Structural functionalist theory, Marxist theory, Weberian theory

  1. Social stratification is an inherent character of all societies. It is historical as we find it in all societies, ancient and modern; and it is universal as it exists in simple or complex societies. The social differentiation on the basis of high and low is the historical heritage of all societies.
  2. These social strata and layers, divisions and subdivisions have over the time been accepted on the basis of sex and age, status and role, qualification and inefficiency, life chances and economic cum political ascription and monopolization, ritual and ceremony and on numerous other basis. It is of varied nature. It is no less based on the considerations of superiority and inferiority, authority and subordination, profession and vocation.
  3. Social stratification has remained despite the revolutionary ideas and radicalism, equality and democracy, socialism and communism. Classless society is just an ideal. The stratification has something to do; it appears with the very mental makeup of man.
  4. The origin of the social stratification cannot be explained in terms of history. The existence or nonexistent of the stratification in early society cannot be pin pointed. The differentiation between classes existed as early as the Indus Valley society. They, it appears, had the priestly and other classes.

Meaning and Nature:

  1. By stratification we mean that arrangement of any social group or society by which positions are hierarchically divided. The positions are unequal with regard to power, property, evaluation and psychic gratification. We add social, because positions consist of socially defined statuses.
  2. Stratification is a phenomenon present in all societies that have produced a surplus. Stratification is the process by which members of society rank themselves and one another in hierarchies with respect to the amount of desirable goods they possess.
  3. The existence of stratification has led to the centuries old problem of social inequality. In societies that have closed stratification systems, such inequalities are institutionalised and rigid. An individual born into a particular economic and social stratum or caste, remains in this stratum until he dies. Most modern industrial societies have open or class stratification systems. In open stratification systems, social mobility is possible, although some members of the population do not have the opportunity to fulfill their potential.
  4. The term stratification refers to a process by which individuals and groups are ranked in a more or less enduring hierarchy of status. It refers to the division of a population into strata, one on the top of another, on the basis of certain characteristics like inborn qualities, material possessions and performance.
  5. According to Raymond W. Murray “Social stratification is a horizontal division of society into higher and lower social units. As Malvin M. Tumin says, Social stratification refers to arrangements of any social group or society into a hierarchy of positions that are unequal with regard to power, property, social evaluation, and/or social gratification.
  6. Lundberg writes, “A stratified society is one marked by inequality, by differences among people that are evaluated by them as being lower and higher”. As Gisbert says, “Social stratification is the division of society into permanent groups of categories linked with each other by the relationship of superiority and subordination.
  7. According to Bernard Barber, “Social stratification in its most general sense, is a sociological concept that refers to the fact that both individuals and groups of individuals are conceived of as constituting higher or lower differentiated strata or classes in terms of some specific or generalised characteristic or set of characteristics.” Sociologists have been able to establish several strata or layers which form a hierarchy of prestige or power in a society.
  8. The consequence of layering process in a society is the creation of structural forms – social classes. Where society is composed of social classes, the social structure looks like a pyramid. At the bottom of the structure lies the lowest social class and above it other social classes arranged in a hierarchy.
  9. Thus, stratification involves two phenomena,
    • Differentiation of individuals or groups where by some individuals or group come to rank higher than other and
    • He ranking of individuals according to some basis of valuation
  10. Viewed in this way it can be stated that every society is divided into more or less distinct groups. There is no society known which does not make some distinction between individuals by ranking them on some scale of value. There has been no society in which every individual has the same rank and the same privileges.
  11. As Sorokin pointed out, “Unstratified society with real equality of its members is a myth which has never been realised in the history of mankind”. In simpler communities we may not find any class strata apart from the distinction between members of the groups and strangers, distinction based on age, sex kinship. But in the primitive world chieftainship, individual prowess and clan or family property introduce an incipient stratification. However, modern stratification fundamentally differs from stratification in the primitive societies.
  12. Among the primitive people class distinctions are rarely found. In the modern industrial age estates pass into social classes. Hereditary ranks are abolished but distinctions of status remain and there are great differences in economic power and social opportunities.
  13. Every know society, past and present, thus differentiates its members in terms of roles they play in the group. These roles are determined by the formal positions or statuses in which a society places its members.Society compares and ranks individuals and groups on the basis of some differences in values it attaches to different roles. When individuals and groups are ranked according to some commonly accepted basis of valuation, in a hierarchy of status levels based j upon inequality of social position, we have social stratification.

Characteristics of Stratification:

Melvin M. Tumin has mentioned the following characteristics of social stratification:

  1. It is Social: Stratification is social in the sense that it does not represent inequality which are biologically based. It is true that factors such as strength, intelligence, age, sex can often serve as the basis on which status are distinguished. But such differences by themselves are not sufficient to explain why some statuses receive more power, property and prestige than others. Biological traits do not determine social superiority and inferiority until they are socially recognised. For example, manager of an industry attains a dominant position not by physical strength, nor by his age, but by having socially defined traits. His education, training skills, experience, personality, character etc. are found to be more important than his biological qualities.
  2. It is Ancient: The stratification system is very old. Stratification was present even in the small wandering bands. Age and sex wear the main criteria of stratification. Difference between the rich and poor, powerful and humble, freemen and slaves was there in almost all the ancient civilisation. Ever since the time of Plato and Kautilya social philosopher have been deeply concerned with economic, social, political inequalities.
  3. It is Universal: Social stratification is universal. Difference between rich and poor, the ‘haves’ or ‘have notes’ is evident everywhere. Even in the non-literate societies stratification is very much present.
  4. It is in diverse Forms: Social stratification has never been uniform in all societies. The ancient Roman society was stratified into two strata: the Patricians and the Plebians .The Aryan society was divided into four Varnas: the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and the Sudras, the ancient Greek society in to freemen and slaves, the ancient Chinese society into mandarins, merchants, Farmer and soldiers. Class and estate seem to be the general forms of stratification found in the modern world.
  5. It is Consequential: The stratification system has its own consequences. The most important, most desired and often the scarcest things in human life are distributed unequally because of stratification. The system leads to two kind of consequences:
    • Life chances : Life chances refer to such things as infant mortality, longevity, physical and mental illness, marital conflict, separation and divorce.
    • Life style : Life styles include the mode of housing, residential area, education, means of recreation, relation between parent and children, modes of conveyance and so on.

Elements of Social Stratification:

All stratification systems have some common elements. These elements have been identified as differentiation, ranking, evaluation and rewarding. Here Tumin has been referred to discuss the elements of social stratification.

Status Differentiation:

Status differentiation is the process by which social positions are determined and distinguished from one another by way Of associating a distinctive role, a set of rights and responsibilities such as father and mother.

Status differentiation operates more effectively when:
  1. Tasks are clearly defined.
  2. Authority and responsibility are distinguished.
  3. Mechanism for recruiting and training exists.
  4. Adequate sanctions including rewards and punishment exist to motivate persons.

Responsibilities, resources and rights are assigned to status not to particular individuals. For only by doing so societies can establish general and uniform rules or norms that will apply to many and diverse individuals who are to occupy the same status e.g. all the different women who will play the role of a
parent. Differentiation is not independent process in itself. The most important criteria for understanding the process of differentiation is ranking.


Ranking is done on the basis of:
  1. Personal characteristics that people are thought to need if they are to learn and perform the roles effectively such as intelligence, aggressiveness and politeness.
  2. The skills and abilities that are believed necessary for adequate role performance such, as surgical, numerical or linguistic skills.
  3. General qualities of the task e.g. difficulty, cleanliness, danger and so forth. Purpose of ranking is to identify the right person for the right position.

Ranking non-valuative i.e. jobs are rated as harder or easier, cleaner or dirtier, safer or more dangerous and people are judged slower, smarter or more skillful than others without implying that some are socially more important and others less because of these characteristic. Ranking is a selective process in the sense that only some statuses are selected for comparative ranking and of all criteria of ranking only some are actually used in ranking process e.g. the status of FatherMother is not ranked.


  1. Differentiation and ranking are further solidified by the evaluation process. Whereas the ranking procedure pivots about the question of more of or less of, the evaluation process centres in the question better and worse. Evaluation is both a personal and societal attribute.
  2. That is, individuals assign a relative worth, a degree of preference and a priority of desirability to
    everything. To the extent that evaluation is a learned quality, a consensus tends to develop within a culture individuals tend to share a common set of values. This value consensus is the societal dimension crucial to evaluation stratification.
  3. There are three dimensions of evaluation:
    • Prestige: Which refers to honour and it involves the respectful behaviour. Radcliffe Brown says that among hunting societies three groups usually are accorded special prestige: the elderly, those with supernatural powers, those who have special personal attributes such as hunting skill. In the more advanced society, prestige is the commodity that is in scarce supply and it is, therefore, more valued.
    • Preferability: Those positions i.e. status roles which are preferred by majority of I the people are evaluated higher e.g. “. I would like to be a doctor.”
    • Popularity: Those status roles which are popular, about which people know to be very prestigious are evaluated higher e.g. nowadays there is fashion among students to go for Engineering job. It is the most popular occupation.


Statuses which are differentiated, ranked and evaluated are allocated differential rewards in terms of good things in life. Social units such as families, subcultures, social classes and occupations that are socially differentiated are differentially rewarded in various ways. Health care, education,’ income and positions of prominence are a few of the advantages.

Rewards can be of two types:
  1. Abundant: Which are spiritual or psychic rather than material and are secured in the process of role performing e.g. pleasure, love, and respect.
  2. Scarce: Social stratification becomes relevant in this area of desired and scarce rewards. In society where there is an unequal distribution of rewards, those who have power take hold these rewards.

In conclusion it can be said that differentiation, ranking, evaluation and rewarding are the social process
which bring about shape and maintain the system of stratification.

Basis or Forms of Stratification:

Social stratification may be based on a variety of forms or interpenetrating principles such as free and unfree, class, caste, estate, occupation, administrative hierarchy or income level.

  1. Free and unfree: The population of a society may be divided into freemen and slaves.
    • In certain communities the slaves do not enjoy rights and privileges. The slave is practically at the disposal of his master. He is the property of his master. The slave can always be brought and sold, though his treatment and the degree of protection accorded him vary from place to place and from time to time.
    • He comes from various sources: war, slavecapture, purchase, birth or seizure for debt.
      In the middle ages in Europe serfs usually possessed some plot of land and they might cultivate the land for themselves. But they were bound to till the fields of their immediate land lord and pay additional dues under certain circumstances. In Europe society was divided into land lords and serfs. A serf is less unfree than a slave.
  2. Class: Class is a principal basis of social stratification found specially in the modern civilised countries. In societies where all men are free before the law, stratification may be based upon accepted and self estimation of superiority or inferiority. Social classes, says Ginsberg, may be described as portions of the community, or collection of individuals, standing to each other in the relation of quality and marked of from other persons by accepted standards of superiority and inferiority. A social class as defined by Maclver and Page, “is any portion of a community forked off from the rest by social status”.
    • A structure of social class involves
      1. A hierarchy status groups,
      2. The recognition of the superior – inferior positions and
      3. Some degree of permanency of the structure. Where a society is composed of social classes, the social structure looks like a truncated pyramid.
        • At the base of the structure lies the lowest social class arranged in a hierarchy of rank. Individuals composing a particular class stand to each other in the relation of equality and are marked off from other classes by accepted standards of superiority and inferiority. A class system involves inequality, inequality of status.
  1. Caste: Social stratification is also based on caste. In open society individuals can move from one class or status level to another, that is to say equality of opportunity exists. The class structure is ‘closed’ when such opportunity is virtually absent.
    • The Indian caste system provides a classic example, A ‘caste’ system is one in which an individual’s rank and its accompanying rights and obligations are ascribed on the basic of birth in to a particular group. Hindu society in traditional India was divided into five main strata: four Varnas or caste and a fifth group, the out caste, whose members were known as untouchables.
    • Each class is subdivided in to sub castes, which in total number many thousands. The Brahmins or priests, members of the highest caste, personify purity, sanctity and holiness. They are the sources of learning, wisdom and truth. At the other extreme, untouchables are defined as unclean and impure, a status which affects all other social relationships. They most be segregated from members of other castes and live on the outskirts of the villages, In general the hierarchy of prestige based on notions of ritual purity is mirrored by the hierarchy of power. The Brahmins were custodian of law and the legal system which they administered was based largely on their pronouncements. Inequalities of wealth were usually linked to those of prestige and power.
  2. Estate and Status: Estate system is synonymous with feudalism, which remained basis of social stratification in Europe from the fall of Roman Empire to the rise of the commercial classes generally and to the French Revolution (1989) particularly.
    • In Russia, in one form or another it continued to exist down to the October Revolution (1917). Under the system, the land was taken to be the gift of God to King, who in the absence of any local administrative systems made grants of it, called Estates or fiefs, to nobles, called lords temporal, for military service; they in turn made similar grants to the inferior class on oath of loyalty and military support. The holder of the land was called vassal; the multitudes who cultivated were the serfs and the people still lower to the serfs were slaves.
    • These grants with the privileges attached to them in the beginning, were personal in character. Latter with the weakening of the central authority, the estate and the privileges attached to it became hereditary. The church followed suit. Over the time there developed the three estates – the lords temporal, lord spiritual and the commons. The multitudes were serfs. They were somewhat better than slaves who in law, were chattels. They had no civic rights. In Russia, for example, about nine-tenth of arable land consisting of large estates belonged to the Czar, the royal family and to about one lakhs of the noble families. It was cultivated by the millions, called serfs. The serfdom continued till 1861, when it was finally abolished.
    • The Estate system was the basis of social stratification in all the countries of Europe. It was based on inequality of all sorts; Economic – there were few landlords and the multitudes of serfs and slaves; social – estate determined the social status and role, and the landless worked just for their protection.
    • They were a mere service class; Political – the estate having been given for military service, made the holder the prop and pillar of the state, and allowed him full authority over men and goods within his estate. The nobility and their important vassals enjoyed the privileges and the rest lived in misery. Mobility paid no taxes, neglected the feudal duties but secured all the dues for themselves. They had juristic immunities and political privileges; they made law their handmade and held men under bondage.
  1. Occupation and Income: Occupation is an aspect of economic systems which influences social class structure.
    • Rogoff in her study of “Social Stratification in France and United States” stressed that “of all the criteria mentioned in determining class position, occupational position is the most consistently named among the various strata in both societies.
    • Talcott Parsons also confirmed this for United States by saying that “the main criteria of class status are to be found in the occupational achievements of men, for prestige is attached to occupation. In advanced societies occupations are related to social status. Attempts have been made by P.K Hatt and C.C. North to rank occupations in USA.
    • In this state of nationwide sample of adult was asked to rate ninety occupations in accordance with prestige associated with each occupation. The ‘physician’ had the highest prestige and shoe shiner, the lowest. In between them were other occupation like clerical and sale occupation etc. Society is also stratified on the basis of income. Difference in income leads to very unequal standard of life.
    • The distribution of income, both cash and real income among individuals or families, in all capitalist countries takes the form of a gradient, with a relatively small group at the top receiving huge amounts and at the other extreme, a somewhat larger but still a small number of persons in the “negative income” bracket.
  2. Race and Ethnicity: Over the time, and at some places even now, race and ethnicity was and is taken to be the basis of inequality and stratification.
    • The Western people, wherever they went, claimed racial superiority and attributed their success to it. They took the ‘natives’ to be of inferior racial origin. The race conflict in Africa, the U.S.A. and in some of the European countries remains a dominant factor in stratification and inequality.
    • In South Africa, the whites constitute a status- group; membership of which cannot be acquired by Africans; no matter how wealthy or skilled they may be. The Greeks and the Romans had also the racial notions; and the Turks in our country had no less.
    • The Turko-Afghans considered Indian Mussalmans to be an inferior class and offices of responsibility and trust were not generally conferred upon them. Balban (1266- 86), a Turk by origin, was full with the notion of racial superiority, and held that a Turk alone had the qualities to rule. The British in their heyday of imperialism had similar notions. They gave to all others in theirs colonies, and to us an unequal treatment.
  3. Ruling Class: The ruling class always holds itself superior to those over whom it rules. This explains the psychology behind the ‘lord’ and ‘servant’ relationship.
    • Democracy did not demolish the distinctions. The political parties and pressure groups are the instruments in the hands of the ruling class to influence the community and to keep themselves in power. In newly independent countries such as ours, political power rests with a political class of ‘new men’ of no great substance who by founding and dominating the party and the Government, become a new ruling elite.
    • They have acquired such areas of influence, that a new entrant can hardly proceed on his own. He needs their support: the ‘blessings’ of the establishment the masses have hardly any say. They have to agree with what they are told is good for them.
  4. Administrative Position: Stratification is sometimes based on administrative position.
    • The Civil service personnel command a status higher than the members of the provincial Service. Within the services too, members of higher rank command greater respect The stratification is more distinctly clear in police and military service where the uniform, badges and ribbons distinguish the officers. Sprott has indicated that “in the Civil Services, grades are distinguished by the shape of chair upon which the official sits and the size of the desk at which he writes”.

Function of Social Stratification:

  • For the proper functioning of society, it has to work out some mechanism by which people engaged in different occupations get different recognition. If each activity is associated with same type of economic returns and prestige, there will be no competition for different occupations.
  • Stratification is that system by which different positions are hierarchically divided. Such a system has given rise to different classes like Upper, Middle, Working and Lower or caste groups like Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Sudras. The importance of stratification can be seen with regard to the functions it performs for the individual and society.

For the Individual:

No doubt system of stratification is applicable to the whole society yet it serves some functions for the individual also.

  1. Competition: Individuals based on their attributes compete with each other and only those individuals who have better attributes get greater recognition. This may be in the field of sports, education, occupation etc.
  2. Recognition of Talent: The persons with more training skills, experience and education are given better positions. The deserving individuals are not treated at par with deserving candidates. Such a system helps people to acquire better talents.
  3. Motivation: The system of stratification motivates the individuals to work hard so that they can improve upon their social status. It is more true in case of those societies in which statuses are achieved.
  4. Job Satisfaction: As the jobs are given to the individuals according to their skills and education, the workers get job satisfaction. In case, a person with higher qualification is not allowed to move higher in the social ladder, he feels dissatisfied with his job.
  5. Mobility: The system of achieved status also provides an opportunity for upward and downward mobility. Those persons who work hard and are intelligent move up in the social ladder. On the other hand, those who fail to come up to the expectations move downward. Hence, the possibility of change in the position keeps the people always alert and makes them work hard.

Functions for the Society:

The system of social stratification is also useful for the progress and the well-being of the society. This can be seen if we take into account two forms of stratification.

Ascriptive Form of Stratification: Under the caste system, the status of the individual is fixed at birth and different castes are hierarchically arranged.

  • However, even within the caste system those members who perform their caste roles effectively and efficiently occupy higher’ status. On the other hand, those members who do not perform their role properly occupy lower status even when they belong to the same caste.
  • This functional base has given rise to sub castes. In other words, one caste is further divided into different sub castes and these sub castes are hierarchically divided within a caste group. Fixation of status of a caste group also facilitates better training of the members. As the members are made aware about the future roles, they start getting training from the childhood.
  • Such a situation was more applicable in the traditional societies where knowledge was foil knowledge and it could be acquired through membership of a caste group. In this way we find that under ascriptive form of stratification, society was being well-served and there was interdependence of the caste because of the specialization of their roles.
  1. Achieved Form: Under the achieved form of social stratification, the social statuses are assigned according to the worth of the individual. This system serves the following functions for the society:
    • Occupational Hierarchy: Depending upon the importance of a particular occupation, different occupations are hierarchically divided. The occupations which are very important for the well-being of the society are associated with high prestige and those occupations which do not need specialized training are given low status. Such a system is free from confusion, and motivates the people to work hard, so that they could take up occupations of high prestige.
    • Division according to Intelligence: All persons are not equal with regard to their intelligence. Those persons with higher level of intelligence can perform more complicated functions of the society. Hence they are provided with different opportunities and high prestige.
    • Training: Society makes elaborate arrangements for the training of younger generation. Those who spend more time on training and acquiring new skills are compensated with high returns. Even though such persons start working later yet the economic returns and social prestige associated with their work is higher than others.
    • Work Efficiency: Persons with appropriate knowledge and training occupy appropriate positions. Hence, their work efficiency is also higher. Under this system there is no place for parasites and those who shirk work. The fittest to survive is the rule which is followed.
    • Development: The competition to move higher in the social ladder has resulted into new inventions, new methods of work and greater efficiency. This system has led to progress and development of the country. The Western societies are highly developed; it is attributed to the fact that these societies adopted open system of stratification. In this way we find that system of stratification helps in the progress of the society. There are some sociologists who are of the opinion that social stratification is also associated with dysfunctions e.g. giving rise to frustration, anxiety and mental tension. In short, we can say that social stratification has both positive and negative functions. But no society can survive unless it has some system of stratification.

Theories of Social Stratification

Structure Functionalist Theory

  1. The Structural- functionalist perspective seeks to explain social stratification in terms of its contribution to the maintenance of social order and stability in society.
  2. TALCOTT PARSONS believed that order and stability depends upon the value consensus in the society. Individuals who conduct themselves in accordance with these values are ranked above others. A successful business executive would be ranked above others in a society which values individual achievement while individuals who fight battles and wars would be ranked above others in a society which values bravery and gallantry.
  3. Functionalists uphold that relationship between social groups in society is one of cooperation and interdependence. Parsons explains that in a highly specialized industrial society, some people specialize in organization and planning while others follow their directives. Certain positions are functionally more important in society than others. These are often ranked higher in the social hierarchy and fetch greater rewards than others. This inevitability leads to inequality in distribution of power and prestige.

Kinsley Davis and Wilbert moor:.
  1. They discussed the issues of functional necessity of stratification, determinants of positional rank, societal functions and stratification, and variation in stratified system at length. They explained that unequal distribution rights and perquisites making for social inequality provides the motivation to people to perform duties associated with a given position and to achieve position that affords more prestige and esteem.
  2. Social inequality therefore ensures that “the most important positions are conscientiously filled by the most qualified persons. Hence every society, no matter how simple or complex, must differentiate persons in terms of both prestige and esteem, and must therefore possess a certain amount of institutionalized inequality” (Davis and Moore). The positions that carry the best reward and highest rank are those that are excessively important for society, and require greatest training or talent. They clarify that in effect, a society needs to accord sufficient reward to position of high rank only to ensure that they are filled competently. It may also be understood that a position important in one society may not be equally important in another one.

Kinsley Davis and Wilbert Moor summarizes their central argument in the following words :
  1. “Certain positions in any society are functionally more important than others, and require special skills for their performance. Only a certain number of individuals in any society have the talents which can be trained into the skills appropriate to these positions.
  2. The conversion of talents into skills involves a training period during which sacrifices of one kind or
    another are made by those undergoing the training. In order to induce the talented persons to
    undergo these sacrifices and acquire the training, their future positions must carry an inducement value in the form of differential reward,
    i.e., privileged and disproportionate access to the scarce and desired rewards which the society has to offer.
  3. These scarce and desired goods consist of the rights and perquisites attached to, or built into, the positions, and can be classified into those things which contribute to a sustenance and comfort, (b) humor or diversion, (c) self-respect and expansion.
  4. This differential access to the basic rewards of the society has a consequence the differentiation of the prestige and esteem which the various strata acquire.
  5. Therefore, social inequality among different strata in the amounts of scarce and desired goods, and the amounts of prestige and esteem which they receive, is both positively functional and inevitable in any society”.
Melvin Tumin Critisises the functional proposition of Davis and Moore.
  1. He argues that at the outset it is not proper to treat certain positions as functionally more important than others, e.g. it is not appropriate to judge that the engineers in a factory are functionally more important because of special skills than unskilled workmen. Surely, some labour force of unskilled workmen is as important and indispensable to the functioning of the factory as some labour force of engineer furthermore, relative indispensability and respectability of a set of skills among a people largely depends upon the bargaining power of those who possess it. This power depends on the prevalent system of rating. Motivation is determined by several factors out of which rewards and other inducements are only some.
  2. The other criticism is regarding ranges of talent and the presence of limited number of individuals with talents. This proposition is contested by Tumin on the ground that in any society there is no adequate knowledge to determine and judge that amount of talent present in society. He explains that societies that are rigidly stratified are less likely to be able to discover new facts about the talents of its members. If the differential rewards and opportunities are socially inherited by the subsequent generation, then the discovery of talents in the next generation becomes particularly difficult. More importantly, motivation depends on distribution of rewards in the previous generation. This means that unequal distinctive motivation in a generation is because of unequal distribution of rewards in the preceding generation. Access to privileged position is restricted by the elites in society. For example Indian Caste System.
  3. The other proposition of Davis and Moore introduce the concept of sacrifice which Tumin States. He challenges the prevalence of sacrifice by talented people undergoing training since it involves losses that arise out of surrender of earning power and cost of the training. One of the basis issues here is the presumption that the training period in a system is essentially sacrificed. This is not always true because the costs involved in training people may be born by the society at large. If this happens, the need to compensate someone in terms of differential rewards when the skilled positions are staffed makes no sense.
  4. Tumin argues that even if the training programme is sacrificed and the talent in society is rare, the other proposition of Davis and Moore suggesting differential access to desired rewards does not hold. The allocation of differential rewards is not the only the most efficient way of inviting appropriate talent for top position is itself questionable. The joy in work, work satisfaction, institutionalized social important positions. This aspect has been overlooked by Davis and Moore.
  5. Davis and Moore classify rewards into three categories, those that contribute to sustenance and comfort, those that contribute to humor and diversion, and those that contribute to self respect and ego-expansion. He says that it is not possible to determine whether one type of reward or all three of them induced motivation. Societies, emphasis different kinds of rewards in order to maintain balance between responsibility and record. The other proposition of Davis and Moore focuses on social inequality among different strata in term of scarce and desired goods and the amount of prestige and esteem they incur. These are positively functional and inevitable in society. Tumin writes, “If such differential power and property are viewed by all as commensurate with the differential responsibilities, and if they are culturally defined as resources and not as rewards then, no differentials in prestige and esteem need to follow.

Davis and Moore’s Argument:
  1. Davis, in turn, asserts that Tumin seeks to demolish the concept of institutionalized inequality. He offers no explanation of the Universality of stratified inequality. While the interest of Davis and Moore lay in understanding why stratification exists in society, Tumin argues that stratification does not have to be. Evidently, they are addressing different issues further; Davis alleges that Tumin’s critique suffers from confusion about abstract or theoretical reasoning with raw, empirical generalizations. He defends his own position by stating that the chief concern was with stratified inequality as a general property of social systems involving high degree of abstraction again.
  2. Tumin’s critical appraisal of the theory proposed by Davis and Moore is based on only one article conveniently ignoring other publications that answer several question raised by him. His own understanding and presentation of Davis and Moore theory is inadequate. This in fact, is why Tumin’s concept of stratification is inconsistent. Moore too explicitly states that Tumin has not defined social stratification clearly. This led him to wrongly assume that differential rewards and inequality of opportunity was the same thing.

Critique to Structural-Functional Theory of Stratification:

Tumin proposed the following critique:

  1. “Social stratification systems function to limit the possibility of discovery of the full range of talent available in a society. This results from the fact of unequal access to appropriate motivation, channels of recruitment and centers of training.
  2. In foreshortening the range of available talent, social stratification systems function to set limits upon the possibility of expanding the productive resources of the society, at least relative to what might be the case under conditions of greater equality of opportunity.
  3. 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, whatever it may be as “logical”, “natural”, and “morally right”. In this manner social stratification systems function as essentially conservative influences in the societies in which they are found.
  4. Social stratification systems function to distribute favorable self-image unequally throughout a population. To the extent that such favorable self- image are requisite to the development of the creative potential inherent in men, to that extent stratification systems function to limit the development of this creative potential.
  5. To the extent that inequalities in social reward cannot be made fully acceptable to the less privileged in a society, social stratification systems function to encourage hostility, suspicion and distrust among the various segments of a society and thus to limit the possibilities of extensive social integration.

The Marxist perspective:

The Marxist perspective differs from the functionalist perspective in focusing on divisive rather than
integrative aspect of social stratification. Marxists regard social stratification as a means through which the group in the upper rungs exploits those in the lower rungs. Here the system of stratification is based on the relationship of social groups to the forces of production.

  1. More clearly stated Marxists identify two major strata in society: one that controls the forces of production (Bourgeoisie) hence rules over others, second that works for the ruling class (Proletariat). Form Marxian standpoint, economic Power governs political power. The ruling class derives its power form ownership and control over forces of production. The relations of production prevail over major institutions, values and belief systems. Evidently the political and legal system pursues the interests of the ruling class. The ruling class oppresses the serving class. Thus, stratification in society serves to foster exploitation and hostility between the two major strata.
  2. According to Karl Marx in all stratified societies there are two major social groups: a ruling class (Haves) and a subject class(Have Nots). The ruling class derives its power from its ownership and control of the forces of production. The ruling class exploits and oppresses the subject class. As a result there is a basic conflict of interest between the two classes. The various institutions of society such as the legal and political system are instruments of ruling class domination and serve to further its interests. Marx believed that western society developed through four main epochs-primitive communism, ancient society, feudal society and capitalist society.
  3. Primitive communism is represented by the societies of pre-history and provides the only example of the classless society. From then all societies are divided into two major classes – master and slaves in ancient society, lords and serfs in feudal society and capitalist and wage labourers in capitalist society.
  4. The critical terms in the Marxian framework of social stratification are :
    • Class consciousness by which is meant the awareness, the recognition by the people belonging to a class (e.g., workers) of their place in the production process and of their relation with the owning class. Class consciousness also subsumes the awareness of the extent of exploitation by the owning class in terms of their deprivation of and appropriate share in the ‘surplus value’ of goods produced by them. Over time, workers realize that the way to relieve themselves of the exploitation and oppression is overthrowing the capitalist owners through unified, collective revolution
    • Class solidarity by which is meant the extent to which the workers join together in order to achieve their economic and political objectives; and
    • Class conflict by which is meant struggle when class consciousness has not matured or it may be conscious struggle in the form of collective assertions and representations of workers intended to improve their lot.(Detail in ‘Sociological Thinker’s )

The Weberian perspective:

The third is the Weberian perspective according to which social stratification is based on Class, Status and Power. class is based on market situation (Economic)-, Individuals position in the market. Those who share common class situation also share similar life chances. They constitute a strata.
The crucial characteristics of class are;

  • Individuals share a particular causal facet of their lives;
  • These facets are represented exclusively by economic drive in the possession of goods and opportunities for property accrual, and
  • Class situation is essentially a market situation. Classes are not communities; they merely represent possible bases for communal action.

Weber identified four groups in a capitalist society;

  • The propertied upper- class
  • The property- less, white collar worker class
  • The petty bourgeoisie and
  • The manual working class.
Status groups
  1. Weber did agree with Marx on the significance of the economic dimension of stratification. He, however, added the aspects of prestige(Status) and Power (Party) to the understanding of social stratification. Weber was convinced that differences in status led to differences in lifestyles. “As distinguished from the consequences of property differences for life chances, status differences, according to Weber, lead to differences in life styles which form an important element in the social exclusiveness of various status groups. Status groups acquire honour primarily by usurpation. They claim certain rewards and act out their claims in terms of certain manners and styles of behavior and certain socially exclusive activities. status groups are usually communities.
  2. Status situation is determined by a specific, positive or negative, social estimation of honor; it is not necessarily linked with class situation. The highest prestige in particular social group does not always belong to the richest. Status symbols, special attire, exclusive clubs and unique lifestyles distinguish the status groups. Much like Marx, Weber agreed that property differences are important in forming of Class. Property differences also define the lines of distinction and privileges among them. Unlike Marx, Weber assigned greater importance to status groups.
  1. Weber also laid stress on party which often represents interests determined through ‘class situation and status situation. According to Weber, the economic aspect is crucial in classes, honour is crucial in status groups, and power is crucial in parties. Party arise form the nature of domination which is present in one form or another in all the societies
  2. Weber analytically distinguished there orders within society—economic, social and political—and corresponding to these, identified three dimensions of stratification: class, status and power. On the fundamentals, there was little difference between Weber and Marx in defining class. Denying that a unified theory of social stratification was even possible, Weber went beyond a critical rejection of Marx’s simplistic unilinear theory of class.

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Lopamudra Sharma

Very efficient notes and very helpful.