Hughes, E.C. 1945. “Dilemmas and Contradictions of Status.”

Hughes, Everett Cherrington. 1945. “Dilemmas and Contradictions of Status.” American Journal of Sociology 50(5): 353-359.

Status, in addition to traits, are associated with other, additional characteristics that we expect those of such a status to reflect. These are frequently unfulfilled, creating contradictions/dilemmas. Defines status as “a defined social position for whose incumbents there are defined rights, limitations of rights, and duties” (353) – also a rank, or part of a hierarchy of statuses.

Western society recognizes a large and expanding number of statuses, of which even more numerous traits (and associate characteristics) are attributed, differing from other societies where statuses and characteristics less numerous, but more deeply intertwined. Seemingly preconditioned by a lack of fixity, rapid social change, perceptions of social mobility/meritocracy, individualism.

Characteristics that accompany a status can come from formal, legal, technical training, informal memberships – but are varied in origin. Dissonance between actual characteristics of individuals holding statuses and those expected can cause conflict (internal, external?) – this is complicated by the compounding and overlapping of multiple statuses and their accompanying traits.

[…] “people carry in their minds a set of expectations concerning the auxiliary traits properly associated with many of the specific positions available in our society” (354). “These expectations appear as advantages or disadvantages to persons who, in keeping with American social belief and practice, aspire to positions new to persons of their kind” (355) — the “stereotypes of ordinary talk, cartoons, fiction, the radio, and the motion picture” (355). Do not necessarily reflect the truth, but frequently reflect an “ideal conception” (355).

Conflicts within the actual characteristics of members within a status group can try the solidarity of said group – interrogates membership? Those who are new or “marginal” (do not reflect the honored characteristics) of a status, are frequently on the social margins of their status – can also be disrupted through technological change, change in occupational task/processes. Nonetheless, the existing expectation characteristics continue, but now having room for modifications and exceptions.  (kx^ example: stereotype of professor — despite women’s new predominance in arts and sciences in college ranks, there is still a cultural reference point of the ‘Bernie-looking’ academic.)

Dissonance can help explain interpersonal systems of prejudice, discrimination – as those who fulfill the expectation characteristics for a status will be promoted, preferred – maintaining systemic inequalities (yet beneficial, as they prevent experiences of individual and wider conflict?, encourages new forms of similar institutions – a la segregation – that offers new ExC?)

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