every society people differ on the basis of sex, age, cultural background,
economic status, etc. Thus human society is not homogeneous but heterogeneous.
Human beings apart from being differentiated based on natural criteria, are
also distinguished by their social and cultural background. Women’s work is
different from men. Peoples occupation differ from one another, right from
primitive society, we have people occupied in food gathering, fishing, hunting,
etc. In tribal society, one clan differs from the other because of their
association with a different totem.
Stratification is a societies categorization of people into socio-economic
strata, based on their occupation and income, wealth and social status or
derived power both social & political. It is a relative positioning of
people in a social group, category, position or region. Thus we can say that
society is divided into various ‘layers’ from which we get the word ‘strata’.
In this classification of society, the social strata is continuously changing and
we find unequal distribution of goods and privileges in society. There is a
ranking system which seems to divide society on various social criteria, namely
caste, class, creed, financial status, occupation etc. For example, rich people
can afford expensive education, gadgets, housing, luxury goods, etc. Whereas
those who are economically poor, don’t have access to all the above and are
often left to fend with the left overs.
stratification can also be understood as a social hierarchy. In our society
today we have a hierarchical system like the upper, middle, lower middle and
lower class of society. These distinctions are brought about in the society as
a whole and not an individual.
India where we have a prominent caste- divided society, people inherit an
acquired status wherein they are born in a certain stratum of society. The Brahmins
are considered to be on the top and hold the highest rank in society. The Shudras
are at the bottom rung of society. The privileges that each one enjoys greatly
differ from each other. In fact, the shudras are deprived of most privileges
even today. Their access to education, housing, jobs, temples etc. are
restricted even today. They were
basically considered to be impure and are not allowed to mix with mainstream
society. Thus we see a dimension that is unhealthy for the growth of the Indian
stratification is thus a type of social inequality. There are social groups
which rank higher than the others with the amount of wealth, power and prestige
that each stratum possesses. Those belonging to a particular stratum share
common interest and lifestyle; this distinguishes them from the others and
gives them a certain identity in society.
stratification can now to be considered to be a universal phenomenon because
the differences of wealth, power and prestige now exist in all types of social
groups. Primitive societies may be exempt because even though there may exist
among them social inequalities; these inequalities were mainly based on natural
criteria, e.g. sex, age, etc. In tribal society, women were not allowed certain
duties which only men could perform, etc.
OF KARL MARX
Karl Marx, society is divided into two main social categories where one
exploits the other. There are those who are the owners of technology and valued
goods, the capitalist and industrialist, who control the means of production
and are considered to be the bourgeoisie (aristocracy) of society. On the other
hand, there are those who have no ownership of land, technology and valued
good. They usually work for the aristocrats for a meager wage. They could be
considered the proletariat of society. For both these categories, Marx uses the
word ‘class’ which comprises ownership and non-ownership. For Marx those who own the means of
production also exercise political and economic power. This leads to exploitation
of the ‘service class’ who are often subdued and remain always at the lower
rung in society.
OF MAX WEBER
Weber has made a big contribution to our understanding of social
stratification. While Marx has stratified society based on ‘class’, Weber adds
two more categories, namely, ‘status’ and ‘power’. For Weber, people possess certain skills, e.g.
engineering, medicine, etc which have high market value. Those who have such
skills have better ranks in society than those who are semi-skilled. Thus Weber
rejects the idea of the ruling class of Marx.
every individual occupies a certain social status based on his situation of
interaction in society. With every
social position, one plays a particular role. This would be an action that one
is expected to perform in a given position. For e.g. a man may be a manager in
the bank but when he comes home, he plays the role of a loving father which
greatly differs from the role of manager of a bank. These statuses can be
ascribed by facts related to birth or it can be achieved through one’s efforts.
One becomes a Brahmin because he is born into a Brahmin family, whereas one
becomes a Manager by his education qualifications, skills, efforts to go
through tough competition to get the job, etc.
of the way our society is setup there is scope of social mobility. Social
Mobility is the ability to move up or down or sideways within this social
stratification system. It provides for movement within society and keeps the
society more flexible and open to changes. There is upward mobility where you
move upwards or downward mobility where you slide downwards. There is also
inter-generational mobility that takes place between generations and
intra-generational mobility that occurs with the generation themselves.