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Chapter 8

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SOCI 100

 Chapter 8 – Social Stratification E.g. Titanic – some categories of passengers had better odds of survival than others • Women and children boarded lifeboats first (80% died were men) • 60% first class saved • 36% second class survived • 24% third-class escaped What is Social Stratification? • Every society marked by inequality: schooling, money, health, power • Social stratification – system by which a society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy 1) Trait of society, not simply a reflection of individual differences. Born into wealthy family, more likely to succeed, have good health, and do well in school. 2) Carries from generation to generation. Parents pass social position on to their children. Social mobility – a change in position within the social hierarchy, up or down o Modest beginnings to fame and fortune; business setbacks, unemployment, illness Horizontal – switch jobs in same social level 3) Universal but variable. What or how it is unequal varies from society to another. o Prestige; wealth or power; some contain more inequality than others 4) Beliefs and inequality. Define arrangements as fair; what of social inequalities, the explanations of why people should be unequal Caste and Class Systems Closed systems – little change in social position; caste system Open systems – permit much more social mobility; class system The Caste System • Caste system – social stratification based on ascription, or birth o Birth alone determines person’s entire future o Little or no social mobility based on individual effort • An illustration: India o Many agrarian societies are caste systems o India’s economy growing rapidly, but much of population still live in traditional villages o 4 major castes (varnas – “colour”) – (1) Brahmin, (2) Kshatriya, (3) Vaishya, (4) Sundra o Each comprised of hundreds of subcaste groups (jatis) o Families perform 1 type of work, as priests, soldiers, barbers, leather workers, sweepers o Endogamous marriage – Marry others of the same ranking o Caste keeps people in the company of “their own kind”; pure, not polluted by contact of someone with lower standing o Powerful cultural beliefs: Hindu tradition, caste and arranged marriages are moral duties • Caste and Agrarian Life o Agriculture: lifelong hard work, teach moral duty, disciplined o South Africa – dominated b caste, racial system of apartheid illegal, declining The Class System • Class system – social stratification based on both birth and individual achievement o More open: schooling and specialization – social mobility o Class distinctions blurred, blood relatives different social standings • Modern society – categorizing by colour, sex, social background is wrong; political rights, equal before the law • Greater individuality = personal freedom in selecting spouse • Meritocracy – social stratification based on personal merit o Person’s knowledge, abilities, effort; person’s job and how well it is done o equality of opportunity, expect unequal rewards based on performance o Caste – wastes human potential; orderly o Complete meritocracies – move up/down social ranking, pull apart families • Class systems in industrial societies move toward meritocracy – productivity and efficiency, keep caste elements (family) in social unity and order • Status Consistency – degree of uniformity in a person’s social standing across various dimensions of social inequality o Same relative standing in wealth, power, prestige o University professors – high social prestige, modest income o Low status consistency – harder to define social position Caste and Class: The United Kingdom • Mix of meritocracy and caste in class systems in UK (industrial with long agrarian history) • Aristocratic England – caste o Leading members of church (authority of God) o Clergy – local priest, not members of aristocracy, lived simple lives o Highest church officials – palaces, owned much land o First estate – church leaders; power to shape political events o Second estate – rest of aristocracy, barely 5% of population o No occupation, work done for them by others, develop skills in horseback riding and warfare, cultivate refined tastes in art, music, literature o Primogeniture – law that all property pass to the oldest son or other male relation  Women depended on marring well  Younger sons took professions considered honourable o Commoners/third estate – below high clergy, aristocracy; serfs working land, little schooling, illiterate o Industrial revolution – growing importance of money, commoners challenged nobility, schooling and legal rights, blurred differences, gave rise to class system o Aristocrats selling traditional titles for money • UK Today o Class system today, elements of caste still evident o Queen Elizabeth II – head of state; Parliament’s House of Lords – ½ are noble by birth o ¼ of British people fall into middle class, comfortable incomes, investments o ½ all Britons consider themselves working class, modest income through manual labour o ¼ make up lower class, lack steady work or have little pay, live in northern and western regions – closing of mines and factories o Mix of caste and meritocracy – highly stratified society, move upward/downward o Linguistic – upper class spoke “King’s English”, different accents Classless Societies? The Former Soviet Union • Russian Revolution – USSR born out of revolution in 1917 o Ended feudal estate system ruled by hereditary nobility, transferred most farms, factories, productive property from private ownership to state control o Based on jobs – stratified into 4 unequal categories: apparatchiks (top, high government officials), Soviet intelligentsia (lower gov’t officials, professors, scientists, engineers, physicians), manual workers, rural peasantry o Not “classless” but under state control created greater economic equality (although sharp differences in power) than capitalist societies • The Modern Russian Federation o 1985 – Mikhail Gorbachev came to power with new economic program: perestroika (restructuring)  Reduced economic inequality, but overall living standards far behind other industrial nations  Tried to generate economic growth by reducing centralized control of economy  One of the most dramatic social movements in history o 1989 – Eastern Europe toppled their socialist governments o 1991 – Soviet Union collapsed  Russian Federation o Social inequality involves more than economic resources  Elite class existed all the same, based on political power rather than wealth th o 20 century, much upward social mobility in Soviet Union, UK, Canada  Rapidly expanding industry and gov’t drew many poor rural peasants into factories and offices o Structural social mobility – shift in social position of large numbers of people due more to changes in society itself than to individual efforts o 1990s – structural social mobility in Russia turned downward  Average lifespan for men dropped by 8 years, women by 2 years  Poor health care system; economic change  Long run – closing inefficient state industries would improve economy  Economy expanded, living standards fallen; millions face hard times o Government control over Russian economy caused economic inequality to decline • China: Emerging Social Classes – political and economic change o Communist revolution 1949 – state control all farms, factories, productive property o Mao Zedong – all work equally important, social classes no longer existed o Reduced economic inequality, social differences remained o Political elite (enormous power, privilege), managers and skilled professionals, industrial workers, rural peasants (not allowed to leave villages to migrate to cities) o 1978 – Mao died, Deng Xiao Ping became leader – loosened hold on economy  New class of business owners to emerge  Economy experienced rapid growth, nation now middle-income category o 1990s – booming cities on coast, expanding economy, better jobs, young migrants  Government restricts movement – slowing upward social mobility  New jobs dangerous, pay wages that barely meet higher cost of living in city, migrants remained poor  Weakening global economy – factories lay off workers, even shut down o 2008 – people began to migrate from city to countryside (downward social mobility) o Hai gui – new category in social hierarchy, educated, returned from overseas o New class system emerging – mix of old political hierarchy + new business hierarchy  Economic inequality increased Ideology: The Power Behind Stratification • Ideology – cultural beliefs that justify particular social arrangements including patterns of inequality o E.g. rich are smart, poor are lazy – supports inequality define it as fair • Plato and Marx on Ideology o Plato (427-347 BCE) – every culture considers some type of inequality fair o Karl Marx – more critical of inequality than Plato  Capitalist societies for defending wealth and power in the hands of a few as a “law of the marketplace”  Capitalist law – defines right to own property, encourages money to remain within same families from generation to next  Culture and institutions combine to support society’s elite, established hierarchies last long time • Historical Patterns of Ideology o Ideology changes along with society’s economy and technology o Agrarian societies – labour, develop caste systems that make carrying out duties of a person’s social position a moral responsibility o Industrial capitalism – meritocracy arises, defining wealth and power as prizes to be won for those who perform the best; poor looked down on o Difficult to change social stratification – challenges to the status quo arise  E.g. woman’s place; racial equality in South Africa The Functions of Social Stratification • Davis-Moore thesis – social stratification has beneficial consequences for society • Kingsley Davis and Wilbert Moore – occupational positions of varying importance o E.g. transplanting organs – difficult, demand scarce talents with extensive training • Greater the functional importance of a position, the more rewards a society attaches o Productivity and efficiency – reward with income, prestige, power, leisure – encourages people to work better, longer, harder • Society could be egalitarian, but only that people are willing to let anyone perform any job • Equality – demands that someone who performs a job poorly be rewarded just as much as someone who performs well o Little incentive for people to try their best, reducing productive efficiency • Reason for stratification – does not state precisely what rewards a society should give to any occupational position or how unequal rewards should be Critical Review: • Melvin Tumin (1953) – how we assess importance of occupation; do rewards reflect contribution someone makes to society? o E.g. Celine Dion vs. Prime Minister; financial industry vs. military • Davis and Moore ignore how caste elements of social stratification can prevent development of individual talent – rich children have opportunities where gifted poor children never have • Overestimate importance of high-paying work – importance of work not making money? o Parenting, good friend to someone in need, creative writing, etc • Suggesting that social stratification benefits all of society – Davis-Moore thesis ignores how social inequality promotes conflict and provoke revolution Stratification and Conflict Karl Marx: Class Conflict • Industrial Revolution promised humanity a society free from want • Capitalist economy done little to improve lives of most people • Social stratification rooted in people’s relationship to means of production o Either own productive property (factories/businesses) or sell their labour to others • Feudal Europe – aristocracy and church owned productive land; peasants – farmers • Industrial capitalism – aristocracy replaced by capitalists (bourgeoisie) – people who own and operate factories and other businesses in pursuit of profits o Peasants – proletarians – people who sell their labour for wages o Opposing interests, separated by wealth and power, class conflict inevitable • Marx believed that working majority would overthrow capitalists o Capitalism would bring about own downfall because workers are poorer and poorer and gives little control over what they make and how they make it • Work produces alienation – experience of isolation and misery resulting from powerlessness • Marx imagined socialist society that would meet needs of all Critical Review: • Davis-Moore thesis – system of unequal rewards is needed to place people in right jobs, motivate to work hard • Marx separated reward from performance; egalitarian ideal – according to ability and to need • However, failure to reward performance caused low productivity in Soviet Union (socialist) • Defenders respond: individual rewards not only way to motivate people to perform social roles Why No Marxist Revolution? • Capitalism still thriving; Ralf Dahrendorf: 1) Fragmentation of capitalist class: millions of stockholders rather than single families own large companies; stock widely held by people, direct stake in capitalist system 2) Higher standard of living: century ago, most workers were in factories/farms in blue- collar occupation – lower-prestige jobs that involve mostly manual labour o Today most are in white-collar occupations – higher prestige jobs that involve mostly mental activity (e.g. sales, customer support, management, service) o Average income rose almost tenfold; hours in workweek decreased o Structural social mobility, better off, support of status quo 3) More worker organizations: right to form labour unions; make demands by threats of work slowdowns and strikes; labour disputes settled without threatening capitalist system 4) Greater legal protections: new laws in workplace – safer, employment insurance, disability protection, Old Age Security, greater financial security • A Counterpoint: o Wealth remains highly concentrated; private corporate stock in hands of few o Today’s white-collar jobs offer no more income, security or satisfaction than factory o Many benefits came from class conflict; workers struggle to hold on to what they have o Law has not helped ordinary people use legal system as effectively as rich o Conclusion: absence of socialist revolution in high-income countries does not disprove Marx’s analysis of capitalism Max Weber: Class, Status (Social prestige), and Power • Weber agreed with Marx that social stratification causes social conflict; 2 class model too simple • Economic inequality – Weber called class position: continuum ranging from high to low • Marx – Prestige and power – reflections of economic position • Weber – status consistency in modern societies often low o E.g. government may exercise great power yet have little wealth or prestige o Socio-economic status (SES) – composite ranking based on various dimensions of social inequality • Inequality in History – status and social prestige in agrarian societies – honour o Gain prestige by conforming to cultural norms that apply to their rank o Industrialization and capitalism – no traditional rankings of birth; financial inequality  Difference between people is economic dimension of class o Bureaucratic state – bigger government, organizations – power o Socialist society – high-ranking officials become new ruling elite • Weber – overthrowing capitalism would not significantly lessen social stratification; might reduce economic differences, but soc
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