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Role and Status, Essay Example

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Essay

In every society, individuals can be classified according to the role they play within their community and the status they are given or achieve.  Moreover, the concepts of role and status can be traced back to the earliest civilizations.

Role can be defined as the function an individual plays in his or her society.  Role can also be classified as a socially recognized pattern of behavior that is used to identify and place an individual in his or her society.  A contemporary example of role is the function a world leader plays in his or her country.  For example, President Barrack Obama’s role requires him to not only keep United States’ citizens interests in mind, but must also determine what is in the country’s best interest on a global scale.  Additionally, within the hierarchy of the executive branch of the United States, the President’s role is situated at the very top and followed by the Vice President, Joe Biden, who would assume the President’s role and function in the event he died before the end of his Presidential term.

Moreover, every member of society can be classified based on his or her social status.  In society, status a person occupies within their social structure.  Status can be further analyzed in terms of ascribed status, achieved status, and master status.  Ascribed status is the status an individual is given at birth (Henslin 84).  Ascribed status takes into consideration an individual’s sex, age, ethnicity, family background, and the social class one is born into.  Ascribed status are not chosen or earned but rather are assigned.  For example, it can be argued that the Coppolla name in Hollywood is an ascribed status that is associated with established and successful actors, producers, directors, and entrepreneurs.  While the ascribed status of being a Coppolla in Hollywood can be extremely beneficial, there are some individuals, such as Nicolas Cage, nee Nicolas Coppolla, that have tried to distance themselves from their family not because he is ashamed of them, but rather because he would like to achieve success through his own merits and not because of his family name.

Achieved status is the social position an individual attains throughout his or her life through knowledge, ability, and skill (Henslin 84).  Again, using the example of Nicolas Cage, it can be argued that by eschewing his family name, he has been able to become a successful and recognizable name in film because of the hard work and dedication he has given to his craft.  Unlike ascribed status in which an individual is placed within a specific hierarchical level within society, achieved status allows the individual to navigate these hierarchies; depending on the individual this navigation can either be upwards or downwards.

Master status is a “perceived social standing that has exceptional significance for individual identity” and often shapes an individual’s cumulative social experience (Hunt).  For instance, attaining the position of President of the United States is the master status of President Barrack Obama.  Moreover, because the position of President is the highest position within the government, and no higher position can be earned, the role of President can be considered to be a master role.

Role and status play a major role in the development and assignment of individual functions within a society.  While certain roles and statuses cannot be chosen by an individual and are attributed to them through characteristics present at birth, there are roles and status that an individual voluntarily ascribes to through hard work and dedication.

Works Cited

Henslin, James M. Essentials of Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach. New York: AB Longman, 2004. Print.

Hunt, Stephen. “Master Status.” Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology Online. Web. 11 November 2012.

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