IGNOU BSOC 110 Solved Free Assignment
BSOC 110 Solved Free Assignment July 2023 & January 2024
Q. 1. Explain the Marxian theory of social stratification.
Ans. Marx used his theory of historical materialism, also known as the materialist conception of history, to understand human societies and their development.
His contention was that historical changes in social structure happened because of material and technological conditions rather than ideals. Marx used his theory to understand social change.
The first premise of history, according to Marx, was the existence of living human beings. Important indications of development, Marx believed, are the physical organization of human society and the relations human beings have with nature.
Explaining the superiority of human beings, Marx explained that all living things depend on nature for survival, but human beings can change nature for their survival while other living things adapt to nature.
A cow eats grass but it cannot produce grass. Human beings use nature but they have the power to change it also. Human beings can produce their own means of subsistence.
Thus, Marx noted that men can be distinguished from animals by consciousness, by religion, or by anything one likes.
He said that men themselves begin to differentiate themselves from animals soon after they start producing their means of subsistence, a step which is determined by their physical condition.
In producing their actual means of subsistence men indir7ectly produce their actual material life. Primitive human beings were totally dependent on nature as they subsisted through hunting or food gathering and then the societies produced the minimum needs for survival.
With the development of technology and other changes, human beings started transforming nature and society could produce more for existence.
Division of Labour
Division of Labour, according to Marx, happened when people diversified their activities. Earlier people were involved in similar activities needed for just survival such as food, clothing and shelter.
With the development of technology, human beings could improve agriculture and became settled communities.
The community produced more than it needed leading to the surplus with which they could support people who were not directly involved in the production of food.
Hence, some produced food and others were engaged in other activities. With this segregation, some people gained control over the mean of production by excluding others.
Thus property, which was held by all, came under the control of only some members. That led to giving rise to the notion of private property. The interests of all people were no longer common.
Thus, the interests of individuals also became different from the interests of the community. Marx stated that “Division of Labour and private property are identical expressions”, which indicated the contradictions between individual and communal interest.
These differences which happen in human society which are due to the existence of private property lead to the formation of classes which became the basis of social stratification.
Two major groups in the societies included: a ruling class and a subject class. The ruling class exploits the subject class which results in the conflict of interest between them.
Various institutions of society like the legal and political systems, religion, etc. were used as instruments by ruling class.
Meaning of Class
Marx defines a class as a social group whose members share the same relationship to the forces of production. According to Marx, there are two major social groups: a ruling class and a subject class.
The ruling class has control over the means of production and is thus able to appropriate the labour of another class. They stay in hostile opposition due to their different interests.
They are also dependents. The dialectics of class therefore is a result of this combination of dependence and opposition.
The relationship between classes is a dynamic relationship which results in social change. This is why classes are central to Marx’s approach to social transformation.
In The Communist Manifesto Marx wrote, “Hitherto, the history of all societies is the history of class struggle.”
In other words, changes in the history of mankind are caused by the conflict of classes. Classes conflict is hence the engine for social change.
Growth of Class
According to Marx, Western societies developed through four main stages: primitive communism, ancient society, feudal society and capitalist society.
Primitive communism had the societies of pre-history, which were dependent on hunting and food gathering and they had no division of labour.
After that all societies are divided into two major classes: masters and slaves in ancient society, landlords and serfs (tenants) in feudal society and capitalist and wage labour in capitalist society.
Slaves, serfs and wage labourers supplied the labour power needed for production during each historical epoch. The domination of one class over the other led to class conflict. Changes in technology led to improvement in productivity.
It led to further changes in the class structure as classes become obsolete with rise in production techniques. New classes were formed, replacing the old classes, which led to further class conflict.
Q. 2. Discuss the bases of social stratification.
Ans. Stratification means social ranking which shows the relations of superiority and inferiority in a society. A set of norms governs these relations between the units of rank.
It shows the empirical distribution of advantages and benefits in society. The bases or dimensions of social stratification are different levels of differentiation that divide or group people in a given society.
There are certain natural inequalities that become the form of social inequalities when the members of a society assign a meaning to them.
For example, age, sex and colour are natural bases of inequalities, but they have become the bases of social stratification because the members of the society has attached certain meanings to them.
On the basis of studies, sociologists have identified three bases of stratification. They are: class, power and status.
(i) Class: Classes are groupings of individuals in a hierarchy, usually based on wealth. Wealth is a key element in this.
Change from hunting and food garnering economy to settled agriculture, change from agriculture based economy to one based predominantly upon manufacturing and industry led to creation of more wealth.
Technologies advancement and a change in the mode of production led to more productivity and more profit and wealth.
People which had greater control over the economic resources and wealth or which possessed more wealth were ranked higher in society than groups which controlled less of it, or groups which had little or negligible access to wealth.
(ii) Power: Power is someone’s ability to get others to do his or her will, regardless of whether or not they want to. There are different types of power. It can be political, social and other types of power.
A group with higher status in society or that which enjoys greater wealth also exercises more power.
Legitimate power, power given to individuals willingly by others, is called “authority;” illegitimate power, power taken by force or the threat of force, is called “coercion.” State is an example of an institution which has maximum power.
Power becomes authority when legitimacy of exercise of power is widely accepted by groups. Power has been the basis of social stratification.
The policy of positive discrimination or reservation of jobs, political offices and entry into educational institutions by the state in favour of castes and tribes is an example.
(iii) Status: Status is the level of social value a person is considered to hold. More specifically, it refers to the relative level of respect, honour, assumed competence, and deference accorded to people, groups, and organizations in a society.
Status is based in widely shared beliefs about who members of a society think holds comparatively more or less social value, in other words, who they believe is better in terms of competence or moral traits.
Status is determined by the possession of various characteristics culturally believed to indicate superiority or inferiority.
In some society, honour is a qualitative attribute which members in a status group enjoy by birth. Such attribute which is inherited by birth is ascribed and cannot be acquired by effort.
This principle of social stratification is called the principle of ascription. Caste is an example of status groups. These three dimensions complement each other.
However, Max Weber differentiates between class, power and status. Weber defines class as an economic category, a product of the market situation.
The status group, on the other hand, forms the social order based on prestige or honour. Status is determined by the social prestige one enjoys.
Class and status groups may be independent phenomena, but they overlap with each other. Both the propertied and the property less can belong to the same status groups.
Q. 3. Explain caste as a form of stratification
Ans. Caste is a system of social stratification, which lies at the very root of social structure of most social groups in India. By social structure, we mean the persistent pattern of social interaction existing within and among social groups.
These patterns of interaction are guided by the normative system of the society. Caste structure is thus a pattern of social behaviour in which groups and individuals are guided by prescribed set of norms, values and sanctions.
The groups and individuals occupy specific statuses within and in relation to other groups.
In this system individuals are born into a certain caste and thereby acquire the role and status associated with that caste identity.
Sociologists have defined caste or (as locally referred to) ‘jati’ as a “hereditary, endogamous, group which is usually localised. It has a traditional association with an occupation, and a particular position in the local hierarchy of castes.
Relations between castes are governed, among other things by the concepts of pollution and purity, and generally maximum commensality i.e. interdining occurs within the caste”.
This definition describes the ideal form of caste system. However in real life there are innumerable variations and permutations in terms of structure and functioning of caste system.
Being a dynamic reality, which is highly flexible, it has shown tremendous variations from one region to another.
Castes constitute the status groups or communities that can be defined in terms of ownership of property, occupation and style of life.
Social honour is closely linked to ritual values in this closed system. In caste system, only an entire segment can move upward, and hence, the mobility is much slower.
Although there is considerable divergence between the hierarchy of caste and that of class, the top and bottom segments of the class system are largely subsumed under the caste structure.
The upper castes own means of production (land in rural areas) and act as rentiers. The landless agrarian proletarian coincides with the lower castes or dalits who provide labour services for the rentier upper caste people as well as rich prosperous farmers of intermediate level.
However, changes are happening due to various factors like education, urbanisation and industrialisation.
Q. 4. Discuss the political perspective on ethnicity.
Ans. Political perspective on ethnicity means the political awareness and mobilization of a group on ethnic basis.
In this perspective, certain groups aim to assert their ethnicity, even they exaggerate their ethnic features to attain the end of political autonomy or sovereignty.
The rise of capitalism has caused uneven development resulting in reinforcement of parochial loyalties and ethnic self-consciousness and the perception of unequal distribution of resources by the disadvantaged groups results in the rise of ethnic awareness among them.
For example, in a culturally plural society, a minority group may strive for political ethnicity when it is cornered or neglected by the majority group which tends to be exploitive to attain its goal.
In such a situation, the minority group may mobilize or invent an ethnic identity to express it view against discrimination.
Groups may also exploit primordial loyalties for political reasons which may be used by them to develop their political interests and maximise their power.
A key example of ethnicity being utilized for representing and developing the interests of a group is its use in politics where ethnic groups use ethnicity to make demands in the political arena for change in their status, economic well being, educational opportunity and civil rights.
Ethnicity is interest based and ethnic groups are thus interest groups. Sharma has called these two categories: generic and emergent ethnicity.
The generic perspective is an identity based on a set of objective cultural markers which help the members of a group differentiate themselves from other groups and be differentiated by the other groups as well.
In this sense, the ethnic group is a bounded cultural group having certain distinguishing features separating in from other groups.
The awareness of cultural diversity by different groups becomes consciousness of political differentiation, emergent ethnicity is born marked by a power struggle process.
Q. 5. How are gender identities constructed?
Ans. Gender socialization is the process through which children learn about the social expectations, attitudes and behaviours typically associated with boys and girls.
This topic looks at this socialization process and the factors that influence gender development in children. Most societies have a clear categorization for male and female.
This categorization and the agents of socialization that transmit knowledge about gender roles impact how people define themselves and other with regard to gender and sex roles.
Many societies have rigidly defined the expected or the preferred ways for people of each sex to behave. For example, men have traditionally been expected to be strong, aggressive and dominating.
Women have been expected to be nurturing, sensitive, emotional and relatively passive. Children are taught these values consciously and unconsciously from a very early age.
Even toys are also distinguished. Boys get large sized, noise making or violent type whereas girls get gentler toys.
Parents, siblings, peers, schools, society, religion and other institutions are the agents of gender socialisation. Parents, grandparents and other family members play the key role in the gender socialization process.
They decide how the family should interact with a boy and a girl and the types of toys and clothes that the children should wear. From very early age, children get to know how they should behave.
According to Sigmund Freud, identification and imitation of same-sex parents leads to effective gender-identity formation.
During the latency period (ages seven to twelve), as described by Freud, males and females separate themselves from each other.
This can be said as part of the socialization process and it further solidifies gender identification and role-specific behaviour of the children.
Schools and families continue to mould gender socialization throughout adolescence. Peer influence is the strongest agent of gender socialization during adolescence as teens form together in small social groups to facilitate their transition into adulthood and into the larger society.
The mass media also play an important role during the teen years. Gender identity and gender socialization also have influence on a person’s self-esteem.
Q. 6. Power.
Ans. Power is the third organizing principle of social stratification. The principle of power is a relatively diffused feature because it is not exclusive in character.
A group with higher status in society or that which enjoys greater wealth also exercises more power in society.
Power, according to Weber, endows the persons or groups which have power to impose their will on other groups by legitimate use of coercive method. State is an example of an institution which has maximum power.
It has sovereign authority to impose its will on citizens of the society. Power becomes authority when legitimacy of exercise of power is widely accepted by groups or when it is institutionalized in society.
Authority as a concept could be defined as legitimate power. Power as a principle also enters the notion of social stratification when its functions or its social ramifications start to be influenced by the political processes in society, and when state starts to take more active or direct role in influencing the principles of social stratification.
The policy of positive discrimination or reservation of jobs, political offices and entry into educational institutions in our country by the state in favour of castes and tribes now declared as ‘scheduled’ or as ‘other backward classes’.
In his treatment of power as an element in the formation of social stratification, Weber has emphasised the significance of politics, political parties and their role in maximising their access to power.
Q. 7. Social mobility.
Ans. Social mobility means transition from one social position to another. Change in social position causes significant change in life-chances and lifestyles.
Pitirim A. Sorokin says the shift of position may be undertaken by an individual or social object or value. Social mobility needs human activity.
Any change of position in society experienced by an individual or a group has its impact not only on the individual or the group, but also on the society at large.
The concept of social mobility should be studied the gradation in a society, which is normally done in terms of power, prestige and privileges. Whether one moves up or falls down signifies change of social position.
Time taken to effect the change of social position may vary from society to society. There are many dimensions of social mobility.
Social mobility is right with the contributions of various scholars who have theorized on the concept based on their respective field-studies and data collected thereby.
A change of position may happen either along a horizontal axis, or a vertical axis. So, the shift of social position can also be understood in terms of two basic, viz, horizontal mobility and vertical mobility.
Q. 8. Features of caste.
Ans. The basic features of the ‘caste model’ as outlined by Andre Beteille are:
(i) The ideas held and expressed by certain sections of the people are the basis of this model. Observed behaviours are not the basis of this model though secondary empirical materials have been used.
(ii) Certain explicitly formulated principle or ‘rules of the game’ govern the entire system.
(iii) Kind of primary and universal significance to caste in India as this has been conceived in the classical texts is attached with the model.
(iv) Different castes are conceived as meeting the complementary functions, and their mutual relations are seen as being non-antagonistic.
Andre Beteille mentions two shortcomings in this model – it is so general a theory that it can be applied to any society and it fails to include the details of economic and political life.
M.N. Srinivas’ ‘Sanskritization’ could be observed in terms of the specific contexts in which it occurs and as a historical process of change in the caste system as a whole.
Srinivas’ ‘westernization’ brings about changes in values, norms and very the cultural roots of the people.
Q. 9. Ethno-nationalism.
Ans. A person’s status in society is determined by the membership of an ethnic group. It takes place in two ways. Social rewards such as money, prestige and power are allocated along ethnic lines.
In most societies, some ethnic groups dominate others in economic, political and cultural matters. Therefore, ethnic politics can be ethnic stratification leading to the emergence of ethnic nationalism.
Ethnic identity may sometimes be related to political necessities and demands. It happens when minority groups play the ethnic card to get a better deal for themselves in a plural society.
Some ethnic groups demand a say in the political system or control over a piece of territory or even demand a national status. They become a nationality or a nation if they succeed in attaining any of these objectives.
Q. 10. Slavery system.
Ans. The slave system refers to the ownership of people, as against the class system’s ownership of people’s labour.
It involves a situation in which one group or individuals (often known as masters) claim ownership of another group or individuals (called slaves), such that the privileged group or individuals take upon themselves the power to use, command, abuse and possess the fruits of the underprivileged group’s or individual’s labour.
In the slave system, therefore, the slaves are the properties of their masters. In this system, vertical social mobility is closed and social statuses are determined absolutely by ascription.
Children born to slave parents automatically become slaves by virtue of their parents’ status.
In ancient times, most people acquired the status of slaves either through conquest or inability to pay debts. The need for more people on farmland encouraged slavery to thrive through the Middle Ages.
Arguably, the 17th and 18th centuries marked the peak of slavery in human history when people were deliberately hunted, captured and shipped as slaves majorly from the continent of Africa to other parts of the world.