A Global Perspective by Joan Ferrante

Essay by kalyn.waltonCollege, Undergraduate April 2004

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Chapter 8 of Ferrante's Sociology: a Global Perspective, focuses on the idea of social stratification (division of people into ranked social classes). While the chapter discusses different stratification systems and how they affect these social classes have on people's lives, article19, in Sociological Footprints by Leonard Cargan and Jeanne Ballantine discuss the breakdown of class structure, as well as the consequences of it.

Social stratification is defined in the text as the system of classifying people into categories based on their social worth. The categories in which any given person is classified under can have a great affect on their life chances, meaning the social advantages they are given in life. These assigned categories are based on two types of criteria namely ascribed characteristics of a person (born attributes such as skin/ hair color), and achieved characteristics (acquired attributes such as level of education or occupation). These characteristics play a significant role in determining a person's value to society.

There are two types of stratification systems: a caste system and a class system. The difference between them is that a caste system ( aka closed system) is where people are classified based on uncontrollable traits, while a class system ( aka open system) is where people are classified based on their ability and achievements in society. While a caste system causes inequality in society based on race, sex, etc. the class system causes inequality in society based on merit, education, income, and other individual efforts.

Article 19, "Money and the World We Want" by Andrew Hacker, discussed class-based stratification systems, and the consequences of class structure. In the article, upper class is described as the people in society that carry the top income (an estimated number of wealthy households making up this tier in America is about thirty thousand).