Social Stratification

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In sociology, social stratification is a concept involving the "classification of people into groups based on shared socio-economic conditions ... a relational set of inequalities with economic, social, political and ideological dimensions." When differences lead to greater status, power or privilege for some groups over the other it is called Social Stratification. It is a system by which society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy Social stratification is based on four basic principles: (1) Social stratification is a trait of society, not simply a reflection of individual differences; (2) Social stratification carries over from generation to generation; (3) Social stratification is universal but variable; (4) Social stratification involves not just inequality but beliefs as well.

In modern Western societies, stratification is broadly organized into three main layers: upper class, middle class, and lower class. Each of these classes can be further subdivided into smaller classes (e.g. occupational).

These categories are particular to state-based societies as distinguished from feudal societies composed of nobility-to-peasant relations. Stratification may also be defined by kinship ties or castes. For Max Weber, social class pertaining broadly to material wealth is distinguished from status class which is based on such variables as honor, prestige and religious affiliation. Talcott Parsons argued that the forces of societal differentiation and the following pattern of institutionalized individualization would strongly diminish the role of class (as a major stratification factor) as social evolution went along. It is debatable whether the earliest hunter-gatherer groups may be defined as 'stratified', or if such differentials began with agriculture and broad acts of exchange between groups. One of the ongoing issues in determining social stratification arises from the point that status inequalities between individuals are common, so it becomes a quantitative issue to determine how much inequality qualifies as stratification.

Read more about Social Stratification:  Sociological Overview, Anthropological Overview, Social Impact, Three Characteristics of Stratified Systems

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