Across society, groups are in a constant struggle for valued resources, vying for wealth, status, and power. Some groups will be successful; others will not. Social stratification is the outcome of this ongoing struggle. Marx felt that the capitalist system would eventually lead to its own demise. He predicted that through their class struggles workers would eventually develop a class consciousness, a recognition of themselves as a social class with interests opposed to the bourgeoisie.They would learn how to overcome their oppression, revolt against the capitalists, and establish a classless society.
The Problem of Social-Conflict Perspective
The system of social stratification has not developed as Marx thought.
He did not predict the rise of the middle class or the system of stock- holders that spreads corporate ownership beyond a few capitalists. Additionally, some aspects of class conflict have resulted in improved conditions and pay for workers and helped to preclude the development of a class consciousness largely based on exploitation.
Max Weber developed a more complex view of social stratification than Marx’s view of economically based classes. Weber developed three separate but interrelated dimensions of stratification: class, status, and power.
• Class - a continuum of economic locations that leads to differences in lifestyle or life chances.
• Status - established social positions based on social honor or social prestige
• Power – the ability to influence others, even if those others resist (include political connections and political influence)
Sociologists combine all three of these dimensions together into a mea- sure of socioeconomic status (SES),a ranking derived from combining multiple dimensions of stratification. Although all three dimensions are often consistent, that is not always the case.
Mother Teresa, for example, commanded little wealth or political power, yet high statusaround the world for her humanitarian works.
Former Iraqi president Saddam Husseinwas extremely rich and powerful, but held low statusinternationally. The geographic metaphor that sociologists often use when addressing stratification fails to capture some of this complexity.
Stratification is influencedby ascribed statusessuch as race, ethnic background, gender, and age. We are born with these statuses, and, despite our personal efforts and achievements, they impact our lifestyle and life chances. Prejudices and discrimination based on these ascribed statuses serve to justify and maintain systems of stratification.Although the terms are often used interchangeably in everyday conversations, prejudice and discrimination are different.
Prejudiceis a preconceived and irrational attitude toward people based on their group membership. Just as the term suggests, this is a pre-judgment. It is inflexible and not based on direct evidence or contact. Prejudices can take the form of positive or negative attitudes toward a group, but the term is often used with a negative connotation. Socialization contributes to prejudice and people who hold prejudicial attitudes toward one group tend to be prejudice toward others as well.
Damaging forms of prejudice
Common and damaging forms of prejudice are found in the “isms” that exist throughout society (e.g., racism, sexism, ageism). All of these “isms” take the form of a belief that one group is naturally inferior or superior, thus justifying unequal treatment of the group on the basis of their assumed characteristics.
In racism,that belief is based on racial or ethnic group membership. The early sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois (1868–1963), spent almost a century studying race and racism.
Sexismis the belief that one sex is naturally inferior or superior, thereby justifying unequal treatment. Feminist sociologists focus on sexism.