SOCI 1010 Lecture Notes - Social Stratification, Meritocracy, Social Inequality

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Chapter 10: Social Stratification
1. What is Social Stratification?
a. Social Stratification: a system by which a society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy
b. Based on 4 basic principals
i. Social stratification is a trait of society, not simply a reflection of individual differences
People will generally do better because of their privileged position rather than excelling
because of personal talent or effort
Wealthy vs. Poor
Ex. Titanic: first class passengers survived because they we offered positions in life boats
first, not because they were more talented at swimming than third class passengers
ii. Social stratification carries over from generation to generation
Parents pass their social position onto their children
Social Mobility: a change in position within the social hierarchy
- may be upward or downward, most people move horizontally (exchanging at a
comparable level)
iii. Social Stratification is universal but variable
What is unequal, and how unequal it is, varies from one society to another
Ex. Power
iv. Social stratification involves not just inequality but beliefs as well
Any system of inequality defines the arrangements as fair
2. Caste and Class Systems
a. Caste System: social stratification based on ascription, or birth
i. Closed System allows for little change in social position because birth alone determines a
person’s future regardless of personal effort
b. Class System: social stratification based on both birth and personal achievement
i. Open System permits much more social mobility
c. Meritocracy social stratification based on personal merit
i. Industrial societies
Need a broader range of abilities
Stratification is not based on birth alone, also includes merit
Merit = person’s knowledge, abilities, and effort
Inequality of rewards based on individual performance
Use meritocracy to promote productivity and efficiency
d. Status Consistency: the degree of consistency in a person’s social standing across various dimensions of
social inequality
i. Caste System limited social mobility = high status consistency
Same relative ranking with regard to wealth, power, and prestige
ii. Class System greater social mobility = low status consistency
University professor has high prestige but an average salary
e. Ideology: cultural beliefs that justify particular social arrangements, including patterns of inequality
Ex. Rich people are smart and poor people are lazy therefore loss who are less well-off
deserve their poverty
ii. Historical Patterns:
Argrarian depend on devotion to lifelong labour caste systems moral
Capitalism meritocracy wealth/power are prizes (competition)
3. Functions of Social Stratification
a. Davis-Moore Thesis states:
i. Social stratification has beneficial consequences for the operation of society
ii. The greater the functional importance of a position, the more rewards a society attaches to it
iii. Promotes productivity and efficiency because the rewards for important jobs encourages people to
do these jobs, work better, longer and harder
iv. Must carry enough reward to draw talented people away from less important work
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