Functionalism and Inequality

Topics: Sociology, Social status, Social stratification Pages: 2 (427 words) Published: June 9, 2011
Social inequality describes a condition in which members of a society have different amounts of wealth, prestige, or power. Some degree of social inequality is found in every society. When a system of social inequality is based on a hierarchy of groups, sociologists refer to it as stratification: a structured ranking of entire groups of people that perpetuates unequal economic rewards and power in a society. Ascribed status is a social position assigned to a person without regard for that person's characteristics, for example, being a Queen is an ascribed status, as is being a female. By contrast, achieved status is a social position attained by a person largely through his or her own effort. This can be positive or negative so a person can be an ex-prisoner or a judge. These are achieved statuses.

Functionalists claim that inequality and stratification is functional for society and a source of social order. They believe that inequality is both inevitable and functional.

Durkheim argued that class stratification existed because it was functional or beneficial to the social order. The key point of the theory is that Stratification is universal and necessary. This is argued because all society is stratified. Durkheim claimed that society needs to fill the most important and difficult jobs with the most talented and hardworking people. If people were all paid the same regardless of their work, they would take the easiest jobs and do as little training as possible. There would be no incentive to work hard and do difficult educational courses. Society ensures that the most pay and the best working conditions go to those who are prepared to put the time and effort into working hard for them. The high rewards act as motivation for the years of work and preparation required for the difficult and responsible careers that some people choose.

There have been many critics of the viewpoint, for example Kendall et al. point out that the functionalist approach...
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