Social stratification and other forms of social differentiation
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Social Stratification and Other Forms of Social Differentiation . social stratification. the unequal distribution of goods and services, rights and obligations, power and prestige all attributes of positions in society, not attributes of individuals universality of stratification.

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Social Stratification and Other Forms of Social Differentiation

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Social stratification and other forms of social differentiation

Social Stratification and Other Forms of Social Differentiation

Social stratification

social stratification

  • the unequal distribution of goods and services, rights and obligations, power and prestige

  • all attributes of positions in society, not attributes of individuals

  • universality of stratification

Stratification status


  • status - ascribed & achieved

  • ascribed status - social positions that people hold by virtue of birth

  • achieved status - social positions attained as a result of individual action

  • shift from kin based societies to modern society involves growth in importance of achieved status

Roles stereotypes stratification

Roles, Stereotypes, Stratification

  • Roles -- tasks & activities that a culture assigns to people

  • Stereotypes -- oversimplified strongly held ideas about the characteristics of people

  • Stratification -- unequal distribution of rewards (socially valued resources, power, prestige, personal freedom) between people reflecting their position in the social hierarchy

Stratified society

Stratified Society

  • stratification means

    • there are significant breaks in the distribution of goods services, rights, obligations, power prestige

    • as a result of which are formed collectivities or groups we call strata

3 types of societies


  • egalitarian societies

  • rank societies

  • Class/caste societies

Egalitarian societies

Egalitarian Societies

  • no social groups having greater access to economic resources, power, or prestige

  • usually foragers

  • Morton Fried - "there are as many positions of prestige in any age-sex grade as there are people capable of filling them“

  • differences in prestige not related to economic differences - reciprocity; hunter & ability & sharing of catch

  • the culture works to separate the status achieved from actual possession of wealth

Rank societies

Rank Societies

  • do not have unequal access to economic resources or to power, but they do contain social groups having unequal access to prestige

  • generally practice agriculture & herding

  • unequal access to prestige often reflected in position of chief to which only some members of a specified group in the society can succeed

  • position of chief partly hereditary, treated with deference

Kwakiutl the potlatch the drive for prestige

Kwakiutl & the potlatch - the drive for prestige

  • Kwakiutl chiefs never content with status & prestige, always insecure

  • claims to hereditary position fragile

  • make claims to family titles (totem poles) but others can claim descent lines too

  • justify position as chief - the potlatch

  • return potlatches, rival feasts

  • ceaseless flow of prestige & valuables moving in opposite directions

The potlatch and chiefly rank

The Potlatch and Chiefly Rank

  • potlatch not the result of maniacal whims of megalomaniac chiefs in the quest for prestige

  • status rivalry through competitive feasts of the potlatch

  • assures the production & redistribution of wealth among peoples who have not fully acquired a ruling class

Versus egalitarian societies

Versus Egalitarian Societies

  • in egalitarian societies competitive displays & conspicuous consumption by individuals disappears

  • anyone foolish enough to boast how great he/she is gets accused of witchcraft

  • reciprocity predominates, not redistribution

    • remember “Eating XMAS in the Kalahari”

Class societies

class societies

  • Unequal access to all 3 advantages, economic resources, power, prestige

  • Open & closed class systems

    • the extent to which mobility occurs allowing people to pass through inequalities

  • Closed system

    • No mobility

    • tend to persist across generations

  • Open system

    • ease of social mobility permitted

Caste slavery and class systems

caste, slavery, and class systems

  • caste systems

    • closed, hereditary systems of stratification often dictated by religion

    • hierarchical social status is ascribed at birth, people locked into their parents social position

    • legal & religious sanctions, occupation, commensality applied against people who seek to cross them

  • apartheid - caste like system, legally maintained hierarchy based on skin color (the color bar)

Caste slavery and class systems1

caste, slavery, and class systems

  • slavery – closed class system

    • people treated as property

    • the most extreme & coercive form of legalized inequality

Open class system

Open Class System

  • facilitates mobility

  • individual achievement & personal merit determining social rank

  • hierarchical social status is achieved on the basis of people's efforts

  • ascribed status (family background, ethnicity, gender, religion, skin color) less important

  • blurred class lines & wide range of status positions

Gender and social stratification

Gender and Social Stratification

Gender and anthropology

Gender and Anthropology

  • interest in hierarchical relations between men and women has been a feature of anthropology since its earliest days

  • 19th century evolutionists and their explanations for the rise of culture

  • promiscuous horde gives way to socially organized marriage and kinship, for example

Gender and anthropology1

Gender and Anthropology

  • anthropology of gender has been key in establishing that sexual inequality is not a biological fact but instead and cultural and historical one

Development of the study of sex sexuality and gender in anthropology

development of the study of sex, sexuality and gender in anthropology

  • Anthropology of Women early 1970's attention to the lack of women in standard ethnographies

  • Anthropology of Gender challenged the basis for understanding social roles of male and female

  • Feminist Anthropology challenged the biological basis of sex and sexuality

    • and the foundations of anthropology as it had been done

Sex sexuality gender


  • not the same thing

  • all societies distinguish between males and females

  • a very few societies recognize a third, sexually intermediate category

Sex sexual dimorphism

SEX (sexual dimorphism)

  • marked differences in male & female biology

  • contrasts in:

    • primary sex characteristics

      • genitalia & reproductive organs

    • secondary sex characteristics

      • breasts, voice, hair, also average weight, height, & strength

Sexuality reproduction

SEXUALITY (reproduction)

  • all societies regulate sexuality

    • lots of variation cross-culturally

  • degree of restrictiveness not always consistent through life span

    • adolescence vs. adulthood

  • Normative sexual orientation

    • Heterosexual, homosexual, transexual

  • Sexuality in societies change over time



  • GENDER - the cultural construction of male & female characteristics

    • vs. the biological nature of men & women

  • SEX differences are biological - GENDER differences are cultural

  • behavioral & attitudinal differences between the sexes emerge from culture rather than biology

Gender roles stereotypes stratification


  • gender roles - tasks & activities that a culture assigns to sexes

  • gender stereotypes - oversimplified strongly held ideas about the characteristics of men & women

  • gender stratification - unequal distribution of rewards (socially valued resources, power, prestige, personal freedom) between men & women reflecting their position in the social hierarchy

Universals versus particulars

universals versus particulars

  • universal subordination of women is often cited as one of the true cross-cultural universals, a pan-cultural fact

    • Engels called it the “world historical defeat of women”

  • even so the particulars of women’s roles, statuses, power, and value differ tremendously by culture

Explaining women s status cross culturally


  • Biological hypotheses about the cross-cultural differences in men and women

  • effects of having children on division of labor

  • fertility maintenance hypothesis

  • differences in strength

  • expendability theory of males as soldiers

  • sociobiological premises for complex gendered behavior

Friedl and leacock argument

Friedl and Leacock argument

  • variation among foragers

  • male dominance is based on exchange, public exchange

  • versus that exchanged privately by women

  • Exchange of scarce resources in egalitarian societies, gender stratification, and universal subordination of women

Domestic public dichotomy m rosaldo


  • opposition between domestic (reproduction) & public (production) provides the basis of a framework necessary to identify and explore the place of male & female in psycho, cultural, social and economic aspects of life

  • degree to which the contrast between public domestic (private) sphere is drawn promotes gender stratification-rewards, prestige, power

Domestic sphere

domestic sphere

  • clearly drawn in societies where division of labor encompasses more than age & sex differentiation (complex societies)

  • inequality in material rewards for labor

  • less clearly drawn in societies where division of labor beyond age & sex is minimal (egalitarian)

  • rewards are highly valued social roles with prestige rather than material goods

Domestic public spheres

Domestic : Public Spheres

  • mobility & gender

  • Domestic : public dichotomy not only distinguishes activities, but culturally encodes space

M rosaldo and the ilongot of the philippines

M. Rosaldo and the Ilongot of the Philippines

  • positive cultural value placed adventure, travel, knowledge of & experience with the outside world

  • Ilongot men as headhunters visited distant places, amassed experiences & returned to express their knowledge-receive acclaim

  • Ilongot women - these activities not available to them

Mobility public domestic private and gender straitification

Mobility, Public : Domestic (Private), and Gender Straitification

  • mobility not just through geographic space but social space (associations

  • veiling & Islamic women

  • factory women in Malaysia

  • US - WW2 & factory women for war effort

    • 1960s, 70s, 80s - changing gender composition of economy

Persistence of dualisms in ideologies of gender

persistence of dualisms in ideologies of gender

  • a particular view of men and women as opposite kinds of creatures both biologically and culturally

  • nature/culture

  • domestic/public

  • reproduction/production

Reproduction and social roles

Reproduction and Social Roles

  • roles - those minimal institutions and modes of activity that are organized immediately around one or more mothers and their children

  • women everywhere lactate & give birth to children

  • likely to be associated with child rearing & responsibilities of the home

Production and social roles

Production and Social Roles

  • roles - activities, institutions, and forms of association that link, rank, organize, or subsume particular mother-child groups

A long running controversy in anthropology

a long running controversy in anthropology

  • Sherry Ortner’s famous article “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture”

  • argument is that across cultures, women are more often associated with nature and the natural and are therefore denigrated

  • Ortner - in reality women are no further nor closer to nature than men - cultural valuations make women appear closer to nature than men

The third gender

The “Third Gender”

  • essentialism of western ideas of sexual dimorphism - dichotomized into natural & then moral entities of male & female that are given to all persons, one or the other

  • committed western view of sex and gender as dichotomous, ascribed, unchanging

  • other categories - every society including our own is at some time or other faced with people who do not fit into its sex & gender categories

The third gender1

The “Third Gender”

  • a significant number of people are born with genitalia that is neither clearly male or female

    • Hermaphrodites

  • persons who change their biological sex

  • persons who exhibit behavior deemed appropriate for the opposite sex

  • persons who take on other gender roles other than those indicated by their genitals

Third gender western bias

Third Gender: Western Bias

  • multiple cultural & historical worlds in which people of divergent gender & sexual desire exist

    • margins or borders of society

  • may pass as normal to remain hidden in the official ideology & everyday commerce of social life

  • when discovered - iconic matter out of place - "monsters of the cultural imagination“

  • third gender as sexual deviance a common theme in US

    • evolution & religious doctrine

    • heterosexuality the highest form, the most moral way of life, its natural

Third gender cross culturally

Third Gender Cross-Culturally

  • various cultures deals with these persons differently

  • some cultures conceive of more than two genders

  • both sex and gender can change within an individual's lifetime

  • provokes us to reexamine our own assumptions regarding our gender system

  • emphasizes gender role alternatives as adaptations to economic and political conditions rather than as "deviant" and idiosyncratic behavior

  • rigid dichotomozation of genders is a means of perpetuating the domination of females by males and patriarchal institutions.

Berdache or two spirits among plains indians

Berdache or Two Spirits among plains Indians

  • men who take on many female gender roles & stereotypes, stratification, become another wife

    • warrior role, stereotype for men

  • man compelled by supernatural spirits

  • sexual & social functions (as another wife)

  • condition is not stigmatized, role not reduced to sex act, not illegal or immoral, only atypical

  • role is legitimized by spiritual power

  • influential in own communities as curer, artist, matchmaker, companion to warriors

Xanith in oman

Xanith in Oman

  • an effeminate man, a feminine but not castrated male

  • Like Two Spirits

  • not static, not permanent during a person's lifetime or during the history of society

  • in Oman; if the man (women) has sex particularly with a virgin becomes male again

Theories of gender inequality




  • theory of the origin of female subordination

  • tied to the male control of wealth

  • built on 19th cent. assumption of communal societies as matrilineal

  • men overthrew matrilineality & formed patriarchal family leading to monogamous family

  • differential ownership of wealth led to inequality within the family & thus between the sexes

  • gender differences arose from technological developments that led to changes in relations of production

Leacock expands on engels

Leacock - (expands on Engels)

  • subjugation of women due to breakdown of communal ownership of property & isolation of individual family as econ. Unit

  • transformation of relations of production with female labor continuing to be for domestic unit or private sphere

  • male production directed towards distribution outside the domestic group (public sphere)

  • occurs with development of private property & class society



  • political power that results from the ability to give & receive goods in exchange (redistribution)

  • allows for sexual stratification in non-class societies

Sanday reeves

Sanday Reeves

  • female status dependent on degree to which men & women participate in activities of reproduction, warfare, subsistence

Friedl and leacock

Friedl and Leacock

  • not rights & control over production but rights of distribution & control over channels of distribution critical for gender stratification

Rethinking subordination


  • Ardener - muted models that underlie male discourse

  • diversity of one life or many lives

  • gender roles, stereotypes, stratification

    • changes over time

    • changes with position in lifecycle

    • status of men & women i.e. in male dominant societies

      • decision making roles belong to men but as women reach menopause; change with marriage status, virgins, wives, widows (and men)

Rethinking subordination1


  • women, like men, are social actors who work in structured ways to achieve desired ends

  • formal authority structure of a society may declare that women are impotent & irrelevant

  • but attention to women's strategies & motives, sorts of choices, relationships established, ends achieved indicates women have good deal of power

  • strategies appear deviant & disruptive

    • actual components of how social life proceeds

Age as a form of social division



  • differentiation of social role based on age, commonly found in small-scale societies of North America and East Africa

  • Age sets are a type of sodality: nonresidential groups that cut across kinship ties and thus promote broader social solidarity

  • Age grades may be marked by changes in biological state, such as puberty

  • Or by socially recognized status changes such as marriage and the birth of a child

  • Persons of junior grade may defer to those of more senior grade who in turn teach, test, or lead their juniors.

Age culture in n america age sets and the life cycle


  • Age Sets

    • ‘Childhood’

    • ‘Youth’

    • ‘Middle-aged’

    • ‘Elderly’

  • Age & Social Power

    • Elderly & children – dependent

    • Youth & Middle-Age – independent

    • Middle-Age – economic, political, social power

E africa maasai political and social structure

E. Africa Maasai political and social structure

Maasai age sets

Maasai Age Sets

  • rigid system of age-sets

  • apply primarily to men; women automatically become members of the age-set of their husbands

  • groups of the same age (give or take five years or so) are initiated into adult life during the same period

  • The age-set is a permanent grouping

    • lasts throughout the life of its members

  • a hierarchy of grades

    • junior warriors, senior warriors

    • junior elders (sometimes classed as senior warriors), and senior elders

      • the ones who make decisions affecting the whole tribe

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