There are those who do not seek to climb. They are to be found in all ages and all kinds. In general, they are more characteristic of the social classes than are those who discontentedly strive to rise. Their class-consciousness is expressed in acceptance, deference, respect for position, for rank, for superior status. Gurewitsch believes that people enjoy paying deference to those higher on the social scale, because these contacts give one a feeling of power. At the same time on may wish to be in their place. 51Next Page
Sumner 52 holds that the "masses" are the core of the social structure, conservative, living on by tradition and habit, filled with inertia. They are inclined to accept their lot; they are not characteristically restive and desirous of climbing up the social ladder.
The social class structure, then, is a part of society that endures political upheavals -- it does not produce them. Other forces produce political convulsions, political strife, and class conflict.
In fact, most of the political revolutions of history, before 1917, were not greatly significant to the social class structure. Those families that had been prominent, powerful, and recognized before the upheaval have been seen to persist in influence and affluence after the first phase of the revolution has spent itself. Ogg states that, "The mob which stormed the Bastille in 1789 was composed largely of landless, hand-to-mouth people, but before the Revolution had far progressed, the fortunes of the movement had fallen completely under the guidance of men who were economically and socially of a higher rank..." 53
There is, of course, a relationship between the class struggle and class consciousness in the politico-industrial sense and the social class consciousness of family competition, accommodation, and cooperation. Sometimes rapidly, but usually slowly, political upheavals will change even the personal and family relationships and stations within a village or a great city. The present war era [WWII] is one that undermines the social status, even the actual lives, of many families in high social positions.
The organizations of worker, of retailers, of taxpayers, of teachers, of employers, also tend to group people socially as well as politically. This fact was more apparent and outstanding in times and places where the political, economic, and social activities of groups tended to coincide more closely than they do today -- as, for instance, during the better days of the craft and merchant guilds.
51. Gurewitsch, op. cit., p. 43.
52. William Graham Sumner, Folkways (Boston, 1907) p. 45.
53. Frederic Austin Ogg, Social Progress in Contemporary Europe (New York, 1923) p. 338.