Social Stratification: Meaning, Introduction and Characteristics

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Meaning and Introduction

  • In every society, the individuals differ from each other. Humans are unequal and different and are identified on the basis of various features. There is a social inequality in the society due to which some people are on the top side of vertical stratification and some at the bottom. It can be on the basis of income, education, caste, sex, skill, etc. The basis can be social, physical, political or economic, etc.
  • The process of placing people in different strata or layers is called stratification.
Social Stratification

Characteristics of Social Stratification

  • “A stratified society is one marked by inequality, by differences among people that are evaluated By them as being lower or higher.” – Lundberg
  • There is a closed status group: The group is closed viz. the nature of status is ascribed, meaning the status is Acquired at the time of birth. For e. g. , a cobbler՚s son expected to become a cobbler.
  • The vertical stratification is based on ranks. Ranks are identified in terms of prestige, power, identity, wealth, etc.
  • The stratification affects opportunities and quality of life of the individual
  • Social inequality is a universal feature

Disparity Can be Biological and Social

  • Biological can be on the basis of age, gender, race, ethnic groups, costumes, etc.
  • Social can be on the basis of position and rank
  • Placement is in terms of hierarchy which is characterized by inequality. This concept is taken from Geology, where the different layers of Earth are called ‘stratum’ placed vertically and in a definite pattern.
  • Louis Dumont, in his book “Homo Hierarchies” studied Indian Society and Hindu Caste system and labelled it as hierarchical.
  • “Unstratified society with real equality of its members is a myth that has never been realised in the history of mankind.” - P. A. Sorokin
  • Sociologists believe in distributive justice and they believe that the resource of society belongs to all the members of the society when every individual can access all the resources of the society without any obstacles it is known as equal society.

Aspects of Equal Society

  • The concept of “Equality of Opportunity”
  • Accessibility to material resources
  • Absence of privileges and titles (equal rewards for equal performance)

Functions of Social Stratification

  • Encourages hard work: More rewards given to people who work more and therefore they achieve more prestige and respect
  • Ensures circulation of elites
  • Competition for high degree of prestige comfort and reward
  • Serves as economic function: Rational use of available talent (different reward for different work)
  • Prevents waste of resources: men in elite class possess scarce and valued quality therefore their leisure team time is justified and what the country spends on their training is not wasted
  • Reinforces skills and attitudes upper class position maintains the same attitude
  • Helps to pursue different jobs: Selection of job by men is based on the attitude, upbringing and talent
  • Social control: Mutual antagonism between different classes is functional. For example, negative reference group

Negatives of Social Stratification

  • Gives more power to elite
  • Maintain status quo
  • Encourages hostility
  • Some degree of permanence of structure
  • Affects life chances, opportunities and lifestyle


1. The word stratification derives from the geological concept “Strata” meaning

  1. Class
  2. Group
  3. Rock layers
  4. None of these

Ans. C

2. Social stratification is

  1. A system In which people can change their status with ease
  2. based entirely on self-classification of groups in hierarchical layers
  3. ranking of individuals
  4. none of these

Ans. B

#Sociological Concepts

#Social Stratification

#Social differentiation



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