The following are the essential elements/features of Social Stratification:
1. Inequality or Higher-lower positions:
Social Stratification involves division of society into several layers which stand hierarchically placed in social relations. While some positions or levels carry more rewards, more privileges, more respect, and these are considered to be higher levels; others enjoy lower positions and status. In this way stratification acts as a source of social inequality which is, however, deemed to be natural and essential for orderly, systematic and healthy social life.
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2. Social Stratification is a Source of Competition:
Stratification leads to the emergence of several levels in society. The persons belonging to higher levels are conscious of their higher positions and they try to maintain and improve these. The persons belonging to lower levels always try to secure higher positions.
This gives rise to social competition which acts as a means of social progress. However, when this competition becomes unhealthy and very big, it leads to the birth of social conflict, struggles, jealousies and rivalries.
3. Every Status has a Particular Prestige Associated with it:
Every social position and status is associated with a particular prestige. However, this difference has to logical. It is not to be based on evil practices like casteism, religious superstitions and rituals. In ancient India, the class of Brahmins used to enjoy a superior position by birth and because of the supreme importance given to religious ceremonies.
However, with the passage of time, the faith in the superior position of Brahmins got greatly diluted. Now persons belonging to other classes have also secured higher positions in society. Every social class in now entitled to a life of dignity and respect. The difference can be of degree but not organic and irrational.
4. Stratification Involves a Stable, Enduring and Hierarchical Division of Society:
Stratification leads to a very stable, enduring hierarchical and quite permanent division in society. Division between the two classes of rich and poor has been continuously present in every society In India, caste based social stratification has been so strong that it even continues to survive today. Caste based stratification has been very rigid and permanent and a person belonging to one caste can never join another caste.
5. Different Statuses are Inter-dependent:
Social stratification involves the division of society into several classes and statuses. Each status or class enjoys a particular position in the social hierarchy. However, all the statuses are related and inter-dependent. Changes in social stratification always lead to changes in statuses of persons belonging to various classes.
6. Stratification is based on Social Values:
In every society, the system of social stratification is based upon social values and traditions. In India caste has been the main basis of social stratification. However, in western societies class has been the basis of social stratification. The class-structure in every society is in turn based upon the prevailing social values.
7. Social Stratification Restricts Interactions:
In every society, the people stratified into different levels or classes are involved in interactions. However, the inter-class or inter-level interactions are always limited and defined by social norms.
The persons belonging to a particular level have a similar social style and they do not fully interact with the person belonging to other levels. Social stratification defines and limits interactions among the people belonging to different social statuses or levels or classes.
8. Possibility and Chances of Circulation or Change in the Position of Various Classes of Persons:
No doubt, Social Stratification is very enduring and even permanent in nature; however it admits social mobility and change. Social elites keep on changing. These admit new members and discard some old members who suffer a loss of positions with the passage of time.
Further, in every society there are social levels based upon economic position- the class of the rich, middle class and class of the poor however, the members of these classes can earn changes in their economic positions. The members of the rich class can become poor by suffering a loss of money a mixed stratification on the basis of the relation between Ascribed and Earned Statuses.