Social stratification: persistent patterns of social inequality within society (rich and poor, powerful and
powerless, etc.); cornerstone of sociology.
4 basic areas of sociological inquiry: social structure, social order, social change, and social stratification.
Also studies micro level that reinforce social hierarchies.
Inequalities in wealth can threaten social stability but inequalities in power can be used to maintain
Understanding social stratification is essential for studying social change because stratification itself is
Social hierarchy might emerge as a result of skill differences.
Meritocracy: society where most statuses are achieved by how well a person performs a role.
Social mobility: process where people move up or down a status hierarchy.
Open stratification system: merit rather than inheritance determines social rank; offers many chances
for upward social mobility.
Closed stratification: how individual is born determines the type of work allowed to do; little or no
social mobility occurs because most statuses are ascribed.
Caste system: common in India; strict rules regarding type of work that members of different
strata can do.
Socioeconomic status: person’s status based on income, education and occupation.
Mode of production: system of economic activity in society.
Means of production: technology, capital investments and raw materials.
Social relations of production: relationships between main classes involved in production. (Ex: slavery,
1. bourgeoisie (capitalist class that owned means of production)
2. proletariat (working class that exchanged labour for wages)
3. petite bourgeoisie (middle class that are independent owners/producers)
4. small business wonders Surplus value: value of goods produced exceeding the amount needed to pay factors of production,
which takes the form of profit when the product is sold.
Class conflict: driving force behind Marx’s theory of social change; between major classes within a mode
of production; eventually leads to evolution of a new mode of production.
Class consciousness: revolution would take place only when members of the working class begin to
recognize that they were being exploited.
The ability of capitalists to hire and fire wage workers at first encouraged rapid technological change and
economic growth; the drive for profits also caused capitalists to concentrate many workers, keep wages
low, and spend little on improving working conditions.
The result: class polarization, the growth of class consciousness and working-class organizations, and a
growing demand on the part of workers to end capitalist exploitation; because capitalism could produce
more than workers could consume, ever-worsening crises of overproduction would result in the fall of
Saw inequality and exploitation of working class increasing and predicted that class conflict
would lead to death of capitalism. Class was primary determining factor for class differences.
Criticisms of Marx’s theory:
- Industrial societies did not polarize into two opposed classes engaged in bitter conflict.
- Capitalism persisted by stimulating demand.
- Investment in technology made it possible for workers to earn higher wages and work fewer
hours in better conditions.
- Workers fought for, and won, state benefits.
- Communism took root in semi-industrialized countries and witnessed the emergence of
totalitarianism and new forms of privilege.
Class, status and party: proposal that structures of social stratification could be understood by looking
at economic inequalities, hierarchies of prestige and political inequalities.
Weber saw that the class structure had not polarized, as Marx’s forecast, but had become more complex;
expected that the number of educated technical and professional workers in bureaucratic capitalist
society would increase.
Life-chances: class positions offer more power and allows an individual and his or her family to enjoy
more good things in life.
Not convinced that socialist society would eventually emerge but didn’t argue that inequalities
would gradually decrease. Emphasized class’s central role but recognized other important
dimensions of social stratification.
Class position is determined by “market situation”: the possession of goods, opportunities for income,
level of education, and level of technical skill; Weber argued that there are three bases of inequality, not just one, as Marx argued. In addition to market situation distinguishing different classes, social honour
(prestige) distinguishes different status groups. Status groups (distinguished by differences in prestige)
and parties (distinguished by differences in power) also stratify the social order, to some degree
independently of class.
The four main classes: large property owners, small property owners, propertyless but highly educated
employees, and propertyless manual workers.
Class conflict may occur but classlessness is unlikely.
DAVIS AND MOORE
Part of the functionalist theory (emphasizes consensus over con