Major theoretical perspectives on social stratification Essay

Marxists, Weberians and functionalists all have different theoretical perspectives on class and social stratification. This essay will establish and evaluate their major similarities and differences.

It will discuss the main theories, their strengths and weaknesses, their usefulness and how true they are to today’s society.Functionalists split class into a number of layers, based upon economic achievement such as occupation. So according to functionalists a company director would be of a higher class layer than that of a plumber. This is a good way to determine class as it is very simple and obvious, however not as good as many people believe, as do Weberists, there are a lot more factors to take into account.According to functionalists society is layered due to unequal rewards being given for different jobs.

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They believe that this layering is essential in society, as otherwise everybody would choose to do the easiest unskilled jobs and nobody would train for the more difficult ones, as the money is the same either way. This is true to life as people go to university to study to get the skills required to get highly paid jobs, without this reward they would be less likely to want to train. However people choose jobs for more reason then just the money, such as wanting to enjoy their job, or give something to the community. On the other hand these more difficult job roles may still be filled, just with different people for different reasons.

This difference in rewards within functionalist society could lead to hostility, suspicion, distrust and an increase in crime.Marxists similarly to functionalists base class upon economic position and relationship to means of production. Differently to functionalists, who believe in an indefinite number of classes, Marxists believe there are only two, these are known as the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The proletariat are the workers who have no way to make money other than by selling their labour, and the bourgeoisie are the business owners.This is relatively true to life as the business owners do tend to lead a completely different, separate life than that of the workers.

However this is not so true to life, as Marxists believe that it is very difficult for somebody of the proletariat to change class as they have very little to give, other than their labour, which the bourgeoisie exploit. This is very different from the functionalist view which is that everybody as equal opportunity to succeed in life.Marx’s view is more true to life as a lot of people do not have the money in the first place to pay for the training required if they are to succeed. However the functionalist view is also true as there is a lot of financial help and support available in today’s society making succeeding more possible.Marx believed that capitalist society would eventually lead to a revolution resulting is a communist society. He believed this was due to the inequality seen within the functionalist view. However to date there has been no sign of a revolution other than in small scale eastern communities.

Weberians believed that class is based not only on economic position, but also on social status and party. This is more realistic as it takes more than one factor into account differently to that of Marxists and Functionalists.Weber believed there are four different classes in society, the propertied upper class, the propertyless white collar workers, the petty bourgeoisie and the manual working class. Similarly to Marxists, Weber believed that the major class division is between those who own forces of production and those who don’t. Weber believes that the dividing of society is due to people all struggling for the same scarce resources.All of the theorists believe that economic position is a key thing involved in social stratification; however some, such as Weber believe there are other factors involved.

Weber takes things other than just occupation into account, which in this day and age could be seen as being quite important as there are lots of influences on class.The functionalist view mentions that there are an unlimited number of levels in today’s society; this can be seen as being true to life today as there are so many different people doing different things that could make them of a slightly higher or lower position then someone else.However with Marx’s view there is no question about what class somebody would be in, it simply breaks class in two easy parts. Marx believed that in a communist society it would be fairer as everybody would be equal. However this view is not good as certain essential roles would not be filled.

Social stratification is good as it allows various roles to be filled and also gives people something to aim for; functionalists believe everybody has an equal opportunity. However social stratification is not good as is causes inequality which may result in higher crime and social marginalization. Therefore functionalism is the most true to today’s world.


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