Overclass

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Overclass is a recent and pejorative[1][2] 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.[3][4][5] Compare the older term, upper class, which nowadays is sometimes also pejorative, but is not necessarily so, and historically was rarely so.[citation needed]

Perhaps the most commonly agreed-upon "overclass" consists of leaders in international business, finance and the war industry.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8]

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Further reading[edit]

  • 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."

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