Man, Work, and Society: A Reader in the Sociology of Occupations

By Sigmund Nosow; William H. Form | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
SOCIAL STATUS OF OCCUPATIONS

It is commonly observed that some occupations have more respect, money, and power associated with them than do others. The fact that occupations appear to be stratified along several dimensions has led many scholars to study societal stratification by studying occupational stratification. Obviously the study of occupational and social stratification must merge in a society in which the economic institution occupies such a central and important position.

Why certain occupations are accorded greater material and non- material awards is not altogether clear. Davis and Moore try to answer this question in their article on page 375. They reason that some occupations are functionally more important to a society than others, that they demand longer training, greater sacrifices, and longer periods of education. Workers in such occupations tend to be scarce, and a system of awards is necessary to recruit people into them.

This type of explanation has been attacked by Tumin1 and others who insist that this is a conservative view which justifies the persistence of inequalities in a society. They assert that the differential distribution of occupational awards tends to support a given system of stratification long after its alleged functional requirements are met. However, an adequate alternative explanation for the rise and persistence of occupational stratification has not been proposed.

It is difficult to test either Davis and Moore's hypotheses or Tumin's incisive rejoinder. The meager evidence seems to substantiate the position of Davis and Moore. Froomkin and Jaffe2 argue that the assignment of a particular occupation at a particular skill level in a society is a function of the scarcity of that occupation and the length of training or education required for adequate performance. By comparing the classification of occupations in the United States in 1950 with that of the Soviet Union in 1926 it is evident that the level of skill assigned to a particular occupation is a function of the particular social and

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