Social Stratification

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Social Stratification: the systematic ranking/ hierarchy of social positions whose occupations are treated as superior, equal or inferior to one another.

Social Strata: groups of persons who occupy positions of same or similar rank.

Open system: a social system is „open‟ to outsiders if and insofar as its system of order does not deny participation to anyone who wishes to join and is actually in a position to do so.

Closed system: a social system will be closed to outsiders when its subjective meaning and binding rules prevents the participation of certain persons.

Social mobility: movement of an individual from one group to another in society. 

Horizontal: the movement from one social position to another on the same level. Eg. Changing from a Baptist to a Methodist. Vertical: mobility occurs when individuals move from one social stratum to another whether it be higher or lower than the previous. Eg. Moving from wealth to bankruptcy or from poverty to a Lotto winner.

Intergenerational mobility: changes in the social positions of children relative to their parents. a plumber whose father was a doctor shows downward intergenerational mobility. Intragenerational mobility: changes in social position within an individual‟s adult life. Someone who enters UWI as a graduate assistant and later becomes Dean of a Faculty shows upward intragenerational mobility.

Systems of Stratification

Estate system:
 

Closed system of stratification Social position defined by law and membership primarily determined by inheritance. Mobility was possible only when a higher position is purchased. Eg. Medieval Europe in the Middle Ages – nobility, clergy and peasants.

Caste system:

 

Closed system based on ascribed characteristics such as race/ethnicity, gender and skin colour. There is no possibility of mobility. Contact btw castes are minimal and governed by rules and laws. Interaction takes place along the lines of inequality. Eg. India. There are 4 varnas or castes and a group of outcasts known as untouchables. At the top were the Brahmins.

Class system:

A category of people who share similar opportunities, economic and vocational positions, similar lifestyles, attitudes and behaviour. A product of the Industrial Revolution and was first described by Marx in light of two categories: bourgeoisie and proletariat. Though the system is the most open, there are some restrictions that hinder mobility between classes. Eg. Education.

Theories of Social Stratification

Stratification is the ranking of units of a social system in accordance with the existing value system. Just as value consensus is necessary in society, so too is social stratification. An individual‟s rank in society is perceived as the reward (punishment) for the level of work done.

Parsons acknowledges conflict btw the haves and the have-nots. “there will be certain tendencies to arrogance on the part of some winners and to resentment and to a „sour grapes‟ attitude on the part of some losers‟.

Conflict is kept in line by the value system.

Stratification functions to unify or integrate various groups in society. Power and prestige differentials function to coordinate individuals within a specialized division of labour. It also furthers the strive towards collective goals.

Kingsley Davis and Wilbert Moore:

Stratification is an essential element of every society. Society is based on a set of functional prerequisites which must be met in order for society to survive. One such prerequisite is effective role allocation and performance. Stratification ensures this by maintaining that all roles within society are filled by persons who are adequately trained and best suited for them.

Just as persons differ...
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