Functions of Stratification and Mobility

Unit 1 Module 3 - Social Stratification & Social Mobility

Social Stratification

Functionalists would consider the following issues in theorizing about the phenomenon of social stratification:

  1. What is the function of social stratification?

* To maintain social order
* To ensure that all roles are filled
* Roles are filled by those best suited to efficiently execute them.

     2.  What are the functions of a class system?

 * To classify and rank roles according to merit and importance
 * To encourage individuals to invest time and effort in education, and skills acquisition for the functionally more important roles.

     3.  Why is social stratification necessary?
 - To ensure that society continues to exist.

Altogether, Davis and Moore contend that:

Social inequality is an unconsciously evolved device by which societies insure that the most important positions are filled by the most qualified persons. Hence every society, no matter how simple or complex, must differentiate persons in terms of both prestige and esteem, and must therefore possess a certain amount of institutionalized inequality. (Mc-Graw-Hill, 1980)

1.    Anthropologists contend that social stratification or institutionalized inequality is not necessarily inevitable, nor universal. Instead they suggest that some hunting /gathering societies do not appear to have structured inequality.

2.    Tumin presents the following arguments in opposition to Davis and Moore’s postulations:
•    Academics have difficulty in defining positions as more or less important.
•    There are several essential/functionally important jobs that are not prestigious.
•    Any form of social inequality, has the tendency to discriminate against persons in lower ranks of the strata.
•    Individuals in lower stratas have fewer opportunities in comparison to those from higher stratas to realize/develop their talents.
•    Some members of the upper strata may be so positioned simply by virtue of birth/ascription and not necessarily due to merit.