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Stratification and Inequality, Theories of

David B. Grusky

Subject Sociology » Sociological and Social Theory, Stratification and Inequality

Key-Topics inequality, Marxism

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


The term stratification system refers to the complex of institutions that generate inequalities in income, political power, social honor, and other valued goods. The main components of such systems are (1) the social processes that define certain types of goods as valuable and desirable, (2) the rules of allocation that distribute these goods across various roles or occupations in the division of labor (e.g., houseworker, doctor, prime minister), and (3) the mobility mechanisms that link individuals to these roles or occupations and thereby generate unequal control over valued goods. It follows that inequality is produced by two types of matching processes. The social roles in society are first matched to “reward packages” of unequal value, and individual members of society are then allocated to the roles so defined and rewarded. In all societies, there is a constant flux of incumbents as newcomers enter the labor force and replace dying, retiring, or out-migrating workers, yet the positions themselves and the reward packages attached to them typically change only gradually. As Schumpeter (1953 : 171) famously put it, the occupational structure can be seen as “a hotel … which is always occupied, but always by different persons.” There is a growing consensus among academics, policymakers, and even politicians that poverty and inequality should no longer be treated as soft “social ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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