July 26, 2021

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Social stratification

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This article is written by Siddhant Nagar.

Table of Contents

“Social stratification refers to “arrangement of any social group or society into hierarchy of positions that are unequal with regard to power, property, social evaluation and psychic gratification”

– Melvin M Tumin

The specific type of social inequality is social stratification. Superiority, inferiority, and equality are organized by all societies. Stratification is an interaction or distinction process in which some people rank higher than others. In other words, when individuals and groups are classified on a hierarchic level based on the inequality of social positions, social stratification occurs based on some commonly accepted basis of assessment. Social stratification means division into different layers or strata of society. This includes a social group hierarchy. Members of a common layer have a mutual identity. They’re living in a similar way.

An example of a stratification system is the Indian Caste system. It is known as a stratified society that there are divisions of social classes. In principle, modern stratification differs from primitive society stratification. The social stratification of individuals involves two phenomena in a classification of persons or groups based on some characteristics, whereby certain individuals and groups rank above others, and an appraisal of individuals. Sociologists not only discuss the reality of social inequalities, but their social assessment. (Mondal)

In many areas of sociology research, social stratification is widely defined, but it also constitutes a separate field. Social stratification is simply the distribution of people and groups with different power, status, or prestige in accordance with various social hierarchies. Although gender, religion or race and ethnicity are often founded in divisions, this entry focuses largely on socio-economic inequalities, leaving other social inequalities to the main. Social stratification, albeit in slightly different ways, is present in every culture. The long-standing aim of the field is to detect differences between societies and societies in social stratification over the years. The classical studies, inspired by the work of Marx, Weber, and Durkheim, of early stratification sociologists were oriented primarily to the issue of “Why” and “How” stratification.

While this discussion continues to be a fundamental drive for a lot of stratification research, empirical research usually addresses questions with more tangible evidence. Stress research focused increasingly on social mobility in the 1950s, though mainly in individual countries. An important goal in the field was to explain cross-national stratification differences by the 1980s. Stratification research now has several debates. Stratification research. Although the emphasis was somewhat diminished in the last ten years, a classical debate focuses on how to assess socio-economic status. Here the applicability of social class, status, and prestige measures was emphasized. While there are major exceptions, there are usually variations in approach.

European sociologists tended to concentrate on the importance of occupational social class behaviour, while North American socio-economic interventions combining education and jobs tended to rely. Discussions were also conducted on how to assess class and social status most effectively. Other discussions focus on the significance of incorporating race and gender in stratification studies. Finally, the importance of education, as a source of individual stratification and as an impact on economic inequalities, has been emphasized in recent decades. (Andersen, 2011)

Social differences are socially stratified if people are hierarchy classified as inequalities, such as differences in certain dimensions such as income, power, age, occupation, and race, etc. The differences between the people who are assessed by a stratified society to be higher, lower, or equal are marked by inequality. In all societies some men, such as patricians and plebeians or aristocrats and commoners, are superior or inferior. Some are wealthy and influential. The ruling class and ruling class or subjects exist in every society. This is the substance of social layering. This is the substance of social layering. Stratification means that the freedoms and privileges of the employees of a corporation are distributed unequally. Some are rated higher than the others in terms of rights and privileges.

1. Gender

According to ILO, “Gender refers to the social differences and relations between men and women, which are learned, which vary widely among societies and cultures and change over time.”

Another type of social stratification system is like caste and class sex. Gender may be the oldest and most permanent source of social distinction. But gender cuts across caste and class in the broad hierarchy of caste and class. Caste, class, and gender are currently dynamic phenomena between groups, communities, and regions. A thorough and widespread discussion of gender has taken place in recent years. 

However, the term gender means more than sex, and more inclusive than sex. It is a category that has been constructed socially, rather than being determined biologically. A man’s gender is masculine, a woman being feminine. Neither a man nor a woman is just sex. Gender refers to the role that men and women play in their daily lives in a socially constructed and culturally determined way. Sex is the feminists’ most strong and substantially useful theoretical term. Gender is characterized as the social construction of relationships between men and women, and between different classes of men and women. Gender is seen by feminists as the socio-cultural manifestation of being a man or a woman.

Gender thus involves the structure of power and the economic relations. It is used to analyse the male and female roles, responsibilities, constraints, needs in all areas. It encompasses the division of society and cultural distinctions between men and women. It plays a significant role in shaping institutions and practices in all societies. (Mondal)

Gender and sex

The term gender is not a substitute for that term sex. Differentiation must be made between sex and gender. The distinction between sex and gender is important since many variations between males and females do not derive from biology. Sex refers to the physical differences of the body where males and females refer to social, cultural, and psychological differences as gender. 

Sex refers to biological differences between male and female that are much more the same over time and space where gender refers to differences and relationships between males and females that vary from place to place and from time to time. Sex refers to male and female, where masculinity and feminity are referred to as gender. Gender is a building block of a society. 

Contemporary World Examples

  • Army not taking men into nursing is discrimination between genders:

Delhi High Court recently termed the Indian army’s practice of having only women in its nursing services as “gender discrimination”.

The Indian Professional Nurses Association, in a plea, said that there were several thousand men trained and qualified as professional nurses in India and that their omission from the Army’s nursing corps was “unjustifiable and unconstitutional inasmuch as it deprives them of an employment and professional advancement avenue”. The petition was filed to place the male nurses at par with their female counterparts. This prejudice against women often perpetuates the stigma and ostracism of male nurses, by singling them out and making them feel unwanted. This is a clear case of gender discrimination as one sex/gender has been given more importance over the other. 

The Delhi High Court has said that such discrimination is contrary to the constitutional scheme and is, therefore, “ex-facie unconstitutional, illegal and arbitrary”.

  • Dabur’s real fruit juice to change packaging that discriminated between the genders:

This is an example of a girl of 9, who refused to use Dabur products. Dabur was forced to change their fruit juice packaging, ‘Real’, after a standard three girl refused to drink the juice that was marketed as “Something that is good for your child should also make him smile”. The Guwahati-based girl was disturbed by Real Fruit juice packaging, which had a young boy going to school and was being marketed to boys instead of all children. This step helped in fighting against gender neutrality. 

This is a very distinct example of gender equality. It does not focus on any group, people, or any organisation, but it is based formally on a grammatical error what the company says. Dabur responded that the term “him” on the pack was not gender-specific but used in a more general sense to connote children.

2. Caste

Place under the caste system is inherited. It is birth-based, it is purely an ascribed status. Once those positions are assigned, they cannot in any way advance and improve their social status. As a major type of social stratification caste thus does not facilitate vertical social mobility. Caste is a hereditary endogamous social group in which the rank and accompanying rights and obligations of a person are assigned to a group based on their birth. For example, Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Sudra Caste.

In a caste system, people are born into unequal groups based on the status of their parents and remain in these groups for the rest of their lives. For many years, the best-known caste system has been in India, where, underpinned by Hindu belief that one’s fate is accepted in life, several major castes dictated one’s life chances from the moment of birth, especially in rural areas. (Kerbo, 2009)

After India gained independence from Britain in 1949, the untouchables were granted equal rights by its new constitution. The caste system was further disrupted by modern technology and migration into cities, as members of various castes now had more contact with each other. Nevertheless, caste discrimination remains a problem in India and highlights the continuing impact of its conventional social stratification structure. (Berger, 2009)

Even in today’s time, the system is so weak and there is no voice of Dalits. Even after the Atrocities Prevention Act in 1989, the story of Bhaiyalal Bhotmange who lost all his family in the Khairlanji killings tells the lack of implementation of acts by government. The underlying question of the higher castes and the lower castes in the country remains prevalent. (Hindu, 2019)

Contemporary world examples

  • Quarantined youth, 23, refuses to eat food cooked by dalit woman: (Jha, 2020)

This is the latest example of caste discrimination from a small village of Nainital where a youth of age 23, who had been put under quarantine in his village, had refused to eat food prepared by a Dalit woman. Also, he refused to drink water touched by her. Later when charges were made against him, he refused to all the claims made. 

The youth, however, has been booked under section 269 (negligent act to spread infection), section 271 (disobedience to quarantine rule) of Indian Penal Code (IPC) as well as under relevant sections of SC/ST Act. 

A man refused to eat and drink just because the woman who prepared the meal was a Dalit. It would not have happened if the woman were of a higher class. This is a clear case of caste discrimination. 

  • Beaten for wearing ‘royal’ shoes:

Mahesh Rathod, a 13-year-old Dalit boy, was reportedly attacked in Gujarat’s western state for wearing a pair of “mojris”-leather shoes traditionally seen as royal footwear and worn in some parts of India by upper caste members.

He was approached by a group of men, according to local media, who asked him what caste he belonged to, and when he said he was a Dalit, he was abused for “positioning him as a member of the upper caste by wearing jeans, mojris and a gold chain”. 

This case proves that “Discrimination based on caste is outlawed in India, but remains widespread”. 

3. Class

Class is an open system. Vertical mobility is free under this system. There is no barrier to moving from one status to another. Status is based on achievement. It is determined by a person’s talents, wealth, money, intelligence, power, education, income, etc. There is no inheritance in parental status.

Many societies have class structures including the modern ones. A person is born into a social ranking in this stratification system but can move up or down from it much easier than in caste systems or slave societies. This step in either direction is mainly the product of, or lack of, a person’s own actions, experience, and skills. While in caste or slave societies these qualities do not support upward movement, they also encourage upward movement in class societies. Class systems are by far the most flexible of the three stratification systems discussed so far, indicating they have the most vertical mobility. 

Also, the sociologist Max Weber had a lot to say about stratification class systems. Such structures are based on three dimensions of stratification, he wrote: class (which we will call richness), strength, and prestige. Wealth is an individual or family’s total value, including income, stocks, bonds, real estate, and other assets; power is the ability to influence others to make your bidding, even if they don’t want to; and prestige refers to the status and esteem of others. (Barkan, 2012)

Contemporary world examples

  • Why poor students face discrimination on rich campuses:

In a recent incident which happened on the campus of a private university in the Delhi-NCR region, a student who was trying to get into the university through the security guards was stopped. He was a student at that university. He was not let into the campus as the guards could not believe that he was a student of this wealthy campus. The reason for this was that the student was carrying a keypad non-android phone!

Students in rich universities are being judged based on clothes they wear, the slippers they wear to class, their broken English, and their hometown. “Discrimination against the poor- making fun of them, keeping them outside the gate- is inseparable from the story of humankind.” (Majumdar, 2019) 

  • Scheduled caste amongst worst sufferers of indias job problem:  

Scheduled castes (SCs), who are at the bottom of the social ladder in India, are amongst the worst sufferers of the Indian job problem. Entrenched social discrimination and existing socio-economic realities add to the disadvantages faced by SCs in the labour market. This is all because SCs have the lowest land- the most important productive asset- ownership in India. This makes them more dependent on wage labour. 

Social discrimination and socioeconomic realities add to disadvantages faced by Scheduled Castes (SCs) in the labour market. (Thorat, 2018)

4. Religion

The reason for the need for religion is apparently to be found in the fact that human society achieves its unity primarily through the possession of certain ultimate values by its members and ends in common. While these values and aims are subjective, they influence behaviour, and their integration allows society to function as a system. If this conception of the role of religion is true, one can understand why in every known society religious activity tend to be under the responsibility of individuals, who thus tend to enjoy greater rewards than the ordinary members of society.

Some of the benefits and special privileges may only be applied to the highest religious functionaries, but others will usually apply to the entire priestly class if such exists. In addition, there is a peculiar relationship between the religious official’s duties and the particular privileges he enjoys. 

If the super-natural world ultimately governs men’s destinies more than the real world does, its earthly representative must be a powerful individual, the person through whom one can communicate with the supernatural. He is a keeper of the sacred tradition, a skilled ritual per-former, and a lore and myth interpreter. He is in such close contact with the gods as to be regarded as having some of their characteristics. In short, he is a little religious, and hence exempt from some of the coarser necessities and controls. Firstly, the amount of technical competence required to carry out religious duties is small. There is no need for scientific or artistic capacity. Anyone can set up as enjoying an intimate relationship with deities and no one can dispute him successfully. Therefore, the personnel scarcity factor is not working in the technical sense. (Moore, 1945)

contemporary world examples

  • Ola cab cancelled as the driver was Muslim:

Recently a person named Abhishek Mishra cancelled an Ola ride as the driver of the cab was a Muslim person. Not only this, he went on to tweet that he did not wanted to give money to “Jihadi people”. As people started to react on his tweet, he said, “People starts attack on me. Can I have no right to choose? If they can run a campaign against Hanuman ji poster on cab, defamed Hindus and Hindus god in Kathua incident then they must be prepared for reply”. (Sanyal, 2018) 

By this statement of his we can clearly make out that people still have the element of religious discrimination in their minds which have rotten their thoughts and views about the other religions and created a sense of hatred towards them.

  • Coronavirus fear:

Recently in New Delhi, after the Health Ministry blamed an Islamic seminary for spreading the novel coronavirus, anti-Muslim attacks have broken out across the country. In the state of Punjab, Sikh temples broadcasted messages telling people not to buy milk from Muslim dairy farmers as it could be infected by the deadly virus. (Jeffrey Gettleman, 2020)

“People need only a small reason to beat us or to lynch us,” “Because of corona”, said Mohammed Haider who runs a milk stall there. Here in this example a particular group has been targeted which clearly depicts religious discrimination.

5. Culture

Peter Chua defined cultural racism as- “The institutional domination and sense of racial‐ethnic superiority of one social group over others, justified by and based on allusively constructed markers, instead of outdated biologically ascribed distinctions”.

Unfortunately, the terms culture and discrimination have been linked over the years as one group feels somehow superior to another group and must deal with that prejudice. The harm is an individual or group’s judgment that lacks knowledge of the individual or group. Discrimination deliberately seeks to in some way undermine or hurt this party. A society, frequently discriminated against, is a group of people with similar characteristics, such as language, religion, and ceremony.

Cultural discrimination, sometimes referred to as neo-discrimination, postmodern discrimination, or differential discrimination is a concept that has been applied to prejudices and discrimination based on cultural differences between racial and ethnic groups. This involves the belief that certain cultures are superior to others, and that different cultures are inherently incompatible and in the same society or state may not coexist. In this it differs from biological or scientific racism, which means prejudices and discrimination based on perceived biological differences between ethnic or racial groupings. 

An important characteristic of the so-called ‘new racism’, ‘cultural racism’ or ‘differential racism’ is the fact that it essentialises ethnicity and religion, and traps people in supposedly immutable reference categories, as if they are incapable of adapting to a new reality or changing their identity. By these means cultural racism treats the ‘other culture’ as a threat that might contaminate the dominant culture and its internal coherence. Such a view is clearly based on the assumption that certain groups are the genuine carriers of the national culture and the exclusive heirs of their history while others are potential slayers of its ‘purity’. Sociologist Uri Ben-Eliezer, 2004 (Ben‐Eliezer, 2004)

Contemporary world examples

  • Mizoram Chief Minister seeks PM’s intervention over racial attacks on North-East people:

In a recent incident of cultural discrimination, the Chief Minister of Mizoram went to Twitter and posted a video showing some persons from the northeast region allegedly denied entry to a grocery shop. “I am pained, shocked and in my worst awe seeing this video. when has humanity stooped so low”, Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga said. 

This is a case of cultural discrimination which has happened amidst of coronavirus outbreak. People from North-East had been discriminated based on their physical appearance because they resemble to the Chinese. In this hour of fighting with the deadly virus, people are fighting on cultural differences. 

  • Senior female Asian officer accuses Metropolitan police of discrimination:

Temporary Chief Superintendent Parm Sandhu, 54, alleges that she had been denied promotion and work opportunities during her 30-year career with the force. She also claimed that she was denied promotion because of her race and gender. (Stubley, 2019)

Cultural discrimination is not only a major issue in India, but also it is a debatable topic globally. People still discriminate on basis of cultural differences as one thinks of his culture to be superior to the other persons culture. 

Power is the key to accessing resources; the higher the number, the higher the power, particularly in India when most of the religion and caste is seen. But power-driven capital allows someone to rule the planet, such as the US, but less citizens than India but still very strong because of the economy. We live in this present world with unequal resources and power sharing in a complex multidimensional society. It may be a fate to be born in an unfortunate family and to study or not to get education and lack of a successful future, while wealthy families may create a life without education like film stars. 

The social stratification system gives the elites the political force they need to provide and makes it rational and logical for all of us that it is normal for elites to be strong and to have anything they want, even after they are grasping the right of the poor. Because we cannot fight against this religion for our rights. This is all not from now on, but from historical times on, because patriarchal power has made women subject and in many parts of the country even today is normal to beat women, because they are powerful. Due to the varna system distribution, the castes are split up and the families of Brahmans have been educated and wise. Until now they have been discriminated against as a minority and weak, and the rest is powerful. 

No one said religion is a powerful religion and no other, the concept of power is a popularity because of most of the number of people of a religion, caste, group, or culture. Religion was made because of diversity in faith. Money is all you need for a future today is money, power. Even after a good education, you do not have to succeed as you are not strong enough. For instance, a politician son, without merit, is accepted on a very desirable middle-class boy’s seat. Therefore, stratification divides unequal resources and potentially limits. Power is typically in the hands of some group that dominoes others and does not allow them to achieve equality even after government efforts. It is a trite fact that, as with the oppression by the lower classes, deprivation and injustice go hand in hand before the resources are dispersed, reforms are not made in traditional old thinking or prohibitions on corruption. (Hoerning, 1971)

Social inequality is marked by its omnipresence and in human society. All recognized cultures, past and present, allocate unequally their unique and necessary goods and services. And other highly moral assessments of their value to society are attached to roles which have unequal amounts of these goods and services. The ubiquity and antique existence of such inequalities have contributed to the belief that such social structures must be both unavoidable and positive. Clearly, for any general theory of society, the truth or falsity of such an assumption is a strategic question.

Thus, it is most curious that American sociologists have only explored the fundamental premises and implications of this assumption most casually. The most comprehensive way of approaching it is contained in the well-known essay “Something of Stratification” by Kingsley Davis and Wilbert Moore. More than 12 years have passed since its publication and while it is one of the few stratification therapies at a high degree of generalization, it is hard to find a single structural review of its reasoning. 

It also suggested the separateness of power and property differentials considered to be resources appropriate for a task from differentials considered to reward a task’s performance. Differences in prestige and appreciation have also been maintained not necessarily follow differences in power and property where they are appropriate resources instead of benefits. Finally, certain negative or dysfunctional roles of institutionalized social inequality are identified, demonstrating the mixed nature of the social stratification outcome, and casting doubt that social inequality is, therefore, an unconsciously evolved device through which companies ensure that the most important positions are consciously filled by the most qualified. (Tumin, 1953)

If the people of every country get something in the same quantity and price, then only then improvements can take place, we will seek to eliminate issues that cause it, like unequal education, infrastructure, jobs, wealth, and deprivation. This is and should be granted to every citizen’s fundamental right. More lucky people will help the least privileged. Only then will they support them if they seek to be empathic towards the weak. They should be motivated and keen to keep everyone alike, and everybody should try to see the needy around them on an individual basis. Other than this, the only best solution to solve this vicious circle is to apply a national-scale Sharia law that stipulates that each person should set aside 2.5 percent of the income that each person earns on a monthly basis to help eradicate poverty, and that the money raised can be used to buy things needed for those in need as capital, such as sewing machines or seeds, etc.

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