Social Stratification for the Future

Stratification systems are and have been found in every society. A social stratification system is a hierarchical ordering of people in society differentiated according to their power, privilege, or status. Stratification systems are in a constant state of change. Events taking place in society have the power to change the social systems. In the United States the stratification systems have changed for numerous reasons such as the World Wars, the Great Depression, and many civil rights movements. This movement of social class is termed societal mobility or simply society as a whole moving up or down in social class. This leads to the question of what will happen to the system in the future? For my paper I will discuss one popular idea of a stratification system that exists today as well as devise a possible future stratification system for the United States.

First I would like to point out the requirements that a stratification system must have. It must have a differentiation in the given societies population with some degree of permanence. Second, it must have some type of system of rewards that are attached to and commensurate with a group’s or an individual’s position in society. The current system in the US is one based on social class. Social class is a group of people identified on the basis of their access to wealth, power, and certain styles of life. Social class will be an important aspect in my prospective stratification system, but it will be approached in a new manner.

The US is currently in the Post-Industrial Stage. This characterizes a society with the majority population being working people engaged in the provision of services. The society is divided into six social classes, all based on occupation, education, and income. The Established Upper Class, New Upper Class, Upper Middle Class, Lower Middle Class, Working Middle Class, and Lower Class. Everyone in society is said to fit in some way into one of these six categories.

Well-respected, wealthy, secure and stable families characterize the Established Upper Class. Termed “old money”, these families have existed together for several generations. The New Upper Class is just thatâÂ?¦new. These people or families are working towards the Established Upper Class. They are characterized by new wealth, less stability and less respect than the Established Upper Class. They commonly have high divorce rates and family problems. The Upper Classes make up a mere 10% of the entire population

The Upper Middle Class is also a form of new money. These are the very educated, ambitious, and upwardly mobile families. They often have few children and both parents are professionals (i.e. Doctors, lawyers, etc.). White-collar workers characterize the Lower Middle Class. They tend to be more family oriented, religious, and hard working. They are not professionals, but may hold a college degree. The Working Middle Class is the hands-on worker. Many are unskilled but many may make good salaries. They are more practical and not so concerned with education. Many are uneducated and they do not hold much prestige. The Middle Classes currently make up 75%-80% of the entire population.

The final class is the Lower Class, making up about 20% of the entire population. This class is characterized by high instability regarding family, wealth, and residence. They are the working poor. They are unskilled and often have large families. They may have multiple generations living this way.

With the changing times and the ever-changing economy, this stratification system may not be a lasting one. This new idea of a stratification system could possibly emerge if the changes in society that I propose do occur. My view of stratification is not a conservative one. I believe that society does and will always have room for change and more importantly, improvement.

To begin, I would like to take the power away from the Upper Classes. Power should not necessarily equal money. This class is characterized by just that� money. The power and control in society should hang in the balance of money and education.
Society should also have a class that is not so interested in the power and control. This class is interested in life. The emphasis is on the family unit and the educational system. In addition to these, a final class must be included similar to the Lower Class. These people are considered the retreatists in society. My system is thus to be divided into three categories, the Power Class, Living Class, and Retreatist Class. I will now look at each in more detail.

The Power Class will only surface if the people in society realize that power and control is a very important aspect of everyone’s life. So important that it cannot be just controlled by wealth. Those in a controlling position must have a significant amount of education and should be knowledgeable about the lives of the people in society. The established upper and new upper class will have no power in this system. The power class will not be characterized by money but rather their occupations in society. These are the people that make society work. Many positions in this society are managerial. The occupational positions of this class are detrimental to how society runs and the successfulness of the system. This would include the people who manufacture the necessary items of life. According to Dahrendorf, this class will abound in the “Post- Capitalistic Era. The ownership of property will become less essential. The more important aspect is who is controlling the property. The controllers and the knowledge holders become the more powerful class in society. As opposed to the present system, where power lies in wealth, the emphasis would now be on power, control and knowledge.

The Living Class is also very important in society. This class is not divided by wealth as the previously mentioned system was. In this class are people in society focusing on life itself. This would include families with children and the new generation of young adults making their way toward achievement. The importance in this class is the family unit. It is important that there are people in society who are preparing for the future. This includes parents raising children with important values, such as the importance of education and knowledge, so as to maintain the stratification system. Many products of this class will become a part of the Power Class in the future. This class, as mentioned above, will also include the up and coming successful generation. This encompasses young adult college students and the beginners in important job fields. This class essentially is geared toward shaping the future.

The final class is also essential to the success of the stratification system and the functioning of society, but in a different manner. The Retreatist Class is essential in providing the necessary boundaries for society to see. At the surface, this class seems to be a non-contributor to society. This is not in regards to occupation because many in this class do work in unskilled labor occupations. By non-contributor I am referring to preparing for the future of the society. This class is similar to the previously mentioned lower class in that many live in poverty. They generally have large families that they are barely or not at all able to support. Many receive assistance from the government. This class is highly unstable, many being criminals and delinquents. The function of this class takes a structural-functionalist view. By seeing this type of life in person or through the media, this class serves as a lesson to the population. This class, which includes many homeless, although not all, draws the bottom line of the social classes. This line serves as one that should not be crossed and if it is, it will bring negative results. The controller of this class is part of the power group, including Law Enforcement and the Judicial System as well as other human service organizations.

As in any stratification system, there will always be strays that do not fit perfectly into the mold. This is true of my system as well. But the important point is that this system includes the three main classes of people that serve important functions in society. The difference in this new system is that it is not necessarily based on wealth. More important in this system is the occupation that each person holds in society. In addition, the level of education and amount of knowledge people hold is very important. With this new system, there will be less emphasis on wealth and thus less inequality among people. It would also give more credit to those deserving it. The hard workers and those with important life-long ethics will prosper in this system, not just the wealthy. In addition, the boundaries drawn by the Retreatist Class and the benefits shown from the Power Class will help to decrease the problems in society and lead to better upward mobility.

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