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Power and Society: Social Stratification in Modern Industrial Societies

Social Stratification in Modern Industrial Societies

Since its emergence, the human society has been heterogeneous, being divided into different layers based on the particular criteria of the particular historical era. Unlike slavery and feudal societies, industrial society is characterized by easier movement by social strata and more democratic principles of social division.

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In the industrial society, there exist only two major forms of social stratification such as class and status. While castes and estates, the traditional forms of social division, were based on parentage and ancestral legal status, classes take into consideration only the issue of private property (Brown, Parker, Child, & Smith, 2005). Harrison and Dye (2007) note that “the most important bases of stratification in modern industrial society are the various roles that individuals play in the economic system” (p. 97). The class reflects the economic position of the person, whereas the status deals with often non-economic characteristics of power, influence and respect (Brown et al., 2005).

Among the classes represented in the modern industrial society one may distinguish upper, upper middle, middle, working and lower classes. Democratic societies suggest that the social status and class should be given to the person based on his or her achievements, personal and professional qualities (Harrison & Dye, 2007). It is important not only to become the owner of larger amounts property but also to adopt respective non-economic characteristics. The modern society is also characterized by professional stratification, which divides the society into layers according to the successful execution of roles, knowledge, skills and education (Harrison & Dye, 2007).

In conclusion, it can be stated that modern social stratification in the industrial society gives a person many opportunities for social mobility. Property inequality will never disappear, but the society, in general, has become more tolerant and respectful towards all its members as equal human beings.

Thomas Paine’s Argument that “Government is a Necessary Evil”

The government has been considered the highest and the most reasonable form of human organization for a long time. Thomas Paine was among the brightest thinkers of the XVIII century, the ideologist of the modern democracies whose ideas remain relevant to the present day.

Paine’s most famous argument about the government can be found in his 1776 political pamphlet Common Sense. As John Locke, Paine supported the concept of the social contract state. The essence of the state and law Thomas Paine deduces from the nature of a man. There exist two states of a man, the natural and the civil ones. The natural rights are granted to a man by nature; among them are the right to happiness, freedom of conscience and speech. The civil rights, for instance, the right to own property, can be granted and protected only by the state. The state is, therefore, unavoidable if the people want their natural and civil rights to be protected (Ball, Dagger, & O’Neil, 2015).

For Paine, the state was created because of our drawbacks, while the society emerges because of our needs. The man conscience, unfortunately, is not clear; it cannot be defined and executed without any questions. The people are forced to create a government to protect themselves from malevolent intentions of others. Thus, Paine states that “Society in every state is a blessing, but government even it the best state is but a necessary evil” (Vile, 2015). And if the state refuses to protect its citizens, they have the right to destroy any form of government and establish the new one.

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As it can be seen, Thomas Paine’s ideas were among the most progressive of his time. They determined the development of the United States of America and other Western democracies. And even nowadays it would be useful for the governors across the globe to refer to Paine’s thoughts on the real nature of the government.

The Organization of Economic Activities under Feudalism

The world economic systems have experienced a long way from slavery to capitalism. Feudalism turns out to be the transitional stage between those two periods, reflecting the natural process of the society’s development.

The rise of the feudal economy can be seen during the IX-XV century in Europe. Under feudalism, along with the natural economy there emerges the commercial production. The peasant, the direct producer, was something in the middle between a slave and a free farmer; he was under the authority of the feudal lord, but at the same time, he had a farm. However, the greatest part of the production was still not sold but consumed by the feudal household: “The feudal manor was the leading “vertically integrated” producer of the time, but largely for his own use” (Scott, 2011, p. 150). The peasants were not allowed to dispose of their land and were forced to pay feudal rent.

The feudal economy was based on a strict division of labor. Unlike the slave society, where a peasant was at the same time a warrior, warfare was the feudal monopoly and the monopoly of a peasant was labor. The lords presented their vassals a piece of land, called a fief, with peasants at his disposal. Production and trade, thus, were under the control of the state and the Church. Strict control over the peasants was possible thanks to military force and cohesion. Along with that, the Catholic Church made much to make the peasants spiritually obedient (Suresh, 2010).

Overall, it can be said that feudal economy was marked by significant hierarchy, control, and subordination. Such mode of the economic organization was justified enough for the existing social realities, where the scattered masses of people should be somehow united under the rule of the governors. Eventually, feudalism succumbed to capitalism and market trade.


Ball, T., Dagger, R., & O’Neil, D. (2015). Political ideologies and the democratic ideal. New York, NY: Routledge.

Brown, R., Parker, S., Child, J., & Smith, M. (2005). The sociology of industry. London, UK: Unwin Hyman.

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Harrison, B., & Dye, T. (2014). Power & society: An introduction to the social sciences. Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Scott, B. (2011). Capitalism its origins and evolution as a system of governance. New York, NY: Springer.

Suresh, R. (2010). Economy and society: Evolution of capitalism. New Delhi, India: SAGE.

Vile, J. (2015). Founding documents of America. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

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