The social stratification is a type of social differentiation where the society members are grouped into the socio-economic strata founded on the occupation, social status, income and power too. The stratification is relatively a social position of people in a particular social group, geographic region, category or the social unit. In the modern societies, social stratification is defined in terms of three of the social classes such as the upper class, the middle class and the lower class. Each of the classes can be subdivided into the strata such as the upper stratum, the middle stratum and the lower stratum. The social stratum can also be formed on the basis of clan, kinship, caste, tribe or all of those. The people’ categorization by the social strata occur in a specific society that ranges from the state-based, complex and polycentric societies to the feudal and the tribal societies. These are founded on the socio-economic relations among nobility classes and the peasant classes too. As historical evidence, the hunter-gathering societies can be socially stratified. In the social sciences, the determination of the structures arises from the inequalities of status among the persons. Hence, the degree of the social inequalities determines the social stratum of people. The more the social complexities of a society are, the social strata exists through the social differentiation.
The social stratification is a specific term that is used in the social sciences for describing relative social position of people in a particular category, social group along with the geographical region or other social units too. It is derived from the Latin Stratum referring to a society’s categorization of people and its ranking. It is based on the factors like income, wealth, social status, power and occupation. In the modern western societies, the social stratification is broadly classified often into three of the major divisions such as upper class, social class, lower class and middle class. The classes can become further subdivided into small classes and the social strata may become delineated on the foundation of the kinship bonding or caste relations.
The concept of the social stratification is often used to be interpreted differently in specific theories. In the sociology, the proponents of the action theory have suggested that social stratification is found commonly in the developed societies. It is where the dominance hierarchy might be necessary to maintain the social order and give a stable social structure. It is the so-called conflict theories as Marxism which points to the inaccessibility of the resources and lacks social mobility in the stratified societies. There have been various sociological theorists which have criticized the working class. These are often quite unlikely to advance the socioeconomic position and hold the political power at the same time. The values are not quite identical with the consensus but also can be an impetus for the social conflict. It also has become the case various times in the history.
There are four major systems of the social stratifications such as slavery, estate, caste and class. Slavery is defined as a type of social stratification where a particular group of people own other people. In the world history, it has become common with the references of ancient slavery in the Old Testament, Greek history, Koran and Roman history too. The slavery use to be founded on debt and as a punishment for the crime or war.
Slavery became associated with racism after the southern plantation owners grew a new type of ideology for justifying the enslavement of the Africans in the later part of the 17th century. In the modern days, slavery is known to be practiced in Mauritania, Sudan , Ivory and Niger Coast. The children enslavement and sex work is a major issue in South America, Africa and Asia.
The caste system is another type of social stratification that is based on the ascribed status which follows an individual through all her life. India can be presented as the best example of caste based stratification. The caste system of India is based on the religions and existing since the very ancient time. The Indian government has formally abolished the cast system in the year 1949 and it still remains one of the most respected aspects of the Indian tradition that is strictly followed by a considerable portion of the population. In the class system, the social stratification is founded on the possession of money or the material possessions too. One of the major characteristics of class system is that it welcomes the social mobility or movement up and down the class leader.
Another method through which all the societies stratify themselves is the gender differentiation. All the systems of stratified society, the gender differentiation favour the males over the females. The sociologists agree that social stratification is quite universal and they disagree in the fact that it is universal. The functionalists view the social stratification to be developed by Wilbert Moore and Kingsley Davis that concludes by saying that stratification is extremely inevitable as the society should make certain that the positions are fulfilled. As per the conflict theorists, conflict is the foundation of social stratification. The Italian sociologist Mosca further argued that all the social groups compete for the possessions of power. Those groups which gain power use the power for manipulating, exploiting and controlling the groups. The social institutions of the society dominate and control the information along with the ideas, and the members of the ruling class socialize with the other groups. It is believed by Marx that elite people maintained their own position at the top of everything and the stratification system. It further believed that welfare depends on the keeping the society at a stable position.
It can be said that stratification is quite universal and the methods of stratification varies from culture to culture. There are two examples of the way stratification differs from each other and becomes illustrated through social stratification in the Great Britain.