SOC 2390 Lecture Notes - Social Class In The United States, Social Stratification, Ascribed Status

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29 Jan 2013

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Social Stratification refers to the unequal manner in which scarce resources and social rewards are
distributed among different social categories and groups.
Life Chances refer to the likelihood of realizing a certain standard of living or quality of life, including
health and well-being.
• The unequal distribution of income and wealth has been remarkably stable. Large differences of
income and wealth have existed as long as these data have been collected.
• Also, there have been persistent differences in income and wealth between men and women, the
young and old, and white and non-white Americans.
Social Stratification is a Social Process
• Social stratification is a characteristic of society, not simply a function of individual differences
• Social stratification is universal, but variable
• Social stratification persists over generations
• Social stratification involves not just inequality but beliefs about inequality
Major Stratification Systems
1) Caste System a closed system based on ascribed status (birth)
- Nothing can be done to affect mobility and there are no chances of changing one’s social position
- Such societies also recognize “ritual pollution” (i.e., certain types of interaction between people of
different castes are prohibited because they tend to contaminate members of the higher caste)
- Such a system promotes endogamy (i.e., marriage within one’s own caste)
• There are five castes in India:
1) priests, scholars, and their descendents
2) nobility, warriors, and their descendents
3) merchants and skilled artisans (or their descendents)
4) unskilled laborers
5) outcasts or “untouchables”
2) Slavery System the ownership of some people by others
- Contrary to popular assumption, slavery was not usually based on racism, but on one of three other
a) Debt
b) Crime
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