THE NOBILITY AND THE BOURGEOISIE
Historical information about the other classes and strata of the old society that have since ceased to exist is not of great importance in understanding the present development of the East-European class structure; nonetheless, some general information concerning these less notable classes will fill in our knowledge of bygone societies.
In American sociological writings, there exists a great confusion in the usage of terms concerning the political class of the ancien regime. Some authors use the terms "aristocracy," "nobility," "gentry," and "landlords" interchangeably. We will introduce some order into this terminology and discuss their characteristics and historical role.
First of all, it should be made clear that the nobility was not a class but an estate 1; it belonged to the social order of a time when social position was determined much more by political power and rights than by property. "Nobility" is a term common to all social strata and groups belonging to the old privileged estate. With the development of capitalism, this estate joined with the wealthier members of the bourgeoisie to form the ruling class of modern society.
In discussing the fate of the peasantry as well as sketching the social problems in the history of the four East-European countries, we have already