Differences between acceptable behaviour, possessions, use of language and other habits form barriers between classes, which may be difficult or impossible to surmount, and cause considerable social prejudice. Individuals who make a partial transition from one class to another may be accepted by neither. Class consciousness as a social barrier can range from elitism (European nobility, American nouveau-riche) to self-degradation (women artists compared with the major male artists), the former possibly limiting association with people 'beneath one', the latter possibly limiting the social and educational opportunities which could lead to success. Both of these forms of class consciousness may limit practitioners from realizing their full potential, on both an individual and a global basis.
The classless society, envisaged by Marx and Lenin, has not yet materialized. In the USSR where, officially, social class—whether defined by job, income, family or attitude—has been abolished, there were 'strata' of society: workers, peasants and intellectuals, distinctions which were supposed to disappear when full communism is reached. But years after the Bolshevik takeover, class consciousness still existed. A large and powerful state bureaucracy was founded on privilege. In 1993 in the West a common theme in research findings based on many surveys is that of the stability rather than the dynamism of class relations. There is a remarkable persistence of class-differentiated patterns of social action, even within periods of rapid change at the level of social institutions and political conjecture.
Classism is the oppression of the working and non-propertied classes by the middle and upper classes.
A healthy society needs both custodians and innovators. It needs custodians who feel obligated to pass things on to the next generation, without which society falls apart, loses all its savour, all its beauty, all its charm, all its virtue. Those who are best equipped to be custodians are the moneyed hereditary class. Ancestral connections of this class enrich schools, colleges, and regiments; they also enrich trade unions, businesses and indeed all human organizations.