A Social Hierarchy Of Control Over Societal Resources

2999 Words12 Pages
In all societies three kinds of resources are valued i) power - the ability to impose one’s will on others; ii) prestige – respect from others; iii) property – wealth owned, whether measured in yams, land etc. And all societies more complex than a simple gathering band, these resources are unequally distributed among individuals and groups. When people who differ in their ascribed and achieved characteristics are evaluated differently; a social hierarchy is formed. A hierarchy is a set of ranked statuses from highest to lowest. Because both the most- and least valued traits are likely to be relatively rare, status hierarchies tend to be diamond shaped, narrow at the very top and bottom. Within the hierarchy, people at different levels or strata, can claim different amounts of power, prestige and property. In this way, a set of ranked statuses based on evaluations of social worth is transformed into a hierarchy of control over societal resources. Stratification systems thus, are both a cause and consequences of inequality. Although in a hunting and gathering society all members are equally valued and rewarded, but it is a rare phenomenon. Once the division of labour expands beyond gathering some tasks will be considered more important than others, and the people who perform such tasks are rewarded with power, respect and material goods. At the very least, labour is divided on the basis of sex and age, so that all societies have gender and age stratification systems. The more
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