Class Stratification

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This essay will examine class stratification in the social order and whether or not it is a necessary facet in modern society. In a historical context perhaps it was needed. Were it not for stratification the world may be a very different place to what society now perceives it to be. Class is examined and re-examined over and over again by social theorists such as Marx and Weber for example. It is a subject from which many different theorists have garnered many different opinions. The division of society by creating a clear hierarchy such as lower, middle and higher classes has been the source of much consternation over time. The lower classes, or “useful classes’’ are the work horses of society and the higher, or “privileged classes’’ in society are by that rationale the “useless’’, enjoying the fruits of the lower class’ labour. Williams tell us that “In a widely-read translation of Volney’s The Ruins, or A Survey of the Revolutions of Empires(2 parts,1975) there was a dialogue between those who by ‘useful labours contribute to the support and maintenance of society’(the majority of the people, ‘labourers, artisans, tradesmen and every profession useful to society’, hence called People) and a Privileged class(‘priests, courtiers, public accountants, commanders of troops, in short, the civil, military or religious agents of government’). This is a description in French terms of the people against an aristocratic government.” Buckley defines stratification as a system of unequally privileged groups, membership in which is determined by the intergenerational transmission of roles, or of opportunities to attain them, through kinship affiliation. What this means essentially is that you inherit your place in society. Class as a word has existed for centuries according to Raymond Williams, “superseded older names for social division’’. In a society such as today’s that people would hope strives for equal rights and opportunities for all, the question of social inequality and stratification seems ever more prevalent. There are many forms of stratification but social class seems to be the major form of division between individuals and groups. But is this form of social division really necessary? So far throughout history this form of division in society has led only to revolution and revolt such as in France and the fledgling United States of America at the turn of the eighteenth century when the poorer classes, and those being subjugated by an aristocratic form of government, rose up against their societal peers, the aristocracy. It must be said though that in the case of the United States many of the leaders of that revolution were the “gentry’’ and many owned slaves. But this division elsewhere has given countries the leadership and direction that they so badly needed in times of national strife and turmoil. Imagine if you will a dystopian world where the axis forces, of the German and Imperial Japanese armies, who opposed the allied British, American and Soviet forces, to name but a few, in World War Two had defeated the Allies. Is it possible that if not for class stratification where peoples positions in society determined there place in the army that the Allies would have lost? This is because only those from the upper echelons of society attained leadership roles as officers through such prestigious institutions as West Point Military Academy and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Those chosen for officer selection, having come mostly from privileged backgrounds, would thus have had a better standard of education compared to their enlisted counterparts. Education and the knowledge gained while in an institute of third level learning meant that many of the young junior officers were, for their time, forward thinking young men, forward thinking young men with educations that allowed them to think outside of the box. To paraphrase the author Stephen.E.Ambrose, the sons of democracy proved to be better soldiers than the...
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