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Social classes in economic analysis. A brief historical account

Details

Identification
JRC127236
Publication date
11 March 2022
Author
Joint Research Centre

Description

The purpose of this working paper, the first of a series of three aiming at studying social classes from an economic perspective, is to review the role played by social classes in economic analysis. With that aim, we will first discuss the use of the concept of social classes in the analysis of classical economists. Then we will present the reasons behind the abandonment of the concept of social classes as an analytical tool by the marginalist school who triumphed in the final quarter of the 19th century, changing the economic paradigm, and by mainstream economists in the 20th Century. Nevertheless, it can be argued that the classical idea of social class (based on the source of income: wages versus profits) has somehow remained alive in modern macroeconomic analysis, if in disguise, behind the concept of functional (or factorial) distribution of income. The last part of the paper reviews the role played by the functional distribution of income in current macroeconomic analysis, and studies how the evolution of the economy and labour relations in the last few decades has made the interpretation of the functional distribution of income in terms of social classes less relevant than in the past.

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JRC127236_Social classes in economic analysis. A brief historical account
English
(1.01 MB - PDF)
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