Social Classes in Classical and Marxist Political Economy

Posted: 30 Jul 2000

See all articles by John Milios

John Milios

National Technical University of Athens (NTUA)


The notion social class attains a well-defined theoretical content in the works of the classical political economists, who defined classes on the basis of the specific income form that each category of people (class) obtains. This approach to class constitutes a first form of a 'friendly merger' between political economy and sociology. When combined with the classical labor value theory, it has led to a theory of class exploitation of the laboring class by the capitalist class. As economic theory became increasingly apologetic after the 'Marginalist Revolution' (setting itself the aim of justifying capitalism), the theory of class has been totally banished from the corpus of 'modern (neoclassical) economic science.' This paper claims that the scientific elements inherent in classical political economy's class theory were preserved by the Marxist class theory, which further revolutionized the classical approach, creating a new, purely non-economistic and non-mechanistic 'relationist' class theory, and forming thus a vivid economic-sociological approach to social classes. On the basis of the Marxist approach, complex problems concerning the class structure of contemporary societies can be tackled.

JEL Classification: H00

Suggested Citation

Milios, John, Social Classes in Classical and Marxist Political Economy. Available at SSRN:

John Milios (Contact Author)

National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) ( email )


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