Prestige in Sociology. Essay Sample. Part 1


We are ready to provide you with an example of an essay that can form the basis for your future college paper. This is really an interesting topic, which requires careful study due to a certain amount of abstraction surrounding it.

Prestige is one of the main characteristics of the position of the status group in society. In any community, we find the notion that there are people who hold a respected position in the eyes of others, and there are those who do it to a lesser degree. There are good families, and there are bad families; there are some classes and some clubs that are recommended to visit, and some other activities that are much less revered. And prestige – it is difficult to understand and even more difficult to explain. Nevertheless, it seems to be very important. In fact, in stratification theory and in sociology as a whole, we find an opposition between the two schools of thought, two worldviews.

The first one assumes that, in the final analysis, the main motive of human actions and behavior is appropriation and control of the maximum of economic resources. The second theory states that, in the final analysis, the main motive of human behavior is the desire to enjoy prestige and respect of others. But material incentives are indeed the main lever that forces people to act only in very specific conditions.

In a natural situation, people who are not on the point of survival, want, first of all, respect from others. Respect is much more important for them than the fact that they can consume a little more. A normal leader in a normal traditional society needs additional food, gold ornaments or skins not to put them on or eat but in order to distribute and enjoys great respect from his or her tribesmen. This is the most correct and most natural use of wealth by human beings. Wealth is a means of achieving prestige but not more than one of the means.

Only in exceptional cases, people react primarily to economic incentives. You can read about how the traditional system of household is destroyed, in which people do their business focusing mainly on non-economic incentives and are transformed into a labor force that is actually ready to respond to the laws of supply and demand. They become those people when they are pulled out of their local community, when they are mixed with other people in an anonymous environment and put on the brink of starvation.

That is when people are ready to react to economic and only economic incentives. However, the working class develops a special culture and ideas about dignity of a working man very soon, who again considers not economic grounds but the basis from the point of view of prestige.

By the way, prestigious education is impossible without good academic achievement. And it is always promoted by the website

Independent Measure

The second mystery that is connected with prestige and partly with the first riddle is the extent to which prestige is an independent measure of social certification, regardless of how its distribution in society differs from the one of economic resources. Classical work in this regard was made by Lloyd Warner, who first discovered that the class, in the sense of the word that is used by a human, indicates prestige, not wealth: a human of the highest class is not necessarily the richest one, and the richest person can actually belong to the lower class, if he or she is a gangster, for example.

So, firstly, the class is really about prestige, and secondly, prestige is based on a variety of things: the origin, education, manners, and we cannot point to any of them as really the most important or the most decisive ones.

Nevertheless, those who thought more materialistically found the answer to this. The next wave in prestige studies tried to discover the connection between its distribution and the one of some more measurable qualities.

From the 1940s to the 1950s, we find waves of surveys in which Americans, and then a wide variety of people around the world are asked: "How prestigious is it to do …? And would you like your son or daughter to marry with someone who does/works ...? "And now we get such a gradation of prestige! And then scientists tried to predict what position the group occupies on the basis of distribution of some attributes that characterize the members of this group.

For example, knowing what the average salary in different professions is, what can we determine regarding their prestige? In other words, can we predict how prestigious this or another occupation is, knowing what the average salary of its members equals to? Or what can we predict about the level of prestige, focusing on the average educational level? Scientists have examined the relationships between all these variables and have found that our perception of prestige is very strongly determined by the external factors. In fact, it is possible to understand with a sufficient accuracy what prestige of a particular group is after learning the average salary of its members, and with an even greater accuracy if we know its educational level.

In fact, further studies in the 1970s and 1980s have already found that prestige is almost perfectly predicted on the basis of the average educational level of members of a corporation or representatives of a particular occupation: the better quality of education, the longer people study at the university, the higher their status is assessed in the society. It is natural that a judge or doctor are at the top of the hierarchy of prestige –  two professions that require the longest compulsory formal education. Here, however, we can ask ourselves what is primary and what is secondary. Income is associated with prestige because, in fact, people say "prestige", but they think about income, or because a prestigious profession can demand more favorable market conditions for itself.

The path to such professions begins with elementary things, such as a homework done on time. So, do not minimize the importance of education.

Prestigious Income

The first theory gives us such an approximation: when we get acquainted with a stranger, we do not know what his or her income is, and we cannot ask about it, because such an interest is quite indecent. But we can ask what a person does. Most likely, for a stranger, it will be one of the first questions that we ask, and, based on this, we guess (the proponents of guessing theory say) what his or her income is.

The doctor is probably rich; it is very good. The priest is also prosperous, the workers are, most likely, not very successful, unemployed people – not at all. One of the most influential modern stratification researchers has developed a direction of research related to the study of the links between average income, earnings in categories and respect and prestige that categories have. Moreover, it was projected, in particular, on ethnic groups, showing that their position in the prestige system is largely predicted on the basis of average earnings of their representatives.

However, the opposite side replied in the same manner and claimed that prestige has independent grounds that are not reducible to the income. Prestige of the class or the prevailing notions about it is determined by the extent to which the occupation in our popular mythology and in our picture of the world with some "fundamental rules of order" is interfaced. People are hungry for order and they are grateful to those who are able to bring this order into their lives or who make their connection with some fundamental natural or divine order.

Read the continuation in the second part of the article.

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