The term stratification refers to the way different groups of people are placed at different levels in society. The levels are strata – a term borrowed to geology, the study of rocks. In geology, there are different strata of rocks formed at different times in history. In our case, the strata are classes, and classes will be the main types of stratification we consider here.But class is not the only form of stratification.
For example, the type of stratification that we had in the Middle Ages is called the estates system (also known as feudalism). At the top of this system was the king: below him the noble lords, then knights and finally the great majority of the population, the serfs and the peasants. There were also monks and scholars. Each of these was an estate, rather than a class.
Estates were different from classes in that it was almost impossible to move up or down. If you were born a serf, then you would always be a serf, and you could not marry someone born to a higher estate. So people’s destinies were decided at birth: their social position was ascribed (given) to them.
Social Class refers to the hierarchical divisions of a capitalist society, in which wealth, income and occupation form the defining characteristics of each group.
The class system allows for social mobility: that is, people can move up and down. People achieve a position in society, rather than this being decided for them by their birth.
The position is said to be achieved status, not ascribed status.
Societies that have stratification systems like caste, slavery and feudal estates are said to be closed, because movement up and down is not possible. Societies that have the class system are said to be more open.
1) What is meant by stratification?
2) Name another form of stratification other than class.
3) What is the difference between closed and open systems of stratification? Explain your answer by giving examples.
4) What aspects of your social position are ascribed and which are achieved?
Document 2: Measuring class
Class is difficult to measure - unlike, for examples, gender and age. The new classification system has eight classes:
New occupational scale – first use 2001
High managerial and professional occupations
Company director, doctor,
Lower managerial and professional occupations
Secretary, driving instructor, computer operator
Small employers and own account workers
Publican, farmer, taxi driver
Lower supervisory , craft and related occupations
Plumber, train driver, butcher
Shop assistant, hairdresser, bus driver
Waiter, cleaner, building labourer
Never employed and long-term unemployed
Never worked, Long-term unemployed, Full time students, Occupation inadequately described and Unclassified for other reasons
1) What is the main indicator of class chosen by statisticians?
2) Give some examples of jobs for each class.
Document 3: The Full Monty trailer (The Full Monty, 1997, P. Cattaneo)