An Introduction to Social Stratification

An Introduction to Social Stratification



social stratification is at the core of sociological analysis and research and so it is important for anyone taking a sociology course to develop a firm understanding of it a solid definition of social stratification is as follows social stratification is the emergent and/or purposeful categorization of people and groups which are used to establish and/or reinforce differences in relative social Worth that is social ranks this definition contains two key assertions I want to take a moment to deconstruct each one the first assertion states that social stratification involves the emergent and/or purposeful categorization of people and groups it is important to point out that categorization is the fundamental feature of social stratification and this leads us to the question what constitutes a social category reviewing a few real-world examples will provide a basic understanding of the kinds of reference points that are used to develop social categories one in a basis for social categories stems from male and female reproductive roles that is the categories mother and father in grandmother and grandfather and an uncle and so on all stem from categories that are tied to human reproduction another innate basis for categorical distinction is H humans use time since birth as a marker for where one's ranking in society is indeed there are multiple categories that are used to describe humans H you have infants we have toddlers we have children we have teenager and we have young adult we have middle-aged adults and we even have elderly adults a final example are the categories associated with a person's economic role within society that is occupation one's occupation places him or her into different economic categories that can be ranked on several dimensions perhaps the most important Veen one's economic value the main point then is that social stratification starts when people or groups are categorized and when those categories are used to determine social rank in addition to categorization the other important component to social stratification is that it involves either the emergent and/or purposeful categorization of people in groups that is categories can be created intentionally and unintentionally with this said I want to provide you with examples of each let's start with a category that emerged unintentionally in American society and perhaps around the world being a rock star grants an individual social prestige that can amount to real-world wealth and even power rock stars are truly in a category of their own since they rank above other musicians and above most other people while researching the origins of a category rock star I discovered that it appears to have emerged with an American pop culture starting with Elvis Presley in 1956 in that year Elvis's meteoric rise to rock stardom began when he appeared on television six times I want you to watch two clips from his appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show the first clip is from his first appearance and the second clip is from a second appearance I want you to listen closely to the audience's reaction the first time versus the second time now ladies and gentlemen yes that's right Elvis Presley and now here is Elvis Craigie you as you can hear from the screening female fans Elvis became very famous very fast in just a few short months he became a rock-and-roll music sensation in less than two years Elvis became what many argue was the first true rock star yet Elvis did not set out to become a rock star in 1956 the category simply did not exist at the time instead becoming a rock star was a pleasant surprise in short the category rock star emerged spontaneously and in response to a host of social actions like those of Elvis and from other developments like the diffusion of television and record players together these social forces were behind the surge in the popularity of rock and roll music in other words the development of the category was unintentional there are instances where categories are purposefully created in order to impose ranks on people or groups a good example of this are the white and black categories that underlie American cultural conceptions of race these dichotomous categories were purposely created and popularized by the American pro-slavery movement in the South however the idea of white superiority did inform the American public's conception of race until the early 1800s this is because the concept wasn't fully developed until the South was forced to defend the institution of slavery in the wake of the growing anti-slavery movement in the north the core argument of the pro-slavery movement was at the most undeveloped regions of the world were inhabited by people with dark skin the explanation for this according to the pro-slavery scholars was that people with dark skin were less intelligent which explained their inability to develop a civilization that could rival Europe eventually the pro-slavery movement used this argument to claim the moral high ground by suggesting that Negroes were better off as slaves in America than uncivilized heathens in Africa this gave way to the propaganda behind the happy Negro as depicted in this pre Civil War cartoon but a better example of the racist scholarship behind the purposeful categorization of whites versus blacks can be read in the work of John Campbell who in 1851 wrote the book Negro mania being an examination of the falsely assumed equality of the various races of men take a look at this passage it states it is an actual fact a truth a reality as it were 5000 years ago so it was four and three in two in 1000 years ago so it is today that the dark race had always to yield to the superior intellect of the white never any given time from the most infinite remote antiquity until now has there ever appeared a race of Negroes that is men with woolly heads flat noses thick and protruding lips who has ever emerged from a state of savage ism or barbarism as you can see there are instances where categories are intentionally created as a means to rank one group above another the white/black racial categories developed by the pro-slavery movement are exactly that purposeful and intentional before moving on I want to go back to the second concept contained in the definition which asserted that social stratification involves the creation of categories that are used to establish and/or reinforce differences in relative social Worth the important assertion here is that the purpose of categorization is to establish ranks that help people organize society or maintain the existing organization of society in some instances this can be good and necessary like the emergence of the category Rockstar that was used to rank Elvis in other instances however it can be detrimental to a group especially at the category is used to reinforce a lower social rank oftentimes the use of categories to reinforce lower social ranks is done so in not so obvious ways this aspect of social stratification is a particular interest to sociologists especially when they are tied to social inequalities as shown here this is a topic that will be addressed in greater detail at the conclusion of this video now that we have discussed and deconstructed the definition of social stratification I want to examine three Universal features that make it a central component of any and all sociological research and analysis the first universal feature is that every society regardless of its size complexity or culture generates categories that are ranked in other words social stratification is universal in simple societies which tend to be small in size there are some members who are categorized and ranked higher and valued more than others in this picture we see a tribal leader who is dressed in such a way as to signify his elevated rank within the tribe in modern societies which have large and complex economies social categories tend to be more diverse and interdependent as a result the most important categories within modern societies tend to be those that link people to their economic rank in most cases the ranking of a specific occupation is based on its economic value the main point then is that every society creates categories that are ranked making social stratification a human universal the Sega Universal feature is at the value or rank of a given category whether emergent or purposeful can change over time for instance take the shift in a relative social worth of England royal family early on in England's history Kings played a direct role in shaping the kingdom's economic political and social policies in several instances Kings rose to power because they were the ones who led armies in the battle and physically fought to win the crown this is far from the case today in modern times England still has a royal family but the prestige and rank of the family has changed the family is still wealthy and it has a high degree of prestige but its members or cultural figure heads and have virtually no political power so just like the royal family categories in their ranks within stratification systems are always subject to change even when they are the most or least powerful categories the third and final universal feature is that categories and their ranks are directly and indirectly linked to social inequality in order to demonstrate this to you I want to discuss a specific kind of social stratification known as gender stratification if we think about the categories male and female in our society it is clear that there are attributes that all of us associate with male that we do not associate with female and vice versa when people associate non-reproductive attributes with a given sex category male or female sociologists refer to this as gender take a look at this chart listing the ideal gender attributes for males and females no person matches the ideal but each of us are ranked according to our ability to display at least some of these qualities and we rank others using the same list why is this important well the attributes used to categorize men and women often overlap with other categories that are associated with higher or lower rankings especially those tied to economic positions in positions of power as a result adhering to masculine or feminine qualities can directly or indirectly impact a person's ability to fill another desirable category a primary example of this is if we look at the position of leader I did a simple search for the word leader using Bing out of all the pictures that I found with people in them the most common theme was a man standing in front of women and other men take a look at a few of these examples you what this demonstrates is that people taking requesting and tagging these photos are conceptualising men as leaders rather than women this is not accidental if we go back to the gender attributes discussed earlier it is not difficult to understand why each of the qualities that were associated with being masculine are qualities that we associate with good leaders strong confident assertive analytical forceful ambitious etc if we look at the attributes associated with female we find that none of them are attributes that we would want a leader except for maybe loyalty therefore when women here to ideal feminine attributes they are essentially excluding themselves from the category of leader and when women adhere to ideal masculine attributes which coincide with the leadership attributes they are either labeled a bitch or cold-hearted in short it is much more difficult for women to be categorized as leaders when there is social pressure for them to display feminine attributes for men displaying masculine attributes only helps to reinforce their ability to assume leadership roles given what we have just covered it is easy to understand how and why women are excluded from high ranking occupations in positions of power perhaps the most evident example of this is the male monopolization of power in American society every single president the person who has the most political and social power in the United States has been male again the overlap between the category male and leader is not coincidental take a look at this final example which offers a real-world demonstration of how gender stratification manifests as gender inequality I discovered this picture while searching for the term rich I wasn't surprised to find a picture of business people but as a sociologist as someone trained to see social stratification and linked it to social inequality the photo speaks volumes it speaks volumes about the link between gender stratification and gender inequality if you look at the photo you will notice that a majority of the men are lined up in the front they stand out more so than the women and the men are positioned in such a way as to show that they are important the women on the other hand are either in the second row or they are in the back with several being obscured by the men in front of them we can only assume that if one of the women held a high-ranking position she would be more pronounced and more central in the photo but none of the women are gender stratification has played a direct role in the actual placement of the men and women in this photo in other words this photo provides us with a peek into the way that gender stratification manifests as gender inequality to conclude social stratification is at the heart of sociological research and analysis when sociologists talk about social stratification they are referring to the intentional or unintentional categorization of people as a means to establish differences in rank or social value between groups or people within society all societies regardless of their size or complexity create categories that place people in the ranks which are assigned different values categories and their social values can change over time especially when new categories emerge in response to other social changes all categories however are associated with social inequalities sometimes the link is obvious and sometimes it's intentional in sometimes it's hidden and sometimes it's unplanned thus it is up to sociologists to identify the inner workings of stratification systems how they change over time and how they are directly and indirectly linked to social inequality

18 Comments on "An Introduction to Social Stratification"


  1. If you write "the emergent and/or purposeful categorization of people …" , than "emergent" refers to people. But what you actually wanted to refer to was "categorization".

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  2. Social inequality? The driving factor is the female sexual attraction mechanism. Most women are attracted to dominant, masculine men. Men who have resources. To the victor, goes the spoils. Men who are feminized stand zero chance at competing for women against masculine men. Masculine men are the ones considered by females to "just get it", while feminized men are abused, further emasculated, and disrespected for being a "doormat". The total irony of it is, that SOCIETY creates inequality by training men to be feminine, resulting in even greater inequality by inflating the value of masculine men, while completely commodifying feminized men, resulting in them become extremely less desirable to most women. It's the ultimate biological double standard. Alpha fucks, Beta bucks. Meanwhile, I look at it all and to me it looks like an attempt by shitty Malthusians to use psychology to neuter people, resulting in a type of preventative check on population growth.

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  3. This is just wrong. How many women are assertive, aggressive, logical, forceful..? How many of them want to be masculine? Society didn't force them to be feminine, it's simply their biological nature to be that way.

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  4. Maan you should be a way more popular youtuber
    this was well put together, well articulated, thoroughly discussed and delivered in a way that any random person can understand what social stratification is and its origin. I urge you to do another video in your free time I promise you it'll be a smash hit!

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  5. man vs woman the worst puzzle piece to place, thier has to be the line that is clear instead of all the beliefs and then all the excuses. Thanks for uploading.

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  6. Hello. Quite tired here. Been researching like crazy but cannot find the difference between social stratification and economic stratification.

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  7. some of the things claimed in this film are untrue. Especially the claim that stratification is the human universal. While it is true that all modern societies are stratified there are also egalitarian tribes, most of which were wiped out by the stratified societies. Human history is far older than the 10 thousand years during which civilization has existed. Before that egalitarian tribes would of been far more prevalent than stratified ones simply because of the huge imbalance in resources a stratified society needs, and as a result the complexities that arise in governing such systems, through force and propaganda in order to keep the low tiers of the society at the bottom and subservient to the top.

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  8. One more thing, you did a great job talking about the universal (all humans in all cultures) aspects of stratification. Sometimes this point is overlooked.

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  9. I appreciated both the simplicity of this video and the visual as well as auditory quality. Thanks.

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  10. I just have to say you have very much helped me understand this particular social system, i was having difficulty for my global trend 10 page paper but with your paper it helped me greatly and i finished the assignment with 3 minutes to spare
    Thank you!

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  11. EDIT: The second clip of Elvis is from his final appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.  In the video I stated it was his "second."

    Reply

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