WIDESPREAD SOCIAL CLASS RIGIDITY
In the preceding chapter, castes, as types of social organizations, were shown not to belong in this dissertation, because it was found that thy do not represent social status groups per se.Next Page
The purpose of this chapter is to present instances of social status groups and structures, especially those in which social position has had a tendency to be hereditary. In these a person is inclined to be bound by his status.
This survey of social class formation will serve two purposes: first, it will show the varied nature of human association in the realm of social stratification, of which man has experienced much since the dawn of history; second, it will help to give more meaning to the term social class.
The pre-rigid stage, before the genesis of social inequality. That a stage of classlessness existed is demonstrable by logic if not by color film. Before paternity was known, or before children attached sentiment to either parent as such, there were no social classes, no inherited privilege, no family lines. Status was individual, not social. (In nature there is no easy road for the offspring of a powerful and successful wolf. The offspring have to earn their reputations anew.) Before human activities became complex, when "aggregates were small and undifferentiated," 1 there was no place for social class rigidity.
In the earliest human communities, one reads, there was naturally very little need of any rigid policy of social organization. "Power rested in the community as whole . . . 2
Among modern primitives the Esquimaux, some Australians, and the Fuegians are not socially stratified. 3 No one dominates the Pygmy tribe, and it is without property in land. 4
Landtman, an authority of the Papuans, states the following: 5
The social equality of the Kiwai Papuans manifests itself the more completely and convincingly as it implies not only the non-existence of any differentiation as regards social standing but also the non-existence of any division of labor . . . .
In social respect every man is on a footing of equality with all the rest, and no one has any authority over his fellows. Every man does the same work and no one employs servants . . . .
The natives of Alaska are described as having lived, before the introduction of white man's goods, without "the assumption of worldly goods . . . all feasted and all starved together." 6
Kroeber 7 shows that distinct classes were not present among the California Indians and Rivers writes of the Banks Islanders: 8
The evidence points to the absence of anything which can be called hereditary chieftainship in the Banks Islands and in some of the Northern New Hebrides. It is only on reaching the northern part of Melanesia that we find true hereditary chieftainship . . . .
Although Sorokin denies the existence of unstratified societies, it is evident from the foregoing that a few exist. What one learns from these examples is that society must be very undifferentiated indeed for social classlessness to be the rule; or, conversely, even slight complexity leads to the establishment of social class rigidity of some kind.
The genesis of social rigidity. Landtman, who has delved into this phase of social origins most extensively, gives this interpretation of the origin of social classes: 9
The precedence which a man wins by his personal exploits and success is extended originally to himself alone. A social inequality which is founded upon personal conditions does not at first continue through several generations . . . . It is evident that social inequality on the ground of personal circumstances has in many cases developed into enduring class inequality . . . . The descendant of a celebrated family, even if he himself is not superior to his fellows, has at the outset a certain advantage in the consideration which his kin enjoys . . . .
Fahlbeck 10 attributes the rise of inequality to the demands of the culture, to cultural needs. But Goldenweiser adopts a compromise view.
1. Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Sociology, vol. I (New York, 1880) p. 525.
2. Baker Brownell, editor, Man and his World, vol. IV (New York, 1929) p. 86.
3. Gunnar Landtman, The Origin of the Inequality of the Social Classes (Chicago, 1938) pp. 9-13.
4. Brownell, op. cit., p. 50.
5. Landtman, op. cit., p. 5.
6. Hobson Dewey Anderson and Walter Crosby Eells, Alaska Natives (Stanford, 1935) p. 83.
7. A. L. Kroeber, "Types of Indian Culture in California," in Journal of American Archaeology and Ethnology, vol. II (June, 1904) p. 83.
8. W.H.R.Rivers, The History of Melanesian Society (Cambridge, 1914) pp. 324-325.
9. Landtman, op. cit., pp. 64-65.
10. Pontus E. Fahlbeck, Die Klassen und die Gesellschaft (Jena, 1922) p. 24.