The Devil of Stratification

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Stratification can be defined as structured inequalities between different types of people. The inequalities exist between the levels comprising of people who share the same characteristic. Stratification states that there are different levels in which people belong and according to which people have the capacity to receive awards. It is a worldwide phenomenon and not restricted to India itself. The theory of stratification states that people are classified according to different attributes. Around the world, and especially in India, people are born into levels of certain classes hence forming a part of social stratification. Being in a class which is higher, lower or middle is absolutely natural and inevitable. It may occur due to wealth, caste, race, gender, age, sexual preferences, education or other factors. A person is naturally born into one class and then the society starts labeling and stereotyping him/her according to that. Though social mobility among different classes is possible, being in one of them is inevitable. It can be argued that in communism, the income being equal, there is no stratification.

SOCIAL STRATIFICATION

Moreover, in a communism, there is a clear distinction between the rulers and the ruled. Hence it can be safely said stratification is apart and parcel of the society. In India, gender plays a major role in defining the social standing of a person. Typically male assert dominance over females. They have more freedom, social status and mobility than the females of the same class. In the rest of the world as well, women were not considered efficient enough to vote or to carry out any kind of profession until post world war 2 and the suffragette movement. It is only in the present times that women are developing as much as and even more than the men. IQ (Intelligence Quotient) also plays a major role as it decides the education and hence the entire life of a person. People with intellectual capacity are considered to be higher in status than those doing manual labour. They are even paid more usually. Wealth and possessions play a major role as well. As Marx has pointed out, in India too there exists a capitalist class which possesses majority of wealth but is the smallest in number and a proletariat class which does not possess much capital and are largest in number. The 10% of Indians possess 90% of the wealth. According to statistics, the 1% of the richest in UK possessed 21% of the total wealth and the top 5% possessed 40%.The champagne glass diagram shows us how the top 20% of the world possess 82.7% of the world income. This displays the existing deep inequality because of wealth. However, the needed class consciousness for a revolution is absent. Also the legitimating ideology and fake promises have been keeping the proletariats from revolting. Many such factors like wealth affect the people of India; however none of them takes precedence over caste discrimination.

In our nation even the poor of the higher caste always take prominence over the rich of the lower class. This is because people, especially in rural areas, are always judged according to their caste regardless of their prosperity. Once a child is born, he is born into a certain caste. Afterwards he is started to be labelled according to that. His environment, rewards, behavior  education, social interaction, etc. starts being depended upon the caste he is born in. For e.g. If a boy is born in a Brahmin family, he will enjoy the highest status in life. There will be no restrictions on his activities, mobility or choice of profession. Moreover, being a Brahmin boy he will be entitled to receive the best education and hence the best job with the largest amount of wealth and possessions. However, a Dalit woman will have no mobility or freedom of choice. She will not be seen fit enough to study in the decent institutions side by side the Brahmins. Examples of these are seen all over India. Like- A man’s hand was cut off just because he drank some water from a Brahmins pitcher and a girl’s body parts, like nose, an ear and a part of her hand, were cut off because she was resisting rape in Uttar Pradesh. Here you can see that even in the present times, the stereotyping continues to haunt the people of our nation. However this type of inequality is seen majorly in states like Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Assam and other states of north east India which are slightly more rural and backward than the other states.

Weber’s theory of stratification because of status and party can also be vividly found in India. In India, the products with a snob value have a huge demand as they are deemed to display the social standing of a person. A person’s certain styles of living (houses, dress, manner of speech and occupation) defines his/her part in the society. The stylish and snobbish are considered to be at the top and the “uncivilized” and the anti-social at the bottom. Similarly, party, which means a group of people with common backgrounds, aims or interests working together, affects ones social standing. The party or group which you were with defines yourself and also the kind of job you do and hence the wealth you possess, hence it defines your social position as well. However this type of stratification is found more in urban areas than in rural. Classification according to the possession of capital is also greatly found in the urban cities. In circumstances like this, upward social mobility becomes difficult and the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ keeps increasing. The “haves” being those in possession of the majority of wealth and the “Haves not” being those with none at all. However, upward mobility is possible and happens quite often.

Stratification is not just about being rich and poor. Besides wealth and the forms mentioned before, stratification can occur in other aspects too. One of them is sexual preferences. People with any other sexual preference other than heterosexuality are considered to be unnatural and hence not at par with others. Religion is another aspect which affects a person’s social standing. However, it depends from region to region in India. For e.g., in a state like Rajasthan where there are a majority of Hindus, the Muslims may hold a lower standing, and Vice Versa. Hence stratification can be according to many attributes. In western countries, stratification is majorly because of wealth and possessions. Their rewards, opportunities and lifestyles depend on it. The rich will always have a more convenient lifestyle as they can get through difficult circumstances because of money. Hence the poor revolted against this in the Occupy Wall Street movement in America. Racism has been prevalent in foreign countries since a long time and it is only recently that it has been abolished in many countries. Racism distinctly creates a hierarchy in the society constituting an upper class and another lower class. The lower class is excluded from the whole society and is not considered to have any rights of its own.

 Social exclusion refers to the ways in which individuals become cut off from full involvement in the wider society. Social stratification usually includes the following levels- upper class, upper middle class, lower middle class, lower class and under class. The underclass, in every form of socialization, is excluded from the normal society. The underclass is formed because of many forms of stratification. For e.g., In India, the Dalits are excluded from the labour market, services and also social interactions. The companies, schools, etc. are always hesitant to provide admission to Dalits. The caste system is embedded in their heads. Having left with no other choice they are compelled to take up odd and horrendous jobs like taking out trash, cleaning human excreta, etc. the Dalits stay poor their entire life. They hence cannot avail of the services which other people can, excluding them from utilizing services. As I have mentioned earlier, the Dalits are subjected to harsh punishments if they attempt to even access Brahmin goods. Thus their interaction with the rest of the world becomes impossible. This excludes them from social interaction as a whole. Wealth also determines an underclass which is excluded from the society. Being poor, they do not have access to the labour markets, services and hence any social interaction. Another example of social exclusion is slavery. In a slavery system, the slaves are not considered to be humans and are subjected to inhumane conditions and torture. They also lose access to the afore mentioned things. Social exclusion hence amplifies inequality by creating a class with higher esteem and a class with no esteem at all. It justifies the assertion of dominance and cruelty from one class over another thus encouraging inequality.

 

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In India people are excluded because of geographical reasons as well, making law and healthcare inaccessible for them. Thus the people leaving in remote areas of Jammu and Kashmir or north east India cannot access education and other facilities as well as people residing in metropolitans can. The judges, police and other authorities given the responsibility of delivering justice often do not consider the Dalits worthy enough to receive it. Those who are financially deprived lack the resources to attain these things. Other socially excluded categories are also excluded from the society and fail to achieve justice. Thus the social exclusion deprives them of justice as well. A distinct inequality is seen in the society which divides those who have everything in excess and those who don’t have anything at all.

[highlight]Thus I support the statement that stratification is natural and therefore inevitable. The existence of an individual in one or the other social class is bound to happen. The class system is formed as a cause of many factors and not just the possession of wealth. People do not share the common characteristic of wealth only but many different things, some of which are discussed above. The class system creates an underclass which is excluded from the society. Their access to the society is limited. Thus it amplifies the effect of social exclusion and deepens inequality.[/highlight]