Social Stratification as a Clue for Diagnosing and Intervening in Social Systems

When we stratify we behave in ways that arrange social relations between and amongst us in layers. Like those big geological formations, we construct ourselves socially in strata: levels, grades, hierarchies and classes. We speak of ourselves and others as being located in the top, middle and bottom. We see degrees of centrality and marginality. Such stratification is a characteristic of all social systems. We layer consciously and unconsciously. We do this for reasons that range from individual proclivities and inter-group dynamics, through to competition for desirable scarcity. We readily use stratification for differentiating and distributing material resources and other kinds of social values. We agree, negotiate, inherit, argue, celebrate and lament stratifications. Social stratification is a necessary tool for organizing ourselves, for example: control and coordination, the division of labour, matching tasks with capabilities, matching personal and professional preferences with roles, etc.

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