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Social Power and Heirarchy

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Ingrid L.Stefanovic

Lecture 18: Social power and Hierarchy Overview: N Definitions: Hierarchy, Power, Status N Development of Hierarchy N Function of hierarchy N Self reinforcing nature of hierarchy N Hierarchy instability Social Hierarchy An implicit or explicit rank order of individuals or groups with respect to a valued social dimension N Power hierarchies and status hierarchies are subtypes of social hierarchies N Implicit vs. Explicit rank order: we may be very clear about who is of higher status than us, or conversely, we might not know definitely that somebody is higher in rank, however we know it on an associative, implicit level (you can sometimes just sense that somebody is of higher status than you) N Rank order: in order for something to be a hierarchy, there must at least be 2 levels of status and power that are above and below each other. N Valued social dimension: the criteria that is used to rank people within social hierarchies. People are ranked according to what matters to the group that is doing the ranking o In high school, the person with the coolest clothes may be of higher status, with cool clothes being the valued social dimension o In an engineering firm, the valued social dimension would instead be intelligence and creativity, and this will be how people are ranked. Social power An asymmetric control over valued resources in social relations N Based on resources, which belong to an actorsocial object o Can be money for humans o food in animals o supplies in a business organization N the person who has power is the person who decides how to allocate these resources o there could be shades of grey, where the president of a company controls the most resources, with the manager controlling some, giving each step of the hierarchy power over the next, but where the people controlling the MOST resources still have the most power Power hierarchy Rank ordering of individuals with respect to the amount of resources that each controls. N One type of social hierarchy N More typically seen in formal hierarchies, but it can work at a national level. N Socioeconomic power (income level) reflects your amount of social power Social status The extent to which an individual or group is admired or respected by others N Exists entirely in the eyes of others and is conferred by them o You cannot create your own status, other people chose what your status is N This is about interpersonal variables, and therefore is quite different from social power Status Hierarchy A rank ordering of individuals or groups according to the amount of respect accorded by others N Changes only as the amount of respect for a target changes o Power hierarchies will change as your resources and control over resources changes, but status hierarchies will change if nobody likes you anymore, it has nothing to do with resources o For example, recently in the news a very well known and well respected hockey coach was found to have molested many of his young players. Even though his expertise and abilities have not changed, his status has plummeted because people have lost respect for him. N Another type of social hierarchy N More commonly seen in informal hierarchies o Friend groups, for example Types of social hierarchies N Informal social hierarchy N Formal social hierarchy Formal hierarchy Explicitly-set social roles that vary by rank order, with higher-ranking roles holding greater value
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