One might suppose that people in our culture can buy a lifestyle with money and get most of their money through having a full-time job. However, the essence of a sociological approach to the use of occupation as an index of social status has been a belief held by sociologists that it is misleading to concentrate solely upon the economic aspects of occupation. On this view, a refuse collector might be better paid than a schoolteacher, but because of cultural values subscribed to by a large majority of the population, the teacher might well enjoy higher social standing. There is no accounting for tastes. People just happen to think that handling other people’s rubbish is less pleasant or of lower status than teaching other people’s children. One can perhaps imagine societies where the carrying out of rectal examinations was an extremely low-status activity, even though in our culture it is part of the duties of rather high-status medical practitioners. Precisely because there is no accounting for tastes in these matters, a considerable number of extensive surveys have been carried out in order to find out how people evaluate occupations. The point is that only empirical investigation can tell us about the way in which people evaluate those bundles of activities we call occupations. Hence all the opinion surveys, whose results are usually discussed under the heading of ‘occupational prestige rankings’.
KeywordsSocial Mobility Social Standing Social Usefulness Occupational Prestige Occupational Evaluation
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