In basic words, social class is based on economically determined relationship to the market (owner, employee etc.) Status is based on non-economical qualities like honor, prestige and religion. Party refers to factors having to do with affiliations in the political domain.
All communities are arranged in a manner that goods, both tangible and intangible, are distributed. Such a distribution is always unequal and necessarily involves power, which is another key word in Weber's terminology. ''Classes, status groups and parties are phenomena of the distribution of power within a community'' (Weber 127). Status groups make up the social order, classes make up the economic order, and parties form the political order. Each order affects and is affected by the other. Power may rest on a variety of bases, and can be of differing types. Power is not the only basis of social honor, and social honor, or prestige, may be the basis of economic power.
Class is defined in terms of market situation. ...
''If classes as such are not groups, class situations emerge only on the basis of social action.''
Unlike classes, status groups do have a quality of groups. They are determined by the distribution of social honor. A specific style of life is shared by a status group, and the group itself is defined by those with whom one has social intercourse. Economic elements can be a sort of honor; however, similar class position does not necessitate similar status groups (see old money's contempt for the nouveau riche). People from different economic classes may be members of the same status group, if they share the same specific style of life.
The way in which social honor is distributed in the community is called the status order. Criteria for entry into a status group may take forms such as the sharing of kinship groups or certain levels of education. The most extreme of a status system with a high level of closure (that is, strong restriction of mobility between statuses) is a caste system. There, status distinctions are guaranteed not only by law and convention, but also by religious sanctions.
Status groups can sometimes be equal to class, sometimes be broader, sometimes more restrictive, and sometimes bear no relation to class. In most cases, status situation is the apparent dimension of stratification: ''stratification by status goes hand in hand with a monopolization of ideal and material goods or opportunities'' (Weber 135). Class situation can take precedence over status situation, however. ''When the bases of the acquisition and distribution of goods are relatively stable, stratification by status is favored'' (Weber 135).