The American Class Structure

By Joseph A. Kahl | Go to book overview

leadership structure of its own that was only dimly understood by the white men of prominence. Indeed, the few Negroes who were occasionally consulted by the white leaders exaggerated their position and power--their influence was partly due to the mere fact that the whites did consult them.

About half a dozen of the leaders specialized in liaison work with state and national power figures. They worked in the shadows of the lobbies where so much legislative and administrative work gets done. Hunter told me that he is now studying the interactions among the leaders who link local power groups into national networks. He believes that some three to four hundred men are the active and influential persons that make up the core of the national power structure. But as was pointed out in the preceding chapter (and as Hunter himself wrote), it would be a mistake to assume that there is a single power pyramid in each community, and a single power pyramid in the country as a whole. There are shifting groups that organize and dissolve around specific issues. Yet it does seem that the same faces appear very often in one group after another. Certainly the smaller the community, the more likely it is that the same persons will dominate all of the more important activities. Their interaction network, which often combines recreation and business, is the place where the many interests in the community represented by large formal organizations come together for compromise and adjustment. In Hunter's study it was obvious that the major active interests were business interests. Although there were two labor leaders, a couple of politicians, and some Negro leaders who presumably spoke for mass interests and had some connections with the top group, the interests of the ordinary folk were represented mainly through the feelings of noblesse oblige of the business leaders.


CONCLUSIONS

Feelings of superiority and inferiority are acted out when men and women meet to work and play. Thus direct observations of interaction and interpretations of verbal prestige rankings are different means of studying the same basic phenomena.

The evidence is clear: persons of similar prestige are likely to associate with one another in those recreational situations where free choice is available. The differential costs of the activities engaged in at different status levels, and the different educations, habits, and values that characterize people at the separate prestige levels make people more comfortable when interacting with their own kind. Furthermore, the ecological patterning of cities puts people of similar buying power together as neighbors.

-153-

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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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