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Social inequality—or social stratification—is defined as the unequal availability of opportunities and chances for people of different social class memberships. The aforementioned term, despite its negative connotation, is actually an inevitable driving force of an economic society.
As best put by Kingsley Davis and Wilbert E. Moore in Some Principles of Stratification, “the main functional necessity explaining the universal presence of stratification is precisely the requirement faced by any society of placing and motivating individuals in the social structure.” Simply, these sociologists believe stratification is not only advised, but a “requirement.” Davis and Moore’s functionalistic paradigm of social inequality is justified by their firm beliefs that this inequality categorizes and motivates individuals in a society (Davis and Moore, 1945).
They also discuss the dysfunctions of stratification. They stated, “Social stratification systems function to provide the elite with the political power necessary to procure acceptance and dominance of an ideology which rationalizes the status quo, whatever it may be, as “logical,” “natural,” and “morally right.” Similarly, they declared that social stratification systems may function to, “encourage hostility, suspicion, and distrust among the various segments of a society and thus to limit the possibilities of extensive social integration.”
Here, the two sociologists explain that when the elite have too much power, they will essentially be able to control and declare the “norm” of society. On top of this, they mention how stratification may induce hostility among the different classes of society. This is where the discussion of the modern-day U.S.’s stratification comes into play.
As depicted in the renowned documentary Inequality for All, the American class system has a serious widening inequality gap. In it, revered economist and professor Robert Reich explains how financial gains in the recent thirty years have concentrated at the top of the economic ladder.
This situation can be accurately shown by the statistical fact that the top 1% of affluent Americans owns more wealth than the bottom 150 million. Reich expresses his concern with this situation and shifts the attention to the victimized middle class. He states that the economic slump that the U.S. is currently in is due to the extreme case of stratification in which the 1% is taking in majority of the income while the middle class is at a deficit of purchasing power and a deprivation of their rightful American Dreams (Kornbluth, Dungan, 2013). Since the financial elite of the U.S. is so blatantly dominating the economic sector, there is strife between the classes; this is inherently the cause of the so-called “dying” of the American dream, or the slowing down of social mobility.
The top financially situated individuals of society are blaming the lower class and immigrants for the staggering economy. Consequently, the middle class is distracted of the true root of the wage gap while the elite of society are free to continue making copious amounts of money at the cost of the middle and lower classes. This phenomenon is statistically seen through the ridiculous growth of the upper class juxtaposed to the slow increase of the middle class.
Overall, the American class system categorizes its people based on the socioeconomic conditions. With an acute degree of social stratification, the upper class holds the reigns to economic dominance and the income gap. This makes it extremely difficult for the middle or lower class to move up in the system with hard work alone, throwing off the entire concept of the American Dream.
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