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Social Differentiation Versus Social Stratification Essay

Social Stratification Essay

Social stratification is at the heart of macro sociology-the study of society in a large scale, in comparative perspective where one look at society as a whole. The study of social stratification is crucial to understand how and when social stability and changes come about.

Social stratification is a form of social inequality that is studies of any systematic inequalities between groups of people within the society or between two or more societies which exists due to social relationship. It refers to the presence of distinct social groups which ranked higher or lower than others in terms of factors such as class, prestige and wealth.

Social class refers to a segment of the population that differs from other segments of the same population in terms of shared values , accumulated wealth , education and other social etiquette. Generally, there are three main indicators of social inequality. They are income, occupation and education. Other indicators include differences in sex, religion, race, family background and location of residence. According to social stratification system individuals are ranked according to the degree of desirable qualities placed in by members of particular groups. These qualities vary from society to society.

According to functionalists, social stratification is functional to society. Since society has certain needs that must be fulfilled to ensure stability, social stratification is therefore seen as a mechanism to fulfill these prerequisites. Hence, functionalists see social stratification in term of its contribution to the maintenance and well- being of society.

Functionalists assumed that the various parts of society are inter-dependence and therefore a mechanism of integration is needed to ensure that these parts function accordingly.. Thus, a group of individuals that is highly motivated and qualified is needed to fill the important positions in society to monitor the workings of these parts. They hold that rewards such as income, power and status should be unequally distributed among members of society in order to distinguish these elite groups with other groups.

Talcott Parsons, a functionalist believed that value consensus is the heart of social stability and order since each society has a set of belief on what they think is good and worthwhile or common values, individuals will be placed and ranked according to these values. The Sioux Indian placed a high value on generosity while the American placed a high value wealth and the level of education.

There have been many criticisms on functionalists' version of social stratification and inequality. Functionalists failed to explain satisfactorily who decides what the 'functionally important' positions are. It seems that those who have more influence on various parts of society have more power to decide the social values and norms. It has been criticized for accepting the status quo.

Social stratification may not be...

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Social Stratification & India

Social Stratification & Kashmir

Class Stratification

Power Stratification

Wrapping up the dialogue



This study is an attempt to study the broad patterns of social stratification prevailing in district Pulwama. As a complex social phenomenon, social stratification which refers to the division of the society into various hierarchical strata is as old as human civilization, while many have talked about a „classless‟ societies of either the past or the future, but these ideas found very little support in historical experience. Though the phenomenon is common to all societies but its nature and forms vary from society to society, and from culture to culture.

Key words: Social Stratification, Inequality, Kashmir, caste, Class, Power, Indian Society, Islam .


Social stratification / social inequalities exist in all types of human societies. Even the simplest cultures, were variations in wealth or property are virtually non-existent, there are inequalities between individuals, men and women, the young and old. A person may have a higher status than others, because of, particulars prowess at hunting, or because he /she have special access to the ancestral spirits. To describe inequalities, sociologists speak social stratification. Stratification can be defined as structured in equalities between different groupings of people (Giddens, 1997).

The systems of social stratification exhibit wide variance in different societies of the world. This variation may be in the criteria, utilized for placing individual and groups in various social strata of the system, or in the number of strata in the system, and with some having two broad strata such as, feudal lords and serfs, or nobility and commoners and other’s having more. There may be flexibility and the sharpness with which each stratum are demarcated. In some systems different strata are easily identifiable, while in others the boundaries are hard to locate. Considering the various societies that have existed and do exist in the world, certain recurrent forms of social stratification generally can be identified. Which have different differences between them, the Slavery, the Feudal Estates, the Caste and the Class System?

Social stratification deals with the ways in which human population is socially differentiated i.e. “differentiated publicly and demonstrably”. The criteria for differentiation may be one but the social display of differentiation usually include a host of factors including, Race, religion, family, lineage, kind and amount of property or income, occupation, or some other characteristics. Thus, the process by which individuals and groups are ranked in a more or less enduring hierarchy of status is known as social stratification (Ogburn & Nimkoff, 1940).

The study of social stratification is of central concern to sociologists because modern societies display such a wide range of inequalities. These include inequalities between rich and poor, between social classes, between men and women, and between black and white. Inequalities in wide range in almost every area of social life, such as in job security, leisure opportunities, health, housing, income and the power to influence events in society (Browne, 2005).

Social Stratification & India

The theme of social stratification in India constitutes much literature as the research in traditional Indian sociology offers depth and area both, backed by a history that is unique in its layers and strata. The uniqueness of this social nexus has attracted local as well as foreign studies of the stratification theme, producing works from diverse perspectives, influenced and uninfluenced. Caste is the integral core of this theme, and understanding its dynamics, implication and origin carries its flux. A lot of statistical data is also available in this regard, supplementing objective and ground numbers.

The rise of Indian sociology owes its origin mainly to the interest in understanding Hindu Social Organization and the typical caste institution. A large of Indian as well as western sociologists interested in understanding Indian society have paid special attention to the analysis of the traditional caste system and the changes taking place therein. But along with this interest in Hindu social life, some attention is also now being paid to understand the socio-cultural life of Muslim community who constitute the largest minority of the country. In this way the sociological study of Muslims has also come to the forefront in the development of sociological literature in India today. Beteille (1965) has contributed immensely in this field. Andre Beteilles study of village Sripurum in Tamil Nadu is based on the assumption of a rational distinction between caste, class and power, changing relation of stratification in Tanjore District, brought to light the traditional caste structures as well as the forces of change that were making way into it . The major contributions of Indian as well as foreign sociologists in the field of social stratification are: Beteille, 1974; Singh, 1974; Menchar, 1979; Pandit, 1979; Srinivas, 1966; Powell, 1896; Ghurye, 1932; Iyers, 1909-12; Desai, 1912; Bailey, 1957- 60; Barreman, 1960; Beteille, 1965; Chauhan, 1967; Dube, 1958; Majumdar, 1958; Madan, 1965; Mukherjee, 1957; Orenstein , 1965; Bose, 1968; Leach, 1960; Ansari, 1960; Dumont, 1961; Risley, 1961; Ahmad, 1962; D’Souza, 1962; Bailey, 1965; Marriot, 1968; Nesfield, 1985; Webber, 1952; Kroeber, 1930; Dubois, 1960; Singh, 1978; Gough, 1979; Singh, 1979; Jha, 1970; Bose, 1981; Iye, 1985; Nandu Ram, 1986; Sharma, 1986; Ehsan, 1981; Vashista, 1992; and Beteille, 2002.

The present study also throws light on the contributions made by sociologists towards understanding social stratification and forms of inequality in India. The literature generated by Indian sociologists is divided into decades starting from 1950 onwards. In these years many sociologists have put forward their views on social stratification. In 1950-60, M.N. Srinivas, G.S. Ghurye, S.C. Dube, R.K. Mukherjee, K.S. Mathur, H. Orenstein and many more, is taken up for analysis. They argued caste system is the sole institution of social ranking. Their theories are known as „caste model of Indian society. The decade of 1960-70 saw few studies on social differentiation, evolution and change in caste and class. These sociologists have taken up studies from structural historical perspective particularly of agrarian and industrial stratification. These studies have been taken by E.R. Leach, victor D’Souza, Andre Beteille, L. Dumont, M. Marriot, A.R. Desai, and N.K. Bose etc in this regard. The decade 1970-80 has contributed richly to the emergence of new substantive and theoretical concern in the study of social stratification. Many sociologists have contributed for the further understanding of social stratification; these were Y. Singh, K.L Sharma, T.N. Madan, K. Gough, Nirmal Singh, Dhanagara, Zarina Bhatty, A. Jha etc. During the period of 1980-90s an important development has been the rich impute of the study of social stratification, the new emerging consciousness of the mobile classes among the weaker sections of the Indian society. Both the conceptual and methodological studies were carried out by many sociologists these are P.K. Bose, Klass, H.A. Lye, Dipankar Gupta, Ehsan-ul-Haq, A.M. Shah, A.F.I Ali, Nandu Ram etc. Besides these sociologists there were other sociologists, who in 1990’s-2002 have talked about the transformation of class structure in contemporary India, in which class formation, class disintegration, and class conflict has become important in the process of change in class structure. These are P.K. Bose, R.K. Shukla, V.K. Vashista, S. Jaswal, and Andre Beteille.

A number of studies have also been conducted on Indian Muslims in different parts of the country. In the beginning these studies were conducted by social Historians and social Anthropologists. Later on, sociologists also joining in analyzing and understanding different aspects of community life among Muslims and these studies were generally micro-sociological in nature concentrating mainly on the analysis of Muslim communities living in specific villages, towns or localities. These throw some light on various aspects like patterns of stratification and local hierarchy, family and marriage, economic organizations, religious attachment and degree of religiosity, virtual and festivities and patterns of interaction in Muslim community. Moreover in course of such studies efforts have also been made to find out the impact of traditional Hindu Culture, deviation from Islamic sanctions, acceptance of western values and exposure to the forces of modernity in Muslim community. Thus, such studies on Muslim communities, no doubt, provide materials on different aspects of social life in the context of the past tradition as well as the present phase of transition.

The important studies in this field are those by; Ghaus Ansari, 1959; S.C. Misra, 1964; M. R. Siddiqui, 1974; Imtiyaz Ahmad, 1973; Zeyauddin Ahmad, 1977; Saghir Ahmad, 1977; S. M. Raza, 1976; Ali Ashraf, S.M. Raza, 1976, P.C. Aggarwal, 1973; Victor D’Souza, Zarina Bhatty, Hamza Ali, T.N. Madan, etc The revelation made by most of these studies on various trends and patterns of social stratification that these studies were caste – oriented and caste based. Caste being the sole basis of social stratification, but not the only dominating factor, as for classes like political elites, new capitalists, bureaucrats, technocrats and others were emerging as factors for social inequality in past 1947 scenario. It is very clear that the sociologist failed to address these factors and also the cause of their emergence. The result of it was that sociologist’s studies caste stratification devoid of above mentioned factors have distorted the reality and the actuality of the situation did not come into light. The sociologists thus, were not able to analyze the role of these factors.

Whereas stratification and its evolution are gradual, socio-cultural shifts are drawn only from mass acceptance. No society is free from a certain degree of stratification, nor is there any evidence of an ideal commune that existed. Kashmiri society in its transition to modern history presents a clash of community traditions and the sanctioned religious upsurge. It may not be appropriate to confine this interpretation to religious rift; rather its intricacy is delivered from traditions, customs and the Hindu social set up. Shifts in Kashmiri Social stratification are apparent as is its innate history of class and labour divide.

Most of studies on social stratification in India have taken for their subject matter the ‘India’ (Caste) system, and thus limited its understanding to Hindu society & culture. However, empirical demands suggest the non-Hindu studies too for a comprehensive understanding of this theme.

Some work has been done by Prof. Imtiyaz Ahmad, producing satisfactory literature in this regard about Muslims in India yet he excluded Kashmiri society from his coverage and as so it remains largely unexplored. What makes a sociological study of Social stratification in Kashmir speculatively interesting and subjectively important is that rather than incorporating new social dogmas within itself as has been the case in rest of the sub-continent, it presents a rare picture of elimination & substitution. However it has to be kept in mind that this shifts in Kashmiri society lets the social history sustain in cultural evolution rather than purely eliminate it.

In recent times some attention is being paid to the study of social stratification and modes of life prevailing among Muslims in India. This study is also an attempt to study social stratification among Muslims in Kashmiri society. This Article on Kashmiri society is studied on the basis of Caste, Class and Power. Caste system is radically different from Caste system in Indian society. The rigid aspect is missing and very few people are ready to attach any importance to ascribed status. In Kashmir Class is the base of social stratification and most of the times its bases are economic. However, the process of Modernization, secularization, education and new found economic prosperity has made the lines of demarcation very blur and flexibility is quite visible while analyzing social stratification in Kashmiri society.