Stand reconstructed: Contingent closure and institutional change

Sociological Theory 15 (3):215-248 (1997)
Abstract
The process is traced whereby crucially important, multiple denotations of classical sociology's key notion referring to social position-the Weberian German concept of Stand-have been stripped to create a simplified and inaccurate representation of social inequalities. Some historical material from central Europe is surveyed, with a brief look at Japan, to demonstrate validity problems created by blanket application of the culturally specific, streamlined notions of status/class. As an alternative, a notion of contingent social closure argues that relaxing the modernizationist assumptions of a single transition from estate to status/class increases the comparative-historical sensitivity of research on social structure, inequality, and stratification. A dynamic reading of Polanyi suggests a reconceptualization of institutions as the "raw material" of social change. This might help to avoid the outdated contrast of the "West" vs. its "Others."
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