Lower social class in traditional and modern societies

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Abstract


The authors make a distinction between such concepts as ‘lower social class’ (‘lumpen-proletariat’), ‘criminal community’ and ‘cultural underground’, and identify significant differences between the lower social strata in traditional and modern societies. The single ‘lower social world’ of traditional societies had its own cults, culture and organization and was an opposite of the ‘upper social world’. The religious definition of its ritual impurity was the basis for discrimination and segregation of its members and social groups. In modern societies, the lower class disintegrates and cannot be considered a single social anti-system: its ‘fragments’ - the prison part of the criminal community, counter-cultural underground and forbidden sects - are not connected with each other; the upper privileged part of criminal communities (a system of patronages with horizontal and vertical social ties) became a part of the modern society elite. At the same time, the system of patron-client relations that invisibly permeates modern societies necessarily implies corruption, at least the ‘soft corruption’. The authors consider such a phenomenon as an ‘underground’ in modern societies defining it as countercultural groups consisting mainly of well-educated representatives of the middle-class. The article also describes the underground of the Soviet society before and after perestroika which cannot be defined as a lower class of the contemporary Russian society. In conclusion, the authors suggest that in the Russian culture there is a kind of refined image of the ‘social bottom’ that influenced scientific ideas about it and is based on the social representations of the lower social class in the traditional society.


About the authors

M Yu Popov

Kuban State University

Author for correspondence.
Email: popov-52@mail.ru
mcr. im. G. Zhukova, PO box 1812, Krasnodar, Russia, 350005

A E Kapishin

RUDN University (Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia)

Email: poliarnik@yandex.ru
Miklukho-Maklaya St., 6, Moscow, Russia, 117198

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