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Class and Stratification.doc

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University of Toronto St. George
Ivanka Knezevic

Class and Stratification Tepperman: SCP – Chapter 8 Class and Status Inequalities:  Social stratification- structured patterns of inequality that often appear in societal arrangements, based on wealth, power, and prestige (reputation/rank).  Social stratification affects almost every aspect of our lives- where we live, material possessions, level of education, health and well-being. Rather than focusing on individual circumstances, it stresses the laying of groups of people according to their relative privilege into social class  An individual’s position in social class is their social status; it can be achieved or ascribed  Meritocracy- form of stratification that relies on differences in effort and ability rather than ascribed statuses such as race, age, or gender ConflictApproaches to Social Stratification (Karl Marx & Max Weber):  Karl Marx:  Argues that society is characterized by conflict (class struggles) and a distinguishing feature of capitalism is the division of society into 2 central classes: bourgeoisies and the proletariat.  As bourgeoisie, who owned the means of production, pursued their self-interest in the form of profit, they exploited (abuse/take advantage) the proletariat, who has little choice other than to sell their labor  The inequality in this system (capitalist) produced was neither desirable nor inevitable (unavoidable). Class conflict between wage-laborers and the owners would historically inevitable as the inequality between these classes were pronounce  As proletariat class developed class consciousness- an awareness of worker’s shared interests and their ability to act in those interests- Marx predicted the destruction of capitalist economies.  Max Weber  Like Marx, he believed that ownership of property and economic inequalities were central to the system of social stratification  However, stratification was based on more than who owned the means of production. He suggest that social stratification could be understood by looking at the economic positions (class), hierarchies of prestige (status), and the ability/inability to control others (power)  Class: ownership of property was important in determining a person’s position in society, Weber also believe that it was not necessarily the sole determinant of one’s class position- people has power even though they don’t own them (managers)  Status: person’s prestige, popularity, or social honor. Status can be the result of property, religious leaders, saints, nuns, and political leaders  Power: ability to exert power or control over others despite their objectives Structural Functionalist Approaches to Social Stratification (Durkheim & Davis & Moore):  Emile Durkheim  Early societies were held together by mechanical solidarity- union based on minimal division of labor, similarly of people who have the same life experience & shared common beliefs.  Once division of labor became extensive, no one could survive without the cooperation of others. Division of labor weakened mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity (the individual is the organ of a much larger organism) emerged.  Anomic division of labor may occur- conflict between labor and capital- leads to class polarization. (anomie- too few moral rules/obligations)  Kingsley Davis & Wilbert Moore:  Inequalities exist in all societies and thus must be necessary; in order to function properly, a society must distribute its members into various social positions and persuade them to perform the duties of these positions  According to Davis and Moore, positions with highest economic gains and rank are those that have the great importance in society and those require the greatest training or talent.  Critics: often people who can afford to attend school versus those who are most talented Symbolic Interactionist Perspectives on Social Stratification (Thorstein Veblen):  Consider how meanings and symbols enable people to carry out uniquely human actions and interactions  Thorstein Veblen:  Business existed only to earn profits for a leisure class  Main activity that leisure class engage in was Conspicuous consumption- the purchasing of expensive goods and services primarily for the purpose wealth on display  The purchases were status symbols- various signs that identified a particular social and economic status or position (e.g. diamonds, servants, luxury cars, and etc)  The symbolic embodiment of social inequality is through the practice of conspicuous consumption Feminist
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