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Stratification. Stratification is a central theme in sociological research The concept of stratification indicates that a social system (e.g. society, organizations such as a large manufacturing plant) is composed of positions and people who have different levels of status

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stratification
Stratification
  • Stratification is a central theme in sociological research
  • The concept of stratification indicates that a social system (e.g. society, organizations such as a large manufacturing plant) is composed of positions and people who have different levels of status
  • The stratification of society is inevitable!
  • Marx’s concept of class is a starting point for thinking about stratification, although Weber argued that a sole focus on class was misleading...
weber and stratification

Property

Prestige

Material possessions and/or opportunity for income

Influence based on personal factors or individual accomplishment

Power

The ability to get one’s way despite the resistance of others

Weber and Stratification
functionalist theory of stratification
Functionalist Theoryof Stratification
  • Davis/Moore Theory
    • Positions differ in society to the extent that they are functionally important
    • It is harder to fill the most important positions since they typically require a good deal of education and training
    • Hence, higher rewards go to the most important positions in society
social mobility
Social Mobility
  • Social mobility has to do with how people gain or lose status
  • Social mobility is an important aspect of contemporary Western societies
  • In some societies, like caste societies (e.g. India), there is virtually no mobility while capitalist democracies are systems that enable mobility
status and social mobility

Position gained on the basis of merit

or achievement

Achieved Status

Ascribed Status

Position based on who you are not what

you can do

(traits such as family

background,

race, sex, etc.)

Status and Social Mobility
structural mobility
Structural Mobility

1960

1990

All 25 retain high status

High-Status

Positions

High-Status

Positions

25

50

25 move to high status

50 retain low status

Low-Status

Positions

Low-Status

Positions

75

50

100 Jobs

100 Jobs

exchange mobility
Exchange Mobility

1960

1990

Only 10 retain high status

High-Status

Positions

High-Status

Positions

25

25

15 move to high status

15 fall to low status

Low-Status

Positions

Low-Status

Positions

60 retain low status

75

75

100 Jobs

100 Jobs

conflict theorists ask what about power
Conflict Theorists Ask:What about Power?
  • Who gets to decide which positions are functionally more important?
  • Who has the opportunity to seek advanced education and training necessary in order to obtain positions deemed functionally important?
  • Conflict theorists of stratification disagree with functionalist interpretations (e.g. Tumin), arguing that social stratification systems function to provide the elite with the political power necessary to procure acceptance and dominance of an ideology which rationalizes the status quo
what about power
What about Power?
  • Merton makes a key distinction between manifest and latent functions
    • Manifest functions are simple & often obvious
      • Doctors get paid more because they are more important to society
    • Latent functions are deeper & more obscured
      • Poverty helps to guarantee the status of those who are not poor (Gans catalogs a number of such latent functions)
  • Functional theorists focus on Manifest Functions—what serves society the best
what about power10
What about Power?
  • Dr. Pangloss and Durkheim tend to ignore the role of power in defining societal norms and how elites in society work to maintain norms and define deviance to keep their position in society
  • The existence of poverty, as discussed in Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequality, is not articulated by Durkheim’s concept of organic solidarity
  • Impoverished and homeless people have no voice in politics or in defining societal norms—they are defined as deviant
conflict view of stratification
Conflict View of Stratification
  • Contrary to some functionalist theories of stratification (e.g. Davis & Moore), conflict theories emphasize the role of power and exploitation
    • Critique studies of mobility for overplaying the American dream--“you can advance if you work hard enough”
    • Focus attention on structural barriers to mobility
conflict critique of mobility
Conflict Critique of Mobility
  • Conflict theorists view the idea of social mobility with skepticism, emphasizing how stratification systems are marked by barriers to mobility
    • lack of access to education/top schools
    • lack of social skills necessary for advancement
    • lack of social connections to get good jobs
  • For conflict theorists, mobility counterintuitively provides an opportunity to challenge the system:
    • e.g. Based on theories such as status inconsistency, social mobility of minorities and people in low status groups can facilitate social change through social movements and other forms of political action
status inconsistency
Status Inconsistency
  • People whose status is inconsistent, or higher on one dimension than on another, will be more frustrated and dissatisfied than people with consistent statuses (Lenski)
  • Status inconsistency will lead people to blame “the system” as opposed to themselves
  • e.g. In the 1960s, Gary Marx found that wealthy, famous or highly educated African Americans (bankers & physicians) would be more militant about changing racial conditions than African Americans with consistently low statuses (janitors, housekeepers)
conflict approach to stratification
Conflict Approach to Stratification
  • Instead of studying mobility, conflict theorists tend to highlight how barriers to mobility exist based on race, class, gender, ethnicity, sexual preference, etc.
    • discrimination in hiring
    • glass ceiling
conflict approach to stratification15
Conflict Approach to Stratification
  • Conflict theorists have also emphasized that lower-level workers need to unionize to avoid more excessive forms of exploitation
  • More explicitly at the organizational level, conflict theorists emphasize the role of organizations in forcing downward mobility
    • closing of plants
    • national chains (WalMart) devastating local community businesses
    • emergence of low-wage, low-skill service sector jobs (McDonalds, telemarketing)
functional vs conflict
Functional vs. Conflict
  • So which theory provides the best approach to the study of stratification?
  • They both provide valuable insights
  • Functional theory provides a view of how different occupational positions exist based on the needs of society
  • Conflict theory highlights that this leads to inequalities that are often insidious, intolerable, and worth fighting about