Stratification and What Evidence Is There to Essay

  • Length: 10 pages
  • Sources: 5
  • Subject: Sociology
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #27221611

Excerpt from Essay :

stratification and what evidence is there to suggest that contemporary Australia is or is not stratified?

Social Stratification refers to the division of society into various hierarchical layers based on their socio-economic conditions. Some groups are given more power and prestige than others, whilst lower groups are dominated by the higher (Homes; Hughes, & Julian, *).

Social stratification is founded on four principles:

It reflects society rather than individual differences and therefore does not work according to meritocracy

(2) It is fixed and transmitted from generation to generation;

(3) It is universal but has different faces in different countries

(4) Social stratification is not just inequality of power but also reflects variances in beliefs to that differ according to groups. For instance, higher groups are more likely to be politically Conservative and to share a certain religion / religious perspective. (Homes; Hughes, & Julian, *).

Social stratification is usually categorized into 3 main classes:

1. upper class,

2. middle class,

3. lower class.

Each of these is divided into subsectors of professions.

Research consistently shows that social stratification is adverse for a society. High social inequality is often positively related to increase in homicide, infant mortality, obesity, teenage pregnancies, emotional depression, teen suicide, and prison population amongst the lowest social strata.

Weber argued that there is irreversible class differences and that people are inescapably born into certain brackets. class differences, therefore, inescapably lead to variations in life chances. (Homes; Hughes, & Julian, *)..

In Weber's opinion there are four classes:

1. The propertied class

2. Intelligentsia

3. Traditional petty bourgeoisie

4. Working class (ibid.)

According to Marx, the latter was created by the bourgeoisie for control and for manipulation. Weber accepted this but also emphasized status and party identification for instruments of class definition.

Stratification is generally seen as an unfair fact of life where position is not determined by merit but by birth. Dominant classes betray and manipulate inferior classes and inferior classes have an almost impossible chance of battling it through and succeeding in life on their own terms.

Australia and Stratification

Australia has an upper class, upper and lower middle class, and working class. The upper class consists of property owners, people of inherited wealth and leaders of corporations as well as moneyed people. Many of the upper class in Australia appear to identify with a global agenda rather than with a national agenda (Sklair, 1996). The middle class consists of three spheres:

a. The lowest middle class which is people with working class incomes that have the life of middle class

b. The central middle class which consists of non-manual professionals such as doctors, accountants, engineers, which is the majority of Australia, and which most Australians aspire to.

c. The upper middle class which is people who have professions and income of middle class but live upper class standards

The lowest sphere, the working class is made up of two tiers:

a. those whose occupation is manual. The unskilled to skilled blue collar workers such as tradespeople, factory workers and laborers.

b. The underclass who are homeless, unemployed with incomes at or below the poverty line, and welfare recipients with extremely limited life choices (Sklair, 1996).

Most Australians believe that social and upward mobility is possible in Australia (ibid).

Nonetheless, observers such as Aspin (1996) argue that: 'Structured social inequality exists, especially in the areas that affect life chances, such as income, work, education, health and involvement with the law" (p.94). The percentage of living longer than the first year of life, of flourishing in childhood, of remaining healthy and growing tall, of avoiding jail, and gaining a successful job and education all depend, in Australia, on one's particular social class.' (Ibid). This, however, may not be so different than, for instance, in America -- a country that attempts to demolish social differences but where socio-economic status nonetheless exists. It may be that this is fixity of human life predetermined by eth amount of money that one makes.

On the other hand, there are natives, such as Aborigines who do have a harder time than the normative Caucasian in Australian society and this certainly affects their chances at success (Aspin, 1996)

The longitudinal Life Chances study conducted by the Brotherhood of St. Laurence (2006) found that 73% of low income families remained in their low-income niche since birth with the low-income status -- and the gap between rich and poor -- increasing to 31% as the years passed. Commenting on stratification of Australian society, Aspin (2006) noted that 'The concept of class, and the differentiated outcomes that it can produce, continues to prove relevant within the changing environment that these young people are growing up in' (p.30).

2. The term "Islamphobia" has been coined to describe a new form of racism in Australia said to have evolved since September 2001. Thinking sociologically, explores the relationship between religion and ethnicity in 21st century Australia.


Islamaphobia consists of overt and covert bigotry and discrimination to Muslims regardless of their practices and individuality and merely based on their race. (Homes; Hughes, & Julian, *).

Islamaphobia is a contemporary source of prejudice that is rampant in many parts of the Western world; it seems to be huge in Australia (Hassan, 2012) particularly after 11 September, 2001 and Australia's participation the "War on Terror."

There has been verbal and physical abuse of women wearing headscarves and the chador and many incidents of racist actions to Muslims have been recorded in the Australian news.

Islamaphobia has been defined as "Fear of and prejudicial views on the Islamic faith and Muslims as an ethno-religious community" (Homes; Hughes, & Julian, *p. 447).

A key perception of Islam is that it is a threat to Western way of life.

There are two views of Islam: open and closed. The open view sees the wide spectrum of Islam including those who seek to make peace and are open-minded. The closed view is racist (Homes; Hughes, & Julian, *). Islamaphobia is the closed view and seems to be prevalent in Australia.

Australia and connection between religion and ethnicity

There are many who believe Australia to be a racist country whilst mouthing tolerance but insist on assimilation. The dominant religion is Protestantism which is that of the White upper middle and upper classes. Many of the lower classes practice Islam or Hinduism or some other Indian strain. And indeed there is manifested intolerance towards these ethnic groups and to their practiced religion. Socio-economic status seems to parallel religion and advantages seem to largely swim to those in the upper brackets who manifest a certain stain of Christianity (or agnosticism or atheism).

Hassan (2012) observes that whilst "Ethnic Australians are told to "assimilate," "they are "cleverly divided, weakened and put in "their places," in segregated communities." Indigenous Australians particularly feel racism and discrimination. Whilst Australians do espouse service to a multicultural society where all are treated equally despite skin color and background, research has shown that about 85 per cent of Australians believe that racism is a problem in Australia (Hassan, 2012)

3. A twenty-year-old unemployed Lebanese male steals an $80,000 luxury care. He is arrested, convicted and sentenced to two years in goal. A white male steals $10 million dollars from investors. He is arrested but not convicted. How might sociologists explain this scenario?

The example typifies ethnic discrimination and bigotry.

Australians subscribe to the idea of a meritocracy. Yet as we have seen, blatant discrimination between Whites and other ethnicities occur on a routine level. And this discrimination is not limited to Australia alone.

Reason for this discrimination may be reduced to various factors:

1. The conflict thesis -- where the dominant culture is afraid that the minority culture will grow and overtake it. There is also an innate fear of and distrust towards individuals who are different. Sherif and Sherif's (1953) conflict theory, is an example of one such explanation which attributed intergroup conflicts to interracial interests and social structure.

2. There may also be the "labeling" assumption where people already associate a certain group / individual with a certain tendency and are apt to see them that way. This effects perspective of other and interpretation. The judge expects the Lebanese to steal; his punishment is harsher since he is considered guilty even before being tried. The White male however may be exonerated due to the same stereotypical associations (that the White is ordinarily honest and that usual circumstance beyond his control caused him to deviate).

3. Simply the existence of institutional racism which consists of three forms:

(i) Personally-mediated - the existence of personal forms of prejudice that the owner is aware of.

(ii) Internalized, - Internalized reflects stereotypes that are part of the human's makeup. It also refers to socialized prejudices that the human absorbed from his culture

(iii) Institutional. - The bigotry inherent in and traditional to the organization / country / particular institution. This, Hassan (2012) claims is endemic to Australia. Although Australians possesses internalized and personal prejudice too.…

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