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SOC100H5 Lecture Notes - Social Stratification, Conspicuous Consumption, Microanalysis

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Suzanne Casimiro

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October 19th
Social Stratification
What is Social Stratification?
-a system by which a society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy
-all societies rank people so that some have far greater opportunities and resources than
-what the specific inequalities are and how great they are vary from place to place and
over time
Basic Principles of Social Stratification
1. it is a trait of society, not simply a reflection of individual differences
2. it carries over from generation to generation
a. social mobility: a change in position within the social hierarchy
3. it is universal, but variable
a. what is unequal and how unequal it is, varies from one society to another
4. it involves not just inequality but beliefs as well
a. the explanation of why people should be unequal differs from society to society
Caste and Class Systems
-closed systems: allow for the little change in social position
-open systems: permit much more social mobility
-the class system is closed, and the class system is more open
The Caste System
-social stratification based on ascription or birth; typical of agrarian societies
1. families in each caste perform one kind of work
2. people marry other of the same ranking
3. caste guides everyday life by keeping people in the company of “their own kind”
4. systems rest on strong cultural beliefs
The Class System
-social stratification based on both birth and individual achievement
-meritocracy: social stratification based on personal merit
oif you work hard, you will reap the awards
-caste and class
oex. the UK – an industrious nation with a long agrarian history (caste class)
Classless Societies?
-no where in the world do we find a society without some degree of social inequality
-ex. the former Soviet Union
oSoviet officials boasted having created the first modern classless society (yet
there were difference of power)
The Functions of Social Stratification
Structural Functionalist Approach
-social stratification has beneficial consequences for the operation of society (Davis-Moore
-the greater the importance of talent required of a position, the more rewards a society
attaches to it
-egalitarian societies offer little incentive for people to try their best
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