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Social Stratification

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Suzanne Casimiro

SOC100 October 19 th 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 others - 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 o if you work hard, you will reap the awards - caste and class o ex. 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 o Soviet 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 thesis) - 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 - review criticism Stratification and Conflict Social Conflict Approach - rather than benefiting society as a whole, social stratification benefits some people and disadvantages others Karl Marx: Class Conflict - capitalist society reproduces class structure in each new generation - he predicted oppression and misery would eventually drive the working majority to come together to overthrow capitalism - review criticism Max Weber: Class, Status, and Power - stratification is multidimensional: economic classes (economy inequality), status (prestige), and power - socio-economic status: composite ranking based on various dimension of social inequality (class, status, power) o dimensions differ by type of society - review criticism Stratification and Interaction Symbolic Interaction Approach - people socialize primarily with people of the same social standing - microanalysis, the individuals involved - people with different social standing keep their distance from one another - the way we dress, the car we drive, etc., say something about our budgets - conspicuous consumption: using products because of the “statements” they make about o
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