Social Stratification Meaning, Definition & Essentials

Wed, 10/30/2013 - 10:17 -- Umar Farooq

Meaning of Social Stratification

Social stratification means social structure in which various individuals have been assigned different roles and status (both achieved and ascribed) in such a way that certain persons are at the top, while the others are at the bottom. These people perform their roles in such a way that the machinery of social structure and social organization continues to exist and work smoothly under normal conditions.

Different societies classify individuals differently, i.e., some people are placed as higher or superior, while the others as lower or inferior in hierarchical order. This differentiation in ranks or statuses is usually superimposed by the traditions and norms of the society without the willingness of the individuals. In most of the cases, such a differential treatment for different individuals in society becomes a cultural pattern and is accepted by the individuals in society, Social stratification is found in every society, no matter how democratic and open a society is. The system of differential privileges, rights, duties and responsibilities is like the layers of a rock in geological formation, the composition of various layers contributes towards its existence.

Definition of Social Stratification

Social stratification defined as the system of institutionalized inequality among the individuals at a given time and place. There are different statuses for the people belonging to different sexes, occupations, age categories, income groups, castes and such other categories. The name given to such categories and associated behaviour, differential treatment, various, expectations and different rights arid duties within the society is called as social stratification. In other words, we can say that It stands for the "processes by which we judge how, when, where, what, and how much an individual gets his or her share in different walks of life in society."

Essentials of Social Stratification

  1. A particular system of social stratification is generally applicable to a particular society only at a given time.
  2. It is a process and this process is subject to change.
  3. There are always some individuals who enjoy privileges and rights at the higher level, and the individuals at the lower levels have certain obligations and expectation for the people placed above them the privileged classes.
  4. It is on a continuum. The highest form of social stratification is found in India and at quite a lower level in the countries where there is a single class system, or so called classless societies.