Whenthe topic social mobility arises, we naturally question ourselves: Is itpossible to move through the hierarchy of a society? Social mobility ispossible to a certain degree in most of the cultures and societies that existnowadays. My purpose with this paper is to prove that more chances areavailable in the society we live in and that the term is not just a bedtimestory, but an existing and working system. Social mobility is the movement ofindividuals, groups, families or households between the layers in the opensystem of social stratification. (Wikipedia) Thisterm is used in sociology the most, but it does apply to social history aswell. We differentiate two major types of social mobility: vertical andhorizontal. Horizontal mobility does not include the movement between socialclasses, the term is only used if there is a change in the occupation of theindividual, it only involves moving within the given social status. On theother hand, vertical mobility is the classical type of social mobility that canbe either upward or downward.
In the age of capitalism, wealth provides upwardmovement; a working class person can easily achieve this if he or she owns somekind of social capital, possibly keeping this status and class for furthergenerations, that is called intergenerational mobility. Social mobility can bewitnessed by everyone, in most of the modern societies as it is now more likelyto be decided by achievements, such as economic position, prestige or sometimesorigin(noble ascendants). However, as mentioned before, in certain cultures orsocieties, social mobility is still limited or it does not exist. For example, inIndia the caste system still affects the life of people as you can not movefrom one layer or another, moreover intermarriage is not allowed either (endogamy)The ability of movement between different layers existed in medieval ages untilearly modern ages(until around the start of Industrial Revolution) as well. Theso-called ‘estates’ were used in feudalism where the society consisted of threeestates: the clergy (first estate), the nobles (second estate) and later on thepeasants (as the third estate).
Movement between the layers was alreadypossible, however it was limited to a certain degree and it did not occur veryoften. Now that I briefly introduced the topic and clarified the main conceptsI will move on the main arguments.„Changeoriginates not only from above, but equally from below, through the initiativesof masses of people” (Daniel Bertaux)As Daniel Betaux and Paul Thompson claimed, mobility is influenced by themasses mostly. The two authors also introduced a unique and new approach tosocial mobility research where they used qualititive methods instead of onlystatistics. This consisted of interviews, very similar used in oral history,and family case studies to be able to get a close look on the dynamics of socialmobility