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SOCA02H3 Chapter Notes -Waking Hours, Socioeconomic Status, American Upper Class

5 pages102 viewsWinter 2011

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Malcolm Mac Kinnon

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G. William Domhoff
Socioeconomic status is calculated using income, educational attainment, and
occupational status. Sociologists also employ subjective indicators of social class,
such as attitudes and values, class identification, and consumption patterns.
Domhoff finds that in addition to wealth, the upper class shares a distinctive
lifestyle through participation in various social institutions. Domhoff argues not only
that there is a cohesive upper class in the US, but also that the upper class has a
disproportionate share of power through its control over economic and political
decision making in this country.
Most Americans do not like the idea that there are social classes. Classes imply that
people have relatively fixed stations in life.
oThey fly in the face of beliefs about equality of opportunity and seem to
ignore the evidence of upward social mobility.
Americans tend to deny that social classes are based in wealth and occupational
If there is an American upper class, it must exist not merely as a collection of
families who feel comfortable with each other and tend to exclude outsiders from
their social activities. It must exist as a set of interrelated social institutions.
Four different types of empirical studies establish the existence of an interrelated set
of social institutions, organizations, and social activities. They are historical case
studies, quantitative studies of biographical directories, open-ended surveys of
knowledgeable observers, and interview studies with members of the upper-middle
and upper classes.
Prepping for Power
From infancy to young adulthood, members of the upper class receive a distinctive
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Separate educational system is important evidence for the distinctiveness of the
mentality and lifestyle that exists within the upper class because schools play a large
role in transmitting the class structure to their students.
Boarding schools are in many ways the kind of highly effective socializing agent that
sociologist Erving Goffman calls total institutions, isolating their members from
the outside world and providing them with a set of routine and traditions that
encompass most of their waking hours.
Although finance, business, and law are the most typical occupations of upper-class
males, there is no absence of physicians, architects, museum officials, and other
professional occupations.
From kindergarten through college, schooling is very different for members of the
upper class and it teaches them to be distinctive in many ways.
Social Clubs
Private social clubs are a major point of orientation in the lives of upper-class adults.
The club serves to place the adult members of society and their families within the
social hierarchy.
Money is not the primary barrier in gaining membership to a club; each club has a
very rigorous screening process before accepting new members.
People of the upper class often belong to clubs in several cities, creating a nationwide
pattern of overlapping memberships. These overlaps provide evidence for social
cohesion within the upper class.
The overlap of this club network with corporate boards of directors provides evidence
for the intertwining of the upper class and corporate community.
A majority of the top twenty-five corporations in every major sector of the economy
have directors in at least one of these clubs, and several had many more.
The main sociological function of social clubs is stated by sociologist Thomas Powell:
oThe clubs are a repository of the values held by the upper-level prestige
groups in the community and are a means by which theses values are
transferred to the business environment. The clubs are places in which the
beliefs, problems, and values of the industrial organization are discussed and
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