Assess whether the Weberian approach offers a more sophisticated framework than the functionalist perspective in understanding social stratification.

Essay by tinytinCollege, UndergraduateB, June 2008

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Sociology is a social sciences’ discipline with a history of less than 200 years. It examines the nature of human behavior and of human association as well as the resultant products of both. Since it is generally agreed that one of the fundamental problems in all societies is how to distribute resources, unequal distribution of resources which leads to social inequality and the formation of different social stratum, therefore, are of the main issues in sociology. In this essay, we will first examine what is meant by social stratification and its underlying principles. Then we will go on to examine two of the major approaches of social stratification: the Weberian approach and the functionalist perspective, and which of them provides a better explanation for social stratification.

Social stratification is “the hierarchical division of societies on the basis of a social characteristic. Social differences are stratified in societies when the relative possession or non-possession of a social characteristic such as wealth or status becomes the distributing principle for individuals within a system of unequal rewards.”

(Lawson, T. and Garrod, J. 1996, p. 263) In other words, social stratification is a hierarchical arrangement of people into categories of different ranks in a society.

There are four basic principles of social stratification. (Macionis, J.J. 1997, p.236) Firstly, social stratification not merely reflects the individual differences; it also reveals the characteristic of society. For instance, children with better family background will have a greater chance to achieve success in their works and enjoy a better livings than those of poor family, may not due to their abilities and talents.

Secondly, social stratification will pass down to the next generation. People are more likely to remain rich if his family is of wealthy class and vice versa. Although some individuals may experience upward or downward...