If you are writing a reaction paper on the topic of social stratification, consider the facts listed below:
- Social stratification refers to the categorization of people based upon occupation, income, wealth, social status, and power derived from social and political means. Stratification is the relative social position of people within different categories, different social units, or different geographic regions.
- In modern society the use of social stratification has distinguished people into one of three classes. The first is the upper-class, followed by the middle class, followed by the lower class. All three of these classes are subdivided further into the upper part of the upper class, the lower part of the upper class, the upper part of the middle class, the lower part of the middle class, the upper part of the lower class, and the lower part of the lower class. In addition to this Western society divides people socially on the basis of kinship.
- The categorization of people based on social standing ranges from complex categories – state-based societies all the way to tribal societies based upon classes of nobility and peasants. Historically hunter-gatherer societies were not socially stratified but rather, stratification started with agriculture when social exchange became commonplace. The structures which create social stratification come from inequalities between individuals and the degree of social inequality is what determines the stratum. The greater social complexity there is for a particular society, the more social strata exists.
- Social stratification has been used within social science to describe the relative position of an individual or a group of people within a social group, within a specific category, within a geographical region, or within a social unit. The word derives from Latin and refers to the categorization of people based on socioeconomic tiers. The divide between different people is based upon aspects such as income, occupation, power, social status, and wealth.
- The concept of social stratification has been interpreted differently within the social sciences. Within the field of Sociology those who support Action Theory suggest that social stratification can be found in all developed societies but those who support dominance hierarchy state that it is necessary in a developed Society in order to maintain stability and order. Conflict theories like that of Marxism focus on the inaccessibility of resources and therefore the complete lack of social Mobility which can be found in any society divided on strata.
- Sociological theorists have criticized modern strata, particularly the socio-economic divide, between the wealthy and lower classes, with a great deal of emphasis placed on the diminishing middle class and the ability of the wealthy to hold political power used to exploiting the laboring classes.
- Some sociologists maintain that social order and stability in Western societies is regulated by Universal values. These values are not necessarily identical with a consensus but they are the foundation which serves to ignite social conflict throughout history. In fact, societies with larger middle classes have more educated workforces and have more technology-based economies. Some proponents of Dependency Theory state that globalization has influenced the status of third-world individuals.
- There are four key principles which underlie social stratification. The first principle is that social stratification is defined as the property of a society and not individuals in a society. The second is that such stratification can be reproduced from one generation to the next. The third underlying principle is that social stratification can be found in each society but it differs based on time and place to some degree. The fourth underlying principle is that social stratification does not simply cover quantitative inequality with regard to wealth but also quantitative beliefs and different attitudes about social status.
- Social stratification is not found only in complex societies even though all complex societies do have some proponents and features of stratification. In more complex societies the total amount of valued goods is not distributed equally. Instead, those families to our privilege will enjoy a higher amount of valued resources, power, and income. In some cases the term stratification system refers to the social relationships observed in such inequalities. The key components to a stratification system include a social process which defines those goods which have value and desire, create the rules for allocating those goods two different positions among the division of labor, and social mobility exist as a link between individuals and different positions they assume.
- Social Mobility refers to the movement of social groups, people, or individuals between different strata. This movement can take place within one generation or it can take place between two or more generations. Social mobility is intended to classify various systems of social stratification. Systems which are allow for more mobility between the different strata with value placed upon the achieved status of each individual. Societies which have mobility within a single generation are considered to be the most open of social systems with the highest level of flexibility. Systems which have limited or no mobility even across two or more generations are considered closed stratification systems. In India, for example, the caste system places individuals within a particular social strata from birth and do not allow mobility across multiple generations.
- There are different theories of stratification historically speaking. Karl Marx founded Marxist theory which divides the economy into two main sections and follows the relationship between the employer and the employee. This theory focuses on how social class is determined by the relationship an individual has to production.
- Another theory of stratification was created by Max Weber. Max Weber was influenced by the ideas of Karl Marx but rejected communism as it related to social stratification. He is well-known for his three component theory of stratification which divides people into four main social classes including the upper class, white collar workers, the petite bourgeoisie, and the working class. This particular theory is the one which most closely resembles modern Western class structure.
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