Overclass is a recent and pejorative term for the most powerful group in a social hierarchy. Users of the term generally imply excessive and unjust privilege and exploitation of the rest of society. Compare the older term, upper class, which nowadays is sometimes also pejorative, but is not necessarily so, and historically was rarely so.
Historian Paul Fussell refers to what he calls a "top out of sight" class in the United States. These are people who have an even better quality of life than a visible overclass because their vast wealth allows them to affect cultural and political changes without first exposing them to public comment. Conspiracy theories often propose a secret society with supernatural overtones as an invisible global overclass.[according to whom?]
The word is fairly recent: the Oxford English Dictionary only included it December 2004. But it has been in use since at least 1995. At least some writers compare it to the more familiar underclass:
|“||We now have a quite new phenomenon in the history of the republic: two radically isolated sectors of the population, the underclass and the overclass. Both are in an adversarial posture toward the great majority of Americans, the overclass by virtue of ambition and unbounded self-esteem, the underclass by virtue of social incompetence and anomie. Between the two there is a fearful symmetry on many scores, but their service to each other is far from equal.||”|
- The next American nation: the new nationalism and the fourth American revolution - Michael Lind - Google Books
- Fighting Poverty, Inequality and Injustice: A Manifesto Inspired by Peter ... - Google Books
- Chronicles - Rockford Institute - Google Books
- This Land Is Their Land: Reports from a Divided Nation - Barbara Ehrenreich - Google Books
- Delight of the Overclass! Demise of the Middleclass! - Jay T. Baldwin - Google Books
- Rothkopf, David J. (2008). Superclass: the global power elite and the world they are making. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 0-374-27210-7.
- Quarterly updates to OED Online
- Farewell to the Overclass 1996 Richard John Neuhaus
- Adler, Jerry (July 31, 1995). "The Rise of the Overclass; The Overclass 100". Newsweek 126 (5): 32–46. – Newsweek cover story on "How the new elite scrambled up the merit ladder—and wants to stay there any way it can."
- The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition, 2000
- The Origins of the Overclass Steve Kangas, 1999
- Why the Right Is Wrong for America, 1996
- To have and to have not, 1995