In the concerted view of Marx and his followers in all stratified societies, there are two major social groups, a ruling class (the Haves) and a subject class (Have-nots) the power of the ruling class derives its power from its ownership and control of the forces of production.
The ruling class exploits the subject class. As a result a conflict of interest and class struggle between the two classes emerges and continues to characterize the society. “The history of hitherto existing societies has been a history of class struggle between the Haves and Have-nots classes
Marxian theory defines social stratification as the existence of two economic classes in each society and the relationship of class struggle between these two. These are based on the reality of the existence the class of the owners of means of production and distribution of material means of life and the class of the workers of the lesser of labour for earning their means of livelihood.
In the capitalist society these two classes are: the bourgeoisie which owns the means of production, and the proletariat or the working class which works the means of production and sells his labour for earning the wages. Whose members own their labour which they hire to the bourgeoisie and return for wages?
The capitalists i.e. the owners or the Haves accumulate wealth at the expense of workers/have-nots. The Haves exploit the Have-nots for their profits and use their dominance and power to maintain their domination and rule over the workers.
In the Capitalist society, the rich become richer and richer and the workers become poorer and poorer. The workers i.e. the poor/ have-nots continuously face exploitation and always want to end this. Thus stratification occurs in the society which also gives rise to conflict between these two classes.
Marxian theory of stratification can be divided into five propositions:
1. The greater the industrialisation, the greater the inequality between the two classes: the Rich (Haves i.e. the dominant class) and the Poor (Have-nots i.e. the exploited and subordinate class.)
2. The greater the industrialisation, the more cohesive and united class of subordinates emerges in society.
3. The more is the number of subordinates in the cohesive class; the greater is the rate of conflict between dominant and subordinate classes.
4. The more polarised are the dominants and the subordinates, the conflict is much violent.
5. The greater the inequality in society, the greater is the rate of conflict and its revolutionary nature.
Criticism of Marxian Theory of Stratification:
Critics point out several limitations of Marxian theory of Stratification and accept neither the Marxian view of Class and Class antagonism.
1. It is indeed wrong to define class on the basis of only the economic factor.
2. Marxian view of society as a society divided into two classes of Haves and Have-nots is an over-simplified and unreal view of the society.
3. Marxian theory is guilty of ignoring the presence of several other social classes in society. Since times very ancient each society has been living with several social classes.
4. Marxian theory wrongly defines class antagonism as the only relationship between the two economic classes. It is indeed wrong to define and discuss social conflict as a bipolar conflict between the rich and the poor.
5. On the one hand Marxists hold the view that class antagonism (Class Struggle) has been the condition and rule of social evolution and on the other hand project the thesis that the future communist society will be a classless and stateless society in which each person will work according to his capacity and get according to his needs.
It is indeed Utopian view. Sociologists like Raymond Aron and Lipset accept and advocate the view that development of the capitalist society and lead to an end or register a big reduction of class conflict in society.
6. Marxian social stratification theory revolves around two antagonistic economic classes. It is guilty of ignoring the middle class which is almost always the largest class. It wrongly advocates the view that middle class would disappear in the post- capitalist stage.
7. Marxian Theory is wrong in so far as it believes that in a capitalist society power is always in the hands of the rich capitalists, the propertied class.
Because of these limitations, Marxist theory of stratification fails to carry weight with sociologists, particularly with Western sociologists.
II. Equilibrium Theory of Social Stratification:
All such social theorists who accept the existing social order are popularly called “Equilibrium Theorists” or “Structural Functionalists” or “Integration Theorists”. They place stress on “order within a society” as well as the process by which the “order is maintained”.
Society is viewed as an organism. It is held that all organisms seek to perpetuate themselves. It is asserted that society seeks a balance, integration, a consensus, and a synthesis of its all parts or sections.
The assumptions of the Equilibrium Theorists can be summarized as follows:
i. Society is a relatively persistent and stable structure of elements.
ii. Society is a well-integrated structure of elements.
iii. Every element has a function in society. It makes a contribution to the maintenance of the social system.
iv. Every functioning social structure is based on a set of accepted values of its members. There is a general consensus behind these values.
While explaining social stratification, the structural-functionalists argue that there are certain essential tasks that are to be performed in each society. Knowledge and responsibility are distributed unequally in the society. In this condition, the society has the need to attract competent persons to the functionally essential positions.
It makes it essential for the society to provide motivation to accept the unequal rewards system. Those with greater knowledge and responsibility tend to get the most out of their qualities. Such persons get higher rewards and positions. They are socially recognized as worthy of higher prestige and rewards. The society, therefore, always works and maintains itself as a stratified social system.
III. Conflict Theory of Social Stratification:
The Conflict Theory takes a different view of society. It views stratification as the result of a differential distribution of power in society in which coercion, domination and exploitation are the key processes.
Major assumptions of the Conflict Theorists are:
(i) Every society is consistently subject to processes of change.
(ii) Every society displays some dissensions and conflicts.
(iii) Every element in a society contributes towards its integration, adaptation and change.
(iv) Every society is based on the coercion of some of its members on others.
Conflict theorists view stratification in terms of individuals and sub-groups within a society. They argue that inequality exists in society because there is always a shortage of valued goods and services.
Therefore, there is always a struggle over who shall get what. Inequality results because valued social positions are attained not by talent or ability but by force and coercion. These are also inherited by birth or by dominance, exploitation or coercion.
Thus the conflict Theory seeks to explain social stratification in terms of the presence of conflict and coercion in society.
IV. Functionalist Theory of Stratification given by Davis and Moore’s:
Functionalists like Talcott Parsons, Kingsley Davis and W.E. Moore regard stratification as a necessary structure in each society. They hold that it is universally necessary because it fulfils fundamental needs for the functioning of each society.
Talcott Parsons upholds that stratification is inevitable in human interactions. It is present in every group irrespective of the fact as to whether it is a small group or a very large group. People always evaluate their positions and roles and they do so in a hierarchical fashion. Ranks are determined by the members, who agree on what is valuable and what is not valuable. Social stratification is integrative because it reflects the values held in common by the members.
Kingsley Davis and Wilbert E. Moore accept the existence of inequality in social relations i.e. social stratification. They approach the problem of social inequality from the functionalist perspective and generally follow Talcott Parsons. “They seek to explain in functional terms the universal necessity which calls forth stratification in any social system”.
They claim that the functioning of a society depends upon the adequate performance of different positions within it. Some of these positions are more important for the preservation or survival of the society while some others are relatively less important. Moreover, some positions require different amounts of talent and training for their performances than do the others.
Society must motivate its talented members to enter such positions/occupations which are more important and necessary and enjoy high income, high status and power. “If society does not provide such incentives”, write Davis and Moore argue, “Very few persons would come forward to compete for these positions”.
The more vital a position is for the functioning of society, the higher are the rewards attached to that position. The rewards and their distribution become a part of the social order, and thus give rise to stratification.
Main Propositions of the Functionalist Theory of Davis and Moore:
(i) Some positions in each society are functionally more important than others and require special skills for their performance.
(ii) Only some persons have the talent which can be trained into skills appropriate to these positions.
(iii) The need for conversion of talents into skills requires training during which sacrifices of one kind or another are essentially made by those undergoing the training.
(iv) In order to encourage persons to willingly make these sacrifices and acquire training, their future positions must carry good and encouraging rewards and values. Higher rewards and incentives for higher roles and position have to be ensured. It means privileged and disproportionate access to the scarce and desired rewards have to be offered by each society.
(v) These scarce and desired rewards consist of rights and perquisites attached to the positions.
(vi) Different rewards, depending upon the position, are attached with prestige and esteem which divide the society into different strata. Thus, those who perform important functions for the society are given higher rewards and prestige. They occupy higher positions and social inequality is thus found in the society. This is a basic essential feature of social stratification.
(vii) Social inequality found among different strata is both positively functional and inevitable in every society.
Thus in their functionalist theory of social stratification, Davis and Moore advocate that;
(1) Social stratification is a functional necessity for each society.
(2) It involves a solution to a problem faced by each society.
(3) It is an inevitable feature of each society.
Differential rewards are functional necessary and important for society because these contribute to the maintenance and well being of social system.
Criticism of Functionalist Theory of Davis and More:
Some critics like Tumin criticise the functionalist theory of Davis and Moore on following grounds:
1. Tumin criticises functionalist theory of Davis and Moore on the ground that the idea of unequal functional importance is unmeasurable and nonevaluative.
2. Tumin also raises objection to the idea of scarcity of trained and talented personnel.He gives two arguments:
(a) Societies do not have a “sound knowledge” of talents in their population.
(b) Stratification interferes rather than facilitates the selection of talented people.
3. Further Tumin levels the charge that the functionalist theory applies to a competitive society and not to an ascriptive society. Davis and Moore are concerned more with differential positions and less with the mechanism for recruitment.
4. Further Tumin argues that differential rewards are not necessary for inducing individuals to qualify for functionally important positions. It is because they really do not make sacrifices for getting qualified for securing higher positions. All sacrifices are really made by their families and a loss of earning on their part is negligible. Further, the prestige given during the training period is quite high.
5. Tumin again argues that besides money and prestige, there are other rewards that can be used to motivate people. Some alternatives are joy in work, social service and self-interest.
6. Tumin has argued that different societies give importance to different rewards. But all societies give approval to the behaviour that conforms to the norms of the society.
7. Tumin and Schwartz have argued that social inequality is not inevitable. Their can be other ways, other than inequality, for motivating people to fill important and difficult positions without inequality.
8. Tumin goes on to point out that every aspect of society is functional in some ways and dysfunctional in others.
Davis and Moore, however, do not accept the validity of the points raised by their critics. But they agree that they have given too much credit to the functions of stratification and have neglected the dysfunctions. They argue that the existence of social inequality is virtually there in all societies.
Moore argues that Tumin and other critics are of the opinion that inequal ity is bad for society and equality is good. He admits that talent is wasted in all societies. But he argues that it is not guaranteed that a more egalitarian system will optimize its use. Further, Moore asserts that it must be remembered that fairness is not the same as equality.
Davis and Moore also criticise Tumin for overlooking the distinction made by them in connection with positions and that is esteem, the kind of approval that comes with the faithful fulfilment of the duties of a position. The approval that attaches to position and not to the degree of faithfulness in performing its duties is called prestige. The distinction is important, but Tumin has confused the two.
Davis and Moore maintain that the rating of positions is not a result of functional importance alone. It is also of the scarcity of qualified personnel. Any concrete situation is a product of both. It requires more capital to train an engineer than to train an unskilled worker. So engineers would not be trained at all unless their work is considered more important.
To sum up, it can be said that although that the stratification theory given by Davis and Moore has been subjected to criticism, yet it offers a more satisfactory functionalist theory of stratification. It rightly asserts that in order to fill more important highly skilled and physically and psychologically demanding positions in a complex division of labour, there has to be a system of unequal rewards. Hence Social stratification is a functional quality and need of every society.