FUNCTIONAL THEORY OF STRATIFICATION
This article is a review of the much-debated article “Some Principles of Stratification”, developed by Kingsley Davis and Wilbert E. Moore, where the central argument was that unequal rewards are functionally necessary for any and all societies with a division of labor extending much beyond differences in age and sex. However, both the authors were extremely abstract in their orientation and their critics to have failed to recognize or rather provide an explicit elaboration of certain assumptions.
There are three forms of social organization relevant to Social Stratification. First; role differentiation due to a division of labor, Second; a form of hierarchy due to ubiquitous unequal rewards and Third; availability of roles and opportunities basing on Kinship loyalties.
The Davis-Moore theory of prevailing distribution apparently relies on the assumption that it is “functionally necessary” resting upon dissimilitude of ‘human nature’, referring to the fact that a highly skilled, physically and psychologically demanding position in a complex division is likely to have some unequal rewards favoring the position over others. Their theory is parallel to Tumin’s claim that “sacrifices” made by those who undergo professional training are over-rewarded as well as, Simpson’s contention that, roles like personal servants or kept woman may be highly rewarded although they make little contribution to society.
However, their model did not elaborate how unequal these need be or how strictly they must be apportioned. Further, they mentioned that this unequal distribution will, in turn, invoke a sense of distributive justice and shape people’s expectations. They never really focused on the power relation rather noted that such a pattern of distribution is necessary to attract individuals into more important and skilled positions and therefore this wealth and prestige “attached to” the positions will give the incumbents greater opportunities to influence the general distribution of rewards. Moreover, highly rewarded roles are relatively few in number facilitating preconditions such as collective organizations and solidarity for the effective exercise of social power. The threat or reality of a flight capital has often compelled moderations of policies of a government committed to a greater economic equalization, for the eg.the progressive departure of Soviet Union from egalitarian policies.
The Davis-Moore theory that characterizes a “classless society” as a “sociological monstrosity”, is posited at a sharp contrast of Marx, according to whom, society based on the principle, ‘from each according to is quality, to each according to his need, ‘ to the ‘higher phase’ of communism when the state will have withered away, an economy of abundance will have been realized and a division of labour will no longer be needed. However, this concept of Marx is not radical enough to rule out the possibility of Davis-Moore theory of differentiated society.
Furthermore, Tumin has cast aspersions on the psychological ground mentioning ‘joy of work’ and ‘social duty’ as possibilities of other motives. He blurred the distinction between incentives for striving to attain positions and incentives for conscientiously fulfilling their duties once they have been attained. This is an improbable supposition and in addition, he failed to provide a proper alternative of the Davis-Moore model.
The theory also speaks of roles with high rewards accompanied by abysmally low prestige. Eg. Hangmen, prostitute etc.
PROBLEM OF EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY
Davis and Moore see stratification as a sorting mechanism allocating the more talented and ambitious individuals to the more socially important and demanding roles by means of differential rewards which serve as incentives. Their model, as several critics have noted, is a special case of the market mechanism or price system of classical economic theory. He further modified his theory in HUMAN SOCIETY by including the ascribed feature of stratification. He said that institution of the family limits the limits the operation of the stratification system by giving to the children of the incumbents of roles in one generation relatively or absolutely greater opportunities to attain the same roles in the next generation. In this context he observes Indian Caste System saying that individual mobility cannot be precluded due to caste fertility and mortality differentials. At the same time, he viewed that this kind of ascription is vertically spread amongst all societies in the form of status-quo. Eg. The son of a sweeper has a lower status in every society. This is the functional necessity of stratification, operative at all times despite the concurrent operations of other functions which can be understood only by the reference of past that shaped the development of the differentiated social structure. Herein lies, the affinity between Davis-Moore theory and Schumpter’s functional analysis where he takes into account History and looks at mobility in terms of family lines and generations. Thus, avoiding errors like class positions being immobile and existing inequalities being consequences of the distributed ability and effort. The Davis –Moore theory although committed the latter error, had included the ‘time and change’ variables in the revised versions.
Furthermore, the proponents, inequality of opportunity is ‘dysfunctional’, fails to distinguish between effects and changes of a stratified occupational system where “pure mobility” is the issue. According to Veblen, the leisure class often has a functionless activity and elevate ‘rewards for performance’ into criteria of worth in their own right. But Davis and Moore here specify the existence of reward for ‘pure ownership’ whereas, saying that it cannot be assumed that a hereditary ruling class always degenerates into a ‘decadent’ leisure class in a Veblenian sense.
Some American social scientists again stressed that ‘dysfunctions’ for a society of inequality of opportunity but did not systematically analyze the disintegrative effects of mobility or dangers posed by full equality. However, a number of non-sociologists have posed the question of how much mobility and equality can a modified society withstand. They have inflicted upon the following doubts-
- Whether or not an achieved elite be more sympathetic towards the lower strata than one who had it ascribed.
- Whether or not those failed to achieve high positions feel more guilt-ridden and alienated once they understand the lack of objectivity in their activity.
- Whether or not it is really desirable that the lower strata be filled with people genuinely inferior leaving the higher positions to the deserved ones thus contributing to their social experience.
In this context George Orwell has suggested “ladder hierarchy” over a regime of hereditary social class, where the major ones are the cultural value placed on upward mobility and “the scale of unequal rewards” and rate of economic expansion and technical progress are partially independent of each other.
According to David Potter if the price of downward mobility is not too great then the upward mobility may come to be viewed as “optional rather than obligatory”.
Davis and Moore and others who have theorized about the limits to equality in human societies have been chiefly concerned with the relationship of unequal rewards and mobility to the functional division of labour; the newer forms of “status panic” raise questions of a cultural and psychological nature which fall outside the scope of theories that focus primarily on social structure. Finally, if economic expansion and technical progress gradually shape the occupational stratification, the combination of hierarchy and equality of opportunity are less likely to generate social tensions. All of the dimensions of the hierarchy the range of inequality, the shape of the hierarchical structure, the amount of mobility, and the ways in which each of these is changing- are empirically interdependent and jointly produce a particular social consequence.
However, to conclude it can be said whereas unequal reward is being induced to encourage men to better their skill, at the same time having achieved the reward the men will make sure these inequalities exist, rather they will widen them further. Therefore, there can never be a correspondence between existing inequality and minimum requirement to maintain social order. Presence of democratic government and power of the lower strata organization can stabilize or narrow the scale. But conflicts between unequally rewarded groups and a sense of injustice on the part of the less privileged may be just as endemic in society as the necessity for unequal rewards itself.
Review by Antara