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Social Stratification

By kieran98 Feb 13, 2012 1170 Words
Social stratification is how individuals or groups of people are placed within society. They are placed within ‘layers’ or social strata’s in a hierarchy depending on their circumstances in life. It is a trait of society, not simply a reflection of individual differences. Individuals at the top of the hierarchy ‘the higher class’ have more advantages in life than those at the bottom of the hierarchy ‘the lower class’. The higher class have more opportunities to succeed in life, for example, due to wealth they may achieve academically, have better job prospects and have a more prosperous life than those in the lower class. Social stratification persists over generations. Each individual born into society is automatically allocated to a social strata. Their position is usually their parent’s position at that time. We are born with nothing therefore we ‘inherit’ what our parents have. Children are influenced by their family members. Every family within society and within each social strata have different ambitions, determinations and goals to succeed in life. A child will learn these through the accomplishments of their own parents. Although social stratification is universal it is also variable which means that all different countries have different forms of stratification but on which characteristic will vary between each country. In the United Kingdom it is very much a class system, whereas in some Indian countries they are stratified on their religion for example. Social stratification involves not just inequality but beliefs. Everybody within society has to believe the stratification to be fair; otherwise there would be a revolt. People placed at the top of the hierarchy have better life chances than those at the bottom of the hierarchy. Life chances include such things as conditions of work, health and housing. People at the top of the hierarchy may choose the area that they live in which will tend to have less crime, better schools and better living conditions. Whereas the people who are placed at the bottom of the hierarchy tend to live in council housing so they are more likely to be allocated the area they will live in. These areas may have higher crime, poorer schools and the house that they live in may be poor e.g. damp and overcrowded. Life expectancy in Glasgow is lower than people who live in Buckinghamshire, they live a decade longer, usually to the age of 78.4 years. This is because there is more council housing and a poorer standard of living in Glasgow than there is in Buckinghamshire. Formal indicators of class are measured in the U.K using the Registrar’s General Scale based on occupation, income and status. There are advantages of using this scale, e.g. it is easily applied across the whole of the country and it has recently been updated/revised. The disadvantages is that its categories are far too broad and do not take into account the differences in rank within one occupation. It’s more accurately a measure of social status than social class. Goldthorpe’s Class Scheme is another way of measuring social class. The advantages are that it recognises people who run their own business or are self employed. The disadvantages are that it doesn’t recognise people who are living off profits, e.g. stocks and shares. Both the Registrar’s General Scale and Golthorpe’s Class Scheme show occupation not class. Informal indicators of class are used by people when trying to assess an individual’s class e.g. the style and quality of a person’s clothing, the upper class will shop in the more expensive shops and wear the designer clothing, the restaurants they dine in, the type of car they drive, the area they live in or by the accent they have, as we often associate certain accents with a certain class. A Glaswegian accent is working class whereas a ‘posh’ English accent is higher class. There are problems with using the informal indicator as it can be wrong e.g. the lower class will be able to get good quality designer clothing at a reduced price from charity shops. Social mobility is how a group of people or an individual can move up or down the hierarchy depending on their circumstances changing i.e. if a person marries someone wealthy then they will move up, yet if they divorce they would me more likely to move down. They can also move up by intragenerational mobility – this could be when a person is employed as a cleaner but changes their occupation to a teacher. Intergenerational mobility - when a builder’s son becomes a doctor – comparing occupations of children with their parents. In the U.K there exists a meritocracy. This means that there is a chance that individuals are able to move up the hierarchy through social mobility. Inter class marriage and inter class socialisation exists where individuals can marry and socialise outside of their class and religion. In India they have limitation in their class system. Jobs are allocated to an individual. India believes that if you for fill your role within your class, when you die, you will be rewarded by being born into a higher class. India has a very strict class system – if a Brahmin is eating food and the shadow of a dalit (untouchable) passes over whilst eating, the food will be thrown out as it is thought to be contaminated and dirty. Within society that many theories that study social class. Two such theories are Marxism and Functionalism. Marxism consists of the bourgeoise (the upper class), and the protetrait (the lower class). There is no chance of social mobility within this class system, therefore if you are born into the lower class you are more likely to stay there. There is also an unequal distribution of wealth – the lower class work to earn the upper class their money/wages. Figures show that a small minority own a large majority of Britain’s wealth. Functionalism is a meritocracy. There is the ability to move up the hierarchy through social mobility. Individuals are given jobs that match their abilities. Rewards within a job are important because it motivates people – rewards are pay, status, position and power. Social stratification is a natural occurrence in everyday society. There are varying types of social stratification systems throughout the world. In the U.K, even though it is an open system and there is a chance of social mobility, you are always likely to stay in the same class you were born into i.e. the same class as your parents. In India they have a closed system, they too are born into a class which they will stay in for life, but there is no change of social mobility in their country. Each country had their own class scheme for measuring social class, e.g. the U.K uses the Registrar’s General Scale, but there will always be problems with using any class scheme – they show occupation – not class.

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