Social Stratification & Inequality 1 SOCIAL STRATIFICATION & INEQUALITY Social Inequality refers to any differences that result in some people having more socially valued characteristics than others (Holborn & Langley 2002, 6). Social Stratification is the hierarchical ordering of groups in society (Haralambos & Holborn 2000). So groups are put into different categories (based on wealth, power, prestige, colour, etc) and placed in an order or ranked at different levels/strata. 2 SOCIAL STRATIFICATION & INEQUALITY Society is stratified based on different elements: 3 Age Race Ethnicity Gender Class Caste Occupation/Position in society PYRIAMID – SOCIAL CLASS (WEALTH) 4 PYRIAMID – SOCIAL CLASS (WEALTH) 5 PYRIAMID – FEUDAL JAPAN (OCCUPATION) 6 SOCIAL MOBILITY Social Mobility is the movement between the strata or the ability to move up or down that hierarchy or ladder. You can gain mobility through education, occupation, power, contacts, skin colour, religion, etc. Inter-generational mobility occurs when there is mobility between two generations. For example, a son’s mobility is compared with his father’s. Intra-generational mobility occurs within one generation; this occurs over the course of one’s lifetime. For example, you may compare your status when you are 40 years as opposed to when you were 18 years old. 7 TYPES OF SOCIAL STATUS Your status is your social position or standing in society. There are two main types of statuses: 1. Ascribed Status – is the status that you are born with and it is usually difficult to change (for example: sex, skin colour, race, caste) and it occurs in a closed stratification system. 2. Achieved Status – is the status that you have achieved or attained on the basis of merit and occurs in an open stratification system. Education and class are examples of achieved status. 8 TYPES OF SOCIAL STRATIFICATION SYSTEMS There are two main types of these systems worldwide: 1. Closed Stratification Systems – Closed systems are those whereby the individuals cannot move up or down the hierarchy or ladder. Examples: Caribbean Slavery System, India’s Caste System 2. Open Stratification Systems – Open systems however, mean that the mobility is more fluid and individuals can move up or down the ladder. Examples: USA, T&T, and most democratic societies. This is also called a meritocratic society (meritocracy). 9 INDIA’S ANCIENT CASTE SYSTEM 10 THE UNDERCLASS As seen in the social pyramid in India, there is a caste called the “untouchables.” In all stratification systems, there is a portion of the population who is deemed as the “underclass.” The underclass is the class that occupies the lowest possible position in the hierarchy. These people are unlikely to improve their situation either by choice or circumstance. Karl Marx deemed this part of the population, the lumpenproletariat. Contemporary Sociologists call these people “victims” or marginalized elements in the society who operate outside the wage-labour system. For e.g. – beggars, prostitutes, drug dealers, etc. 11 THE UNDERCLASS The characteristics of the underclass include: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Poverty Crime Unemployment Poor education Dependency Teenage Pregnancy Oscar Lewis (1969) created a theory called the “Culture of Poverty”. He ascertained that that the subculture of the poor perpetuates poverty and children are therefore socialized into this culture, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty. In Lewis’ theory, he believed that the underclass is trapped in poverty for generations. 12 CULTURE OF POVERTY Lewis identified the following in his cycle of poverty. 1. Many children born into poverty remain under-weight as a baby due to a poor diet. 2. A minimal parental input means that a child born into poverty is under-prepared or simply not prepared for pre-school or primary school education. This immediately puts that child at a disadvantage compared to others from a different background. 3. A lack of material things within a school when compared to others reinforces that child’s background – an ‘antique’ mobile phone for instance. 4. Many children born into poverty attend secondary schools that get some of the worst exam results, thus perpetuating their chances of being successful. 5. With minimal educational qualifications, a child born into poverty has little chance of finding a long term career. Higher education for many is a dream. The bulk of people who do technical vocational such as YTEPP come from poorer backgrounds. 6. Should they get a job, it is likely to be short-term and earning the government’s minimum wage. Therefore, they get all their money because they do not pay taxes but they remain in poverty because of the high standard of living. 7. Should they get married, their children will be born into poverty. As parents, they will have seen how education has ‘failed them’ and probably reinforce onto their children that ‘education does not matter’ and ‘it’s not important’ and the cycle of poverty 13 continues for another generation. STRATIFICATION SYSTEMS IN T&T In Trinidad & Tobago, we have moved from a closed to an open stratification system. During slavery, stratification was mainly determined by race & colour of one’s skin (ascribed statuses). Therefore, it was a closed stratification system, as mobility was not possible. In this type of system, your social status depended on your skin colour with the fairest being the highest strata and darkest being the lowest. 14 STRATIFICATION SYSTEMS IN T&T Following the PNM’s win in 1956, the stratification system began to become more open as status became more achieved. Education paved the way for our system of stratification to become open and meritocratic. However, many people do not believe that we have an entirely open stratified system and many argue that it is mixed and status is still highly attributed to race. Others look at the implications of wealth, power and prestige on influencing one’s status. Today, which class is the underclass in T&T? 15 STRATIFICATION SYSTEMS IN T&T Like all Caribbean countries, the stratification system in T&T has been influenced by its history of Colonialism, Plantation Slavery and Indentureship. Although, most of these territories are currently politically independent nation-states, the legacy of their history have continued to impact upon their individual social structure. There are three theories that explain stratification in T&T: 1. 2. 3. 16 Plantation Society Theory Plural Society Thesis Creole Society Theory PLANTATION SOCIETY THEORY – GEORGE BECKFORD The most prominent feature of the traditional Caribbean society was the plantation society. George Beckford (1983), like many others, perceived the plantation as a total economic institution. Features of the Plantation society include: the prevalence of monocrop agriculture; marginalization of the peasantry; dependence on foreign capital and enterprise as the main investors; dependence on foreign markets for our crops; forced labour systems; a taste for foreign products; lack of democratic tradition because of the long existence of slavery; social stratification based on the gradations of colour and race. PLANTATION SOCIETY THEORY – GEORGE BECKFORD This theory of Caribbean society, though based on the original plantation model, can still be applied to contemporary Caribbean societies. Upper Class/caste/ruling elites (traditionally white) – own wealth, means of production and political power. Intermediate Class/caste (mulatto/browns) – usually educated, own some wealth, (desire but) lack political power. Working Class/caste (blacks) – slaves, uneducated, lack wealth and political power. Academics contend that the Upper Class on the contemporary Caribbean continues to be whites. These either descents of the old planter class aristocracy who still own most of the islands supermarkets, hotels, land, transportation, control import prices. They continue to own and control a significant proportion of the territory’s wealth, and as such wield great economic, social and political power. The non-white populations continue to be situated at the lower end of the social strata. They constitute the public servants and unskilled workers in the society. PLURAL SOCIETY THESIS – M.G. SMITH The Plural Society Theory, first conceptualised by J.S. Furnivall (1944) and further promulgated by M.G. Smith (1960), posits that societies with many cultures and ethnicities, such as those in the Caribbean, co-exist but only do so in the marketplace. Ethnic groups keep their own distinct cultural practices and belief systems with little or no inter-mixing and the sole interaction among the groups is the economic aspect or the marketplace. Diverse groups share the same physical space, but there is little or no consensus among the groups and they keep a social distance or are kept at a social distance by laws, customs or social pressure in interpersonal relations. Societies were therefore maintained only by the superior force of the European colonial power. PLURAL SOCIETY THESIS – M.G. SMITH Smith argues that most societies in the Caribbean are plural societies where there exists significant cultural diversity and race antagonism Various ethnic groups have their own socio-economic institutions but not their own political system It is the cultural and race diversity that causes the discord between the cultural groups. Social inequality exists between ethnic groups. These inequalities are transient depending on the social actor. Factors of colour, religion, culture, economic background, education all influence positioning within the social strata. CREOLE SOCIETY THEORY – EDWARD KAMAU BRAITHWAITE Edward K. Braithwaite adds a different perspective on the composition of Caribbean societies. Whereas the Plural Society Thesis argues that the groups live separate and apart from each other (except in the marketplace), Braithwaite posits that the cultures of the major groups (mainly the Europeans and Africans) are mixed or combined creating a unique ‘Creole’ culture. Creolisation is a process of change and adaptation that occurs over time. In the Caribbean, many aspects of our culture, such as music, art, languages, religious rituals, cuisine and people, is represented by this notion of Creolisation. CREOLE SOCIETY THEORY – EDWARD KAMAU BRAITHWAITE Is described as a hybrid/syncretic/new society. The stratification system is informed by an ascriptiveparticularistic value system (Lloyd Braithwaite) Ryan contends however that the ascriptive-particularistic value system that informed the pre-independence era, gave way to meritocracy in the post-independence era. Some elements of the ascriptive value system continue to exist. BIBLIOGRAPHY Ryan, Selwyn. “Social Stratification in Trinidad and Tobago: Lloyd Braithwaite Revisited.” Reddock, Rhoda. “Social Mobility in Trinidad and Tobago.” Holborn, Martin & Peter Langley. 2002. Haralambos and Holborn: Sociology: Themes and Perspectives – Student Handbook. London: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. McIntyre, Lisa. 2006. The Practical Skeptic: Core Concepts in Sociology. 3rd Ed. New York, NY: Mc Graw Hill.