Social Stratification | Types, Challenges, Politics and Sociological Point of View

Social Stratification

Social stratification is the fact, for any society, of being made up of differentiated and hierarchical social groups; associated with inequalities in wealth, power, prestige or knowledge. It is a system by which society classifies categories of people into a hierarchy.

In modern Western culture , stratification is largely organized into three main layers: upper class, middle class, and lower class. Each of these classes can be further subdivided into smaller classes (ie. occupation).

Let us specify two meanings of this notion anyway:

in the broad sense, it designates the fact that any society is built by producing a system of differentiation, of hierarchization of social positions. The social structure is thus based on social groups which are defined by the unequal access to the resources of a society of castes, orders, social classes, etc.

in the narrower or theoretical sense, this notion is reserved for analyzes which are mainly opposed to the Marxist theory of social structure, to present society organized in social strata, hierarchized on the basis of multiple criteria (income, professional status, power, prestige) but which are not irreducibly opposed like social classes in a logic of domination and exploitation.

Social stratification is based on four basic principles:

1. It is a feature of society, not simply a reflection of individual differences;
2. Social stratification continues from generation to generation;
3. It is universal but variable;
4. It involves not only inequality, but also beliefs.

Frequent errors

In its narrow and theoretical sense, the two approaches to social stratification should not be confused:

  • that in terms of social strata which implies a proximity between these social strata which are permeable, thus promoting social mobility, analysis of a meritocratic and consensual society.
  • that in terms of social classes in the Marxist sense of the term, which on the contrary emphasizes the distance between social groups which are closed to each other, analysis of a blocked and conflictual society.


The question does not relate to the existence of a differentiation of social positions, or even of a social hierarchy (everyone agrees on this), but on the real possibilities given to individuals to change their social position, to know in particular a social rise, in short to recognize if a social structure is fixed or not.

Read also: Economic Systems | List, Type and Explanation

This refers to the issues and determinants of social mobility: is the individual determined by his social origin or is he only influenced by this origin, being able to free himself from his initial social position (see individualism) ? In other words, can we escape our fate? What is the degree of freedom of the individual to access other social positions? Are these more or less open, in law as in fact?

Politics and its supports

Political anthropology not only contributes to a better delimitation, and to a better knowledge, of the political field. It envisages, in an innovative way, the relationship of power to the elementary structures which provide it with its first foundation, to the types of social stratification which make it necessary, to the rituals which ensure its rooting in the sacred and intervene in its strategies.

Kinship (sharing of characteristics or origins) and power
Modern anthropology, far from conceiving of kinship and politics as mutually exclusive or opposed to each other, has revealed the complex links existing between the two systems, and founded the theoretical study of their reports on the occasion of research carried out “in the field”. It has been observed, on various occasions, that political relations are also expressed in the language of kinship and that manipulations of kinship are one of the means of political strategy. Current research shows this by paying attention to revealing situations, strategies and manipulations regarding power and authority.

So-called segmentary societies, organized on the basis of clans, lineages and alliances resulting from matrimonial exchanges, are not devoid of relations of preeminence or subordination. Not all clans and lineages are equal; the former can be differentiated, specialized and “ordered”; the latter may confer unequal rights depending on whether they refer to a particular category of founding ancestor; both can be distinguished for ritual necessities which have political and economic implications.

Types of social stratification schemes

There are at least four types of stratification systems. The three traditional systems are the slave society , the caste society and the class society. In these systems, the division into strata is largely based on ascribed characteristics, namely birth ancestry. The fourth system is class society . Originating as part of social modernization , the division into strata there is largely based on acquired characteristics, namely access to factors of production .

Slave society

Almost every known agricultural society had slavery. Only in the last 1,000 years has slavery as an economic system been seriously questioned. Prisoners of war formed the basis for slavery. While prisoners are a burden to a nomadic people, this is not the case at all for sedentary agricultural civilizations. On the contrary, the prisoners can be used productively, for example when cultivating land. After all, in such societies there is a constant need for additional workers. There are many examples of slavery being used as a fully-fledged economic system, including ancient China, Greece, Rome, 18th-century Latin America and19th-century North America .

Caste society

The caste society is an extremely sophisticated system, aimed at legitimizing social stratification. The ordering of people on the basis of honor or prestige is the starting point of this stratification system. For example, honor can be awarded based on a positive societal evaluation of non-economic characteristics such as ethnicity, race and/or religious status. These non-economic characteristics are then linked to economic positions (for example, land ownership or the exercise of a profession). For example, people who belong to a particular religion or race may be excluded from certain categories of occupations. Jewsfor example, they were only allowed to practice “bad” professions such as doctor or banker, which is a typical example of social stratification within a caste system. People can also be born unclean (a religious status) based on poor performance in a past life, implying that they cannot progress based on skills acquired during their lifetime. Their position in social stratification is fixed from birth and is therefore immutable.

Linking non-economic characteristics to economic characteristics has a clear legitimizing function. If people themselves believe that they are inferior because of an unalterable characteristic, they are more likely to accept the consequences of their “inferiority”.
A contemporary example of the caste system is India.

Estate society

The estate society is particularly known from the European Middle Ages. Estate society is a form of social hierarchy in which a peasant or serf must work a piece of land owned by the noble class. In return, a noble would provide protection or any other agreed service. The estate system is also known as feudalism and became prominent during the Middle Ages. Three positions were distinguished. At the top was the clergy, soon after came the nobility, and at the bottom were the peasants. These stalls were virtually closed and access to a stall was largely determined by birth.

Class society

Class society is the prevailing stratification system in most countries today. Access to a class depends on its position in the production system. Although there is no agreement on the exact delineation of classes, the classification is more or less as follows. The upper class is formed by major shareholders and senior executives, the upper middle class by technicians and office workers, the lower middle class by skilled service personnel and skilled routine labour, and the lower class by low-skilled labour. These classes are open to a greater extent than the strata in traditional stratification systems. For example, one can gain access to a higher class by following an education or gaining work experience.

Theories of social stratification

Do the sociological classifications correspond to a reality?

Science aims at knowledge, it is also the objective of sociology as a science. Science had its great era of classifications and nomenclatures: classification of Darwin’s species, of sets in mathematics, of periods in history, etc. Sociology will also classify the population into social categories, into social groups. But is this classification a simple method of analysis or does it correspond to reality?

1. The so-called realistic approach

For Marx, the classification of society into social groups corresponds to the reality of social classes. We will speak here of a realistic approach, that is to say an approach which consists in affirming that classification is not a simple method of analysis since it must only describe the reality of struggling classes.

For Marx the population is effectively divided into antogonist groups, in the capitalist mode of production he will distinguish two large classes according to their social relations of production. This will lead him to consider on the one hand those who provide labor – the proletarians – and those who own the means of production, that is to say capital – the bourgeoisie, in other words the capitalists -. This approach leads to a holistic conception of society: individuals are determined in their behavior by their belonging to a class.

2. The nominalist approach

The nominalist approach is the one adopted by Max Weber, it is opposed to the realistic approach in that it rejects the reality of social groups. The only goal of the will to stratify society is to better understand reality and to describe it, in this sense it is only a tool, an intellectual construction specific to sociologists.

The strata do not exist independently of the individuals who compose them, these individuals are not determined to adopt behavior according to their belonging to strata which would be external to them. The nominalist approach therefore favors methodological individualism and rejects holism since it offers a description of the social structure from the study of individual acts. This conception seeks to classify individuals and understand their choices.

3. Non-neutral terminology

Social class or social stratum?

The term social class refers to a hierarchy according to a single criterion opposing one class to another (possession or not of capital in Marx, possession or not of political power in Rothbard.), It supposes social immobility and conflicts between classes. , it also implies that everyone can identify with a class and that the interests of one class are contrary to those of another. This term has a Marxist connotation although Austrian economists also use it.

Speaking of a social stratum refers to a nominalist view of the classification of social categories, the hierarchy that results from strata is not based on criteria opposing the strata but on different chances of accessing goods or income on the goods and labor. Contrary to the unidimensional character of the analysis of the social hierarchy among the proponents of the class, the criteria for the analysis of the social hierarchy are therefore multidimensional here (professions, income, prestige, etc.). Speaking in terms of stratum supposes the possibility of social mobility from one generation to another (inter-generational) and even within the same generation (intra-generational).

Social group or social category?

The social group implies the presence of common characteristics among its members, characteristics of which the members are aware and claim them. This causes them to think and act in the same direction and to stand out in their ways of acting and thinking from the rest of society. A social group is not for all that a class since it is not necessarily in a relation of economic domination with another social group. An ethnic group, the members of a political party, of a nation are social groups.

A social category does not imply a common mode of thinking and acting, the division of society into strata therefore leads to a distinction between social categories.

Application of stratification theories

1. The class struggle in Karl Marx

The Communist Manifesto explains where the class struggle is. It shows why the bourgeoisie-proletariat opposition must lead to the proletarian revolution. It sketches the picture of what should be the seizure of power by revolutionaries and future communism. Marx thus considers that history arrives at a singular stage: the dominated class cannot free itself from the yoke of the dominant class without at the same time and definitively freeing the whole of society from all oppression and from the class struggle itself. With the proletarian revolution, therefore, the class struggle would end, and as the class struggle is the essence of history, with the victory of the proletariat, history itself will end.

A. The bourgeoisie

The peasants of the Middle Ages who arrived in the city to escape serfdom gave the “bourgeois” of the first communes. Hence the “bourgeoisie”. Later, in the 16th century, the great discoveries gave the bourgeoisie a new field of action. Trade took place with the colonies. Commerce and industry have been in continuous growth. So there was a growth of a “revolutionary” element within the very old feudal society. However, the old mode of operation was no longer sufficient to meet the needs of the new markets. So we invented the manufacture. Facing it, the workshop with its master craftsmen, retreated before the industrial bourgeoisie, and the entire corporate organization of work was reached: “the division of labor between the different corporations gave way to the division of labor in the workshop. same.” But the markets were still growing, so the steam engine was invented and big industry began. Large industry met global needs and the globalized market encouraged the development of navigation and communication routes, which accelerated the development of trade. The bourgeoisie increased its capital and pushed back the classes bequeathed by the Middle Ages.

As the bourgeoisie dominated economically, it had to take political power. It obtained it in the modern States after 1789. The bourgeoisie clearly appears as a revolutionary class destroying the feudal world. It will develop market values ​​replacing traditional social relationships, which were essentially relationships between people (homage, loyalty), relationships between things. Thus the wage-earning system is conceived by Marx as a market resulting in making the relationship between people a relationship between things: the employee “is worth” what the commodity he can sell, that is to say his labor power, is worth. Bourgeois society is a producer of indifferentiation between people, since it is controlled by money, we do not consider someone according to his (noble) quality but according to his purchasing power.

Marx recognizes some merits of the bourgeoisie, that developed technology, machinery: “Capitalism is linked to the sophisticated exploitation of nature by machinery”. But by doing this the bourgeoisie would have generated a new class which should destroy it. Indeed capitalism cannot avoid the “revolt of the productive forces”, because the exploitation of workers creates crises of overproduction which collapse entire sections of industry and therefore ruin many capitalists at the same time as they unemployed thousands of workers. Thus the bourgeoisie would be less and less numerous as capitalism develops, while the ranks of the proletarians would grow.

Marx develops explanations of crises of overproduction. For him, they are explained by lack of production planning, he speaks of an anarchy of production resulting from incoherent initiatives of the producers who all rush into a production because the selling prices are high. When everyone has mass-produced the same product, the prices collapse and everything collapses. Marx believes these crises not only inevitable as long as the market is free, but doomed, moreover, to be “more and more extensive”. Indeed, to overcome these crises, the capitalists react by a “headlong rush”: they destroy certain productive forces, find new markets and exploit the old ones more (increase in the rate of exploitation), and in this sense they create the conditions for future crises, identical to the previous ones in terms of their basic mechanism, to exceed them in magnitude.

B. The proletariat

The proletarian appeared as the small workshop of the “patriarchal master craftsman” disappeared. The work team of this workshop was like a family. In its place, we have seen the emergence of veritable “industrial armies”, with a complete hierarchy of officers and non-commissioned officers, within which despotism reigns. The more industry and machinery have progressed, the less labor it required skill and strength. This tended to cancel out the differences due, respectively, to the age and sex of the workers.

On the other hand, with the increase in productivity due to machinery and to the economies of scale achieved by economic concentration, the prices of industrial products fall, so competition ruins the old workshops: their low capital does not allow them to support the competition from capitalists; their technical ability is impaired. Their bosses and workers – small industrialists, artisans, – fall into the proletariat, as do, by mechanical effect, the merchants, peasants, rentiers, who do not manage to constitute sufficiently capitalistic and competitive production units to survive in the new context. They all come to swell the ranks of the proletariat.

But what is the proletariat? The proletarians are the modern workers “who live only by finding work and who find it only if the work increases the capital” (by the exploitation of the surplus value which makes it possible to increase the capital employed). Workers are therefore a commodity subject to competition and market fluctuations. Their work has lost all appeal, due to the development of machinery and the fragmentation of tasks. The worker has become the accessory of the machine. The operations he has to do are more and more simple, more and more monotonous. As a result, he is paid less and less: as work is deskilled, wages tend downwards, and more precisely towards a “floor” which can be defined as the sum allowing the gross reproduction of force. of work (feeding the worker and his children). At the same time the work becomes more and more difficult. Because the downward trend in wages translates into a continuous increase in times and rates of work. Finally, the worker, returning from the factory, is the prey of other bourgeois, owners, shopkeepers, usurers.

Thus the proletariat is in struggle against the bourgeoisie. At the beginning, this struggle is the act of isolated workers who destroy foreign goods, macines, factories; they strive to regain the lost position of the craftsman of the Middle Ages. At this stage, the revolted workers constitute a dispersed mass and divided by the competition which they make among themselves to find work. But then, the modes of proletarian struggle become more coherent under the effect of three factors: the number of proletarians increases, they are more and more concentrated (in large factories), their mass is more and more unified (since the progress in machinery no longer requires qualifications and that wages tend towards the reproduction income of their class). Then the forces of the proletarians increase and class consciousness emerges: the clashes henceforth give rise to coalitions, permanent associations, organized riots, they take on the character of clash between antogonist classes. The proletariat will be further strengthened by the arrival within it of educated men, of bourgeois ruined by crises but also of bourgeois rallied “to the class which holds the future in its hands”. Just as, in the past, part of the nobility had rallied to the cause of the bourgeoisie, so too are rallying to the cause of the proletariat the “bourgeois intellectuals who have attained the theoretical understanding of the whole movement of the bourgeoisie ‘story.”

2. The persistence of an analysis in terms of social class in Bourdieu

Pierre Bourdieu’s analysis remains a class analysis, but with the particularity of breaking with the one-dimensional criterion of class analysis. As nominalist theorists do, he segments society by taking into account criteria such as occupation, level of education, sex, age, residence, but above all the volume and structure of turnover.

possessed and the social trajectory of the agents composing this class. However, he will reduce these criteria to the notion of various types of capital:

  • economic capital, ie income and wealth;
  • cultural capital are the form of education received, diplomas, general culture, tastes;
  • social capital is linked to relationships allowing the obtaining of advantages, for example membership of a trade union, freemasonry, rotary, frequentation of VIPs;
  • symbolic capital in various forms, for example the rewards received, reputation, physical appearance, …

Social classes are defined not only by the overall volume of capital owned but also by its structure. If we compare “big traders” to “teachers”, the former are better endowed with economic capital but less well endowed with cultural capital than the latter.

Pierre Bourdieu strives to show the existence of relations of domination between social classes; Even today, the ruling classes seek to consolidate their domination through the possession of economic, social and cultural capital. However, for Bourdieu it is advisable to give a primordial role to cultural capital, considering that the search for profit belongs only to the economic field (it does not take into account social utility). He therefore considers that those who hold cultural capital must define what is useful.

3. An example of a nominalist approach: Yankee City

In the 1940s, William Lloyd Warner took an interest in a small town in Massachusetts, Newburyport, and made it his subject of analysis under the name of “Yankee City”. He will classify the population of this city into 6 hierarchical social strata for which the dimension of prestige is more important than that of wealth (an upper stratum may be less rich than a lower stratum but more prestigious).

To determine the prestige dimension Lloyd Warner will be interested in the representations (perceptions) of individuals with regard to the place they occupy or that others occupy in a given society. These performances will be determined by personalities who will rank each individual of “Yankee City” according to the prestige they accord them. Warner will show that the prestige granted depends in fact on other criteria which are income, length of residence, profession and level of education.

In ancient history

Among the Greeks, the society of cities is mainly divided into three recognized categories:

citizens, free men with political rights of the polis.
foreign metics or free men.
slaves or nonfree men. Unlike the first two, this lower stratum contains within it women and children.
Among the Romans, society is divided into complex categories that the Marxist notion of social class cannot perfectly capture, taking into account more legal than socio-economic criteria:

Roman citizens, free men with civil and personal rights from Rome then in the Roman Empire. Roman women lived in dependence on their father and then on their husband. Among these citizens emerge families of the nobilitas or patricians, then families of the plebs or plebeians.
slaves or nonfree men (see Slavery in ancient Rome).
The stratification of Roman social groups having evolved considerably during Roman antiquity, Roman society is grouped into two major orders from the third century; the honestiores and the humiliores – the elite and the humble -, legally and socio-economically separated.

In medieval history and in modern times

In the European world of the periods which followed antiquity, a society of orders was established. In other continents it was often a caste society. The two are not synonymous. In Islamic civilization from the 7th century onwards, social strata varied according to place and time, but always within a family according to job categories: commerce, administration, etc. Several of these types of society have been partially maintained until today, hence the still current notions of:

  • Nobility
  • Chivalry
  • Gentry (English)

In Christendom, a description of Christian society was drawn up in three social orders, of which only the legal characteristics were maintained until the time of the revolutions of the eighteenth century and the nineteenth century:

  • Order of the Clergy
  • Order of the Nobility
  • Order of the Third Estate (or third order)

These categories were never based on values ​​of wealth, hence the appearance from the year 1000 of a bourgeoisie in European towns and cities, within the third estate but used as a social resource for the other two orders. (see ennobling).

the serfdom present in some countries, sometimes up to the nineteenth century (Russia) shows the incomplete character of this description. However, it began to be severely restricted in Western countries from the eleventh century onwards.
The evolution of peasant societies, also stratified in the extreme, towards a working-class society within the framework of industrial revolutions has profoundly modified European society and Western societies established in America.

In contemporary society

There are various approaches to describe the strata of current society resulting from industrial revolutions and transformations in agricultural society. These analyzes cannot be done without being compared to demographic studies, nor without understanding the concepts of Industrialization, Colonization, Mechanization or Globalization. Finally, we must not forget to look at these transformations through the prism of the two world wars and the construction of democratic and totalitarian societies.

From there, various types of analyzes compete, considering opinions:

Marxist perspective

From the Marxist perspective, society is hierarchized into more or less antagonistic social classes in a class struggle, here ranged from the poorest to the richest:

  • the under-proletariat
  • the proletariat or working class
  • the petty bourgeoisie (or middle class)
  • the bourgeoisie or capitalist society. The latter contains the ruling class which holds the various kinds of powers.

Marxism associates with this vision of the stratification of society the historical notion of “class struggle”. For Marx, history is only a succession of struggle between the dominant class and the dominated class. It associates the proletariat with the dominated class and the bourgeoisie with the ruling class. The class struggle is based on the theory of social stratification.

The project of communism is to change the relationship between social strata to achieve a classless society.

Non-Marxist perspective

A reorganization and a clarification of content is necessary. Improve it or discuss areas for improvement.
From a non-Marxist perspective, society is also hierarchical in classes, but these are different. We will speak in particular of:

  • servitude
  • the third world (poor of poor countries)
  • the fourth world (poor from rich countries)
  • popular layers or blue collars
  • the middle class or White Collar
  • the upper middle class, in which we can find the nouveau riche [ref. necessary]
  • the elite, among which are appointed the leaders

The ecosophical perspective tends to reconsider social classes not according to strata but according to a social ecosystem. It takes into account the notion of social ecology or political ecology.

In the age of globalization and Internet-mediated social networks

International friendships are considered to enrich the knowledge and lives of individuals1,2; they also influence social stratification (with issues of hierarchy, status, power, subordination and even oppression) 3. With Web 2.0 and its aftermath, Social Networks have become more “virtual” and have developed in particular in the webosphere, including through “friends” on Facebook.

Two studies conducted by psychologists from the University of Cambridge in 2015 studied the number of “friends” on Facebook of Internet users.

  • the first concluded that in the upper social class in the United States, international friendship levels on Facebook are lower than in other classes, which deprives the upper social class of access to new ideas, such as certain business opportunities4 (and perhaps explaining his fear of migrants).
  • the second study, based on “Facebook friends formed in 2011 (nearly 50 billion friendships) in 187 countries” shows that the richer a country, the lower the level of internationalism on Facebook (fewer foreign friends )

Sociological view of Social Stratification by: Aristotle, Talcott Parsons, Ralf Dahrendorf, Karl Marx, Hermann Heller, Kingsley Davis and Wilbert E. Moore, Max Weber, Alexis de Tocqueville

The concept of social stratification is interpreted differently by various theoretical perspectives in sociology. Action theory advocates have suggested that since social stratification is commonly found in developed societies, hierarchy may be necessary in order to stabilize the social structure. The most influential and modern theoretical approaches were those developed by Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Max Weber (1864-1920), and most subsequent theories on stratification are indebted to their ideas. The oldest proto-sociological observations on stratification date back to Ancient Greece with Xenophanes, Herodotus , Polybius , Thucydides , Plato and Aristotle , going through the Middle Ages with Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas and Marsilius of Padua, until the Renaissance with Machiavelli and then with Giambattista Vico, Montesquieu, Edmund Burke, Henri de Saint-Simon and Alexis de Tocqueville. Of these, as well as of later classical and contemporary sociology, certain perspectives can be highlighted for having lasted until today:


Aristotle understands stratification (be it economic, power, etc.) as caused directly or indirectly by a relationship between the attributes of the individual who carries them (productivity, intelligence, strength, beauty) and the effect of the social sector in which they are found. and who disputes with these attributes. The Aristotelian worldview of stratification is essentially quantitative in causes and qualitative in results. Social stratification is conceived in polar terms (those that will tend to be “rich and poor”) whose feedback is only avoided with a third instance generated between them (the “middle class”).

For Aristotle, A society where the social poles merge into middle layers is the only one in which there is a possibility of the existence of “free men” against a society that tends otherwise to be of “masters and slaves”, being the basis of a healthy political community is the one that is mostly made up of a broad middle class supported by “moderate and sufficient” properties.

Without large middle classes that do not identify with either extreme, the society-state will be contested by the attempt of the poor to use democracy to enrich themselves through politics, harming those who prosper by other means, as well as by the intent of the poor. rich to establish an oligarchy to protect their wealth or powers and that will not seek the interest of the rest of the population. being the base of a healthy political community the one that is mostly made up of a broad middle class supported by “moderate and sufficient” properties. Without large middle classes that do not identify with either extreme, the society-state will be contested by the attempt of the poor to use democracy to enrich themselves through politics, harming those who prosper by other means, as well as by the intent of the poor. rich to establish an oligarchy to protect their wealth or powers and that will not seek the interest of the rest of the population. being the base of a healthy political community the one that is mostly made up of a broad middle class supported by “moderate and sufficient” properties. Without large middle classes that do not identify with either extreme, the society-state will be contested by the attempt of the poor to use democracy to enrich themselves through politics by harming those who prosper by other means, as well as by the intent of the poor. rich to establish an oligarchy to protect their wealth or powers and that will not seek the interest of the rest of the population.

Talcott Parsons, American sociologist

Claimed that stability and social order are regulated, in part, by value.universal, although universal values ​​were not identical in “consensus”, but could very well be the impetus for a conflict as it had been several times throughout history. Parsons never claimed that universal values ​​and by themselves “satisfied” the functional prerequisites of a society, in fact, the constitution of society was a much more complicated codification of emerging historical factors. Pitirim Sorokin , a student of social stratification, a colleague and critic of Parsons, states that: “any organized social group is always a stratified social body. There is no permanent social group that is ‘flat’ and in which all members are equal”.

So-called conflict theories, such as Marxism , point to the lack of access to resources and lack of social mobility in stratified societies. Many sociological theorists have criticized the extent to which the working classes are unlikely to advance socioeconomically, the rich tend to retain the political power they use to exploit the intergenerational proletariat.

Ralf Dahrendorf

Theorists such as Ralf Dahrendorf, however, have noted the trend towards an enlarged middle class in modern Western societies, due to the need for an educated workforce in technological and service economies. Various social and political perspectives on globalization , such as theDependency theory , suggest that these effects are due to the shift of workers to the third world.

Karl Marx

In Marxist theory, the capitalist mode of production consists of two economic parts: infrastructure and superstructure . Marx saw classes defined by people’s relationship to the means of production in two basic forms: either they have productive goods or labor for others. Marx also described two other classes, the petty bourgeoisie and the lumpenproletariat.

The petty bourgeoisie is like a small business class that never accumulates enough profit to become part of the bourgeoisie, or even challenge its absolute power. The lumpenproletariat is the degraded part of the proletariat. That includesprostitutes , beggars , crooks , etc. Neither of these subclasses has much influence on Marx’s two class systems, but it is useful to know that Marx did recognize differences within classes.

Hermann Heller

Hermann Heller defined stratification as a type of social differentiation or structured inequality system in the things that cotonate in a given society, which can be tangible or symbolic goods.

Kingsley Davis and Wilbert E. Moore

For Kingsley Davis and Wilbert E. Moore, stratification is universal and society must make use of reward for filling roles. Davis and Moore’s approach is that every society must create ways to motivate its most competent workers to fill the most difficult and important roles, thus creating a hierarchy of rewards that favors those charged with functionally important tasks. This represents establishing a system of institutionalized inequality.

Max Weber

The sociologist and economist Max Weber, based on Ferdinand Tönnies’ classification of the different social groups into societal and community, developed the scheme of the three components of social stratification: class, status and party, emphasizing separately on the economic-mercantile question of property, the source and level of income (“wealth”), the socio-economic question -cultural of honor and duty (the “prestige”), and the political-military question of the organization of command, arms and force (the “power”), and treating these elements as separate but related sources of power (respectively as availability of economic resources, social resources and political resources)

Alexis de Tocqueville

Tocqueville distinguishes four types of powers: social, economic, political and ideological or cultural. Although he recognized the importance of the economy, his vision of social stratification did not conceive of economic power, and not even the economic capacity of another type of power, as the primary source of social power. Tocqueville’s goal was not to reduce each in terms of a single supreme factor, but to see each as a unique, mutually related element of society that changes relationships with one another as social circumstances change. Therefore, the power of wealth is different in despotic France than it is in the free aristocracy of England, and different also from that of democratic America.

Although Tocqueville has been criticized for not seeing the importance of social class in society, The Ancien Regime and the French Revolution reveals an observation that would invalidate this criticism: “I am dealing here with classes as a whole, in my view of the object of study that should be proper to the historian.” Tocqueville definitely defines class in a completely different sense than Marx. In The Old Regime and the French RevolutionTocqueville does not use a class measure that assumes the economic factor as dominant. Instead, it treats the classes in terms of a group of people who see themselves and are perceived by others as having a common belonging (eg, the peasantry, the middle class, and the aristocracy).

Therefore, although some people in the middle class may be richer, or share a comparable type of relationship with the means of production with the aristocracy, the aristocrats will still belong to a higher class. In The Old Regime and the French Revolution, Tocqueville describes how the old ruling class consisting essentially of the French aristocracy, continued to distance itself from the other classes while maintaining possession of status and privilege, even while losing political power over the central administration that consisted of the middle class. Although they were economically well-off, the “middle classes” of France (the general, middle and upper bourgeoisie) were denied the possibility of achieving a high social position, even though they dominated most of the administration offices. public, and even being usually richer than the aristocracy itself.

Political Systems in the Wolrd | Form of Governments

Sources: PinterPandai, Lumen Learning, Wiley Online Library,

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