Social Stratification and Inequality 01-14-2013
What is social stratification?
Social stratification – a system by which a society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy. Four basic
1. Social stratification is a trait of society, not simply a reflection of individual differences.
o Social standing is NOT in terms of personal talent or effort
o Exaggerates the extent to which we are in control of our destinies
2. Social stratification carries over from generation to generation.
o Social mobility – a change in position within the hierarchy
o Structural social mobility – a shift in the social position of large numbers of people due more to changes in
society than to individual efforts
3. Social stratification is universal but variable.
o What is unequal and how it is unequal vary from one society to another
4. Social stratification involves not just inequality but beliefs.
o Defines the extent to which inequality is “fair”
o Why people should be unequal – differs amongst societies
Class and Caste System
The Caste System
Social stratification based on birth or ascription
Little or no social mobility
People marry within their caste rankings – endogamous marriage
Shape members’ beliefs
Guides everyday life by keeping people in “their own kind”
The Class System
Social stratification based on birth AND individual achievement
Socially mobile – those that are able to receive an education
Greater individuality freedom in selecting marital partner
o Social stratification based on personal merit
o Expand equality of opportunity, but there is inequality of outcomes
o Pure meritocracy – would blur lines of social categories
o Caste : loyalty :: Meritocracy : Ability
Status Consistency o The degree of consistency in a person’s social standing across various dimensions of social inequality
o Caste – high status consistency
o Class – less status consistency
o Low status consistency = classes are less well defined than castes
Ideology: The Power Behind Stratification
Ideology – cultural beliefs that justify particular social arrangements, including patterns of inequality
Plato: “every culture sees some type of inequality fair”
Marx: “culture and institutions combine to support a society’s elite, which is why established hierarchies last a long
Rise of new ideology, industrial cap