Identify the different types of statuses and roles a person acquires in their life and explain how they relate to social interaction.
Status and roles are embedded in the context of society, and all societies define individual roles a bit differently; however, some roles bridge all cultures. In this way, they are almost archetypes of human behavior.
The first is child, a low status position; the next, youth, also low status. In adulthood, the age when one is an "adult" through coming-of-age ceremony, or in modern America the end of schooling brings the status of adulthood. In adulthood, people play roles of wife, husband, father, mother, boss, worker, outcast and community leader—among others. Grandmother and grandfather...
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In general, social scientists define status as honor or esteem assigned to a member of a given social group, be this membership assigned at birth, as with ascribed statuses, or accorded when a group is joined electively. Prominent ascribed statuses in contemporary American society include gender, ethnicity, race, age, and sexual orientation, elective statuses including occupation, educational attainment, and and class-position. It should be noted that lines blur between elective and ascribed statuses to some extent, eg, sexual orientation depending on how one navigates social responses to immutable desires. Similarly, while class-position depends on how one navigates various markets, conditions of birth shape but do not fully determine which paths this process can take. Membership in a given status group typically entails that an individual take on a particular role, exhibiting a set of behaviors commonly associated with that status, fulfilling others’ according expectations and serving some social function, facilitating collaboration toward some given end.
Early 20th C social theorist Max Weber put forth a clear and cohesive formulation of social status quite early on in the development of sociology in his essay “Class, Status, and Party”, also tying social status to role-expectations (found in From Max Weber). For Weber, displays of particular “styles of life”, especially characteristic patterns of consumption, but also a seemingly effortless disposition to act in a certain way, play a key role in demonstrating authenticity in membership of a given status group. Prohibitions against mixing with other status groups further buttress the uniqueness of membership in a given group and the honor that comes with it. For example, we will typically expect well-educated, upper-middle class professionals to display fluency in discerning the value of esoteric ingredients at fine dining establishments and familiarity sufficient to consume them with little effort or forethought. Members of this group are also likely to show unease and embarrassment dining with those ignorant of how to appropriately receive this type of niche foodservice.
Weber further argues that status groups are “essentially a question of social estimation through usurpation”, whereby a given status group will attempt to monopolize access to key social resources, including markets, but also extend their power over other groups, expanding the scope of their obedience to them. At one extreme of ascribed social statuses, we see something like the prior Indian caste system, whereby ethnicity-like membership nearly fully determines occupation, allocation of material wealth, forms of permissible interactions across groups, etc. However, contemporary status-membership is far less monolithic, as with legal professionals who require bar association membership for professional recognition, this association advancing legal expertise as the dominant legitimator of a given organization (hece the near necessity of a corporation in holding a lawyer on retainer upon having reached a certain size).
Weber further connects social-status to role-differentiation in the idea of the action-orientation. For Weber, a given social group will impel its members to pursue a certain set of actions as ultimate ends, valued in themselves, motivated by the esteem accorded by the social group and also the material benefits that come with it. Weber devotes much analytical attention to the action orientation of the bureaucrat (spanning a variety of occupations) in his essay on bureaucracy, also in From Max Weber. For Weber, the bureaucrat takes on execution of the body of rules stipulated by the bureaucracy as an ultimate end, justifying the administered masses’ submission to these rules in terms of both maximization of efficiency and fairness in terms of uniformity of application of these rules. One may look to the paradigmatic example of the DMV, whereby officials working there demand strict adherence to a standardized body of procedures through which licensing may be obtained. Despite your average person’s gripes, we still routinely submit to such authority, in lieu of offering officials bribes or threatening physical violence, which are far more common under prior, non-bureaucratized forms of domination. In this way, Weber’s action-orientation ties together the role a member of a given status group must take on others’ propensity to respect actions taken on the basis of the role, according legitimacy to the organization and its functionaries.
Further Reading: From Max Weber by Max Weber, The Division of Labor and Society by Emile Durkheim