He holds that the social factors of class determination may formerly have been predominant, but that with the growth of capitalism the economic factors have been ascendant. If wealth had been equally accessible to all classes, Mombert's theory would unquestionably be true, but such approximate equality did not exist. Wealth became relatively more independent of the social class system, but never completely free of its controls.Next Page
Discussions pertaining to the relationship between economic and social factors in this regard frequently mention the theoretical ease with which a wealthy person in England, for instance, can be arranged to be knighted. This is given as evidence of the power of wealth to acquire status. 29 The converse argument is that the nobility can recover its fortune at any time by marrying into the wealthier non-noble families. It may be argued with reason that all rich men did not become knights or nobles, but almost all titled families have remained affluent up to the present era.
Gonnard states: "The conquest of wealth is a consequence, rather than a cause, of class formation. Classes arise, first of all, from differences of origin..." 30
Gurewitsch belongs to the same school of thought: "Social power is, at the same time, economic power and gives the higher classes a relatively higher economic position." 31 If it is true that the possessing classes tened to become the dominating ones, then it follows that the dominating classes tend to become the posessing ones. 32
A young man usually acquires from his parents, if they belong to the middle or upper classes, something of economic value far beyond whatever financial provision they make for him. The intangibles handed down from parents to children include social contacts, technical skills, attitudes, values, and desires: all of which may be of considerable economic significance. Such assets can more easily be turned into economic goods by these classes than can a person without means and status first acquire the means and then "purchase" the status. Social class continuously translates itself into wealth, great or small.
With wisdom it can be said that the king is rich because he is king; he is not king because he is rich.
A careful survey of the literature on this subject has revealed that the chief point of emphasis of writers in this field has been reversed in the past half-century.
29. Charles Norton Cooley, Social Organization (New York, 1909) p. 282.
30. René Gonnard, "Quelques considérations sure les classes," in the Revue Economique Internationale, 17th year, vol. II (April 10, 1925) p. 77; translation ours.
31. B. Gurewitsch, "Die Entwicklung der Menschlichen Bedurfnisse und die Soziale Gliederung der Gesellschaft," in Staats-und-Sozialwissenschaftliche Forschung, vol. XIX, part IV (1901) p. 105; translation ours.
32. Gonnard, op. cit. p. 82.