Cooley is quoted in the same vein: 5Next Page
Loyalty to family becomes synonymous with loyalty to class, and membership in one of the "best" families is a sine qua non of association with the members of the same class. On the other hand, in young societies or in those where social change is taking place rapidly, one's family name is taken little account of. But even under these conditions the natural consequences of social heredity through the family work their course.
In his extensive historical review of the social classes of ancient and modern times Fahlbeck, too, lays the emphasis upon social class rigidity as a general principle: 6
Der Sklave erzeugt Sklaven, die Nachkommen des Häuptlings bilden den hohen Adel. Die persönliche Eigenschaft der Geburt wird so an und für sich zu einer Ursache sozialer Unterschiede . . . Man ist zu niedrigen oder zu hohem Stande und überhaupt zu seinem Gewerbe und seiner Lebensstellung von vornherein schol infolge der Herkunft bestimmt.
A recent volume by Ogburn and Nimkoff likewise takes a stand as to whether or not there have been appreciable degrees of social class mobility. They would be classes as among the critics of the American Dream in its pristine form. They state: 7
It is, however, important for the reader to observe that even the most rigid social structure shows some mobility, that is, movement up and down the social ladder . . . Equally important is the fact that even in the most mobile of stratified societies, most individuals remain forever in the class of their birth. This can be shown, for example, by an examination of the statistics and occupations, marriages, and the like for several generations of the population.
Concerning the United States, where there has reputedly been much mobility, these same authors say: 8
The reader naturally has a special interest in the social structure of the United States and wishes to know what it shows in regard to social classes. Despite the democratic shibboleth that "all men are created free and equal," classes do exist in the United States. To stress the fact that half of all the presidents of the United States were of humble birth * is only to emphasize the dramatic exceptions to a rule and not the rule itself. The rule is that the overwhelming majority of individuals remain in the classes into which they are born.
It is doubtless true not only in the present but since the interpretation of social institutions that "the idea that opportunities are open equally to all individuals of equal ability must be regarded as fantasy." 9
Over against the foregoing generalizations that have, for the most part, emphasized the stability of the social classes can be placed the following statements that emphasize social class mobility: 10
The great majority, if not all, of the present wealthiest families [of Europe and America] sprang up during the last two centuries, or even the last two decades. All the rich families of previous times have disappeared and sunk into poverty again. This means that after a period of rising they have undergone one of impoverishment.
In contrast to the North theory of social class stability, which coincides with the findings of the present writer, Sorokin states:
As a result, the composition of each class is fluid, changeable, and unstable, at least in part . . . On an insignificant part of each economic class remains in the same class during many generations. Such cases strongly suggest that people who are poor or rich during five or more generations are in the place proper to their innate qualities.
Another student of social ascent and descent is also impressed by the generalization that this phenomenon is universal. Nothaas quotes the old proverb: "Der Geldsack und der Bettelsack hängen nie länger also 100 Jahre vor einer Tür," and also comments that this span has been "cut down as the examples of war profiteers and the victim of the inflation have demonstrated." 12
One of the least realistic, perhaps, of all the statements on the chances of social mobility is found in a recent sociological text: 13
The higher ranks of entrepreneurs and members of professions occupy, as was noted in a description of the Lower North Side of Chicago, the upper rungs of the community's social ladder. Even members of the semi-skilled group fix their eyes on these same upper rungs, not for themselves usually but for their children.
If by "semi-skilled workers" factory hands, stockyard employees, and truck drivers are meant, it is altogether likely that such thoughts are beyond the range of their career plans, even for their children, on the whole. These groups are least career conscious, attend least to the homework, education and career interests of their children. They are the type which put their children to work and which marry their daughters away from the family board into a kitchen of their own, where they can not only cook, but also eat, wash, and sit. A suggestion of the kind stated above, if made to groups of automobile workers in Detroit, would create a loud guffaw. The notion that their eyes were glued on a hotel apartment in the Detroit-Cadillac for their children would come within the bounds of reason only if coupled with the hopes for the honeymoons of their children, or some similar occasion such as an overnight party. Of all the gray faces this present writer has seen in the early morning gates of the Packard factory, and alongside whom he worked for months, not one let pass his lips the thought of so rearing his children that they would some day join the Dodges and Fords along the river above Belle Isle. Has not the worker burned his fingers many times trying to carry through reasonable plans and modest hopes, only to lose his refrigerator, his car, or his frame house? One of the high hopes of the semi-skilled is to hold his job until his youngest is twelve years old.
In concluding this statement about the generalized interpretations, the following points should be made: (1) Those who believe that in certain periods of human history the classes were closed, correspondingly believe that in other times there has been great social mobility. (2) Those who see the great majority of the population remaining in the class of their birth are more realistic, in that they do not confuse the hopes of rising with the actualities of social class. (3) The moral lesson that those who work hard and save their pennies rise to great heights smacks of advertising campaigns of commercial and savings banks and efficiency experts. (4) The notion that all of ability rise lends moral justification to the social inequalities by inferring that those who have not risen are lacking in ability, a source of considerable frustration among persons in their late twenties who are "getting nowhere fast."
5. Quoted by ibid., p. 257.
6. Pontus Fahlbeck, Die Klassen und die Gesellschaft (Jena, 1922) p. 106.
7. William F. Ogburn and Meyer F. Nimkoff, Sociology (Boston, 1940) p. 317.
8. Ibid., p. 320.
* P. Sorokin, The Monarchs and the Rulers.
9. Ogburn and Nimkoff, op. cit., p. 340.
10. Sorokin, op. cit. (2), p. 27.
11. Ibid., pp. 478 - 9.
12. J. Nothaas, Social Ascent and Descent in Germany, tr. S. (New York, 1938) p. 1.
13. Carl A. Dawson and Warner E. Gettys, An Introduction to Sociology (New York, 1929) p. 100.