958). (Weber's key statement of the multiple nature of stratification). * Weinburg, Mark; "The Social Analysis of Three Early 19th century French liberals: Say, Comte, and Dunoyer", _Journal of Libertarian Studies _, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 45–63, (1978). * Wood, Ellen Meiksins ; _The Retreat from Class: A New 'True' Socialism_, (Schocken Books, 1986) (ISBN 0-8052-7280-1 ) and (Verso Classics, January 1999) reprint with new introduction (ISBN 1-8598-4270-4 ). * Wood, Ellen Meiksins ; "Labor, the State, and Class Struggle", _ Monthly Review _, Vol. 49, No. 3, (1997). * Wouters, Cas.; "The Integration of Social Classes". _Journal of Social History_. Volume 29, Issue 1, (1995). pp 107+. (on social manners) * Wright, Erik Olin; _The Debate on Classes_ (Verso, 1990). (neo-Marxist) * Wright, Erik Olin; _Class Counts: Comparative Studies in Class Analysis_ (Cambridge University Press, 1997) * Wright, Erik Olin ed. _Approaches to Class Analysis_ (2005). (scholarly articles) * Zmroczek, Christine ;background:none transparent;border:none;-moz-box-shadow:none;-webkit-box-shadow:none;box-shadow:none;">v

* t * e

* Social class * Status


* Gilbert model * Marxian * Mudsill theory * New class * Spoon class theory * Weberian (three-component)

Related topics

* Caste * Chattering classes * Class conflict * Class discrimination * Classicide * Classless society * Euthenics * _ Nouveau riche _ / _ Parvenu _ * Poverty * Ranked society * Snobbery * Social exclusion * Social mobility * Social position * Social stigma * Subaltern



* Administrative detainee

* Alien

* illegal immigrant * refugee

* Citizen

* dual or multiple * native-born * naturalized * second-class

* Convicted * Migrant worker * Political prisoner * Stateless


* Blue * Gold * Green * Grey * Pink * White



* Bohemians * Robber baron * Russian oligarch * Business magnate * Overclass * Superclass


* Lower middle class * Upper middle class * Bourgeoisie * Petite bourgeoisie


* Working poor * Proletariat * Lumpenproletariat


* Harii * Kshatriya * Yadav * Nair * Hashashin * Knight * Vanniyar * Samurai * Cuāuh * Ocēlōtl * Spartiate


* Outcast * Outlaw * Peasant / Serf * Slave * Untouchable


* Bourgeoisie * Elite * Gentry * Global elite * Nobility * Old money


* Aristocracy * Hanseaten * Patrician * Royal family


* Knowledge worker



* Affluence * American Dream * Conflict * Social class in American history


* Lower * Middle (Mexican-American , Black ) * Upper * Under


* Household * Inequality * Personal * Poverty


* Educational attainment * Homelessness * Home ownership * Wealth

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* Category


* LCCN : sh85123921 * GND : 4077571-9 * NDL : 00564600

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