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SOC101Y1 Study Guide - Ascribed Status, Social Stratification, Petite Bourgeoisie

Course Code
Robert Brym

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Social Stratification
New Society Ch. 6
Social stratification: persistent patterns of social inequality within society
Particular groups (unemployed, homeless, women, youth, refugees, immigrants,
& Aboriginals) rank lower than others in the social stratification system
Low ranking = having little power, wealth, & prestige; generally a higher position
implies the opposite
Also means: manner in which valued resources wealth, power, & prestige are
distributed, & the way in which the advantages of wealth, power, & prestige are passed
from one generation to another
Inequalities in wealth can threaten social capability (poor resenting the wealth &
demanding more equality)
Inequalities in power can be used to maintain social order
Social stratification in one form or another exists in all societies; much more
pronounced in most societies, basic skills seldom foundation of primary social
Status: rank or position that a person has within a social hierarchy
Ascribed status: a position in a hierarchy that has been achieved by virtue of how
well someone performs in some role (occupational status)
Meritocracy: everyone has equal chance to compete for higher status positions, &
presumably those most capable would be awarded highest rank
Social mobility: as those who are more qualified move up the social hierarchy to
replace those who were less competent & who were consequently compelled to move
Open stratification system: system in which merit, rather than inheritance (or
ascribed characteristics), determines social rank & in which social change is possible
Britain has aristocracy where children of wealthy & powerful families of long
standing inherit positions & titles
Caste system (India): caste into which an individual is born largely determines
what work they he/she will be allowed to do (closed stratification system)
Canada offers many more chances for upward mobility, indication of a more open
stratification system
Social stratification system consists of a # of different hierarchies, some based on
ascribed characteristics, others achievement
Women on average earn 75% of what men earn
Older women more likely to be living in poverty

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Members of visible minorities, in particular Aboriginals are more likely to be
unemployed; if employed in low-paying jobs
Employers wealthier than most members of societies, professional & managerial
occupations typically earn a great deal more than lower-level employees
Owners, self-employed professionals, managers typically have more job security
Material inequality: differences in income & wealth or property
Class: used to indicate the position of an individual or a family within an
economic hierarchy, along w/ others who have roughly the same amount of control over
or access to economic or material resources
Individual can be said to be a member of a class: large landowners, wage-
labourers & salaried workers (working class) or professional/managerial)
What makes one a member of a class? Similar economic situation &
opportunities, a result of their shared position within a societys system of economic
Class structure: overall economic hierarchy, based on income, education, &
Karl Marx
Had immense impact on how we think about social stratification
Observed that Industrial Revolution was a time in which both the level of
economic production & the degree of inequality in society increased tremendously
1) Mode of production: overall system of economic activity in a society
2) Means of production: technology, capital investments, & raw materials
3) Social relations of production: relationships btw the main classes involved in
2 major classes within industrial capitalism: bourgeoisie & proletariat
Petite bourgeoisie: independent landowners/producers (farmers) & small business
Surplus value: value of goods produced by wage labourers far exceed the amount
needed to pay their wages & cost of raw materials, technology, & other forms of
Surplus value of commodities turn into profits for the owner
Class conflict btw major classes in a society was the driving force behind Marxs
theory of social change
Class consciousness: oppressed working class would recognize its enemy, destroy
the institutions of capitalism, & replace them w/ a classless society based on collective
ownership of the means of production
Had advantage of seeing the direction in which a more mature industrial
capitalism was taking European society

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Believed that economic inequalities central to social stratification system &
that ownership of property was primary determinant of power, or the ability to
impose your wishes on others to get them to do what you want
Life chances: higher position in the economic hierarchy provided more
power & allowed an individual & his/her family to enjoy more of the good things
in life
Structural functionalist theory: emphasizes consensus over conflict, seeks
to explain the function of society as a whole, of social institutions & various
aspects of social structure
Davis & Moore
B/c inequalities exist in all societies, it must be functionally necessary part of
System held together by consensus & shared values b/c members of society
generally agree that the hierarchy is just & fair
To an extent, differences in income & prestige are based on different amounts of
effort & ability
Theory of power privilege attempted to explain the extent of material inequality
in both contemporary & past societies
Societys technological base largely determines the degree of inequality within it
Casual link btw complex industrial technology, higher education of worker &
workers insistence on sharing growing wealth of an industrial society
Industrial elite needed educated workers, wealth couldnt be created w/o them
Recognized as industrial capitalism matured, middle class grew & became more
Contradictory class locations occupational groupings that have divided loyalties
within a class structure
Exploitation of one class by another can occur through control of property or the
means of production, as well as through ownership of skill or credential assets & control
of high positions within organizations
Emphasized importance of property relations in contemporary stratification
systems, explains how patterns of structured inequality whether based on class, gender,
race, or some other ascribed or achieved status, are maintained or changed
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