This interpretation differs from those who confuse social classes with mere occupational or political hierarchies of individuals. If civilization is to have classes, inevitably, it will no be because someone has to work and someone else has to give orders. It will be because parents strive to place their children in positions equivalent to or higher than their own. Social strata are characterized by their time span (Dauer). 87Next Page
Landtman makes the traditional or hereditary factor in social class fundamental to the definition. He states: "Inequality in standing and influence may exist without these advantages being necessarily hereditary, but in such cases the difference depends upon individual conditions and does not create classes." 88
True social classes exist only where the conditions of life are relatively constant from generation to generation, where people know each other's families and where they belong together through contact and similar ways of living. According to this formula political or economic power can be referred to as frequently belonging to certain social classes, sometimes to individuals or political parties. Hitler, from this definition, would be considered a ruler and a member of a party; the Kaiser was a ruler and a member of a ruling social class.
Thomas and Znaniecki make a sharp distinction between a person's social position or prestige and his individual or personal prestige: 89
Superiority of social position is a source of prestige even independently of any actual power which the superior class may or may not possess ... Moreover, when the leader relies on the prestige of his profession or class, he is forced to keep the traditions and to hold the esprit de corps by which this profession or class tries to maintain its prestige, and this evidently limits his initiative ... Jackowski or Wawrzyniak can hardly be characterized as priests or noblemen, but simply as individuals, each as a unique personality.
The individualistic interpretation persists, however. Sorokin 90 makes it the fundamental basis of his volume on social classes. According to his interpretation, it could be said that a Sunday School class is "stratified" if it had a rotating chairman. And it is Sorokin's belief that these "strata" of leaders make up the social classes. Panunzio also defines class as "a horizontal division of society embracing persons of same or similar economic rank, religious or political status, or possessing common cultural characteristics." 91 Here one finds nothing concerning class formation which results from the coming together of such families as find themselves congenial to each other -- and nothing pertaining to the attainment of social position through social transmission. A substitute definition, so stated as to bring out the contrast, would read: A social class is a horizontal division of society, embracing families whose social backgrounds and training are sufficiently similar to permit free and unrestrained social contacts, families which belong to the same circle, with relatively equal rank in the community.
Refined definitions of social class. To found a whole hierarchy of social classes upon fine and subtle distinctions of exclusiveness -- upon backgrounds, manners, ways of living, may seem at first glance like building a house upon the sands. Yet it can and is being done by modern students of social class. Ferré observes, for instance: 92
Between the high and the middle bourgeoisie, as between the nobility and the high bourgeoisie, we find only subtle differences in their social life, their standard of living, and their manners . . . .
The solid rocks of political office and cold cash in the bank seem much more real than exclusiveness arising from feelings of superiority and inferiority. But the sinews out of which the tough fabric of the social class structure is woven and repaired consist of powerful mechanisms of social super-ordination and subordination. Nor are the divisions abrupt. The colors and shades merge like those of the rainbow. And, to change the figure again, some individuals are like jacks running wild throughout the deck. These latter, of course, attract most of the attention. They are the exceptions, not the rule.
87. Theodor Geiger, Die Gestalten der Gesellung (Karlsruhe, 1928) p. 14.
88. Landtman, op. cit., p.36.
89. William I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki, The Polish Peasant in Europe and America, vol. IV (Chicago, 1920) pp. 205-206.
90. Sorokin, op. cit., p. 11.
91. Constantine Panunzio, Major Social Institutions (New York, 1939) p. 528.
92. Ferré, op. cit., p. 165; translation ours.