Class stratification

form of social categorization
(Redirected from Social stratification)

Class stratification is a form of social stratification in which a society tends to divide into separate classes whose members have different access to resources and power.


  • One of the most important social distinctions of Rome – in the city itself, the Italian peninsula and (eventually) the vast territories the Roman army conquered – was between citizens and the rest. Roman society was obsessed with rank and order, and small distinctions between the upper-class divisions of senators (senatores) and equestrians (equites), the middling ranks of the plebians, and the landless poor known as proletarii were taken very seriously. But citizenship mattered most. To be a citizen of Rome meant, in the deepest sense, freedom. For men it conferred an enviable package of rights and responsibilities: citizens could vote, hold political office, use the law courts to defend themselves and their property, wear the toga on ceremonial occasions, do military service in the legions rather than in the auxiliaries, claim immunity from certain taxes and avoid most forms of corporal and capital punishment, including flogging, torture and crucifixion. Citizenship was not limited to men: although many of its rights were denied to women, female citizens could pass the status on to their children, and their lives were more likely to feature comfort and plenty if they were citizens than if they were not. Citizenship was therefore a prized status, which was why the Roman state dangled it as a reward for auxiliaries who served a quarter-century in the Roman army, and for slaves who served uncomplainingly in the knowledge that if their master freed them, they too could claim the right to limited citizenship as freedmen. To lose one’s citizenship – the punishment imposed for very serious crimes such as homicide or forgery – was a form of legal dismemberment and social death.
    • Dan Jones, Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages (2021), pp. 23-24
  • We must want equality, and we must grasp that equality does not coexist with class structure.
    • Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz To Be a Radical Jew in the Late 20th Century in The Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Women's Anthology (1986)
  • The prophets ... hurled their "woe be unto you" against those who oppressed and enslaved the poor, those who joined field to field, and those who deflected justice by bribes. These were the typical actions leading to class stratification everywhere in the ancient world, and were everywhere intensified by the development of the city-state (polis).

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