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  • Understand and apply functionalist, conflict theory, and interactionist perspectives on social stratification

Basketball is one of the highest-paying professional sports. There is stratification even among teams. For example, the Minnesota Timberwolves hand out the lowest annual payroll, while the Los Angeles Lakers reportedly pay the highest. Kobe Bryant, a Lakers shooting guard, is one of the highest paid athletes in the NBA, earning around $30.5 million a year (Forbes 2014). Even within specific fields, layers are stratified and members are ranked.

In sociology, even an issue such as NBA salaries can be seen from various points of view. Functionalists will examine the purpose of such high salaries, while conflict theorists will study the exorbitant salaries as an unfair distribution of money. Social stratification takes on new meanings when it is examined from different sociological perspectives—functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism.

Functionalism

In sociology, the functionalist perspective examines how society’s parts operate. According to functionalism, different aspects of society exist because they serve a needed purpose. What is the function of social stratification?

In 1945, sociologists Kingsley Davis and Wilbert Moore published the Davis-Moore thesis    , which argued that the greater the functional importance of a social role, the greater must be the reward. The theory posits that social stratification represents the inherently unequal value of different work. Certain tasks in society are more valuable than others. Qualified people who fill those positions must be rewarded more than others.

According to Davis and Moore, a firefighter’s job is more important than, for instance, a grocery store cashier’s. The cashier position does not require the same skill and training level as firefighting. Without the incentive of higher pay and better benefits, why would someone be willing to rush into burning buildings? If pay levels were the same, the firefighter might as well work as a grocery store cashier. Davis and Moore believed that rewarding more important work with higher levels of income, prestige, and power encourages people to work harder and longer.

Davis and Moore stated that, in most cases, the degree of skill required for a job determines that job’s importance. They also stated that the more skill required for a job, the fewer qualified people there would be to do that job. Certain jobs, such as cleaning hallways or answering phones, do not require much skill. The employees don’t need a college degree. Other work, like designing a highway system or delivering a baby, requires immense skill.

In 1953, Melvin Tumin countered the Davis-Moore thesis in “Some Principles of Stratification: A Critical Analysis.” Tumin questioned what determined a job’s degree of importance. The Davis-Moore thesis does not explain, he argued, why a media personality with little education, skill, or talent becomes famous and rich on a reality show or a campaign trail. The thesis also does not explain inequalities in the education system or inequalities due to race or gender. Tumin believed social stratification prevented qualified people from attempting to fill roles (Tumin 1953). For example, an underprivileged youth has less chance of becoming a scientist, no matter how smart she is, because of the relative lack of opportunity available to her. The Davis-Moore thesis also does not explain why a basketball player earns millions of dollars a year when a doctor who saves lives, a soldier who fights for others’ rights, and a teacher who helps form the minds of tomorrow will likely not make millions over the course of their careers.

Questions & Answers

how country is best in education
Limbadiya Reply
any body can help me
Raja Reply
what are the values espoused by religion
Karen Reply
Altruism is an often neglected value. Especially, when it takes the form of Altruistic donation in form of cash or material. Social Control is exercised within a religious community through the tenets or religious texts. Max Weber also analysed the relation between Protestant ethic and Capitalism
Sourabh
what is imperialism
ogie Reply
a country ruled by royalty.?
Renae
a policy of extending a country's power and influence through diplomacy or military force.
Renae
a political system in which a rich a rich and powerful country control other countries which are not powerful and rich as itself
Manoj
can sociology study farming and in what way?
John Reply
yes,
THIS
how?
John
how i did not understand
Manoj
I would like to see my chapter test answer results and a better list review at the end of the chapter for the vocabulary
Tiffany Reply
what are five implications of sociology to an extension worker
John Reply
Gender roles in a community - messages by male workers in Indian rural areas are not accepted as the same by female workers. And there is a minority of female extension workers Weberian 'Charismatic' leader needed, who can work within administrative and political framework of state.
Sourabh
Act as change agents, Hence, deep connection with the social group is needed. This entails an 'interpretative' understanding of the community and an 'objective' analysis through positivist approach as to the results of state policies with the social behaviour prevalent in the area since years.
Sourabh
What policies does US need in countering structural racism ?
Sourabh Reply
what is a sociological perspective ? How to analyse a issue from sociological angles ? what should be addressed in sociological understanding ?
Sourabh
how is social status spatially and socially specific
John Reply
Spatially, because of unequal distribution of natural resources which promotes industrial growth in few areas, leading to better economic situation. Income and wealth derived from this improvement in economic situation leads to higher social status.
Sourabh
Socially specific because usually the control over the resources like land for example are a result of cultural and social history. In India, certain castes had more land under control, when Industrialization and came knocking, their situation improved specifically because of their social standing.
Sourabh
spatially in terms of higher distribution of natural resources in some areas which brings about growth and development to that particular environment and leads to accumulation of wealth and better living standard for individuals in such environment, which I n turn determines the social activities
Amoo
reasons for the population growth since 18th century
Lucy Reply
influential model for chlid
Mr Reply
features of social control agent
Lucy Reply
Social control agents such as religion, family, relatives, castes control the people of the society… helpless in preventing them from doing bad deeds.
Ritu
Mentally and physically also control both ways
Ritu
And no human being against social control can live in society
Ritu
What about subcultures? perpetrators always exist in almost every society
Nyasha
what policy values racial, ethnic, national, and linguistic backgrounds
tajown
American anti-racist strike with global stratification
Iira Reply
discuss the role of language in culture
Receive Reply
language is a very imp. element of culture...
Ritu
as art,dressup,food etc.
Ritu
what extent has discrimination been eliminated in modern industrial societies?
Sports Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
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