What is Social Stratification?

Social stratification is a concept in sociology used to analyze and interpret the classification of individuals and social groups, based on data and socioeconomic conditions in common.

The main goal of social stratification in the context of the study of Sociology is to understand the functioning of the hierarchical organization of a society. In addition, it also aims to identify the main distinctions between the social classes and how inequalities are socially constructed.

All societies have some kind of stratification, whether they are simple or complex. That is, the individuals that make up this social group are divided into layers (strata).

In general, the social stratification sees a set of inequalities that strike a particular group of people in a society, separating them from some form of the other. A good example of social stratification in Brazil are the favelas or peripheral districts.

Characteristics of social stratification

Social stratification is based mainly on the following characteristics:

  • It is a peculiarity of the society, and not simply a reflection of individual differences;
  • Material and immaterial resources are distributed unequally between the members of different strata (layers);
  • It has character “hereditary”, that is, it is transmitted from generation to generation;
  • It is universal and variable;
  • Involves inequalities and beliefs.

In this way, the studies on social stratification, are able to understand how factors such as power, wealth, and status quo are the points of distinction between people of a same society.

And from this principle, these studies are unable to observe these inequalities, and to refine the knowledge of problems and conflicts that are related to the symbolic aspects of these classifications social.

Learn more about the Stratification.

The unequal distribution between the different layers identified in the social stratification tends to be represented through the Social Pyramid.

The Social Pyramid

The higher the position of the individual in the pyramid, the greater will be your access to resources, material and materials of the society.

As it is shown in the pyramid, the base is always larger than the top. This means that the number of people with less access to resources produced in the society is greater.

The explanation for this is due to the fact that the base of the pyramid represent the social layer in the production of goods and services, that is, the proletariat (slaves, servants, commoners, etc.).

Types of social stratification

At present the west, social stratification is organized into three main social classes: upper class, middle class and lower class, and each of these classes can be further subdivided into other classes.

The individuals that belong to a particular social stratum can rise or decline between the layers, the case is part of an open society. This process is known as social mobility.

On the other hand, there are closed societies that do not allow this change among social layers. In indian culture, for example, the caste system divides the people in different hierarchical levels are determined from birth.

Each grape variety has a paper fixed to be fulfilled in the society and those who are not faithful to the rituals and duties of his caste will be reborn in a lower position in the next incarnation.

There is, therefore, mobility between the hierarchies of caste, which determines to the type of contact that each individual may have with members of other castes.

As a rule, the stratification of social open societies (capitalist) are based on the economic power of the individual. On the other hand, in closed societies the determination of this inequality is the source of the individual, that is, the lineage of his family.

Learn more about the Caste and social Mobility.

The studies on social stratification have as main reference the theories of Karl Marx and Max Weber, although they have different focuses.

Social stratification according to Max Weber

For Weber the society can be stratified on the basis of three main orders: the economic, social and political. These, in turn, are branched in different concepts.

The distinctions between social classes are formed based on the criterion of economic. Already the so-called classes are set up through the social status that the individual has in the middle (importance of the group that is from or belongs).

Finally, the policy generates the so-called parties, which are also groups formed by people with privileges in comparison to other, generating some sort of inequality.

Unlike Marx, Weber does not perceive the work (the economy) as the most important aspect of social stratification. To the intellectual German, the strata of the society are formed by a union of the different orders.

Proof of this is the fact Weber show how the stratification can occur between people of the same profession. In the case of two doctors, for example, can have a greater prestige and a better position in the status quo established by the society in comparison to the other.

Social stratification according to Karl Marx

According to Karl Marx, social stratification is focused on the class system, divided mainly between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.

The theories of Marx is associated with the studies on economic and social aspects of the economy and its effects.

The origin of social stratification

Originally, in primitive societies, there existed the concept of social stratification. Only from the beginning of the division of labour between the members of the community (mainly the sexual division) is that inequalities began.

The territorial domain and ethnic differences that have arisen from it have also helped to accentuate the division of social groups into different layers.

Social stratification and social Structure

Although they subjects are interconnected, the social stratification and the social structure has different concepts.

The social structure form a system of organizing society, through the inter-relation of social factors, economic, political, and among others. Already the social stratification seeks to understand how to form these ratings.

Examples of social stratification

Usually, we can find this type of division when a group of people that does not have a lot of financial condition, ultimately does not have access to the same services provided to another group of the best financial conditions.

This can also be seen in the peripheral districts, where the greater part of the low-income population. Typically, this neighborhoods are more distant from the centers of the cities.

Social Stratification