social stratification
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Social stratification refers to a society's
categorization Categorization is the ability and activity to recognize shared features or similarities between the elements of the experience of the world (such as Object (philosophy), objects, events, or ideas), organizing and classifying experience by asso ...
of its
people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness or self-consciousness, and being a part of a culturally established form of ...

people
into groups based on
socioeconomic Socioeconomics (also known as social economics) is the social science that studies how economic activity affects and is shaped by social processes. In general it analyzes how modern society, societies social progress, progress, economic stagnation ...
factors like
wealth Wealth is the abundance of Value (economics), valuable financial assets or property, physical possessions which can be converted into a form that can be used for financial transaction, transactions. This includes the core meaning as held in the o ...

wealth
,
income Income is the consumption and saving opportunity gained by an entity within a specified timeframe, which is generally expressed in monetary terms.Smith's financial dictionary. Smith, Howard Irving. 1908. Income is defined as, "Revenue; the amount o ...
, race,
education Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, value (ethics), values, morals, beliefs, habits, and personal development. Educational methods include teaching, training, storytelling, discussion a ...
,
ethnicity An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identity (social science), identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups. Those attributes can include common sets of traditions, ancest ...

ethnicity
,
gender Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between femininity Femininity (also called womanliness or girlishness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women and girls. Althoug ...

gender
,
occupation Occupation commonly refers to: *Occupation or job, one's role in society, often a regular activity performed for payment *Occupation (protest) As an act of protest, occupation is a strategy often used by social movements and other forms of collec ...

occupation
,
social status Social status is the level of social value a person is considered to hold. More specifically, it refers to the relative level of respect, honor, assumed competence, and deference accorded to people, groups, and organizations in a society ...
, or derived
power Power typically refers to: * Power (physics) In physics, power is the amount of energy transferred or converted per unit time. In the International System of Units, the unit of power is the watt, equal to one joule per second. In older works, p ...
(social and political). As such, stratification is the relative social position of persons within a social group, category, geographic region, or
social unitThe term "level of analysis" is used in the social sciences to point to the location, size, or scale of a research target. "Level of analysis" is distinct from the term " unit of observation" in that the former refers to a more or less integrated ...
. In modern
Western societies The Western world, also known as the West, refers to various regions, nation A nation is a community of people formed on the basis of a common language, history, ethnicity, or a common culture, and, in many cases, a shared territory. ...

Western societies
, social stratification is typically defined in terms of three
social class A social class is a set of concepts in the social sciences and political theory Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, genera ...
es: the
upper class Upper class in modern societies is the social class A social class is a set of concepts in the social sciences and political theory Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government A government is the system or gr ...
, the
middle class The middle class is a Social class, class of people in the middle of a social hierarchy. Its usage has often been vague whether defined in terms of job, occupation, income, education or social status. The definition by any author is often chosen f ...
, and the lower class; in turn, each class can be subdivided into the upper-stratum, the middle-stratum, and the lower stratum. Moreover, a social stratum can be formed upon the bases of
kinship In anthropology, kinship is the web of social relationships that form an important part of the lives of all humans in all societies, although its exact meanings even within this discipline are often debated. Anthropologist Robin Fox states th ...

kinship
,
clan A clan is a group of people united by actual or perceived kinship In anthropology, kinship is the web of social relationships that form an important part of the lives of all humans in all societies, although its exact meanings even withi ...
,
tribe The term tribe is used in many different contexts to refer to a category of human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, and intellig ...

tribe
, or
caste Caste is a form of social stratification characterized by endogamy, hereditary transmission of a style of life which often includes an occupation, ritual status in a hierarchy, and customary social interaction and exclusion based on cultural ...
, or all four. The categorization of people by social stratum occurs most clearly in complex state-based,
polycentric Polycentric is an English adjective, meaning "having more than one center," derived from the Greek words ''polús'' ("many") and ''kentrikós'' ("center"). Polycentricism (or polycentricity) is the abstract noun formed from polycentric. They may re ...
, or
feudal Feudalism, also known as the feudal system, was a combination of the legal, economic, military, and cultural customs that flourished in Medieval Europe between the 9th and 15th centuries. Broadly defined, it was a way of structuring society arou ...
societies, the latter being based upon socio-economic relations among classes of
nobility Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately below Royal family, royalty and found in some societies that have a formal aristocracy (class), aristocracy. Nobility has often been an Estates of the realm, estate of the realm that p ...
and classes of
peasant A peasant is a pre-industrial farmhand, agricultural laborer or a farmer with limited land-ownership, especially one living in the Middle Ages under feudalism and tenant farmer, paying rent, tax, fees, or services to a landlord. In Europe, thre ...
s. Historically, whether or not
hunter-gatherer A hunter-gatherer is a human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, and intelligence allowing the use of culture, language and tools. T ...
,
tribal The term tribe is used in many different contexts to refer to a category of human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, and intellig ...

tribal
, and
band Band or BAND may refer to: Places *Bánd, a village in Hungary *Band, Iran, a village in Urmia County, West Azerbaijan Province, Iran *Band, Mureș, a commune in Romania *Band-e Majid Khan, a village in Bukan County, West Azerbaijan Province, Ira ...
societies can be defined as socially stratified, or if social stratification otherwise began with
agriculture Agriculture is the science, art and practice of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentism, sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domestication, domesticated species created food ...
and large-scale means of
social exchange Social exchange theory is a sociological Sociology is the study of society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or ...
, remains a debated matter in the
social sciences Social science is the branch Image:Tree Leaves.JPG, The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany as a ramus) is a woody structural member connected to but not part of the central tru ...

social sciences
. Determining the structures of social stratification arises from inequalities of status among persons, therefore, the degree of
social inequality File:Global Wealth Distribution 2020 (Property).svg, 255px, Global share of wealth by wealth group, Credit Suisse, 2021 Social inequality occurs when resources in a given society are distributed unevenly, typically through Norm (social), norms ...
determines a person's social stratum. Generally, the greater the
social complexityIn sociology, social complexity is a conceptual framework used in the analysis of society. Contemporary definitions of complexity in the sciences are found in relation to systems theory, in which a phenomenon under study has many parts and many possi ...
of a society, the more social stratification exists, by way of social differentiation.


Overview


Definition and usage

Social stratification is a term used in the social sciences to describe the relative social position of persons in a given
social group In the social sciences, a social group can be defined as two or more people who interact with one another, share similar characteristics, and collectively have a sense of unity. Regardless, social groups come in a myriad of sizes and varieties. ...
,
category Category, plural categories, may refer to: Philosophy and general uses *Categorization, categories in cognitive science, information science and generally * Category of being * ''Categories'' (Aristotle) *Category (Kant) *Categories (Peirce) *C ...
, geographical region or other
social unitThe term "level of analysis" is used in the social sciences to point to the location, size, or scale of a research target. "Level of analysis" is distinct from the term " unit of observation" in that the former refers to a more or less integrated ...
. It derives from the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the ...

Latin
''strātum'' (plural '; parallel, horizontal layers) referring to a given society's categorization of its people into rankings of
socioeconomic Socioeconomics (also known as social economics) is the social science that studies how economic activity affects and is shaped by social processes. In general it analyzes how modern society, societies social progress, progress, economic stagnation ...
tiers based on factors like
wealth Wealth is the abundance of Value (economics), valuable financial assets or property, physical possessions which can be converted into a form that can be used for financial transaction, transactions. This includes the core meaning as held in the o ...

wealth
,
income Income is the consumption and saving opportunity gained by an entity within a specified timeframe, which is generally expressed in monetary terms.Smith's financial dictionary. Smith, Howard Irving. 1908. Income is defined as, "Revenue; the amount o ...
,
social status Social status is the level of social value a person is considered to hold. More specifically, it refers to the relative level of respect, honor, assumed competence, and deference accorded to people, groups, and organizations in a society ...
,
occupation Occupation commonly refers to: *Occupation or job, one's role in society, often a regular activity performed for payment *Occupation (protest) As an act of protest, occupation is a strategy often used by social movements and other forms of collec ...

occupation
and
power Power typically refers to: * Power (physics) In physics, power is the amount of energy transferred or converted per unit time. In the International System of Units, the unit of power is the watt, equal to one joule per second. In older works, p ...
. In modern
Western societies The Western world, also known as the West, refers to various regions, nation A nation is a community of people formed on the basis of a common language, history, ethnicity, or a common culture, and, in many cases, a shared territory. ...
, stratification is often broadly classified into three major divisions of
social class A social class is a set of concepts in the social sciences and political theory Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, genera ...
:
upper class Upper class in modern societies is the social class A social class is a set of concepts in the social sciences and political theory Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government A government is the system or gr ...
,
middle class The middle class is a Social class, class of people in the middle of a social hierarchy. Its usage has often been vague whether defined in terms of job, occupation, income, education or social status. The definition by any author is often chosen f ...
, and lower class. Each of these classes can be further subdivided into smaller classes (e.g. "upper middle"). Social may also be delineated on the basis of or
caste Caste is a form of social stratification characterized by endogamy, hereditary transmission of a style of life which often includes an occupation, ritual status in a hierarchy, and customary social interaction and exclusion based on cultural ...
relations. The concept of social stratification is often used and interpreted differently within specific theories. In
sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly ...
, for example, proponents of action theory have suggested that social stratification is commonly found in
developed Development or developing may refer to: Arts *Development hell, when a project is stuck in development *Filmmaking#Development, Filmmaking, development phase, including finance and budgeting *Development (music), the process thematic material i ...
societies, wherein a
dominance hierarchy Dominance may refer to: Social relationships * Dominance hierarchy or social hierarchy, an organizational form by which individuals within a community control the distribution of resources within the community * Expressions of dominance in human r ...
may be necessary in order to maintain
social order The term social order can be used in two senses: In the first sense, it refers to a particular system of social structures and institution Institutions, according to Samuel P. Huntington, are "stable, valued, recurring patterns of behavior". ...
and provide a stable
social structure In the social sciences, social structure is the patterned social arrangements in society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same ...
.
Conflict theories Conflict theories are perspectives in sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture that surrounds everyday life. It is a social science that uses variou ...
, such as
Marxism Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a Economic materialism, materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical materialism, to understand Social class, class relations and social conflict as well ...
, point to the inaccessibility of resources and lack of
social mobility Social mobility is the movement of individuals, families, households, or other categories of people within or between Social stratification, social strata in a society. It is a change in social status relative to one's current social location ...
found in stratified societies. Many sociological theorists have criticized the fact that the working classes are often unlikely to advance socioeconomically while the
wealthy Wealth is the abundance of valuable financial asset A financial asset is a non-physical asset In financial accountancy, financial accounting, an asset is any resource owned or controlled by a business or an economic entity. It is anything ( ...
tend to hold political power which they use to exploit the
proletariat The proletariat (; ) is the social class A social class is a set of concepts in the social sciences and political theory Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government A government is the system or group of pe ...

proletariat
(laboring class).
Talcott Parsons Talcott Parsons (13 December 1902 – 8 May 1979) was an American sociologist of the classical tradition The Western classical tradition is the reception of classical Greco-Roman antiquity by later cultures, especially the post-classical West, ...

Talcott Parsons
, an American sociologist, asserted that stability and social order are regulated, in part, by
universal valueA value is a universal value if it has the same value or worth for all, or almost all, people. Spheres of human value encompass morality Morality (from ) is the differentiation of intentions, decisions and Social actions, actions between those ...
s. Such values are not identical with "consensus" but can indeed be an impetus for social conflict, as has been the case multiple times through history. Parsons never claimed that universal values, in and by themselves, "satisfied" the functional prerequisites of a society. Indeed, the constitution of society represents a much more complicated codification of emerging historical factors. Theorists such as
Ralf Dahrendorf Ralf Gustav Dahrendorf, Baron Dahrendorf, (1 May 1929 – 17 June 2009) was a German-British sociologist, philosopher, political scientist and liberal politician. A class conflict theorist, Dahrendorf was a leading expert on explaining and a ...

Ralf Dahrendorf
alternately note the tendency toward an enlarged middle-class in modern Western societies due to the necessity of an educated workforce in technological economies. Various social and political perspectives concerning
globalization Globalization, or globalisation (English in the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth English; American and British English spelling differences#-ise, -ize (-isation, -ization), see spelling differences), is the process of foreign relations ...

globalization
, such as
dependency theory Dependency theory is of the notion that resources flow from a "periphery Periphery or Peripheral may refer to: *Periphery (band), American progressive metal band *Periphery (album), ''Periphery'' (album), released in 2010 by Periphery *Periphery ...

dependency theory
, suggest that these effects are due to changes in the status of workers to the
third world The term "Third World" arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned with either NATO or the Warsaw Pact. The United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Western European nations and their allies represented the "First Wor ...
.


Four underlying principles

Four principles are posited to underlie social stratification. First, social stratification is socially defined as a property of a society rather than individuals in that society. Second, social stratification is reproduced from generation to generation. Third, social stratification is universal (found in every society) but variable (differs across time and place). Fourth, social stratification involves not just quantitative
inequality Inequality may refer to: Economics * Attention inequality Attention inequality is a term used to target the inequality of distribution of attention across users on social networks, people in general, and for scientific papers. Yun Family Foundat ...
but qualitative beliefs and attitudes about social status.


Complexity

Although stratification is not limited to complex societies, all complex societies exhibit features of stratification. In any complex society, the total stock of valued goods is distributed unequally, wherein the most privileged individuals and families enjoy a disproportionate share of
income Income is the consumption and saving opportunity gained by an entity within a specified timeframe, which is generally expressed in monetary terms.Smith's financial dictionary. Smith, Howard Irving. 1908. Income is defined as, "Revenue; the amount o ...
,
power Power typically refers to: * Power (physics) In physics, power is the amount of energy transferred or converted per unit time. In the International System of Units, the unit of power is the watt, equal to one joule per second. In older works, p ...
, and other valued social resources. The term "stratification system" is sometimes used to refer to the complex
social relationship In social science, a social relation or social interaction is any relationship between two or more individuals. Social relations derived from agency (sociology), individual agency form the basis of social structure and the basic object for analys ...
s and
social structure In the social sciences, social structure is the patterned social arrangements in society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same ...
s that generate these observed inequalities. The key components of such systems are: (a) social-institutional processes that define certain types of goods as valuable and desirable, (b) the
rules Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Power (social and po ...
of allocation that distribute goods and resources across various positions in the
division of labor The division of labour is the separation of tasks in any economic system or organisation An organization, or organisation ( Commonwealth English; see spelling differences), is an entity – such as a company A company, abbreviated a ...
(e.g., physician, farmer, ‘housewife’), and (c) the
social mobility Social mobility is the movement of individuals, families, households, or other categories of people within or between Social stratification, social strata in a society. It is a change in social status relative to one's current social location ...
processes that link individuals to positions and thereby generate unequal control over valued resources.


Social mobility

Social mobility is the movement of individuals, social groups or categories of people between the layers or within a stratification system. This movement can be intragenerational or intergenerational. Such mobility is sometimes used to classify different systems of social stratification.
Open Open or OPEN may refer to: Music * Open (band) Open is a band. Background Drummer Pete Neville has been involved in the Sydney/Australian music scene for a number of years. He has recently completed a Masters in screen music at the Australian ...
stratification systems are those that allow for mobility between, typically by placing value on the
achieved status Achieved status is a concept developed by the anthropologist Ralph Linton Ralph Linton (27 February 1893 – 24 December 1953) was a respected American anthropologistAn anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology. Anthro ...
characteristics of individuals. Those societies having the highest levels of intragenerational mobility are considered to be the most open and malleable systems of stratification. Those systems in which there is little to no mobility, even on an intergenerational basis, are considered closed stratification systems. For example, in caste systems, all aspects of social status are ascribed, such that one's social position at birth persists throughout one's lifetime.


Karl Marx

In Marxist theory, the modern
mode of production In the writings of Karl Marx Karl Heinrich Marx (; 5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary. Born in Trier, German Confederation, ...
consists of two main economic parts: the base and the superstructure. The base encompasses the
relations of production Relations of production (german: Produktionsverhältnisse, links=no) is a concept frequently used by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their theory of historical materialism and in '' Das Kapital''. It is first explicitly used in Marx's publi ...
: employer–employee work conditions, the technical
division of labour The division of labour is the separation of tasks in any economic system An economic system, or economic order, is a system of Production (economics), production, allocation of resources, resource allocation and Distribution (economics), distri ...
, and property relations. Social class, according to
Marx Karl Heinrich Marx (; 5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=philosophos, meaning 'lover of wis ...

Marx
, is determined by one's relationship to the means of production. There exist at least two classes in any class-based society: the owners of the means of production and those who sell their labor to the owners of the means of production. At times, Marx almost hints that the ruling classes seem to own the working class itself as they only have their own
labor power Labour or labor may refer to: * Childbirth Childbirth, also known as labour or delivery, is the ending of pregnancy where one or more babies leaves the uterus by passing through the vagina or by Caesarean section. In 2015, there were about 13 ...
('
wage labor A wage is the distribution from an employer Employment is a relationship between two parties, usually based on contract A contract is a legally binding document between at least two parties that defines and governs the rights and duties ...
') to offer the more powerful in order to survive. These relations fundamentally determine the ideas and philosophies of a society and additional classes may form as part of the superstructure. Through the ideology of the ruling class—throughout much of history, the land-owning
aristocracy Aristocracy ( grc-gre, ἀριστοκρατία , from 'excellent', and , 'rule') is a form of government that places strength in the hands of a small, privileged ruling class, the aristocracy (class), aristocrats. The term derives from the G ...
false consciousness False consciousness is a term used by some to describe ways in which material, ideological An ideology () is a set of belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world ...
is promoted both through political and non-political institutions but also through the
arts The arts refers to the theory, human application and physical expression of creativity Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something somehow new and somehow valuable is formed. The created item may be intangible (such as an idea, a scienti ...

arts
and other elements of
culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and Norm (social), norms found in human Society, societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, Social norm, customs, capabilities, and habits of the individuals in ...

culture
. When the aristocracy falls, the
bourgeoisie Bourgeoisie (; ) is a polysemous Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple meanings, usually related by contiguity of meaning within a semantic fieldIn linguisti ...

bourgeoisie
become the owners of the means of production in the capitalist system. Marx predicted the
capitalist Capitalism is an economic system An economic system, or economic order, is a system of Production (economics), production, allocation of resources, resource allocation and Distribution (economics), distribution of goods and services within ...
mode would eventually give way, through its own internal conflict, to revolutionary consciousness and the development of more egalitarian, more
communist Communism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the ...

communist
societies. Marx also described two other classes, the petite
bourgeoisie Bourgeoisie (; ) is a polysemous Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple meanings, usually related by contiguity of meaning within a semantic fieldIn linguisti ...

bourgeoisie
and the
lumpenproletariat ''Lumpenproletariat'' () refers – primarily in Marxist theory – to the underclass devoid of class consciousness. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels coined the word in the 1840s and used it to refer to the unthinking lower strata of society exp ...
. The petite bourgeoisie is like a small business class that never really accumulates enough profit to become part of the bourgeoisie, or even challenge their status. The lumpenproletariat is the
underclass The underclass is the segment of the population that occupies the lowest possible position in a class hierarchy, below the core body of the working class. The general idea that a class system includes a population ''under'' the working class has ...
, those with little to no social status. This includes prostitutes, beggars, the
homeless Homelessness is lacking stable and appropriate housing. People can be categorized as homeless if they are: living on the streets (primary homelessness); moving between temporary shelters, including houses of friends, family and emergency accomm ...

homeless
or other untouchables in a given society. Neither of these subclasses has much influence in Marx's two major classes, but it is helpful to know that Marx did recognize differences within the classes. According to
Marvin Harris Marvin Harris (August 18, 1927 – October 25, 2001) was an American anthropologistAn anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology. Anthropology is the study of aspects of humans within past and present Society, societies. ...
and ,Ingold, Tim (2006) "On the social relations of the hunter-gatherer band," in Richard B. Lee and Richard H. Daly (eds.), ''The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Hunters and Gatherers,'' p. 400. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Lewis Henry Morgan Lewis Henry Morgan (November 21, 1818 – December 17, 1881) was a pioneering American anthropologist and social theorist who worked as a railroad lawyer. He is best known for his work on kinship and social structure, his theories of social evolu ...
's accounts of egalitarian hunter-gatherers formed part of Karl Marx' and
Friedrich Engels Friedrich Engels ( ,"Engels"
''
' inspiration for
communism Communism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the ...

communism
. Morgan spoke of a situation in which people living in the same community pooled their efforts and shared the rewards of those efforts fairly equally. He called this "communism in living." But when Marx expanded on these ideas, he still emphasized an economically oriented culture, with
property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themselves. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner of property may have the right to Consumable, consume, alter, ...
defining the fundamental relationships between people. Yet, issues of
ownership Ownership is the state or fact of exclusive rights and control over property, which may be any asset, including an object, land or real estate, intellectual property, or until the Nineteenth Century, nineteenth century, slaves, human beings. Owner ...
and property are arguably less emphasized in hunter-gatherer societies. This, combined with the very different social and economic situations of hunter-gatherers may account for many of the difficulties encountered when implementing communism in industrialized states. As Ingold points out: "The notion of communism, removed from the context of domesticity and harnessed to support a project of social engineering for large-scale, industrialized states with populations of millions, eventually came to mean something quite different from what Morgan had intended: namely, a principle of redistribution that would override all ties of a personal or familial nature, and cancel out their effects." The counter-argument to Marxist's conflict theory is the theory of structural functionalism, argued by
Kingsley Davis Kingsley Davis (August 20, 1908 – February 27, 1997) was an internationally recognized American sociologist and demographer. He was identified by the American Philosophical Society The American Philosophical Society (APS), founded in 1743 ...
and Wilbert Moore, which states that social inequality places a vital role in the smooth operation of a society. The Davis–Moore hypothesis argues that a position does not bring power and prestige because it draws a high income; rather, it draws a high income because it is functionally important and the available personnel is for one reason or another scarce. Most high-income jobs are difficult and require a high level of education to perform, and their compensation is a motivator in society for people to strive to achieve more.


Max Weber

Max Weber Maximilian Karl Emil Weber (; ; 21 April 186414 June 1920) was a German sociologist, historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian is a pe ...

Max Weber
was strongly influenced by Marx's ideas but rejected the possibility of effective communism, arguing that it would require an even greater level of detrimental social control and bureaucratization than capitalist society. Moreover, Weber criticized the
dialectical Dialectic or dialectics ( grc-gre, διαλεκτική, ''dialektikḗ''; related to dialogue; german: Dialektik), also known as the dialectical method, is at base a discourse Discourse is a generalization of the notion of a conversation to a ...
presumption of a proletariat revolt, maintaining it to be unlikely. Instead, he develops a
three-component theory of stratification The three-component theory of stratification, More widely known as Weberian stratification or the three class system, was developed by German sociologist Max Weber Maximilian Karl Emil Weber (; ; 21 April 186414 June 1920) was a German Sociol ...
and the concept of
life chancesLife chances (''Lebenschancen'' in German) is a social science theory of the opportunities each individual that has helped to improve their quality of life. The concept was introduced by German sociologist Max Weber in the 1920s. It is a probabili ...
. Weber held there are more class divisions than Marx suggested, taking different concepts from both functionalist and
Marxist Marxism is a method of socioeconomic Socioeconomics (also known as social economics) is the social science that studies how economic activity affects and is shaped by social processes. In general it analyzes how modern societies progress, ...
theories to create his own system. He emphasizes the difference between class, status and power, and treats these as separate but related sources of power, each with different effects on
social action In sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The te ...
. Working half a century later than Marx, Weber claims there to be four main social classes: the
upper class Upper class in modern societies is the social class A social class is a set of concepts in the social sciences and political theory Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government A government is the system or gr ...
, the
white collar workers The middle class is a Social class, class of people in the middle of a social hierarchy. Its usage has often been vague whether defined in terms of job, occupation, income, education or social status. The definition by any author is often chosen f ...
, the
petite bourgeoisie ''Petite bourgeoisie'' (, literally small bourgeoisie), also ''petty bourgeoisie'', is a French term (sometimes derogatory) referring to a social class A social class is a set of concepts in the social sciences and political theory Polit ...
, and the manual
working class The working class (or labouring class) comprises those engaged in manual-labour occupations or industrial work, who are remunerated via waged or salaried contracts. Working-class occupations (see also "Designation of workers by collar colorCo ...
. Weber's theory more-closely resembles contemporary
Western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town in the US *Western Creek, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western Junction, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western world, countries that ide ...
class structures, although economic status does not currently seem to depend strictly on earnings in the way Weber envisioned. Weber derives many of his key concepts on social stratification by examining the social structure of
Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , languages_type = Official language , languages = German language, German , demonym = Germans, German , government_ ...

Germany
. He notes that, contrary to Marx's theories, stratification is based on more than simple ownership of
capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowercase (or more formally ''minusc ...
. Weber examines how many members of the aristocracy lacked economic wealth yet had strong political power. Many wealthy families lacked prestige and power, for example, because they were
Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and nation originating from the Israelites Israelite origins and kingdom: "The first act in the long drama of Jewish history is t ...

Jewish
. Weber introduced three independent factors that form his theory of stratification hierarchy, which are; class, status, and power: * Class: A person's economic position in a society, based on birth and individual achievement. Weber differs from Marx in that he does not see this as the supreme factor in stratification. Weber notes how corporate executives control firms they typically do not own; Marx would have placed these people in the
proletariat The proletariat (; ) is the social class A social class is a set of concepts in the social sciences and political theory Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government A government is the system or group of pe ...

proletariat
despite their high incomes by virtue of the fact they sell their labor instead of owning capital. * Status: A person's prestige, social honor, or popularity in a society. Weber notes that political power is not rooted in capital value solely, but also in one's individual status. Poets or saints, for example, can have extensive influence on society despite few material resources. * Power: A person's ability to get their way despite the resistance of others, particularly in their ability to engage social change. For example, individuals in government jobs, such as an employee of the
Federal Bureau of Investigation The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the domestic Intelligence agency, intelligence and Security agency, security service of the United States and its principal Federal law enforcement in the United States, federal law enforcement agen ...

Federal Bureau of Investigation
, or a member of the
United States Congress The United States Congress is the legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereign state, country or city. They are often contrasted with ...

United States Congress
, may hold little property or status but still wield considerable
social power Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the exchange is voluntary/involuntary. Etymology The word "Social" derives fr ...
.


C. Wright Mills

, drawing from the theories of
Vilfredo Pareto Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto ( , , , ; born Wilfried Fritz Pareto; 15 July 1848 – 19 August 1923) was an Italian civil engineer A civil engineer is a person who practices civil engineering Civil engineering is a Regulation and licensur ...

Vilfredo Pareto
and
Gaetano Mosca Gaetano Mosca (; 1 April 1858 – 8 November 1941) was an Italian political scientist, journalist A journalist is an individual trained to collect/gather information in form of text, audio or pictures, processes them to a news-worth form and d ...
, contends that the imbalance of power in society derives from the complete absence of countervailing powers against corporate leaders of the
power elite ''The Power Elite'' is a 1956 book by sociologist C. Wright Mills, in which Mills calls attention to the interwoven interests of the leaders of the military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly ...
. Mills both incorporated and revised
Marxist Marxism is a method of socioeconomic Socioeconomics (also known as social economics) is the social science that studies how economic activity affects and is shaped by social processes. In general it analyzes how modern societies progress, ...
ideas. While he shared recognition of a dominant wealthy and powerful class,
Mills Mills is the plural form of mill (disambiguation), mill, but may also refer to: As a name *Mills (surname), a common family name of English or Gaelic origin *Mills (given name) *Mills, a fictional British secret agent in a trilogy by writer Manning ...

Mills
believed that the source for that power lay not only in the economic realm but also in the political and military arenas. During the 1950s, Mills stated that hardly anyone knew about the power elite's existence, some individuals (including the elite themselves) denied the idea of such a group, and other people vaguely believed that a small formation of a powerful elite existed. "Some prominent individuals knew that
Congress A congress is a formal meeting of the representatives of different countries, constituent state A constituent state is a state (polity), state entity that constitutes a administrative division, part of a sovereign state. A constituent state h ...
had permitted a handful of political leaders to make critical decisions about peace and war; and that two
atomic bomb A nuclear weapon (also known as an atom bomb, atomic bomb, nuclear bomb or nuclear warhead, and colloquially as an A-bomb or nuke) is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reaction In nuclear physics and nucl ...

atomic bomb
s had been dropped on Japan in the name of the United States, but neither they nor anyone they knew had been consulted."
Mills Mills is the plural form of mill (disambiguation), mill, but may also refer to: As a name *Mills (surname), a common family name of English or Gaelic origin *Mills (given name) *Mills, a fictional British secret agent in a trilogy by writer Manning ...

Mills
explains that the power elite embody a privileged class whose members are able to recognize their high position within society. In order to maintain their highly exalted position within society, members of the power elite tend to marry one another, understand and accept one another, and also work together. p. 4–5/sup> The most crucial aspect of the power elite's existence lays within the core of education. "Youthful upper-class members attend prominent preparatory schools, which not only open doors to such elite universities as Harvard University, Harvard, Yale University, Yale, and Princeton University, Princeton but also to the universities' highly exclusive clubs. These memberships in turn pave the way to the prominent social clubs located in all major cities and serving as sites for important business contacts."[p. 63–67] Examples of elite members who attended prestigious universities and were members of highly exclusive clubs can be seen in George W. Bush and John Kerry. Both Bush and Kerry were members of the Skull and Bones club while attending Yale University. This club includes members of some of the most powerful men of the twentieth century, all of which are forbidden to tell others about the secrets of their exclusive club. Throughout the years, the Skull and Bones club has included Presidents of the United States, presidents, cabinet officers, Supreme Court justices, spies, captains of industry, and often their sons and daughters join the exclusive club, creating a social and political network like none ever seen before. The upper class individuals who receive elite educations typically have the essential background and contacts to enter into the three branches of the power elite: The political leadership, the military circle, and the corporate elite. *The Political Leadership: Mills held that, prior to the end of World War II, leaders of corporations became more prominent within the political sphere along with a decline in central decision-making among professional politicians. *The Military Circle: During the 1950s-1960s, increasing concerns about warfare resulted in top military leaders and issues involving defense funding and military personnel training becoming a top priority within the United States. Most of the prominent politicians and corporate leaders have been strong proponents of military spending. *The Corporate Elite: Mills explains that during the 1950s, when the military emphasis was recognized, corporate leaders worked with prominent military officers who dominated the development of policies. Corporate leaders and high-ranking military officers were mutually supportive of each other.[pp. 274–276] Mills shows that the power elite has an "inner-core" made up of individuals who are able to move from one position of institutional power to another; for example, a prominent military officer who becomes a political adviser or a powerful politician who becomes a corporate executive. "These people have more knowledge and a greater breadth of interests than their colleagues. Prominent bankers and financiers, who Mills considered 'almost professional go-betweens of economic, political, and military affairs,' are also members of the elite's inner core.[pp. 288–289]


Anthropological theories

Most if not all Anthropology, anthropologists dispute the "universal" nature of social stratification, holding that it is not the standard among all societies. John Gowdy (2006) writes, "Assumptions about human behaviour that members of market societies believe to be universal, that humans are naturally competitive and acquisitive, and that social stratification is natural, do not apply to many hunter-gatherer peoples. Non-stratified egalitarian or Acephalous Society, acephalous ("headless") societies exist which have little or no concept of social hierarchy, political or economic status, class, or even permanent leadership.


Kinship-orientation

Anthropologists identify egalitarian cultures as "
kinship In anthropology, kinship is the web of social relationships that form an important part of the lives of all humans in all societies, although its exact meanings even within this discipline are often debated. Anthropologist Robin Fox states th ...

kinship
-oriented," because they appear to value social harmony more than wealth or status. These cultures are contrasted with economically oriented cultures (including State (polity), states) in which status and material wealth are prized, and stratification, competition, and conflict are common. Kinship-oriented cultures actively work to prevent social hierarchies from developing because they believe that such stratification could lead to conflict and instability. Reciprocal altruism is one process by which this is accomplished. A good example is given by Richard Borshay Lee in his account of the Khoisan, who practice ''"insulting the meat."'' Whenever a hunter makes a kill, he is ceaselessly teased and ridiculed (in a friendly, joking fashion) to prevent him from becoming too proud or egotistical. The meat itself is then distributed evenly among the entire social group, rather than kept by the hunter. The level of teasing is proportional to the size of the kill. Lee found this out when he purchased an entire cow as a gift for the group he was living with, and was teased for weeks afterward about it (since obtaining that much meat could be interpreted as showing off). Another example is the Aboriginal Australians, Australian Aboriginals of Groote Eylandt and Bickerton Island, off the coast of Arnhem Land, who have arranged their entire society—spiritually and economically—around a kind of gift economy called ''Reciprocal altruism, renunciation.'' According to David H. Turner, in this arrangement, every person is expected to give ''everything'' of any resource they have to any other person who needs or lacks it at the time. This has the benefit of largely eliminating social problems like theft and relative poverty. However, misunderstandings obviously arise when attempting to reconcile Aboriginal ''renunciative economics'' with the competition/scarcity-oriented economics introduced to Australia by European colonists.


Variables in theory and research

The social status variables underlying social stratification are based in social perceptions and Social attitude, attitudes about various characteristics of persons and peoples. While many such variables cut across time and place, the relative Statistical weight, weight placed on each variable and specific combinations of these variables will differ from place to place over time. One task of research is to identify accurate mathematical models that explain how these many variables combine to produce stratification in a given society. Grusky (2011) provides a good overview of the historical development of sociological theories of social stratification and a summary of contemporary theories and research in this field. While many of the variables that contribute to an understanding of social stratification have long been identified, models of these variables and their role in constituting social stratification are still an active topic of theory and research. In general, sociologists recognize that there are no "pure" economic variables, as social factors are integral to economic value. However, the variables posited to affect social stratification can be loosely divided into economic and other social factors.


Economic

Strictly Quantitative research, quantitative economic variables are more useful to Descriptive statistics, describing social stratification than Explanatory power, explaining how social stratification is constituted or maintained. Income is the most common variable used to describe stratification and associated economic inequality in a society. However, the distribution of individual or household accumulation of excess supply, surplus and
wealth Wealth is the abundance of Value (economics), valuable financial assets or property, physical possessions which can be converted into a form that can be used for financial transaction, transactions. This includes the core meaning as held in the o ...

wealth
tells us more about variation in individual well-being than does income, alone. Wealth variables can also more vividly illustrate salient variations in the well-being of groups in stratified societies. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), especially ''per capita'' GDP, is sometimes used to describe economic inequality and stratification at the International inequality, international or global level.


Social

Social variables, both quantitative and qualitative research, qualitative, typically provide the most explanatory power in Causality, causal research regarding social stratification, either as Independent variable#Independent variable, independent variables or as intervening variables. Three important social variables include gender roles, gender, Race (human classification), race, and
ethnicity An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identity (social science), identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups. Those attributes can include common sets of traditions, ancest ...

ethnicity
, which, at the least, have an intervening effect on social status and stratification in most places throughout the world. Additional variables include those that describe other ascribed and achieved characteristics such as Job (role), occupation and skill levels, Ageing, age,
education Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, value (ethics), values, morals, beliefs, habits, and personal development. Educational methods include teaching, training, storytelling, discussion a ...
level, education level of parents, and Geography, geographic area. Some of these variables may have both causal and intervening effects on social status and stratification. For example, absolute age may cause a low income if one is too young or too old to perform productive work. The social perception of age and its role in the workplace, which may lead to ageism, typically has an intervening effect on employment and income. Social scientists are sometimes interested in quantifying the degree of economic stratification between different social categories, such as men and women, or workers with different levels of education. An index of stratification has been recently proposed by Zhou for this purpose.


Gender

Gender is one of the most pervasive and prevalent social characteristics which people use to make social distinctions between individuals. Gender distinctions are found in economic-, kinship- and caste-based stratification systems. Social role expectations often form along sex and gender lines. Entire societies may be classified by social scientists according to the rights and Privilege (social inequality), privileges afforded to men or women, especially those associated with ownership and inheritance of
property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themselves. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner of property may have the right to Consumable, consume, alter, ...
. In patriarchal societies, such rights and privileges are norm (social), normatively granted to men over women; in matriarchal societies, the opposite holds true. Sex- and gender-based
division of labor The division of labour is the separation of tasks in any economic system or organisation An organization, or organisation ( Commonwealth English; see spelling differences), is an entity – such as a company A company, abbreviated a ...
is historically found in the annals of most societies and such divisions increased with the advent of industrialization. Sex-based wage discrimination exists in some societies such that men, typically, receive higher wages than women for the same type of work. Other differences in employment between men and women lead to an overall gender-based pay-gap in many societies, where women as a category earn less than men due to the types of jobs which women are offered and take, as well as to differences in the number of hours worked by women. These and other gender-related values affect the distribution of income, wealth, and property in a given social order.


Race

Racism consists of both prejudice and discrimination based in social perceptions of observable biological differences between peoples. It often takes the form of social actions, practices or beliefs, or political systems in which different races are perceived to be ranked as inherently superior or inferior to each other, based on presumed shared inheritable traits, abilities, or qualities. In a given society, those who share racial characteristics socially perceived as undesirable are typically under-represented in positions of social power, i.e., they become a Minority group, minority category in that society. Minority members in such a society are often subjected to discriminatory actions resulting from majority policies, including Cultural assimilation, assimilation, Social exclusion, exclusion, oppression, exile, expulsion, and genocide, extermination. Overt racism usually feeds directly into a stratification system through its effect on social status. For example, members associated with a particular race may be assigned a Slavery, slave status, a form of oppression in which the majority refuses to grant basic rights to a minority that are granted to other members of the society. More covert racism, such as that which many scholars posit is practiced in more contemporary societies, is socially hidden and less easily detectable. Covert racism often feeds into stratification systems as an intervening variable affecting income, educational opportunities, and housing. Both overt and covert racism can take the form of structural inequality in a society in which Institutional racism, racism has become institutionalized.


Ethnicity

Ethnic prejudice and discrimination operate much the same as do racial prejudice and discrimination in society. In fact, only recently have scholars begun to differentiate race and ethnicity; historically, the two were considered to be identical or closely related. With the scientific development of genetics and the human genome as fields of study, most scholars now recognize that race (human classification), race is socially defined on the basis of biologically determined characteristics that can be observed within a society while ethnicity is defined on the basis of Culture, culturally learned behavior. Ethnic identification can include shared cultural heritage such as language and dialect, symbolic systems, religion, mythology and cuisine. As with race, ethnic categories of persons may be socially defined as minority Ethnic groups, categories whose members are under-represented in positions of social power. As such, ethnic categories of persons can be subject to the same types of majority policies. Whether ethnicity feeds into a stratification system as a direct, causal factor or as an intervening variable may depend on the level of ethnographic entrism within each of the various ethnic populations in a society, the amount of conflict over scarce resources, and the relative social power held within each ethnic category.


Global stratification

The world and the pace of social change today are very different than in the time of Karl Marx, Max Weber, or even C. Wright Mills. Globalization, Globalizing forces lead to rapid international integration arising from the interchange of world views, products, ideas, and other aspects of culture.Al-Rodhan, R.F. Nayef and Gérard Stoudmann. (2006)
Definitions of Globalization: A Comprehensive Overview and a Proposed Definition.
Albrow, Martin and Elizabeth King (eds.) (1990). ''Globalization, Knowledge and Society ''London: Sage. p. 8. Advances in transportation and telecommunications infrastructure, including the rise of the telegraph and its modern representation the Internet, are major factors in globalization, generating further interdependence of economic and cultural activities. Like a stratified class system within a nation, looking at the world economy one can see class positions in the unequal distribution of capital (economics), capital and other resources between nations. Rather than having separate national economies, nations are considered as participating in this world economy. The world economy manifests a global
division of labor The division of labour is the separation of tasks in any economic system or organisation An organization, or organisation ( Commonwealth English; see spelling differences), is an entity – such as a company A company, abbreviated a ...
with three overarching classes: core countries, semi-periphery countries and periphery countries, according to World-systems and Dependency theories. Core nations primarily own and control the major means of production in the world and perform the higher-level production tasks and provide international financial services. Periphery nations own very little of the world's means of production (even when factories are located in periphery nations) and provide low to non-skilled labor. Semiperipheral nations are midway between the core and periphery. They tend to be countries moving towards industrialization and more diversified economies.Paul Halsal
Modern History Sourcebook: Summary of Wallerstein on World System Theory
August 1997
Core nations receive the greatest share of surplus production, and periphery nations receive the least. Furthermore, core nations are usually able to purchase raw materials and other goods from noncore nations at low prices, while demanding higher prices for their exports to noncore nations. A global workforce employed through a system of global labor arbitrage ensures that companies in core countries can utilize the cheapest semi-and non-skilled labor for production. Today we have the means to gather and analyze data from economies across the globe. Although many societies worldwide have made great strides toward more equality between differing geographic regions, in terms of the standard of living and
life chancesLife chances (''Lebenschancen'' in German) is a social science theory of the opportunities each individual that has helped to improve their quality of life. The concept was introduced by German sociologist Max Weber in the 1920s. It is a probabili ...
afforded to their peoples, we still find large gaps between the wealthiest and the poorest within a nation and between the wealthiest and poorest nations of the world. A January 2014 Oxfam report indicates that the 85 wealthiest individuals in the world have a combined wealth equal to that of the bottom 50% of the world's population, or about 3.5 billion people. By contrast, for 2012, the World Bank reports that 21 percent of people worldwide, around 1.5 billion, live in extreme poverty, at or below $1.25 a day. Zygmunt Bauman has provocatively observed that the rise of the rich is linked to their capacity to lead highly mobile lives: "Mobility climbs to the rank of the uppermost among coveted values -and the freedom to move, perpetually a scarce and unequally distributed commodity, fast becomes the main stratifying factor of our late modern or postmodern time."Bauman, Z. (1988) Globalization: The Human Consequences. Cambridge: Polity


See also

* Age stratification * Caste system * Class stratification * Cultural hegemony * Dominance hierarchy * Egalitarianism * Elite theory * Elitism * Gini coefficient * Globalization * Intersectionality *
Marxism Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a Economic materialism, materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical materialism, to understand Social class, class relations and social conflict as well ...
* Microinequity * Rankism * Religious stratification * Social class * Social inequality * Socioeconomic status * Social justice * Systems of social stratification * ''The Power Elite''


References


Further reading

* *


External links

{{Authority control Social stratification, Anthropological categories of peoples Social classes Social inequality Social status Conflict theory Economic problems Urban anthropology