Sociology Lecture 10
Class & Stratification
“What’s in a name?”
∙ Social inequality: inequality in the distribution of societal values (wealth, power, and prestige), caused
by any ascribed and archived characteristics.
∙ Includes gender, ethnic, racial, etc. Inequality and socio-economic (class/status) inequality.
∙ Socio-economic inequality is a relatively stable pattern (hierarchy) of socially sanctioned, economic
∙ Inequality exists in all known societies, socio-economic inequality exists in nearly all known societies
(hunting and gathering societies; gender and age inequality, but no economic inequality).
Two theoretical approaches to socio-economic inequality
Socio-economic inequality can be described and analyzed in two ways.
1. Distributional: the hierarchical arrangement of individuals based upon wealth, power &
∙ Scio-economic status (SES): is an individual’s position in this hierarchy.
∙ SES indicators: property, income, education, occupation, occupational prestige, political
participation, political power, consumption patterns etc.
∙ Stratum is a category of people with similar amount of wealth, power & prestige.
∙ Assumed value consensus, therefore exceptionality of conflict.
2. Relational: socio-economic inequality is a relationship between classes, groups who differ in
their access to means of production.
∙ Differences and/or antagonism in class interests.
∙ Normality of class conflict.
∙ Question: are these classes in Canada?
Emergence and maintenance of ocio-economic inequality
∙ Emergence of inequality may be due to chance and to apparently insignificant differences between
∙ Once inequality emerges, the privileged develop a system of social control (socialization and coercion)
to maintain it/
∙ Some societies resist establishment of inequality (e.g. the 20 c. !Kung; the 18 century Iroquois).
Meritocracy and social mobility
∙ Meritocracy: a social system wherein status is achieved by merit (ability and effort).
∙ It assumes equality of opportunity and perfect social mobility.
∙ Vertical social mobility is a movement of individuals to different positions in social hierarchy (or: to