The recent global recession revealed a huge social-class divide between the economic outcomes of the affluent and their less endowed counterparts. Although this divide has bred social unrest in some societies, in many others such disturbances have been absent. Two mainstream theories of intergroup relations offer competing propositions for this paradox. System-justification theory (SJT) proposes that people from lower status groups are most likely to support class systems that disadvantage them when their group interests are weak. In contrast, we put forward an explanation based on social identity theory (SIT) that proposes that class-system justification is an identity-management strategy that should be most apparent amongst individuals from lower-status groups when group interests are strong. Results from three experiments (combined N = 626), conducted in Malaysia and Australia, which varied subjective social class, provided stronger support for the SIT-based explanation that lower-status individuals endorse societal class systems more strongly when group interests are strong (Studies 1 a-b) and when the class system is perceived to be unstable in the long-term (Study 2).
- STATUS-LEGITIMACY HYPOTHESIS