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Chapter 10

SA 150 Chapter Notes - Chapter 10: Social Stratification

Sociology and Anthropology
Course Code
SA 150
Ann Travers

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Ch.10 Social Stratification
Social Stratification: a system by which a society ranks categories of people in a
o4 Basic Principles:
1. Social stratification is a characteristic of society, not simply a
reflection of individual differences
Children born into wealthy families more likely to succeed, and
live longer
The extent to how much people can control their destinies is
limited by position at which they are born
2. Social stratification persists over generations
Stratification stems from society rather than from individual
Patterns of inequality generally stay the same from generation
to generation
Exception especially in industrial societies Social mobility:
change in a person’s position in a social hierarchy.
3. Social stratification is universal but variable
Social stratification is found everywhere
The inequality of social stratification varies from society to
4. Social stratification involves not just inequality but beliefs
Systems of inequality also define certain arrangements as fair
Each society has different explanations for unfairness
Those with greatest social privileges support society’s system
while those below want change
The Caste System: social stratification based on ascription (a social status received at
“closed”, No chance for social mobility
Birth alone determines one’s social destiny
Ppl must marry others of same rank
Typical of agrarian societies (agricultural)
The Class System: social stratification based on individual achievement.
“open”; ppl can gain schooling and sills to have social mobility
in relation to parents and siblings
Everyone even the poor are entitled to rights
Careers and marriages are matters of individual choice
Ppl still remain unequal
Status consistency: the degree of consistency of a person’s
social standing across various dimensions of social inequality
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Classes are less clearly defined than castes
Structural social mobility: a shift in the social position of large numbers of people
owing more to changes in society itself than to individual efforts
Ideology: The “Staying Power” of Stratification:
oSocial hierarchies are built on Ideology: cultural beliefs that serve to
justify social stratification
oPlato and Marx on Ideology
Plato: every society teaches its members to view some
stratification system as “fair”
Marx: ideas as well as resources are controlled by a society’s elite,
thus, hierarchies are very difficult to change
Both: ideology usually takes the form of cultural patterns that
evolve over long periods of time
oAristotle: some people of little intelligence deserve nothing
better than life under direction from their “betters”
oDarwin: survival of the fittest
Davis-Moore Thesis: the assertion that social stratification has beneficial
consequences for the operation of a society
oHigher position jobs demand special abilities and are the most functionally
oInequality encourages people to work harder, better, and longer to get the
most significant work possible
oEquality demands that people who work poorly are rewarded the same as
good workers. This is not motivating and will reduce society’s
Meritocracy: A system of social stratification based on personal merit
oThis is a class system
oDavis-Moore thesis implies that a productive society is a meritocracy
oRewards held out to develop talents and encourage efforts of everyone
oResults in blurring social categories (extensive social mobility)
oIndustrial societies resist becoming pure meritocracies by retaining
many caste-like qualities because meritocracy erodes social structure
such as kinship. Caste elements are retained to promote order and
social cohesion
Critical Evaluation: (Melvin Tumin)
oDoes functional importance really explain the high rewards? (Celine
Dione earns more than a doctor, but doctor’s job has more functional
oCan we even measure functional importance?
oOur society also allows families to transfer wealth and power through
generations (caste-like). The descendants don’t have to work for those
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