Social Question

Nially_Bob's avatar

Is the attribution of status a direct consequence of human nature?

Asked by Nially_Bob (3841points) March 21st, 2012

For the purposes of this question ‘status’ refers to a favourable and superior position within a society or culture. Be it as a result of social, economic or other related factors.

I was recently discussing the whole issue of socio-economic inequality with an anarchist friend of mine (as we’re all prone to doing on a Tuesday evening), and he purported that the attribution of status is primarily a result of the state and the overarching culture that comes with it. Basically he opened a serious can of Karl Marx on me (though it may have been Karl Marx lite as he’s trying to watch his calorie intake).

Now we proceeded to discuss this matter over some pizza, and one of the early points made was whether it is in-fact the case that modern human society creates a notion of status, or whether it’s our nature to attribute status and this has consequently resulted in this being a prominent factor in modern society.

My argument in favour of the latter was that if society acknowledges someone as being worthy of praise then they will be seen as better, and the major environmental variable involved is simply what characteristics are deemed worthy of praise. In a capitalist system money is the obvious choice, while perhaps in, for example, a communist society talent and ability would be more heavily revered.

The key point here being that the desire to praise and attribute status itself seems to derive directly from human nature rather than an outside influence. Though obviously my mind is not made up on this, hence my being here.

Has anyone got any thoughts to share on this matter?

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7 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

Who do you want to shag? There’s a reason why people get hall passes or whatever you call it for Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. They are clearly of such high status that a) they would never want to shag you and b) in the alternate universe where they did, there is no way in hell that anyone would turn them down.

Status is something we do because it is a part of our nature. It is a part of our nature because it helps us produce children who have the best chance of surviving.

There are many different ways of recognizing status. It isn’t just money or resources. It is also social capital. It is also being able to charm or entertain. It is strength. It is any skill that enhances survival. The gift of blarney. The ability to draw.

But it is also the ability to manage. Get things done. Plan things and make things happen. And on and on.

The expression of these skills is dependent on the society and the rules of society. But every society has ways of recognizing status. In communist societies, being among the communist elite was where you wanted to connect.

In an anarchist society, it would be the anarchist elite. What would that be like? What is anarchist status? Someone with more imagination than I will have to say.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

Yes. I consider this a great deal in human interactions, especially romantic interactions. In fact, when women tell me they are more about personality than looks, I mentally substitute the word status.

Now the funny thing about status, that women get and men seem never to grasp, the act of striving to display status is inherently low value. Bragging, to all but the dumbest women, comes off as low status behavior. When I really like a girl and my friends are tripping over themselves to make each other look bad, I just maintain eye contact and roll my eyes.

incendiary_dan's avatar

To an extent, yes. Your friend is sort of right, too, in that status and class are stratified in hierarchal “civilized” societies, whereas in others for most of history, status has been fairly informal and not something of serious consequence.

marinelife's avatar

Status is a prerequisite of the animal kingdom and is very much alive in ape society.

CaptainHarley's avatar

I tend to differentiate between “satus” and “organizational position.” In early human society status played a very minor role, with place in the tribe playing the more important one. Since we haven’t relied on courage in the hunt or courage on the battlefield as proof of one’s position in the “tribe” for a long time, people have come to rely more on status as indicated by the number of glass beads ( money ) they accumulate. IMHO status is a substitute devised by modern man to take the place of organizational position.

Pandora's avatar

I agree with @marinelife.
But I think it has to do with viability. Look at Donald Trump. Its not only having to do with money but rather his ability to overcome adversity, Oprah Winfrey. Its not just the ability to turn lemons into lemonade but being able to sell bananas as lemoneade.
So in a way you are both right. Its a little bit of both. Money and talent and brilliance. Although brilliance, and talent usually leads to the money. It also doesn’t hurt if you look good, as @wundayatta suggested. But lets face it. It a very small pool of people who would want to shag Donald Trump, or Oprah, or Bill Gates, if they had no money.

mattbrowne's avatar

Some scientists explain the rapid growth of the human brain over the past 2 million years with the need for handling the complexity of human social groups. In addition to status other factors became important too such as empathy, justice, honesty, reliability. This means that compared to other primates status has lost some of its impact in human groups.

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