Meaning, Definition and Factors affecting of Social Mobility

Social mobility means the movement of an individual in a social structure. In this sense social mobility, as such, means the transformation in the

Meaning of Social Mobility

Social mobility means the movement of an individual in a social structure. In this sense social mobility, as such, means the transformation in the social status of an individual or a group. Any individual is in a position to raise up or lower his status in the social set up according to his desire and efforts. This change in social status is called social mobility. It other words, social mobility may be taken as a movement from one social status to another.

Meaning, Definition and Factors affecting of Social Mobility

Definitions of Social Mobility

1. According to S. Bogardus, "Social mobility is any change in social position, such as occupational changes where persons move up or down the occupational scale, or relation to office whereby a follower becomes a leader, or a leap from a low economic class to a high one, or vice versa."

2. According to P.A. Sorokin, "Social mobility is either horizontal or vertical. Horizontal mobility is the process of making changes on the same status level, while vertical mobility is the process of changing from one status to another, either to a higher or lower level."

Forms of Social Mobility

According to Sorokin the following are the two forms of social mobility-

(1) Horizontal Social Mobility:- In society some groups of persons have similar status and some are placed in lower or higher. When transformation of an individual takes place in the groups or sections of same status, we call it horizontal social mobility. It may be noted over here that in horizontal social mobility, the position of an individual may change, but his salary, grade, prestige and other privileges remain the same. In other words, his social status remains the same. For example, transfer of a district magistrate to a post in secretariate in the same grade does not affect his social status. Sorokin has discussed the following forms of horizontal social mobility.

  • Inter-Group Mobility in Race, Sex and Age Group:- Generally there is no mobility among people of the same race, sex and age groups. The reason behind this is that no body change his or her race, sex or age on his or her own will or wish.
  • Occupational Mobility:- Change from one occupation to another of the similar nature, conditions and circumstances is occupational mobility. In closed societies occupational mobility becomes non-existent because of rigid restrictions and limitations. On the other hand, in open stratification and during crisis or economic prosperity, occupational mobility gets an impetus.
  • Inter Religious Mobility:- Change from one religious faith to another or conversion from one religion to another is religious mobility. This kind of mobility generally occurs among men more than in women, among educated than uneducated, in rich more than in poor, in cities more than in villages.
  • Party Mobility:- Leaving one political party and joining another is party or political mobility. More often this type of mobility occurs because of self-interests, allurements, political instability and lack of moral character.
  • Family and Kinship Mobility:- Marriage or remarriage, adoption of a child or divorce encourages this type of mobility. This happens more in society where polygamy is practised.
  • Territorial Mobility:- Leaving a particular territory by a group of people and entry into another territory is called territorial mobility. For example, groups of villages seasonally migrate to towns for better living conditions. This kind of mobility is more frequent in towns, government services, industrial services, in men and young persons
  • International Mobility:- Encouraged by better prospects, more affluence and better living conditions, many persons migrate from underdeveloped countries to developed and progressive countries of the world. This migration powerfully influences international mobility. This type of mobility also increases when people of over-populated countries migrate to other countries where they are welcomed.

(2) Vertical Mobility:- All social groups are not equal in social status. Some are higher and some are lower in social prestige. Achievement of higher status and prestige by an individual or a group of lower status and in the same manner degradation of an individual of group from higher status or prestige to lower status, is called vertical mobility. Sorokin has discussed the forms of vertical mobility also as under-

  • Ascending Mobility:- Ascending refers to the movement from lower to higher position. Hence, ascending mobility means the entry of persons from lower strata and prestige to higher status and prestige groups. Promotion of a clerk to an officer, promotion of a lecturer to readership or professorship and elevation of a minister of State to minister of cabinet rank are examples of ascending mobility.
  • Descending Mobility:- Descending mobility means descending or going down of a person from higher position, prestige and status to lower ones. It occurs in government and private services and is generally! the outcome of some sort of inefficiency or acts of criminal tendencies and moral turpitude. Degradation of a minister to the status of a voter only is an example in this connection.

Dimensions of social Mobility

According to Lipset and Zitterberg the following are the areas of social mobility-

(1) Occupational Ranking:- Occupation is a common ground of social mobility. It may be noted that occupations which have similar social and economic foundations, they are called an occupational class. It is matter of experience that each occupational class has its distinct social prestige and status. Not only this, there is a great difference in the ideals, values, feelings and habits of persons engaged in different occupations. Thus, persons engaged in comparatively less prestigious occupations strive to move towards occupations comprising greater prestige and social distinction.

(2) Social Class:- It is comparatively easier for an individual to shift from one occupation to another, but is very difficult almost impossible for any one to shift from one social class to another. In this connection, it is essential to note that people of elite sections of society do not associate with persons of inferior social status.

(3) Consumption Ranking:- According to Lipset and Zitterberg. there is difference between occupational status and economic status. Business status is ranked according to income whereas economic status is ascertained according to expenditure. Because expenditure is directly related to styles and habits of living, therefore, people having the same or similar living styles and habits of life are known as same consumer's group of society. Generally, it is seen that life of persons of the same occupation have different modes of social life.

(4) Power Ranking:- Role relationship of the individuals with reference to the society determines their power ranking. Thus, persons of the same power impact from a power group. These power groups are independent. Other occupational groups may or may not influence these power groups.

Causes of Social Mobility

Lipset and Zitterberg have discussed the following causes of social mobility-

(1) Supply of Vacant Statuses:- The first cause of social mobility is to fill the blanks in the social statuses in a society. In every social structure, positions of statuses are in a constant state of influx. In modern times, in governmental, managerial and official work more and more white-collard persons and skilled workers are in need whereas there is a progressive decline in the positions of unskilled labourers. Demographic compulsion also helps in the increase of positions of higher strata of society because of their lower birth rate and greater demand of business, government and private services.

(2) Interchange of Ranks:- Another cause of social mobility is the interchangeability of ranks. The more a society offers opportunities for the lower ranks to complete with those of the higher ranks, the more likelihood is there for social mobility promoted by those competitions which are open to all sections of society. Under such circumstances if all people of a society are able to develop vocational and professional efficiency, then vocational mobility will definitely be promoted.

Factors affecting Social Mobility

The following factors influence social mobility-

(1) Opportunity Structure:- Opportunity structure or structure of society powerfully influences the process of social mobility. Societies are of two kinds: (1) Closed societies and (2) Open societies. Closed societies have a social structure based upon birth and heredity due to which individuals in such societies do not get opportunities for ascending and descending vertical social mobility. On the other hand, in open societies, every individual gets full freedom and opportunities to both kinds of vertical social mobility according to their own efforts of development or downfall. In other words, in closed societies social mobility is restricted whereas in open societies it is promoted to the fullest extent.

(2) Demographic Structure:- Social mobility is closely connected with diffusion of population, its size and density. Birth rate and migration of village folks towards towns and cities are closely connected to social mobility. When people migrate to places of greater density of population, then persons of higher status gladly accept even menial jobs and thus local population rises higher status. Much in the same way, people belonging to lower status get jobs of people having less children. After the attainment of independence, revolutionary progress has occurred in India in the fields of industry as well as agriculture. Thus, more and more people are migrating to cities and industrial centres from villages to take jobs in factories and mills. This has greatly promoted social mobility.

(3) Economic Success:- From economic point of view, there are three sections of society namely: (1) Rich class, (2) Middle class and (3) Lower class. Out of these three classes, rich people receive greater respect and prestige. Hence, each individual irrespective of his group strives more and more to earn more and more money in order to achieve higher status and social prestige. This makes it clear that economic success influences social mobility from one group to another group.

(4) Occupational Improvement:- Some occupations are associated with greater social status and prestige in comparison with others. Hence, people engaged in occupations of lower status and prestige try to achieve occupations and positions of higher social status and greater social prestige. This accelerates social mobility. In India, occupational improvement is increasing day by day. Hence, social mobility is also going up and up.

(5) Education:- Development, propagation and spread of education also promotes social mobility. Those persons who receive more and more education achieve higher and higher soical status. This gives an impetus to the growth of social mobility in a normal and natural way.

(6) Administration:- Administration set up of a country is related very closely to social mobility. In a democratic society greater opportunities are provided for social mobility in comparision with other types of administrative societies. The reason behind this is that democratic set up presupposes open societies which are oriented towards greater development of its members. Hence, democratic administration promotes social mobility in greater degree.

Education and Social Mobility

Education is a social process. An educated person gets recognition, position and prestige everywhere in society. As a matter of fact, education abolishes social rigidity of structure, removes discrimination based on birth and destroys rigid stratification. In addition, education also strives to achieve higher ideals, obtains higher positions of prestige; formation of good habits and inculcation of permanent values. In short, education tries to develop ability and capacity in the individual to gain higher statuses, position of prestige and promotes effective social mobility.

(1) Teacher's Mobility:- Generally teachers try to achieve their social position and status in their own professional associations and organizations. These associations are composed of teachers, lectures, readers, professors, principals, chairmen, deans and vice chancellors. Promotion from one position to a higher one promotes social status and prestige.

(2) Social Mobility of Students:- Education is a means to achieve higher social status and position in society. Hence, all students try to obtain more and more education to gain higher and higher social status. Without education, achievement of higher status or social mobility is not possible. In the social mobility of students, the following elements play an important part-

  • Amount of Education:- Schools, colleges and universities impart education of different levels. Any student who is liable to receive education upto a particular level, obtains social status and prestige suited to that level.
  • Content of Education:- Educational curriculum also influences social mobility very powerfully. As a matter of fact, different subjects have different importance and value. We see that scientific subjects like engineering, medicine and technology are rated higher in comparison with humanities. The reason behind this is that persons having knowledge of science get higher social status and social prestige.
  • Research Degree in Specialized Areas:- Some Scholars are able to achieve higher social status by their academic and research work in various fields of study. Thus, higher the academic achievements, greater is the social mobility.
  • Importance of College and University:- Some Colleges and Universities have a higher recognition and greater academic rating among institutions of higher education. Students of such institutes of higher restige get higher jobs easily in comparison with students receiving education in other institutions.

Education and Downward Mobility

Education and social mobility are closely related. Education is capable to promote the growth and remove the backwardness of a country. In modern times there are some developed countries where due to advanced technology no further development is possible. In other words, advanced technology has achieved saturation of development with respect to some well-developed and affluent countries. In such countries the process of social mobility operates very little. But in under-development and developing-countries like our own, social mobility has unlimited possibilities.

In such countries the more useful and productive is the the education, the more is the social mobility. Here it may be borne in mind that in such developing or under-developed countries, only capable children will go up whereas the incapable and mentally retarded will go down. Education will achieve both these process and attain a balance. between the two kinds of social mobility-the upward and the downward.

Merits of Social Mobility

  1. Full and wholesome development of individual.
  2. Higher positions to deserving persons.
  3. Growth of social efficiency and social progress.
  4. Remedy of mal-adjustment.
  5. Promotion of national solidarity and plenty.
  6. Progress of society towards stability.
  7. Development of welfare and happiness.

Demerits of Social Mobility

  1. Disorder in rural and urban societies.
  2. Development of pride and snobbery in individuals.
  3. Constant discontent of individual with social order.

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