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Functional Theory of Social Stratification

Basic assumption: Social inequality is universal, therefore inequality must help society survive

Aspects of Functionalism

Society must make certain that all roles are filled. Some roles are more important than others. Some roles must be filled by more qualified people. To motivate more qualified people, society must offer greater rewards.

Flaws of functionalism

Society does not provide equal access to education and jobs.


Rewards do not always reflect the social values of roles.

Conflict Theory of Social Stratification


Basic assumption: Social inequality results from the constant struggle for scare resources.

Aspects of Conflict Theory


From the struggle winners (elite class) and losers (lower class) emerge. By exploiting the lower class, the elite are able to maintain their dominance in society.

Flaws in Conflict Theory

Unequal rewards are based in part by differences in talents and skills.


Desire to improve and motivation to achieve play a role in mobility among the classes.