Compare and Contrast Functionalist and Marxist Theories of Stratification.

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Compare and Contrast

Functionalist and Marxist Theories of Stratification

Stratification is the separation of society into layers which are distinguished by unequal rewards and life chances and many systems of stratification have been based on slavery, caste and feudalism.

Slavery, being the oldest and most extreme form of stratification, involves the enslavement or ownership of others. This ownership came about as a result of conquest, trade, kidnapping, hereditary status or the repayment of a debt. The classic example of the caste system is based on the Hindu religion, where caste codes have to be obeyed before being reborn into a new, higher caste. Feudalism stems from medieval Europe where the ranking system of status groups, known as estates, became dominant. The system was closely related to property and political power with landownership being the key.

Though gender and ethnicity have become increasingly important in recent years, social class is probably the most important form of stratification and is not seen as natural or interchangeable, but as being influenced by historical developments.

One of the most important things about social stratification is that status is passed from the head of the family to their spouse or children. This means that age, sex and personality are not forms of social stratification as they are not dependent on family background. The direct passing on of status would be an inherited title, position, wealth or power, with indirect examples being the advantages to children because of their family background. These could include language, education or occupation.

The functionalist perspective is rooted in the work of Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) and gives the view of society as an organism in which each part functions in a certain way to ensure the stability of the whole. Though society is something which exists on its own it has...