Class awareness in Iceland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The purpose of this paper is to study class awareness in Iceland in the wake of a national economic collapse.

This comparatively oriented case study uses new survey data, secondary data on Iceland and 2005 World Values Survey data. The data are analyzed using a synthesis of Weber's theory of class and reference group theory.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Icelanders are class‐aware. Most recognize and understand class terms, and are willing to assign themselves to a class. Consistent with Weber, Icelanders have fairly strong awareness of their class position, evidenced by a strong relationship between subjective class and economic class, on the one hand, and subjective class and class indicators, on the other. Consistent with reference group theory, a subjective “middle class” tendency is revealed across the class structure. Icelanders also have more of a “middle class” view of their class position and see it, on average, as higher than people in most other countries.

No systematic study of class awareness in Iceland has been carried out since the 1970s. What is more, cross‐national studies have never fielded subjective class questions in Iceland. This paper begins to rectify this omission. Lastly, a linkage of individualization and reference group processes is proposed to broaden the theoretical basis of studies of class awareness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-312
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Sociology and Social Policy
Issue number5/6
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes

Other keywords

  • Iceland
  • Social class
  • Individual perception
  • Group theory

Cite this