Question: Critically Compare Marxism and Functionalism in the Way Each Perspective Conceptualizes the Phenomenon of Social Stratification.

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Social inequalities have existed in all societies from the simplest to the most complex. Power and prestige are unequally distributed between individuals and social groups within many societies, and there are great disparities in the distribution of wealth. Social stratification is a particular form of social inequality that has existed throughout history; for example, Egyptian society, Feudalism and Modern societies (today). There have been many theories put forward to explain how social stratification is determined and its effects on society. The following is a critical comparison of how the Marxism and Functionalism Perspective conceptualize the phenomenon of social stratification. Power refers to the degree to which individuals or groups can impose their will on others, with or without their consent. (Micheal Haralambos and Martin Holborn) Prestige relates to the amount of esteem or honour associated with social positions. Marxist believed that conflict was unavoidable and necessary; the driving force of social change and without it the society would stagnate. They put forward the view that member of the working class would develop class solidarity when members realize that only by collective action that ruling class would be overthrown, and that the proletariat would overthrow the capitalist and seize the source of power. They used the class struggle of history to establish their point. (Micheal Haralambos and Martin Holborn) Wealth refers to material possessions defined as valuable in particular societies.(Michael Haralambos and Martin Holborn) According to Micheal Haralambos and Martin Holborn Social stratification refers the presence of distinct social groups which are ranked one above the other in terms of prestige and wealth. Those who belong to a particular group or stratum will have some awareness of common interest or common identity. They will also share a similar lifestyle which, to some degree will distinguish them from members of other social strata. Anthony Giddens identifies three characteristics of socially stratified systems; 1.The rankings apply to social categories of people who share a common characteristic without necessarily interacting or identifying with each other; for example the wealthy may be ranked differently from the poor. 2.People’s life experiences and opportunities depend on the ranking of their social category; for example, being black or white makes a difference in term of your life chances which is often as big a difference as personal or good fortune. 3.The ranks of different social categories change slowly over time. In U.S. society; for example, only in the last quarter century have women begun to achieve equality with men. The functionalist theory of social stratification is based on a framework of larger theories that seek to explain the operations of society as a whole. A major assumption is society has basic needs or functional prerequisites that must be met in order for it to survive. Therefore functionalism looks at social stratification to identify how far it meets these functional prerequisites. Another assumption is that the parts of society form an integrated whole and they need to examine the ways that the social stratification system is integrated with other parts of society. They claim that order and stability are integral to the operations of social systems, and consider how the stratification systems help to maintain order and stability in society. Talcott Parsons claims that order, stability and cooperation in society are based on values and that social stratification systems are derived from the value system, since individuals are evaluated and then put into ranks. Those who perform well in terms of values are ranked highly and receive high rewards and prestige and stratification will inevitable result from the ranking of individuals using a value system. Parsons argument also underpins the general belief that stratification systems are just right and...
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