Social Stratification

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SOCIAL STRATIFICATION
Social stratification defines any structure of inequality that persists in a society across generations. Social strata are groups of people such as people who belong to the same social class or have the same education level. Social strata are organized in a vertical hierarchy. In early societies people shared a common social standing. In the hunting and gathering societies there was little stratification: men hunted for meat while women gathered edible plants. The general welfare of the society depended on the mutual sharing of goods between all members and no group emerged as better off than the others. Social inequality began with the emergence of horticultural and pastoral societies. For the first time people had reliable sources of food and the population increased. Not all members of the societies needed to be involved in the production of food and people were free to choose their occupation. In the agricultural societies that followed, the division of labor resulted in job specialization where people valued certain jobs more than others. The industrial revolution that started in the 18th century further differentiated people according to their wealth and occupation. Social stratification can be organized in terms of class, gender, race and ethnicity, age or disability. Social class is based on the economic differences between groups in terms of income and wealth, possession of material goods, occupation and status. This type of stratification is an open system. People are born in a certain class but can move up or down between the different social layers. This change of class is called social mobility. People in higher social classes have better access to health, better education, housing and work conditions. There are two main theories about the formation of classes and the class conflict, the Marxist and the functionalist. The Marxist theory was created in the early-to-mid 19th century by the German philosophers Karl Marx (1818 to...
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