Social Stratification A. Defining Social Stratification B. Dimensions of Social Inequality C. Types of Societies According to Stratification D. Racial & Ethnic Stratification E. Theories of StratificationBased on thorough reading of the chapter, students should be able to: ● Define social stratification ● Demonstrate knowledge of the concepts relating to the variation in degree of social inequality. ● Distinguish between egalitarian, rank, class, and caste societies. ● Discuss the emergence of stratification.SOCIAL STRATIFICATION ● layering of the nations, and of groups of people within a nation ● a system in which people are divided into layers according to their relative power, property and prestige ● a way of ranking large groups of people into a hierarchy according to their relative privileges ● Four Basic Principles ● It is a characteristic of society, not simply a reflection of individual differences. ● It persists over generations. ● It is universal but variable. ● It involves not just inequality but beliefs.Cultural beliefs serve to justify social stratification. That is part of the reason why it persists.Important: 1. Every society stratifies its members; some societies have greater inequality than others, but stratification is universal. 2. Gender is basis for stratification. On the basis of gender, people are either allowed or denied access to the good things offered by their society. ● In no society is gender the sole basis for stratifying people, but gender cuts across all systems of social stratification – whether slavery, caste, or class. In all these systems, on the basis of their gender, people are sorted into categories and given different access to the good things available in their society. ● These distinctions are always in favor of males. It is remarkable, for example, that in every society of the world, men’s earnings are higher than women’s. Men’s dominance is even more evident when we consider female circumcision. And, there are more females who are illiterates than males. (Henslin, James. Essentials of Sociology, 2004).
Virtually all societies have developed some degree of inequality among their people through theprocess of social stratification-the division of members of a society into strata (or levels) with unequalwealth, prestige or power. Differences lie in how societies treat the inequalities. Some may downplay themso they become transparent and insignificant (egalitarian societies) while others will accent inequalities(ranked and class-based societies). Three different types of societies can generally recognized: egalitariansocieties, ranked societies and class-based societies. ● Types Of societies According to Social Stratification1. EgalitarianEgalitarian societal members tend to treat each other as equals. Wealth differences are few as is theamount of power available to any individual or group. The people possess norms that emphasize sharingand ideals of interpersonal equality. This is not to say that stratification is non-existent in these societies.In comparison with nonegalitarian societies, however, stratification is relatively insignificant. Even whensomeone like a bigman is present, prestige is important and linked to redistribution. However, the bigmangives more than he receives as his role as a redistributor is defined. If he hordes or possesses too much,he will lose the recognition as a bigman. In effect, he is a member of society as an equal who has a definedrole that carries prestige but not wealth and recognition but not status. Foraging bands are the mostegalitarian societies. However, even in these societies, there are differences based on age and sometimesgender.Egalitarian societies then: ● have no individual or group has more access to resources, power or prestige than any other. ● have no fixed number for social positions for which individuals must compete. ● are associated with bands or tribes. The Penan of Serawak, Malaysia, are one of the few remaining nomadic peoples of the forest.2. RankIn ranked societies people are divided into hierarchically ordered groups that differ in terms of prestige,but not significantly in terms of access to resources or power. Within this context it is possible to identifypersons we can label as chiefs whose inherited position and prestige is often linked to the redistribution ofgoods.Rank societies, in sum, possess the following characteristics: ● Institutionalized differences in prestige but no restrictions on access to basic resources.
● Individuals obtain what they need to survive through their kinship group. ● Associated with horticultural or pastoral societies that have a surplus of food. ● Associated with chiefdoms.3. ClassIn class-based societies people are divided into hierarchically ordered groups that differ in terms of accessnot only to prestige, but also to resources and power. Western capitalist societies have distinct classes (e.g.upper class, middle class, poor), but mobility amongst the classes sometimes occurs through activities suchas education, marriage or hard work.The following features mark class societies: ● Formal and permanent, social and economic inequality. ● Some people are denied basic access to basic resources. ● Characterized by basic differences in standard of living, security, prestige and political power. ● Economically organized by market systems. ● Based on intensive agriculture and industrialism. ● Associated with form political organization called the state. ● Open Class SocietiesWe call class systems open if there is some possibility of moving from one class to another. A very goodexample would be our own society, wherein people, although categorized into low, middle or upper class,can move from one hierarchy into another. It is important to note however that class systems give theimpression of being “open,” but the positions open and how many are available arestill determined by social structure and not individual choice.There are a number of mechanisms that ensure class perpetuation. Class tends to perpetuate themselves,for instance, through inheritance. Education also makes it possible for the rich to have little contact withother classes, and vice-versa. People in the same class tend to live n the same neighborhood, attend thesame parties, or join the same clubs.Class systems: ● are much more open because it is based primarily on money or material possessions ● allow for change in one’s status in life depending on what one has achieved (or failed to achieve) in life ● have no laws specify people’s occupations on the basis of birth or prohibit marriage between classes ● allow for social mobility – movement up or down the class ladderThe potential for improving one’s life – or for falling down the class ladder- is a major force that drivespeople to go far in school and work hard. In the extreme, the family background that a child inherits at birthmay present such obstacles that he or she has little chance of climbing very far- or it may provide suchprivileges that it makes it almost impossible to fall down the class ladder. ● Closed Class Systems
Some societies have classes that are virtually closed, called castes. In caste systems, ● status is determined by birth and is lifelong; ● the basis of a caste system is ascribed status; ● they practice endogamy (marriage within their own group); ● members develop elaborate rules about ritual pollution teaching that contact with inferior castes contaminates the superior casteThe most commonly cited example of this system is India’s caste system. India’s Religious Caste: ● is based not on race but on religion ● are divided into four main castes but are further divided into thousands of subcastes or jati with each jati having an occupational specialty INDIA’S CASTE SYSTEM Brahmins -are very wise and understand the world interpret world for - others -preferred to be left alone to meditate and create art includes artist, philosophers, clergymen, and teachers Administrators and Leaders (Kshatriyas) -organize activities and guide others -need authority to lead others -usually has politicians, managers, and military men Producers (Vaishyas) -provide goods and services -must have tools and services to produces food, clothing, and shelter -this group would include farmers, merchants, craftsmen, and engineers Followers and Workers (Sudras) -perform simple jobs -unskilled workers -usually perform jobs that require physical activity Untouchables (Pariahs) -lowest caste -jobs no one else wants -considered unclean -forbidden to use wells, streets, schools, temples -forbidden to mix with other people
● SlaverySlaves are persons who do not own their labor, and as such represents a class. Slaves are often obtainedfrom other cultures directly: kidnapped, captured in war; or given as tribute. Or they may be obtainedindirectly as payment of a debt; as punishment for a crime; or even as a chosen alternative to poverty.Slavery is common in world history (the Old Testament lays out rules for how Israelites should treat theirslaves). It is least common among nomads, especially among hunters and gatherers, and most common inagricultural societies. There are terrible human rights abuses taking place in Sudan. In central Sudan live many southern people who have migrated north to escape the war. These people are being exploited by the Arabs and forced to work for little or no wages. There are also prisoners of war in the area (taken in fighting between the Baggara peoples and the Dinka).Conditions of Slavery: 1. In some cases, slavery was temporary. 2. Slavery was not necessarily inheritable. 3. Slaves were not necessarily powerless and poor. (Among the Nupe of Central Nigeria, male slaves were given the same opportunities to earn money as other dependent males in the household. A slave might be given a plot of his own to cultivate, or he might be given a commission if his master was a craftsman or a tradesman. Slaves could acquire property, wealth, and even slaves of their own. But all of a slave’s belongings went to the master at the slave’s death.) ● Determinants of Social ClassMain assumption: Social Class is made up of three components: property, power and prestige. ● Property (wealth) – some people do not own property but they control means of production such as managers of corporations ● Prestige (status) – people tend to look up to the wealthy, but those who have prestige, for instance Manny Pacquiao, are able to exchange their prestige for property. Property can bring prestige, prestige can also bring property.
● Power - (the ability to make others do what you want them to do even if they do not like it). Prestige can be turned to power as in the case of Erap Estrada (an actor-prestige) who became president of the country (power). (Although of course it could be argued that he lost both when he was impeached.)The Emergence of StratificationSocial stratification appears to have emerged relatively recently in human history, after 8,000 years ago.This conclusion is based on archaeological evidence and on the fact that certain cultural features associatedwith stratification developed recently, such as fixed settlements, political integration beyond the communitylevel, the use of money as a medium of exchange, and the presence of some full-time specialization. ● At least three theories attempt to explain the emergence of stratification: 1. Social stratification developed as productivity increased and surpluses were produced (Sahlins and Lenski). 2. Stratification can develop only when people have “investments” in land or technology therefore cannot move away from leaders they do not like. 3. Stratification emerges only when there is population pressure on resources in rank societies.