We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.With these familiar words of the Declaration of Independence, the founders of America established social equality as a guiding principle.Yet for almost a century after the document was signed, slavery was common in much of the United States, and legal infringement of the rights of women and black Americans continued for almost two centuries.Today,the “Inalienable right” to “life,liberty,and pursuit of happiness” is still not equally awarded.For generations now there has been the American Dream of unlimited opportunities for all.The reality, however, has been closer to the underlying principle of the barnyard society in George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’: “All animals are equal,but some animals are more equal than others.” Therefore the essence of this paper is to critically discuss the extent to which social stratification is useful and inevitable in society.It will start off by providing definitions of technical terms.In order to arrive at a clear understanding of the subject under discussion,the concept of social stratification shall also be explained.In addition,the main systems involved in social stratification will be highlighted.Afterwards,the main subject matter will be discussed and in line with this,examples and theories that apply shall be given in support.Finally,a conclusion will be given.
According to Harris and Scott (1997),social status is the position or positions occupied by individuals or groups of individuals in relationship to other groups or individuals in society.Each person occupies a great number of statuses and at the same time are continually changing.For example,one person may occupy the status of a husband,father,skilled worker and so on.However,the bottom line is that status can either be ascribed or achieved.
Social mobility refers to the movement of individuals or groups from one status in society to another .Since there are several dimensions to social standing or status,people are able to change position by gaining or losing wealth,prestige and power.Upward mobility refers to movement up the social ladder,or a gain in status;downward movement refers to a movement down the social ladder,or a loss of status.Upward and downward mobility,collectively is what is called vertical mobility,an example of this type of mobility is an individual being promoted from a secretarial position to a management position,hence moves from the lower class to the middle class.Another is the horizontal mobility,this refers to movement within a social class.This happens when an individual moves from one job to another job of same social ranking,for example,an accountant moves from one firm to another.Individuals can also have a higher social status than their parents,this is referred to as intergenerational mobility (Coser 1983). Social stratification is a system by which society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy.The word stratification is derived from the word ‘stratum’ which is a geographical word meaning a layer of rocks of which each layer lies between similar layers of different texture.Sociologists use the term to describe a hierarchical ordering of people or groups as though were arranged in horizontal layers,one above the other.It means that people exist in layers of prestige,power and wealth.It is a structural ranking of people that perpetuate unequal economic rewards and power in society.Social inequality is an inevitable result of social stratification in that certain groups of people stand higher in society,control scarce resources,yield power and receive special treatment. Therefore,a stratified society comprises of members who are either rich, poor, powerful, powerless, high or low (Kerbo and Harold 1991).
Social stratification is universal except that it varies from society to society.This means that the hierarchical arrangement takes place in all societies in the world but the criteria used differs from society to...
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