Lecture #9 – Nov 15 2012
Class and stratification
Whats in a name?
Social inequality: inequality in the distribution of societal values (wealth, power,
and prestige) prestige: respect, caused by any an ascribed or achieved
This includes gender, ethnic, racial etc, inequality and socio economic (
Socio-economic inequality is a relatively stable pattern ( hierarchy) of social
sanctioned, economic inequality – economic inequality which is socially
sanctioned, societies agree.
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)
Two Theoretical approaches to socio economic inequality
Socio economic inequality can be described and analyzed in 2 ways:
Distributional: the hierarchical arrangement of individuals based upon wealth,
power, and prestige.
- Socioeconomic status (SES) Is an individuals position in this hierarchy
- SES indicators: property income, education, occupation, occupational
prestige, political participation, political power, consumption patterns etc.
- Stratum( latin for layer) 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? – we have an open class system, it
is possible for people to change classes during their lives Emergence and maintenance of socio economic inequality
Emergence of inequality may be due to chance and to apparently insignificant
differences between individuals/groups
Once inequality emerges the privileged develop a system of social control (
socialization and coercion) to maintain it
Some societies resist establishment on inequality ( e.g the 20 c, !kung (
bushmen) the 18 century Iroquois)
Meritocracy and social mobility
Meritocracy: a social system wherein status is achieved by merit ( ability and
It assumes equality of opportunity and perfect social mobility
Vertical and social mobility is a movement of individuals to different positions in
social hierarchy ( or to different classes)
Intergenerational and intergenerational mobility
Upward and downward ability ^
Canadian middle class has been experiencing significant downward mobility in
the last 25 years – unknown a generation ago
Open vs. closed stratification systems ( cum