Social stratification is the ranking of members of society in a way that some of its members are regarded as superior and others as inferior. This theory is certainly debated in present time and was debated as far back as 1776 when Karl Marx presented his theory in his “Manifesto of the Communist Party”. In the 1880’s, Max Weber combatted that document in his own “Class, Status and Party. ” Karl Marx believed that social standing or rank was based solely on class position. For example, an owner of a business was regarded far above a worker in that same business.
Class position would also influence the amount of political power one had as well as the prestige that one enjoyed. Weber, however, argued that there were three parts to social stratification: class, status and power. He stated that class was relative to how much money a person had and how much property that person owned. Status was split into two categories, “honor and respect”, and style of life, which included mannerisms, the foods and clothes one used, the manner in which a person spoke, and the neighborhood in which one lived.
This an be applied to today’s world; wearing so called designer labels such as Polo and Donna Karan and driving a BMW would indicate a higher style of life than wearing J. C. Penny or driving a Kia. In today’s society, the people living a higher style of life usually shy away from those of a lower economic status. You do not often encounter children from wealthy Manhattan families playing with children from Harlem. The third part of Weber’s theory on social stratification was power, which Weber defined as the chances of having other people do what you want them to do regardless f their own wishes.
Marx would not have argued with Weber about the three factors being in existence; however, he probably would state that the class of the person would determine how much status and power a person would have. Weber agreed with Marx in the fact that in a capitalistic society, class had the biggest influence on a person’s position and that status and power were given more to the higher classes. Weber said, however, that there were other societies in which this was not true, such as in the Estates System of Medieval Europe and the Caste System of India.
In the Estates System, power was the most important factor of social rank, followed by class and status. The best fighters were given noble standing and the ownership of a feudal estate, which gave them status. In the Caste System of India, status is the deciding factor of social stratification. If Karl Marx heard Max Weber’s theories on social rank, I believe it would make his ears ring in disagreement. Marx and Weber’s theories are both extremely thought provoking hen it comes to today’s society and social ranking.
Weber’s theory still exists; however, Marx’s theory is long forgotten. For example, in the United States, people in the entertainment industry, such as movie stars, are earning ridiculously high salaries, and have no political power, while politicians and government officials earn much less yet have the power to make decisions that affect millions of people. Both, however, have high status in the placement of society. This indicates that man’s desire to be an individual prevails.