Social Stratification

Social stratification is an expression that is used in the social sciences for the description of comparable social positions of people in any organized social group, category, geographical region or another social component. It categorizes people in a given society into rankings of socioeconomic tiers based on factors like wealth, income, social status, occupation, and power. In contemporary Western societies, stratification is often broadly classified into three major divisions of social class: upper class, middle class, and lower class. Each of these classes can be further subdivided into smaller classes such as “upper middle”.  Social positions may also be described on the basis of kinship ties or caste relations.

Such social categorization is not unusual to multifaceted state-based societies but is also found in uncomplicated tribal or feudal societies composed of nobility-to-peasant affairs. Scholars debate whether the earliest hunter-gatherer groups can be said to be ‘stratified’ or if such stratifications began with agriculture and extensive acts of exchange between groups. One of the ongoing subjects of concern in determining the structure of social stratification is derived from the point that status differences between individuals are common, so it becomes a measurable aspect to determine how much social inequality qualifies as stratification. In general, the more complex the society, the more numerous the layers or strata of social differentiation are found. Various social and political perspectives concerning globalization, such as dependency theory, suggest that these effects are due to change in the status of workers to the third world.

The Concept of Social Stratification

The concept of social stratification is often used and interpreted differently within specific theories. In sociology, for example, proponents of action theory have suggested that since social stratification is commonly found in developed societies, wherein a dominance hierarchy may be necessary in order to maintain social order and provide a stable social structure. So-called conflict theories, such as Marxism, point to the inaccessibility of resources and lack of social mobility found in stratified societies. Many sociological theorists have criticized the extent to which the working classes are unlikely to advance socioeconomically while the wealthy tend to hold political power which they use to exploit the laboring class.

Sociologists have asserted that stability and social order are regulated, by universal values. Such values are not identical with overall consent but can as well be a momentum for fervent social conflict as it has been multiple times in history. Sociologists never claimed that universal values, in and by themselves, “satisfied” the functional prerequisites of a society. Indeed, the constitution of society is a much more complicated codification of emerging historical factors. Theorists such note the tendency toward an enlarged middle-class in modern Western societies due to the necessity of an educated workforce in technological economies.

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