Chapter 6: TheCultural Construction of Social Hierarchy
The Rationale for Social Inequality
Social Stratification/ Hierarchy - the ordering and ranking of individuals within society. those at
the top of the hierarchy are generally afforded more power, wealth, prestige or privileges in the
society. Hierarchies can be based on race, gender, class, caste, ethnicity, national affiliation or
NOT inevitable BUT as societies become complex and populous, social stratification increases.
Inevitable view: scarce resources, occupational specialization and the power of an elite group to
control the behavior of others = social stratification.
Thomas Belmonte – hierarchy is human nature man opposed to his humanity (slavery, caste)
BUT Ju/’hoansi & Inuit there is no social stratification (but not totally egalitarian)
We have extremes of rich and poor (NOT random; it’s indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities,
o Race – a culturally constructed form of identity and social hierarchy, race refers to the
presumed hereditary, phenotypic characteristics of a group of people. These physical or
phenotypic differences are often erroneously correlated with behavioral attributes.
Question 6.1: How Do Societies Rank People in Social Hierarchies? Class and Caste
Social hierarchies in different societies vary with dimensions: the criteria used to differentiate
people into one level of society or another, the number of levels that exist, the kinds of privileges
and rights that attach to people at different levels, and the strength of the social boundaries that
separate different levels.
US/CAN. differentiated by many variables Eg. Class – a form of identity informed by perceptions
of an individual’s worth or status. It is also a form of social hierarchy. BUT we can move classes,
and can choose to emphasize ethnic group race & gender fixed.
Class as a Formof Social Hierarchy
Max Weber - social class can be based on economic wealth and/or status class – prestige, honor,
educational or occupational achievements
US/CAN. post-secondary schooling careers = prestige, material possessions = markers of class
Ascribed status – an identity that is perceived as fixed and unchanging because a person is
believed to be born with it. In Canadian society, race is often assumed to be ascribed at birth.
Achieved status – an identity that is believed to be in a flux and that is dependent upon that actions
and achievements of an individual. (US/CAN. class)
Class intersects with other identities – gender & race all want opportunity “white privilege”
Caste as a Formof Social Stratification
Caste - a form of social stratification and identity in India where individuals are assigned at birth
to the ranked social and occupational groups of their parents.
Fixed identity, segregation no intermarriage or interaction
1. Brahmins (pritests who worship and teach)
2. Kshattriya (government – soldiers, politicians, administrators)
3. Vaisya (farmers and merchants)
4. Sudra (service or other castes) 5. Hirijans now named Dalit “oppressed” or “ground down” (untouchable, unclean, did animal and
human waste work)
laws to protect discrimination BUT still persists
Question 6.2: How Do People ComeTo Accept Social Hierarchies As Natural?
Race As A FormOf Social Stratification
FranzBoas – discredited racist and sexist theories that sought to legitimize social stratification
Constructing the Ideology of Racism
Class is also based on innate biological makeup – race, mental ability, etc. natural law that some
people are born more fit to lead and succeed.
Race – genetic physical attributes = ascribed (CAN.)
Anthropologists say there is no scientific basis for creating different races; a certain physical
features isn’t uniformly in one population. Race – culturally constructed form of identity
Ascribed behaviors, physicality, and intellects associated with race racism – discrimination
and mistreatment of a particular “racial” groups
Race determines positions in hierarchy that defines social, political
a80mmmmmmmmmmmmmnd economic worth (OBAMA)
Ku Klux Klan – Tennessee 1865 to terrorize newly freed slaves who questioned white supremacy
also in Canada which also terrorized French Canadians and Catholics
StanleyBarrett – white supremacists believe interracial mixing “mongrelization” was very
dangerous because without genetic purity of the master race, the world wouldn’t survive.
James Frideres and Rene Gadacz – structural racism – embedded in Canadian social institutions
Indian reserve and people colonized
Stratification because: Economically profitable buy workers for low-pay, no competition for
Some claim its so natural God created races and wanted them to be separated and one is superior
White privilege – refers to the fact that in many societies “white” people have access to greater
power, authority, and privileges than non-white people
Samuel Morton – 1820s measured 6000 skulls from all over the world. He believed the bigger the
brain, the more intelligent the person whites (English and Germans, then Jews) on the top,
blacks on the bottom + Hindus = Whites were socially & BIOLOGIALLY superior
Stephen Jay Gould – Morton adjusted results to support that conclusion selected only certain
data: more small-brained Inca skulls than large-brained Iroquois, didn’t include small Hindu skulls
because it lowered average cranial capacity for white skulls Gould removed biases = NO
DIFFERENCE IN SKULLS; brain related to body size, male skulls are larger than female skulls,
black male cranial capacity higher than white, white female cranial capacity higher than black. +
Morton didn’t do it on purpose, subconsciously he pack more grains & lead in white skulls. 20 th
century social stratification
Class, Race, and theSocial Construction of “Intelligence”
We sought to prove that people deserve their ranking = everyone should enjoy equal opportunity
and success otherwise political and economic consequences because inequality displays the
failure of society we do have political and economic policies = loss of privileges MUST find
balance between inherited privilege and blaming poverty on the poor.
INTELLIGENCE = solution. explains why people are ranked, and since intelligence could be
inherited, explains the privileged NOT proved. Allan Hanson – intelligence assumptions: it is a single entity, it is measurable and unequally
distributed in the population, the amount of people have is relatively fixed in life, the amount
people have explains their degree of success in life, it is inherited. (purely North American)
Francis Galton – the genius of selected eminent men was linked to their eminent parents +
brother, children, etc. BUT ignored env