Topic 3. Social stratification and social class.
1. Social stratification.
Today,stratification, a system by which society ranks its members in a hierarchy, is the norm throughout the world. All societies stratify their members. A stratifiedsociety is one in which there is an unequal distribution of society’s rewards and in which people are arranged hierarchically into layers according to how much of society’s rewards they possess. Historical Stratification Systems
Slavery is a system of stratification in which one person owns another, as he or she would own property, and exploits the slave’s labor for economic gain. Slaves are one of the lowest categories in any stratification system, as they possess virtually no power or wealth of their own. Slavery’s Global History
Many Americans view slavery as a phenomenon that began with the colonization of the New World and ended with the Civil War, but slavery has existed for a very long time. Slavery appears in the Old Testament of the Bible, as well as in the Qur’an. It was common practice in ancient Greece and Rome . The Causes of Slavery
A common assumption about slavery is that it is generally based on racism. Though racism was the primary cause of slavery in the United States, it was not the main reason that people in other areas were enslaved. Reasons for slavery include debt, crime, war, and beliefs of inherent superiority. Debt: Individuals who could not pay their way out of debt sometimes had to literally sell themselves. If a slave’s debt was not paid off before his or her death, the debt was often passed down to his or her children, enslaving several generations of the same family. Crime: Families against whom a crime had been committed might enslave members of the perpetrator’s family as compensation. Prisoners of war: Slaves were often taken during wartime, or when a new territory was being invaded. When Rome was colonizing much of the known world approximately 2,000 years ago, it routinely took slaves from the lands it conquered. Beliefs of inherent superiority: Some people believe that they have a right to enslave those who they believe are inherently inferior to them. Slavery in the United States
Slavery in the United States was unique for several reasons. First, it had a fairly equal male-to-female ratio. Slaves also lived longer than in other regions. They often reproduced, and their children were born into slavery. In other countries, slavery was not permanent or hereditary. Once slaves paid off their debts, they were set free. In the United States, slaves were rarely freed before the Civil War. The Estate System
An ancient stratification system that no longer exists today was the estate system, a three-tiered system composed of the nobility, the clergy, and the commoners. During the Middle Ages, much of Europe was organized under this system. Nobility
Members of the nobility had great inherited wealth and did little or no discernible work. They occupied themselves in what we would term leisure pursuits, such as hunting or riding. Others cultivated interests in cultural pursuits, such as art and music. To ensure that their inherited wealth passed smoothly from one generation to the next without being dispersed to members of the extended family, the nobility of the Middle Ages practiced the law of primogeniture. The word primogeniture comes from Latin and means “first born.” The nobility’s law of primogeniture stipulated that only a first-born son could inherit his father’s wealth. Members of this stratum developed an ideology to justify their privileged positions, the divine right of kings, which posited that the authority of the king comes directly from God. The king delegated authority to the nobles. Because the king and the nobles were God’s representatives, they had to be obeyed. Clergy
The eldest son was guaranteed a healthy income upon the death of his father, but other sons had to find their own means of income. Few, if any, were trained for...
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