Sociology is a social science about society, its systems, components, and laws of its functioning and development, social institutions, relationships and commonalities.
Thus, this paper presents, discusses and observes specific concepts, such as social classes, major economic systems, and social stratification.
To start with, in the XVII-XIX centuries, scientists from England and France began to develop the concept of a “social class”.
They dealt with antagonistic social groups, such as rich-poor, workers-capitalists, owners-non-owners.
Therefore, a social class is a relatively stable and homogeneous public establishment, which include individuals or families that have similar values, lifestyles, interests and behaviors. Henry (2005) described “social classes as communities of individuals bounded by common social status” (p. 766).
Every social class is a system of conduct, a set of values and norms, lifestyle. Despite the influence of the dominant culture, each social class cultivates its own values, behaviors, and ideals.
This is a well-known fact that there are three criteria used to conceptualize social class placement:
- Dress code (clothes required when visiting certain activities, organizations, institutions);
- Sociolect (group speech (primarily lexical and stylistic) features that are typical for a particular social group: professional, age, subculture);
- Standard talk vs. dialect (for example, big cities “urban” vs. countryside “rural”).
Economic systems are a set of interrelated economic elements which form certain integrity, economic structure of society, unity of relations developing on the production, distribution, exchange and consumption of economic benefits.
There are two major economic systems that are called a market economy (capitalism) and a planned economy (socialism).
A market economy is an economic system in which the market plays the main regulator’s role of economic relations. In this system, an allocation of resources and a formation of proportions that satisfy society’s needs are implemented by using market mechanisms.
The main features of a market economy:
- Private property;
- Economic freedom (the freedom of entrepreneurial choice);
- Reliance on a market-based system;
- A limited role of any government.
The government does not intervene in the country’s economy. Its role is to protect private property and establish the laws which could facilitate the functioning of free markets.
Identifying a shortcoming of a market economy, it is possible to say that natural fluctuations in prices have the impact of instability on the production’s factors. It should be indicated that a market mechanism is focused on profits and therefore cannot effectively solve many challenges of the community: social security, science and culture, environmental protection, etc. Moreover, “capitalism and markets have also notoriously increased the divide between the rich and the poor, both within and across nations” (Freeman, Martin, & Parmar, 2007, p. 303).
A planned economy is opposite to a market one. It is based on state ownership and all material resources.
Hence, all economic decisions are taken by the government agencies through centralized (policy planning).
Talking about a shortcoming of a planned market, it should be noted that the main cons of this system is the monopoly of state ownership, lack of competition, inefficient use of resources, technology obsolescence, and uncompetitive products.
Social stratification is a description of social inequality in society, its division into social classes by incomes, presence or absence of privileges, lifestyle, etc.
According to Barker (2005), social stratification is a “classification of persons into groups based on shared socio-economic conditions … a relational set of inequalities with economic, social, political and ideological dimensions” (p. 436). м
There are major four systems of social stratification: slavery, castes, clans and classes.
Slavery is the first historical system of stratification. It was originated in ancient times in countries, such as China, Egypt, Babylon, Rome, Greece, etc. and existed in many countries until now.
Castes are social groups that are characterized by the fact that it is possible to join this group only because of a person’s birth, that is, it depends on a social status of his/her parents.
Clans are groups of people united by kindred, social and economic ties. This form of stratification is typical for agrarian societies.
Classes are a large number of people with one social position and specific method of making a profit.
To sum up the above-stated information, it is possible to conclude that this paper explored and described social classes, major economic systems, and social stratification. It should be mentioned that sociology as a science is extremely versatile thanks to a well-developed theoretical basis and a methodological device that allow to investigate the mechanisms of society’s existence.
Barker, C. (2005). Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. London: Sage.
Freeman, R. E., Martin, K., & Parmar, B. (2007). Stakeholder Capitalism. Journal of Business Ethics, 74 (4), 303-314.
Henry, P. C. (2005). Social Class, Market Situation, and Consumers’ Metaphors of (Dis) Empowerment. The Journal of Consumer Research, 31 (4), 766-778.
Macionis, J. J. (1991). Sociology (3rd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Wright, E. O. (1997). Class Counts: Comparative Studies in Class Analysis. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.