Some important facts on Weberian Approach of Stratification

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1. Weber differs from Marx in not regarding the economy as sole basis for stratification. He says that status based on social honour and parties based on power are also distinct dimensions of stratification.

2. Like Marx, Weber defines class as an economic category and he agrees with Marx that property or lack of it is the basic determinants of class positions. He says that having property gives a group of individual’s specific life chances in the market and they constitute a class.

The class of property owners can have a good quality of life because they have the chance to obtain high value goods and services in the market. They can have not only material goods such as a house, T.V. and car but also better services such as education, health, long life, etc.

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This gives them an advantage over the properties and Weber refers to this when he says that a class depends on life chances in the market. In giving this definition he differs from Marx because within the class of property owners those own land (renters) will have different life-chances from those who own machine (Entrepreneurs).

So, Weber distinguished two classes among those who do not own property. He distinguished several classes on the basis of life chances in the market according to kind of service rendered. Different services have different values in society and their market ability will lead to different life chances e.g., the service of professional will have a different market ability from that of white collar workers and these white collar workers will have different market ability from manual labour and even manual workers will differ according to market ability between those who are unskilled and those who are skilled. These differences in life chances led to the formation of different classes compared to the Marxist two class model of society.

3. Weber’s definition of class is an agreement with the Marxist objective definition of class. But Weber emphasized that classes are not communities and so need not be subjectively conscious of their interest and organised for class struggle. He said that the same objective class situation may produce many different kinds of class action, e.g., there may be only grumbling of workers or there may be an agitation or there may be strikes or there may be a class struggle to overthrow the dominant class.

The last of three class actions will come out only when the following conditions are made.

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There must be concentration of workers and easy communication between them. The contrast between them and the dominant class must be clearly visible. The workers must realise that their position is not the natural and inevitable result and that there are certain intellectuals who are ready to take up the cause of workers and to organise them. Thus Weber, in contrast to, Marx made it clear that class consciousness and political organisation need certain condition and cannot be regarded as a logical development of objective situation.

4. Weber said that while classes are not communities, status groups define on the basis of a positive or negative evolution of owner. Communities, status groups are always conscious of the style of life which distinguishes them from others and so they act by restricting social contact and marriage with other groups. Occupational groups and religious groups may be given as examples of status groups but castes in India are the best such example.

Classes are based on differences of ritual status and interaction and marriage are restricted on the basis of ritual rules of purity and pollution. Each caste has its own style of life which it wants to preserve from other castes by not allowing them to takes over its occupation to take food and drink from it and by having severe punishments and disabilities

5. State groups are linked to classes to the extent that property is necessary to maintain for style of life. But this may not be necessary so. Property is not always a status qualification e.g., in the case of newly rich (Nouveau Riche) but in the long run property may gives status to those whose life style has been fully adopted.

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The newly rich may be accepted in a high statue group, after two or three generations the opposition between the pretension of property and this status has important consequences for the class structure.

Classes are always divided into different status groups and this prevents the formation of class consciousness and class solidarity status groups monopolies certain goods and services and prevent the full exchange of market. They thus contain the market and restrict the power of the property classes.

Weber says that status groups depend on consumption of goods and services while classes depend on the production of goods and services and so the way in which goods and services are used by status group has important consequences for the class structure. Weber adds that when the basis for the production of the goods and services are stable, stratification by status groups becomes important but the transformation in the techniques of production makes classes more important.

6. Parties. Parties are defined by their ability to exercise power and to influence the decision making in this definition are included not only political parties, but also professional association, Trade unions, Kisan sabhas, Panchayats, etc. since all these are concerned with power.

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Weber says that parties can be made up of either classes or status groups more frequently both classes and status groups e.g. in India political parties such as the DMK and the Republican Party consisted almost entirely of single status group, from the non Brahmin caste in the case of DMK and the scheduled caste in the case of Republican Party. Similarly trade unions and Kisan Sabhas are consisting almost entirely of the class of workers and peasants. Parties like the Congress, are example of combinations of both classes and status groups.

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