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Minority Studies: A Brief Sociological Text is a very, very brief textbook suitable for use as a supplemental or stand-alone text in a college-level minority studies Sociology course. Any instructor who would choose to use this as a stand-alone textbook would need to supply a large amount of statistical data and other pertinent and extraneous Sociological material in order to "flesh-out" fully this course. Each module/unit of Minority Studies: A Brief Sociological Text contains the text, course objectives, a study guide, key terms and concepts, a lecture outline, assignments, and a reading list.

Minority studies: a brief text: part ii—race and ethnicity

Dimensions, forms, and systems of stratification

Max Weber delineated the major dimensions of stratification, which are wealth, status or prestige, and power. Wealth is a person’s total economic assets, power is the ability to influence over resistance, and status/prestige is the respect and admiration people attach to various social positions. There are three other, different kinds of power: personal power, which is the ability to affect one’s own life (also called autonomy); social power, which is the ability to affect the lives of others; and coercive power, which is the use or threat of force or violence by persons or groups against others—this is the power of the state or the thug with a gun. There are also two forms of stratification: the closed form, in which the boundaries between/among the layers are impermeable, statuses are ascribed, and social mobility is limited by custom, tradition, ideology, and law; and the open form in which the layers between/among the boundaries are permeable, statuses are achieved, and social mobility is aided by custom, tradition, ideology, and law.

Within these two forms of stratification there are four systems of stratification: the slave system the caste system the estate system and the class system. The slave system includes two distinct strata: a category of people who are free and a category of people who are legally the property of others. Slave systems are a closed form of society characterized by differential power, lack of complete social mobility, and few, if any, legal rights. Slavery is maintained by custom, ideology, and law. In a caste system, membership in ranked categories of people is hereditary and permanent and marriage between members of different categories is prohibited. Caste systems are totally closed societies where status is ascribed; there no social mobility, and they are maintained by custom ideology and law. The estate system is a concomitant of feudalism, which is a social hierarchy centered on the monopoly of power and ownership of land by a group of victorious warriors (lords) who were entitled to labor goods and military service from peasants who were the vast majority of the agrarian population. Feudalism endured from the 11th to the 20th century. Estate systems are relatively closed societies where there is extreme inequality with virtually no middle class—only the very rich and the very poor—and although there was some social mobility, this system was also maintained by custom, ideology, and law. The class system is a product of modern, industrial capitalism.

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Source:  OpenStax, Minority studies: a brief sociological text. OpenStax CNX. Mar 31, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11183/1.13
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