Essay: Social Stratification

Sample Essay

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Social Stratification is the division of the individuals in a society in observable classes in accordance with their societal influence and wealth. Different societies have different levels of rigidity in their social order. The more socially stratified a society, the less common it becomes for a person born in a lower class to rise up to a higher class through their own efforts (Domhoff).

An extreme example of social stratification was the traditional caste system in Hindu society. This system forced people to adopt the trade of their ancestors. Thus priestly families would only produce more priests, soldier families would produce soldiers, servant families would produce only servants and the untouchable outcast families would produce only outcasts.

In the United States, one of the manifestations of social stratification can be observed in the education system. The effect of social status can clearly be seen in students’ performance in standardized tests. On average students from high income families have much higher SAT scores than students from low income families (Mantsios, Class in America: Myths and Realities).

Another aspect of social stratification is in the job market, people whose parents were blue collar workers are far more likely to be blue collar workers. The people in the upper class on the other hand tend to remain upper class (Domhoff).

According to Marxist thought, social stratification arose out of the unequal economic infrastructure of a society; one class owned the means of production and the other class was forced to sell their labor to them.

In Marxist thought, the social classes were in perpetual conflict. Marx viewed history as one long struggle of the under classes against the privileges in societal infrastructure that the over classes had built for themselves.

Marx viewed the abolition of monarchy as one step in the destruction of over class privilege, now it was no longer acceptable for an upper class to assert its right to rule everyone else based on divine authority, however ‘wage slavery’ persisted i.e. the lower classes’ were still obliged to sell their labor to those who owned the means of production, in order to survive.

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