Inequality among humans exists at 2 levels – Natural and Social. Natural inequality is inequality by birth – that is physical characteristics like gender, color, height, weight, etc. Social Inequalities are socially created inequalities. They are a result of unequal distribution of wealth, power, prestige, status, etc. in the society. This social inequality is prescribed, practiced and legitimized by the society.
Eg: Brahmins originated out the mouth of the Supreme Being (Prescribed by Scriptures).Therefore others must maintain sufficient distance from them in terms of food, marriage, occupation, etc. (Practiced). Institutionalized in the society as “Caste System”. Therefore Legitimized.
But many stratification systems superimpose social inequality over. Natural differences. Thus natural differences become a source of social inequality.
Eg: Racial stratification where whites consider racial superiority over Blacks and use it as a source of dominance. Such mixing of the two inequalities was challenged by French Philosopher Rousseau – who made a clear distinction between natural and social inequality.
But why do inequalities Rise?
According to Andre’ Beteille ->
In nature only differences among individuals and social groups are present. These differences are recognized by humans and this generates inequality.
Some differences are accepted as differences, they are not crystallized into Inequality, but some differences are crystallized into in equality. Eg : During Vedic period, caste was merely a difference, but when caste system became rigid, it led to inequality.
Both Natural/ Biological inequality and social inequality can become a source of stratification.
But the basic question is – what is the difference between Inequality and stratification? Or between social inequality and social stratification? (dealt later).
Color in India is merely a difference. But color in Europe becomes the basis of both natural in equality and social inequality.
Perpetuation of social inequality (Question , 1981).
There has always been a debate among scholars whether social inequality can give way to social equality. Many scholars believe that this can’t happen. These include.
(i) Social Anthropologists like Woodburn, Levi Strauss, Marshall Sachlins and Lenski. According them, primitive societies, were never equalitarian. Inequality persisted in these societies in terms of ranks and status. According to them, it is impossible to develop or even search for absolutely equalitarian society.
(ii) The aforesaid view of social Anthropologists was further strengthened by Schumpeter and Ossowski. According to them, in case of socialism them are present status groups and differential ranks (which are legitimized by society)
(iii) Louis Dumont –
Book “Homo Hierarchicus”
Inequality is a form of value, which is collectively inequality, is a form of value, which is collectively shared by the people. In India, the hierarchical values are so strongly injected into minds of the people that despite legislation, subaltern (grassroots) protests, inequality in caste system refuse to disappear from the Indian society.
Inequality in values -> Internalized by the people -> Therefore Inequality Persists
(iv) Andre’ Beteille :
While contradicting Ralph Dahrendorf that social Inequalities can be minimized through state intervention (dealt later), Beteille argues that in every society, through in different proportions, inequality is transmitted in terms of a) Heridity and b) Compromises with ability and merit.
Therefore no amount of Social Intervention or Social Mobilization can transform an inequalitarian society to a completely equalitarian society. Thus social inequality persists.
(v) Eva Rosenfeld’s study of Kibbutzim (Page 4, Marxian Approach)
(vi) Talcott Parson (Value Consensus)
In this question discuss :
c) Can be minimized
Can social inequality be converted into Social Equality? (Expected)
Many scholars like Rousseau, Karl Marx, Engels, Morgan, Hobbes and Locke believe that primitive man was experiencing social equality, which later changed to social inequality. But social equality can be achieved again.
Asiatic Sociology->Feudal Sociology->Capitalist Sociology ->
There are some scholars who believe that social inequality cannot be eliminated, but it can surely be minimized. These include:
(i) T.Parson, Goldthorpe, etc
While celebrating modernity, they consider that inequality in society is not absolute but relative and competitive inequality (that is based on merit, competition)
Goldthorpe in his analysis of Affluent Workers, argues that people experience differential class position in their life time (through promotions). Therefore inequality becomes time bound and acceptable and that it can be reduced.
(ii) Dahrendorf ->
Inequality can be reduced, minimized through social intervention measures that leads to
In hierarchy the position of the people is fixed and there is complete absence of mobility
Eg: Louis Dumont considers caste as a system of hierarchy.
- Social stratification is a system of social order where people occupy distinctive positions on the basis of various criterion. (Same as Hierarchy)
But here, the position of people is not fixed and the Mobility exists.
- Such a “Compartmentalization” of Hierarchy and Stratification was first put forward by Modernization school.
Driven by Heredity
- Such a “Compartmentalization” was rejected by Contemporary Sociologists like Ossowski, Dahrendorf and Andre’ Beteille.According to them, an absolutely Hierarchical or stratification society is not possible. Every society has certain degree of mobility and every society has certain degree of immobility. - Concept of Hierarchy is used in sociology in 2 ways : (i) In stratification, people are hierarchically arranged. Here it simply means differential ranking among the people. (ii) Hierarchy as a system is different from hierarchical position of the people in a stratification system. As a system in is a qualitative feature of the society that is perceived as a static system duet to absence of Mobility. Social Stratification Vs Social Inequality: - Social Inequality refers to socially created inequalities - Social stratification is a particular form of social inequality it is a hierarchy of social groups - Social Inequality can be among individuals but social stratification is always among groups. (That is its Members have a common identity, common interests and similar life style.) - Social Inequality may exist even without social strata - Eg: An individual scoring more in Maths and other scoring more in literature. They are unequal but not stratified. - Eg: According to some sociologists – in USA social classes have been replaced by – “Continuous hierarchy of unequal positions of individuals” - Therefore common consciousness, Common way of life, Common in interests -> unbroken continuum of occupational statuses of individual. Hierarchy of social groups has been replaced by hierarchy of individuals. Two dimensions of social stratification which are reflected in all theories of social stratification. (i) Distributive: - that is unequal distribution of Wealth, Power, Education, etc. (ii) Relational :- that is relationship among different social groups. (They can be – complementary, Competitive or conflict relations)