Social stratification is a type of differentiation in which the society people live in divides them into groups based on different topic, sometimes it could be due to their position in the religious hierarchy or their economic position and so on.
In the modern society like ours the social stratification is broadly divided into three classes based on the economic position they occupy in society. They are the Upper class the Middle class and the Lower class. These classes can be further divided into stratum which is based on the caste status of the person.
There are four principles of social stratification
1. Social stratification is socially defined as a property of a society rather than individuals in that society.
2. Social stratification is reproduced from generation to generation.
3. Social stratification is universal (found in every society) but variable (differs across time and place).
4. Social stratification involves not just quantitative inequality but qualitative beliefs and attitudes about social status
Before the modern society came into existence there were three major stratification system those are
1. The political leadership: the elite who control and run the government
2. Military circle: the top military leaders who have ultimate power on the defense of the country.
3. Corporate elite: consists of all the major business personalities.
These were the three classes of the power elite.
Structural functionalist perspective states that inequality plays a crucial role in the functioning of our society. To tempt the talented people away from menial jobs the society offers benefits to the better talented ones.
Conflict perspective states that stratification is not functional for the society and it benefits some people at the expense of others. They believe that oppression to help the oppressed to come together and fight for their rights.
In India there is a lot of importance given to the caste a person belongs. This decides their position in the society and the power and influence they have on the society. Sometimes people also are paid more because they belong to a particular status and some even prefer to give a chance for those who belong to the same society as theirs.
The different common forms of stratification are:
1. Meritocracy: In this form of stratification it is believed that the high level of efforts leads to high social position
2. Caste System: in this form the society is divided into castes and there is possible means of mobility. They are traditionally sanctioned.
3. Class System: relatively more open than caste system where people can move from one class to the other on the basis of their caliber.
Social stratification can be seen in something as small as food habits as well. For example, food that is cooked in oil and made by a Brahmin can be consumed by any caste group. Food cooked in water can be consumed by the chef’s own caste. The leftovers are then catered to the lower castes.
There is also purity in the food we eat. Vegetables and pulses are considered pure and meat and fish etc. are considered impure so generally all the higher class eat the pure food that is vegetables and pulses and the lower class tends to eat the meat and meat products.
It is the movement of people from one strata to the other in a stratification system.
Now a day’s social mobility is happening but it is the mobility in the economic class and the income they receive. Many people now do not resort to the same occupation which was passed on from generation to generation. Many are looking at the broad array of different occupations. People have realized that they no longer have a compulsion to carry on their family occupation and they are given more freedom to choose an occupation in which they are happy and satisfied.
Mobility can be intergenerational that is change in the same generation or intragenerational that is change which has occurred in more than one generation. In the social ladder this movement may be upward or downward
On mobility Sorokin was the first sociologist who wrote a book “Social and Cultural Mobility”. He was of the opinion that there is no society which is closed (Caste System in India) and no society which is completely open (Class System). He further concluded that no two societies are exactly same in the amount of movement allowed or discouraged. Further the speed of movement or change may differ from one period of time to another. The rate of change depends upon the level of modernization of a given society.
As defined by Barber, social mobility refers to movement, either upward or downward between higher or lower social classes; or more precisely, movement between one relatively full time, functionally significant social role and another that is evaluated as either higher or lower.
In closed societies social mobility rate is relatively less yet one of the characteristic is of that the descendent will take over his predecessor’s job or business and there is very less to no competition. There will be no expectations for a better job nor will they be high unsuccessful
Social mobility mainly occurs based on their education and aptitude for that particular field of interest.
I interviewed two people one is an eighteen year old sociology student while the other is a fifty year old non sociology businessman. Both are in touch with the society quite well as both their interests lie in the societal change and societal preference.
When were asked for their opinion on social mobility and social stratification they answered that they can see social mobility in the modern society but both had conflicting views on whether social stratification is still prevalent in modern society.
The sociology student was of the opinion that there is some type of stratification in both urban and rural areas even today but the businessman said that there may be some sort of caste based stratification prevalent and followed in remote rural areas and there is only reservation in urban areas but there is no differentiation or prejudice practiced in urban developed cities towards people belonging to different caste systems.
Social mobility is of two types
1. Horizontal Mobility
This is when the person changes their occupation but their overall position in the status remains safe. In other words, horizontal mobility is the transition of an individual or social object from one social group to another situated on the same level. Generally, people move away from the place from which they were born to other places in search of better opportunities and better life. Transportation has greatly impacted this form of mobility.
2. Vertical Mobility
This is when the occupational or economic change leads that person’s position in status and society to also change. There are two forms of vertical mobility those are
• Descending or social sinking
• Ascending or social climbing
3. Upward Mobility
When a person or a group move their social standing in the society from a relatively low position to a relatively high position or status it is called upward mobility. There is a constant drive for success and in many cases they will have to forget the places and people they were associated from before.
4. Downward Mobility
When a person or a group lose their relatively high status and fall to a comparatively lower status it is known as downward mobility. This type of mobility affects the person’s psychological state.
There is also proven that there is better social mobility in the urban areas than the rural.
Factors that affect social mobility are
• Achievements and failures
• Skills and training
• Political power and influence
In the interview that I conducted the businessman had slightly fantastical views about the society in spite of him being a person who does business because generally business people have to keep in a constant touch with the preferences and needs of the society but on the other hand the sociology student seemed to have a good idea of the society.
When asked whether they would have any problem with working with people from other status. They both answered that it was a modern society and they would work with anyone. The business man added that if they are qualified he is willing to give them a job. This may be due to the businessman still having a small irking at the back of his mind on stereotypes of different status and the characteristics and attributes regarding each group of people belonging to caste or a sect.
The sociology student made a rather important and unique observation that reservation is also a type of social stratification and to strip India of stratification removal of reservation should be carried out as one of the major early steps.