(A) Positive Consequences, OR Importance OR Gains of Social Mobility:
Social importance of mobility consists of its positive consequences. They are also referred to as the “gains of mobility” or “benefits of mobility.” The so called gains of mobility may be briefly examined here.
1. Social Mobility Provides Opportunity for the Expression of Individual Talents:
As P.M. Blau and O.D. Duncan have pointed out social mobility makes it evident that a talented individual is bound to achieve “social ascendance” by means of his talents and efforts irrespective of the stratum to which he belongs.
According to them, social mobility becomes inevitable if the most important functions of the society are to be performed by the most capable persons.
2. Acts as a Safety-Valve:
According to S.M. Upset and R. Bendix, providing opportunity for social mobility virtually means creating a ‘safety-valve’ to escape from the dangers. Since the lower classes are provided with an open chance to enhance their social statuses or to enter into the status- positions of other upper class people by means of their performances; they do not normally organise themselves to dislodge the upper-class people of their statuses. Social mobility becomes inevitable and essential from this point of view.
3. Social Justice:
D. V. Glass and others have felt that providing equal chances or opportunities for social mobility for all social classes is a democratic commitment. According to them, a democratic society has to depend upon “an eagalitarian opportunity structure “.
4. Job Satisfaction:
Social mobility is inclusive of occupational mobility also. Most of the instances of social mobility are occupational in character. In the traditional societies [for example, traditional caste society] occupations are normally hereditary in character and hence children are obliged to follow the occupations of their parents whether they have a liking for it or not. Now in modern industrial society things are different.
People need not stick on to their parental occupations. They have a vast opportunity and freedom to change their occupations. This opportunity for job selection or change has contributed to their job satisfaction.
5. Improvements in the Life-Styles:
A person who gets into an occupation or profession as per his capacities and expectations is likely to be more satisfied with it. For the very same reason, he may work sincerely, put in more efforts and earn good income also. This higher income or economic rewards help him to improve his “life-styles”.
For example, a lower-class man after obtaining the middle-class status will definitely pay attention to improve his style of life. He may purchase a vehicle, wear relatively costly dresses, get better education for his children, construct his own house, and so on. Social mobility, many times helps economic improvement.
6. Opportunity for Competition:
Social mobility is of great importance in helping individuals to improve their capacity and work-efficiency. It provides motivations for progress and higher attainments. It makes individuals active, alert and dynamic.
It keeps the individuals fit to life in a competitive society. It is important to note here that the societies that provide greater opportunities for social mobility are also those that entertain and encourage competitive values.
7. Reposes Confidence in the Established System:
Average individuals of all types of societies expect some chances or the other to improve their positions. People in the higher strata also expect still better opportunities. Individuals, who feel that their social system is providing them opportunities to grow well, are the ones who toil and struggle for improvement.
They do not lose faith in the system. They believe that their hard work would yield them due rewards, if not immediately, at least, in the near future. Because of this faith, they would remain as the supporters of the system even if their actual mobility involves difficulties and challenges.
(B) Negative Consequences or Costs of Mobility:
It is normally believed that social mobility is good and supportive of democratic ethos. Supporters of democracy and social equality strongly advocate that opportunities for social mobility must be provided for all. A closed class system which thwarts the fulfillment of individual personality is criticised because such a system deprives society of the contributions of talented people.
Social mobility, no doubt, permits a society to fill its occupational positions with the most able people and offers the individual a chance to attain his or her life goal. But such a provision which society makes, involves certain costs. Some of them may be noted below.
1. Rising Expectation Leading to Dissatisfaction and Frustration:
Upward mobility is not always advantageous for a society.. A mobile society arouses expectations which are not always fulfilled, thereby creating dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Even in societies where upward mobility is both valued and highly visible, expectations may be over aroused. Although many want to be upwardly mobile, not everyone can succeed.
A traditional society, in which one is born into one’s appointed place, may not arouse many hopes. Hence, possibilities of one getting disappointed or frustrated are also fewer as long as the traditional social structure remains intact. The benefits of social mobility are inseparable from its costs.
2. An Open Class Society Or A Mobile Society May Impose Penalties Also:
An open class society may be desirable from the viewpoint of both society and the individual, but it still may impose some penalties. These penalties may include – “the fear of falling in status as in downward mobility; the strain of new role learning’s in occupational promotions; the disruption of primary group relationships as one moves upward and onward.”
One who moves higher and higher in social status as a result of promotion may feel less and less secure. Since terrorism of different type is becoming widespread now days, people in top positions [in politics, business or administration] seek the support of security guards for they feel that they may be attacked at any time.
Thus, one who is passed over for promotion to a higher position may envy the security of a less mobile society. Social attitudes of such persons change to such an extent that their own parents, friends and relatives may appear to be strangers. High Court and Supreme Court judges in India, for example, are expected as a matter of legal norms, to minimise their social contacts with the people.
3. Social Mobility Often Demands Geographic Mobility:
People are often made to move from one geographic area to another if they are to accept new prospects in life. This results in “a painful loss of treasured social ties.” Further, new physical and social set up demands new adjustments. These adjustments may often bring in new fears and anxieties. Such anxieties and tensions are bound to be very high especially at present when the whole world is experiencing the complex process of globalisation.
4. High Rate of Mental Illness is Associated with Mobility:
An offer of promotion is normally associated with the burden of new responsibilities. One who is ready to accept such offers must be mentally ready to shoulder new responsibilities, face new challenges, and compromise with new situations. Any failure in these areas brings tensions, anxieties, mental worries.
Even marriages may be threatened when spouses are not equally interested in mobility. One mate resents the implied position of being neglected by the other; while the other resents the mate’s lack of co-operation in social climbing. Upward mobility puts a great strain on the relationship between parents and children.
Upward mobility is linked with upwardly mobile person who exhibits more prejudice against low- status people than do non-mobile individuals at the same level. Some studies have even found that a high rate of mental illness may accompany either upward or downward mobility.
Downward Mobility Also Creates Mental Disturbances:
Mental anxiety and tension also goes with downward mobility. In fact, a number of studies have reported that downward mobility is associated with many unpleasant accompaniments, such as poor health, marital discord and feelings of alienation and social distance. But these studies have not properly identified the cause and effect relationship.
Such unpleasant developments could be either a cause or an effect of downward mobility. The cost and benefits of mobility to the individual and the society in an open class society are open to debate.