Chapter 6-Social Stratification Nov 12 2008

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23 Aug 2010
Reading Notes
New Society
Chapter 6: Social Stratification
y Social Stratification: persistent pattern of social inequality in society
Stratification: A Cornerstone of Sociology
y Social Stratification: the manner in which vale resources- that is wealth, advantages of
wealth, power, and prestige from one generation to generation
Social Hierarchies in Stratified Societies
y In most societies, stratification is much more pronounced, and basic skills are seldom the
foundation of primary social hierarchies
y Social hierarchies often emerge due to different abilities and skills in society (nursing, fishing,
Ascribed and Achieved Status
y Status: the rank or position that a person has within a social hierarchy
y Ascribed Status: function of race, gender, age and other factors that are not chosen or
earned and that cannot be changed (a few people do choose to their gender status, but they
are rare exceptions)
y Achieved Status: a position of hierarchy that has been achieved by virtue of how well
someone performs in some role (ex: law students-> professional lawyers, high performance
athletes-> professional athlete)
y Meritocracy: everyone would have equal changes to compete for higher-status positions and
presumably, those most capable would be awarded the highest rank
y Social Mobility: as those who are more qualified moved up the social hierarchy to replace
those who are less competent and who are consequently compelled to move down
Open and Closed Stratification Systems
y Open Stratification System: in which merit, rather than inheritance (or ascribed
characteristics), determines social rank and in which social change is therefore possible
y Ex: dramatic changes in various groups have occurred in this country over time; p black
Chinese laborers and slaves
y Caste System: a closed stratification system, most common in India, with strict rules
regarding the type of work that members of different castes (the strata of society into which
people are born) can do
y Closed Stratification Systems: system in which little or no social mobility occurs, because
most or all statuses are ascribed
Class and Class Structure
y Class: is a position in an economic hierarchy occupied by individuals or families with similar
access to, or control over, material resources
y Class Structure: is the relatively permanent economic hierarchy comprising different social
y Socioeconomic Status: refers to a persons general status within an economic hierarchy,
based on income, education, and occupation
y Patterns in material inequality exist in our society and overlap with most other dimensions of
social stratification
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Explanations of Social Stratification
Karl Marx: Capitalism, Exploitation. And Class Conflict
Modes of Production and Social Classes
y Mode of Production: overall system of economic activity within a society, comprising the
means of production and the social relations of production
y Means of Production: is one of the main components of a mode of production, consisting of
technology, capital investments, raw materials used in production
y Social Relations of Production: one of the main components of a given mode of production-
specifically, the relationships between the main classes involved in production
y Bourgeoisie: is one of two main classes within the capitalist mode of production; it comprises
the owners in the means of production
y Proletariat: one of the two main classes within the capitalist mode of production; comprising
workers who exchange their labour for a wage; working class
y Petite Bourgeoisie: a secondary class within the capitalist mode of production, including
independent owners/producers (ex: farmers) and somewhat small business owners; middle
y Marx expected the middle class largely to disappear as capitalism matured and drew some of
its members up into the bourgeoisie but pushed down into the proletariat
y The value of a product sold is directly proportional to the average amount of labour needed
to produce it
y Surplus Value: the value added to a product by labour (ex: the profit taken by the owners
when the product is sold); exploitative relationship
Class Conflict and Class Consciousness
y Class Conflict: conflict between major classes within a mode of production; it eventually leads
to evolution of a new mode of production
y Ex: feudalism-> capitalism; as a result of growing power of the merchant class in Europe
y Class Consciousness: the recognition by members of a class of their shared interests in
opposition to members of another class
Response to Marx
y Inequality in communist countries has not disappeared in communist countries
y Hierarchy has emerged
y Emergence of capitalist economy in Europe is not eliminating material inequalities so much as
changing their source
y Individuals with control over some form of production or access to some marketing system
are accumulating wealth while the majority of citizens appear to be no better off than before
Max Weber: Class and Other Dimensions of Inequality
Class Structure, Status, and Party
y Economic inequalities were central to the social stratification system and that the ownership
of property was a primary determinant of power, or the ability to impose wishes on others
(get them to do whatever what you want them to do)
y Economic inequalities, hierarchies of prestige, and political inequalities
y Power resided in the control of top positions in large bureaucratic organizations
y Compared to Marx: considerably more complexity in the social stratification system because
of the growing diversity of the occupational structure and of capitalist enterprises
Social Class and Life-Chances
y Rather than insisting that a limited number of class positions were based on an individuals
relationship to the means of production, Weber saw a larger variety of class positions based
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