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Chapter 8

SOC101Y1 Chapter Notes - Chapter 8: Personal Pension Scheme, Status Attainment, Dawning Information Industry

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Margaret Gassanov;

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Chapter 8- Social Stratification
Social stratification- persistent patterns of social inequality within society
High rent + low vacancy → more homeless people
Northern BC- Gitksan Nation still trying to negotiate treaty with federal government
that began in 1977 → land from ancestors that were taken away without compensation
Black Democrat from Texas may become the only Black U.S. senator- Ron Kirk
doubted Bush’s wisdom of starting war to bring down Saddam Hussein
Common theme: existence of groups (nonwhites, homeless, unemployed, etc.) ranked
lower than others in social stratification system
Low position → little power, wealth, prestige
Stratification: a Cornerstone of Sociology
4 basic areas of inquiry in sociology
oSocial structure- how society is organized (formally and informally)
oSocial order (what holds society together?)
oSocial change (how and why do societies and values held by its members
oSocial stratification- manner in which valued resources (wealth, power,
prestige) are distributed, the way in which advantages of such are passed from
generation to generation
Descriptions of social structure that ignore stratification system are inadequate
If describe Canadian society to someone without referring to some features of
stratification (aboriginals are more likely to live in poverty, large corporations are run
by men, etc), then listener would not have adequate understanding of society
Inequalities in wealth can threaten social stability (poor resenting (dislike) wealthy →
demand more equality)
Inequalities in power can be used to maintain social order (corporations lobbying
governments for changes in labor laws → difficult for unions to organize company
Understanding social stratification is also essential for studying social change (since it
is usually the stratification system that is undergoing change)
oMovement of women into positions of power in North America- features of
changing stratification system
Main source of power shifts from control of political system to include control of the
emerging free-market economy
oE.g. massive social, economic and political changes in former Soviet Union in
late 1980s
Social Hierarchies in Stratified societies
Difficult to not have stratification in a society
E.g. very small group living on isolated island where necessities are easily obtained
oSocial hierarchy ← skill differences in fishing
oInequalities in wealth ← lots of children in a family → more labor

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Stratification is pronounced in most societies
Cross-cultural variations in criteria by which people are ranked, degree to which they
can move from one position to another within hierarchy, and extent of inequality in
wealth and power that exists within hierarchy
Ascribed and Achieved Status
Status: rank or position that one has within social hierarchy
Ascribed status: assigned to individuals- typically at birth (connected with age,
gender, race- factors that cannot be earned or chosen → cannot change)
Achieved status: position in hierarchy that has been achieved by virtue of how well
one performs in some role (occupational status)
Meritocracy: everyone has equal opportunities to compete for higher-status positions
and, presumably, those most capable would be awarded highest rank
Social mobility: more qualified move up the social hierarchy to replace those who are
less competent and who were consequently compelled to move down
Open and closed stratification systems
Open stratification system: merit (rather than inheritance), determines social rank,
therefore social change is possible
Dramatic changes in status of various groups have occurred in this country over time
(slaves, Chinese laborers, etc.)
Canada does not have aristocracy like Britain- where children of wealthy and powerful
families inherit positions and titles
Caste system: strict rules regarding type of work that members of different castes can
do (common in India)
Closed stratification system: little or no social mobility occurs, because most or all
statuses are ascribed
Canada offers more opportunities for upward social mobility- implies open
stratification system
Discrimination limits opportunities for many Canadians (gay, disabled, old, women)
Social stratification system consists of a number of different hierarchies, some based on
ascribed characteristics, others on achievement
Class and Class structure
Studies of gender, race, ethnicity and work share emphasis on inequalities in income
and wealth/ property, and on resulting inequalities in power
On average, women earn 70% of what men earn
Minorities, women, lower-level employees tend to earn less
Material inequality (differences in income and wealth and property) overlaps other
social hierarchies
Class: position of an individual or a family within an economic hierarchy, along with
others who have roughly the same amount of control over or access to economic or
material resources
People are members of particular class (working class, professional class, etc.)

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Due to similar economic situation and opportunities, result of their shared position
within a society’s system of economic production
Class structure: overall economic hierarchy composed of all such classes (structure →
relative stability of social ranking
Socioeconomic status: one’s general status within an economic hierarchy, based on
income, education and occupation
Economic hierarchy is not completely closed → relatively stable and permanent →
composed of categories of individuals with similar amounts of control over material
Few people think in terms of “class”, but we ask why people think about classes despite
Explanations of social stratification
Karl Marx: capitalism, exploitation and class conflict
1818-1883- born in Germany, lived in England
Focused particularly on rapidly changing European world that he observed during his
Writing about social and economic forces brought about economic change look back
over history
A time when industrial capitalism was changing economy and society
Factory-based systems of production emerged, rural peasants moved to cities, material
inequality was extreme
Industrial Revolution was a time when both level of economic production and degree of
inequality in society increased tremendously
Modes of production and social classes
Mode of production: overall system of economic activity in society
means of production: components of modes of production → technology, capital
investments, raw materials
social relations of production: components of modes of production that includes
relationships between main classes involved in production
slavery and feudalism (peasants worked for landowners for some share of produce) was
mode of production for industrial capitalism in Europe
2 major classes
oBourgeoisie- capitalist class that owned means of production
oProletariat- working class that exchanged its labor for wages
oPetite bourgeoisie- middle class that comprised of independent
owners/producers (e.g. farmers) and small business owners
oMarx: Petite bourgeoisie would disappear as capitalism matured- members
would either go up to bourgeoisie or proletariat
Value of product sold was directly proportional to average amount of labor needed to
produce it
E.g. furniture- more $$ than its pieces of more labor needed to build it
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