Stereotypes as Historical Accidents: Images of Social Class in Post-communist versus Capitalist Societies
Stereotypes are ideological and justify the existing social structure. Although stereotypes persist, they can change when the context changes. Communism’s rise in Eastern Europe and Asia in the 20th century provides a natural experiment examining social-structural effects on social class stereotypes. Nine samples from post-communist countries (N = 2241), compared with 38 capitalist countries (N=4344), support the historical, socio-cultural rootedness of stereotypes. More positive stereotypes of the working class appear in post-communist countries, both compared with other social groups in the country and compared with working-class stereotypes in capitalist countries; post-communist countries also show more negative stereotypes of the upper class. We further explore whether communism’s ideological legacy reflects how societies infer groups’ stereotypic competence and warmth from structural status and competition. Post-communist societies show weaker status-competence relations and stronger (negative) competition-warmth relations; respectively, the lower meritocratic beliefs and higher priority of embeddedness as ideological legacies may shape these relationships.