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Social Stratification Essay

Updated on July 13, 2012


This is an essay on social stratification I used for a diploma in social work. Please do no copy this essay, it is for information purposes only.

Social Stratification Essay

This essay will be discussing stratification , “social stratification is a particular form of social inequality. It refers to the presence of distinct social groups which are ranked one above the other in terms of factors such as prestige and wealth” ( Haralombos and Holborn 2008) This means that stratification is social hierarchy which exists within most cultures. The essay will be discussing gender and society's ingrained prejudiced towards women. The functionalist reasons for supporting stratification and critiques of this opinion; the new rights perspective on capitalism and free markets and why some sociologist disagree with this and the role wealth plays in social standing.

it can be argued that one the most deep rooted forms of stratification is that of gender, in all society's gender is divided into men and women and in most society's women are viewed as the weaker sex "there are no societies in which men, do not, in some areas of social life, have more wealth, status and influence than women" (Gidens 2006). Gender can still determine you career, your income and your place within a family. The stratification system can be accused of oppressing women, if a society ranked individuals according to wealth and occupation women will always be at a disadvantage as women are less likely to be in positions of power, can often be stereotyped into certain types of jobs such as nursing and will often be paid less for doing the same job a man does. Another disadvantage is that women often take the social class of their husband, so even if a women is a doctor and their husband is a factory worker, by some standers they would still be considered as working class. An argument to these opinions is that even though this may have been the case in the past, society has progressed so that it is more accepting of women and their role in society and in most western countries issues like the pay gap are decreasing and women are beginning to be given more positions of power. This may be true in some cases but in some countries women are still not allowed to work and must live by there husbands rules or be outcast from there community.

Functionalists like Talcott Parsons believe that social stratification is integral part of society. Functionalists believe that stratification helps society by rewarding the people who contribute to society's shared values and work towards society's goals or “value consensus, that is a general agreement by members of society concerning what is good and worthwhile” (Haralombos and Holborn 2008). Every society has a occupational hierarchy which is ranked by importance for the functioning of society meaning that the best people are in the most important jobs; the most important role require the most skill hence should get the highest rewards. One critique of this perspective is the idea the occupations most vital to society are the most highly rewarding, in fact some unskilled work is extremely important to the functioning of society but has lower rewards and in a way it is subjective to which are the most important roles a garbage collector might be a low pay and low status job, but it is vital to society's functioning. The next issue is that of unequal rewards which are meant to serve as a motivator for individuals to work harder , but this can also serve as a barrier as there is still social hierarchy in place so an individuals ability to get the best education and to fund education relies heavily on their families wealth and social standing so talent is not the only factor.

The new right perspective on social stratification has the main argument that a free economic market in capitalist countries is the best way to encourages individuals to work harder and receive financial rewards for this, which benefits society “market forces encourage competition which stimulates innovation and efficiency” (Haralombos and Holborn 2008). Another argument is that every individual in society has the opportunity to move up the stratification system, so even though an individual might come form a working class family there is still equality in opportunity. There have been many critiques of the new right prospective one of which is that many capitalist societies have been based on segregation of certain parts of the community and “early capitalism was based upon the use of slave labour”(Haralombos and Holborn 2008).. Another argument is that society is not equal and those form working class backgrounds will not thane he same opportunity to succeed which undermines the new rights argument for capitalism encouraging individuals to work harder.

Wealth may be one of the most important factors in social stratification, it plays an important role in the new rights perspective as they believe that a free market and capitalism and wealth are the motivators that's encourages individuals to work harder. An issue with that is that it is education and career which is the most important factor in determining social standing and this relies heavily on wealth if an individual wants to receive a good education they generally need a large amount wealth to achieve this , which disadvantages individuals from a poorer background. Wealth also plays an important roles in functionalism and it is used as the incentive for so so called most important roles for society the issue being that it does not take into account the money that is needed to achieve the training for these jobs and disregards some working class jobs which are essential for societies functioning.

Stratification is a concept which is prevalent is all societies and is considered essential for functionalists and for the new right perspective and although it may encourage some to work harder and to aspire to climb the stratification ladder; it leaves a lot of members of society at a disadvantage such as women and people who were born poor or in a lower class environment. It can be said that stratification is a good thing and it is for some with the right opportunity's and backgrounds and gives them the tool to grow there wealth and social standing but for the majority it is a major disadvantage as there is little opportunity for individuals to change their position in society.


1. Gidens, A. 2006. Sociology 5th ed. Cambridge: Policy Press

2. Haralombos, M, Holborn, M . 2008 , Sociology: themes and perspectives, Collins


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    • profile image

      nana 3 years ago

      dis iz great job woeva bt ur work needs to b polshd up a lil bit

    • S Leretseh profile image

      S Leretseh 3 years ago

      This article needs much work. This article might pass muster at the high school level. However, it is woefully inadequate as something to actually learn from.

      A social stratification system is, always has been, an integral part of a society. In fact, the social stratification IS the society. Human nature is what it is. Written laws should be in harmony with human nature, not try to defeat, defy or deny it.

      A society=When a male group (males similar racially, linguistically and religiously) establishes claim to a geographic area, this group then seeks to create a society. A society must have a social stratification system; and when that social stratification system exists ... a society is then formed. When the society is formed the male group that created it becomes the Dominant Male Group. There are two primary functions a society serves, which allows it to achieve stability and longevity: (1) stratify the Dominant Male Group; (2) perpetuate the Dominant Male Group.

      There is no known deviation from the above grouping behavior for establishing a society's social strata (that I'm aware of) prior to 1964.

      On July 2, 1964, the political / economic system of Compulsory Inclusionism (Civil Rights Act) was created in the USA, and its main purpose was/is to integrate (with females & "minorities") the Dominant Male Group i.e. the white Christian male group.