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The Concept Of Social Stratification Essay

1455 words - 6 pages

Social stratification can be simply defined by stating that it is a system in which a society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy (Macionis, page 224). The concept of social stratification is based on four central principles, which are social stratification is a trait of society, not simply a reflection of individual differences, it carries over from one generation to the next, while it is universal, it is also variable, and social stratification involves not only inequality but beliefs as well (Macionis, pages 224-225). The first principle, that social stratification is a trait of society, not simply a reflection of individual differences, basically says that children born into ...view middle of the document...

One aspect of this that varies from society to society is the explanation of why people should be considered unequal (Macionis, page 225). One form of social stratification is a caste system, where the social stratification is based on ascription, or in a simpler word, birth (Macionis, page 225). One country where a caste system is in place is India. India has four main, or major, castes: Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Sudra (Macionis, page 225). Caste systems are strict and determine the direction of a person’s life. Some things caste systems control or dictate are the type of work one can do, who a person can or cannot marry, who a person can interact with on a daily basis, and cultural beliefs (Macionis, page 225). The counterpart of a caste system is a class system. A class system is social stratification based on both an individual’s birth and achievement (Macionis, page 226). Class systems are more open than caste systems because it is much easier for an individual to experience social mobility. Within a class system, the distinct lines between classes become blurred (Macionis, page 226). A poor child who works hard in school to earn a scholarship to pay for college can end up being an executive of a productive company or corporation in a society with a class system. The same could not be said of a child born into a poor family in a caste system. A child born into a poor family within a caste system would be restrained and confined from moving up into a higher caste. Ideology, cultural beliefs that justify particular social arrangements, including patterns of inequality, plays a role within social stratification, too (Macionis, page 231). According to Plato, every society has some type of inequality that it considers just (Macionis, page 231). The ideologies of a society change over time. The ideologies of a society also help those who are not personally experiencing any unjustness feel like society is doing well and functioning as it should.
Social stratification can be viewed many different ways, two of which are the structural-functional approach and the social-conflict approach. The structural-functional approach is a framework for building theory that sees society as a complex system whose parts all work together to promote solidarity and stability (Macionis, page 12). The structural-functional approach views social stratification as a system made up of unequal rewards that benefits society as a whole (Macionis, page 235). It claims the social positioning of an individual is a reflection of personal talents and abilities in a competitive economy (Macionis, page 235). When using the structural-functional approach, an individual would say that unequal rewards are fair because they boost economic production (Macionis, page 235). This is so because unequal rewards encourage people to work harder and to try out new ideas (Macionis, page 235). The social-conflict approach on the other hand views social stratification as a division...

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