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Chapter 6

SOC101 Chapter 6: Social Stratification.docx

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Robert Brym

Chapter 6: Social Stratification Introduction:  Social stratification: persistent patterns of social inequality within society Stratification: A Cornerstone of Sociology  4 basic areas of inquiry: o social structure, or the way in which society is organized o social order o social change o social stratification  the manner in which valued resources –that is, wealth, power, and prestige –are distributed and the way in which advantages of wealth, power and prestige are passed from generation to generation Social Hierarchies in Stratified Societies Ascribed and Achieved status  status: rank or position that a person has within a social hierarchy  the former is assigned to individuals, typically at birth  Ascribed status: can be a function of race, gender, age, and other factors that are not chosen or earned and that cannot be changed (a few people do choose their gender status, but they are rare exceptions)  Achieved status: a position in a hierarchy that has been achieved by virtue of how well someone performs in some role  in a meritocracy, everyone would have equal chances to compete for higher status positions and, presumably, those most capable would be awarded the highest rank  social mobility: as those who were more qualified moved up the social hierarchy to replace those who were less competent and who were consequently compelled to move down Open and Closed Stratification Systems  Open stratification system: merit, rather than inheritance (or ascribed characteristics), determines social rank and in which social change is therefore possible. Ex. Canada  Caste system continues to underpin a relatively closed stratification system o Compared with India, Canada offers many more chances for upward mobility, an indication of a more open stratification system  Ascribed statuses continue to limit opportunities for many Canadians as well Class and Structure  It is there similar economic situation and opportunities, a result of their shared position within a society’s system of economic production, that makes these individuals members of the same class  Class structure: overall economic hierarchy comprising all such classes, choosing the word structure to deliberately to indicate the relative stability and prominence of this social ranking  Socio-economic status: position in an economic hierarchy, based on income, education, andthccupation  19 century social and political philosopher Karl Marx  who put social class at the very centre of his discussions of social structure and his theory of social change  Clark and Lipset’s question: “Are social classes dying” Explanations of Social Stratification Karl Marx: Capitalism, Exploitation, and Class Conflict  Large, mechanized, factory-based systems of production were emerging; cities were growing rapidly as rural peasants were being forced off the land or attracted to the city by the possibility of jobs in factories, and material inequality was extreme, as factory owners and merchants made huge profits while labourers lived in poverty  Industrial Revolution was a time when both the level of economic production and the degree of inequality in society increased tremendously Modes of Production and Social Classes  Mode of production: overall system of economic activity in a society  its major components were the means of production (technology, capital investments, and raw materials) and the social relations of production (the relationships between the main classes involved in production)  slavery had been the primary mode of production in some societies in earlier times, and feudalism, an economic system in which peasants worked for landowners, not for a wage but for some share of the produce, was the mode of production that gave way to industrial capitalism in Europe  Marx identified 2 classes: o The capitalist class, or the bourgeoisie, which owned the means of production o And the proletariat, or working class, which exchanged its labour for wages o Middle class, the petite bourgeoisie, comprising of independent owners/producers (ex. farmers) and small business owners  Marx reasoned that value of a product sold was directly proportional to the average amount of labour needed to produce it  Value of goods produced by wage-labourers far exceeded amount needed to pay their wages and the cost of raw materials, technology, and other factors of production  Marx referred to this excess surplus value Class Conflict and Class Consciousness’  Idea of class conflict between major classes in a society was the driving force behind Marx’s theory of social change  Class consciousness was important social-psychological component of Marx’s theory of social inequality and social change Responses to Marx  Communist countries, new hierarchy has emerged, in which control of the political and bureaucratic apparatus was the main basis of power Max Weber: Class and Other Dimensions of Inequality  Wrote about social change and social stratification until his death in 1920 Class, Status, and Party  What Weber saw, compared with what Marx saw, was considerably more complexity in the social stratification system because of the growing diversity of the occupational structure and of capitalist enterprises Social Class and Life-Chances  Weber saw a larger variety of class positions based both on ownership of property, and on other labour-market status, such as occupation, and education  life chances, higher position in economic hierarchy, however obtained, provided more power and allowed an individual and his or her family to enjoy more of the good things in life Davis and Moore: A Functional Theory of Stratification 20 Century Affluence and Structural-Functionalist Theory  Kingsley Davis and Wilbert Moore –“principles of social stratification”  Structural functionalist theory: an approach that emphasizes consensus over conflict and that seeks to explain the function, for society as a whole, of social institutions and various aspects of social structure  Arthur Schelesinger, Jr., an American historian writing in 1956, suggested that Americans should start thinking about the “miseries of an age of abundance” The Functional Necessity of Stratification  Davis and Moore argued that, because inequality exists in all societies, it must be a necessary part of society  Davis and Moore, social inequ
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