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In Europe and the United States, industrialization eventually caused the middleclass to swell at the expense of the lower, so that by the middle of the 20th century it constituted a majority.
As the swollen middleclass lost its distinctive usefulness as a label, observers invented sub-labels: we often detect in contemporary societies at least an "upper middleclass" and a "lowermiddleclass".
Modern political economy considers a large middlclass to be a beneficial, stabilizing influence on society, because it has neither the explosive revolutionary tendencies of the lowerclass[?], nor the stultifying greedy tendencies of the upper class[?].
Middleclass is sometimes loosely used to refer to the bourgeoisie.
Descending from this distinction, the phrase "middleclass" came to be used in the United Kingdom during the Industrial Revolution to describe the professional and business class, as distinct from both the titled nobility and the landed gentry on the one hand and the agricultural and (increasingly) industrial laborers on the other.
Marxism defines social classes not according to the wealth or prestige of their members, but according to their relationship with the means of production: a noble owns land; a capitalist owns capital; a worker has the ability to work and must seek employment in order to make a living.
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