Social Class in Europe

Social Class in Europe:New Inequalities in the Old World

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Mapping the class divisions that run throughout Europe.

Over the last ten years the issue of Europe has been placed at the centre of major political conflicts, revealing profound splits in society. These splits are represented in terms of an opposition between those countries on the losing and those on the winning sides of globalisation. Inequalities beyond those nations are critically absent from the debate.

Based on major European statistical surveys, the new research in this work presents a map of social classes inspired by Pierre Bourdieu’s sociology. It reveals the common features of the working class, the intermediate class and the privileged class in Europe. National features combine with social inequalities, through an account of the social distance between specific groups in nations in the north and in the countries of the south and east of Europe. The book ends with a reflection on the conditions that would be required for the emergence of a Europe-wide social movement.


  • Three sociologists analyse the European social structure, looking at the implications of the economic and political integration that has taken shape on the continent. Their approach provides new opportunities for the study of inequalities. The book seeks to provide an overview of inequalities between socioeconomic groups with regard to working conditions, income, education, cultural practices and international mobility. In doing so, it establishes itself as a highly valuable resource on account of the large number of statistics it provides. The abundance of studies cited across a wide range of fields and the concrete illustrations of the phenomena described also make it a useful reference work for all those interested in matters of social classes and inequalities in Europe.

  • If you are interested in the future of socioeconomic inequality, class structure and political mobilization in Europe, you should read this book. Cédric Hugrée, Etienne Penissat and Alexis Spire develop an innovative and powerful empirical-quantivative and conceptual-analytical framework in order to offer a transnational perspective on social class in Europe. I very much hope that this work will be followed by sociologists, economists and social scientists and of all stripes and others. A must-read!

    Thomas Piketty
  • Bringing the social theories of Pierre Bourdieu to bear on a trove of survey data, Social Class in Europe draws a bold and bright map of class structure, division and condition across the continent. It demonstrates how European unification has splintered the lower classes while solidifying the domination of the economic and cultural bourgeoisie. By documenting social polarization both within cities and countries as well as across regions (North/South, East/West), it provides an essential key to understand the class struggles and political strife roiling Europe in the 21st century.

    Loïc Wacquant, author of Urban Outcasts: A Comparative sociology of Advanced Marginality and Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity.