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Are the terms “socio-economic status” and “class status” a warped form of reasoning for Max Weber?

Palgrave Communicationsvolume 2, Article number: 16002 (2016) | Download Citation

Abstract

A classic definition of social inequality comes from the sociologist Max Weber, who wrote that there are three fundamental types of inequality. The first is based in the marketplace and is “social class”. The second and more important distinction, is based in estimations of honour that Weber called in German Stand, which traditionally is translated into English as “status group”. The third type of stratification is “party” where power is distributed. Weber emphasized that the two forms of stratification emerge out of two different parts of society: Stand with its emphasis on honour emerges out of the most fundamental part of society rooted in loyalties, the Gemeinschaft, whereas class emerges out of a sub-unit of the Gemeinschaft, rationally ordered markets and legal structures of the Gesellschaft. Party emerges out of both. In Weber’s estimation, two types of social stratification, class and Stand, although related, cannot be mixed because they are fundamentally different. The former is rooted in abstract emotion and the latter in rational calculation. To do so, he writes, is a “warped reasoning”. Despite Weber’s warnings, English-language terms used to measure social inequality, particularly “socio-economic status”, conflate the two qualities, presenting them as a single variable. However, when the two are separated, analysts get a much more nuanced view of the mechanisms for how different types of inequality persist, be they in the professions, residence, ethnicity, race or caste.

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Affiliations

  1. Faculty of the Peace Studies Department, Payap University International College, Chiangmai, Thailand

    • Tony Waters
  2. California State University, Chico, USA

    • Dagmar Waters

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1057/palcomms.2016.2