Social Stratification: Class, Ethnicity, and Racism
Socially Stratified: societies that contain social groups such as classes, families, or ethnic groups that have
unequal access to important advantages such as economic resources, power and prestige. Until about 10,000
years ago all human societies depended on food they hunted, gathered and fished. Before 10,000 years ago most
societies were probably egalitarian. Egalitarian societies have disappeared.
Variation in Degree of Social Inequality
Societies vary in the extent to which social groups as well as individuals have equal access to advantages. We
are concerned with differential or unequal access to three types of advantages: 1. Wealth or economic resources,
2. Power, and 3. Prestige.
are things that have value in a culture; they include land, tools,
and other technology, goods, and money.
, a second but related advantage, is the ability to make others
do what they do not want to do; power is influence on the threat of force.
is that someone or some
group is accorded respect or particular honor.
But there are social groups that have no social groups with unequal access to prestige. Three types of society in
terms of the degree to which social groups have unequal access to advantages:
contain no social groups with greater or lesser access to economic resources,
power, or prestige.
do not have very unequal access to economic resources or to power, but they
do contain social groups with unequal access to prestige.
have unequal access to all three
advantages’, economic, power, and prestige. Pg. 136
Can be found among foragers such as the !Kung, Mbuti, Australian aborigines, Inuit, and Ache. And
horticulturalists such as the Yanomamo and pastoralists such as the Lapps. Morton Fried: egalitarian means that
within a given society there are as many positions of prestige in any given age sex grade as there are persons
capable of filling them. There is
to status positions for people of the same ability. Depend heavily
which ensures equal access. Christopher Boehm suggests that dominance comes naturally to
humans. They work hard to reverse that tendency. There is controversy whether pastoral societies are
Most practice agriculture or herding. But not all agricultural or pastoral societies are ranked. Ranking is social
groups with unequal access to prestige or status but not significantly unequal access to economic resources or
power. Unequal access is reflected in the position of chief. Unusual rank societies was the native Americans, the
Nimpkish, a Kwakiutl group. Had
The chief position was hereditary, in Polynesian societies was
genealogical. Sahlins says a chiefs storehouses contain temporary accumulations for feasts. Trobriand islanders.
Laura Betzig studied patterns of food sharing and labor on Ifaluk.