Lifestyle and Class Consciousness

Lifestyle is the habits, attitudes, thoughts, and behavioral orientations of a person, a group, or society. The word was first introduced by Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler in his famous essay, The Case of Miss R. for the meaning of ‘a general disposition of minds of people”.


The concept was expanded upon in the work of the Frankfurt School of sociology and psychology, especially by Max Weber and his colleagues, and especially by twentieth century social scientists like Frank van den Berghe. The major thrust of their work was to demonstrate that human life-styles are determined by more than just economics, and that a totally independent psychological structure operating over a period of time determines the nature and quality of human life-styles and their relation to a number of other factors. Adolph Adler, another of the founders of the Frankfurt School, brought the idea of the determinants of life-styles to a new level of prominence in his study of modern civilization. In essence, he examined three groups of people in societies that differed in two main aspects: religion and economic opportunity. By comparing the religious and economic lives of these three groups, he hoped to show that the differences in lifestyle were not based on any deeper cultural difference, but were the result of historical causes and pressures unique to each of the groups.

Weber rejected the view that there is a contradiction between religion and a free economy and instead believed that the two were unrelated and could be thought of as two aspects of the same personality. According to Weber, religion helps maintain a social order and a sense of community, which in turn helps create a quality life style and vice versa. The economic life style is based on self-satisfaction and the ability to secure a job and enjoy a comfortable living through one’s earnings. In modern times we may regard Weber’s point of view as today’s liberal ideal, since many people still live lifestyles very much influenced by the pre-modern era. However, for those who subscribe to the classical school of thought, the modern age is the age of absolute freedom and responsibility for one’s own actions.