Class and Stratification
What’s in a name?
Social inequality: inequality in the distribution of societal values (wealth, power and prestige),
caused by any ascribed or achieved 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,
Inequality exists in all known societies, socio-economic inequality exists in nearly all known
societies (hunting/gathering societies: gender and age inequality, but no economic inequality.
Neo Marxists said income from capital is much more stable than income from labor.
Did not have socio economic stability for hunting/gathering societies since they don’t own land/
Two theoretical approaches to socio-economic inequality
Socio economic inequality can be described and analyzed in two ways
1. Distributional: the hierarchal arrangement of individuals based upon wealth, power and
Socio 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 amounts of wealth, power and 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 there classes in Canada? Yes Emergence and maintenance of socio-economic inequality
Emergence of inequality may be due to chance and to apparently insignificant differences
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 : Based on communal property, no private property (property on means of
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 (no obstacles for person
moving up for