What is social stratification?
Sociologists use the term social stratification to refer a system by which
categories of people in a society are ranked in a hierarchy.
Stratification always involves social inequality and social ranking and thus
stresses the differences among people.
In theory, any number of differences among people, such as personality
characteristics, intelligence, height, hair color, skin color, or others maybe used
as a basis for ranking.
Though people are created equal, they are not treated equally.
Four Key Principles That Help Explain Social Stratification
Social stratification is a characteristic of society, not simply a function of
Although variable in form, social stratification is universal.
Social stratification persists over generations.
Social stratification is supported by patterns of belief.
Types of Stratification Systems
Sociologists distinguish among two major ideal types of stratification systems:
Open Class System
What Does This Means?
The caste system represents a closed system of stratification in the
sense that an individual’s rank or position within the society is fixed for life on the
basis of some ascribed or inherited characteristics.
Within this system, the individual is simply born into a particular level,
called caste, and remains in that caste for life.
The second major ideal type of stratification system is called the open
In this system, an individual’s class position within the society is
determined by his or her personal effort and ability rather than by factors relating
There is a great deal of social mobility, with people moving up and down
the class scale and everyone having an equal chance to attain social and
An open class society encourages competition among individuals and
rewards are based upon achievements rather than ascriptions.
Theories of stratification
A. Structural Functionalist theory.
The Davis Moore thesis which has become the definitive functionalist
explanation for social inequality can be summarized as follows:
All societies have important tasks that must be accomplished and certain
position that must be filled.
Some positions are more important for the survival of society than others.
The most important positions must be filled by the most qualified people.
The positions that are the most important for the society can be carried out
by people with scarce talents who have received long and expensive education
and training. Such functionally important positions also subject individuals to
considerable pressure and day to day responsibility, thus they must be the most
B. Conflict explanation of social stratification.
Conflict theory is based on the assumption that social stratification is
created and maintained by one group in order to protect and enhance its own
According to Karl Marx, classes arise out of the productive system of a
society. The relationships between the ruling classes and the ruled classes
would be marked by struggle and conflict over the unequal distribution of wealth
and power within the society.
Stratification exist only because the rich and powerful are determined to
hang on to more than their share of scarce resources.
Inequality results from the more powerful exploiting the less powerful.
Class conflict is the struggle between social classes for more equitable
distribution of wealth, power, and prestige. Demonstration, strikes, riots, revolts
and other forms of violence are indicators of class conflict.
• Is the movement within the stratification system of the society.
Types of Social Mobility
• Horizontal Mobility- An individual moves from one position to another of
equal income, status and power.
• Vertical Mobility- Movement up or down in the stratification hierarchy