Sociologists, of course, have known for quite a long time that classification is not neutral (see Ange's post below - but also this and this) . In an effort to refocus the debate from accusations of cynicism, some selections from Emile Durkheim under the cut.
Emile Durkheim and Marcel Mauss (1903) Primitive Classification:
Far, then, from man classifying spontaneously and by a sort of natural necessity, humanity in the beginning lacks the most indispensable conditions for the classificatory function. Further, it is enough to examine the very idea of classification to understand that man could not have found its essential elements in himself. A class is a group of things; and things do not present themselves to observation grouped in such a way. We may well perceive, more or less vaguely, their resemblances. But the simple fact of these resemblances is not enough to explain how we are lead to group things which thus resemble each otehr, to bring them together in a sort of ideal sphere, enclosed by definite limits, which we call a class, a species, etc. We have no justification for supposing that our mind bears within it at birth, completely formed, the prototype of this elementary framework of all classification. Certainly, the word can help us to give a greater unity and consistency to the assemblage thus formed; but though the word is a means of realizing this grouping the better once its possibility has been conceived, it could not by itself suggest the idea of it. From another angle, to classify is not only to form groups; it means arranging these groups according to particular relations. We imagine them as co-ordinated, or subordinate one to the other, we say that some (the species) are included in others (the genera), that the former are subsumed under the latter. There are some which are dominant, others which are dominated, still others which are independent of each other. Every classification implies a hierarchical order for which neither the tangible world nor our mind gives us the model. We therefore have reason to ask where it was found. [...]
Far from being able to say that men classify quite naturally, by a sort of necessity of their individual understandings, we must on the contrary ask ourselves what could ahve led them to arrange their ideas in this way, and where they could have found the plan of this remarkable disposition. [...]
We have seen, indeed, how these classifications were modelled on the closest and most fundamental forms of social organization. This, however, is not going far enough. Society was not simply a model which classificatory thought followed; it was its own divisions which served as divisions for the system of classification. The first logical categories were social categories; the first classes of things were classes of men, into which these things were integrated. It was because men were grouped, and thought of themselves in the form of groups, that in their ideas they grouped other things [...].
Above all when it has a collective origin it defies critical and rational examination. The pressure exerted by the group on each of its members does not permit individuals to judge freely the notions which society itself has elaborated and in which it has placed something of its personality. Such constructs are sacred for individuals. Thus the history of scientific classification is, in the last analysis, the history of the stages by which this element of social affectivity has progressively weakened, leaving more and more room for the reflective thought of individuals. But it is not the case that these remote influences which we have just studied have ceased to be felt today. They have left behind them an effect which survives and which is always present; it is the very cadre of all classification, it is the ensemble of mental habits by virtue of which we conceive things and facts in the form of co-ordinated or hierarchized groups.
Emile Durkheim (1912) The Elementary Forms of Religious Life:
Collective representations are the product of an immense cooperation that extends not only through space but also through time; to make them, a multitude of different minds have associated, intermixed, and combined their ideas and feelings; long generations have accumulated their experience and knowledge. A very special intellectuality that is infinitely richer and more complex than that of the individual is distilled in them. That being the case, we understand how reason has gained the power to go beyond the range of empirical cognition. It owes this power not to some mysterious virtue but simply to the fact that, as the well-known formula has it, man is double. In him are two beings: an invidual being that has its basis in the body and whose sphere of action is strictly limited by this fact, and a social being that represents within us the highest reality in the intellectual and moral realm that is knowable through observation: I mean society. [...]
This same social characteristic enables us to undertsand where the necessity of the categories comes from. An idea is said to be necessary when, due to some sort of internal property, it enjoys credence without the support of any proof. It thus contains in itself something that compels the intellect and wins over intellectual adherence without prior examination. [...]
Hence society cannot leave the categories up to the free choice of individuals without abandoning itself. To live, it requires not only a minimum moral consensus but also a minimum logical consensus that it cannot do without either. Thus, in order to prevent dissidence, society weighs on its members with all its authority. [...]
By definition, sacred beings are beings set apart. What distinguishes them is a discontinuity between them and profane beings. Normally, the two sorts of beings are separate from one another. A whole complex of rites seeks to bring about that separation, which is essential. These rites prevent unsanctioned mixture and contact, and prevent either domain from encroaching on the other other. [...]
A religious prohibition necessarily involves the idea of the sacred. It arises from the respect evoked by the sacred object, and its purpose is to prevent any disrespect. [...] There are religious prohibitions whose purpose is to separate different kinds of sacred things from one another. We recall, for example, that among the Wakelbura, the scaffold on which a dead person is laid out must be built exclusively with materials belonging to the phratry of the deceased. All contact is forbidden between the corpse, which is sacred, and things of the other phratry, which are sacred too, but in a different right. Elsewhere, the weapons used to hunt an animal must not be made of a wood that is classified in the same social group as the animal itself. [...] those aimed at preventing contact between the sacred pure and the sacred impure, as well as between things that are sacred and auspicious and those that are sacred and disastrous. All of these prohibitions have a common trait: They do not arise from the fact that some things are sacred and others not but from the fact that there are relations of disparity and incompatibility among sacred things. [...] There is another much more extensive and important system of religious prohibitions - not the system that separates different species of sacred things but the one that separates all that is sacred from all that is profane. [...] This system furnishes the raw material for a genuine cult and, indeed, a cult that forms the basis of all the rest; for in their dealings with sacred things, the faithful must never depart from the conduct that it prescribes. [...]
In short, we must act; and so we must repeat the necessary acts as often as it is necessary to renew their effects. From this standpoint, it becomes apparent that the set of regularly repeated actions that make up the cult regains all its importance. In fact, anyone who has truly practiced a religion knows very well that it is the cult that stimulates the feelings of joy, inner peace, serenity, and enthusiasm that, for the faithful, stand as experimental proof of their beliefs. The cult is not merely a system of signs by which the faith is outwardly expressed; it is the sum total of means by which that faith is created and recreated periodically.