Social Science

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Social Sciences: A Foundation Course

Assignment 7

How do you understand the concepts of social stratification and social mobility? Critically examine whether Hong Kong is a highly stratified capitalist society that provides little opportunity for social mobility.

Answer :

Inequality exists in the human societies since the earliest times. It forms regular patterns within the society. The different levels which can be ranked in order from top to bottom are called Social Stratification. The movement of people between these social levels is called Social mobility. In this article, we are going to discuss about the concepts of social stratification and social mobility and examine whether Hong Kong provides little opportunity for social mobility.

Under sociology term, social inequalities are the skewed allocation of scarce resources and power in society that bring about an unequal distribution of status or prestige and often generate a feeling of superiority or inferiority among different people. They are not permanent and not wholly separate from one another but connected. Social stratification is the division of a population into inequalities layers of strata based on different dimensions like wealth, gender, income, power, status, ethnicity, age, religion etc. These layers can be ranked from top to bottom. It not only reflects the differences of individual, it is also a structural characteristic of society and a system of belief justifying its existence. It can persist over generations and is difficult to have any changes. It is universal and variable. The life experiences and opportunities of the people are depending heavily on the strata they or their social categories belong in society. The identity for people locating in the same social stratum is shared by social stratification engenders. The ease of social mobility varies in different stratification system is the indication for the openness of a society.

There are different systems of social stratification in different societies. Below are some examples.

Some pre-industrial societies are stratified by age sets. People move from one age set to the next one as they grow up. Different age sets are responsible for different tasks.

It is based upon the power relation of domination (master) and subordination (slaves) which is maintained by the constant use of physical violence and punishment for pre-industrial societies.

It is based on scribed statuses for pre-industrial societies. Different cultures have different meaning, rules and practices of the caste system. It can create extreme rigidity and non-openness.

It is a complex socio-economic and political entity that supplied and sustained an orderly chain of interlocking rights and obligations throughout society. The nobility, clergy and commons are the main groups. The social mobility was very limited but there still have little movement from generation to generation.

The terms of class is different from each country but it is mostly recognised the existence of an upper class, a middle class and a lower or working class. Class systems are fluid, large scale and impersonal. They are not established by political or religious authorities but they operate through large scale and impersonal associations. It is an expression of the difference of economic between categories of individuals.

Different sociological theorist has different interpretation of social stratification. In the followings, we will focus on three theories to explain social stratification.

Functionalist theory
This theory is based on the biological model of society. All functional roles in the society must be filled and the people who fill the role are trained and skillful. An important role is one on which other roles depend and the functions cannot be performed satisfactorily by other roles. As only few people can fulfil the special requirements for the roles, extra rewards...
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