The theme of social stratification of society shows the causes of social inequality and is an attempt to raise and answer following questions: why are some groups in society richer and have more power than others? What is the manifestation of inequality in modern societies? How great is the chance for everyone to climb to the top of the social ladder? Why does poverty persist in today's rich society?
Social relations in any society are characterized as unequal. The social inequality is the conditions under which people have unequal access to such social benefits as money, power and prestige. Differences between people, due to their physiological and mental characteristics, are called natural differences. Natural differences can become the basis for the emergence of unequal relations between individuals. The strong ones force the weak ones, who triumph over the simpletons. Inequality stemming from natural differences is the first form of inequality. However, the main feature of society is social inequality that is inextricably linked to social differences.
Social differences are those that are generated by following social factors: the division of labor (the workers of mental and physical labor), the way of life (urban and rural population) by social roles (father, enemy, and politician), etc. The social differences can be superimposed on the natural differences, when, for example, a clever, talented person becomes a scientist. There are also exceptions, when physically weak people gain strength through weapons.
Inequality in society is viewed from two sides. First, as a characteristic of society. Written history does not know societies without social inequality. The struggle of people, parties, groups, classes is a struggle for the possession of great opportunities, rights, privileges and preferences. If inequality is the inherent property of society, therefore, it carries a positive functional load. And society reproduces inequality, because it needs it, as in the source of development. Secondly, inequality is always perceived as an unequal relationship between people or groups. Therefore, the desire to find the origins of this unequal position in the peculiarities of a person's position in society becomes evident: the professional status, the property owning, the power, personal qualities of individuals. This approach has now become widespread primarily because of its orientation to real actions and interests that are amenable to observation and analysis.
The inequality is many-sided and appears itself in various parts of a single social organism: in the family, in the institution, in small and large social groups. It is a necessary condition for the organization of social life.
The most common social formation is a group. It is the core of the social structure of society. The social structure of a society is a set of interacting social groups and stable relations between them.
In analyzing the social structure of society, the term "social stratum" is also used. It refers to a group of individuals who can be united by a way of lifestyle, cultural level, and education. For example, poets, composers, artists represent the social stratum of those who create new cultural values.
The most significant social formations are classes. This is one of the central concepts in sociology. It entered the scientific apparatus of social thinkers of Western Europe in modern times. Before that time, the units of the social structure said about based on the names of specific social groups. At the same time, Plato already has reasoning about the rich and the poor.
Classes are large social groups that have unequal access to wealth, power and unequal prestige, as well as political influence.
The most intensive concept of "social class" was developed by scientists of England and France in the XVIII - XIX centuries. Social groups were also antagonistically viewed as owners-not owners, workers-capitalists, rich-poor, etc. However, different authors defined the concept of "class" differently. P. Sorokin gave an overview of the views on this concept of different authors in different periods of history. He had to admit that the class can not be distinguished from other groups.
In Marxism, the category of "class" is most actively used. While studying the nature of social classes, K. Marks made the following assumptions:
1) Each society produces surplus of food, housing, clothing and other resources. Class differences arise when one of the population groups appropriates resources that are not immediately consumed and are not necessary at the moment. Such resources are treated as private property;
2) Classes are determined based on the fact of ownership or non-possession of the property. During different historical periods different types of property, which were crucial in human relationships existed (slaves, water, land, capital), but all social systems were based on two antagonistic classes. In the modern era, according to Karl Marx, there are two antagonistic classes - the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
3) The importance of studying classes is that class relations requirements demand the exploitation of one class by another, that is, one class assigns the results of labor of another class, exploits and suppresses it. Such relations constantly reproduce the class conflict, which is the basis of social changes taking place in society.
4) There are objective (for example, the possession of resources) and subjective characteristics of the class. The latter characteristics represent the fact of belonging to the class, and it is not necessarily to be accompanied by an awareness of such belonging or a sense of political affinity with the interests of one’s class. Only when members of society are aware of their class affiliation, when they begin to act together in the interests of their class, we can speak of a fully formed social class.
Despite the revision of many of the Marx's class theory provisions, from the point of view of modern society, some of his ideas remain relevant to the current social structures. This primarily applies to situations of interclass conflicts, clashes and class struggle for changing the allocation of resources conditions. In this regard, Marx's teaching on the class struggle now has a large number of followers among sociologists and political scientists of many countries of the world.
The most influential, the alternative to Marxist theory of social classes is the work of M. Weber. Unlike K. Marx, Weber singles out other factors that influence the formation of inequality relations. In particular, he views prestige as one of the most important features of the social class. At the same time, he examines the connection between the possibilities of nominating for higher, attractive statuses and belonging to the social class, while assuming that the class is a group of people with similar "advancement" opportunities or career opportunities. Just as K.Marx, M.Veber sees the attitude to property as the basic status of distribution in society and the basis for the formation of social classes. However, Weber attached much greater importance to the division within the main classes than Marx did. For example, Weber separates the class of proprietors and the "trading" class, divides the working class into several classes (depending on the type of ownership of the enterprises on which they work), proceeding from those opportunities to increase their status that they possess. Unlike Marx, Weber sees the bureaucracy as a class, as a necessary link of power in modern society.
Modern theories of social classes also emphasize the relation to property as a basic difference, nevertheless they recognize class-forming factors, such as official status, authority, prestige, etc. Each social class has a specific subculture that is maintained in the form of traditions, taking into account existing social distances between representatives of different classes. And also each social class has different social opportunities and privileges, which is a decisive condition for achieving the most prestigious and rewarded statuses.
Each social class is a system of behavior, a set of values and norms, a lifestyle. Despite the influence of the dominant culture, each of the social classes cultivates their values, behaviors and ideals.
At the end of the XVIII and XIX century in the Russian countryside, and also in some bourgeois strata, the ideal of feminine beauty was considered to be overweighed, broad-boned woman with a blush on her face, pompous with health, which functionally fitted for rural work and housework. At the same time, the nobility's ideal of feminine beauty was a fragile, refined woman, a little nervous, with thin fingers and a pale face. Obviously, such a woman simply could not constantly engage in physical labor and her "interesting" pallor reminded residents of Petersburg - the capital of Russia at that time.
This is only one stroke, which spoke of the enormous social distance between the higher and lower social classes of pre-revolutionary Russia. Representatives of these classes dressed differently, spoke different languages (lower classes did not understand French speech), built their own way of life in different ways. Based on these cultural elements, it was possible to determine, almost unmistakably, belonging to the social class.
In modern society, the social distance between representatives of various social classes has decreased. Nevertheless, at the present time we observe very significant differences in the norms of behavior, ideas and way of life of different classes of our society. This finds expression in the existence of specific distinctive cultural traits. For example, the presence of a certain brand of car, the quality of clothes and the manner of dressing characterize the "new Russian" as a representative of the resurgent class of society.