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Class awareness in Iceland

Gudmundur Aevar Oddsson (Department of Sociology, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, USA)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 22 June 2010



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.



Aevar Oddsson, G. (2010), "Class awareness in Iceland", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 30 No. 5/6, pp. 292-312.



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