The Philosophy, Sociology and Economics of Class

Standard economics portrays people as representative households that respond effectively to economic incentives and available information. But decades of sociological and psychological research has shown that people are highly influenced by norms and their environment. From where we work and live to what we consume – our lives are highly influenced by our socioeconomic background or ‘class’. For example, many studies highlight that economic success in life in Germany still depends heavily on the circumstances in which people grow up.

This poses some important challenges to economics and philosophy. How much, if at all, do we need to adapt the homo economicus model in light of sociological findings? How shall we think of meritocracy if life prospects are indeed dependent on someone’s background and surroundings? What would policies to create a fairer and more inclusive society look like? 

In this seminar, we will explore these questions by analysing people’s lives from a sociological and economic perspective. We will dip into some classical sociological texts but mostly focus on readings and data on economic lives in Germany today. We will connect the empirical analysis of class to the philosophical literature about inequality.

Get the seminar briefing pack.

Philosophy and Economics Programme, University of Bayreuth

Winter 21/22, with Carsten Jung

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