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social stratification and class in my conworlds

Posted Over 2 Years ago by chiarizio

Up until this post, I have written about class structure of my consocieties only in terms of wealth.
Well, except for vague hints.

But actually, political and social and economic class have three factors;
  • power (chiefly political power)
  • status and/or prestige
  • wealth (property and/or income).

    These are all correlated, but imperfectly so.

    Anyone with power and status can be expected to use them to protect whatever wealth they have; and many of them can be expected to eventually or occasionally use their power and status to increase their wealth.

    Anyone with power and wealth can be expected to use them to protect whatever prestige and status they have; and many of them can be expected to eventually or occasionally use their power and wealth to increase their status.

    Anyone with status and wealth can be expected to use them to protect whatever power they have; and many of them can be expected to eventually or occasionally use their status and wealth to increase their power.

    Someone with power but without prestige/status or wealth (property/income) will be fearful of losing their power and will be highly motivated to use it to accumulate prestige/status and/or property/income.

    Someone with status but without power or wealth will be fearful of losing their status and will be highly motivated to use it to improve or accumulate power and/or wealth (property or income).

    Someone with wealth — property and/or income — but without power or prestige or status, will be fearful of losing their property or income, and will be highly motivated to use it to improve their power and/or prestige and/or status.


    Furthermore, the sources of power are always a bit different from the sources of status or wealth;
    the sources of prestige and status are always a bit different from the sources of power or wealth;
    and the sources of wealth (property or income) are always a bit different from the sources of power or prestige or status.

    So there’ll always be some jockeying about as people try to move up the ladder they’re lowest on to match the one they’re highest on;
    and/or to keep from slipping down the ladder they’re highest on to match the rung on the ladder they’re lowest on.

    In other words class and social stratification are likely never to be drama-free!


    Occasionally the source, or definition, of one of them —— power, or status, or wealth —— will change.
    That will mean that people who were powerful by the old definition but not the new, will have to make way for parvenus who are not powerful by the old definition but will be by the new;
    Or people who were prestigious by the old definition but not the new, will have to make way for upstarts who will be prestigious by the new definition but not the old;
    Or people who were wealthy or affluent from the old sources but not the new, will have to compete with those whose property or income are high from the new sources but weren’t from the old.

    And likewise all the newly powerful or newly prestigious or newly rich, will have to strive to cement their new places.


    Not too long ago, CEOs of modern corporations started to become “workaholics”.
    A lot of this was worrying that they would be seen as not deserving their powerful positions and high pay if they didn’t work for the benefit of their shareholders.
    But possibly more of it was that they, themselves, wanted to see themselves as deserving their perks.

    Much more recently, post-Thunberg CEOs seem to be defining their corporations’ prospectuses as requiring they work for the benefit of their workers and their customers and their suppliers and their communities and their planet, as well as their shareholders.


    I’ve got pretty good ideas of how these things shape up and shake out in Adpihi and Reptigan.
    Not so much in ArpienAtaivsh — yet.

    But I’ll handle Adpihi and Reptigan in my next post.

  • There are 4 Replies

    I’ve already divided elsewhere the history of the planet Adpihi and its “empire” the Reptigan Union, into
  • Early Adpihi
  • Late Adpihi
  • Early Reptigan
  • Late Reptigan

    And I’m fairly confident those will continue to suffice for most purposes.
    However I’ve sometimes spoken of a Middle Adpihi or Middle Reptigan.


    Anyway; through history the source of power has been democracy and election and representative republics;
    and the source of prestige and status has been exploration.

    What those mean, exactly, has changed over time, but much less than the sources of wealth.


    In Early Adpihi the activities of “the blood-paths” (the patriclans) was the main kind of exploration.
    The activities of “the milk-houses“ (the matriclans) was the main source of property.

    As manufacturing and research and education became more important, the “spirit-robes” (the alterclans) became more important as sources of wealth (manufacturing and intellectual property), and became also the centers for a kind of metaphorical “exploration” (research and art).

    The blood-paths and milk-houses continued to be the main participants in primary industries (e.g. hunting for blood-paths and agriculture for milk-houses); but the increasing importance of secondary industries make the spirit-robes take over as main producers of wealth.

    The blood-paths will — I’m guessing — divide the tertiary industries (sales and transportation etc.) amongst themselves, and to a great degree the quaternary industries, except for government etc., will be divided amongst the spirit-robes.


    Once the planet Adpihi has been thoroughly explored, and the people (re)turn to outer space, exploration will mostly be done by the Explorer Corps or Space Service or whatever I’ll call it. It will have been formed in Late Adpihi as soon as the planet is unified; and it will start concentrating on outer space as soon as that becomes possible. That will be the end of Adpihi and/or the beginning of Reptigan.
    Reptigan will begin in earnest as soon as they establish an off-Adpihi settlement, or encounter a nonhuman spacefaring species, or even an advanced-but-not-quite-spacegoing other civilization.

    During the generations when Reptigan is growing, there’ll be an alliance between wealth and status, as follows.
    A wealthy person will want a high-status foster-child or foster-sibling or spouse. Their family will find for them a well-qualified but not wealthy age-mate whom they will sponsor in the Space Force or Service Corps or whatchamacallit. This will enable ambitious and able youngsters from not-so-rich backgrounds to change their economic class, or at least to ensure their children are born richer than they themselves were.


    The main way status will be displayed is by the number of children one has.
    Off-Adpihi the limit on number of offspring may be highish, rather. On worlds recently and/or as-yet-lightly settled, there may be a goal to increase the population.
    On Adpihi and maybe the rest of the most populous 1% of the planets, there’ll be a limit on biological offspring, strict enough that even the richest can’t afford more than three. But they may be able to afford more than one foster-child! And high-status veterans of the Explorers’ Corps will be permitted as many biological offspring as rich people. And foster-children may become children-in-law.
    Furthermore middle-class families may band together and foster an explorer jointly.

    So “charity” will be another way the rich can improve their status AND display their wealth!


    As for power;
    I’m afraid the closer someone lives to the power-centers the likelier they are to be able to move up the “power-ladder”.
    Representatives elected from low-tech planets far from the Capitol are probably going to be elected for life; the opportunity for someone from such a place to rise to the All-Union or “Imperial” or “Federal” parliament will come along at most once in a lifetime. (Though more local or provincial power may be as available to them as anyone else in any representative democracy.)

    How wealth and status will influence power, and vice-versa, are things I haven’t worked out yet.


    I’m not quite sure the exact times or ways that the sources and natures of status and wealth will change in Adpihi and Reptigan, though obviously they will.


    The sources of political power will change in Reptigan with the incorporation of non-humans as full citizens.
    There will be many planets on which humans are not the solely dominant species.
    On many they will share dominance with some others; from just one other species up to many other species.
    And on many planets they will be a minority with decidedly less power than one or more of the others.

    I haven’t worked that out yet.
    I expect it would be intriguing to do so.
    I don’t know whether I have the talent to do a good job, though.

  • Over 2 Years ago

    In ArpienAtaivsh, even more than in Reptigan, wealth and power will be directly influenced by the ability to get along with members of the other sapient species on/in the world of Ataivsh.

    All three hominoid species will have patriclans and matriclans; none will have alterclans.

    The MerCentaurs will have a completely different family-structure and kinship-system.

    I am not sure that prestige and status will be directly influenced by the ability to get along with other species; but surely it will be at least indirectly influenced!

    Over 2 Years ago

    In Adpihi there is a strong tendency toward de facto “hagiarchy”.
    People in political power will try to do what they think their God wants them to do.
    They’ll make policy decisions based on what they think are holy reasons.
    This will be quite prominent in Early Adpihi, less prominent in Middle Adpihi, and still noticeable in Late Adpihi.

    In Reptigan there is a strong de facto tendency toward technocracy and meritocracy and timocracy* and bureaucracy.
    When there can’t be perfect technocracy the government will fill in with meritocracy and timocracy, in their opinions, if they can;
    and when they can achieve neither meritocracy nor technocracy, they’ll fill in with timocracy and bureaucracy.
    This will be noticeable in Early Reptigan, more prominent in Middle Reptigan, and dominating in Late Reptigan.

    *(Technocracy means those rule who have the skill to rule well because they have those skills.
    Meritocracy means those rule who have earned the right to rule.
    Timocracy means people seek to perform glorious service to their country because their country will reward such service with rulership.
    Bureaucracy means specialists rule who keep themselves up to date on the issues, even if they didn’t have to demonstrate any unusual skill before being assigned those specialties; the hope is that at least they won’t make the same mistakes twice.)

    Adpihi and Reptigan both will be constitutional representative democracies.
    In the case of Reptigan the representatives will, more and more frequently as their constituencies lie further and further from the capitol, be elected for life.
    They will tend to be elected because of meritorious service to their constituents, and demonstrated skill as judged by their constituents, in the hope that they will actually exercise their power well for the long term even in the unknown and not-perfectly-knowable future.

    Checks and balances on representatives of constituents closer to the Capitol, will be exercised more frequently by such constituents.

    Over 1 Year ago

    Some proud Reptigan might have said:
    “I not only have all the children the law allows (take that, Romneys and Sanctorums!);
    I also put as many fosterkids through the Space Corps as I have kids! (in your faces, Gateses and Madonna!)”

    Or something like that, I guess.

    Over 1 Year ago

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