Emotions and Societal Stratification

  • Jonathan H. TurnerEmail author
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


Emotions are like any other resource; they are distributed unequally to individuals and families and, thus, are part of a society’s stratification system. Reservoirs of positive emotions give individuals confidence to secure other types of resources, such as money, power, learning, knowledge, competitive advantage, etc. In contrast, reservoirs of negative emotions hinder the acquisition of resources. The distribution of emotions corresponds roughly with the ranking of social classes and categoric units generated by discriminatory treatment of individuals. Emotional stratification is an outcome of individuals’ access to (a) resource-distributing corporate units within institutional domains and (b) locations in hierarchical divisions of labor of these corporate units. Sociology has over-emphasized money, power/authority, and prestige as the major stratifying resources, while under-emphasizing other resources that are also highly valuable to persons. When these additional resources are counted in the overall distribution of resources in a society, the degree of stratification is greatly reduced, which helps explain why revolutions and conflict in post-industrial societies is less common than conflict theorists have predicted. Conflict is generated by negative emotional arousal, but if a majority of the population experiences a net surplus of positive emotions from the resources that they receive, the conflict potential in a society is reduced.


Emotions Stratification Generalized symbolic media Resources Conflict 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CaliforniaRiversideUSA

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