Social Stratification Essay, Research Paper
Social stratification is the ranking of members of society in a way
that some of its members are regarded as superior and others as inferior.
This theory is certainly debated in present time and was debated as far
back as 1776 when Karl Marx presented his theory in his “Manifesto of
the Communist Party”. In the 1880’s, Max Weber combatted that document
in his own “Class, Status and Party.”
Karl Marx believed that social standing or rank was based solely on
class position. For example, an owner of a business was regarded far above
a worker in that same business. Class position would also influence the
amount of political power one had as well as the prestige that one enjoyed.
Weber, however, argued that there were three parts to social
stratification: class, status and power. He stated that class was relative
to how much money a person had and how much property that person owned.
Status was split into two categories, “honor and respect”, and style of life,
which included mannerisms, the foods and clothes one used, the manner
in which a person spoke, and the neighborhood in which one lived. This
can be applied to today’s world; wearing so called designer labels such as
Polo and Donna Karan and driving a BMW would indicate a higher style
of life than wearing J.C. Penny or driving a Kia. In today’s society, the
Keith Page 2
people living a higher style of life usually shy away from those of a lower
economic status. You do not often encounter children from wealthy
Manhattan families playing with children from Harlem. The third part
of Weber’s theory on social stratification was power, which Weber defined as
the chances of having other people do what you want them to do regardless
of their own wishes.
Marx would not have argued with Weber about the three factors
being in existence; however, he probably would state that the class of the
person would determine how much status and power a person would have.
Weber agreed with Marx in the fact that in a capitalistic society, class had
the biggest influence on a person’s position and that status and power were
given more to the higher classes. Weber said, however, that there were
other societies in which this was not true, such as in the Estates System of
Medieval Europe and the Caste System of India. In the Estates System,
power was the most important factor of social rank, followed by class and
status. The best fighters were given noble standing and the ownership of
a feudal estate, which gave them status. In the Caste System of India,
status is the deciding factor of social stratification. If Karl Marx heard
Max Weber’s theories on social rank, I believe it would make his ears ring
Keith Hodne Page 3
Marx and Weber’s theories are both extremely thought provoking
when it comes to today’s society and social ranking. Weber’s theory still
exists; however, Marx’s theory is long forgotten. For example, in the
United States, people in the entertainment industry, such as movie stars,
are earning ridiculously high salaries, and have no political power, while
politicians and government officials earn much less yet have the power to
make decisions that affect millions of people. Both, however, have
high status in the placement of society. This indicates that man’s desire
to be an individual prevails.
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