And such intangible advantages as culture, manners, good associations, and the like, whether associated with wealth or not, are practically heritable, since they are chiefly derived by children from a social environment determined by the personality and standing of their parents.Next Page
Indeed, irrespective of any intention toward or from inheritance, there is a strong drift toward it due to mere familiarity. It is commonly the line of least resistance.
Over and against this description of the hereditary advantages of the middle and upper classes can be set the bitter description of a part of the lower classes. Giddings is quoted as believing: 10
We are told incessantly that unskilled labor creates the wealth of the world. It would be nearer the truth to say that large classes of unskilled labor hardly create their own subsistence. The laborers that have no adaptiveness, that bring no new ideas to their work, that have no suspicion of the next best thing to turn to in an emergency, might better be identified with the dependent classes . . . .
Whatever may be the potential and innate qualities and talents of the great masses of laborers the world over, their conditions of life and the competition offered to any of their number who seek to rise preclude their contributing anything more than a trickle to the "stream of social mobility."
The foregoing statements regarding the lack of opportunity on the part of the lower classes are a summary of much of the data and many of the opinions heretofore expressed in this thesis.. But there are new factors and aspects in the situation which need to be developed. Chief among these are the matter of race and nationality.
Racial and nationality factors in regard to class barriers. It is quite misleading to keep one's eye on nationality and racial aspects of society when dealing with social class. For instance, and Italian or Mexican family is prominent, fashionable, successful. Surely this is another case of a "poor hard working family which has moved upward on the social scale." Not necessarily! There are in every Italian, Polish, and Mexican community many or at least some strong, educated, and well established families. The same is true of black, Chinese, German, French, and Jewish communities.
The phenomenal success of many Jewish families is often misinterpreted. Some persons think they are biologically superior to other peoples. But this has never been substantiated. A social class interpretation of their situation is more convincing. It so happens, everywhere, that many middle class habits are developed in the market place. It is a fountain-head of practical, purposeful experience. If times are hard, as they have sometimes been for many Jewish families for several generations, poverty may be found among people whose essential habit patterns are sound according to middle class standards. Education is stressed; demoralization caused by excesses in drink and in sexual life is prevented by training and conditioning; hard and unceasing work and talk sharpen business acumen. All that is lacking is a fertile soil in which these habits can bring forth material and cultural fruits. To persons reared in the ways of business under conditions of economic strangulation, as in Eastern Europe, America is the land of opportunity. However, both in Europe and in America, about one half, to judge by rule of thumb, of the Jewish population is proletarian. They work for others and enjoy the same precarious existence as most of the rest of the working populations.
Gessner, in his book, Some of my Best Friends are Jews, describes the working conditions in factories in Poland. When many of the Jewish workers and owners migrated to Palestine, the workers still worked, and the employers still employed.
The "percentage of middle class habits" among Jews, as over against other parts of the population, seems to be somewhat higher, thus accounting most likely for their admittedly greater mobility from the poorer into the middle class residential sections of New York City, for instance. Objective data on these habits is furnished by Sombart. 11 He reports that in the province of Baden from 1895 and 1903 the incomes of Protestants rose from 100 to 146.2 on an index. Incomes of Jews rose from 100 to 144.5. However, during the same period the total capital accumulation rose as follows: for Protestants from 100 to 128.3 on the index; for Jews from 100 to 138.2, indicating greater thrift and probably more middle class inhibitions and training.
10. Quoted in Sorokin, op. cit., p. 107.
11. Werner Sombart, Die Juden und das Wirtschaftsleben (Leipzig, 1911) p. 383.