Human societies are highly dynamic; there are those that are more specialized and complex than others but nonetheless people are allocated different tasks based on some defined parameters. The work that people are involved in society are complementary and as a result of the work, there arises different lifestyles and identities. These differences go to show that no society is entirely homogenous but rather there is a difference in many aspects. Much of the work done by women is different from that of men, different age groups are involved in various kinds of activities, clans are distinct from each other as they are associated with various totem, different occupations create diverse castes, and different groups are different from one another. The difference is a universal characteristic that implies certain dissimilarities between subjects under consideration and is distinguishable from inequality that refers to a non-uniform distribution of resources and privileges because some people are highly placed than others. Thus, it can be said that the human society is stratified, or it is divided into layers.
The concept of stratification came about in the 1940’s and was borrowed from geology to replicate the different layers that make up the earth. Sociologists believe just like the earth; the human society is also divided into different strata. However, unlike the geological explanation of strata which places the layers that make up the earth to have equal value, for humans, there are those that are more privileged than others. In simpler terms, the layers that make up society are ranked as there are those that occupy higher positions than others. As pointed out earlier some communities may be divided into groups because of the advancements while others have no rank among them though inequality can exist at different levels, either of sex or age. The different readings and dynamism of human societies from the above outlook may lead to the conclusion that although social inequality is a characteristic of all societies, social stratification may not be universal.
Analysis of the Connections between Micro and Macro Levels of Society regarding Social Stratification
Further, there are different approaches to the analysis of social systems and populations, that is, macro sociology and micro sociology. Macrosociology places its emphasis on the larger scale of the social structure, while micro sociology places its focus on an individual agency. The different macro and micro issues are adequately synthesized through structuration, where on micro scale issues to do with the family, for example, can be tied to one’s internal sense of self and identity, but it cannot be looked at only at the individual’s level. On a macro scale, issues to do with world financial crisis, change of laws to name but a few may go to the extent of directly influencing one’s family choices. Thus, revealing the fact that both levels have a significant influence upon each other. Therefore, we cannot look at them in isolation.
The different levels have caused sociologists to ask important questions as relates to the importance of stratification and whether society can indeed exist without it. In the quest to find these answers, they offered different macro and micro explanations shaped into some theoretical perspectives. The first is that of functionalism that suggests that stratification is necessary because in society it helps reveal how social institutions are vital in maintaining social stability and a working community. Through this perspective, the family is understood as a social institution that ensures the possibility of a society being in existence. As a result of this, stratification is a necessity in the human society, and it is inevitable. Secondly, is that of conflict that points out to stratification being born out of the lack of opportunities, discrimination, and prejudices against the poor, women, and people of color. Under this second theory, stratification is considered neither a necessity nor inevitable. Thirdly, is that of symbolic interactionalism that offers an explanation that stratification is responsible for people beliefs, lifestyles and how they think of themselves. Thus, family problems according to symbolic interactionalism stem out of the different expectations that spouses have towards their marriage and family.
The more agreeable theory that describes the current dynamism of society is the conflict perspective. Inequalities undeniably exist in the society we live in today and is reflected globally. The way the society works is that there are those that have the power and status, which helps them maintain control over the few scarce resources in our world. It is agreeable that the family unit is the basic foundation of society, and as such plays a central role in shaping societal needs. However, though the other theories mentioned above take cognizance of the essential functions that the family performs in society, there are many things that both of the perspectives minimize or overlook altogether. The family being a social institution is also responsible for nurturing social inequality, which is brought about by the fact that for most families, their wealth trickles down to their children from generation to generation. There is also the issue of families differing significantly in the property they each possess, and with all these considerations, the subject of inequality is reinforced.
In the current century, people tend to view society through a lens of wealth and power, that is, the have, and the have-nots. There is an immense focus on the wealth people possess as well the power they yield in society, by which status is endowed to those who are viewed to be in greater possession of those components. The conflict theory in this sense can explain where the root of many societal problems arose. According to this theory, which believably offers the best outlook into the modern society, all problems that are witnessed in today’s families are as a root of economic inequality and from patriarchy. Through the many centuries, the family evolved into being more of a patriarchal unit, where the man because in many situations earned more money, acquired a higher status at the top of the social hierarchy. The many problems being experienced in families are a reflection of how they live in poverty or tread near the poverty line. Money, as is known, cannot be the only source of happiness but in the current society, a dire lack of money is known to bring about stress and result to other life difficulties. The challenges become that which raises dysfunctional and failing family relationships in the society. With these issues arguments, emotional cruelty, shouting, and physical violence are witnessed in many family units in the current society.
The conflict theory argues therefore that the way society is structured and the nature of social relationships, is as derived from the past actions and ongoing conflicts that arise between the two factions of those that own or owned the means of production and those that did not. The lack of money and that of possessing it in a family is reinforced by the capitalist system. The system is that of exploitation between those who uphold capitalism and the workers, whereby trough this relationship the family is shaped and in turn the capitalist system is reinforced. The family through the theory is also known to be responsible for giving rise to class. As a result of the continuance of social inequality that exists in society, the family institution has been at the forefront of maintaining the status quo. It is because of this status quo that many of the things including education which is vital to many in society is trickled down through the family structure. The result of which has been that those who are wealthy in society still hold a privileged position for their members, while the poor or the newly erupted middle class are not accorded similar status.
Inequality in the United States from a Personal Perspective
In the United States, the society is highly stratified and according to sociologists, though they differ sharply, the American Society is conceptualized as having three social classes, that is, the upper class, middle class, and the lower class. Although social classes may be pegged on various aspects, a family’s reputation in the community and their wealth determine their social class. Many of the America’s rich have been so for generations and are known to exert pressure on both the political process and other areas of life. Children born into these families are placed highly in society and have exclusive access to better education than other children. The American dream is a term used to denote the rise from humble beginnings to riches, and in a society believed to have open class systems, social mobility is thought to exist equally for everyone. In my experience, my many friends that have completed high school seeking to get into college have to grapple with the issue of the high cost of tuition and mostly end up being riddled with debt afterward.
The best colleges in the country are highly selective, and it’s hard to get in if your parents are not wealthy or have belonged to the elite social class. Most of us are fancied by the illusion of so many high achievers in our society who have risen from humble beginnings to greatness, but the reality is that for a majority, money, connections and status in society are critical in advancement even in one’s education. I find it easier to relate to Marx’s theory of classes, where the rich often shape society and inevitably we all have to play by their rules.