How Status Effects Society Essay Research Paper

How Status Effects Society Essay, Research Paper How Status Effects Behavior In Society A stratified society is one marked by inequality, by differences among people that are evaluated by them as being higher or lower. The simplest form of inequality is based on the division of labor-which always appears according to age and sex.

How Status Effects Society Essay, Research Paper

How Status Effects Behavior In Society

A stratified society is one marked by inequality, by differences among people that are evaluated by them as being higher or lower. The simplest form of inequality is based on the division of labor-which always appears according to age and sex. But there is another form of inequality that always appears in every society-which ranks families rather than individuals. A family shares many characteristics among its members that greatly affect their relationships with outsiders: the same house, the same income, and the same values. If a large group of families are approximately equal to each other and clearly differentiated from other families, we call them a social class.

Karl Marx s Views On Class

The shape of society is determined by its economic foundations and social classes form the key link between economic facts and social facts (Marx, 1957). Every productive system establishes a limited number of types of work roles. A man could raise food, make tools, be a merchant who trades goods, or perhaps be an owner of land or other property. Each group of men who stands in the same relationship to the means of production forms a class. They not only do the same kinds of work but have basic interests in common which often put them in conflict with other classes. Their interests are created by their position in the productive system and are expressed in the legal rules of property.

A given type of productive system, or mode production, will continue to exist as long as the various classes remain in equilibrium despite their contradictory interests. This often means that the most powerful class, the one that controls the most important means of production, gains power over the entire society and uses the organs of government to keep the other classes under control. The ruling class, through law and propaganda, will create a whole superstructure of community life that will further its class interests. Thus the rules of property, the laws of family life and inheritance, the schools, and even the churches, are shaped for the benefit of the few who have power. Through their power even a slave can be made to accept slavery and fight for his master (Marx, 1957).

Marx believed that a capitalist gained his profit from the surplus value of the work of his laborers. The price of labor is determined not by the value of the products that a laborer could produce, but by the cost of supplying laborers and their families. Under ordinary circumstances a worker can produce goods that are worth more than the cost of their wages, and the difference between their wages and the sale price of the goods went into the pocket of the owner. The owner holds a higher status than the workers. Power, attitude, and wage differences prove this.

Max Weber s Views On Class

Opportunities for worldly success or life chances are determined mainly by a man s skills in an occupation or his supply of monetary capital (Weber, 1946). A class then becomes a group of people who share the same life chances. This way of defining class does not imply that individuals in it are aware of their common situation. It simply defines a category of people who are, from the point of view of the market, similar to each other. Only under certain circumstances do they become aware of their common fate, begin to think of each other as equals, and develop institutions of joint action to further their interests – in Weber s words, become a community.

However, because of one s class position, a person earns a certain income. That income allows a person to live in a certain style, and that person soon makes friends with other people who live in the same way. As they interact with one another, they begin to conceive themselves as a special type of person. They restrict interaction with outsiders who seem too different. Marriage partners are chosen from similar groups, for once people follow a certain life style, they find it difficult to be comfortable with people who live differently.

The Six Variables of Sociology

Throughout the 1900 s, a great deal of knowledge has accumulated about American society. Unfortunately the facts are described from numerous points of view and in terms of different conceptual frameworks. However, when this mass of data is viewed from the perspective of the history of stratification theory, it becomes more orderly. What researchers have done is develop measuring tools that apply to the phenomena described by Marx and Weber, but in a smaller scale. It is possible to combine the knowledge of many researches by using the six variables of sociology.

The first variable we deal with is the most obvious one; if we study a local community we notice immediately that some people have higher personal prestige than others. An individual has high prestige when his neighbors have an attitude of respect toward him. Prestige is a sentiment in the minds of men, although they do not always know that it is there. The shrewd observer can often notice deference behavior that is not recognized by the participants.

Secondly, we can stratify a population according to occupation. An occupation is a social role-which describes the employment a person is engaged in to make money for living expenses. People grant prestige not only to people known in the community, but also to those with abstract occupational titles. Then there are some occupations-which are higher than others partly because they are more important to the welfare of the community, and these occupations require special talents. Thus, we are primarily devoted to the highest occupations of business and professional men.

People who work get rewarded with what is known as negotiable money. Consequently, people require a variable called possessions-which are purchased by this negotiable money. People who have high incomes carry on a style of life with a consumption behavior, have contacts with others who are granted considerable prestige, and, through the ways of investment multiply their incomes.

People who share a given style of life tend to have contact or interaction with one another. In a large society everyone cannot interact with everyone else, there must arise patterns of differential contact and they must feel comfortable when they are with their own kind. Researchers emphasize this fact as the key to community stratification. Interaction is a variable-which directs our attention to everyday social behavior.

The degree to which people, at a given stratification, are aware of their social grouping is called class-consciousness. In some circumstances, people feel the need to belong to a group and need the security of others like them to lead them. In other circumstances people become highly group-conscious, and then they are likely to organize political parties to advance their group interests. In general, Americans are less class conscious than Europeans; our traditions concern more what ought to be rather than what is, and the differential distribution of the other variable creates a class system whether we recognize it or not.

Finally, there are value orientations. Values are convictions shared by people in a given culture or subculture about the things they consider good, important, or beautiful. Values define the ends of life and the approved means of approaching them. They tend to become organized into systems. When groups of people share a limited number of abstract values-which organize and relate a large number of specific values, we call them value orientations.

It was stated above that values indicate which occupational activities are considered important and thus worthy of high prestige. But values operate still in another way: the people who perform the same activities or who occupy a given prestige level in a stratification system evolve a set of values. For example, businessman glorify individual initiative ambition, factory workers stress group cooperation and manual skill, and college professors idealize intellectual thought and independence from commercialism.

The Different Classes

After several years of study by more than a dozen researchers, during which time 99% of the families in a New England town were classified, W. Lloyd Warner declared that there were six groupings sharp enough to be called classes:

1. Upper-upper, 1.4% of the total population. This group was the old-family elite, based on sufficient wealth to maintain a large house in the best neighborhood, but the wealth had to have been in the family for more than one generation. This generational continuity permitted proper training in basic value orientations, and established people as belonging to lineage.

2. Lower-upper, 1.6% of the total population, This group was, on the average, slightly richer than the upper-uppers, but their money was newer, their manners thus not quite so polished, their sense of lineage and security less pronounced.

3. Upper-middle, 10.2 % of the total population. The moderately successful business and professional men and their families, but less affluent than the lower-uppers. Some education and polish were necessary for membership, but lineage was unimportant.

4. Lower-middle, 28.1% of the total population. The petty businessman, the schoolteachers, the foreman in industry. This group tended to have morals that were close to puritan fundamentalism; they were churchgoers, lodge joiners, and flag wavers.

5. Upper-lower, 32.6% of the total population. The solid, respectable laboring people, who kept their houses clean and stayed out of trouble.

6. Lower-lower, 25.2% of the total population. The lulus or disrespectable and often slovenly- people who dug for clams and waited for public relief.

Members of all class groups recognize classes above and below them. The greater the social distance from the other classes the less clearly are fine distinctions made. Individuals visualize class groups above them less clearly than those below them; they tend to minimize the social differentiations between themselves and those above.

In view of this situation it is not surprising that individuals in the two upper strata make the finest gradations in the stratification of the whole society and that class distinctions are made with decreasing precision as social positions become lower.

Not only does the perspective on social stratification vary for different class levels, the bases of class distinction in the society are variously interpreted by the different groups. People tend to agree as to where people are but not upon why they are there. Upper-class individuals, especially the upper-uppers, think of class divisions largely in terms of time. They feel that one has a particular social position because his family has always had that position. Members of the middle class interpret their position in terms of wealth and time and tend to make moral evaluations of what should be. Lower class people, on the other hand, view the whole stratification of the society as hierarchy of wealth.

Different Styles of Life

Prestige tends to be bestowed through consumption behavior rather than income, for only that which can be seen can be judged. Consumption patterns and interaction networks are intimately linked; people spend their leisure time with others who share their tastes and recreational activities, and they learn new tastes from those with whom they associate.

Consumption is a constant struggle between what people want and what they have, between standards of living and levels of living.

About one family in a hundred lives in great luxury. They inhabit a mansion instead of a house, they own country establishments, employ servants, travel throughout the world, wear expensive, made-to-order clothes. They are the sort of people who appear in the Sunday supplement perched upon horses.

About nine families in a hundred live opulently, but far from the great luxury of the plutocrats. With their earnings, they can afford a suburban house, a Buick or possibly a Cadillac, clothes copied from Dior or Versace rather than made by them, and a trip to Europe once or twice in a lifetime but not periodically. They automatically send their children to college, and in some instances aspire to the Ivy League.

About half of America s families live neither luxuriously, opulently, nor even well. About three tenths of the total barely live adequately. They are likely to have a four- or five- or-room apartment in the heart of a city (or an old house on a small farm). Their furniture is plain and as old as marriage, for they cannot afford to keep up with the latest styles. In fact, this may be one of the most useful symbols of the dividing line between them and the next higher group, for they can seldom afford to discard anything usable, be it a chair or a dress or a washing machine, just for the pleasure of a new one. Their food is nourishing but not elegant, and is bought with a shrewd eye for bargain cuts of meat and cheap seasonable vegetables. There is little space for their children to play other than in the streets. Mother worries about contacts with rough kids, but does not resort to spanking an unruly youngster. In general, their way of life is determined in large measure by the number of children they have. If only one son appears, he might even be encouraged to go to college. If the house is full of children, older ones will be allowed to quit high school to help bring in a little extra cash. These families just manage to get by; there is usually just enough, but never any extra money.

It seems probable that the majority of families, at least above the tenement level, are relatively satisfied with what they have and consider it to be natural and necessary. In verbal terms, they would admit to fantasies of a higher level of life, but most of the time they do not think much about it and do not see that the real world offers much hope of change. In other words, they have accepted a certain standard of living as appropriate for their group.

But some people at each level have their eyes one step up, and seek to emulate the style of life of those immediately above them. They often furnish their homes on borrowed money in order to make them look more elegant than current income will permit; they seek to raise their incomes by having father keep alert for chances of promotion and perhaps by having mother work a part or full-time job. These people encourage their children to buckle down in school and explain to them that if they want to get further ahead than father they must get more education. This pattern of ambition is, according to myth, universal, however, the scanty available evidence indicates that this is followed mainly by minority families.

What Do Different Classes Spend Their Money?

Some classes in society obviously have more money than others to spend. The total proportion spent for food, shelter, and clothing in each class gives a good idea of the amount of leeway left for less urgent purchases. The proportions spent for these necessities were as follows:

Upper-upper 33%

Lower-upper 35

Upper-middle 51

Lower-middle 59

Upper-lower 66

Lower-lower 75


In any budget study one can see that the upper-upper class are a settled, somewhat sober-minded people spending their money not for automobiles and other items of conspicuous expenditure but on charity, taxes, and traveling for business purposes. The lower-upper class, with money to express its preferences, goes in for conspicuous display. They spend money for expenditures on houses, automobiles, travel for pleasure, and for sports.

The upper-lower class in contrast with the lowest one clearly indicates that their values accent social mobility as much as their pocketbook will allow. According to Warner s research, they outranked all other classes for the proportion of their budget spent on informal education and on moving. Yet they show the pinch of circumstances by ranking second only to the lower-lower people for the money they spend on food and shelter. The lower-lower people ordinarily spent their money on the sheer necessities but the upper-lower extend themselves to add a few activities to their lives to improve their lot (Warner, 1957).

Whet do Americans buy with their money? In 1951 the personal consumption expenditures were divided up this way:

Food 23.9%

Alcoholic Beverages 3.3

Clothing 9.7

Personal Care 1.0

Housing 8.6

Household Operation 10.8

Med. Care/ Death Expenses 4.0

Personal Business 3.7

Automobile 7.2

Other Transportation 1.3

Recreation 4.5

Tobacco 1.9

Private Education .7

Foreign Travel .5

Religion and Welfare .8

Total Personal Expenditures 81.9%

Taxes, Personal 11.4%

Savings, Personal 6.7%

Total 100.0%

(Warner, 1957)

Sociological Conflicts

In any specific dispute, the contending parties have both consensual and dissensual bases for conflict. The relative importance of each varies in different conflicts; it also varies among the different segments of each party and probably changes in the course of a struggle (Kriesberg, 1973).

The basis for many conflicts exists within industrial organizations. They usually occur between workers and managers, line and staff personnel, different departments, and different occupations and trades. These types of conflicts occur not in the workplace, but throughout many workplaces, and even globally throughout society. People then organize into various groups, associations, and unions as a direct result of this.

Conflicts arise mainly due to differences in occupations because with each occupation, there are higher levels of power, prestige, and income to be attained. Similarly, within each company and across society, benefits are not equally distributed among different occupations.

Power differences among occupations are extremely difficult to quantify, but they exist. Occupational groups differ in the degree to which members can control their own work activities. In some occupations, neither the mode of work nor its pace, are under the worker s control. Workers have varying amounts of control over their own activities depending on the technology of the occupation and the amount and kind of supervision to which they are subject. Control over one s own work is closely related to power relations with others in relevant occupations. Within a factory or corporation, for example, there may be clear lines of authority associated with different occupational roles, and roles at each rank are superior to some and subordinate to others.

The control may not only refer to work activities themselves but to claims about the incumbency of the occupational role. In some occupations, particularly in professions, the members largely determine entrance, but once someone has entered, the rights to the position may depend upon customers, colleagues, or superiors.

Occupational strata also differ in their power to determine the units of which workers are a part. Thus, even with unionization, workers still have relatively little power in decisions about matters such as marketing choices, or new product development within the occupation of which they work. As we see, one outcome of conflicts about such issues is an alteration in the moral claims people make on one another.

Robert Ezra Park s Views On Conflict

Park distinguished four major social processes: competition, conflict, accommodation, and assimilation.

Competition is as universal and continuous in human society as it is in natural order. It assigns persons their position in the division of labor as well as in the ecological order (Park, 1971). Conflict on the other hand is intermittent and personal. While competition is a struggle for position in the ecological and economic order, the status of the individual, or a group of individuals, in the social order is determined by rivalry, by war or by subtler forms of conflict. Competition determines the position of the individual in the [ecological] community, conflict fixes his place in society. Location, position, ecological interdependence-these are the characteristics of the [ecological] community. Status, subordination, and super-ordination control-these are the distinctive marks of society (Park, 1971).

Accommodation implies a cessation of conflict, which comes about when the system of allocation of status and power, the relations of super-ordinates to subordinates, have been temporarily fixed and are controlled through the laws and the mores. In accommodation the antagonism of the hostile elements is, for the time being, regulated, and conflict disappears as over action, although it remains latent as a potential force. With a change in the situation, the adjustment that had hitherto successfully held in control the antagonistic forces fails (Park, 1971). Accommodation, like social control generally, is fragile and easily upset. To Park, accommodation and social order, far from being natural, are only temporary adjustments and may at any moment be upset by underlying latent conflicts that press to undermine the previous order of restraint.

In contrast to accommodation, assimilation is process of interpenetration and fusion in which persons and groups, and, by sharing their experience and history, are incorporated with them in a common culture (Park, 1971). While Park seems to have felt that the other three fundamental social processes operate in a wide variety of social interactions, he reserves the discussion of assimilation more especially to the sociology of culture. When assimilation is achieved, this does not mean that individual differences are eradicated or that competition and conflict cease but only that there is enough unity of experience and communality of symbolic orientation so that a community of purpose and action can emerge.


This paper is designed to support the topic of, How Status Effects Behavior In Society. In reading this you should now be able to compare and contrast the differences in society between perhaps the two greatest sociological thinkers, Marx and Weber. The assigning of classes and they ways in which they live, have also been revealed. Economic differences straight through sociological conflicts described by Robert Ezra Park, have never been described in such ease before now. Through hard work and weeks of painstaking research, the differences in behavior between the social classes have been exposed.