Social rise

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Of social issues rise occurs when the membership of a social class or income group changed to a qualification or level up. The opposite is social decline .

Both are forms of vertical social mobility within a society - in contrast to horizontal mobility, in which certain socially relevant factors (e.g. the workplace) change without this having an impact on social class.


Social advancement can occur over the generations or in the career of an individual. A typical case of social advancement is two-generation advancement through a platform job .

Social advancement or relegation can also affect entire occupational groups if their economic or cultural basis improves or is lost. Even immigrants typically seek social advancement, which is often due to the fact that immigrants are often incorporated at very low levels in the host society, then a strong need that to improve one's social status developed.


In the Middle Ages , the opportunities for social advancement were few and most likely still existed in the church and the clergy . Social position in the class order was mostly transferred through succession, which led to almost insurmountable class boundaries . This began to change with the French Revolution . In the 19th century, the acquisition of nobility titles or courtesy were very popular with the bourgeoisie . The introduction of the freedom of trade broke the barriers of the guild system and made possible a material advancement for some. The parvenu , who signaled his social advancement through clothing, money, and titles, was, however, often underestimated. At least in the German-speaking area, an agreement was reached on education as an important status feature (“ intellectual nobility ”).


In modern societies, social advancement often goes hand in hand with educational advancement. As before, however, this advancement is slowed down by educational disadvantages and even with the highest level of education ( doctorate ), advancement into the elite still depends on social origin .

According to the study Understanding Mobility in America by the American University economist Tom Hertz, social mobility in the USA is significantly lower than in most European countries. As a rule, those who are poor remain poor. According to his research, anyone born in the lower social class has little chance of advancing. Therefore, the myth that everyone can achieve anything if they just try hard is more of a curse for the less gifted and socially disadvantaged : It suggests that all the poor and needy are to blame for their situation.

In Germany, the idea of ​​social advancement is just as widespread, however, social mobility in Germany has fallen since the 1980s (before it had increased in the post-war period until 1978) and is now comparatively low. Ascent stories based on the pattern from rags-to-riches to millionaire are absent in societies with a strict hierarchy or caste system as in India .


From rags to riches

The phrase from rags- to- riches to millionaire describes the rise of a person from poverty to wealth . Linked to this is the narrative of ascension through hardship and hard work. It is a common archetype in literature and pop culture (see: American Dream ). In the English language there is a similar expression with “ from rags to riches ” (“from rags to riches”). These patterns of action give the poor the hope of becoming rich and famous. They are most widespread in societies like the USA , where the belief in the chance of social advancement to another social class is a crucial part of national consciousness . A “self-made man” is a person who has made a career in this type of ascent. The term upstart is also used in this context.

Self-made man

The term self-made man (English: self-made man , translated self-made man ) originated in the USA; it describes (also as an ideal) someone who “works their way up” from simple or poor circumstances through their own strength and a lot of work to success, prosperity and reputation.

The term self-made man was coined by Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), who gave a speech with this title in 1859. In it he gave a definition of the self-made man and explained the means by which such an ascent could be achieved. In his autobiography A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave , he depicts his life as a prototype of the rags to riches story . Born a slave, through hard work and an indomitable will, Douglass managed to free himself and become the most famous African-American of his time. Douglass gave his self-made-man speech more than 50 times in the US, Canada and the UK.

The idea of ​​the self-made man is at the heart of the American Dream - a dream since the days of the first immigrants. When Benjamin Franklin , one of the United States' founding fathers, was writing his autobiography, he was giving instructions on how an unknown candle-maker son could become an economically highly successful, highly respected member of American society by giving himself a new identity beyond of his ancestral social class. Franklin was able to express this thought eloquently . His social advancement was surpassed by the life and success story of his contemporary Johann Jakob Astor , who made it from a penniless immigrant to the first multimillionaire in the USA.

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Florian Rötzer: Dish washer remains dish washer - According to the analysis of an American economist, the chances of advancement in the USA are far lower than in most European countries , accessed on April 6, 2008.
  2. Tagesspiegel: When performance isn't worth it , October 2010