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Jun, 2016

Compare and contrast functional and Weberian explanations for social stratification. Which of these explanations do you think is more adequate in accounting for social stratification in Hong Kong, and why?


Compare and contrast functional and Weberian explanations for social stratification. Which of these explanations do you think is more adequate in accounting for social stratification in Hong Kong, and why?


Definition of Stratification Social stratification means the division of groups of people, in a hierarchy form, i.e. there are at least two layers of groups or more exist in a society. For which a group of people is share a common status or rank. In deciding which group(s) should be ranked over the others, it is depends on the distribution of their wealth, prestige and power. Social stratification in other hand implies that the presence of social inequality is inevitable due to individuals who play their role in different strata/positions in the society, thus received different rewards. Sociologists are of different perceptions on the social stratification; the following are explanations from Functionalism and Weberian. Funtionalism In this functional approach, it seem a society as a biological organism (OUHK, 2003) that contains different organs to run with cooperation and interaction. Simply speaking, “organs” means different social institutions or units, such as school, hospital, family business firm, government and etc. Individuals within these institutions are working independently and cooperate/interact with each others, for instance, in a school, a teacher not only deliver his knowledge to the students, but also report to his supervisor about the students’ progress and provide suggestion to the headmaster. Moreover, being an “organ”, a school will also cooperate/interact with other institution in the society, for example, she will ask for more resource from the education department of the government, and/or join with other schools to organise student activities.


The last one is “party”, in determine what is a party, Weber stated that a party should contains with three major elements, i.e. it should develop a rational structure and formal organisation and employ administrative staff. For example, a labour union or a voluntary association is also a party, individuals in a party share common consensus to pursue their interest. That implies that if you are a labour without joining to a union to defend/represent your interest, you are faced with social inequality with one who has joint to a labour union. In sum, the classification of class is based on individuals’ possession, status depends on the contemporary society’s views on different value and party is a collective of individuals with conscious to pursue common goal. One critical thing to be point out is that, these three classes themselves inherently are conflict free in their roles, that means they may work independently or cooperatively. Sometimes their roles may be overlapped or cross-over. For instance, a group of teachers can join together to form a union and then fight for more interest. Similarities and Differences between the two Approaches Similarities Since the functionalism emphasis the functional importance of the role, even though a class is on top of the others, it does not mean that it can control the rest. As for Weber’s approach, the classification of people of “status groups” could sometimes balance the power of “classes”.


However, in Wong and Lui’s study, it disclose that the above mentioned situation can not reflect the true picture. They found that even though “there are opportunities and openness, just as there are inequalities” and “class of origin is an important sign of class of destination”. Therefore they are inclined to support to Weber’s approach. As we can seen that academics are of different perceptions in explaining the social stratification of Hongkong; both funcationalism and Weber’s approaches are also supported by certain grounds. As a whole, I opined that Weber’s approach, in terms of extent are more appropriate in explain Hongkong’s phenomenon. Last but not the least, it should be bear in mind that because all the findings/studies were conducted over ten years, it is absolutely not suitable for explaining the prevailing situation of Hongkong.

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