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Is It Useful To Distinguish Between Three Distinct Ways In Which Society Is Stratified ( Class, Status, Power) As Wever Does?

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Introduction

IS IT USEFUL TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THREE DISTINCT WAYS IN WHICH SOCIETY IS STRATIFIED ( CLASS, STATUS, POWER) AS WEVER DOES? It is important to make a distinction between social inequality and social stratification before beginning. The term 'social inequality' simply refers to the existence of socially created inequalities. Social stratification is a particular form of social inequality. Social differences become social stratification when people are ranked hierarchically along some dimension of inequality, whether this is income, wealth, power, prestige, age, ethnicity or some other characteristic. Members of the various strata which constitute each level of the stratification hierarchy tend to common life chances and life styles and may display an awareness of communal identity, and these characteristics further distinguish them from the other strata's. Clearly, as the egalitarian society remains a dream, all human societies, from the simplest to the most complex, has some form of social inequality. Power, prestige and wealth is distributed unevenly between individuals and social groups. From their different images of society, the founding fathers of sociology had conceptualised the nature of social stratification in entirely different ways. Durkheim concentrated on the functional division of labour and regarded differential remuneration as a reflection of differentially useful contributions to society. ...read more.

Middle

On the other hand, the bourgeois are dependent on the proletariat for production. However, the mutual dependency between the two classes is not a relationship of equal or symmetrical reciprocity. Instead, it is a relationship of the exploiter and the exploited, the oppressor and the oppressed. In particular the bourgeois gains at the expense of the labourers, and there is therefore a conflict between them. Marx's theory of stratification was thus linked to the capitalist economy and was dependent only on the economic positions of individuals or social groups. Weber differed only marginally from Marx when he defined as a class a category of men who 'have in common a specific causal component of their life chances in so far as this component is represented exclusively by economic interests in the possession of goods and opportunities for income, and it is represented under the conditions of the commodity or labour market'. He was even fairly close to Marx's view, though not necessarily to those of latter-day Marxists, when he stated that class position does not necessarily lead to class-determined economic or political action. He argued that communal class action would emerge only if and when the "connections between the causes and the consequences of the 'class situation' " become transparent. ...read more.

Conclusion

He shows that the basis from which such power can be exercised may vary considerably according to the social context, that is, historical and structural circumstance. Hence, where the source of power is located becomes for Weber an empirical question, one that cannot be answered by what he considers Marx's dogmatic emphasis on one specific source. Moreover, Weber argues, men do not only strive for power to enrich themselves. 'Power, including economic power, may be valued 'for its own sake.' Very frequently the striving for power is also conditioned by the social 'honour' it entails.' Having looked at all three - class, status and power, is it really more useful to distinguish between them when explaining social stratification? Weber's theories on social stratification are far from being clear-cut. He just states the various hierarchies lead to the from of various social groups, but does not pin point anything definite. Just as status groups can both divide and cut across class boundaries, hold on power also can divide and cut across classes and status groups. Weber's analysis of classes, status groups and power suggests that no single theory can pin point and explain their relationship. Thus, I feel that, while examining social stratification, it is better to reconcile these three different ways of stratification - class, status and power, instead of trying to distinguish between them. ...read more.

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