Developments I have explored in Chap. 7 took place during the time when professionalism eventually reached its climax, making education a significant determinant of status. University education conferred the highest status on academic professionals, inasmuch as typical class schemata are to be believed. However, academic professionals were in many respects different from nobility which, up to the nineteenth century, afforded the highest status. One significant difference between them was their magnitudes: academic professionals grew in numbers much beyond the size of the nobility, giving rise to mass higher education era, as Kivinen et al. (2007, 236) call the time when participation in university studies in the younger age cohort exceeded 15 per cent, the era that was preceded by elite university era. This would mean that for the first time in history those who are ranked as the uppermost class form a sizable social segment. In some monarchies, the nobility was also populous, some 10 per cent of the population, but mass ennoblements were considered to be inflationary, because there were not high offices for so many noblemen. The size of the nobility was normally 1 to 2 per cent or even smaller. In this kind of situation, two types of developments are apt to start out: the decline of the status of learned professionals from the upper class to the middle class and/or a new uppermost tier that stands out from the whole of learned professionals, creating the elite, as Savage defines it.
The findings presented in Chap. 7 show that the journey to the current situation differed in different status hierarchies. A fundamental result is that the same families who earlier held the highest posts were also privileged in the twentieth century. Descendants of noble and old clerical families crowded into universities early on. In addition, noblemen also occupied posts of general managers, and many noblemen were elected to Parliament in the first elections in 1907. In many respects, descendants of old clerical families found their way easily to new higher posts. A prominent family background was thus an excellent asset in a new situation, too. In contrast to them, descendants of worker and tenant-worker families enrolled at university more or less since the 1960s and even then their proportions remained small. In this group too, the burden of inheritance seemed heavy and, in their case, difficult to remove. But when flow to university began, descendants of the first academic professionals in the family followed in their parents’ footsteps by going to university. Thereby they joined the aggregate of educated people, whose children tend much more often than non-educated parents’ children to enter university. This family background effect has been surveyed in many studies but without specifying when and from which statuses parents come from (e.g. Erola and Moisio 2007). Social genealogies provided an excellent means to elaborate the gateways to university and academic professions.
Professionalism also affected the status of workers by distinguishing one tier from the rest of workers, namely, those who schooled themselves, men to technicians or mechanics, women to assistant nurses and similar service occupations where vocational schooling of some length was needed. The other gateway to this workers’ elite went via Parliament or, more generally, via political work. This ‘elitism’ came out in the marriage market, too. While workers mainly married workers or assistant nurses and to some extent also clerks, technicians married, not workers, but women of higher status, that is, clerks, lower-grade professionals and department heads, though also assistant nurses. In the uppermost rank, the marriage market of professionals was by contrast very exclusive, both for those who came from a long line of higher-rank families and for those from former worker and tenant-worker families, though to lesser extent. So, entries into higher ranks seem to go somewhat more democratically, whereas the rules of the marriage market at the top follow the imperative of status equivalence almost as before in the highest ranks.
On the other hand, the marriage market looks more obscure, particularly in the middling ranks. Spouses are chosen, not necessarily from the same occupational strata but socially farther. The thumb rule seems to be that one marries, at maximum, one or two notches higher or lower. These mixings in the marriage market indicate that occupation does no more lay alone a firm ground for any kind of divide into strictly defined classes. Rather than trying to pack tens or hundreds of occupations in one class and demarcate them, almost by force, from other classes shaped in a similar way, it is better to analyse the dynamics of status hierarchies. Savage (2015) with his colleagues has done this kind work, by taking, in addition to economic, cultural and social capital into consideration. Their suggestion to pattern social ties according to whom people in different classes know (Savage 2015, 138-42) reveals the power of a class divide: social networks are differentiated by class. In line with Bourdieu, Savage calls these ties social capital. Even though marriages resemble social ties and are, besides, patterned in the same way as other social ties, I would not say they represent social capital. Rather, I would keep them apart. In that case too, however, spousal choices reflect the exclusiveness of social strata, most in the highest echelons ever more and the lowest strata, too, while in the large middle the patterning is more elastic. Anyway, with long-term social genealogies it is possible to capture the dynamics of this patterning, which I see to be important for the understanding of the historical formation of statuses.