'You think you're better than me?' The Sociology of Status - SO5013

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Autumn 5 15 (7.5) DR R De Vries checkmark-circle


This module provides students with an understanding of the concept of social status: how it differs from (and interacts with) other aspects of social stratification, such as power, class, and material circumstances. Students will explore theories for why human beings value social status so highly, and why they often take such dramatic steps to avoid losing it. The module will examine how considering social status concerns helps us to understand a variety of important social phenomena, encompassing health, violence, education, cultural participation, morality, and identity. Students will become familiar with the empirical tools researchers have used to understand the role of status, along with the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours


Method of assessment

Coursework - evidence evaluation (1500 words) - 30%
Coursework – essay (2,500 words) - 60%
Coursework - Seminar participation - 10%

Indicative reading

Wilkinson, R. (2005). The Impact of Inequality. Routledge, London
Marmot, M. (2015). The Status Syndrome. Bloomsbury, London
Gilligan, J. (2000). Violence: Reflections on our Deadliest Epidemic. Jessica Kingsley, London
Minson, J.A., & Monin, B. (2012). Do-gooder Derogation: Disparaging Morally Motivated Minorities to Defuse Anticipated Reproach. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3(2), 200-207
Chan, T.W. & Goldthorpe, J.H. (2007) Class and status: the conceptual distinction and its empirical relevance. American Sociological Review 72(4): 512–532.
Delhey, J., & Dragolov, G. (2014) Why inequality makes Europeans less happy: The Role of Distrust, Status Anxiety, and perceived conflict. European Sociological Review, 30(2): 151–165.

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
- Understand how the concept of social status differs from other aspects of social stratification, such as class, power, and material circumstances
- Discuss theories purporting to explain the human drive towards social status/anxiety around status loss, including evolutionary theories
- Offer a critical analysis of the theoretical importance of social status hierarchies as compared with other aspects of stratification in explaining a variety of important social phenomena, such as violence, health, and identity.
- Critically evaluate the research evidence supporting a role for status inequality in explaining important social phenomena
- Reflect on differing disciplinary approaches to the concept of social status


  1. Credit level 5. Intermediate level module usually taken in Stage 2 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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