Class inequality key terms

- Social relating to society and stratification is the act or process of arranging a person into classes or social state.

concept of social stratification is categorising of groups or people based on shared social-economic conditions. Therefore differences which lead to greater status, power or privilege in certain groups over others is known as social stratification.

  • Created by: Rahima
  • Created on: 19-05-13 11:02

Social stratification

Social relating to society

stratification is the act or process of arranging a person into classes or social state.

The concept of social stratification is categorising of groups or people based on shared social-economic conditions. Therefore differences which lead to greater status, power or privilege in certain groups over others is known as social stratification.

1 of 19


Merton; meritocratic society the concept of (American Dream)

Suggest that most talented and able are justifiable of reaping the highest rewards. Therefore this system allows individuals to move up the social mobility ladder, e.g. individuals perceived intellectually talented, are measured through examination or demonstrate other achievement in the field, are able to achieve better status and wealth for the hard work, therefore increase the state of living comparison than those who leave school aged sixteen, or depended on the welfare state.

However, very small number of highly skilled medical students in society, this increased prestige to a profession comparison to a garbage worker who ranks low in prestige scale however is extremely necessary for day to day removal into for society to function. Is this far?

2 of 19

Davis and Moore; functionalist

Davis and Moore;
said a productive society is one that meritocratic people are able to advance their own personal merits e.g. ‘getting a degree’ they agreed that it is a function need in society that create and maintain inequality among members because jobs which require score talents or lengthy training have few highly qualified people who are needed to do these jobs, therefore must be highly paid and have more prestige, this is the reason for social stratification is unavoidable result.

3 of 19

Disadvantage to functionalist theory

-However the disadvantages are that families often transfer wealth and power down through generations ( this is gifted not merited)
-It is possible to work hard and still be poor or unsuccessful, a degree without a successful job.

4 of 19


·         Polarisation
The view that the gap between the rich and the poor has widened in society and the middle classes have either been stretched out or have polarised into different caps too.                                                                                                                                                                  

Marx, word of explaing the social mobility ladder e.g middle class going down to working class, therefore middle class people becoming de-skilled or manual.

5 of 19


·         Fragmentation

The view that the traditional class structure has split, divided and is no longer coherent. There is no coherence/unity in the upper, middle or working classes therefore the consequence of this is the blurring of class boundaries. Social inequality remains a feature but the class structure has fragmented.

6 of 19

Divided/ Meritocracy

·         Divided/ Meritocracy

The view that society remains unequal and that the most talented rise and the least talented fall, ‘survival of the fittest’ analogy, social classes remain intract as society as a whole benfits from competition and rewards hard work and talent. This s broadly associated with functionalism and the new right perspective.

7 of 19

Class is dead

·         Class is dead
the view that class divisions are not useful or applicable descriptions in a contemporary society will so many ways of identifying ourselves and others. Pakulski & Waters, believed in the death of class because, contempary society has moved to a meritocratic/market based economy.
-Instead of rich upper class people owning companies (Marx) said shared holders own most companies.
-Rather than judging people by class instead we judge them by the consumer goods.

8 of 19


Parson believes that order stability and corporation in society are based on value consensus that is general agreement by members of society to maintain a healthy cohesion, they agree upon a meritocratic society, as they believe hard work and determination will pay off.

9 of 19



Is based on conflict theory, that society is centred around two class of people which are the bourgeoisie (who own the means of production) who exploit the workers which are the proletarian (who own them self) Karl Marxist said that the proletarians will develop a class consciousness over time surrounding the inequality and therefore the bourgeoisies will be whipped away.

10 of 19



Argues that working class is changing and being remade, argue that the proletariat no longer ‘sell’ the labour to the bourgeoisie, they now ‘rent it out’ which means wages can be depending on their skills on their worker and the economic climate, it is no longer the case of two social class.

11 of 19


Calls the proletriat the 'new servant cass' serving middle and upper class taste of life

12 of 19

Postmodernism (Pakulski and waters)

Pakulshi and waters, formulated the arguement that class is dead, that profound social changes such as globalisation mean that class divisions are now essentially status divisions, they futher go on to say that we live in an 'induvidualised' society where people no longer see themselves in social class terms.

Consumption- means that people can buy the image they want, however it should be rated Pakulski and Waters, have related little emprical evidence to back up there claim that class is dead.

13 of 19

Material inequality

·         Material inequality

Is not fixed it is measurable it relates to wealth and income for example a working class individual are subject to material inequality because of income differences comparison to a middle class person.

14 of 19

Symbolic inequality

·         Symbolic inequality

Refers to (non-measurable) social class, as it is related to status therefore it is fixed e.g. some people are valued more than others e.g. the royal family.

15 of 19

power and status


Power - some people have greater control over there live chances, comparison to others, also the life chances of others e.g politicians have better control of the life chances and over other peoples life chances e.g making policy. 

 better health, education, housing 

16 of 19

social inequality

·         Social inequality

Is all about the unequal distribution of wealth and power in society
-wealth & power lead to better health, e.g. power leads to better health e.g. buying a kidney then waiting for a donor in a public sector.
-Education e.g private schooling is a chance to study more prestigious subjects (smaller class sizes) to focus and more attention to individuals. 

17 of 19



Explain social inequality through

18 of 19

social inequality (key terms and meaning) OCR/AQA

 ·         Social stratification

·         Meritocracy
Davis and Moore;

·         Polarisation

·         Fragmentation

·         Divided/ Meritocracy

·         Class is dead

·         Individualisation
·         Social inequality

·         Structure
·         Agency
·         Status 

·         Material inequality

·         Infra-structure
·         Symbolic inequality

Power -



19 of 19




Great set of flashcards which are excellent to test basic recall of the aspepcts/concepts within the social strat unit. The test yourself is very useful too :-)

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Social stratification and inequality resources »