The glimpse of the cultures of the world reveals that no society is ‘classless’, that is, unstratified. All the known established societies of the world are stratified in one way or the other.
According to Wilbert More and Kingsley Davis, stratification system came to be evolved in all the societies due to the functional necessity. As they have pointed out main functional necessity of the system is “the requirement faced by any society of placing and motivating individuals in the social structure. Social inequality is thus an unconsciously evolved device by which societies ensure that the most important positions are conscientiously filled by the most qualified persons”. As analyzed by H.M. Johnson certain things here can be noted about the “functional necessity’ of class stratification system”.
1. Encourages hard work
One of the main functions of class stratification is to induce people to work hard to live up to values. Those who best fulfill the values of a particular society are normally rewarded with greater prestige and social acceptance by others. It is known that occupations are ranked high if their functions are highly important and the required personal is very scarce. Hard work prolonged training and heavy burden of responsibility are associated with such occupational positions, people undertaking such works are rewarded with money, prestige, comforts etc. still we cannot say that all those positions which are regarded as important are adequately compensated for.
2. Ensures circulation elites
To some extent, class stratification helps to ensure what is often called “the circulation of the elite”. When a high degree of prestige comforts and other rewards are offered for certain positions, there will be some competition for them. This process of competition helps to ensure that the more efficient people are able to rise to the top, where their ability can best be used.
3. Serves as an economic function
The competitive aspect has a kind of economic function in that it helps to ensure the .rational use of available talent. It is also functionally necessary to offer differential rewards if the positions at the top are largely ascribed as it is in the case of caste system. Even in caste system, the people at the top can lose their prestige if they fail to maintain certain standards. Hence, differential rewards provide the incentives for the upper classes to work at maintaining their positions.
4. Prevents waste, of resources
The stratification system prevents the waste of scarce resources. The men in the elite class actually possess scarce and socially valued abilities and qualities, whether these are inherited or acquired. Because of their possession of these qualities their enjoyment of some privileges such as extra comfort and immunity from doing mental work are functionally justified. It becomes functionally official for the society to make use of their talents without being wasted. For example, it would be a waste to pour the resources of society into the training of doctors and engineers and then making them to work as peons and attenders. When once certain individuals are chosen and are trained for certain difficult positions it should be dysfunctional to waste their ‘time and energy one takes for which there is enough man power.
5. Stabilizes and reinforces the attitude and skills
Members of a class normally try to limit their relations to their class. More intimate relationship are mostly found between fellow class-mate members. Even this tendency has its own function. It tends to stabilize and reinforce the attitudes and skills that may be the basis of upper-class position. Those who have similar values and interests tend to associate comfortably with one another. Their frequent association itself confirms their common values and interests.
6. Helps to pursue different professions or job
The values, attitudes and qualities of different classes are different. This difference is also functional for society to some extent. Because society needs manual as well as non-manual workers. Many jobs are not attractive to highly trained or refined people for they are socialized to aspire for certain other jobs. Because of the early influence of family and socialization, the individuals imbibe in them certain values, attitudes and qualities relevant to the social class to which they belong. This will influence their selection of jobs.
7. Social control
Further, to the extent that ‘lower class’ cultural characteristics are essential to Society, the classes are of course, functional. In fact, a certain amount of mutual antagonism between social classes is also functional. To some extent, upper class and lower class groups cannot act as negative reference groups for each other. Thus, they act as means of social control also.
8. Controlling effect on the ‘Shady’ World:
Mass stratification has another social control function, Even in the ‘shady’ world of gamblers and in the under world of lower criminals, black-marketers, racketeers, smugglers etc. the legitimate classes structure has got respectability. They know that money is not a substitute for prestige but only a compensation for renouncing it. Hence, instead of continuing in a profitable shady career, such people want to gain respectability for their money and for their children. They try to enter legitimate fields and become philanthropists and patron of the arts. Thus the legitimate class structure continues to attract the shady classes and the under world. This attraction exerts a social control function.