How do Elites Maintain Stratification?
- While elites may use coercion and force to maintain privilege, these are not effective tactics because
they breed hostility and nourish rebellion; instead, elites use other techniques:
1) Controlling Ideas – Ideologies are used to get people to want to do what the ruling elite desires, even
though it is not necessarily in their best interest (e.g., scientific racism, the divine right of kings, a fair
day’s pay for a fair day’s work)
2) Controlling Information – Elites control information in dictatorships through the use of force and
imprisoning editors and reporters for printing critical reports. In democracies, elites accomplish the
same purpose by manipulating the media though the selective release of information.
3) Technology – Various monitoring devices help the elite monitor citizens’ activities without their
knowledge that they are being shadowed.
4) Social Networks – Members of the elite move in a circle of power that multiplies their opportunities.
Contacts with people of similar backgrounds, interests, and goals all the elite to pass privileges from one
generation to the next.
Functionalist Perspective of Stratification
• Social stratification is universal, thus necessary for the smooth, orderly functioning of society
(particularly, industrial societies with a complex division of labor).
• Social stratification (specifically, unequal rewards) functions to motivate people to fill functionally
important positions and perform functionally necessary roles in society.
• Criticism of the Functionalist Theories:
– How do you measure the importance of a position?
– Is the relationship between the importance of a position and its rewards as straightforward as the
– Why isn’t society a meritocracy? That is, why are many positions not awarded on the basis of merit?
– Is inequality actually functional for society?
Conflict Theory of Stratification
• Social stratification is universal, yet is avoidable, unnecessary, and not functional for society.
• Stratification is created and maintained by classes an