This dissertation is dedicated to a review of the theories and history of social class barriers. Social stratification, a most ubiquitous social phenomenon, has been treated from many points of view, but the aspect of rigidity has received only abortive consideration. In general, also, it may be safely stated that research in the fields of social class has not kept pace with the recognized importance of the whole subject and its various aspectsChapter 1
Mombert 1 is of the opinion that the problem of social stratification stands in first place among questions pertaining to society. Bauer 2 avers that class constitutes the true subject matter of social science. Fahlbeck 3 expresses surprise that this field has received so little attention. Overbergh asserts, and is supported by Ferré 4, that the study of social classes is of utmost importance to sociology. Park and Burgess refer to this as an "unworked field." 5
Confusion in classification. The chief problem confronting the investigator at the outset is confusion in terminology. Social class rigidity, as a field of study, depends upon what is meant by social class.
Authorities mean different things by the same words and the same thing by different words. Research into usage and classifications becomes immediately imperative. 6 Class has to be disentangled from social class (Chapter I); and caste requires special attention because it has been used interchangeably with social stratum, hereditary occupation, and race (Chapter II).
The need for research in the field of concept and usage is indicated by the fact that Page 7 chooses to write two volumes in the field of class before he tackles the intricacies of definitions and conceptual categories.
The scope and aim of this study. In order to illustrate the various forms of social stratification, and therefore the many kinds of social class barriers, it is necessary to survey briefly the literature of anthropology and history. Chapter III, given over to this review, contains purely introductory material; it makes no pretenses at contributing directly or indirectly to knowledge, in form or content.
It does, however, raise several points essential to the thesis concerning the origin, nature, and extent of social class rigidity.
The material collected and arranged to indicate the various mechanisms whereby social classes, or classes in general, maintain their positions of advantage and privilege (Chapter IV) falls into the category of knowledge collected and presented in a more orderly and more adequate form. The data extracted from general history (Chapters V to XII), beginning with Greek civilization, fall into the same category. Descriptive studies into the kinds of social stratification at specified intervals in European and American history are plentiful, but this dissertation is not a study of specific class systems -- it is a study in social class continuity and social class barriers. No similar organization of material, based on historical facts, exists.
The central theme of this work is: where do the social classes recruit their members, from among themselves or from outsiders? It is discovered, for instance, that several prominent sociologists give one answer to this question of recruitment in regard to the Gallo-Roman period; whereas eminent historians give another. Their divergent views provide an interesting controversy. Another intriguing discussion is provided by the conflicting opinions about the American Dream.
By going beyond ordinary sources to the biographies of families in several states (Virginia, Ohio, and Iowa), and by using the case method, a non-statistical approach already well established in the field of criminology, it is possible to estimate the degree and amount of consistency in status to a higher degree of accuracy than can be obtained from the opinions of authorities or the results of statistical studies, of which almost none exist in the field of social classes, per se. (See Appendix III.)
After reviewing several statistical studies (Chapter XIII), the results of three original projects are presented. One statistical study is made of the social status of the parents and grandparents of the faculty of Washington Square College. Another and more ambitious project was based upon the replies from the society of editors of newspapers throughout the country regarding the backgrounds of the leading local persons and their families. A third statistical study was made of persons whose weddings received considerable publicity in the columns of the New York Times during the year 1938.
The closing chapters of this dissertation deal with several topics essential to a full understanding of social class barriers. A special analysis is made of the barriers between the middle class and the classes below them on the social scale, barriers which usually have contributed heavily to social class rigidity. The biological theory of social stratification is reviewed and evaluated. Education is related to social class, as are war and totalitarianism. Finally, the question is raised: Are social classes desirable? A comprehensive understanding of social class continuity is not possible without a discussion of these more general topics.
Expression of Appreciation. The investigator wishes to than Professor Henry Pratt Fairchild for his friendly guidance and deep understanding of the materials out of which sociology is forging a new field of human knowledge.
The writer wishes to express his sincere appreciation to the committee of readers of the Graduate School for their corrections of the original copy of this dissertation. These proved to be invaluable guides in the organization and construction of this work in its present form.
Thanks are also given to Charles Churchill, who was of great assistance in tabulating statistics, to Professors Lucy Chamberlain, Richard A. Girard, and E. Adamson Noebel for their friendly encouragement, and to Edith Headrick for the more exact translation of passages taken from the French.
1. Paul Mombert, "Die Tatsachen der Klassenbildung." Schmollers Jahrbuch, vol. XLIV (1920) p. 1041.
2. Arthur Bauer, Les Classes Sociales: analyse de la vie sociale (Paris, 1902) p.40.
3. Pontus E. Fahlbeck, Die Klassen und die Gesellschaft (Jens, 1922) p. 111.
4. Louise Marie Ferré, Les classes sociales dans la France contemporaine (Paris, 1936) p. 40.
5. Robert E. Park and Ernest W. Burgess, Introduction to the Science of Sociology (Chicago, rev. ed., 1924) p. 722.
6. Consul Henry Pratt Fairchild, General Sociology (New York, 1934) p. 84, for a lucid explanation of the confusion that may arise from incorrect categories and classifications.
7. Charles Hunt Page, Class and American Sociology: From Ward to Ross (New York, 1940) p. xii.