Functionalist Perspective of Stratification

Durkheim argued that class stratification existed because it was functional or beneficial to social order. He saw modern societies as characterised by specialised occupational division of labour, in which people have very different jobs, skills and abilities.

Durkheim also argued that stratification is beneficial because it sets limits on competition and people’s aspirations, in that it clearly links criteria such as skills and qualifications to particular roles so that people do not become over ambitious and therefore disappointed and resentful if they fail or don’t do as well as they had hoped.

Order, stability and cooperation in society are based on a value consensus

Parsons argued that stratification systems derive from common values, so, occupations that are highly valued are given higher rewards and that individual will be elevated and placed in a certain rank order (e.g. doctors in Western Societies).

Parsons argued that inequality is inevitable feature of society. However, conflict between different social groups is kept at a manageable level by the common value system that recognises the appropriateness of unequal levels of rewards. Parsons also argues that inequality of power that exists in society is justified in the same way as economic inequality because different levels of power and authority are needed to keep working organisations functional

Davis and Moore concluded that social stratification is a “device by which societies ensure that the most important positions are conscientiously filled by the most qualified persons”- ROLE ALLOCATION: People in each level in the system deserve to fulfil those roles because of their amount of talent and skill.  This is based on meritocracy, the idea that rewards are allocated based on merit.

Certain positions and jobs available are more functionally important than others to society. Rewards are given to those which have a greater value attached to each occupation

AO3 Criticisms

Tumin (1953) concluded that stratification, by its very nature, can never adequately perform the functions which David and Moore assigned to it.

He argued that those born into the lower strata can never have the same opportunities for realising their talents as those born into a higher strata.