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Lloyd Warner’s views on Class


Lloyd Warner an anthropologist brought to the study of Yankee City the field work techniques previously employed among Australian aborigines. One of the important aspects investigated by him in Yankee city was the system of stratification. His approach was totally empirical a clear advantage over other theories of stratification. To identify the position of the individuals in various strata, Warner relied on reputational approach that in on how a person was judged by the other members of his community as they are. He used income, occupational prestige, and education as the primary measures of social class. All these indicators had empirical relevance. By class according to Warner meant two of more orders of people who are believed to be and are accordingly ranked by the members of the community in socially superior and inferior positions. The ranking depended on such criteria as source of income, education, occupation, and residence. The residents of the community work out some of these measures by means of an accepted social arithmetic and thus can locate everyone in the social hierarchy. In Yankee city, Warner found that the hierarchy was composed of three classes – upper class, middle class, and lower class. These three classes could be further subdivided into nine social categories ranging from upper -upper class to lower -lower class. The task of sociologists therefore became one of discovering the categories that people use rather than inventing theories of stratification. Warner described the class categories very much in terms that Yankee city residents would use. Social stratification served not simply as a means for social placement but as an intervening consideration that extended to all actors of community life. Warner’s approach has been criticized on various grounds. He contends that class is only what people say it is but according to his critiques this is not valid. After all people can be mistaken because of their own biases or because they are insensitive to class or status differences. If we accept Warner’s method, then we are clearly limited to the study of relatively small communities in which there is a reasonable change that people know one another rather well. What are we to do about large cities or the nation? Warner suggests that the national system of social stratification is a summation of all the smaller community system, but this assumption cannot be supported in theory or fact.