Power, prestige and wealth
by Phil Bartle, PhD
A core topic in Sociology
INEQUALITY IN SOCIOLOGY
While inequality has been around since the earliest human societies, it is the excess oppression and exploitation of the workers by the factory owners in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries which made it such an important topic in sociology.
Since the origin of sociology up to to today it remains the core topic of the discipline.
From earliest times, inequality has been based on social extrapolations of physical differences. See: Age, Race Sex.
THE THREE ELEMENTS
Today sociologists see the three criteria of social class as:
In society people are unequal in all these three.
In smaller, simpler societies, there is a shorter range from bottom to top in all these.
In more complex, urban industrial societies, there is a bigger range in all these criteria.
Karl Marx defined class only in terms of "relations to production" (he was not a sociologist, just a "father" of sociology).
The two main classes to him were the workers and the owners of the factories.
After Marx, who died in 1883, Durkheim and Weber added power and prestige to make the three criteria of inequality.
Modern sociologists prefer to use "wealth" instead of property, but the meaning is the same.
In terms of the six cultural dimensions, power belongs to the political dimension, wealth belongs to the economic dimension and prestige belongs to the values and aesthetics dimension.
Status inconsistency is when these three are not aligned.
A rural preacher, for example, may be very high in prestige but have very little money.
A tricky lawyer may be rich, but despised.
Social mobility means a change in level, upwards or downwards.
The three types of social mobility are:
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