In about 2 paragraphs.
as we have been noting, a key aspect of civilization is greater social
stratification, even the categorization of people. At the top is the
ruler, at the bottom are the masses, and in between is the aristocracy
(literally, “rule by the best”),
that is, the societal elite. Relatively absent from our sources are the
voices of the masses, including women, who are often accorded a lower
status in comparison to men.
within our own US society can be at times enamored with European
aristocracy (e.g., British royal weddings, Princess Grace of Monaco);
indeed, both the attraction and the rejection of elite status are part
of US history. Many today see the US as supporting a meritocracy rather than an aristocracy (meritocracy = rule and placement based on education and examination).
[Please read through the accompanying PowerPoint
slides before answering the Discussion Board questions. The slides
briefly cover Western notions of aristocracy, helping to give a context
for a modern Western response.]
In your summary, note the following:
is the relationship between the ruler and the aristocracy (e.g., in
China, in Japan), and how does this play out historically? What is the
role of land-ownership (i.e., wealth and access to food production)?
What part does the Confucian civil service examination play in the
concept of “aristocracy”?
Be sure to cite at least two passages from the PowerPoint presentations and/or the textbook to support your summary.
In your reflection, consider the following:
it important to have higher social strata composed of “the best”? If
so, what kind of individuals should comprise “the best”? How can such an
arrangement secure human freedom, dignity, and opportunity (access to
resources), or does it secure anything of this nature, or are these
concerns merely secondary to proper rule? Does the US still have an
Additional note concerning the Discussion Board topic:
reason to explore the centralized power vs. local power issue, that is,
centralized state power vs. the power of landed aristocracy/nobility,
is that a recent major study is indicating that social mobility,
that is, the ability of an individual to increase social status (and
likely income and living conditions) is quite difficult (even in our own
day, and, somewhat ironically, the US is more difficult than the UK).
The aristocracy/social elite tends to stay at an elevated social status,
enjoying greater leisure and comfort (and sometimes
government-supported benefits), while the rest of the society tends to
remain at or below the income/status level of preceding family
generations. One is, in a real sense, locked-in.
In the days leading up to the American Revolution, people like Thomas Paine saw this issue. In the additional PowerPoint
is Paine’s view. One of the most interesting occurrences after the
American Revolution is that the abbreviation “gent.” (gentleman)
disappears from names, for example, in county lists (if studying George
Washington, this change is quite apparent).