Followings are the different perspectives on social stratification:-
The Marxist Approach:
Marx employs ownership and control over the means of production and relationship of social agents to the process of production as the criteria for social stratification. Marx also uses the concepts of strata and factions to indicate the lasting interests found in a class.
In a country like India, Marxists would identify the following classes: a) The bourgeoisie (to indicate mainly the industrial bourgeoisie) who own and control the means of production and appreciate surplus; b) the landlords who own or enjoy title over land, play little role in the production process but obtain a share of the produce for themselves; c) the workers (to indicate generally the industrial proletariat) who do not own or control the means of production but depend on their labouring capacity for their livelihood; d) the peasantry, distinguishable into diverse strata and possessing different extent of land and other means of production but who at the same time directly participate in the process of production. (The rich peasant is problematic class/strata in this class/category.
In some respects he is akin to the industrial bourgeoisie but in other respects to the peasant). This stratum is also inclusive of the rural proletariat made of landless workers and marginal peasantry who generally live off by working for others; and the e) Pettit bourgeoisie made of professionals, the traders and the craftsmen who are not directly involved in the production process but play a variegated set of roles in terms of extending services and imparting skills.
In fact even if a group held a number of objective characteristic akin to a class but which does not possess consciousness, to that extent it could not be considered as a class. Marx distinguished different members of a class.
First, members of a class who are least conscious of being members and whose practices, other than the economic, have little to do with their class position. Secondly, there is a class-in-itself.
Here, a class collectively pursues measures to better its lot in existing class structure by promoting its particular demands such as workers fighting for better wages. Thirdly, there is the class-for-itself. A class pursues its class interests without being intimidated by the prevailing class-structure.
One of the most important contributions in the understanding of social stratification from the Marxist perspective has been the work of Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Marxist theoretician. He asked the question how dominant classes continue to dominate over societies based primarily on class stratification. One of the concepts that he used to explain it was ‘hegemony’. It denotes not merely domination out leadership wherein the consent of the dominated is elicited through several ways.
The Weberian Approach:
While Marx based social stratification on class, Weber introduced a model of stratification based on class, status and power. He understood class very differently. For him a class is composed of people who have life chances in common as determined by their power to dispose of goods and skills for the sake of income.
The crucial aspect of class is its situation in the market. Class consciousness is not a requirement for making of a class. Status refers to the social ranking, honour and esteem that a group is held in. These are attributes attached to particular styles of life and groups are ranked as high or low accordingly. Ranking, styles and avocations in terms of status vary from one society to the other.
Therefore, while class is universalistic, status tends to be more particularistic. For example in India the cast system is a specific mode of expression of status. Ritual ranking attached to caste becomes one of the major factors of stratification.
Weber saw power as chance of a man or group to realize their will even against opposition of others. He thereby dispersed power across individual agents. This was very much unlike Marx who saw power primarily as a class-relation. At the same time Weber attributed the monopoly of coercive power to the state.
In this conception there was little place for intermediary institutions between the state and individual social agents. For Weber all the three forms of stratification. Class Status and Power may converge in terms of some social agents or they need no. Further, sometimes anyone of them could affect the other two or could be translated into the other.
They however, cannot be reduced to a single form. Weber also saw stratification in terms of two models: as criptive and achievement. Ascriptive stratification, be it class, status or power is based on inherited characteristics. Achievement is the successful attainment of the concerned individual or group.
The Functionalist Approach:
The functionalist approach to stratification is associated with such thinkers as Emile Durkheim, Kingsley Davis, Talcott Parsons and Robert K. Merton. Functionalists look at modern society as a complex of highly differentiated system of roles. Different men and women have to be persuaded to assume these roles. Stratification is based on role allocation. Roles set different goals for individuals and groups.
Functionalists see stratification as the mechanism through which society encourages men and women to seek to achieve the diverse positions necessary in a complex system.
The position require different skills and are endowed with different rewards. Through stratification motivation is provided to social agents to perform their roles. The status corresponding to the roles imparts recognition. Talcott Parsons has pointed out three sets of characteristics which are used as the basis of ranking.
(a) Possessions: i.e. those attribute that people own
(b) Qualities belonging to individuals including race, lineage or sex
(c) Performances: i.e. evaluation of the way roles are fulfilled
Different societies emphasise different characteristic: Feudal society stressed on ascribed qualities; a capitalist society values possessions and communist society on performance.
Functionalists feel that industrial society with its division of labour encourage only one set of values those involving individual success. It results in anomie or alienation. A stable society they feel is a prerequisite for integrated personality.
Further as stratification based on role allocation involves inequality it calls for ideological justification that explains, justifies and propagates the system of inequality. Therefore functionalists accord a great deal of importance on patterns of social solidarity embodying moral consensus and normative regulation. They see a major role for religion in this task.