Social Stratification

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Casey Rash, Austin Helms
November 11, 2010
SOC 100 General Sociology; 002
Essay Question: 3

The purpose of this paper will be to address what social stratification is, and why sociologists consider it crucial to our understanding of today’s society. In addition it will also be discussing the three dimensions of social stratification and how we think its changed since the 1970s and 80s to today, and which theory we think best explains this change. Along with how the inequality of valued resources impacts America as a whole, and how the recent financial meltdown has made stratification worse in America.

Stratification can be defined as a structured ranking of entire groups of people that perpetuates unequal economic rewards and power in a society. (Witt, 2010) In simpler terms, stratification is the social inequality in groups of people divided by wealth, power, and rewards in society. The upper class stereotypically receives rare resources, has more power, and receives special treatment. Social stratification consists of four different systems: slavery, caste, estate, and social class. Slavery is the most drastic form of social inequality, because people claim ownership to others and use them as tools or servants. This is easily the worst form of social inequality because individuals are stripped of their rights and treated like property being forced to do any type of labor in horrible living conditions. The second system of social inequality is the caste system, which is, based upon social ranks within a culture or religion, which is also hereditary. Caste is generally but not always religious separation associated with Hinduism. There’re five major castes within Hinduism, Priest (Brahman), Warriors (Kshatriya), Merchants (Vaishya), Austrians/Farmers (Sharuda), and finally the untouchables (Dalit). (Witt, 2010) Caste membership is assigned to you at birth and members are expected to marry within their own caste. The third system of social inequality is estate, which originated in medieval Europe where nobles owned the land and gave the peasants military protection. In return the peasants lived and worked on the land and gave the noble a share of their production. Like a caste you are born into your social rank either as a noble or peasant. Finally the last system of social inequality is social class. Social class is a free flowing spectrum where you can move from one end to another depending on ones wealth or net worth. Although you can change your social class it is still highly dependant upon basic factors such as race and family. Within the social class spectrum there is the upper class containing only 1-2% of the population, upper middle containing 15% of the population, lower middle containing 30-35% of the population, and the working class containing 30-35% of the population. Of all the social classes the working class has the highest chance for job loss because physical labor is progressively being taken over by machines and everything else is being imported from overseas. All of these systems of stratification contribute to the understanding of modern society because they explain the levels of social inequality all around the world. Each system has a way of showing how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Sociologist analyzes the unequal distribution of wealth and power within each social class.

The three measures of stratification in the us today are class, status, and party. Class is a group of people who share the same level of economic resources. Status is a group of people who have the same lifestyle. Party is the unified group effort aimed to accomplish a goal. The term class represents social status because everyone within the same class of a social status has a similar level of wealth and resources. Status group defines social status because everyone in the group has the same lifestyle such as living in the same type of neighborhood or wearing the same style of clothes. People of the same...
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