Social Mobility www.educationforum.co.uk
What is Social Stratification? • Social stratification is “...the division of society into levels, steps or positions” • Stratification is, in essence, the structured inequality of entire categories of people • Stratification is different than mere inequality, which refers to the uneven distribution of opportunities and rewards to individuals and groups. • When these inequalities becomes structured into society and passed on from generation to generation, we have social stratification
Social mobility refers to the movement of persons or groups from one social stratum to another Social mobility is more possible in open societies which provide greater opportunities for mobility, than in closed societies which fixes one’s position at birth Sociologists distinguish between several types of mobility Social Mobility
Sociologists have identified several structural-level factors which impact the likelihood of social mobility Economic Conditions Chance Population: Number of people in the workforce Education Openness of society Factors Affecting Social Mobility
Absolute and Relative Mobility Absolute Mobility Is defined as the overall numbers of individuals from specific origins reaching particular class locations and is expressed as a percentage. E.G. between 1950 and 1972 16% of working class boys had reached middle class locations Between 1945 and 1980 there was significant absolute mobility in British society – can you think of any reasons why Relative mobility Refers to the relative chances of mobility from particular classes across generations – by using relative mobility data it is possible to assess whether society is becoming more or less open Since 1980 the relative chances of mobility (compared to previous generations) has slowed down – can you think of any reasons why?
Caste systems are very rigid, closed systems of stratification based on ascribed characteristics such as skin color or family identity Estate systemsare also closed systems based largely on inheritance Class systemsare open systems that permit meaningful social mobility Types of Stratification Systems
Dimensions of Social Stratification • Wealth—the economic assets of an individual, including income, monetary assets and other holdings • Power—the ability to attain goals and maintain influence over others, even in the absence of their consent • Prestige—the approval and respect received from other members of society
Theories of Stratification: Functionalist Theory • You will remember that functionalist theory understands society as a “system” or “organism” • As functionalists, Kingsley Davis and Wilbert Moore contended that stratification was a necessity for society because: • Society has numerous positions that must be fulfilled if it is to function properly • Some positions, however are more important for the maintenance of society (e.g., physicians) • Finally, some positions require special talents that are not generally prevalent in the population • Hence, functionally important positions and/or positions requiring rare talent are rewarded most highly
Criticisms of Functional Theory • Are highly rewarded roles really functional? • Critics question the functional importance of certain highly rewarded positions such as actors and sports figures, in contrast to positions such as school teachers or social workers • The Stratification System itself Inhibits Talent and Abilities • Many barriers are placed in the way of individuals from lower classes to keep them from competing effectively
Theories of Stratification: Marxist Conflict Theory • Suggests that social stratification is determined by the relations of production • bourgeoisie--capitalists who own the means of production • proletariat--wage laborers who sell their labor to bourgeoisie • Interests of these two classes are intrinsically opposed • Power of the capitalists allows them to impose their will and realize their interests • According to Marx, the proletariat will eventually develop a class consciousness, and ultimately overthrow the capitalists
Revision Questions • What is the difference between inequality and stratification? • How can “social mobility” be defined? • What factors affect social mobility? • What type of stratification system allows for stratification? • What are the three dimensions of social stratification? • How do functionalists view stratification? • How can functionalism be criticised? • How do Marxists view stratification? • Why was there significant absolute mobility 1945-80? • Why have the current generations chances of social mobility (relative mobility) declined since 1980?