Historical Development of Stratification

Observation: Each society is stratified, some more, others less.

  • According to M. Weber, how did social stratification develop? Is it necessary?

Deducing from Max Weber’s works on stratification, it can be gleaned that social stratification is borne out of the changes occurring in the social structure.  As accounted by Ritzer (2011), Weber postulated that society is stratified on the bases of economics, status, and power (or party).  This implies that people can rank high on one or two of these dimensions of stratification and low on the other (or others), a far more sophisticated analysis of social stratification than is possible when stratification is simply reduced (as it was by some Marxists) to variations in one’s economic situation.

Aside from this Class System of stratification (class-status-power), there was the concept of “life chances.” Weber supposed there were more class divisions than Marx suggested, taking different concepts from both functionalist and Marxist theories to create his own system. Weber claimed there are four main classes: the upper class, the white-collar workers, the petite bourgeoisie, and the manual working class (Boundless 2015).

Weber’s theory meant that economic status need not necessarily depend solely on earnings.  Working half a century later than Marx, Weber derived many of his key concepts on social stratification by examining the social structure of Germany. Weber examined how many members of the aristocracy lacked economic wealth, yet had strong political power. He noted that stratification was based on more than ownership of capital. Many wealthy families lacked prestige and power, for example, because they were Jewish. In the Philippines, Aling Dionisia, for instance, may already have much money and properties, but still she lacks the prestige that should have come with it and also the power, because of her previous socioeconomic background.

Weber’s three independent factors that form his theory of stratification hierarchy: class, status, and power were treated as separate but related sources of power, each with different effects on social action.  According to Weber, class is a person’s economic position in a society, based on birth and individual achievement. This is the one component that Aling Dionisia certainly lacked as she was born poor.  Also her present riches come not from her individual achievement, rather, from her son’s.  Although Weber did not see this as the supreme factor in stratification; he noted that managers of corporations or industries control firms they do not own. Status refers to a person’s prestige, social honor, or popularity in a society.  Aling Dionisia is popular that her name, alongside with other local or foreign celebrities, trended as one of most searched names in the social media.

Weber noted that political power was not rooted solely in capital value, but also in one’s individual status. Poets or saints, for example, can possess immense influence on society, often with little economic worth. Power refers to a person’s ability to get their way despite the resistance of others. For example, in the Philippines, individuals in state jobs, such as an employee of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), or a member of the Philippine Congress, may hold little property or status, but they still hold immense power.

Individuals who share a similar status typically form a community of sorts, like an endogamous group. They invite one another to dinner, marry one another, engage in the same kinds of recreation, and generally do the same things in the same places (Brinkerhoff et al 2011). Weber argued that although status and power often follow economic position, they may also stand on their own and have an independent effect on social inequality. In particular, Weber noted that status often stands in opposition to economic power, depressing the pretensions of those who “just” have money. Thus, for example, a member of the Mafia may have a lot of money and may own the means of production (a brothel, a heroin manufacturing plant, or a casino), but he will not have honor in the broader community.

  • How did G. Lenski view the development of social stratification?

With the society’s evolution from simple to complex, so does social stratification. It was the so-called “enlightened self-interests” of humans that lead them to equitably distribute goods and services to “productive” classes in order to ensure their survival and continued productivity (Elwell 2013). So, the opposite happens to the “unproductive” or the “not-so-productive” individuals in a group.  This concept is like what we can observe that takes place in our present society; and we call it “no work, no pay.”  For those who may have work, when they absent from work, will not be paid at all.  This is the case of commensurate pay for the job done. The ones who strive hard get more reward, like Manny Pacquaio.  His sipag at tiyaga has brought him riches over those who lack the industry, patience and determination at what they do.

For Lenski, however, any surplus is likely to be divided in accordance with self-interest, that is, on the basis of social power (Elwell 2013). This leads Lenski to the hypothesis that “The more intensive the subsistence technology, the greater the surplus, the greater the surplus, the greater the inequality.”  And this is so evident in the Philippine society (Turner 1982). There is a great divide between those who have meager, those who have enough, and those who have surplus.

As technology and productivity increases a portion of the new goods and services will go toward necessary population growth and feeding a larger population. However, with technological development and subsequent increases in productivity, a larger surplus of goods and services will be produced.

Another hypothesis of Lenski predicts that with technological advance, an increasing proportion of goods and services available to a society will be distributed on the basis of power. If true, then when examining sociocultural systems we should see that the greater the technological advance, the greater the inequality of goods and services within the society.

In his studies Lenski indeed finds increasing degrees of inequality up to and including early industrial society. At this stage of development, however, he finds the degree of inequality peaking and then beginning to lessen as industrial society matures. In mature industrial societies the lower social classes appear to materially benefit more than in agrarian or early industrial societies both in absolute and relative terms. Elites appear to receive less of a proportion of the nation’s income (Elwell 2013). Lenski thus concludes that mature industrial societies represent a reversal of a long-standing evolutionary trend in which inequality increased with technological development. He linked the lessening inequality to a variety of factors: 1) Necessity of a large administrative and technical structure; 2) Satiation of elites (there are only so much they can consume); 3) The buying of allegiance and commitment of the middle and working classes in order to promote further growth; 4) Changes in population and production dynamics; and 5) The rise of ideologies that advocate more economic equality

  • When some people are rich, and many others are poor, who is to blame? Why?

To me, I go with the idea that it is all about the unequal distribution of resources. It is something structural, born out of the humans’ making, a social construction that is extremely difficult to crumble, I think we all need to exit first in this human world before it can ever be changed.  Hence, from the birth of social scientists to now, it hitherto exists and persists wherever world axis we may face.

While people die of hunger because they do not have anything to fill in their stomachs, a very basic need of human beings, few individuals basks on having too much. If there is just a way to have these resources distributed to every human being on this planet earth, there will be no one to die of nothingness.  Just yesterday, local actor Coco Martin’s house was featured on TV program hosted by the country’s president’s sister Kris Aquino (ABSCBN 2015).  Just by watching it even in one minute, a viewer’s eyes will surely enlarge from sheer disbelief at how lavish a house of a single person is. There are even four garages for his collection of cars. There is even a state-of-the-art coffee maker which Coco does not even know how to operate.  Many areas in the house have not even been used, many seats left unseated.

It looks like a show house to display the wealth the local actor has accumulated from his talent use. He has or still lacks what Weber said, a combination of the class, the status, and the power.  He just recently entered, and not born in it, the rich circle so he lacks the class that Weber described. His power basically lies on his ability to make his adoring fans believe and buy his every endorse products and watch his every show on tube or big screen. Not every poor, handsome laborer can become like Coco Martin, as what Moore and Davis (1953) elaborated in their thesis.

As to how long shall we humans continue to live in this manner, I would say, no one knows yet. Not even Karl Marx’ works that influence world leaders like Mao Tse Tung of China, turn the wheel to the equality’s path. So, parents strive to send their children to good, if not the best schools to ensure the path their children will thread in the future – to belong in the side of those who have the status and power, if class is not inborn with. But, what happens to those who already lack the hope even for their children’s future since they cannot send them to those schools, even with the government’s monthly allotment, they still figuratively crawl in poverty.  In the end, each must just do the best there is available at present for the future may bring something the poor wish for.

  • Sabi ni V Belo, “Sa panahon ngayon, kung pagit ka pa rin, aba eh, kasalanan mo na ‘yon.  Tingnan mo si Mommy Dionisia.” What do you think  of this statement?]

In the realm of stratification intertwined with consumerism in Aesthetics, this statement conveys the possibilities a person can do with money. With money, one can have beauty. Even a simple facial wash requires money for someone to have it. So if the amount one has is bigger, then facelift and other similar procedures are probable. Men who feel like women at heart even dared to have their external reproductive organs changed into the opposite – the transvestites.

Indeed, we can witness how a then fledging actress Kathryn Bernardo transformed from plain-looking morena girl into now fair-skinned gleaming, made-up, fashionable young lady. Money beautifies indeed. The same with Pilipinas Got Talent champion in 2010, singer Jovit Baldivino, who after five years in the entertainment industry has now the face that is fairer and smoother. So to those who can afford it, the chance to enhance beauty is at their disposal.


ABSCBN. 14 August 2015. Coco Martin’s Place. Kris TV. Abs CBN Productions, Inc.

Boundless. 21 July. 2015. Weber’s View of Stratification. Boundless Sociology. Retrieved 07 August 2015 from https://www.boundless.com/ sociology/textbooks/boundless-sociology-textbook/global-stratification-and-inequality-8/sociological-theories-and-global-inequality-72/weber-s-view-of-stratification-426-8944/

Brinkerhoff, David B., et al. 2011.  Stratification.  Essentials of Sociology, 8th ed. USA: WadsworthCengage Learning.

Davis, Kingsley. August 1953. Some Principles of Stratification: A Critical Analysis: Reply. American Sociological Review, 18 (4): 394-397. Retrieved on 17 July 2015 from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2087552? seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Elwell, Frank W. 2013. Lenski’s Evolutionary Theory. Retrieved 08 August 2015 http://www.faculty.rsu.edu/~felwell/Theorists/Essays/Lenski2.htm

Gane, Nicholas. 2012. Max Weber and Contemporary Capitalism. Macmillan.

Ritzer, George. 2011. Max Weber. Sociological Theory, 8th ed. New York, USA: McGraw Hill. Pp112-154.

Turner, Mark Macdonald. 1982. Inequality in the Philippines: Old Bottlenecks and New Directions for Analysis.” Philippine Sociological Review, 30: 23-32.

Posted on September 1, 2015, in Society Matters and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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