Social Stratification

Posted: September 3rd, 2013





Social Stratification

            The statement that humanity is not homogenous but heterogeneous is indeed true in every sense of the word. Individuals harbor differences with each other in various aspects. Even when taking into account the body structure or physiology, there are inherent differences albeit with various similarities. Humanity differs in terms of facial looks, body structure, intellectual levels, moral standards, philosophical stands, mental abilities, economic status, political, and a myriad of other aspects in life.

Nowhere in the world are there two individuals who are similar in every aspect. Diversity and inequality are common factors among human civilizations. With this regard, the human society is stratified in every aspect of life. Human civilizations categorize the members of the society in terms of inferiority, superiority and equality. The evaluation of individuals on vertical scales is what is termed to as stratification. The people who are evaluated on the top stratum tend to have more power, prestige and privilege than those who are categorized in the lower strata. With this regard, stratification refers to the process of differentiation whereby individuals are ranked high while others are ranked low.

Social stratification is defined as the process involving the categorizing of people where some are placed in a high or low enduring hierarchy of status. This definition is according to Ogburn and Nimkoff. Gilbert, on the other hand, defines social stratification as the categorizing of individuals in society into permanent identities where they are related with each other in terms of sub-ordination and superiority. Social stratification is defined by Melvin M. Tumin as the classification of the human civilization into a pecking order of positions that vary in terms of power property ownership, social evolution and in accordance to psychic gratification.

Lundberg explains that a civilization depicting social stratification is identified with inequality with varying differences among individuals who are either categorized as being “higher” and “lower”. Raymond W. Murry adds that social stratification is the evaluation of members of a given society and categorizing them in horizontal divisions of low and high social units. From the above, social stratification is therefore a phenomenon where members of the society are categorized into “high” and “low” in accordance with the chosen criteria.

Social stratification adorns various attributes with one being that it is social. Social stratification is considered social in that it does not take into consideration inherent biological aspects of inequality. Although biological aspects such as potency, intellectual capacity, age and sex can bring about stratification or inequality, these differences fail in explaining sufficiently the aspect of a society where some individuals are wield more property, power and prestige in comparison to others.

Biological attributes fail to taken as standards or criteria for determining superiority or inferiority in a society up to the time when the society recognizes such and asserts to them much importance. The current society depicts various persons of short stature or low reasoning standards to have high superiority and prestige. Taking into account a manger of a given industry, the manager is accorded a superior position irrespective of his strength or age.

The manger is accorded such a position because of his education, training skills, professional experience, personality attributes and character. The latter tend to be highly regarded by the society as opposed to the manager’s biological attributes. Social stratification is termed as social in that it is directed by activities that are considered norms and sanctions in the society. Social stratification is highly likely to be unstable as it is bound to change in the presence of various factors and it is closely related to other aspects of the society including family set up, religion, economic level and level of education.

Another attribute of social stratification is that it is ancient. Stratification is quite old as depicted by anthropologists. Research into historical and archeological records indicate that olden societies depicted stratification in small wandering bands. Criteria have changed with time as during the time, age and sex played a major role in categorizing members of the society. Social stratification continues to thrive in most of the world civilizations because the elites tend to control ideas, information, property, services and the use of force. Those in the upper level strata control ideas in civilizations to maintain the status quo. This is executed in both democratic and dictatorships. This aspect goes to the extent of having their ideologies being accepted by the masses and the making of stable political arrangements. There are those states where the elites utilize force to control information. This is mainly exhibited in dictatorships. Elites in democratic nations tend to control information through the manipulation of the media by discriminating released information.

Another attribute of social stratification is that it is universal. The entire world depicts the stratification phenomenon. All over the world, differences between the affluent and the poor, the privileged and the condemned are easily evidenced. These aspects range from the industrialized and developed nations in Europe to the undeveloped nations in Africa and Asia. Even in religious nations like those of the Arab nations, social stratification is easily evidenced where the affluent are raked higher than their poor counterparts rake and thereby accorded much privileges. This attribute is echoed by Sorokin who asserts that stratification is depicted in all permanently organized groups.

Another attribute of social stratification is that it occurs in different forms. The system of stratification is heterogeneous in the various societies inhabiting the world’s system. As an illustration, the roman society is identified as having two distinct categories or strata; the plebeians and the patricians. Looking into the ancient Aryan society, four distinct categories or strata can be evidenced in their society. Social stratification has brought about many negative impacts on today’s society. It has created inequalities in economic social, political and ideological dimensions. Social stratification has created social disparity the development of monopoly of power and wealth by a selective few. Social stratification affects the chances of survival in life by dictating the kind healthcare services, residential areas education and other kinds of services that are availed to an individual. It facilitates social stress and depression among those in the lower strata. This is mainly because of the unequal access and distribution to affluence, power and prestige. A huge disparity between the lower and upper classes is created.

One aspect of social stratification is that at times, the society uses criteria such as race, gender and class to determine the strata that an individual belongs. With this regard, we find that in some communities, the women are accorded lower strata as opposed to their male counterparts. In nations where racism is rampant, we see individuals being classified in terms of their races. This was predominant in the United States of America where the African Americans were accorded lower social strata as opposed to the white counterparts.

Ascriptive inequality occurs where there is a stereotype based on the belief that social class is mainly hereditary. With this regard, individuals get to be classified into social classes based on their inherent qualities such as race, gender and class. Achieved status is an sociological ideology based on the belief that social classes are acquired on the basis of merit. This stratum is mainly earned or chosen. The social class with this respect is a reflection of an individual’s personal skills, abilities and efforts.

This brings about various issues as it ends up dictating the kind of education that an individual goes through, the health and nutrition availed employments and courts and others. People in the upper classes are able to afford their children expensive schooling and high-class nutrition and health services. The issue of education creates a stereotype where individuals from well off families are believed to be better suited for employment as opposed to their counterparts from the lower class.

This is because the latter is less likely to have attended the exclusive schools that are perceived to be better. The availability of quality health services also brings about the issues of mortality and morbidity. Quality health care services are accorded to individuals in the upper class as opposed to the poor thus enabling the rich to have lower mortality rate. Individuals in the lower classes are more prone to various health ailments because of their economic status. This renders them unable access heath care services regularly and on the few occasions this is done, the services are of poor quality. These results into having the poor families depict higher rates of infant mortality and other health complications such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Currently, the society is being disillusioned on the fact that the class where one is born of dictates the individual’s influence on the world or achievements. There are numerous instances where individuals from lower classes have influenced the world in a great way. Currently, the president of the United States of America is of African American decent. He has emerged to be the leader of a nation that once believed that African Americans could only be enslaved but never lead. The society is therefore required to fully harbor and adopt the achieve status ideology where individuals get to chose the social class they would like to be identified with.



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