Stratification in Caphiria
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The concept of stratification in the Imperium of Caphiria is incredibly complex and diverse, encompassing both legal and social status. Stratification is generally hierarchical, but there are multiple and overlapping social hierarchies, and an individual's relative position in one might be higher or lower than in another. There are three distinct concepts that go into establishing one's place in Caphirian society:
- Power (Potestas): A citizen's ability to do what they want despite resistance from others.
- Status (Dignitas): A citizen's prestige, popularity and honor or how highly society regards them.
- Class (Ordo): A citizen's legal and economic position in society.
At the peak of the social pyramid (pyramidis societas) is the Imperator. An Imperator has the highest dignitas, potestas, and is of the highest ordo in Caprivian society. If sociologists do not recognize any absolute standard for these ordinal measures than the Imperator is the relative standard to which the qualities of other residents in the empire are compared. Power and Status are generally perceived to be directly tied to a person's social standing, whereas Class is a person's legal status. After the Imperator, the peak of the pyramidis societas is the imperial family, which is currently the House of Panther. Altogether the imperial family tends to hold offices of power and a number of prestigious military and collegian posts, they are rarely handed out in the form of nepotism and are usually won based on merit.
Stratification by ordo starts at birth where the child is given his or her father's standing in society - patrician, equite, plebeian, indigeni or peregrini. Intermarriage is discouraged by costing the higher class family dishonor but does happen on occasion. Appeals can be made to praetores or the Imperator on the basis of wealth to advance but these are rewarded only in extraordinary circumstances and almost never to citizens who aspire to join the aristocratic order of patricians. Conversely, a member of the upper classes can move down by having him or her self adopted into a family of lower class, an act viewed as tremendously disgraceful.
A rapid rise through class in Caprivian society is a rare event and often the subject of cultural legend. These people are referred to as novi homines (new men) with great respect. They are celebrities deserving of their fame. Cicero, the great statesman, is the poster boy of the New Men - he is after all perhaps the most famous non-Imperator in Caphiria's history with more records about him than Lanintius himself. Other famous New Men are Archaedavincus Acutula, the Imperium's most prolific inventor; Aulus Lugius, the finest playwright of all time and Lucius Volta, a tremendously successful scientific entrepreneur. They are the legendary cases of plebeians who rose to become patricians.
The Patricians are the ruling class of Caphiria. Making up only 0.29% of the population, they are wealthy and elite families and historically had more privileges and rights than the rest of society as they were usually prominent politicians and members of society. At the top of the Patrician class are the ten Imperial Houses of Caphiria, which can directly trace their lineage to a previous Imperator. Competitions for power between these ancient clans shaped the political landscape of Caphiria for the last two and a half hundred years - since its foundation as a Republic. Marriage outside the Patrician class by members of these clans has consistently resulted in disinheritance. Members of Imperial Houses tend to dominate Caphirian politics and policy, publicly and privately. They are viewed as second to only the Imperator and his family.
While a mere 11,390 patricians belong to Imperial Houses, with less than 250 making up the current greater imperial family, more than 9 million citizens count themselves among the aristocracy. Prominent families within the Patrician class may use the term "noble family" as a way to distinguish themselves from the rest of the class, though the term carries little additional weight.
Advantages to membership in the nobility, aside from natural dignitas, are invulnerability to sentences of execution (except capital crimes such as treason, or under direct orders of the Imperator), ability to freely enter government facilities (unless prohibited), special placement at venues like the theater and market, and the right to follow the cursus honorum, a path through the entire political spectrum of the Imperium from minor offices to Senate. Nevertheless, patricians obey the same laws, pay the same proportional rate of taxes and have the same vote as lower class citizens.
Below Patricians are the Equite class, making up the "upper class" for those not born in the aristocracy. Making up a little more than 7% of the population, the equestrian rank is enjoyed by nearly 157 million citizens. For most citizens, becoming a member of the Equite class is the highest obtainable ordo, and as such it is a highly sought after place in society. Lacking the dignitas of the nobility, many equites are still wealthier than their upperclassmen.
Members of the Equite class are typically knowledgeable and have been educated in "elite" settings. Because the bulk of equestrians are not born into their wealth, they place an extremely high value on education and go above and beyond to ensure their children will also be a member of the upper class when they grow up. Equestrian parents enroll their children in prestigious preschools and elementary schools leading to private middle schools and high schools, and finally elite, private colleges such as Fortuna Institute. Through this, their children traditionally join exclusive clubs or fraternities and further ingrain themselves in the upper echelon of society. Hefty donations and tithes to the church are also used a way to ingratiate themselves further.
Members of the Equites control and own significant portions of corporate Caphiria and may exercise indirect power through the investment of capital. The high salaries and the potential for amassing great wealth through stock options have greatly increased the power and visibility of the "corporate elite". The equestrians are renowned for a work ethic that is the envy of other countries, bringing them wealth through their own hard work. For this common trait, some of the largest corporations are owned by an equestrian rather than a patrician. The very richest of these corporate magnates is Alexandus Venio II, with a net worth of $70 billion from his ownership of Quicksilver Industries, Caphiria's largest and most valuable company.
Below the Equites is the Plebeians, or Plebs, - socially divided into the Upper-Plebeian order and the Lower-Plebeian order. Upper Plebs are the empire's middle class, earning a decent living but lacking the privileges of the upper classes. They represent the average citizen, making up the majority of the population. Lower Plebs are the work force, those of farmer, miner, janitor, doormen, street cleaner, servant and the like, ones which few Caprivian's consider respectful employment, despite the rigorous physical and mental fortitude required to perform many of these tasks Plebeians receive good benefits from the government to compensate for their reduced privileges and are more well-off than the lower classes citizens of other countries.
Upper Plebs are highly educated salaried professionals whose work is largely self-directed. Many have advanced graduate degrees and household incomes commonly exceed the high five-figure range. Members of this class commonly value higher education – most holding advanced academic degrees – and are often involved with personal and professional networks including professional organizations. The upper middle class tends to have great influence over the course of society, and are seen as trendsetters; the anti-smoking, pro-fitness, and organic food movements, as well as environmentalism, are largely indigenous to this socioeconomic grouping.
Members of the lower Plebs belong to diverse groups which overlap with each other. Overall, lower Plebs are characterized by conceptualizing, creating and consulting. Their values tend to emphasize independence, adherence to intrinsic standards, valuing innovation and respecting non-conformity and believe that they will rise out of their class to higher standards. Income varies considerably, from near the national median to well in excess of US$100,000. However, household income figures do not always reflect class status and standard of living as they are largely influenced by the number of income earners and fail to recognize household size. It is therefore possible for a large, dual-earner, lower Pleb class household to out-earn a small, one-earner, upper middle class households.
The Plebeian class is very influential as they encompass the majority of voters, writers, teachers, journalists and editors. Most societal trends originate within the Plebeian class. Education is the primary factor of furthering one through the societal order, though because Plebs are not afforded the luxury of attending prestigious academies or universities, they fail to connect into the deep network of the upper class, which in itself is a trait of being a member of the Plebeian class.
Indigeni and Peregrini class
While not officially on the Class hierarchy, there exists two further lower rungs on the societal ladder. The first, Peregrini (foreigners), are non-citizens like expatriates or visitors. They have no legal rights under Caprivian law, as their home countries are expected to care for them even if they have no home. Nevertheless, they often remain in Caphiria with the hopes of one day gaining citizenship. The second class, Indigeni (natives), are the natives who have been conquered by Caphiria. Most citizens view them as inferior to even other Sarpedonian races and, consequently, most of the country's racism is directed at them.
Those who do not hold citizenship are generally called peregrini as well, though the term is more specifically applied to non-citizens from a foreign land. Their reception in Caphiria has varied from time to time and today depends on dignitas. Although dignitas is a distinct Caprivian social concept, Caprivians have their own ways of judging a visitor's prestige and honor. Wealth is a major factor, as can be seen by the number of rich Kiravians who mingle with the Caphiravian aristocracy but style is almost equally important. Caprivians love inviting interesting people to their dinner parties and social events. Therefore, a visitor from Urcea will catch the interest of citizens if he or she appears to display unique aspects of Urcean culture - something which is still unique and exotic in Caphiria.
Beneath even the bottom rung of the social ladder are the indigeni (natives). Their treatment serves as an example of how the Caprivians, despite their defenses of human rights, have great potential for ethnic chauvinism. Most are kept from leaving their home provinces by exorbitant transportation prices and are forced to pay about 20% of their income in the dreaded tributum (poll tax). Like peregrini, who are at least covered by their homeland, indigeni are not covered for education, healthcare or litigation.