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Introduction to Sociology

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Introduction to Sociology ­ SOC101
VU
Lesson 21
SOCIAL STRATIFICATION: INTRODUCTION AND SIGNIFICANCE
Social strata are levels of social statuses. Members of a society who possess similar amount of wealth,
power, and privileges occupy each social stratum. We can see layers of social statuses occupied by members
of society. Organized systems of such strata are conceptualized as social stratification system.
Social stratification refers to a system by which a society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy.
Four basic principles of stratification:
1. Social stratification is characteristic of society, not simply a reflection of individual
differences. Children born into wealth families are more likely than born into poverty to enjoy
good health, achieve academically, succeed in their life's work, and live well into old age. Neither
rich nor poor people are responsible for creating social stratification, yet this system shapes the
lives of them all.
2. Social stratification persists over generations. In all societies parents pass their social position
along to their children, so that patterns of inequality stay much the same from generation to
generation. Some individual experience change in their position in the social hierarchy. For most
people, social standing remains much the same over a lifetime.
3. Social stratification is universal but variable. Social stratification is found everywhere. At the
same time, what is unequal and how unequal people are vary from one society to another.
4. Social stratification involves not just inequality but beliefs. Any system of inequality not only
gives some people more resources than others but also defines certain arrangements as fair. Just as
what is unequal differs from society to society, then so does the explanation of why people should be
unequal. People with the greatest social privileges express the strongest support for their society's
social stratification, while those with social resources are more likely to seek change.
Closed social system: A system of stratification where the status of person is determined by birth. There
is a rigid social hierarchy. Social stratification is based on ascription and there is little social mobility. Such a
system is supported by its culture. (Traditional Indian caste system).
Open social system: A social system based largely on individual achievement; therefore it permits
considerable social mobility. Here strata are called as social classes. Social class is a stratum of people of
similar social standing. They have their own way of life.
MEASURING SOCIAL CLASS
Subjective Method: Ask people what their social class is.
This approach has limitations. For example there may be just denial of social class. Similarly people may
classify themselves by aspiration. But the most commonly observed situation is where everybody belongs to
middle class. Is this method useful?
Reputational Method. We ask the informants to classify others. They do it by using their own criteria.
Objective Method. Develop some objective criteria so that the others know exactly what measurements
were made. If others like to verify they could do so. The components of these criteria could be the
income, education, occupation (prestige), and other wealth related items.
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Introduction to Sociology ­ SOC101
VU
SIGNIFICANCE OF SOCIAL CLASS
Social class determines the life chances of an individual: It implies that the social class determines the
probabilities concerning the fate we can expect in life. From before one is born until one is dead,
opportunities and rewards are affected by class position. Poor nutrition for the mother may affect the
health and vigor of the fetus before birth, while poverty thereafter continues to handicap the poor. The
lower class person is not only likely to die prematurely but will also endure more days of illness during a
lifetime. Even the poor are more exposed to accidents.
Social class influences physical and mental health: Underlying the differential death rates is unequal
access to medical care and nutrition. Medical care is expensive, and even with government-funded plans for
the poor; the higher classes receive better treatment.
Social class also affects mental health. Lower class experiences stress from unemployment, dirty and
dangerous work, the threat of eviction, expenses of life, and so on. People higher up the social class ladder
also experience stress in daily life, but their stress is generally less and their coping resources greater. Their
class position gives them greater control over their lives, a key to good mental health.
Social class and family life: Social class influences the mate selection, age at marriage, number of
children, child rearing patterns, women empowerment, educational aspirations and achievements. Lower
class children supposed to be obedient at home and at work, whereas middle class children are trained to be
creative, independent, and tolerant. The vision of children about future varies by social class.
Social class and education/employment opportunities: Education increases as one goes up the social
class ladder. It is not just the amount of education but also the type of education. Public schools are for
the poor and private schools are for the rich.  In private schools the children are trained to take
commanding role in society. With better qualifications from prestigious institutions children from affluent
families have better employment opportunities.
Social class and crime and the criminal justice system: The upper and lower classes have different
styles of crime. The treatment by the judiciary and by the police also varies by social class.
Social class and lifestyles: Social class determines the lifestyle of the people. In the current age `symbols'
and markers related to consumption are playing an ever-greater role in daily life. Individual identities are
structured to a greater extent around lifestyle choices ­ such as how to dress, what to eat, how to care one's
body, and where to relax. One is distinguished on the basis of cultural tastes and leisure pursuits. They are
aided in process by the proliferation of `need merchants' (advertisers, marketers, fashion designers, style
consultants, interior designers, web-page designers) involved in influencing cultural tastes and promoting
lifestyle choices among the ever-increasing community of consumers. Therefore class divisions can be
linked to distinctive lifestyle and consumption patterns. Although in the modern societies have become
consumer societies. Consumer society is a mass society where class differences are overridden. All watch
the same programs; all shop at the same plazas, yet class differences become intensified through variations
in lifestyles and taste.
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Table of Contents:
  1. THE ORIGINS OF SOCIOLOGY:Auguste Comte, The Fields of Sociology
  2. THE SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE:Society affects what we do
  3. THEORETICAL PARADIGMS:Salient Paradigms, Critical Evaluation
  4. SOCIOLOGY AS SCIENCE:Empirical, Verifiable, Cumulative, Self-Correcting
  5. STEPS IN SOCIOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION:Exploration/Consultation
  6. SOCIAL INTERACTION:Social Status, ROLE, The Social Construction of Reality
  7. SOCIAL GROUPS:Primary and Secondary Groups, Reference Group, Networks
  8. ORGANIZATIONS:Utilitarian Organizations, Coercive Organizations
  9. CULTURE:Universality, Components of Culture, Symbols, Language
  10. CULTURE (continued):Beliefs, Norms, Cultural Diversity
  11. CULTURE (continued):Culture by social class, Multiculturalism, Cultural Lag
  12. SOCIALIZATION: HUMAN DEVELOPMENT, NATURE, Social Isolation
  13. UNDERSTANDING THE SOCIALIZATION PROCESS
  14. AGENTS OF SOCIALIZATION:The Family, The School, Peer Groups, The Mass Media
  15. SOCIALIZATION AND THE LIFE COURSE:CHILDHOOD, ADOLESCENCE
  16. SOCIAL CONTROL AND DEVIANCE:Crime, Deviants, Stigma, Labeling
  17. THE SOCIAL FOUNDATIONS OF DEVIANCE:Cultural relativity of deviance
  18. EXPLANATIONS OF CRIME:Sociological explanations
  19. EXPLANATIONS OF CRIME -- CONTINUED:White-Collar Crime, Conflict Theory
  20. SOCIAL DISTRIBUTION OF CRIME: EXPLANATIONS, Gender and Crime
  21. SOCIAL STRATIFICATION: INTRODUCTION AND SIGNIFICANCE
  22. THEORIES OF CLASS AND STRATIFICATION I:Critical evaluation
  23. THEORIES OF SOCIAL CLASS AND STRATIFICATION II
  24. THEORIES OF CLASS AND SOCIAL STRATIFICATION III
  25. SOCIAL CLASS AS SUBCULTURE
  26. SOCIAL MOBILITY:Structural factors, Individual factors, Costs
  27. THE FAMILY: GLOBAL VARIETY, Marriage Patterns, Patterns of Descent
  28. FUNCTIONS OF FAMILY:Reproduction, Social placement
  29. FAMILY AND MARRIAGE IN TRANSITION:Family is losing functions
  30. GENDER: A SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION, Gender socialization
  31. GENDER SOCIALIZATION:Role of family, Gender Stratification
  32. EXPLANATIONS OF GENDER INEQUALITY:Conflict Explanations, Feminism
  33. FUNCTIONS OF SCHOOLING:Cultural Innovation, School Tracking
  34. ISSUES IN EDUCATION:Low Enrollment, High Dropout, Gender Disparity
  35. POPULATION STUDY AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE:Crude Birth Rate
  36. THEORY OF POPULATION GROWTH:Theory of Demographic Transition
  37. POPULATION PROFILE OF PAKISTAN:World Population Growth
  38. POPULATION PROFILE OF PAKISTAN (Continued):Age Distribution, Sex Composition
  39. IMPLICAIONS OF POPULATION GOWTH:Additional GDP needed per year
  40. POPULATION POLICY:Goals of Population Policy, Objectives, Strategies
  41. ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY:Global Dimension, Historical Dimension
  42. ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES:Preserving Clean Water, Clearing the Air
  43. SOCIAL CHANGE:Social change is controversial.
  44. CAUSES OF SOCIAL CHANGE:Culture and Change, Conflict and Change, Modernization
  45. MODERNITY AND POST MODERNITY:Cultural Patterns, Post-modernity