Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Social Stratification and Social Inequality

Inequality is a certain distribution of privileges and resources as a consequence of which society gets categorically divided or stratified. In theoretical terms, while differences between groups may not always lead to inequalities, the existence of inequalities necessarily implies the existence of difference between them where the difference becomes the basis of the inequality. This is exactly where the value attached to the difference becomes a parameter to segregate people and hierarchize one over the other. 

Kingsley Davis lays emphasis on the functional necessity of stratification. According to him, society must provide some rewards which it can use as inducements and have some way of distributing these rewards differently according to position. The rewards and their distribution, as attached to social positions, create social stratification. These rewards may be in the form of economic incentives, aesthetic incentives, and symbolic incentives. The differentiation of rewards produces social inequality. 

According to Davis, social inequality is an unconsciously evolved device by which societies insure that the most important positions are conscientiously filled by the most qualified persons. Hence, every society must possess a certain amount of institutionalized inequality or social stratification. 

This view of Davis has come under criticism and theorists have also forwarded the conflict perspective to explain social stratification. Conflict theorists like that of Karl Marx, although he never directly gave a theory on social stratification, gave a theory of social class on the basis of which we derive stratification or inequality in society. His theory is a radical alternative to the functionalist view and he uses the term class to refer to the main strata of society. According to the Marxian perspective, systems of stratification derive from the relationships of the social groups to the forces of production. Except for primitive communism the first stage in history according to Marx, all other societies are stratified, like the master and the slave in slavery, lord and the serf in the feudal system, and the bourgeoisie and the proletariat in capitalism. For Weber, all communities are arranged in a manner that goods, tangible and intangible, symbolic and material are distributed. Such a distribution is always unequal and necessarily involves power. “Classes, status groups and parties are phenomena of the distribution of power within a community”.

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Social Stratification pp-31-32

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