However, even among the Kwakiutl Indians, where pot latching is thought by some to be the open road to status for all climbers, it has been shown that if an upstart threatens to crash into the hereditary upper class, "gangs up on him," and he relapses ignominiously "into his original plebeian status." 15Next Page
Also, as will be shown, the wealth accumulated by tax-collectors and contractors in Rome did not facilitate corresponding social class mobility. Wealth did contribute, however, toward the strengthening of the economic and social position of the equities, per se, and some equities did rise into the Senate under the four Claudian emperors. 16
Wealth is a stabilizer of social status, and social class stabilizes the distribution of wealth. In the extreme case of mobility, such as represented by the Vanderbilts and Astors, wealth not only secured high social standing; it has also stabilized the social positions of four consecutive generations. "Thus a son, who inherits the estate of his father, is enabled to maintain an equal rank." 17
Property is related to social class status both positively and negatively. Those without property must choose between coming to terms with a property owner or sleeping in the streets or jumping in the ocean, as George Bernard Shaw once said. Property is not only the creator and perpetuator of higher standing; conversely, it is the creator and perpetuator of misery, social disability, and social class disqualification. "Those who are poor become dependent upon the rich . . . . " 18 "We should all like to live on the Avenue facing the Park, and do business opposite the Post Office. If we are not rich enough to do so, we yield to force and law and go off peacefully to live and do business where the monopoly is not felt," 19 wrote Sumner, but he did not live to see what it was like when men sought ultimate shelter in the dumps of Hoovervilles.
In comprehensive social class terms it can be said that the rich and exclusive form cliques to keep themselves exclusive and rich through untold generations.
Government and class connection with government. Von Wiese 20 states that the chief source of social class differentiation after land ownership and the accumulation of mobile wealth has been the privileges bestowed by the state upon those who support it and upon its functionaries. He goes on to state that the third factor in many instances brings with it the other two, a very wise statement indeed.
A class monopoly of the machinery of state is an almost invulnerable bulwark against the intrusion of lower classes into the higher ranks. Of all the states which have ever existed, few have been free of class domination. (Class here means social class, not class in the sense of warring political and economic parties and organizations.)
In fact, one of the reasons for the mad scramble in the nineteenth century for an extension of the franchise was that the lower orders (by means of the politico-industrial class struggle) hoped to defeat by parliamentarism the age-old system of aristocratic rule.
One eminent student and teacher of the subject of social stratification, Hans Speier, says in his lectures that pre-war German social classes could be considered, from one point of view, not as a notched pyramid, but as a series of concentric circles with the royal court at the center; proximity to or distance from the Kaiser was the key to the diagram. Family background, army rank, financial standing, and academic achievement were all woven into a pattern of social classes according to the ability of the persons concerned to meet and fraternize with those nearer and nearer to the throne. It was in that society that the working man's circles felt that they had no direct access to the society of the emperor, and were, therefore, quite outside the pale of social honor.
15. Lowie, Origin of the State, op. cit., pp. 39 - 40.
16. S. A. Cook, et al., editors, The Augustan Empire, 44 BC. - 70 AD., vol. X of the Cambridge Ancient History (Cambridge, 1934) p. 188.
17. John Miller, Origin of the Distinction of Ranks, 4th edition (Edinburgh, 1808) p. 153.
18. Ibid., p. 152.
19. Sumner and Keller, op. cit., p. 258.
20. von Wiese, op. cit., p. 297.