Some instructors are young men marked to rise, with fine family backgrounds, who have married ultra-fashionable women. The faculty directory of New York University, for instance, shows that some of them live at conspicuous addresses. Other instructors are older men, with feelings of failure, who wrestle monthly with the family budget. Certainly here is abundant evidence of social heterogeneity in the presence of occupational homogeneity. Men work side by side who do not, in their leisure time, have enough in common, strictly from the social class point of view, to enable them to fraternize with one another.

Whatever occupational category is mentioned, observation quickly shows it not to be homogeneous in the social class sense. There are, within any given community, many social divisions among farmers. Even the term "farm-owner" does not describe the social position and circle of friends of the person thus designated. The same is true of the category "tenant."

In referring to social classes many of the more careful writers avoid direct reference to occupations. MacIver states categorically: "Class distinctions rest in the last resort not on function but on status." 22 Mombert 23 rules out occupational groups from his category of social class, which he identifies with class.

It can be safely stated that the weight of authority is now on the side of those who differentiate between occupational categories and social status groups.

René Worms makes the empathic statement: "One must not confuse classes with professions. A profession includes all men whose activity produces a given result, whatever their rank on the social ladder." 24 Tawney repudiates the theory of parallelism between the social functions and the social classes in these words: "The class system takes off its overalls and office coat and wears a costume appropriate to the hours of ease." 25 Slowly, this position is coming to be accepted in social science.

Wealth and social status. The relationship between economic factors and social class is further complicated by the question of the relationship between wealth and social standing. Do great and medium wealth determine high and medium class standing, respectively; or do high and middle class status determine the distribution of great and medium wealth?

Throughout human history it has not been characteristic of social classes to be strictly plutocratic. Rome, for instance, definitely rejected the plutocratic theory of status.

Precedence, social esteem, and social prestige have rarely if ever been computed in purely non-personal, material terms. Sumner and Keller observe: "Plutocracy has been held in check by aristocracy of birth, though aristocrats do not normally renounce their opportunity of becoming rich." 26 Social class usually breathes the atmosphere of aristocracy, i.e. exclusiveness based on social antecedents. This has been generally true of the craft artisans, the middle classes, and the upper classes of all societies alike. Furthermore, social class uses social advantage to reap economic rewards.

In how far does this theory hold? It is true that a family is not socially rated according to its economic means? Is it possible that status produces and distributes wealth even more frequently and effectively than wealth produces status? Should the slogan, "A man's social position depends upon his economic power," be preceded by the statement: "Usually a man's wealth depends upon the social class in which he was reared."

"Among primitive peoples," we are told, "wealth is perhaps more likely to be a result of power than power of wealth." 27 For modern times Mombert 28 would reverse this emphasis.

Next Page


22. R.M. MacIver, Society: A Textbook of Sociology (New York, 1937) p. 168.

23. Mombert, op. cit., (9) p. 532.

24. René Worms, La Sociologie (Paris, 1921) p. 71; translation ours.

25. R.H. Tawney, Equality (New York, 1931) p. 60.

26. William Graham Sumner and Albert Galloway Keller, The Science of Society, vol. I (New Haven, 1927) p. 573.

27. Loc. cit.

28. Mombert, op. cit. (9), p. 534.