People are driven by the idea of being richer, and that it will make us happy and secure. This video goes on to explain why people suffer from this “status anxiety”, this anxiety that we are successful based on our status. People are resentful towards those who we consider to be our equals. We are envy towards them when they have a better house, job or car. This because our society tells us that we are suppose to be equal, but in reality we are actually living in a society filled of inequality. Weber explains that status and class creates the competition with people. Weber also explains that peoples actions are shaped by society, this is true in our society in which our drives and aspirations are based on this idea of the American Dream. The American Dream that we will all be equal and live comfortable and can afford nice things. This ideal creates the status anxiety that is explained in this video.
Today’s class discussion about status immediately got me thinking about status in modern America. I believe the video played in class did a great job of describing American’s and their competitive strive to pass somebody who is a couple steps ahead of oneself in the social ladder. Unwillingly, we become envious of those who seem to have a little more than us.
The idea of how people with money who typically inherit their money, look down at people who have to work for it, is perfectly shown in one of my all time favorite books and movie: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The status of people in The Great Gatsby is divided between the “New money” and “Old money” or the “West Egg” and “East Egg.” Fitzgerald does a great job in explaining Weber’s theory of status. Although Gatsby is filthy rich and has wealth, he still does not status in society. Nobody knows where his money came from, and a humble background is not much appreciated. He struggles and competes with Tom Buchanan, who comes from a socially solid family, and has immense status, although he has not really done anything to acquire his money. In the end, Daisy ends up choosing Tom because he has status and class unlike Gatsby. Gatsby may be wealthy, but by the standards of society, he is not worthy. Although Daisy actually loves Gatsby, choosing him over Tom would be a social downgrade for Daisy. This directly correlates with Weber’s theory of how although someone may be wealthy, they still do not have social status.
Whether we are talking about the 20th century, or the 21st century, Weber’s theory still applies. Acquiring wealth is magnificent, but status is what holds the key to satisfaction. This is why Americans are so obsessed with social status. In the case of Gatsby, he lost the girl of his dreams because of his status. Whether we realize it or not status affects the lives of everybody everyday. We try to achieve high social status as a means to an end.
Weber continues to debate with Marx ideas of class position, however Weber argues about there are different forms of power connected to economic which are: classes, status, and political parties. Weber does not use Marx’s view of the classes but he uses a more difficult view of interest that shape people through their actions and the way society is organize. Weber mentioned that status is a ‘social honor’ or ‘prestige’ of economic power. From what I can understand, the economic power of status is how we are able gain money through our means. An example of a status is having an education degree but not earning a lot of money after getting that degree. But someone who does not have an education degree and gain money through criminal means will have economic power but will not have that status as of an academic person. Weber mentioned that ‘power’ may bring legal order but this is an “additional factor that enhances the chance to hold power or honor; but it cannot always secure them” (Edles & Appelrouth, 193). Even though ‘status’ for different groups of people does not have the same privileges as other groups means that there is some type of stratification in society. Majority of the stratification of status in any society indicated that there are monopolization in society. This society will have stratification within the status of different class of people because the society needs to continue existing by economic means, even if they must exploit the class that is suffering from the hands of the economic stress to exist.
Weber states that the way we get ‘status’ honor is by ‘status order’. The definition of ‘status order’ from Weber is “the social order and the economic order are related in a similar manner to the legal order” and “status order is strongly influenced by…economic order…which economic goods and services are distributed and used” (Edles & Appelrouth, 193,194). Weber definition of ‘classes’ is not ‘communities’ but ‘bases for social action’ (Ibid, 194). An example of an social action of classes is the Feminist movement in the United States where women were getting paid less than a man does from doing the same job. In addition, the United States had different classes of people working the same jobs getting paid less due to their ethnic/race backgrounds. Another example of this is the African-American population treated less than human even after 1864 Civil War between the North and the South. Another example, is today in United States immigrant Hispanic groups are not getting paid at least the minimum wage which is another visible social class (class struggle, stratification). Weber gave an example of a “status group” are the “slave or serf” which is another type of class that did not have much economic power (Ibid, 1940. Weber mentioned that there are three types of ‘class’ that makes it a ‘class situation’ (Ibid). These three types are:
“1) a number of people have in common a specific causal component of their life chances…2)this component is represented exclusively of goods and opportunities for income, and 3) is represented under the conditions of the commodity or labor markets” (Ibid, 194).
Being a worker and gaining an education at the same time is similar to a status and a class at the same time, in my opinion. However, working and spending my income in things that are necessary must be spending to continue to strive for something better and for future accomplishment (for the future family, or your own life). Weber states that “class situation is…ultimately market situation” (Ibid) which I believe in 2014 United States people (in any class) is actually striving to be in a good economic shape than being in the poor class.
Lastly, Weber states that party as a political party not a celebration of party. Weber mentioned that “parties resided in the sphere of power” (Ibid, 200) and their mission is to gain “social power” to influence “social action” no matter what is the ‘social action’. Weber states that parties may present interest of class situation as an individual case. Conversly, the sociological meaning of parties is what kind of social action the party is influenced by (what kind of struggle this social group is being burden with) status being stratified by classes.
Edles, Laura and Appelrouth, Scott. 2010. Sociological Theory in the Classical Era: text and readings 2nd edition. Pine Forge Press Sage Publications.
According to Max Weber, a person’s social status is based on the social relationships that they have with people within a community, whereas a person’s social class is based on the financial status in a community. In Martin Scorsese’s movie “Goodfellas”, mobsters were trying to increase their status in order to become a “Made Man.” When a mobster gets “made” they are known as a feared and respected crime boss in the mafia world. Crime bosses have a lot of power to decide what “hits” should be made and when to make certain moves. In “Goodfellas,” Tommy is chosen to be a “made man.” His closest friends, Henry and Jimmy were extremely excited to know that Tommy’s status was being increased in the mafia. Henry describes Jimmy’s excitement by saying, “As far as Jimmy was concerned, with Tommy being made, it was like we were all being made.” Henry also goes on to say that both he and Jimmy could not become made men since they were not “100% Italian.” In order for someone to upgrade their status as a mobster, their ethnic background was factored in. The only thing that Jimmy and Henry could do was to keep close relations with Tommy so that his high status could brush off on them.
Veblen defined conspicuous consumption as the use of money or other resources to display social status — but this is done in myriad ways or styles. Seeing hoodies around town displaying the image on the left, I couldn’t help wonder what Veblen would make of this trend — expensive, branded apparel that literally carries the message that status costs money and implies that money buys status. What do you make of this trend? Is there anything new about it?
The above reference to swag refers, of course, to swagger, but “swag” is also a slang term for free stuff (as depicted in this report from Gawker, “I Went to the Pre-Oscar Celebrity Gifting Suites and All I Got Was This Sense of Disgust“). How strange that this term has such radically different meanings in different communities…or is there some common ground?
Here is the first part of the documentary, Status Anxiety, based on the book by the same name by Alain de Botton. Status Anxiety discusses the desire of people in many modern societies to “climb the social ladder” and the anxieties that result from a focus on how one is perceived by others. De Botton claims that chronic anxiety about status is an inevitable side effect of any democratic, ostensibly egalitarian society. De Botton identifies the “causes” of status anxiety as follows: Lovelessness, Expectation, Meritocracy, Snobbery, and Dependence. He lays out the following “solutions”: Philosophy, Art, Politics, Religion, and Bohemianism. Consider how status anxiety relates to the “American Dream.”
Above is a link to a short promo trailer for Season 6 of AMC’s “Mad Men”, that I saw earlier this evening. The trailer conveniently reminded me of the video we watched in class this morning on status and the accompanying discussion.
Even with having little knowledge of the show or its characters, one can easily see that elements of key sociological concepts are incorporated. The one that immediately stuck out to me is Durkheim’s anomie. It refers to a lack of moral regulation. This lack of moral regulation is characterized by an individual’s inability to be satisfied. Happiness is more of an open-ended, ever-changing state. The individual is never really happy; he/she does not know when “enough is enough”. In the short trailer the main character, Don Draper, is seen struggling with defining what happiness truly means to him and his counterparts. He seems to be pressured with meeting certain standards and “keeping up with appearances”- this ties in with the concept of status. Draper, a director for a self-owned advertisement agency, indulges in material forms of wealth to meet these standards.