«Social Stratification» - Free Essay Paper
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Social stratification is a term used to describe the categorization of people by the community according to different tiers. The latter are mainly based on socioeconomic factors such as wealth, income, and power. Other factors, namely education and race are also used in the categorization of the community. The distribution of resources in the society can hardly be considered equal. Therefore, some individuals are wealthier while others have less. The resources that one possesses determine his/her social class. In the social structure of stratification, those that have most resources belong to the top layer, often referred to as the upper class. The lower layers contain people who are poorer than the higher order and the resources of the lower classes reduce progressively. There are many factors that influence stratification, but only three are regarded primary ones. Thus, these are class, status, and power. The influence of the latter is hugely felt in the society. With respect to the class, a person can easily control something that he/she does not own. An individual with a high status can hold political authority despite having few material resources. On the other hand, people in power can promote social change even though they possess little property.
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Sociology deals with the study of the development of the human society, as well as its structure and functioning. Various kinds of inequality have always existed in the world. However, in stratification, sociology concentrates more on the larger social patterns. The society creates systematic inequalities on the foundation of the groups or classes that one belongs to. People may resent or favor social stratification, but the public establishes and supports it. Social stratification is essential in the governing of the society since it fosters the motivation to achieve more in order to raise their social standing, which in turn leads to the development of the community.
Social Stratification in the Society
The social stratification arises from the inequality in social status. Consequently, a person’s social stratum is determined by the degree of social inequity in the society. Additionally, the complexity of a society is directly proportional to the current social strata. Social stratification has four masked principles. Firstly, differentiation is a property of the society but not of the individuals present in the society. Secondly, it is reproduced from one generation to another. As a result, social stratification has been in existence over the years. Thirdly, it is found in every community but varies in each of them. Finally, social stratification encompasses both qualitative and quantitative beliefs as well as attitudes to the societal status.
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Social stratification may exist even in simple societies. However, the features of stratification are present in all complex societies. In such societies, the distribution of resources is not even, and hence privileged individuals or families tend to receive more. Among other values, the most disproportionally shared ones are power and income. The social structure initiates social-institutional processes that present some types of goods as more valuable and desirable than others. Therefore, such commodities are obtained by those who can afford them. The social structure also controls the distribution of products across various posts in the division of labor as well as the processes that put people in certain positions; consequently, the structures generate uneven control over valued resources (Thorat & Neuman, 2012). Stratification in the society can be classified into two types, namely open or closed. Open stratification systems are based on the achievements of an individual. Thus, such a system can accommodate change easily, and representatives of different classes can interact with each other. However, closed systems rarely adopt change. They do not permit shifting between classes, and interaction between different levels is restricted. Stratification can be systemized into the following systems of caste, class and meritocracy.
In the caste system, one’s social rank is permanent. It is a closed system. Therefore, one remains in the social class that he/she was born to for the rest of their lives. The given system disregards the potential, interest or talent that an individual may possess, and occupations are accorded depending on the social standing. Hence, the society does not give one a chance to improve the social position. For instance, people are expected to work and marry with the representatives of their class according to the Hindu caste tradition (Thorat & Neuman, 2012). Therefore, a person has to accept his/her social situation morally. Despite the official dismantlement of the system, residents of rural areas still preserve the tradition. As the nation develops, more job and investment opportunities are created. Nevertheless, talented individuals may fail to take the opportunity since the system may be deeply embedded in them (Appelbaum & Robinson, 2005). However, merit-based hiring weakens the system since people learn that their efforts will earn them better positions in the workplace.
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Individual achievements and social factors form the basis of the class system. People who have similar status with regard to occupation, income, wealth, and education belong to one class. In this system, the achievements of a person can raise him/her to the higher order. Thus, it is an open system. Children do not have to acquire the same education and employment levels as their parents. The family and the community guide one towards a line of work, but that is also dependent on the individual choice. Hence, a career is not fixed at birth as in the caste system (Alderson, Junisbai, & Heacock, 2007). Marriages in the class system are not limited to social standing and economics. Although there exists the social influence that encourages people to choose the spouse from the same class, love and compatibility play a huge role in finding a partner.
The given system is considered ideal; hence, it has never existed. Meritocracy dictates that merit or personal effort of an individual decides their social standing. As such, high social positions are the result of high levels of effort and vice versa. However, societies are complex, and when the realities of the economic systems are considered, social standing cannot be influenced by merit only; thus, it may be regarded an ideal system (Jackson, 2007). However, its aspects are seen in the modern societies where rewarding achievements in job performance and academics are based on this system.
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In most communities, gender is one of the most prevalent traits that are used to cause social variations between persons. The society has laid certain expectations in line with the sex and gender lines. The society accords men and women with different rights and privileges (Federici, 2004). With respect to the ownership and inheritance of property, patriarchal societies grant such privileges to males over females, while in matriarchal societies, women have the edge. Gender based division of labor is historical, and the advent of industrialization only facilitated the latter. Concerning jobs performed by both men and women, wage discrimination on the grounds of gender is rampant, since males are paid more for the same type of work (Robinson, 1996). As a result, there exists a gender based pay gap in the society. Consequently, gender affects the distribution of property, income, and wealth in the community.
Racial discrimination also forms a layer in the social strata. The society has developed beliefs, practices and political systems that tend to rank races on the superiority basis; hence, some races are perceived to be superior while others are regarded inferior (Robinson, 1996). In the society where racism is practiced, people with the undesirable racial traits are often underrepresented in the positions in power. They are considered the minority in the society and the majority are likely to impose discriminatory policies on them. Therefore, the minority groups are oppressed, excluded or expelled from the community. The slave status was given to the minority in the societies where they were not granted basic rights by the majority.
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Globalization has affected the pace of social change and has led to the rapid international integration. Advancement in communication systems and transportation has enhanced the interchange of ideas, worldviews and other aspects of culture (Hall, 1990). Consequently, interdependence between economic and cultural activities has increased. However, uneven distribution of resources is still present among nations. Even though all states are involved in the world economy, the unequal distribution of capital is evident among the three overarching classes, which results from the global division of labor. The divisions is as follows:
Core countries, which own and control major production in the world. Apart from offering international financial services, these nations also specialize in the higher-level production. The countries acquire wealth through capital and are termed as the bourgeoisie.
Periphery countries do not control or own very much of the proceedings. They provide non-skilled and low skilled labor to factories even to those that are found in their state. The core countries are responsible for the skilled labor in the manufacturing facilities in these nations. The latter produce the proletariat.
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Semi-Periphery countries are the ones whose economy is becoming diversified and is moving towards industrialization.
In this categorization, the core countries benefit the most since the greatest share of the surplus is given to the core countries. On the other hand, the peripheral countries receive the least. Additionally, the core countries are in a position to purchase raw products from the peripheral countries at a low cost (Marx & Engels, 2005). Nevertheless, they demand high prices from the non-core countries for the export of their products. The core countries produce their goods at low production costs because they can utilize the cheap non-skilled and semi-skilled labor (Robinson, 2011). Thus, many states have taken the necessary steps to ensure that there is equality in the distribution of resources but the gap between the poorest and the wealthiest is still huge.
Disadvantages of Social Stratification
Social stratification promotes the idea that some people are born superior or inferior to others. Morally, it is wrong to support such a conception. In the society where all its members are socially equal, everybody’s basic human rights will be respected; hence, any discrimination or mistreatment will be prevented. Societies would be better if their members had a shared value of general equal.
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For any community to develop, change is an integral attribute. However, typical stratified societies are often resistant to change. For instance, many communities believe that the elderly should not be questioned by the youth and that their decisions are always correct and should be adhered to. Therefore, in the eventuality that an elder is wrong, the young cannot disagree since that will be regarded disrespectful. Thus, the creativity of the junior is eroded because they are forced to believe everything they are told (Jackson, 2007). In a school setting, students are prohibited from initiating healthy debates, as they will seem rude to their teachers. As a result, they are unable to think outside the box, and consequently, their ability to be inventive and devise something innovative is derailed.
Advantages of Social Stratification
As much as every person deserves to be granted the basic human rights, the latter do not ensure social equality. Everyone should get an education. However, this does not mean that all people will attend the best schools. Hence, there will always exist those who will have the edge over others. In order to achieve social equality, this edge must be removed. Moreover, those who own property must surrender it, and concurrent privileges must be terminated. Only the poor will benefit, and they will also be less determined to attain more since even if they do they will remain at the same level (Jackson, 2007). The layers developed by stratification do not entirely mean that oppression is propagated. Superiority will always exist. For instance, being an expert in a certain field implies that one is technically superior to others in the field (Lenski, 1984). Hence, this differentiation can neither be avoided nor can it be deemed oppressive. In a system where superiority is not rewarded, development will stagnate, since people will lack the drive to progress personally.
Even though social equity may create a better society, social inequity does not certainly cause disruption. For example, star performers in a company are not necessarily disruptive. A shared value of equality is not as important as having an equal opportunity to prosper and be outstanding.
Social stratification has both sides. It is simultaneously advantageous and disadvantageous. Those in power are the ones who determine whether it is favorable to the community or not. Hence, the society should ensure that people in those positions serve without discriminating against those deemed inferior (Lenski, 1984). The success or failure of social stratification lies in the morality of the community members and their ability to admit that social standings do not explicitly define a person. Evidently, inequality is paramount in the smooth running of a society and cannot be avoided (Hall, 1993). Various positions in the society must be filled, and stratification is a tool that contributes to effective accomplishment of this task. Considering that the latter requires extensive expertise, stratification provides a basis for it with uneven distribution of compensations, with the most important positions being more rewarded and the least significant positions being less remunerated.
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In conclusion, social stratification has been present over the years and even though some people may argue that it should not exist in a society; its benefits are greater than shortcomings. It can be argued that this is the reason why it has never been disbanded in the community. The society continues to create and support stratification and passes it to the next generation. There is social injustice associated with the division into classes, in particular racism. However, being identified with a certain race is not wrong. The problem arises when those who feel superior start discriminating against the inferior. A society cannot exist without differences. The latter should only serve to unite people but not to separate them. Stratification solves two motivational issues in the society. It encourages individuals to work in order to gain certain positions and also drives holders of those positions to perform the assigned duties. Additionally, stratification rewards achievements that were the result of considerable sacrifice. Therefore, people at top positions assume the greatest role in the development of the community. Thus, the society is more likely to advance with the most trained and talented individuals in power as opposed to being led by incompetent leaders. Evidently, the importance of social stratification in the society cannot be understated.