THE ECOLOGY OF SOCIAL STRATIFICATION Topics covered in this lecture: 1) What is stratification?

2) What are the main ecological explanations for stratification? 3) Illustrative examples: Pomo Indian trade feasts; role of irrigation in state formation

What is Stratification? Stratification can be defined various ways, but most commonly refers to institutionalized inequalities in power, wealth, and status betweencategories of persons within a single social system (e.g., classes, castes, ethnic groups) Status inequalities between individuals are found everywhere, so how much inequality does it take to qualify as a stratified society? On one hand, inequalities based on personal qualities (charisma, economic or social skills, etc.) do not constitute stratification, since they aren't defined by membership in a particular category So, if in a hunting band the best hunter or the healer/shaman is held in high regard and has preferential access to some resources, this ain't social stratification On other hand, all human societies known to date exhibit institutionalized inequalities based on age, and most (all?) have gender-based inequalities as well; so by the general definition given above, all known human societies are stratified But most students of social stratification are interested in differences between categories of persons other than ageclasses or genders -- i.e., they treat inequalities based strictly on age and gender in separate categories Thus, its common to see some societies classified as "egalitarian" even though they may be patriarchal gerontocracies (e.g., some Australian aborigines, many pastoralist groups), where the elder males have considerably more power and control substantially more wealth than do others (women, younger men) in the society Social scientists disagree about "intermediate" cases such as chiefdoms (e.g., NW Coast Indians, various Polynesian societies) -- are they stratified, or merely "ranked"? By narrower definition, where stratification is defined by socioeconomic class, "stratified society" is essentially limited to nation-states States have some additional characteristics besides socioeconomic stratification: 1. Centralized and hierarchical/bureaucratic political organization 2. Highly codified legal system of decision-making and enforcement 3. Governmental monopoly on use of lethal force (police, armies) 4. System of economic expropriation (taxation) and redistribution 5. Dense population 6. Large scale (population generally well over 100,000) 7. Complex economic division of labor (occupational specialization) Even by narrow definition, all people are now incorporated into stratified societies (nation-states), though even 100 yrs ago there were many autonomous small-scale societies (e.g., Amazonian Indians, highland New Guinea, Borneo, central Arctic Inuit), and 5,000 yrs ago states were virtually nonexistent

it is clear that it is a relatively recent development (e.) and give up some freedom. etc. as revealed through study of grave goods. various public works (e. cases of "pristine" state formation) What drives egalitarian societies towards stratification? Are there ecological explanations? It is not simply subsistence mode. labor. respectively Functional theories focus on benefits to all parties.g. stratification involves a massive transformation of socioeconomic systems.not confined to ecological analyses of stratification) These 2 views give diametrically opposite interpretations of most aspects of social stratification (see Table) Functionalist Theories Functionalists see rise of state systems as driven by reciprocity.. only with stratification do we find the socioeconomic integration of large regions embracing millions of people. conflict theories argue that elites benefit at expense of commoners (Note: These divisions run very deep in social science -. stratified systems tend to expand at expense of egalitarian systems. in contrast. public buildings) . but this cannot explain origins of first stratified systems (i. evidence suggests that in most cases writing was first developed in order to carry out two specific functions of stratified societies: maintain tax records. since some foragers are less egalitarian than many agricultural and most pastoralist societies Attempts to explain cultural evolution of social stratification in ecological terms generally rely on one or another of two basic approaches: 1.Though arising relatively late in human history. Stratification = system by which one class extracts resources from another These two approaches often termed functional and conflict theories.. Stratification = solution to an ecological problem 2. centralized rule is a bargain that benefits everyone: citizens pay taxes (share of crops. this shift from local resource utilization and self-sufficiency to production for regional markets seems to be associated with increased resource depletion and ecological instability (an issue we return to later in the course) Causes of Stratification Understanding origins of stratification is difficult. with profound ecological consequences For example..e. irrigation. and in return the state provides public order. and historical record of state expansion and conquest of more egalitarian societies) Once they arise. military security. a "social contract" (as Hobbes argued over 300 yrs ago) In this view.g. highways. and record genealogies and histories of hereditary rulers) Although there is much that we don't know about origins of stratification. in part because we are virtually limited to archaeological record for direct evidence on the process Reason for this is that written records only emerge with stratification (in fact.

extracting surplus from commoners by various means: ideological control (patriotism. larger social unit ( army).). for example. rather than many small ships Circumscription refers to environmental or economic heterogeneity that imposes very high costs for leaving an area (for example. surplus production to support military and administrative specialists bigger Conflict Theories In contrast.Conflict theorists (of whom the most famous/influential is Marx) see states as essentially exploitative. individuals voluntarily sacrifice some freedoms in order to obtain benefits of safety & domestic order 2) Redistribution: ruling elites as (benevolent?) economic administrators who manage redistribution networks that buffer disparities in resources due to environmental & socioeconomic fluctuations or heterogeneity 3) Military defense: effective defense from enemies favors hierarchical organization. conflict theories see stratification as driven by resource competition. primary cause) responsible for development of stratification As table shows. and ethnocentric (they position modern states as proper culmination of last 40. size of factory. etc. etc. and arising only when masses must submit to dominance & exploitation. elites are seen as providing managerial benefits. or else face starvation and repression Functional theories emphasize mutualistic relations between elites and commoners. functionalists point to benefits obtained through stratification: 1) Conflict reduction (state as police force to prevent anarchy. primarily benefiting ruling elites. using a few large ships to carry out trade between islands. and social prerequisites) differ between functional & conflict theories of stratification On one hand. and (if necessary) force What about more specific scenarios of the development of stratification? Older theories (popular in 19th century) viewed social stratification as a manifestation of the general "progress" & increase in complexity characteristic of sociocultural evolution Modern scholars dismiss these arguments as teleological (societies don't have any automatic tendency to become more complex). a river floodplain with rich. theocracy. many social theorists sought to isolate a "prime mover" (key variable. favored prime movers (and associated ecological. and the commoners' part of the bargain is to produce the surplus necessary to adequately reward these services Conflict theories by contrast see elites as parasitic.). well-watered soil surrounded by desert) . quell the Hobbesian "warre" of all against all): in this view. monopoly on technical knowledge. convincing conflict theories must explain why competition leads to stratification in some instances and not in others One influential argument (Carneiro. with elites establishing themselves whenever ecological and socioeconomic conditions permit: Since resource competition of some form is ubiquitous. and call it the cause). Boone) proposes a combination of 1) economies of scale and 2) environmental circumscription Economy of scale refers to situations where per-capita economic efficiency is greater at larger scales (number of people cooperating. area under production.000 yrs of human history) Following the discrediting of these "social progress" explanations. economic. tautological(they simple re-label what needs to be explained.

oak groves--abundant acorns & game) 3) Clear Lake area (fish. it also fits areas that were on threshold of state formation prior to European colonization (NW Coast. supported a number of craft specialists. had control over public storehouse with foodstuffs and other goods. waterfowl. Egypt. functional role of elites in managing economic redistribution Pomo Indians were the indigenous inhabints of an extensive area of northern coastal Calif (currently = Sonoma & Mendocino Counties) This area stretched from ocean to interior over coast range.most favorable) Prior to European colonial intrusion. Shang/central China. population growth intensified resource competition development of incipient hierarchical social organization within local groups for more effective competition. military service.) from other members of society In the typical scenario. salmon runs. coastal Peru. usually find that the rigid dichotomy between functional and conflict theories does not hold up very well. but least favorable habitat for human subsistence) 2) interior valleys (grassy. or occupied by other groups unwilling to allow immigration This scenario fits the 6 accepted cases of "pristine" (independent) state development: Mesopotamia. -. Valley of Mexico. nor does one factor usually emerge as a "prime mover" (unitary cause) Example 1: Pomo Trade Feast illustrates incipient stratification. but in addition seems to fit some areas lacking stratification Technological complexity provides an alternative reason elites are able to control means of production & extract surplus from producers. covering 3 zones: 1) coastline & redwood forest (marine foods. Indus Valley. and was assisted by various administrative assistants and ceremonial leaders (many of these being close kinsmen of chief) Position of chief was not strictly inherited. all river valleys or basins ringed by arid land and/or mountains. etc. these usually linked tribelets occupying different environmental zones (and hence enjoying complementary sets of resources) As was typical throughout Native California. labor. etc.Given severe circumscription (or really any situation of extreme environmental heterogeneity). but tended to be monopolized by a few family lines who constituted local aristocracy . much game. and this is central to Marx & Engels' model of the emergence of stratification (see "hydraulic hypothesis" below) Examples When we examine specific instances of stratification. Pomo were divided into at least 34 politically autonomous groups (termed "tribelets") of a few hundred members each Because of environmental diversity just noted. as well as seasonality of some resources. roots. each Pomo tribelet was headed by a chief who lived in main village in largest house. adjacent tribelets often had access to very different sets of resources When an abundance of a particular resource was harvested in any one tribelet's area. permanent stratification occurs when one segment able to effectively control access to resources. etc. and use this control to extract value (in form of taxes. a trade feast was held. parts of Polynesia.). there's a higher chance that a segment of society can monopolize or dominate access to resources. and subordinates cannot afford to emigrate because surrounding area much poorer in resources (circumscription).

exchange of shell money for surplus foods took place. Hydraulic hypothesis of state emergence illustrates more intensive form of social stratification This scenario propounded by Karl Wittfogel (historian) & Julian Steward (ecological anthropologist). and sent out a runner to a tribelet chosen to be guests Guest chief decided whether to accept invitation. topography. thus creating or reinforcing political and socioeconomic inequalities (if not true class stratification) Example 2. trade feasts resulted in reducing disparity of resources between tribelets. but rather fluctuated according to supply and demand At conclusion of Trade Feast.Power of chief did not come from force or divine sanction -.g. andreducing wealth diffs. guest chief redistributed food in equal shares to each of his tribelet's households. and based on estimated amount of surplus food to be traded. the monopolizable resource (and environmental circumscription) here is anthropogenic -. within guest tribelets (except chief). soil. string of 100 beads = 5 salmon). supervised by host chief and his assistants. social and ceremonial activities Meanwhile.though of course there are environmental prerequisites (distribution of water. this exchange rate was not fixed. etc. diplomatic. and guest chief presented shell money to host chief There followed several days of feasting. it appears to have had functional (adaptive) value for all parties Trade feasts also served as a prominent venue for chiefs to demonstrate their administrative & diplomatic skills.) that make irrigation system more or less feasible and productive Proponents of hydraulic hypothesis cite existence of waterworks in each of 6 earliest states in support of the hypothesis . thus. allowing members of a tribelet (when playing the host role) to "bank" excess food resources by converting them into durable wealth. and ceremonial life of his group Trade Feast exemplifies how this worked Chief decided when to call a feast. and if so sent word to all households of his tribelet that they should send him shell money Guest villagers & chief then journeyed to host village on appointed date.. host chief and advisers counted up shell money. he kept some of the food as "fee" for his administrative labors Note that because of rules governing exchange of beads for food. established exchange value (e.but rather from his control over economic.the irrigation system itself -. and to accumulate wealth in payment for this.he had neither -. who posited that large-scale irrigation requires centralized co-ordination & direction growth of administrative bureaucracy that lives off of agricultural surplus taxed from the producing (peasant) class Thus. any shell money left over at end was appropriated by host chief for public coffers Finally. but increasing it within host tribelet (though keep in mind that every tribelet got to play both roles over the years) It appears that wealthier families were motivated to contribute a disproportionate share of shell beads because of the increased prestige for doing so (somewhat akin to charity galas attended by members of socioeconomic elite in modern states) Trade feast also functioned to redistribute resource surpluses.

critics of the hypothesis cite a) existence of irrigation networks before rise of states in some cases. Stratification affects virtually every aspect of an individual¶s life. Indeed. positive feedback ensued and both increased thru mutual reinforcement Conclusions In evaluating alternative views on stratification. Feminists point out that for decades social mobility and related subjects were studied by reference to the occupation of the head of the household. This chapter examines the origin. making women almost invisible to mobility researchers -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------CHAPTER OVERVIEW Inequality. and inequality profoundly affects one¶s life chances. Inequality is not a naturally occurring phenomenon. societies. stratification associated with massive increase in rate of resource extraction (reflected in rapid & sustained population growth) so in Darwinian terms appears to be "beneficial" to masses -. it is socially induced by a social selective process that values some things over others. draw three conclusions: 1) Many.but perhaps even more so to ruling elites. Movement from one class²or more usually status group²to another. and perpetuation of social stratification. cases of stratification reveal complex mix of prerequisites and causal factors (some environmental. Types of societies and social differentiation. is found in most. it creates inequality.However. Their opponents point out that a change of occupation is not necessarily a change of class: and that there is no longterm upward trend in the proportion of the population who are in higher-class jobs. some sociocultural) 2) Whatever its causes. if not all. and inequality in the United States are major topics of discussion. a result of the unequal distribution of scarce resources. ³The Consequences of Income Inequality. The introductory issue in this chapter. perhaps most. There has been extensive and detailed study of social mobility both between generations and within individuals' careers.g. most scholars agree than once both hierarchy & irrigation were present. Sources of power in a class system. The chapter concludes by examining social mobility in the United States from structural . Thus there can be more µupward¶ than µdownward¶ mobility despite the laws of arithmetic. b) existence of states before irrigation in others.. Hohokam culture of prehistoric SW) Nevertheless. it could be argued that there never could be net upward mobility. are identified and investigated.a topic we return to in last week of this course Social mobility. who pump off "surplus" to benefit themselves and their close kin 3) This increase in resource extraction and population ultimately has some serious environmental consequences -. and c) cases where irrigation systems never led to class stratification (e. Those who study mobility from occupations of one status to those of another typically note that the proportion of occupations which require formal qualifications and where work is physically light and done in a relatively pleasant environment is increasing at the expense of their opposites. The proportion of those who give orders to those who take them is likely to be stable. which is the variation of people based on selected social characteristics.´ examines the effects of race on patterns of poverty in the United States. theories of social stratification. a hierarchical ranking of people according to their wealth or prestige. in so far as class is defined in terms of hierarchy at work. causes.

The research of Lenski has shown that stratification increases as societies grow more complex and wealthy. c. The level of food supply increases²as well as the population. exists in many different types of cultures. Chapter 8 ‡ 71b. and severe stratification results. Social stratification is a hierarchical system of ranking people according to their wealth or prestige. terracing. for the first time in recent history. a. d. and fertilization. the system is fluid. extensive division of labor. 3. and classes of soldiers and merchants arise. There is little stratification. There is movement between classes. He has discerned five basic types of societies. SIMPLE HORTICULTURAL SOCIETIES: Farming is the primary occupation. SOCIAL STRATIFICATION: How people are ranked according to the scarce resources they control. enormous wealth. . the unequal distribution of scarce goods or resources. ADVANCED HORTICULTURAL SOCIETIES: Farming is still the focus. AGRARIAN SOCIETIES: Relatively sophisticated technology is developed. In an OPEN SYSTEM. Three scarce resources are sources of social rank in open systems of stratification: class. This system is very rigid. 1. HUNTING-AND-GATHERING SOCIETIES: These consist of fifty or fewer people who live on what they can find to eat. a. INDUSTRIAL SOCIETIES: Mass production technologies. A division of labor exists and. 2. There are two basic types of stratification in the world today. That is. and a much more elaborate stratification system are the hallmarks of this type of society. and power. Durkheim believed that division of labor created ORGANIC SOLIDARITY though mutual interdependence. In a CLOSED SYSTEM. a. b. b. A surplus of food and supplies allows some leisure time. Wealth and power become concentrated. INEQUALITY. social class or caste is ascribed at birth.characteristics of mobility and individual characteristics contributing to upward mobility. social rank is defined in terms of wealth and income. 4. e. Stratification is much more pronounced than in simple horticulture societies. the chances of lower-income groups to achieve a higher social position are diminishing. Rank is ascribed on the basis of religious or individual or family position. The data indicate that. a variety of goods are grown. status. SOCIAL DIFFERENTIATION: How people vary according to social characteristics. but includes more advanced techniques of irrigation. as wealth and status accumulate. c. a stratification system develops. the digging stick is the basic tool.

DOWNWARD MOBILITY: Movement to a lower rank. A higher social status has always been conferred on people on the basis of their wealth. years of education. INTRAGENERATIONAL MOBILITY: The change of people¶s class or status within their own lifetime experience. It appears that the . Inequality and life chances in the United States are examined by comparing occupations. Sociologists use the concept of socioeconomic status (SES) to assess status. such as the use of computers and robots 9. and medical care All indicate great disparity between the classes. UPWARD MOBILITY: The change to a higher rank. but during the 1980s Americans appeared to be uninterested in any governmental action to reduce inequality. b. SOCIAL MOBILITY.a. Individual characteristics and upward mobility have been studied by examining the influence of such factors as family background. grades in school. Chapter 8 ‡ 728. the power derived from wealth. housing and lifestyle. c. the rich continue to get richer while the poor continued to suffer. maintenance of a split labor market. occurs in a variety of ways: a. and attitudes. changing one¶s social position. 6. usually within an organization in which decisions are made to reach the group¶s goals. even though our society is predominantly a class system. as a result. basing the measure on a person¶s income. a. and occupation. d. advanced technology. d. 5. education. the distribution of income and wealth indicate great division. In examining inequality in the United States. and ³life chances´ to acquire wealth. SOCIAL STATUS is a function of the honor and prestige a person receives from others in the community. b. growth of urban areas d. POWER is about having authority and respect. SOCIAL CLASS is based on wealth. growth of large corporations b. education. usually measured by comparing the positions of parents and children. increased standard of living c. including: a. b. wherein some jobs afford upward mobility and others do not e. Distinctions between the wealthy and the worker (class consciousness) have been quite substantial in the past. 7. c. Structural characteristics of mobility in the United States indicate that mobility in this country is influenced by numerous factors. INTERGENERATIONAL MOBILITY: The movement between generations.

c. become the prevailing IDEOLOGY that refers to our ideas of society. they are said to have FALSE CONSCIOUSNESS. stratification is necessary for society to function. Marx thought that the proletariat class should rebel against the bourgeoisie. or his/her ideal world because the idea of equality and getting rid of poverty does sound very pleasing to the ear.most important determinant of class position in this country is family background. a. which exist in any society. because neither theory fully explains how stratification systems develop. ± These beliefs and perceptions. and no people who are barely struggling to live off of minimum wage jobs. Those who perform important social roles should receive large rewards. then all its members would be equal. when accepted by the masses. There would be no unemployment rate and everyone would have a decent place to live in. The text presents a synthesis of Spencer and Marx¶s ideas. He wanted to take away wea . Karl Marx believed that society was divided into two classes. and the bourgeoisie. This is the kind of world that Karl Marx thought the people of society should and could live in. ± Once a dominant group gets power. 10. not by the desires and needs of individuals. According to structural-functional theory. Inequality is created by the needs of the society. if they are aware of the fate of their own class. Conflict theory argues that inequality arises when one group acquires more resources than other groups. leaving no one out. the proletariat class. Definition of PRESTIGE : standing or estimation in the eyes of people : weight or credit in general opinion : commanding position in people's minds Karl Marx's View On Wealth Imagine a place where there are no homeless people. If society had an equal need for all types of work. No one would die of hunger and starvation and everyone would share all of the money they make with the rest of the population. He believed that distribution systems are different according to the different situations. with Spencer arguing for ³survival of the fittest´ and Marx arguing the opposing view that stratification would eventually create revolution. Why are societies stratified? This question has been debated by early sociologists. These two positions have influenced the present positions of the structuralfunctional and conflict theory. they are said to have CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS. He viewed the proletariat class as the working class who did not have any means of production of their own. One may think that this would be the perfect world. b. a group legitimates its power and makes it acceptable by appealing to the values of the masses. ± If the masses are influenced by elite ideology. The bourgeois was referred to the class that was made up of the owners of the means of social production. He wanted a fair amount of wealth distributed to everyone in the society.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful