The weight of the social classes

Peter Berger, “The weight of the social classes“, Invitation to sociology, p118, 1963

“In our society, the differences that separate the modes of life according to the social classes are not only quantitative, but also qualitative. Give a sociologist a little bit competent two basic indices to locate an individual in the class system, as his income and his profession, and he may, in the absence of any other indication, to predict a large number of its other characteristics. Like all predictions, sociological, they will be of a statistical nature : it will be a question of probabilities, with a margin of error. But we can assure with a large enough insurance. From these two pieces of information on an individual, the sociologist will be able to make assumptions based on the neighbourhood or the city where he lives, the surface and the style of his house. It can also provide a general description of the interior d├ęcor of the house, guess what kind of paintings on the walls and books or magazines that are probably located in his living room. It will guess the type of music that our subject likes to listen to, if he goes to the concert or listening to records or the radio. And this is not all : it will predict also what kind of associations he belongs to, and what church he attends. He can assess his vocabulary, give wholesale the rules of its syntax, and other uses of language. It will guess his political affiliation and his views on a number of national problems. It predicts the number of his children and if he made love with his wife in the dark or the light turned on. It will be possible to provide indications on the probability that it is a day suffering from some physical or mental illnesses. And, as we have seen, he will be able to locate on the mortality tables. In the end, if a sociologist decided to see if he was right in asking him for an interview, it can estimate the chances that the interview be refused. “

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