A discussion of social mobility probes into the process of placement of individuals in different strata. It seeks to answer questions such as – Is the placement of individuals permanent and unalterable? Is there any scope for individuals to change or modify it? If so, what factors contribute to the changes in the statuses of the individuals and what are its consequences for the society? A series of questions like these is tackled in our analysis of social mobility.
Definition of Social Mobility:
1. Wallace and Wallace: “Social mobility is the movement of a person or persons from one social status to another”
2. W.P. Scott: Social mobility refers to “the movement of an individual or group from one social class or social stratum to another”
3. N. Abercrombie and Others:
Social mobility refers to “the movement of individuals between different levels of the social hierarchy, usually defined occupationally” [in “The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology”.].
Thus, it is clear, “social mobility” may be understood as the movement of an individual or group from one social status or position to another. For example, the poor people may become rich, the bank peons may become bank officers, farmers may become ministers, a petty businessman may become a bankrupt and the ruling class may be turned out of office, and so on.
Individual and Group Mobility:
Mobility can take place at the individual as well as group level. It may take place at the level of the individuals, families, groups or even societies.
When individuals get into seats of political position; acquire money and exert influence over others because of their new status, they are said to have achieved individual mobility.
For example, (i) Uma Bharathi who was born in an ordinary family has now attained the status of the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh by leading her party [Bharateeya Janatha Party] to victory during recent [2003 Nov.] Assembly Elections,
(ii) Smt. Rabri Devi who had hardly obtained any formal education, has now become the Chief Minister of Bihar,
(iii) Jimmy Carter, a ground-nut growing farmer became the President of America,
(iv) Similarly, Sri Narayana Swamy of Karnataka who was born in poor circumstances has now become the architect of an internationally reputed Computer Software Company, namely: Infosys. Since such individuals are members of family, individual mobility influences family mobility also.
Like the individuals even groups also attain high social mobility. The Jews as a community in America and Paris as a group in India, for example, have been able to attain a relatively high position in their respective societies.
The two kinds of mobility very often go together. A disadvantaged group [such as scheduled castes and tribes in India.] may produce an occasional celebrity, but the higher the status of the group, the greater the number of high achievers.