Practice Question: Write short note on : Stratification of Classes. (10 Marks) (2012 Socio Paper 1)

Approach: Introduction; Briefly mention about Stratification, delve deeper into class-based stratification, outline examples, mention class in India; Conclusion.



Stratification, hierarchy, class divisions are notions used by sociologists and anthropologist to describe social inequality. Social stratification is only one form of social inequality. To describe inequalities sociologists speak of the existence of social stratification which can be defined as structured inequalities between different groupings of people. Social stratification is an inherent character of all societies. It is found in all societies, ancient, modern, simple or complex. That is why, famous American sociologist P.A. Sorokin is right when he remarked that “An unstratified society with real equality among its members is a myth which has never been realized in the history of mankind.” This shows that every society is stratified. Social stratification has remained despite the revolutionary ideas of radicalism, equality, democracy socialism and communism. A classless society is only an ideal.


Stratification refers to the system of status differentiations in society. The termstratification has been derived from the word ‘strata’ which means division. Hence, social
stratification refers to the social division. Social inequality is a regular and universalphenomenon. The members of society differ from one another in terms of wealth, powerand prestige. Social stratification is only one form of social inequality. There is inequalityamong individuals and groups which are the basic ingredients of the society as a whole. Thisinequality shows the division of society. This unequal division of society is known as socialstratification. Social stratification is socially created.


According to Raymond. W.Murray, ‘social stratification is a horizontal division of society into ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ social units.’

In the words of P. Gisbert, “social stratification is the division of society into permanent groups or categories linked with each other by the relationship of superiority and subordination.”

Williams opined, “Social stratification is the ranking of individuals on a scale of superiority-equality or inferiority, according to some commonly accepted basis of valuation.”

In the words of G.A. Lundberg, “A stratified society is one marked by inequality, by differences among people that are evaluated by them as being lower and higher.”

1. It is universal: Social stratification is a universal social phenomenon. It is found to exist in all societies in one form or other. No society exists without a system of stratification.
Everywhere society is divided into various classes economic, social, political and religious. Member of a simple society is stratified on the basis of bravery. Similarly, the member of the modern society is stratified on the basis of income.

2. It is social: Social stratification is a social phenomenon because it is socially created. Under a social stratification system socially created inequalities are more important than biological inequalities. But sometimes biological inequalities take the form of social inequalities when the members of society attach some meaning to the biological inequalities like age sex and colour.

3. It is ancient: Social stratification system is ancient. It has been existing from the very beginning of human civilization. Of course, the basis and nature of ranking and rating of
different groups was not the same for all the times.

4. Hierarchy of status group: Under a stratification system different status groups are arranged hierarchically. Social groups are ranked one above the other, usually in terms
of the amount of wealth, power and prestige.

5. Some degree of permanence of structure: Social stratification is defined as structured inequalities between different groups. The structure of a stratification system seems to
be more or less permanent.

6. It has different form: Social stratification has different forms. Some forms of social stratification are ascribed such as age, sex, colour where as others are achieved based on skill, education and income etc.

7. Life style and life chances: Common life style and life chances are result of stratification. Under a stratification system, the members of the same stratum generally share similar
life style and life chances which distinguish them from the members of other strata.

8. There exists a relationship of superiority and subordination among the members of different social strata under a stratification system.

9. Unequal distribution of power, privileges, prestige reward and resources and formation of social ranks and groups on the above basis.


1. Slavery
2. Casteism
3. Estate
4. Class

1. Differentiation: It involves differentiation of different social statuses on the basis of assigned roles.

2. Evaluation: It has two aspects i.e. (a) prestige- honour and esteem (b) preferability which is peoples’ preference of their social status.

3. Ranking: Ranking is a particular kind of comparison. It does not involve evaluative judgment of what is good or bad.

4. Rewarding: On the basis of the above i.e. differentiation, ranking and evaluation different groups with high and low social positions come into existence. In this process
highly placed individuals or groups enjoy some special privileges.



Social stratification is only one form of social inequality. Natural inequalities take the form of social inequalities when the members of society assign some meaning to them. Age, colour, physical strength and sex are natural bases of inequality. But different societies evaluate them differently. In some societies males enjoy more respect than females whereas in other societies there is equality of sexes. Inequality is basic to stratification. To describe inequalities sociologists speak of the existence of social stratification which can be defined as structured inequalities between different groupings of people. In other words, the prestige or reverence attached to different positions becomes part of the social order and that is social stratification. The term social stratification includes the norms regarding social groups based on power, privileges and reverence, high and low status and social inequality. Social stratification is the segmental division of society into caste class and status groups.

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