domingo, 1 de julio de 2012

Cortito 7 "Fluidity in Chile and USA (when measurement (and time) matters)"

I will begin from the end to end with the beginning.
Torche’s article is rather impressive and furthermore it will become a classical work in Chilean sociology giving that this is the first mobility study regarding Chile published in a journal of high impact. Was it both apish and risky, however, to acknowledge that Chile—even though its level of inequality is rather high—is more fluid than USA and, of course, “more fluid than any of the advanced countries” (Torche, 2005:441), without making any reference to a potential case of structural mobility but also because fluidity depends on both conventions and time?[1] Certainly my question has a rhetoric tone; however, this question raises the issue of whether metrics can, after all, be a representation of reality or normative ideas.
One of the onymous reviewers of Torche’s article was Richard Breen (Torche, 2005:421). Both scholars were already aware of the very weak relationship which can be established between inequality and fluidity. Torche states the foregoing in p. 426, and Breen (and Luijkx) in the following quote informs us that  
“Our model posits that, given the level of income inequality in each country in the 1970s, changes within a country in β follow the same trend as the Gini index. Thus we test for a common effect on b, in all countries, of income inequality: or, in other words, a common slope coefficient (…) In the second model we include income inequality, as measured by the Gini index. Not only is there no significant relationship between fluidity and the Gini index, its coefficient has the wrong sign.” (Breen and Luijkx, 2004:396, my emphasis)
If the relationship was acknowledged to be problematic by Torche, or in more polite terms inconclusive (p.426), why insist in this matter? Or in other words, why to build a work based on a hypothesis that does not have strong empirical support? What is the (theoretical or methodological) value of presenting Chile as a counter case of the indirect relationship of these two variables? In order to falsify any direction of this hypothesis it seems that not only several decades of research are required (as Breen’s book suggests) since a research program of this sort entails the collection of several generational trends that cross sectional cohort analyzes cannot assess—or at least they should have enough large Ns to be representative of each generation, as Blau and Duncan’s work suggested (1967). More particularly, under what criteria was appropriated to assess fluidity in contrast to inequality in Chile from a cross-sectional survey whose N reported was 3,002 (p.432), however the N of each cohort (1964-1973; 1974-1988; 1989-2000) (p.441-442) was not reported. This latter criticism can be unfair because I am using a methodological argument—similarly as Hauser and Logan’s (1992) cross-validation argument to disprove Rytina’s SSCI—to disregard Torche’s findings rather than study her main argument i.e. Chile is an adjudicative case since its level of inequality is one of the highest in the world, yet its fluidity surpasses USA and several other industrialized countries. In sum this observation attacks the inappropriate use of inequality as a variable which can be associated to fluidity.
However behind this observation another element can be discussed i.e. Chile’s fluidity. I am inclined to think that Chile’s high fluidity is capitalizing from its pattern of late urbanization (if compared to urbanization processes which some industrialized countries went through). For instance as we can observe in table 1, there has been an indeed dramatic increase of urbanization in Chile for the 1950-2000 period, and the latter can be associated to the “reverse” spillover of the 444 cases of class VIIb (Farmer workers) and the 316 cases of class IVc (Farmers) (p.433).
Table 1 Chile´s percentage of urbanization (1950-2000)
Percentage of urbanization
 Source: Alfredo Lattes, Urbanizacón, Crecimiento Urbano y Migraciones en América Latina UN-ECLAC (2000)
The massive dropping of both classes from 15% to 8% in class VIIb, and from 11% to 4% in class IVc denote a very fluid country. But interpretation of fluidity, if one accepts the class typology proposed by Erikson and Goldthorpe, must be then done cautiously. More precisely movements from origin to destination might not at all occur due to competition between individuals which fight for scarce resources since what we observe is the expansion of the service sector and rural-urban immigration.
While it is indeed attractive, and actually promising, to think of different directions between these two variables as it is suggested in figure 1 (complementing in fact Friedman’s theory (1962)), pursuing with this enterprise can be nonetheless misleading or at best really expensive. Specifically, to obtain values for the fluidity variable requires the introduction of several ad-hoc effects to standardize the metric for very low Ns (i.e. countries),[2] and therefore it stretches several assumptions which need to account for internal differences. Furthermore, if one variable of a “simple” bivariate analysis presents problems of operationalization, it would be then even more difficult to convey one of the four suggested functions (figure 1).
A last point regarding Torche’s analysis is the metric of distance among classes based on the implicit hierarchical and therefore normative definition of class structure proposed by Erikson and Goldthorpe. While Erikson and Goldthorpe acknowledge that countries have their own economic dynamics, which can be captured by adding the four effects—elements which are very well developed by Torche—the distance ultimately depends on who or better what occupation occupies what class. The problem with this strategy however, as we will see with Rytina’s SSCI, is that these distances are arbitrary because certain consensus, in this case mostly European,  capture a pre-determined social order. Two examples can illustrate the latter, a university professor in Chile compared to a university professor in England, is less likely to have, ceteris paribus, higher income, or an itinerary seller, that is an individual who sell products in the street particularly to car drivers or passengers when the traffic light is red, populates the membership of self-employed category and this occupation is likely to be inexistent in England.
Figure 1 Four theoretical macro-relations between ‘Inequality’ and ‘Fluidity’

Rytina’s proposal deals with certain scale conventions in occupational mobility which can be regarded as problematic. While of high practical value, these metrics can ultimately be misleading since they only capture a lower part of how occupation mobility is distributed but also this distribution is likely masking the inertia of the occupations and favoring findings of achievement. Both SEI and prestige scales are constructs which have been widely used, however, part of their operationalization in trying to capture normative orders (what is conceived to be high or low in terms of honor) and these cannot be regarded as universal (or at least require a big deal of contextualization). More specifically the imposition of arbitrary scores to nominal categories of occupations by introducing two pieces of information such as income and years of education or by assigning subjective scales ultimately implies that what is being captured as mobile or rigid are only scores which represent constructions, rather than a difference between destination and origin based on more pure information i.e. the occupation. According to Rytina the key is to identify the metric which grasps the distance between one value and another (one occupation versus another) in order to regard these several movements as far or close. This metric is critical because it ultimately reflects mobility or rigidity. The question then is what type of values (scores) should be considered in order to assess differences between two occupations while simultaneously avoid the imposition of arbitrary scores? In order to build an algorithm which can distribute values according to the distance between origin and destination Rytina acknowledges that a similar attempt, based on the technique of canonical scale has been done by several authors, however one potential drawback is that the “scale scores of father’s DOCs and offspring’s DOCs need not be equal for asymmetric tables”. The algorithm proposed by Rytina solves the challenge of finding both a vector  “such the correlation r of father with offspring is a maximum” (1992a:1686) and “” (ibid). The values obtained from this formalization are the Symmetric Scaling of Intergenerational continuity (SSIC) scores.
Rytina tests three (actually five) scales that compete for the understanding of occupational mobility: prestige, SEI and SSIC and through several correlations (1992a:1669, see table 1) we can observe that these scales measure very similar patterns. However, the advantage of the SSCI over the SEI scale is that the latter corrects SEI scores by “repositioning occupations to a closer correspondence with the details of ascent and descent” (1992a:1671). In other words SEI scale is less faithful to grasp the feature of occupational mobility, and therefore conclusions from its application can be misleading. In order to test this last statement Rytina reassesses the status transmission process (father’s occupation (a), father’s occupation on education (b), and education (c)) by using five scales. It can be seen that the direct effect of father’s rank on offspring rank is larger than it was commonly accepted (1992a:1674). Or in other words education is not “the predominant generative source fir the intergenerational stability of occupational rank”. The implications of this finding can be for many uncomfortable because there is a possibility that achievement is a product of more complex processes than individual performance, but also because it entails to change a specific habitus of scaling occupations. Nevertheless, we can see from Hout and DiPrete that “education is [still regarded as] the main factor in the intergenerational reproduction of social standing because the product ac is greater than the direct effect of origins (b)” (Hout and DiPrete, 2005:6).[3]That statement is unfortunate because regardless of how strongly in empirical, methodological and theoretical terms education was proven to be imprecise.
Naturally SSCI should be tested in order to assess its generalizability. Rytina actually observes that one potential source of falsification is the application of this scale to other samples (1992a:1676) and that is actually the route taken by Hauser and Logan (1992). While Rytina observes that one of the main criticism from these authors is the lack of cross-sample validity (1992b:1729), I think another more subtle criticism which these two author also raised is how time is ultimately not captured in SSCI. That is why they use two different times of measurement: 1972-86 and 1987-90 (p.1695 and 1699-1700).
What I mean by time in this case is the theoretical assumption that mobility or fluidity can change in two or more different points of time and that is how we can eventually observe that one the four functions, between fluidity and equality can be conceived. This strategy would allow us to understand whether mobility has increased, remained constant or decreased. Rytina, I think is more explicit about this challenge in 2000, and definitely tackles the issue in 2008.  One elements that Rytina highlights as imprecise in Hauser and Logan’s application and interpretation of SSIC’s scores is that values from one period of time cannot automatically be taken, or imposed to another period of time i.e. an older survey (1992b:1739-1741). In other words SSIC by definition cannot be taken as permanent. What the researcher should ultimately assess is the method of scaling, and therefore avoiding the reification of scales, because there are local elements which also constrain the process of stratification (Rytina, 2008). The risk of taking this approach however is high because a fixed variable seems to protect the illusion of parsimony and by introducing new information to the network of (social stratification) scholars reaction is likely to be of resistance. Lastly, Rytina in 2000 develops the SSIC further and findings are less promising for those who have education to be more decisive than father’s occupation. Furthermore, this methodology also captures massive changes in occupational stratification from 1987 and onwards. The implication of this last finding seems obvious, but it is less precise if the SEI were taken as the proper scale because its values are fixed, or do not depend on distances which change in reference to specific contexts. The development of this study actually is a more solid answer to the core criticism presented by Hauser and Logan because data is taken from different time periods (1972 to 1990)[4] (2000:1236). Perhaps now is time to bring some form of SSIC to another country, I guess Chile can be a good option.

Breen, R. and R. Luijkx. 2004. “Conclusions.” Chapter 15 in Social Mobility in Europe, edited by Richard Breen. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Friedman, M. 1962. Capitalism and Freedom. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Hauser, R M. and J. A. Logan. 1992. “How Not to Measure IntergenerationalOccupational Persistence.” American Journal of Sociology 97(6):1689-711.

Hout, T. A. DiPrete. 2006. What we have learned: RC28’s contributions to knowledge about social stratification? Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 24, 1–20.

Lattes A. 2000. Urbanización, Crecimiento Urbano y Migraciones en América Latina [Urbanization, Urban Development and Migration]UN-ECLAC.

Rytina S. 2000. Sticky Struggles. . 2008.

________, 2000. Is Occupational Mobility Declining in the U.S.? Social Forces, Jun., vol. 78, no. 4, p. 1227-1276.

________, 1992a.Scaling the Intergenerational Continuity of Occupation: Is Occupational Inheritance Ascriptive After All?” American Journal of Sociology, v97 n6.

________, 1992b. Response to Hauser and Logan and Grusky and Van Rompaey. American Journal of Sociology 97:1729-48.

Torche, F. 2005. Unequal but Fluid: Social Mobility in Chile in Comparative Perspective. American Sociological Review, Jun., vol. 70, no. 3, p. 422-450.

[1] Author’s emphasis.
[2] This indeed could be corrected by introducing years per country, however, as Sorokin’s analysis implicitly suggests capturing this type of variability can take up decades.
[3] I am deliberately using this quote because Hout and DiPrete suggest this finding to be one of the 19 empirical generalizations which about 40 researches arrived to after 55 years of social stratification research.(Hout and
[4] 1979 and 1981 were the only two years where surveys were not carried out (2000:1236).

Cortito 6 "Sticky struggles… perennial networks in process"

Rytina’s approach to social stratification is audaciously provocative both theoretically and methodologically. And to be provocative in a realm where class and status analyses have colonized and reified the understanding of (occupational) stability and mobility is truly an important achievement. If provocation can be understood in a continuum, whereby one pole represents dullness and at the other extreme brightness, Rytina’s proposal can be located at the latter pole. The path to understand his main positions, however, can be intense since it demands a high deal of attention. Rytina’s bet is indeed risky because the reader can easily lose focus and start navigating towards other branches of sociological inquiry which are subtly developed in his program of social stratification. Make no mistake, from this risk I see the main strength of Rytina’s proposal. Readers, researchers, and lecturers can take Rytina’s main footpath as a re-conceptualization of what social (reality) is. Behind this pervasive and illusive question a new attempt to understand social reality can be explored regardless of whether his program can be located under the label of social stratification studies. In other words, although Rytina is explicit about how his research program can be a serious alternative to the study of social stratification, this program is not short to this artery of sociology, and therefore, it fulfils two criteria developed by Lakatos (1970): i) theory must provide topics for further research, and ii) “the programme must show usefulness independently of the general framework in which it was created” (Chernilo, 2002:443). Rytina’s program goes solidly towards that direction. Before attempting to point out why, a brief description of his proposal is a must.

Rytina argues that cacophony is a hallmark of social stratification inquiry. (Unless one can read cacophonic musical composition, notice that the word chosen is not necessarily visual but speaks of sounding discrepancies). And this is important because if one would take Abbott’s fractal theory of knowledge’s “development” (Abbott, 2001)—where opposing perspectives of thought and method can actually be regarded as similar since in order to develop their respective programs they rely in contradictions and perpetuate its difference—the contradiction between class and status approaches should be ultimately harmonic. But Rytina illustrates that this development is in fact cacophonic. The only similarity is that “leading contributors to the study of occupational mobility have settled into an ‘agreement to disagree’” (Chapter 2, p.1). However this ‘agreement to disagree’, unlike Abbott’s theory would predict, has only created methodological buildings whereby theoretical questions of social group formations, or the continuity of social patterns have been discarded altogether, and thus room for contradicting or even advancing knowledge has been discontinued. For instance, Rytina, similarly to Bourdieu (Chapter 3:25), uses references of socioeconomic statuses defended by leading scholars such as Featherman and Hauser, as cases of a measuring per measuring impulsivity. One specific quote of these authors denotes an extreme case of a practical solution whose objective seems to be just doing things rather than advancing theoretical knowledge about social stratification reality: “A central assumption underlying this book is that the hierarchies of socioeconomic statuses that differentiate the life chances of adults in America are predetermined (…) [we do not offer and explanation of why socioeconomic] dimensions rather than others have become the major axes of social differentiation” (cited by Rytina, Chapter 2:5). Regarding Erikson and Goldthorpe’s justification of class analysis, Rytina also identifies an impulse for practicality solidified by fiat. “As we sought to make clear our preference for [class rather than prestige or status] is entirely a matter of choosing one conceptualization over another because we believe that, on balance, it is more suited for our purposes” (ibid). This quote illustrates a curl which ultimately immunizes any potential criticism to how the understanding of social stratification could be advanced[1]. In other words, this approach is designed to survive, regardless of potential progressions, and therefore isolates itself from “scientific” interaction. This latter point is important because by definition there is no contradiction and consequently the absence of a fractal, not even a quasi-fractal is possible. Returning to Lakatos, since these research programs do not offer an explicit dialogue among them, it is hard to capture what they are really contributing to the advancement of social stratification program, beyond, of course, the important development of intricate methodologies which only at this point keep locking up their system of inquiry.

A second layer of cacophony is the appealing to normative templates which can help to identify social characteristics which are ultimately regarded as ubiquitously present. Rytina’s analysis of Searle and Stinchcombe illustrate how their respective proposals are cases of cacophony which theoretically echo some of the solutions of why people can be stratified. On the one hand, Searle argues that a claim to a right “rests on audience’s acceptance of that claim” (Rytina, Chapter 2:11), on the other, Stinchcombe points out that the prevalence of authority and property are the notions which can order/organize individuals. However, according to Rytina, both solutions are far from reaching principles of universality and therefore subject to cacophony. These solutions however are appropriate to capture regularities.

The latter analysis creates the conditions to introduce several concepts which will edify the process of social stratification that ultimately can transcend cacophony, Rytina suggests. Firstly, the insertion of the goo’s metaphor allows Rytina to visually understand that people essentially can be (inevitably) close to each other. However, a distinction is important. While people can be together in different both settings and times that does not mean, by definition, that everyone is close to each other neither physically nor biographically (by the latter I mean that biographies carry common patterns of interaction, which are not fully exchangeable). This epoxy, on the other hand, comes with two very important concepts of his theory, i.e. inertia and persistence. Behind both concepts one could argue that the common denominator is force, however, what really binds them, I think, is ‘time’. Both concepts also are very effective in illuminating the notion of (social) structure. In other words “goo” is what binds individuals among each other, I would even dare to say that “goo” also bonds individuals to the past. However, and this is the solution against cacophony, what binds network are local rules not universal ones. The price of the quest for universal bonding, as a program strategy, Rytina would argue, ultimately leads any observer to see differences which can only falsify universality, and therefore creates a fertile soil of cacophonies. On the other hand, by “avoid[ing the endorsement of] specific content while embracing an account that accommodates order” (Rytina, Chapter 2:23) the minimalist account of networks emphasizes the importance of local rules rather than Global Rules. Which in other words this means that attention can be moved from the lyrics towards the sound of the social structure.

Since various account of social stratification rely on conceptualizations that trigger cacophony, Rytina’s research program aims at avoiding these potential dissonances. He draws his frame from network imagery. Particularly he advances the Massively Parallel Accumulating Interaction (MPAI) as a centerpiece. Within MPAI three concepts emerge i) sticky networks, ii) divided labor, and iii) exclusive repetitive gatherings. Before mentioning these last three concepts a word on MPAI is worth it a try. Rytina in several passages discusses some Parsonian concepts of system theory—this is the explicit connection of network theory with system theory. However, there is also in Rytina’s proposal an implicit discussion with system theory, or at least with some of the concepts advanced by Luhmann (1996 and 1997).[2] Particularly the MI of the MPAI centerpiece. In Luhmann’s system theory, one can observe that a Massively Interaction effectively occurs. According to Luhmann the “world society has reached a higher level of complexity with higher structural contingencies, more unexpected and unpredictable changes (some people call this ‘chaos’) and, above all, more interlinked dependencies and interdependencies” (Luhmann, 1997:73). It is the interlinked and interdependencies part that is relevant for this discussion; in fact this can be taken as a sign of indeed massive interactions. However, the Parallel Accumulation (PA) elements of the discussion can actually be taken as an advancement of Rytina’s proposal. Or in other words in Luhmann’s discussion PA elements are likely missing. PA evokes a very and powerful image that while (all) the social systems can be potentially interconnected, in fact there are some social subsystems which might not at all be, and therefore the image of interconnectedness fades. A very simple example is the case of the medium ‘truth’ which is utilized by Luhman to characterize the (sub) system of science (Chernilo, 2002:439). Theoretically, one should expect that social stratification theorists, or rather methodologists were ready to introduce appropriate changes once mathematical rules prove the problem of empty cells to be false (or at least misleading). However, since both (local) learning and tradition of social stratification studies depend on its own inertia, characterized by specific school of thoughts (Bottero and Prandy, 2003) which furthermore are separated by a cacophonic hallmark, the interconnection within this social scientific program becomes a chimera. In other words there are PA elements which help to identify local practices of knowledge, because, on the one hand, cacophony impedes the interchange and on the other, cacophony is also a local dynamic which favors the establishment of parallel networks facilitated by accumulated practices.

The development of the last example actually helps to identify the concept of sticky networks. Rytina specifically points out that this concept is made of four concepts which succinctly can be the following: a) accumulative pattern of time of face-to-face interaction; ii) have a sharply skewed frequency; iii) are imperfectly stable; and iv) individual motivation to resist networks’ tears. (Rytina Chapter 3:15). Why are the networks sticky? Rytina explains that these are in function of time, in other words “sticky network records is the heavily biased, strikingly uneven way that people have distributed their interaction across possible partners” (Rytina, Chapter 3:20). Regarding division of labor Rytina argues that this concept while heavily echoes the notion of sticky networks, since repetition and its form of a sharply skewed probability distribution, it is mainly characterized by three variable ‘constraints’: i) most labor is team-work; ii) “decision to initiate inclusion is often poly-lateral” (Rytina, Chapter 3:29); and iii) the operation of the occupation necessarily needs to be learned, regardless of previous positions held. Certainly the slope of the learning curve of the new member will depend on previous experience in the former network. Lastly, Rytina, in a more Goffmanian approximation, introduces the concept of exclusive repetitive gatherings. For Rytina “any gathering is a duration that unites a list of whos and whoms, with due allowance for untimely arrivals or departures, and possible correction for sub-sets that accomplish face to face within larger gatherings. Gatherings are mutually exclusive since no persons can be in more than one at once” (Rytina, Chapter 3:35). Like the other two latter concepts, time, repetition and the skewed probability distribution are the main features of exclusive repetitive gatherings.

Lastly, Rytina develops a set of equations to fit an ideal data set of social stratification. This exercise helps him to advance via five equations his main thesis i.e. the existence of a unique axis whereby the reproduction of inequality can be captured. His solution although self-regarded as paradoxical (Rytina, chapter 5:19), offers a provisional understanding of social stratification i.e extra persisting inequality. Furthermore this concept is theoretically defined as the “totality of circumstances through which rank exhibits persistence and adjacency giving way to distance. Stratification is not restricted to any particular variables, or scheme of variables, and instead is an ongoing synthesis.” (Rytina, chapter 5:23). Within this synthesis the actual actions of individuals is conceived as a permanent characteristic. But these actions while enduring, are also embedded in social networks which carry information on how these actions in very short periods of time are almost identical. The “almost” part is what captures the difference and distance between very close individuals within specific networks but also with those that are very far from each other as the queen and the prostitute.

(Note: You can find his book in the following link

[1] In a similar manner the ‘taboo of the empty cells’ illustrates how a specific statistic standard—which proves to be resolved by a more relax standard provided by Agresti—is reified limiting the analysis of occupational mobility (Rytina, Chapter 2:6-9).
[2] Evidently this interpretation is high risk since Luhmann was a very prolific sociologist and therefore I am not going to be probably fair to his oeuvre. Nevertheless, as it is common with productive authors conflicting interpretations regarding their creations are also very usual, and therefore my interpretation can be of course regarded as vulgar.

Cortito 5 "Between class and social distance and space: towards a granularity analysis of social stratification"

Bourdieu (1985), Bottero and Prandy (2003) and partially Chan and Goldthorpe (2004) have brought back in the notion of distance as a metric to penetrate a very elusive question in social stratification: which stratifies people in a society? In other words, what are the elements that tend to form ‘natural’ groups within larger groups, but which ultimately echo the notion of hierarchy? It is elusive for at least two reasons. Firstly, it is not trivial to identify a unique set of criteria which can summarize the information of the distribution of positions of the individuals; two examples can illustrate the foregoing. Gender might result insufficient when for instance (historically) the position of various women in the distribution of material resources is of advantages in reference to other women, for instance a queen versus a prostitute. The second example is ethnicity or in the less politically correct language of USA race. But again within any ethnic (race) group we can observe an unequal distribution of resources, i.e. Mr. President versus an African-American pimp. The second and related reason is—in case there was an agreement regarding which the most appropriate criteria are—the identification of which criterion has more associative power than other. In our example, for instance, is not trivial to define whether gender or ethnicity need to be measured with same or different weights, or how actually these two might interact. In sum, two very important dimensions of societies, gender and ethnicity (race), do not exhaust the main question posted above, and therefore sociological reason, in the realm of social stratification, remains infertile to its promise of “[penetrating] to the very nature of [social] things” (Rytina, 1998:203).
A serious alternative to this research challenge has been ‘class analysis’, since the distribution of economic resources (i.e occupations and its many criteria: skills versus lack of skills?; Manual and non-manual; position within an organization; type of contract; and so on) can be an appropriate criterion to identify the position of the individuals in a given larger group. Indeed what differentiates, among other things, the prostitute to the queen is their access to material resources. However, as Bourdieu, Bottero and Prandy and partially Chan and Goldthorpe argue, the restrictions of this strategy can also be associated to the two limitations previously identified and that is why the offer a somehow similar response. In other words, while it would be quite hard to argue that this group of five authors do not acknowledge the impossibility of penetrating social reality in full; they seem none the less to agree that certain analytical strategies i.e. class analysis from Marxist and Non-Marxist traditions, are less effective in getting closer to answers which guide the stratification research program, and therefore by introducing the notion of space and distance the promise of sociological reason in this field can be kept alive.
One element highlighted by Bourdieu is that the criterion of material resources is rather limited since the presence of other capitals might be also useful in understanding the position of individuals in a given society. In this regard, and partly echoing Weber’s analysis of status and class, Bourdieu introduces the notion of cultural, social and symbolic capital. These concepts ultimately recognize the complexity of social reality, and thus help responding the question of how the distribution of these capitals takes place. Secondly, Bourdieu argues that Marxist class analysis conflates “is” with “ought to” (an old battle of positivism) once class is associated to a given collective path. Certainly the revolutionary path that the working class could take is the “ought to” part of the conflation. Under this criticism Bourdieu elegantly shows a twofold inconsistency of the latter statement: i) “alliance between those who are closest is never necessary, inevitable, (…) and alliance between those most distant from each other is never impossible” (Bourdieu, 1985:726)[1]; ii) “there is no mention of the mysterious alchemy whereby a “group in struggle” (…) arises from the objective economic conditions” (Bourdieu, 1985:727). But the most important criticism of Bourdieu to this type of analysis, besides the one where his sociology of knowledge illustrates the blind spots of various social scientists, included of course defenders of Marxist’s theory of class, is the reification of class as a category of analysis whereby the aggrupation made by the observer can take its own life and do the acting.[2] This cul-de-sac allows Bourdieu to look for a geometrical conceptualization whereby individuals can actually be located in different positions in the social space and their distances can be taken as metrics of differences. For Bourdieu in the social space individuals’ positions are “defined in terms of a multi-dimensional system of co-ordinates whose values correspond to the different variables” (Bourdieu, 1985:724). This system furthermore needs to differentiate, Bourdieu argues, between quantity and composition of capital. This notion of social space has an objective character because it influences affinities and indifferences, or propinquity and remoteness between individuals, and then the identification of social groups. Within this analytical strategy the emergence of collective action, is not, however, a necessary condition of group identification. This strategy, on the other hand, allows ascertaining differences in terms of life-styles between individuals from different groups. The expression of these differences is associated to patterns of experiences, which have been accumulated and later on transmitted, and ultimately takes an objectified character by the individuals. These differences, however, arise when the individuals recognize them, but this acknowledgment can only be executed by the process of socialization which the individuals went through i.e the language of prostitute cannot be spoken by the queen, as much as the queen would wish it, and the prostitute cannot speak the English of the queen; furthermore only some can recognize when an English’s accent is fake.
Bottero and Prandy (2003) also recognize the quasi monopoly of class analysis in stratification studies since attention towards material inequality dominates this research program. While they authors suggest that even within class analysts the limitations have been acknowledged, they also point out that some of their renew strategies actually leave class, as unit of analysis, almost without explanatory power and therefore “it is hard to see what remains of ‘class in ‘class theory’” (Bottero and Prandy, 2003;178). The approach which class analysts have taken resemblance social distance analysis, they argue. However, in similar fashion as Bourdieu the premises of stratification are different. More precisely these authors argue that “differential patterns of association and lifestyle constitute the structure of stratification” (Bottero and Prandy, 2003:178).[3]
These authors identify three different approaches of social distance—Bourdieu’s, the Cambridge stratification group, and Rytina’s SSIC[4]—which not only share the notion of distance as a metric but also do not assume a priori a given social structure as the American tradition (Duncan, 1967) and the European one (Goldthorpe, 1980) do. Influenced by the pioneering work of Laumman, whereby this author explored social distance “using large data-sets on patterns of interaction” (Bottero and Prandy, 2003:180), the social distance approach developed by the Cambridge group states that individuals are likely to interact with those who have the same or very similar rank. Drawing in Goffman, Bourdieu brings a similar concept of how certain type of interactions prevails over others. According to the French sociologist agents (individuals) accept the world as it is. This disposition, Bourdieu argues, the sense of one’s place “implies a tacit acceptance of one’s place, a sense of limits (“that’s not for the like of us,” etc.), or which amount to the same thing, a sense of distances, to be marked and kept respected or expected” (Bourdieu, 1985:728). According to the authors, the Cambridge group uses a variety of close social relationships in order to research social distance because the main assumption is that regularities can be found in non-work situations. The first scale particularly used friendship patterns and was later used to predict educational outcomes, ethnic inequality, health and lifestyle, political variables as well as social mobility. Similarly to Goldthorpe research agenda, this scale was also used for international comparisons. According to Bottero and Prandy different types of social relationships such as friendship, marriage, affinal and consanguineal kinship, display the same social distance configurations. This ultimately reflects, these authors argue, a ‘scale of shared experience’ which measures material and social advantages (p.184).
One important commonality of the social distance approaches is the interpretation of the social space whereby the interaction of individuals takes place, Bottero and Prandy argue. However, an alternative, and literally a deeper, concept to theoretically describe social space is offered by Rytina. This author states that ‘granularity’, in the context of social theory, refers to “gaining mental access to the full complexity of what something involves (…)  [A] central feature of the experience of granularity is coming with an exhaustive comprehension of the range of possibilities (…) of the states of the system ” (Rytina, 1998:203-205)[5]. Unlike categorical classifications, which are used for class analysis for instance, this concept promises to grasp very fine texts which are more in tune with social reality. Furthermore, in analysis of social stratification this paradoxically has the benefit of acknowledging the complexity of different interactions of individuals in the social space, rather than mapping them a priori in specific and artificial groups. In other words, it does not succumb to the logic of latent class analysis where the noise of the outliers is silenced by “forcing” them to be part of social groups, which are not in principle exhaustive of the complexity of every individual’s position and interaction.[6]  Of course after assuming a structure in a given social space, where there are degrees of commonalities, latent class analysis can be an effective and efficient strategy of classification whereby noise is reduced; nevertheless the price of this approach is neglecting that boundaries among groups as Bourdieu states are “flame[s] whose edges are in constant movement, oscillating around a line or surface” (Bottero and Prandy, 2003:186), and therefore losing the granularity of stratification.
Lastly, and in a very social-democrat way Chan and Goldthorpe harvest some fruits of the promise of the social distance metric. In a larger research program whereby cultural, political and economic dimensions are identified for the British context, these authors test the Weberian notion of class and status in order to see which ‘variable’ explains better these dimensions. Furthermore this program helps them to review some interpretations made in reference to the oeuvre of Bourdieu, whereby the French author is associated to an ontological position where the material world would prevail. In the paper reviewed, the scholars from Oxford ask a twofold question whether status can be identified in modern societies, and whether this element can be differentiated from Goldthorpe’s class scheme. As the Cambridge stratification group, these two scholars also use Laumann’s approach, whereby analysis of closest friends’ respondents is carried out. As the former group they also conclude that there is one dimension which reflects a hierarchy of status. When comparing both tables 1 and 2 we observe that the overlapping will depend on what is considered to be top or bottom. For instance only one category of tables 1 and 2 (company treasures, financial managers, computer system managers, personnel managers) is top 3 and only general labours remain in the bottom 3 of both tables. Once we considered top and bottom 6 only two categories are for top (SM and GMA) and three for the bottom (GL, PMO and TO). This illustrates that effectively there are differences and commonalities between both orders, however the differences seem to, by statistical tests, be more relevant to identify different social structures. There is a question that remains luckily open, why class and stratification measures of granularity (i.e. social distance) will show differences in terms of their association to political or cultural patterns as these two authors claim? Which sociological theories can explain why differences in metrics show differences in social commonalities? More explicitly why class schemes are better associated to political traits than metrics of status, whereas metrics of status seems to be more precise to identify patterns of cultural consumption (Chan and Goldthorpe, 2007)?   

Bottero, W. and K. Prandy 2003. “Social interaction distance and stratification.” British Journal of Sociology 54(2): 177--197.
Bourdieu P. 1985. “The Social Space and the Genesis of Groups.” Theory and Society, 14(6): 727--744.
Chan, T. W. and John Goldthorpe 2007. “Class and status: the conceptual distinction and its empirical relevance” American Sociological Review 72:512--532.
 ____________ 2004. “Is There a Status Order in Contemporary British Society?: Evidence from the Occupational Structure of Friendship.” European Sociological Review. 20(5): 383--401.
Hedström and Swedberg 1996; “Social Mechanisms.” Acta Sociologica, 39(3):281--308.
Rytina S. 1998. “Loosening the Chains of Philosophical Reductionism” pp.192--218 edited by Alan Sica What is Social Theory? The Philosophical Debates. Blackwell publishers.
van den Berg, A 1998. The Immanent Utopia. From Marxism on the State to the State of Marxism. Princeton Press.

[1] van den Berg has another perspective in order to illustrate the foregoing point “But of course, the fact that people can and do cooperate in the defense of their common interest does not automatically make them unable to tolerate anything but cooperation and solidarity” (van den Berg 1988, 66).
[2] Somewhat related is the social mechanism approach promoted by Hedstöm and Swedberg whereby they state that “class in and of itself obviously cannot influence an individual’s income or health. A class cannot be causal agent because it is nothing but a constructed aggregation of occupation titles” (Hedström and Swedberg, 1996:289)
[3] Their emphasis.
[4] Since we have briefly commented on Bourdieu’s proposal and we will dedicate more specific readings to Rytina’s proposal I will focus on the Cambridge stratification group.
[5] My emphases.
[6] It is not forcing them per se because as latent-class analysis suggests observations (i.e. individuals) have a probability of being part of a hidden group.