Social position
Social position is the position of an individual
An individual is a person or any specific object or thing in a collection. Individuality is the state or quality of being an individual; a person separate from other persons and possessing his or her own needs, goals, and desires. Being self expressive...

 in a given society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

 and culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

. A given position (for example, the occupation of priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

) may belong to many individuals. Social position influences social status
Social status
In sociology or anthropology, social status is the honor or prestige attached to one's position in society . It may also refer to a rank or position that one holds in a group, for example son or daughter, playmate, pupil, etc....

. One can have several social positions, but only one social status.

Social positions an individual may hold fall into the categories of occupation
Employment is a contract between two parties, one being the employer and the other being the employee. An employee may be defined as:- Employee :...

 (medical doctor, academic lecturer), profession
A profession is a vocation founded upon specialized educational training, the purpose of which is to supply disinterested counsel and service to others, for a direct and definite compensation, wholly apart from expectation of other business gain....

 (member of associations and organisations), family
In human context, a family is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies it is the principal institution for the socialization of children...

 (parent, sibling, etc.), hobby
A hobby is a regular activity or interest that is undertaken for pleasure, typically done during one's leisure time.- Etymology :A hobby horse is a wooden or wickerwork toy made to be ridden just like a real horse...

 (member of various clubs and organisations), among others. An individual is likely to create a personal hierarchy
A hierarchy is an arrangement of items in which the items are represented as being "above," "below," or "at the same level as" one another...

 of such positions, where one will be a central position while the rest are peripheral positions.

Social positions are visible if they require an individual to wear a uniform
A uniform is a set of standard clothing worn by members of an organization while participating in that organization's activity. Modern uniforms are worn by armed forces and paramilitary organizations such as police, emergency services, security guards, in some workplaces and schools and by inmates...

 or some other kind of identifying mark. Often individual clothes or other attributes will advertise what social position one has at the moment. Non-visible social positions are called hidden. A position that is deemed the most important to given individual is called central, others are peripheral. If a sequence of positions is required to obtain a given position, it can be defined as a career
Career is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a person's "course or progress through life ". It is usually considered to pertain to remunerative work ....

, and change of position in this context is a promotion
Promotion (rank)
A promotion is the advancement of an employee's rank or position in an organizational hierarchy system. Promotion may be an employee's reward for good performance i.e. positive appraisal...

 or demotion
A demotion is a reduction in an employee's rank or job title within the organizational hierarchy of a company, public service department, or other body. A demotion may also lead to the loss of other privileges associated with a more senior rank and/or a reduction in salary or benefits...

. Some social positions may make it easier for a given person to obtain others; in other cases, some positions may be restricted based to individuals meeting specific criteria.

Social position together with social role determines individual's place in the social environment
Social environment
The social environment of an individual, also called social context or milieu, is the culture that s/he was educated or lives in, and the people and institutions with whom the person interacts....

 and social organisation. A group of social positions will create a social class
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

 and a social circle
Social circle
Social circles are groups of socially interconnected people. A Social circle is distinguished from a social pyramid in that there are two perspectives that can be used to describe a social circle: the perspective of an individual who is the locus of a particular group of socially interconnected...


A social conflict
Social conflict
Social conflict is the struggle for agency or power in society.Social conflict or group conflict occurs when two or more actors oppose each other in social interaction,reciprocally exerting social power in an effort to attain scarce or incompatible goals and prevent the opponent from attaining them...

 caused by interference between social positions is called a position conflict.

The Impact of Objective Characteristics on Subjective Social Position

The sociological term for social position is a way of identifying a person’s position within the social hierarchy in a society. Subjective social position indicates people's own opinions of their location in society. According to Kristina Lindemann the individual objective characteristics like education, occupation and income are related with the subjective social position. In addition, the culture and society that a person lives and grows in, heavily impacts an individual’s subjective social position. “An individual’s subjective social position status depends not only on the objective characteristics but also on how people experience society, the way they perceive their position in comparison with others, and what they imagine their position would be in the future.”

Lindemann divides objective characteristics into two groups, ascribed and achieved characteristics. Ascribed characteristics are things like age, gender, and ethnicity. Achieved characteristics are things like the education level, occupation, or income. Studies have indicated a significant relevance of these characteristics to an individual’s subjective social position.

On the other hand, some theories expect that objective characteristics do not have influence on subjective social position. The reference group theory mentioned by Lindemann in her essay states that people see the world as an enlarged version of their reference group
Reference group
A reference group is a concept referring to a group to which an individual or another group is compared.Sociologists call any group that individuals use as a standard for evaluating themselves and their own behavior a reference group....

. People base their social position upon the people around them. Typically people’s family, friends, and co-workers are usually very similar, and in general, most people see themselves as average and unexceptional. The status maximizing process also mentioned by Lindemann means that subjective social position reflects also person prospects and hopes for future societal attainment.

Lindemann’s empirical study focuses on Estonian society. Age, is considered to be very impactful characteristic on people when identifying with their social position in Estonia. Young people give higher estimation to their social position, which is a tendency also found in other Eastern European countries. Gender and ethnicity, are also considerable characteristics in identifying social position. In general, the subjective social position of men and women is not significantly different in western countries. Ethnicity impacts social position differently from country
A country is a region legally identified as a distinct entity in political geography. A country may be an independent sovereign state or one that is occupied by another state, as a non-sovereign or formerly sovereign political division, or a geographic region associated with a previously...

 to country. More importantly the influence of ethnicity is closely related to the extent ethnic minorities are accepted by the overall society.

Different studies have shown that the effect of income on class identification in particular has increased during the last decades in Western countries. In Estonia, the income is the most important determinant that shapes people opinion of their social position. The increased influence of income on the subjective social position can be explained by the rise of consumer society values. In her studies Lindemann also found that occupation and education influence significantly the subjective social position. As expected, managers and professionals and higher educated people identify with the middle or higher stratums, while unskilled workers and low educated people relate with the lower positions in social hierarchy.

Stratification and Inequality

In an article written by Lois A. Vitt, "Class" is defined as a stratification system that divides a society into a hierarchy of social positions. Class (or social class) is also a particular social position as defined by researchers seeking to identify individuals within a social stratification system: lower class, working class, middle class, upper class, or other such class designations. This is a method of social ranking that involves money, power, culture, taste, identity, access, and exclusion. “Class conscious” people perceive class distinctions and can typically feel the impact of class in powerful ways.

All class research approaches, whether designed to probe for conflicting class interests, to measure social mobility, or to test for variances, are descended from overarching theoretical class frameworks. They are rooted in the writings of Marx and Weber, followed by the refinements and rebuttals of numerous other social thinkers across many disciplines. Reeve Vanneman and Lynn W. Cannon wrote, in "The American Perception of Class, Temple University Press, 1987, that social class sorts out positions in U.S. society along a many-runged ladder of economic success and social prestige. Both upward and downward mobility can be detected in the population by those who follow broad socio-economic trends.

Ironically, the operation of class is becoming more apparent as a political tilt toward corporate and financial power serves to illuminate the commensurate shrinking of the middle class in the U.S. This is occurring through growing job loss, lack of health coverage, retirement income insecurity, and the loss of housing and other wealth as a result of changing and volatile economic conditions.

Socio-Economic-Position Overall and Cause-Specific Mortality in an Italian Rural Population

This study found interesting conclusions related to social position in an Italian rural population. The research group found that correlations between the socio-economic-position overall and cause-specific mortality. They concluded that in the lower social group positions these people shared a more adverse risk factors profile and are at a higher risk of death.

A more adverse risk factors profile among lower classes defined in middle age, explains only part of the social inequalities in mortality. It has been suggested that health outcomes may be related to adult socio-economic position, childhood socio-economic position or both. These studies were conducted in Northern Europe (Scandinavia). For more information refer to the referenced article.

Race-Related Differences in Promotions and Support: Underlying Effects of Human and Social Capital

One of the ways to change your social position is to increase human capital. The human capital theory suggest that people having more job-relevant resources, such as education and training, should receive more organizational rewards i.e. promotions than people with fewer of these resources. Human capital alone can affect social position to a certain extent. An individual has to have social skills and build social networks to help promote their social position.

Another way to affectively increase your chance of obtaining or sustaining social position is by increasing your social capital
Social capital
Social capital is a sociological concept, which refers to connections within and between social networks. The concept of social capital highlights the value of social relations and the role of cooperation and confidence to get collective or economic results. The term social capital is frequently...

. The social capital theory posits that certain qualities in workplace relationships are beneficial for receiving organizational rewards, and employees whose relationships are not characterized by these qualities are at a disadvantage. .

In other words, people who have social relationships with upper management might get to know about a promotion possibility before someone lacking in the social capital infrastructure that relays that sort of information.

Erika James finds through studies and analysis that in general blacks have been promoted at a slower pace than whites. This workplace discrimination occurred most likely because of unequal human/social capital between the two races. Clearly this is not a justification for the actions to occur. The issue of race still exists as a statistically proven factor in American job markets.

"Market, Hierarchy, and Trust: The Knowledge Economy and the Future of Capitalism"

For an individual to hold a social position thoroughly and knowledgeably they must be trusted in the market
A market is one of many varieties of systems, institutions, procedures, social relations and infrastructures whereby parties engage in exchange. While parties may exchange goods and services by barter, most markets rely on sellers offering their goods or services in exchange for money from buyers...

 and reflect it in their behavior. Paul S. Adler says that a review of trends in employment relations, interdivisional relations, and interfirm relations finds evidence suggesting that the effect of growing knowledge-intensity may indeed be a trend toward greater reliance on trust. He believes the form of trust that is most effective in this context is of a distinctively modern kind - "reflective trust" - as opposed to traditionalistic, "blind" trust.

The values at work in modern trust are those of the scientific community: "universalism, communism, disinterestedness, organized skepticism" (Merton 1973, p. 270). Modern trust is inclusive and open. The author concludes that the efficacy of trust for knowledge management and the likelihood of its growth over time are maximized if:
  1. trust is balanced by hierarchical rules to ensure stability and equity
  2. trust is balanced by market competition to ensure flexibility and opportunity
  3. trust is modern and reflective rather than traditionalistic and blind

There is an element of trust necessary within society and for identifying with a particular social position - especially relevant to particular community positions where one's actions weigh heavily on one's social position.


In conclusion, a social position can be identified objectively and subjectively. The objective characteristics shape an individuals opinion of their subjective social position. Characteristics like age were found to have the biggest impact on people’s opinion of their subjective social position. A particular society’s social positions are also defined by the "class
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

" system inherent to the culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

 of that society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

. People who are conscious of the “class” systems are called “class conscious
Class consciousness
Class consciousness is consciousness of one's social class or economic rank in society. From the perspective of Marxist theory, it refers to the self-awareness, or lack thereof, of a particular class; its capacity to act in its own rational interests; or its awareness of the historical tasks...

”. It has also been found that the socio-economic-position of people can greatly affect their mortality rate. The next topic of race unfortunately still plays a role in the social success of an individual in the workplace. When comparing whites to blacks it was found that the whites had faster promotion rates as well as better overall job satisfaction. Lastly, the element of trust does and should be upheld by people. Trust helps to build reputable social positions in the community.
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