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Social Stratification

A system in which groups of people are divided into layers according to their relative property, power, and prestige; A way of ranking large groups of people into a hierarchy according to their relative privileges

The Three major systems of social stratification

1. Slavery 2. Caste 3. Class


Causes: 1-debt 2-crime 3-war; Conditions: sometimes temporary, not necessarily inheritable, not necessarily powerless and poor; Still in Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Niger, and Sudan, and sex trafficking of women and children


Beliefs that justify social arrangements; U.S. colonists developed the ideology that slaves were inferior


Formally abolished in India in 1949, but the practices still remain part of everyday life; Status determined by birth and is lifelong; Someone who is born into a low-status group will always have a low status, not matter how much that person may accomplish in life; 1. Brahman (Priests/teachers) 2. Kshatriya (Rulers/soldiers) 3. Vaishya (Merchants/traders) 4. Shudra (Peasants/laborers) 5. Dalit (untouchables; outcastes; degrading or polluting labor)


Marriage within their own caste/group and prohibit intermarriage

Ritual Pollution

Touching an inferior caste contaminates the superior caste-keep contact between castes to a minimum

Racial Caste System

When slavery ended in U.S., this replaced it; All whites, even if they were poor and uneducated, considered themselves to have a higher status than all African-Americans


Based primarily on money or material possessions, which can be acquired

Social Mobility

Movement up or down the class ladder

The Global Superclass

One which wealth and power are more concentrated than ever before; only 6,000 members and the richest 1,000 of them have more wealth than the 2 1/2 billion poorest people on this planet

What Determines Social Class?

Marx-depends on a single factor: people's relationship to the means of production (tools, factories, land, and investment capital used to produce wealth) Weber-depends on property, power, and prestige


Capitalists; Marx


Workers; Marx


People living on the margin of society such as beggars, vagrants, and criminals; Marx

Class Consciousness

A shared identity based on their position in the means of production

False Class Consciousness

Workers mistakenly thinking of themselves as capitalists

The three p's that determine one's place in the social stratification system

Weber; 1. Property: wealth 2. Power: the ability to control others 3. Prestige: an admiration for the wealthy and powerful

Stratification of Society is inevitable Because....

Kingsley Davis, Wilbert Moore; 1. Society must make certain that its positions are filled 2. Some positions are more important than others 3. The more important positions must be filled by the more qualified people 4. To motivate the more qualified people to fill these position, society must offer them greater rewards

Why is Social stratification universal?

The people who contribute more to society are paid more, while those who contribute less are paid less

The major flaws in the functionalist position

Melvin Tumlin; 1. How do we know that the positions that offer the higher rewards are more important? EX: garbage collectors are thought of as less important, but they prevent contagious disease and save many more lives than heart surgeons 2. If stratification worked as Davis and Moore described it, society would be a meritocracy 3. If social stratification is so functional, it ought to benefit almost everyone, yet social stratification is dysfunctional for many


Positions would be awarded on the basis of merit

What is Mosca's argument against functionalists?

1. No society can exist unless it is organized: leadership is required in order to coordinate people's actions 2. Leadership requires inequalities of power: Some are leaders and some are followers 3. Because human nature is self-centered, people in power will use their positions to seize greater rewards for themselves

Marx's argument against functionalism

The elite seduce the oppressed into believing that their welfare depends on keeping quiet and following authorities like sheep and all workers will revolt

Current applications of conflict theory

Groups within the same class compete with one another for a larger slice of the pie; EX: union will fight against union for higher salaries, shorter hours, and more power

Lenski's Synthesis

Surplus is the key to reconciliation between conflict theorists and functionalists

How do elites maintain stratification?

1. Controlling people's ideas 2. Controlling speech and information: stifle criticism and control information 3. Big Brother technology: monitoring citizens without anyone knowing

Divine right of kings

The king's authority comes directly from God; To disobey the king means to disobey God; "King gods"

Social Stratification in Great Britain

A tiny upper class, 1%, is wealthy, powerful, and highly educated; Like Americans, they recognize distinctions on the basis of the type of car a person drives or the stores someone patronizes; education is the primary way by which the British perpetuate their class system from one generation to the next

Social Stratification in Soviet Union

Socialism describes the intermediate step between capitalism and communism, in which social classes are abolished but some inequality remains; Communist party-low level: spying on fellow workers, middle level: bureaucrats who were given better than average access to resources and privileges, top level: small elite of party members that enjoyed not only power but also limousines, imported delicacies, vacation homes, and even servants and hunting lodges; criminal groups-headed by gangsters, corrupt government officials (former KGB, now FSB), and crooked businessmen, police force, prosecutors, and judges

Global Stratification

1. Most Industrialized Nations 2. The Industrializing Nations 3. The least Industrializing Nations

The Most Industrialized Nations

U.S., Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Australia, New Zealand; Capitalistic; 16% of people

Industrializing Nations

Former USSR and their former satellites in eastern Europe; Lower incomes and standards of living than do those who live in the Most Industrialized Nations; 16% of people

The Least Industrializing Nations

Most people live on small farms or in villages, have large families, and barely survive; 68% of people


Stresses that the countries that industrialized first got the jump on the rest of the world; the purpose was to establish economic colonies

Economic Colonies

exploit the nation's people and resources for the benefit of the mother country

World System Theory

Industrialization led to four groups of nations; 1. core nations, semiperiphery nations, periphery/fringe nations, and external area nations

Core nations

Countries that industrialized first

Semiperiphery Nations

The economies of these nations stagnated because they grew dependent on trade with the core nations

Periphery/Fringe Nations

Eastern European countries which sold cash crops to the core nations

External Area nations

Most of Africa and Asia; left out of the development of capitalism altogether

Culture of Poverty

A way of life that perpetuates poverty from one generation to the next

How Did the World's Nations become Stratified?

1. Colonialism 2. World System Theory 3. Culture of Poverty

Maintaining Global Stratification

1. Neocolonialism 2. Multinational Corporations 3. Technology and global domination


Michael Harrington; Most Industrialized nations turned to the international markets as a way of controlling the Least Industrialized nations

Multinational Corporations

Companies that operate across many national boundaries; help to maintain the global dominance of the Most Industrialized Nations

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