AskDefine | Define classlessness

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  1. The state or quality of being classless.

Extensive Definition

Classless society refers to a society which lacks social class - distinctions of wealth, income, education, culture, or social network.

Marxist definition

In Marxist theory, tribal society, primitive communism, was classless. Everyone was equal and carried out the same work. 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. The surplus product was stored for a time of distress in special repositories, which then also had to be guarded. Especially during these times the stored products had to be defended against the immediates fears of the population, so that they were not all consumed right away. The people, who did this, could, therefore, also decide if someone was not to be fed. They had to be more powerful than the masses of the population. The ruling class was born - hence the negation of the classless society, or the first negation. There are three societies that followed the classless tribal society. First, there was ancient society, in which the major class distinction was between master and slave. Then, there was feudal society, in which lord and serf played the roles of class war. The last stage of class society, is bourgeois society, or capitalism, in which it has been simplified to owner and worker. According to Marx, there should be a classless society once again at the end of the development, which would negate class society, the negation of the negation, in Hegelian terms.
This society is supposed to be a co-operative union of free producers, who are both owners of the means of production and their own employees. There is no private ownership of the means of production. These are the property of the whole society. Because all decisions are made in a grassroots democratic system, there is no longer a need for a state as an instrument of class rule and it would die off, when it has in fact become superfluous. Because after the proletarian revolution the economic system would no longer be plagued by rivalry and crises, and production would greatly increase. Agriculture would also be rationalized, because it would be practiced on larger farms. It would be possible to get rid of all shortages, so that the reasonable needs of all people could be satisfied. Work is no longer alienated, it is an expression of an individual's personality.


The term classlessness has been used to describe different social phenomena.
Societies in which classes have never developed - These would usually be the kind of societies where all people naturally play similar economic roles — thus they have never created a division of labour; they may or may not include early human groups. According to Marx, these would be societies in a state of primitive communism.
Societies where classes have been abolished - Such a situation is usually the result of a voluntary decision by the members of a certain society, to abolish that society's class structure. It might be argued that this includes most modern communes, most notably the Paris Commune, the kibbutzim, etc. Furthermore, the abolition of social classes and the establishment of a classless society is the ultimate goal of communism, libertarian socialism and some forms of anarchism.
Classlessness has also been used by some political writers to describe the intelligentsia in a society. Such writers argue that the intelligentsia do not feel allegiance to any particular class and are best placed to unbiasedly articulate the needs of society. Critics have argued that the intelligentsia are, more often than not, associated with the upper class.
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 in German: Klassenlose Gesellschaft
classlessness in Norwegian Nynorsk: Klasselaust samfunn
classlessness in Serbo-Croatian: Besklasnost
classlessness in Swedish: Klasslöst samhälle
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