THE DEBATE ABOUT STATUS The concept of ‘status’ in Max Weber’s sociology has been the centre of considerable debate and controversy; unfortunately, this debate has often produced more misunderstanding than clarification, partly because the issue is overshadowed by certain ideological and political problems. In this chapter I wish to defend some aspects of Weber’s use of the notion of ‘status’, and in particular to draw attention to the idea of ‘status politics’ as a framework for the analysis of modern capitalism (Turner 1988c). The purpose of this discussion is, therefore, not so much to contribute to exegesis, but rather to develop the concept of ‘status politics’ in the analysis of modern democratic polities. In particular, this discussion draws attention to the prevalence of status politics in societies which are deeply divided by social criteria involving status attribution and particularity. A minor feature of this argument is the proposition that, empirically, social class, as defined by economic criteria, is declining in importance as the major division in political life. Although the main focus of this argument is on the application of the concept, in order to perform this explanatory function it will be necessary to consider some of the conceptual and exegetical problems associated with Weber’s notion of status.