Sunday, 1 December 2019

Functions and Dysfunctions of Social Stratification

Functions of Social Stratification

The functional significance of social class is to some extent implicit to what is known. In giving attention to a more explicit functional assessment of the various aspects of class and the basis of stratification in a hierarchy of values and in role differentiation; the fact of prestige tanking; the fact that the unit of social class is the family, and more generally the fact that class implies some differential association between the families of which a society is composed; and the tendency of social classes in the same system to have different styles of life, apart from the differences implied in role differentiation. Functional assessment in this field as in others is not a simple matter. Let’s discuss the functions and dysfunctions which are bound up together bear various possibilities of functional balance.

Functions of Social Stratification are discussed below:

  1. Encourages hard work: 

One of the main functions of class stratification is to induce people to work hard to live up to values. Those who best fulfill the values of a particular society are normally rewarded with greater prestige and social acceptance by others. It is known that occupations are ranked high if their functions are highly important and the required personnel are very scarce.

Hard work, prolonged training and a heavy burden of responsibility are associated with such occupational positions. People undertaking such works are rewarded with money, prestige comforts, etc. Still, we cannot say that all those positions which are regarded as important are adequately compensated for.

  1. Ensures circulation of elites: 

To some extent class stratification helps to ensure what is often called “the circulation of the elite”. When a high degree of prestige comforts and other re­wards are offered for certain positions, there will be some competition for them. This process of competition helps to ensure that the more efficient people are able to rise to the top, where their ability can best be used.

  1. Serves an economic function: 

The competitive aspect has a kind of economic function in that it helps to ensure the rational use of available talent. It is also functionally necessary to offer differential rewards if the positions at the top are largely ascribed as it is in the case of the caste system.

Even in the caste system, the people at the top can lose their prestige if they fail to maintain certain standards. Hence differential rewards provide the incentives for the upper classes to work at main­taining their positions.

  1. Prevents waste of resources: 

The stratification system prevents the waste of scarce resources. The men in the elite class actually possess scarce and socially valued abilities and qualities, whether these are inherited or acquired.

Because of their possession of these qualities their enjoyment of some privileges such as extra comfort and immunity from doing menial work, are functionally jus­tified. It becomes functionally beneficial for the society to make use of their talents without being wasted.

For example, it would be a waste to pour the resources of society into the training of doctors and engineers, and then making them to work as peons and attendants. When once certain individu­als are chosen and are trained for certain difficult positions it would be dysfunctional to waste their time and energy on tasks for which there is enough manpower.

  1. Stabilizes and reinforces the attitudes and skills: 

Members of a class normally try to limit their relations to their own class. More intimate relationships are mostly found between fellow class members. Even this tendency has its own function.

It tends to stabilize and reinforce the attitudes and skills that may be the basis of an upper-class position. Those who have similar values and interests tend to associate comfortably with one another. Their frequent association itself confirms their common values and interests.

  1. Helps to pursue different professions or jobs: 

The values, attitudes and qualities of differ­ent classes do differ. This difference is also functional for society to some extent. Because society needs manual as well as non-manual workers.

Many jobs are not attractive to highly trained or ‘re­fined’ people for they are socialized to aspire for certain other jobs. Because of the early influence of family and socialization, the individuals imbibe in them certain values, attitudes and qualities rel­evant to the social class to which they belong. This will influence their selection of jobs.

  1. Social Control: 

Further, to the extent that ‘lower class’ cultural characteristics are essential to society, the classes are, of course, functional. In fact, a certain amount of mutual antagonism be­tween social classes is also functional. To some extent, upper-class and lower-class groups can act as negative reference groups for each other. Thus, they act as a means of social control also.

  1. Controlling effect on the ‘shady’ world: 

Class stratification has another social control function. Even in the ‘shady’ world of gamblers and in the underworld of lower criminals, black marketers, racketeers, smugglers, etc., the legitimate class structure has got respectability.

They know that money is not a substitute for prestige but only compensation for renouncing it. Hence instead of continuing in a profitable shady career, such people want to gain respectability for their money and for their children.

They try to enter legitimate fields and become philanthropists and patrons of the arts. Thus the legitimate class structure continues to attract the shady classes and the underworld. This attraction exerts a social control function.

Dysfunctions of Social Stratification

The dysfunctions of class stratification are probably more obvious than the functions. Let’s put forth some of the dysfunctions of the following below:

  1. Class in the family: 

The tendency toward inheritance of class position, which is revealed in every study of the relationship between fathers’ occupations and those of their sons, inevitably means that to some extent the circulation of the elite is hampered, there is some waste of talent, and presumably some social positions are filled less efficiently than they would otherwise be. Family loyalty is not the only cause of this. To whatever extent social-class consciousness exists (not necessarily in the rather narrow Marxist sense) there is inevitably a tendency toward class favouritism. In the caste type of system, constriction of the circulation of the elite is elevated into a principle.

  1. The aspect of a class system: 

In this system, the tendency for the upper classes to accumulate wealth and the distribution of wealth in all forms probably never fulfills perfectly the function of giving greater rewards to those whose contributions to society are the more important. From a sociological point of view, the dysfunction involved in this mal-distribution lies not in its abstract injustice but, rather, in the sense of injustice, in the danger to morale involved in the spread of the feeling that effort is not rewarded according to the desert, and in the strain put upon the integration of society. The distribution of good things in general, which is to some extent controlled by the sheer power aspect of the upper-class position, is dysfunctional, in other words, if it begins to undermine the value system and transform “normal” criticism from below into class rancour. In this case, the differential-reward aspect of the class does not fulfill its pattern-maintenance and integrative functions; instead, it creates a “problem” in the areas of pattern maintenance and integration.

  1. The aspect of a caste system: 

In the case of the caste system, it is only an extreme type, sanctified in religion or ideology. The caste system divides society into many groups such as Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra. The only caste system is responsible for the suffering of a particular section of the society who are untouchables. They are suppressed and exploited by the high caste groups. Each group is attached to rigid social norms and values, because of which normal interaction among the categories is not possible. So, it is a hindrance to social progress as well as the rules and regulation in the principle of ‘Purity and Pollution’, one has to conform to the traditional norms and values to maintain the principle.

  1. A special aspect of mal-distribution: 

In this sense it is implicit in the growing rancour of the bourgeoisie before the French Revolution; the mal-distribution that caused complaint was not so much mal-distribution of material rewards. Nor was there a great danger that the bourgeoisie would through apathy cease to perform its functions for society. The trouble, it appears, was that the bourgeoisie felt that it was not given adequate public recognition for the functions it was in fact performing. Inadequate public recognition was no doubt partly a matter of restricting business activities unnecessarily (as if they were unimportant); it was partly a matter of not permitting members of the bourgeoisie to gain the social distinction of nobility. This feeling of injustice led to, or was involved in, class conflict; when circumstances were ripe the growing strength of the frustrated classes overcame the weakness of the “ruling class,” but only at the great cost of revolution.

  1. The dysfunctions of social class: 

As discussed earlier in the social class system it has been found that the prevention of talent from reaching certain top positions where it would be socially most useful, the hampering of talented persons in the positions they do occupy, and the withholding of social rewards from functionally important people and unduly confining these rewards to people whose contributions to society seem less important.

These dysfunctions are always present to some degree, but they are not always so pronounced as to outweigh the functions as mentioned above. In other words, a certain amount of injustice and inflexibility can exist without creating universal cynicism and destroying the integration of society.

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