Social Stratification

Subject: Sociology

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Stratification is horizontal division of society into higher and lower social units. It is the division of society into permanent groups or categories linked with each other by the relationship of superiority and subordination. Social stratification is mostly based on class, caste, ethnicity, economy, and gender.
Social Stratification

A social stratification is a particular form of social inequality and hierarchy. It refers to the presence of social groups which are ranked one above the other, usually in terms of degree of power, prestige and property that the members of any groups possess. Generally, the power and the prestige are unequally distributed between individual and social groups in many societies. There are also marked differences in the distribution of property that is wealth. Power refers to the degree to which individual and the group can impose their will on others, with or without their consent. Prestige relates to the degree of esteem or owner associated with the social position, status, and qualities of an individual and style of living. Property refers to the material possession one define as valuable in a particular society. Besides, there can be social stratification between the sex groups, age groups, caste groups, occupational groups, class groups and so on.


  • Social stratification is a universal nature.
  • Social stratification can be achieved and ascribed both.
  • Stratification can be made horizontally or vertically.
  • Social stratification is based on caste, class, gender, ethnicity, role and status.
  • Social stratification may accommodate the principle of co-existence or it can be conflict based.

Dimension of Social Stratification

Social Class

Class is the social structural position where groups or individual hold relation to the economic, social, religious and cultural resources of the society. Those who possess the higher resources come to be in higher class and those who does not possess come to be in lower class. The class of group or an individual influences the accessibility to the equality education, health status, quality of food, recreation, life changes etc so the possession of resources differs a class to the next. The existence of a class has to see the level and nature of an individual’s participation, powerful position and decision-making process. A class is, therefore, a social character. It has an impact on aspect of social, economic and political development and change.

  • Upper class based on the ownership of the property is the means of production
  • Middle also based on the possession of educational or technical qualification
  • Lower class based on the possession of manual labor power


In Hindu society caste rank is hereditary and link to the occupations persuade. Caste also tends to be endogamous and the boundaries and differences in rank between castes are expressed and maintained by restrictions on commensal relations and intermarriage. The caste system is that kind of social hierarchy based on genetic characteristics in which the members of one group are different from the members of others regarding race, face, structure and so on. In the late Vedic societies, four Varna were defined to show the caste hierarchy. The division was mostly based on a division of labor and occupation. The caste ranking was illustrated as Brahmin on the top and Chhetriyas, Vaishyas and Sudras respectively. The caste system is so rigid and hereditary that one cannot change it throughout the life and need to remain in the same status ladder in which they get birth. People received the caste status as ascribed status in the society.


An ethnic group is a social division of a group of people who shares a common culture, language, norms and values, traditions, religion, custom and even occupation. Each ethnic group has a common consciousness towards their culture and existence. Any ethnic group claims themselves as a special different group from other ethnic groups in terms of cultural features. So, if there is ethnic diversity in our nation there will be automatically diversity in culture, traditions, language, feasts, and festivals etc. The term ethnicity is coined in contradiction to race since members of an ethnic group may be identifiable in terms of racial attributes, they may also share other cultural characteristics such as religion, occupation, language or politics. Ethnic groups could also be distinguished from social classes since membership generally cross-cuts the socio-economic stratification within society. An encompassing individual who shares a common characteristic that supersedes class.


A man is not only a social animal but also an economic being. A man carries up various economic activities to fulfill his needs and desires. The economic activities vary in various societies and ages as well. These economic activities are so multifaced, varied and complex that they constitute what is known as an economy. In a simple society, the problem of distribution is simply because the society is usually self-supportive. The family satisfies its need almost itself directly from nature but in a complex modern society, goods passed through many hands until they reach the consumers. The more complex the society is, the more its welfare depends on the distributive system. In the meantime, various economic activities exist within such as production, distribution, exchange, and consumption. In this process, various means of economic production are used by different stakeholders. Economic scarification refers to the conditions within the society where social class is separated or stratified along economic lines. Various economic strata or levels are clearly manifest.


Generally, people do have confusion on gender and sex. Gender is a social role of male and female in the society whereas sex is biologically determined. So, gender is socio-culturally constructed. The primary and secondary role of male and female identify gender whereas primary and secondary sex organs and character identify the sex of an individual. Gender refers to the social, cultural and psychological traits linked to male and female through particular social context. Gender roles are determined to individual either male or female through the process of socialization that one learns to be male or female. So, gender roles are the task and activities that a culture assigns to the sexes. It has been used to refer the social, cultural and psychological patterning of differences between males and females. So, far as gender stratification is concerned, it is the male domination to the female in relating to social, cultural, biological, religious and many more aspects of everyday life.

Differences between Gender and Sex

  • Gender is the social role of male and female whereas sex is a biological determination of male and female.
  • Gender is achieved whereas sex is ascribed.
  • Gender roles differ in different societies but sex roles are same in society.
  • The process of socialization and the culture are the major tools of gender roles but reproductive organs and physiology are the major tools of sex.


Khatri, Prem Kumar, Elementary Sociology and Anthropology XI, Bhundipuran Prakashan, Kathmandu

Sharma, Kamal Raj, Introduction to Sociology and Anthropology inNepal-XI, Sunrise Prakashan Pvt. Ltd., Kathmandu

Sitaula, Mohan Kumar, Introduction to Sociology and Anthropology-XI, Ekta Books and Distributors, Kathmandu

Things to remember
  1. The process by which individual and groups are ranked in more or less enduring hierarchy of status is known as stratification.
  2. A social class is the aggregate of individual who have same opportunities of acquiring goods, the same exhibited standard of living.
  3. An ethnic group is a distinct category of the population in a larger society whose culture usually differs from other.
  4. Patriarchy is the institutionalized domination of woman by a man.
  • It includes every relationship which established among the people.
  • There can be more than one community in a society. Community smaller than society.
  • It is a network of social relationships which cannot see or touched.
  • common interests and common objectives are not necessary for society.

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