Status Inconsistency and Lifestyle among Status Groups: Focusing on Cultural Capital and Social Capital*

By Eun-Young, Nam | Development and Society, December 2008 | Go to article overview

Status Inconsistency and Lifestyle among Status Groups: Focusing on Cultural Capital and Social Capital*


Eun-Young, Nam, Development and Society


This paper examines the relationship between status inconsistency and lifestyle in terms of cultural capital and social capital. Each status group is divided according to combination of achieved factors such as education and income. Four groups, 'high education-high income,' 'high education -low income,' 'low education-high income' and 'low education-low income' are established. The results show that each group has a distinctive lifestyle. The 'high education-low income' group participates more in cultural activities. 'Low education-high income' distinguishes itself with expensive and prestigious material possessions and participation in pseudo-familial groups and voluntary associations. These results indicate that the status inconsistency influences a lifestyle in terms of some aspects of cultural capital and social capital.

Key Words: Status Inconsistency, Lifestyle, Cultural Capital, Social Capital, Status Groups

INTRODUCTION

In analyses of social stratification, groups had been conceptualized in terms of a vertical structure until Gerhard E. Lenski suggested the idea of status crystallization, a non-vertical dimension of social status. Most social philosophers and social scientists have described the vertical structure of human groups in terms of a single hierarchy wherein each member occupies a single position. However, critics maintain that the structure of human groups normally involves the coexistence of a number of parallel vertical hierarchies that are usually imperfectly correlated with one another (Lenski, 1954).

In essence, the theory of status crystallization can be stated as follows. The social status is multidimensional and hierarchical. Individuals are located in social space in terms of their position on a variety of dimension such as status-occupation, education, income, ethnicity, etc. Each person occupies a particular status configuration, determined by his or her location on each of the component dimensions. Particular values and expectations are associated with each level on each of the component dimensions. Thus, some status sets will be "crystallized" in the sense that all of the component statuses give rise to similar values and expectation, while others are not. The theory argues that those individuals whose positions on the different dimensions are not crystallized- those whose status membership gives rise to conflict values and expectations-are likely to experience more strain and tension than people whose status sets are crystallized (Treiman, 1966).

According to Lenski, certain persons may be located in a high or low position consistently, while others may combine high standing in terms of a certain status variable with low standing. Especially when a society has experienced industrialization and the functions of society have diversified, the individual's rank position in important societal status hierarchies is not always at a consistent level. This strain that evokes structural inconsistency is manifested as psychological frustration. Generally, people tend to define their status and environments in favorable terms. When people are in a position of inconsistency, they are inclined to see themselves at the highest position and wish others to recognize them in the same manner. However, because others usually estimate them at the lowest position, they undergo the psychological stress (Lenski, 1954).

Lenski made use of the four indicators, occupation hierarchy, education hierarchy, income hierarchy and ethnic hierarchy, to represent the status inconsistency, and he attempted to explain status inconsistency and unpleasant social relations. He suggested that a person whose status is poorly crystallized occupies an ambiguous position in society. Hence persons with a low degree of status crystallization are more likely to be subject to disturbing experiences in the interaction process and have greater difficulty in establishing rewarding patterns of social interaction than others. …

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