Social Stratification | Sociology for CUET by Vikash Ranjan | Sociology Guru

Stratification Social

Question: Who defines social stratification as the differential ranking of the human individuals who compose a given social system and their treatment as superior and inferior relative to one another in certain socially important respects?

  1. Davis and Moore
  2. Max Weber
  3. Talcott Parsons
  4. Karl Marx

Answer: (3)

Social Stratification: A Comparative Analysis by Talcott Parsons

Social stratification, a concept integral to sociological discourse, is subject to diverse interpretations by eminent theorists. Talcott Parsons, a prominent figure in sociological thought, delineates social stratification as “the differential ranking of human individuals who compose a given social system and their treatment as superior or inferior relative to one another in certain socially important respects.” This definition encapsulates the essence of hierarchical arrangements within a society, where individuals are systematically positioned based on specific attributes.

Foundations of Social Stratification:

To comprehend Parsons’ perspective, it is imperative to delve into the foundational principles that underpin social stratification. At its core, social stratification involves the categorization of individuals into distinct layers or strata, each endowed with varying degrees of prestige, privilege, and access to resources. Parsons accentuates the differential treatment meted out to individuals, highlighting the hierarchical nature of social arrangements that permeate various dimensions of life.

Parsons’ Noteworthy Contribution:

Parsons’ contribution to the conceptualization of social stratification is embedded in his broader sociological framework. As a structural-functional theorist, Parsons posits that societies are complex systems characterized by interconnected parts working in harmony to maintain stability. Social stratification, according to Parsons, serves functional purposes within this larger system.

Understanding Class Status:

In his definition, Parsons introduces the notion of class status as a determinant of an individual’s rank in the social stratification system. He contends that an individual’s class status is ascribed based on kinship ties, binding them to a particular unit within the overarching class structure. This incorporation of kinship dynamics emphasizes the role of social relationships and familial affiliations in shaping an individual’s social standing.

Continuity and Change in Social Stratification:

Parsons’ articulation of social stratification provides a lens through which we can analyze its evolution over time. A comparative analysis spanning ancient to contemporary China elucidates the enduring nature of social class structures. Despite transformations in political, economic, and social landscapes, certain continuities persist, echoing Parsons’ emphasis on stability and order.

The case of China exemplifies these enduring trends. Throughout its historical trajectory, China’s social class structure has been intricately linked to political and bureaucratic hierarchies. The continuity lies in the dominance of political power in shaping social status. Parsons’ assertion that class status is not solely contingent on wealth aligns with China’s historical emphasis on political and bureaucratic affiliations as determinants of social standing.

State Dominance and Social Control:

Parsons’ conceptualization of social stratification aligns with the broader theme of state dominance, particularly evident in China’s historical and contemporary contexts. The state’s influence over society, as highlighted by Parsons, manifests in the political and social structures of China. The state’s centrality in determining social stratification underscores the enduring influence of political traditions and ideological centralization.

Power Dynamics and Social Structure:

Parsons’ definition resonates with the intricate interplay of power dynamics and social structure. In the Chinese context, the continuity of power relations is evident in the persistence of hierarchical arrangements that transcend economic factors. The emphasis on political power and officialdom as crucial determinants aligns with Parsons’ assertion that social stratification extends beyond economic considerations.

State–Society Relations: A Continuity Perspective:

Parsons’ conceptualization of social stratification dovetails with the broader theme of state–society relations. The analysis of traditional, pre-1949, and Maoist China underscores the enduring nature of state dominance and its impact on societal structures. Despite shifts in political ideologies and economic models, the centralization of power within the state remains a constant, influencing social stratification.


Talcott Parsons’ definition of social stratification, with its emphasis on differential ranking, class status, and kinship ties, provides a theoretical framework for understanding the complexities of societal arrangements. The application of Parsons’ ideas to the case of China illuminates the enduring nature of social stratification, shaped by political traditions, power dynamics, and state–society relations.

In essence, Parsons’ conceptualization serves as a lens through which we can analyze the intricate interplay of factors that contribute to the hierarchical organization of societies. By exploring the case of China, we discern the continuities that persist despite societal transformations. This synthesis underscores the relevance and applicability of Parsons’ sociological insights in unraveling the complexities of social stratification across diverse historical and cultural contexts.


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Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Question: Define the term “ethnic movement” and provide an example from India.

Answer: An ethnic movement refers to a collective effort by a group sharing common cultural, linguistic, or religious traits, seeking to assert their identity and rights; an example from India is the Khalistan Movement in Punjab.

2. Question: Identify the main objectives behind the Gorkhaland ethnic movement.

Answer: The Gorkhaland ethnic movement primarily seeks to establish a separate state for India’s Nepali-speaking population in the Darjeeling region, advocating for linguistic and cultural recognition and political autonomy.

3. Question: What was the Operation Blue Star, and which ethnic movement was it related to?
Answer: Operation Blue Star was a military action in 1984, aiming to remove Sikh militants hiding in the Golden Temple in Amritsar; it is related to the Khalistan movement, which sought a separate Sikh country.

4. Question: Mention a critical factor that triggered the emergence of ethnic movements in India, as discussed by Dipankar Gupta.
Answer: Dipankar Gupta emphasized that ethnicity is fundamentally a political process, wherein caste and religion, the key components of identity formation, are politicized by leaders for vested interests.

5. Question: What were the primary reasons for the Assam Ethnicity conflicts involving Bodo tribals and Bengali Muslim settlers?
Answer: The Assam Ethnicity conflicts primarily stemmed from issues related to immigration, land rights, and resource allocation, leading to clashes, riots, and evolving relationships among indigenous communities to address challenges.

6. Question: Briefly describe the role of the Dravidian Movement in terms of caste and societal structure.
Answer: The Dravidian Movement, led notably by E.V. Ramasamy, aimed to establish an egalitarian society, focusing on anti-Brahmanism and advocating for equal rights for backward castes, while also introducing reforms like self-respect marriages.

7. Question: Name the prominent ethnic movements in North-East India and specify one common objective.
Answer: Prominent ethnic movements in North-East India include the Nagas’ and Mizos’ struggles; a common objective was to gain autonomy and recognition for their distinct tribal identities and cultural uniqueness.

8. Question: What is the key argument of Gail Omveldt regarding traditional Indian society and multiculturalism?
Answer: Gail Omveldt opposed romanticizing traditional Indian society, arguing that hierarchy has always dominated it and dismissing the notion that multiculturalism is an intrinsic feature of Indian society as a myth.

9. Question: Briefly explain the social hierarchy factor as a contributing element to ethnic movements as suggested by Olzak.
Answer: Olzak suggests that the construction of hierarchies among ethnic communities, which often leads to the suppression of one group by another, is a key factor that can instigate social and ethnic movements.

10. Question: Identify one consequence of the unequal economic development factor within the context of ethnic movements in India.
Answer: One consequence of unequal economic development is the marginalization and underdevelopment of certain groups, leading to feelings of alienation and sometimes initiating ethnic movements as these groups strive for equality and recognition.

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