In the process of researching and writing this book, the family portraits that I started out with have begun to appear in a different light to me, turning into sheer signs of the families they perform. At best, the portraits exhibit the family’s status, but in the past rather than today, when even royals wear much the same clothes as commoners. Family portraits are sheer signs because they communicate virtually nothing about practices of everyday life, which are lived out ‘behind’ the family portraits. What lies behind the facade of the portrait may sometimes come as a shock to the viewer. This was what happened to Katrin Himmler (2008, 19), whose grandparents’ romantic wedding photos lost all their innocence when she learned that the groom in the photos, who was Heinrich Himmler’s brother, was himself a sworn Nazi. I decided to take a plunge into the world of practices, but in doing so keep in mind the widely shared understanding that these practices are not only operative transactions but often performances of status as well. The main focus of this book has been on spousal and occupational choices—I have called them choices for reasons of simplicity, but of course they are not always conscious choices but arrangements made by parents on their children’s behalf, or simply chance occurrences. However, in the process of exploring them © The Author(s) 2017
R. Jallinoja, Families, Status and Dynasties,
in association with status, I became captivated by the complex ways in which status hierarchies have evolved over time. This is how this book came to be: I wanted not only to elaborate spousal and occupational choices in different status hierarchies, but also to view them in relation to historical ranking processes.
My choice to give priority to status over class much owes to Weber’s notion of status, according to which social position is constituted under the combined effect of objective criteria and social esteem, as it is materialized in performances of status, in my case choices of spouses and occupations. Secondly, my choice to examine status hierarchies in the plural instead of packing all occupational statuses into a single class structure is explained by my intention to revisit the underlying logic of existing rankings, which I think needs to be done every now and then. I identified status hierarchies according to their specific constitutive principles, as, for instance, Weber, Bourdieu and elite researchers have done. Even though I had to limit myself to quite a small number of status hierarchies, they were numerous and divergent enough to afford the opportunity to study how rankings are made and how they change over the course of time, particularly through force of marriages and occupational choices in successive generations. It is now time to weave together the main findings drawn from the shaping of status hierarchies at different times.