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The concept of status consistency first appears in the article of Gerhard Lenski in the 1950s. He says that there are several dimensions by which we rank people from the highest to lowest status. For example, income, or education, or occupational employment, or ethnicity, or a professional group they belong to. The United States of that time, as well as at present, is known for a clear ethnic hierarchy where white Americans of Anglo-Saxon origin were at the top, white Americans of other Western European origin were lower, emigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe were even lower, and black people were at the very bottom.
The situation on these different scales and in these different status systems can be more or less consistent. If a white American of Anglo-Saxon origin with university education is a doctor, this is a highly consistent position. He or she is at the top by all parameters. If an African American is poor, has three classes of school and is engaged in manual labor, it is also a consistent position, although not in as good as the first one, of course.
But what to do with an African American who has a higher education and also works as a doctor? He or she is equal to the first example by one parameter and is much lower by the other one in this status system. This, Lenski says, is a special case of status inconsistency. These people experience particular stress. In each specific situation, they do not know whether they will be treated as doctors or as blacks. And in fact, if we look at the 1950s before the civil rights and political correctness movement, we will see a very big difference in attitude among those who interact with them.
Other researchers also write about incongruities of the same kind and give completely shocking examples of policemen who know exactly that they should call a black "boy", even if this “boy” is much older than them, and behave properly, like a planter with a black. But what should a policeman do if he or she stops a doctor or, Heaven forbid, should speak to a black senator? What to do? It is some kind of stress for a policeman, and, of course, for a doctor or a senator too.
Lenski analyzed the attitudes of such people and found that, on average, they were more prone to political reformism. They feel stronger knowing that the system has some problems since their own achievement is canceled in the light of their ethnicity, for example. Thus, they are more inclined to demand equal rights for all people from the state and take an active part in the transformation of society.
People who dealt with this problem after Lenski said that the dominant reactions of status-inconsistent individuals were reformist and progressive. The same individuals could also be at the other extreme of the political spectrum. One who makes a middle-class career but is considered a little unsuitable for a true middle-class member because of ethnicity (for example, an Irishman) may enter into hypercompensation. This is a separate topic that we can talk about, so do not hesitate to place orders on coolessay.net if this topic interests you.
Instead of blaming society for its hypocrisy, one begins to strive to show that, although he or she is an Irishman or Irishwoman, he or she is not a worse patriot than an Anglo-Saxon.
The actions of Senator McCarthy were interpreted exactly through an attempt to win back such status inconsistency. People who feel that they do not fully meet the standard of a 100% American try to show that they are 200% Americans, that they will still leave any American in the dust.
In principle, we usually find considerably less inconsistency than we would expect if positions in different dimensions were completely independent of one another. If incomes, including inherited ones, education, and ethnicity were not interrelated, we would find a lot of inconsistency, and vice versa.
The Renaissance Human
In fact, consistency is usually pretty much due to a phenomenon that is called capital conversion. People who have a lot of resources of any type prefer to acquire the resources of all other types too in order to ensure their position is truly reliable. We can see how it works in the following example, which will be an excellent illustration for students studying sociology.
People who have succeeded, who have a lot of money, who have made a career (for example, officials) feel that they must be the most educated. Moreover, they should have not just higher education but also a degree. They do not need a scientific degree as a professional qualification, as it is necessary, for example, to university teachers. It does not give them any significant increase in the salary, of course. But they feel that they still need it because they act before themselves and other people as a comprehensive Renaissance educated person.
When others ask them or when they ask themselves why life is generous to them and not generous to ordinary people, they can answer: "Yes, because I am not an ordinary person. Do you see? Despite the fact that I am a deputy, a businessman, or an athlete, I also made an invaluable contribution to science." Well, then, of course, there is no question to the Renaissance human.
In history we find that any kind of elite prefer to see and present themselves to others so that they legitimize their position. When science and art blossomed in Europe in the Early Modern Age, they blossomed with one very specific goal: to glorify the monarch. Monarchs established academies, and academics had to enlighten them in their free time in some way so that everyone could see that the monarch was not only powerful but also enlightened and refined.
When a university was founded in some city, the motivation for it was literally the following: "Because all enlightened nations have universities. We are not worse, we are also an enlightened nation, so we also need to have a university." Universities and all kinds of academies were spreading across Europe because every country needed to create such a place to show that it was not worse than any other one. Then that was imitated by small aristocratic societies, which were lower in the hierarchy. That practice went on that way. Even the poor gentry taught their daughters to play the harpsichord to demonstrate that they were no worse, they were also involved in high culture.
By and large, demand for science and culture arises from this source. The contribution of scientists to direct economic prosperity begins to be seriously experienced only very late, in relation to the contribution to the maintenance of international prestige or court splendor.
Initially, scientists were a kind of courtiers who added charm to their monarch or to some other aristocratic patron. And this system of charm, in general, exists more or less until now. Any person, who has succeeded in life, wants to explain to others that they did it because they are exceptional. That is particularly manifested in their being attached to science and high culture. Their position in one hierarchy – wealth and political power – corresponds to the position in the other hierarchy –enlightenment, culture, and refinement.