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    Social Stratification Essay

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    Stratification although the points argued by all three theorists touch upon the points of social stratification, each of the ideas are inherently different. Karl Marx mainly focuses on the employer and employee relationship, having inequality only rising from economic disparities. Though Max Weber’s thoughts are similar to Marx’s, he saw that stratification had three components, not just wealth. Kingsley Davis takes on both Marx’s and Weber’s ideas and integrates it into his own, using a person’s placement or job in society to dictate the rewards.

    Marx mainly focuses on arguing how wealth should be distributed equally and move toward a communist state for society to thrive. He classifies modern society into two classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The bourgeoisie are the owners of the means of production-the factories, businesses, and equipment needed to produce wealth. The proletariat are the workers that worker for the bourgeoisie. Marx argues that in capitalist societies, the bourgeoisie exploit their workers because these workers have a false consciousness where they think they are well off.

    This false consciousness is derived from them being provided enough money to buy food and other necessities, but in fact, the bourgeoisie are taking advantage of them. Marx hoped that the class struggle would end when the rich got too rich and the workers could develop a true class consciousness (sense of shared identity based on common experience of being exploited) and rise up to revolt, gaining control of the means of production to become a communist society.

    However, as time progressed with more workers becoming educated and acquiring skill sets to achieve financially, his hope died off. These workers could go under the protection of labor unions and labor laws instead of being exploited by the other owners. Marx bases his entire argument on the economic status of people leading to inequality.

    Weber, on the other hand, disagrees with Marx because he views inequality as rising not only from the economic aspect, but also from two other components, power and prestige (status). Weber argues that Marx’s view is too simple since owning property (a sign of wealth) was not the only part that could determine a person’s social class.

    For example, people who run corporations (mode of production classified by Marx) but do not own that corporation will still benefit from an increased production and greater profits because of their power and prestige in that high position. Weber also includes in his arguments that the three factors of designating inequality can all arise from each other and are all intertwined. For example, owning property can bring prestige as society tends to hold richer people in a higher regard. Prestige can also arise from having a certain crucial skill set like having an athletic ability or intellectual ability. Prestige lead to possessing more wealth.

    And finally, prestige can also bring power while power can result from prestige as the wealthy ten to possess more power. Weber says that social class is a result of power, which is the ability of a person to get his way despite the opposition. All of these three points Weber puts out can lead to inequality because the powerful, prestigious, and wealthy tend to keep to themselves, leading to closure and the hoarding of valuable resources and skill sets.

    Davis’s point is similar to Weber’s except that he sees inequality as arising from skill sets and job abilities. He argues that stratification serves an important function in society because it leads to more incentives for people to strive for a higher ability job. The available jobs in a society all vary in difficulty and the required skill sets whether that be vocational training or going through a secondary or post-secondary education system. Davis discusses that the people who perform harder tasks are entitled to more money, prestige, and power.

    These rewards that are attached to the job reflect the importance to society, resulting in inequality. The skills that are required for a job, the fewer people there would be to be qualified to perform the job. However, Davis also argues that this unequal distribution of society’s rewards are necessary because they encourage people to take on more complicated tasks such as performing brain surgery or designing a skyscraper in a densely populated city.

    Although all of these arguments are valid because each includes the other, I would eliminates Marx’s as being a persuasive one because in today’s society, wealth is not the only thing that results in inequality. I would agree with Weber more than Davis because his argument includes the widest variety of things. Although Davis’s point is valid, and the jobs and skills lead to inequality, it is the reward, wealth, with the job that leads to inequality. Weber presents all of the valid points together to give a valid and sophisticated explanation for inequality that applies to today’s societies.

    In the 2016 Oxfam report “An Economy For the 1%,” it claims that the global economy is for the 1 percent. Although this is a broad survey across many countries, it found that 82 percent of the wealth went to the richest 1 percent. There were 62 rich people versus the bottom 3.6 billion. However, there are also some contrarian points that reduce the credibility of this report. Lifespans are usually associated with wealth, but everywhere, lifespans are lengthening and there are also a fewer amount of people in extreme poverty around the world, although it still very does exist. In addition, since 2010, billionaire wealth has risen on an annual average of 13 percent.

    In 1982, there were 42 billionaires with a minimum of 200 million while in 2013, the minimum rose to 1.3 billion and the amount of billionaires rose drastically, to 400. According to the Oxfam report, it takes only around one business day for a CEO to earn what a regular worker makes in one year. These workers are poor and are being exploited for cheap and efficient labor.

    However, according to Richard Reeves’s “How the American Upper Middle Class is Leaving Every Else in the Dust…,” he reports that there is a very large and steadily increasing economic gap. And not only can that gap apply to the economics sector of life, this large gap also can be seen in education, family structure, health/longevity, and civic/community life. Although this upper middle class is not the 1 percent mentioned in the Oxfam report, they can be compared to see the validity of this claim.

    This privilege that this upper middle class has begins during childhood with socialization and continues only within this upper middle class through social closure. The concentration of wealth has also been rising, contributing to this self-reinforcing cycle within the upper middle class. The untaxed 529 plans and the hoarding of wealth and opportunity all result in the economy being for “the 1 percent.”

    Wealth is concentrated within the upper classes of society because social mobility stays there. It is much harder for a poor person to have a flexible social mobility scale. These richer sectors have more opportunities due to their wealth because they can afford to send their children to private schools and other prep schools to prepare them for later in life. In addition, the wealthy tend to have more power and connections, creating an easier path for them to advance or reinforce their upper positions in the society class.

    However, social mobility is not only influenced by wealth. It is also composed of the family, neighborhoods, individual sociodemographic characteristics, education, noncognitive traits (e.g. being outgoing), social networks, and luck. Although there are these many contributing factors, they still tie back to wealth.

    The Oxfam report’s claim that the current global economy is for the “1 percent” is valid because the economic gap is enlarging, leaving many of the poor to just become poorer. Opportunity mainly comes from merit and education nowadays, and since the richer have been focusing on education, it has also become harder for the poor to advance in society due to not having enough financial resources to prepare adequately.

    Rachel Dolezal’s case is a unique one for sociologists since her intentions were good, but the way she carried out her act was negative. First, race is defined as a categorization in which others perceive a person and it can be fluid over time. In sociology, race is considered a social construct, it is something that society has made and people believe in. There is no biological basis of race, meaning that it technically is not real and valid, but society makes it real by attaching meaning to what it means to be black or white or any other race in society.

    A racial identity can develop and change over time, influenced by racial mix, heritage, who the person lives with, and interactions with other racial communities. In Dolezal’s controversy, an interesting term arose, “transracial.” This term refers to picking one’s own race, just like being transgender. She wanted to display her identity she felt on the inside on the outside by changing her behavior and physical attributes such as skin color.

    In today’s society many things are fluid, but race is still a pretty rigid and sensitive topic, especially when a white woman pretends to be a black woman, receives a scholarship from a historically black university for being black, and becomes a chairperson of an NAACP chapter. Although Dolezal’s intentions may have been good, her misrepresentation of her background was what was problematic. An argument could be that she could have been a white woman fighting for blacks’ rights and still gotten elected to chair a chapter of the NAACP and accomplish her goal, but she tried to pretend to be a person she was not. In an interview, Dolezal even explicitly states that “race is a social construct,” but by saying that, she contradicts herself. If it truly was a social construct even to her, why would she need to change her race anyway?

    However, in the documentary it was revealed that she had adopted black siblings who were abused by her high religious parents. It could be that she felt a certain allegiance toward her black siblings and had to fight to protect them from her parents. She decided to change her race because she wanted to throw that tainted white image of her parents away from herself. This socialization aspect affected her decision to “change her race.” Growing up protecting her siblings made her understand the reality of black lives and white privilege, leading her to even participate in a program at her Christian university, the Voice of Calgary, a racial reconciliation community development project where blacks and whites live together.

    Although this documentary may have made people feel sympathetic somewhat, it is still important to note that there is a fine difference between identity and orientation. The question that arose during this controversy was the Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner event where people asked why that was any different to Dolezal’s case. Changing one’s race is a complex topic because there should be and needs to be a type of “lived experience” in order to truly understand the struggles of the black race. And in her trying to fight the good fight, she might have, in effect, exploited the black people she was so committed to help because of her incident.

    Because of these complexities relating to Dolezal’s case, sociologists are perplexed on whether to support her or not. On one hand she did this because she believed truly that she was black and by doing that that she could help the fight, but on the other hand, her deception of the public and just changing her race suddenly is just what makes the whole incident wrong.

    Emile Durkheim’s “social facts” are aspects of social life that shape individual actions. These are forces of nature that are external to individuals and cannot be controlled. They are the rules and norms people in society automatically follow. Symbolic interactionism is defined as the theory of the social world that focuses on the meanings that individuals give to objects and social practice and how they use symbolic meanings in their interactions with one another. Symbolic interactionism consists mainly of two parts, governable and ungovernable actions.

    Governable actions are conscious, where one gives off actions to make people view you in a certain way. Ungovernable actions are unconscious and just appear to happen. The main difference between Durkheim’s social facts and Goffman’s symbolic interactionism is that social facts focuses more on the individual while Goffman focuses on expanding the relation when interacting with others.

    For Durkheim’s social facts, they are a constraining actor that forces one to act certain ways and if a person deviates from acting that dictated way, he can expect sanctions. Most of the time, these norms and rules that we follow don’t even need to be thought out. They are a sort of unconscious thought and act that people conform to. Durkheim focuses on explaining how the individual is molded by society through these natural social facts and brings in socialization as a main player in how people develop and follow these social facts. A child is “taught” by the parents how they he should behave in certain situations. If they do not follow the regular norms, they are punished, and this socialization factor carries into the child’s future as the “correct” way of acting is imprinted in his mind.

    Goffman’s views are different, but in the sense that he incorporates Durkheim’s thoughts on social facts and applies it to interactions between people. Goffman mainly points his arguments toward performing and interacting with others, including face to face interactions, which we classified as performances. The conscious part of symbolic interaction is when a person is “front stage.” This scenic front can include our clothing, outside appearance, or behavior toward others where we try to make a certain impression purposely.

    For example, during an interview, one would like to appear formal and clean by wearing formal clothing and style our hair in a more conservative way. By the individual trying to control what is portrayed and thought of him, he is interacting with society in a governed way. However, Goffman also bases many of his thoughts on Durkheim’s ideas. Because there are two components of symbolic interactionism, the second, ungovernable actions, relate directly to Durkheim’s social facts. Both of these are unconscious and occur naturally.

    In order for these two theories to fit together, we would have to split Goffman’s performances into a front stage and a back stage. As mentioned before, the front stage is where we act consciously in a certain way toward certain groups of people. The back stage is where we think and prepare, which is usually automatic and somewhat unconscious. For the two theories to mix, the unconscious back stage can be related to Durkheim’s social facts, which are also uncontrollable and unconscious.

    The claim that the US is a post-racial society is partially valid, as the older racial divide has been addressed, but the resolutions just have not been effective. However, the current situation involving race as compared to many years ago is an improved situation. During the antebellum, Civil War, and post Civil War eras, discrimination toward African Americans were extremely widespread. Even after the Civil War was over, there were laws that prohibited blacks from using the same facilities as whites (Jim Crow laws). Even with the 14th and 15th and subsequent amendments ratified, blacks were still discriminated upon by some states implementing poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses. However, because these mechanisms were there to attempt prohibit discrimination and racial bias, the times could be said to have gotten better.

    To support the idea that the United States is a post-racial society, we can see that there are more racially diverse people in higher positions, including both in private company sectors and in the government sector. In Sendhil Mullainathan’s article “Racial bias, even when we have good intentions,” he discusses data showing elite universities favor minority applicants. In addition, he also found studies that showed that when a jury just had one black member as contrasted to an all white jury, they would convict a white man just as likely as a black man. Although these are some positive statistics showing discrimination in today’s society decreasing, the reality is still that it still very does exist.

    There are many conflicting statistics and views that contrast the perspective that today’s society is a post-racial society. For example, in Douglas Massey’s Categorically Unequal, he explicitly states that through the research he has conducted, that African Americans continue to face discrimination in markets for jobs, housing, and credit. And not only that, there is also still racial prejudice and bias against other colored races as well. Before immigration from all the other countries, American society was only based on two racial categories, Black versus White. But after the immigration waves, American society was divided up into many racial categories including Black, White, Latino, Asian, etc.

    In addition, in the video we watched in class, experiments have shown that white people are much more likely to receive replies to selling an item on Craigslist than a black person. The study concluded that there were much lower levels of trust for blacks selling the iPod than whites (blacks offered 20 percent less). American society is still discriminating against minorities and holding negative stereotypes and prejudices against them.

    In a study conducted in 2003 with Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan, they found that resumes with a stereotypically “white” name was roughly 50 percent more to result in a callback for an interview. In addition, another study conducted by Devah Pager, Bruce Western, and Bart Bonikowski in 2009 concludes that African Americans with no criminal record were offered jobs at a rate as low as white applicants who possessed criminal records. In Mullainathan’s article, he also discusses many other ways in which African Americans are stereotyped.

    For example, when whites and blacks both bargain for the same car, blacks were offered initial prices that were around $700 higher. Also, even government officials outright discriminated against African Americans when a study resulted that white state legislators were found to be less likely to respond to constituents with African American names.

    Overall, although explicit racial discrimination has decreased extensively, there are still many instances of inexplicit and covert racism present in today’s society. Even Mullainathan discussed the surprise employers had when the studies were exposed to them. The HR managers were stunned because they always “prized creating diversity in their companies,” but in reality, the resume experiment showed otherwise. In Steven Pinker’s book The Better Angels of Our Nature, he argues that although times may seem bad now, the bad in society is slowly decreasing and diminishing. He reminds us of the view that the present is the best time in history.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Social Stratification Essay. (2023, Feb 08). Retrieved from

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