social stratification

Social stratification is the ranking of members of society in a way

that some of its members are regarded as superior and others as inferior.

This theory is certainly debated in present time and was debated as far

back as 1776 when Karl Marx presented his theory in his “Manifesto of

the Communist Party”. In the 1880’s, Max Weber combatted that document

in his own “Class, Status and Party.”

Karl Marx believed that social standing or rank was based solely on

class position. For example, an owner of a business was regarded far above

a worker in that same business. Class position would also influence the

amount of political power one had as well as the prestige that one enjoyed.

Weber, however, argued that there were three parts to social

stratification: class, status and power. He stated that class was relative

to how much money a person had and how much property that person owned.

Status was split into two categories, “honor and respect”, and style of life,

which included mannerisms, the foods and clothes one used, the manner

in which a person spoke, and the neighborhood in which one lived. This

can be applied to today’s world; wearing so called designer labels such as

Polo and Donna Karan and driving a BMW would indicate a higher style

of life than wearing J.C. Penny or driving a Kia. In today’s society, the

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people living a higher style of life usually shy away from those of a lower

economic status. You do not often encounter children from wealthy

Manhattan families playing with children from Harlem. The third part

of Weber’s theory on social stratification was power, which Weber defined as

the chances of having other people do what you want them to do regardless

of their own wishes.

Marx would not have argued with Weber about the three factors

being in existence; however, he probably would state that the class of the

person would determine how much status and power a person would have.

Weber agreed with Marx in the fact that in a capitalistic society, class had

the biggest influence on a person’s position and that status and power were

given more to the higher classes. Weber said, however, that there were

other societies in which this was not true, such as in the Estates System of

Medieval Europe and the Caste System of India. In the Estates System,

power was the most important factor of social rank, followed by class and

status. The best fighters were given noble standing and the ownership of

a feudal estate, which gave them status. In the Caste System of India,

status is the deciding factor of social stratification. If Karl Marx heard

Max Weber’s theories on social rank, I believe it would make his ears ring

in disagreement.

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Marx and Weber’s theories are both extremely thought provoking

when it comes to today’s society and social ranking. Weber’s theory still

exists; however, Marx’s theory is long forgotten. For example, in the

United States, people in the entertainment industry, such as movie stars,

are earning ridiculously high salaries, and have no political power, while

politicians and government officials earn much less yet have the power to

make decisions that affect millions of people. Both, however, have

high status in the placement of society. This indicates that man’s desire

to be an individual prevails.