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Title: The social structure of a Scottish rural community
Author: Littlejohn, James
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1955
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Our last chapter has shown how the country parish today is dominated, socially, by the town. Not only is there a movement of population from country to town, but the majority of those who remain in the country have accepted to some extent the townsman's evaluation of themselves. In a sense this could be said to be the main theme of our earlier, historical chapters. There we showed how the structure of the parish changed through increasing economic dependence upon consumer goods made in towns, through increasing use of money, through the formation of trade Vnions, and through changes in administration brought about by the State. All these elements of social life originated in urban centres and are essentially urban in nature. Country dwellers must already, fifty years ago, have begun to imitate town dwellers or had these elements of urban social life forced upon them. Probably both processes, imitation and (legally sanctioned) force were at work. At the same time, as our last chapter also showed, the domination of the town does not fall equally upon the whole population of the rural parish. The main feature of the social structure of the parish is a system of social classes. The classes differ in their relationship to the town and their conception of themselves in relation to the town. Persons of the middle classes do not think of themselves as living in "isolation" or as undergoing hardships from which the townsman is free, whereas persons of the working class do. Our thesis was mainly concerned with the class system of the parish, since it has come to be the dominating system of social relations. Over the last fifty years the cohesiveness and importance of the parish as a social group has declined, while the autonomy of the farm has been shattered. These are both results of a process whereby the population making up the parish has been absorbed into wider groups - the County, the Nation, and nationwide organisations such as Trade Unions. The parish no longer really exists as a social unit, membership of it neither confers important rights nor imposes important obligations, while economically and socially parishioners are linked to, even dependent upon, a far wider population than exists within the parish boundaries. The farm, at one time a system of relationship and activity which. controlled the lives of its members to a degree unimaginable today, is no longer such a dominating unit in the lives of the majority of parishioners. Farmer and farm worker no longer bargain directly with each other, face to face as persons who have to come to terms with each other, but stand opposed to each other merely as representatives of two trade Unions who decide the terms of the relationship within a framework of rights and obligations ultimately sanctioned by the State. The married farm workers role as employee is now sharply separated from his role as he of a family capable of supplying labour so his family is hardly related at all to the farm. Increases in money wages and leisure, the development of public systems of transport, the growth of industries manufacturing consumer goods, have all brought parishioners into close relationship with nearby towns and agencies of supply. With the decline in importance of the parish and the farm, social class and the family have provided the dominant system of relationships within the parish. The family and kinship ties originating in it have not occupied the centre of our interest for several reasons, principally because kinship ties only obtain among a minority of parishioners and tend to be ignored if they conflict with the principle of social class, and because the family, far from being "the regulator of social behaviour and the cultural norm ", is merely the unit of social class. This last concept so often used by sociologists, of the family as the unit of social class, has been given empirical content in this study. ':e have shown that class status is allotted in the first place not to individuals but to the family, that the female has status conferred upon her in virtue of her relationship to a male, either father or husband, and that the family is the guardian of status in the sense that pressure is put upon daughters to ensure they do not lose status by marrying a man of lower class than themselves. class culture, the items of which are viewed as symbols of class status, is largely maintained and passed on to the next generation within the family. Finally, being admitted to households and sharing meals with householders is the exemplary type of association which provides the most unambiguous index of class status. As we showed, household and family by no means co-incide, if a family is defined as a group consisting of husband, wife and children living together in one house. Ideally, however, a household is started by the formation of such a group, and a household not consisting of these persons is usually simply the result such inescapable vicissitudes as death upon a family. The operations, both conceptual and practical (i.e. in the field) by which the existence of a system of three social classes was disclosed, were fully described. This answers the question which may be asked, "what do I (the fieldworker) mean by social class ?" for what I mean by social class is precisely what emerged from these operations (in the context of Eskdalemuir), viz. a population divided into three ranked strata thought of as superior and inferior relative to each other by the population and controlling, in the many ways described, the behaviour of the population. The possibility of other conceptual and practical operations is not denied. In any system of social stratification there must be criteria by which the units of the system are allotted to one or other strata. In the system we described there is no single criterion of this nature, but wealth, amount of property owned, occupation, personal and family history are all taken into account in allotting units to the different strata. We have suggested that some notion of a "class quota" must exist as part of what Durkheim called the collective consciousness of this society. At any rate, these multiple criteria make for untidiness in the system, a lack of clear definition of class boundaries. This is not so marked as to prevent treating classes as separate groups with differing cultures; at the same time it raises what I consider to be a major problem worthy of further detailed research, namely that there is a sharp division between the upper middle class and the lower middle, but a much hazier division between the lower middle and the working class. From general observation of our society, I am certain that this is a general feature of social class, found in other communities besides Eskdalemuir: an explanation of it would require detailed comparison of class system in several communities. No exhaustive account of class cultures has been attempted here: instead we described mainly such items of class cultures as are most conspicuously viewed by the community itself as symbols of class status. Perhaps the most novel part of our treatment of social class concerns the relations of the sexes to the class system. There we showed that in respect of movement from one class to another, the sexes do not stand in the same relationship to the class system. In particular, it seems that movement from the working to the lower middle class is more frequent among females than among males. This we attributed to a complex of reasons located within the total social structure. The men of the working class are in opposition to the men of the middle classes through their respective roles as employees and employers, while the women of the two classes are not, but stand in a patronage relationship. Because of the distance between the sexes in the working class divergent cultures have developed in them, that of the women being more like the culture of their middle class patrons than that of the men standing opposed to the middle class. The female role permits development of portable skills such as housekeeping, adornment and manners, while the male role, heavily involved in occupation, does not so easily permit the development of portable skills. Since the female role is regarded as inferior to the male (in the working class) the female can never win hence great esteem in it, hence she values social status; on the other hand the men are deeply involved in winning esteem through skill in occupation and tend to value esteem more than social status. The main avenues of mobility differ in accordance with the roles allotted to the sexes, marriage in the case of women, occupation in the case of men. The upshot is that working class women (in this community) are more successful in moving into the lower middle class than are the men. This casts doubt on a conception of a social class as a number of persons who have the same social chances in life. At the beginning of our analysis of the class system we drew attention to the difference between Marx's and Weber's analysis of the modern class system, the one emphasising opposition between classes, the other emphasising cohesion. Our analysis of the different relations of the sexes to the class system shows these two accounts do not conflict but are complementary to each other. Each emphasises an aspect of the relation between classes which is thrown into sharper focus when the class system is related to the sex system. Finally, we may call attention to a weakness of anthropological method as applied to the study of modern society, a weakness noted earlier, namely that its results apply to only a small population. Would study of larger populations, as organised in communities, reveal that women are generally more successful in upward mobility than men? That kinship ties are generally broken when they conflict with the class principle? The answers to such questions await further research.
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Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
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