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Sociology | Class 11 | Social Structure, Stratification & Social Processes


Each person has a unique place in the social structure and system of social stratification (see pages 28-35 in Introducing Sociology). This suggests that their access to social resources varies in terms of both type and degree. To put it another way, the socioeconomic class to which a person belongs will determine the options available to them in terms of the school they attend or if they attend school at all.

Understanding the dialectical relationship between the individual and society has been one of the main goals of the sociological approach.

The three key notions of structure, stratification, and social processes are what we need to talk about in this chapter in order to grasp this dialectical interaction between the individual and the society.

Social Structure

  • The phrase "social structure" refers to the way in which society is organised, or "structured," in general.

  • The regularities or patterns of human behaviour and interpersonal relationships are often referred to as social structure.

  • In how people act in their interactions with one another, there are underlying patterns and regularities. Due to its repetition over a variety of times and spaces, certain regularities or patterns are present.

  • The concepts of social reproduction and social structure are intertwined in the sociological study for this reason. For instance, in a school, the admissions process, the dress code, the annual events, the daily assemblies, the school uniform, and the school anthems are observed and repeated through time and become institutions.

As a result, modifications are made to the social institutions' structure. Either cooperative behaviour or major conflict brought on by rivalry results in a change.

The pattern of human behaviour connected to cooperation and conflict is explained by two main elements.

  • Emile Durkheim focused on the idea that civilizations exert social control over the behaviour of their members. According to Durkheim, society comes before the individual. Society has a "firmness" or "solidity" similar to the structures in the physical environment, making it far more than the sum of individual deeds.

  • Karl Marx and other social theorists place a strong emphasis on the limitations of social structure while also highlighting the ability of human creativity or agency to both perpetuate and alter social structure.

Social stratification

When there are systematic disparities across social classes in terms of who has access to physical or symbolic incentives, this is referred to as social stratification.

While social stratification exists in all civilizations, modern societies are frequently characterised by stark disparities in income and power. Class distinctions are the most obvious kind of stratification in contemporary countries, but other factors like race and caste, area and community, tribe and gender still continue to be important as the foundation for social stratification.

A certain pattern of inequality also characterises social stratification as it pertains to the larger social structure. Inequality is not something that is spread among people in society at random. It is systematically connected to participation in various social groupings. Members of a certain group will share characteristics, and if they hold a higher rank, they will typically take steps to ensure that their favoured status is passed on to their offspring. Therefore, the term "strategy" alludes to the idea that society is split into a regular pattern of unequal groupings, and it typically indicates that this pattern tends to endure across generations.

Various strata are related to the purposes of social stratification. Nobody can meet all of their demands by himself.

Social units and patterned relationships are referred to as having a social structure. These are a unique set of relationships between different units. Social structure makes the exterior, comparatively permanent, and abstract shape of society evident. The most obvious types of stratification in contemporary civilizations are those based on class, race, caste, religion, community, tribe, and gender.

A form of social stratification known as the caste system includes the following characteristics:

  • Disabilities of various groups on the social and religious fronts.

  • dietary restrictions and coexistence.

  • limits on married relationships.

  • restriction on career choice.

Basic advantages that privileged groups may receive include:

  • Life chances: All those material things that make a recipient's life better, such as wealth, income, health benefits, job security, and leisure time.

  • Prestige or high standing in society is referred to as social status.

  • Political influence is the dominance of one group over another based on that group's capacity for making decisions.

  • Social structure and social stratification influence the possibilities and resources that people and groups have to compete, cooperate, and engage in conflict.

Methods used in sociology to study social processes

Through the lens of the actual social structure of society, sociology aims to understand the processes of collaboration, rivalry, and conflict.

Both viewpoints assume that in order to fulfil their fundamental needs and to generate and reproduce themselves as well as their environment, humans must work together.

  • The conflict perspective emphasises how different historical societies' conceptions of cooperation differed from one another. For instance, cooperation existed among society members in simple societies where surplus was not produced. But in a capitalist society, when there was surplus production, the dominant class owned it, and the problem of managing the surplus gave rise to conflict and rivalry rather than cooperation.

    • According to the conflict perspective, the system of production relations places groups and people in diverse and unfair positions. The factory owner and the worker so work together on a daily basis, yet there is a potential for a concealed conflict of interest or a vested interest in their interactions.

    • It focuses on how society is divided along caste, class, or patriarchal lines. Some groups experience discrimination and disadvantage.

  • The functionalist viewpoint emphasises specific functional imperatives, functional requisites, and prerequisites as "system requirements" of society. These are the widest requirements that must be met in order for a system to exist, such as

    • the process of integrating new members.

    • communication mechanism used by everyone.

    • techniques for designating responsibilities to people.

    • The functionalist perspective presupposes that various components or organs of society have a role or function to play in the upkeep and operation of society. According to the functional approach, collaboration, competition, and conflict are universal characteristics of all societies, and their interrelationships are frequently complex and difficult to distinguish.

Social Processes

Social processes are the different acts people do when operating within the boundaries of a certain social organisation.

By using the actual social structure and society as well as a pluralistic understanding of society, sociologists aim to explain social processes.

According to MacIver and Page, social process is "constant change occurring in a certain way inside the social structure."

As a result, social processes—also known as the process of social interaction—are a byproduct of social contact.

However, in order to meet their basic wants and to produce and reproduce themselves as well as their environment, humans are presupposed to work together, according to both Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim.


Cooperation is the ongoing and shared effort of two or more people working together voluntarily and equally towards a common objective. For human society to survive, cooperation is essential. Cooperation is based on several presumptions about how people behave.

Cooperation is a constant and global activity. Both sympathy and empathy for others are involved. Its nature is unselfish. Both on a psychological and social level, cooperation is essential.

Without human cooperation, it is thought, human life would struggle to survive. To meet some basic social demands, cooperation is necessary, which is made feasible by the division of labour in society.

It involves associative thinking.


  • Conflict is a dissociated social process, hence it is distinct from conflict.

  • Conflict is typically a conscious process, although cooperation can sometimes be an unconscious process.

  • Conflict results from groups vying for access to and control over scarce resources in society.

  • Conflicts have a variety of causes. It could be based on caste or class, tribe or gender, ethnicity or religion.

  • Competition is distinct from conflicts. Conflict is primarily a conscious process, whereas competition may be an unconscious process.

  • While conflicts are typically motivated by personal ambitions, competition has as its primary motivation achieving goals.

  • Only when it is articulated publicly can conflict manifest as discord or an obvious clash; yet, the lack of movement does not imply the absence of a conflict.

  • Conflict may accompany or be necessary for cooperation, and forced and voluntary cooperation differ from one another. The example of daughters' property rights in Indian society will help you understand this. If they ask for her right, they describe her as greedy, and if she gives it up out of necessity, they call her cooperative. Therefore, it is possible to think of cooperative conduct as the result of intense social strife.

  • Emile Durkheim argued that in order to meet some societal objectives, collaboration is necessary, and the division of labour serves this purpose. Karl Marx claimed that although people cooperate and adapt to one another, they also change society in the process.

Social Accomodation

  • Accommodation is a type of social interaction between two or more people or groups that aims to avoid, lessen, or completely eliminate conflict.

  • Although cooperation and accommodation are two distinct processes, they are also associated processes. Both promote the development of group life, concision, integration, assimilation, and social harmony.

  • A social process known as assimilation occurs when two or more people or groups accept and imitate each other's behavioural patterns.

  • While accommodation and assimilation represent various stages in the process of cooperation, cooperation deals with relationships between individuals or groups in order to achieve a common goal.

Cooperation and Labor Division

  • Human survival benefits from cooperation. It makes achieving goals simple. It brings individuals together and expands learning opportunities, both of which are very beneficial in the economic sphere.

  • Knowledge cooperation requires an understanding of Durkheim's solidarity. Durkheim made a distinction between organic and mechanical solidarity. Both are examples of social collaboration.

  • The purpose of labour division, which calls for cooperation, is to satisfy particular societal needs.

  • Karl Marx and Durkheim both emphasise cooperation, yet they also have differences.

  • Marx argues that in a class-based society, collaboration is not voluntary since it has arisen spontaneously rather than as a result of class conflict. In other words, employees lose the ability to plan their own labour and decide how much money they will receive in exchange for their efforts. This is significantly dissimilar to a worker in a factory whose only responsibility may be to press a button throughout the day who obtains satisfaction and pleasure from creative, as opposed to a weaver, potter, or iron smith. In this case, cooperation is required.

Organic Solidarity

  • A form of cohesiveness (togetherness) in age, sex, division of labour, specialty, and lifestyle.

  • A type of social cohesion based on interdependence and the division of labour

  • They are united by shared values, attitudes, and consciousness, such as a farming family.

  • As they specialise, they grow increasingly reliant on one another, such as a clothing or automobile manufacturing corporation.

Mechanical Solidarity

  • Form of cohesion (togetherness) in lifestyle, specialization or division of labour, age and sex.

  • They have togetherness due to similar beliefs, sentiments, and consciousness e.g. family engaged m farming.

Competition as an idea and practice

Competition can be described as a conflict between two or more parties in an effort to obtain a relatively scarce good or service. It is a common and organic social process that occurs in every human society. It is a widely held belief, social custom, and behaviour in modern culture.

Competition is a universal and natural separable social activity, just like cooperation. The social explanation, however, differs from naturalistic explanations.

In the modern era, the concept of competition predominates, and it is impossible to envisage a society in which competition does not serve as a driving principle.

The expansion of trade is the primary goal of contemporary capitalism, which places a strong emphasis on large-scale manufacturing in factories where many people are employed.

Both Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim observed the rise of individuality and competition in contemporary civilizations. Both of these phenomena are fundamental to the operation of contemporary capitalism. In a capitalist society, higher efficiency and greater profit maximisation are stressed.

The prevailing worldview under capitalism is that of competitiveness. According to this ideology's reasoning, the market functions in a way that ensures maximum efficiency, such as through competitions that guarantee admittance to prominent universities and the best professions for those with the best grades or academic records.

This ideology makes the assumption that everyone competes on an equal footing, i.e., that everyone is positioned equally in the competition for resources, jobs, or education. However, stratification and inequality reveal that people are positioned differently in society, which ultimately results in conflict.

Since conflict is frequently not outwardly expressed, the inferior groups, such as women or peasants, create various coping mechanisms to deal with conflicts and promote collaboration. According to sociological study, hidden conflict and open cooperation are quite real and prevalent in cultures.

Important terms

  • Altruism: The idea of acting without regard for one's own interests or selfish motives.

  • Alienation: This term describes when workers no longer have control over the nature of their work tasks or the end products of their labour. According to Durkheim, anomie is a social condition in which the rules dictating behaviour fail, leaving people without social restrictions or guidance.

  • Accommodation is a type of social interaction between two or more people or groups that aims to prevent, minimise, or eradicate a problem.

  • Assimilation is the social process by which two or more people or groups adopt and practise a different behavioural style.

  • Conflict is a dissociated social process in which individuals or groups challenge the opponent directly through acts of violence or the threat of acts of violence in order to achieve their goals. The creation of goods using wage labour for the purpose of sale, exchange, and profit rather than to meet the immediate needs of the producers is known as capitalism.

  • Cooperation is an associative social process in which people communicate with one another and cooperate to achieve a common goal.

  • Competition is a dissociative social process that involves making a valiant effort to accomplish a goal that is not readily available to satisfy everyone's needs.

  • Structure: It refers to made-up organisational frameworks and patterns that in some way control or influence human behaviour.

  • Culture is a group's way of life, a collection of beliefs and practises that members acquire, pass down, and pass on from one generation to the next. Cultural characteristics are the tiniest cultural building blocks.

  • Stratification is the social class system that determines whether people or groups are in high or low positions. Biologically inherited group known as a race that tends to breed physical characteristics from generation to generation.

  • Modernity is the uniqueness, complexity, and dynamism of social processes that emerged in the 18th and 19th centuries and marked a clear departure from earlier lifestyles.

  • Social constraints: Our behaviour is conditioned by the groups and cultures we have previously been a part of. This is a distinctive characteristic of "social facts," in Durkheim's opinion.


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