The American Class Structure

By Joseph A. Kahl | Go to book overview

II
Position and Prestige

FAME DID NOT BRING THE SOCIAL ADVANCEMENT WHICH THE BABBITTS DESERVED. THEY WERE NOT ASKED TO JOIN THE TONAWANDA COUNTRY CLUB NOR INVITED TO THE DANCES AT THE UNION. HIMSELF, BABBITT FRETTED, HE "DIDN'T CARE A FAT HOOT FOR ALL THESE HIGHROLLERS, BUT THE WIFE WOULD KIND OF LIKE TO BE AMONG THOSE PRESENT." HE NERVOUSLY AWAITED HIS UNIVERSITY CLASS-DINNER AND AN EVENING OF FURIOUS INTIMACY WITH SUCH SOCIAL LEADERS AS CHARLES MCKELVEY THE MILLIONAIRE CONTRACTOR, MAX KRUGER THE BANKER, IRVING TATE THE TOOL-MANUFACTURER, AND ADELBERT DOBSON THE FASHIONABLE INTERIOR DECORATOR. THEORETICALLY HE WAS THEIR FRIEND, AS HE HAD BEEN IN COLLEGE, AND WHEN HE ENCOUNTERED THEM THEY STILL CALLED HIM "GEORGIE," BUT HE DIDN'T SEEM TO ENCOUNTER THEM OFTEN. . . .

Sinclair Lewis [1]

IN THE SMALL GROUP, in the local community, in the society as a whole, we notice that some people are looked up to, respected, considered people of consequence, and others are thought of as ordinary, unimportant, even lowly. Everywhere we see nabobs and nobodies.

Prestige is a sentiment in the minds of men that is expressed in interpersonal interaction: deference behavior is demanded by one party and granted by another. Obviously, it can occur only when there are values shared by both parties that define the criteria of superiority; deference at pistol point is not the result of prestige. But this does not necessarily mean that both parties agree about all aspects of the situation. For instance, the subordinate person may feel that the superordinate person should not have the right to deference and may try to foment a revolution to take it away from him; but so long as the subordinate recognizes that the superordinate does have the right to claim deference and feels constrained by group norms to grant it, then a prestige difference exists. The degree of consensus can range from a situation in which deference is given joyously as a recognition of moral worthiness that reflects the will of God, to one in which deference is given grudgingly, against part of one's own will which cries out against these claims to

-19-

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The American Class Structure
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introduction v
  • Preface ix
  • Contents xiii
  • Tables xvii
  • Figures xviii
  • I - The Dimensions of Class 1
  • References 16
  • II - Position and Prestige 19
  • Conclusions 47
  • References 49
  • III - Occupational Prestige and Social Change 53
  • Conclusions 85
  • References 87
  • IV - Income, Wealth, and Style of Life 91
  • Conclusions 119
  • References 122
  • V - The Web of Interaction 127
  • Conclusions 153
  • References 154
  • VI - Class Consciousness and Political Ideology 157
  • Conclusions 180
  • References 181
  • VII - Classes as Ideal Types: Emergent Values 184
  • Conclusions 215
  • References 218
  • VIII - Ethnic and Race Barriers 221
  • Conclusions 247
  • References 248
  • IX - Succession and Mobility: the Occupational Base 251
  • Conclusions 271
  • References 272
  • X - Succession and Mobility: Motivation and Education 276
  • Conclusions 293
  • References 294
  • Index 301
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