This report presents social stratification as a macro level social trend as observed in the movie Sweet Home Alabama.
The topic researched was social stratification, which has emerged as one of the most studied topics in sociology. This topic was chosen because the class differences observed in society affect almost all aspects of peoples lives. The manner peoples lives are shaped on the basis of their class attracts a lot of interest hence the decision to look into this topic. In the movie Sweet Home Alabama, Melanie Carmichael (the main character), is affected by social stratification (more specifically her class) in the manner she finds it hard to accept her new relation with the upper class though her husband-to-be, Andrew. It becomes very difficult for her to leave her old partner with whom she has had a relationship since her high school days. She now considers herself as belonging to the upper class, yet most of the people she relates belong to the lower (working class) where she has been brought up. She has to maintain the relationship with her family while still impressing her newly found boyfriend.
Social stratification in America has been influenced by important milestones in the history of the nation. For instance, societal needs at different periods of history in one way or another brought about social stratification. More particularly, during the American civil wars, military positions were regarded highly and those who held them without doubt belonged to the upper class. Another milestone is globalization which brought about corporate growth with some industries considered to produce more important goods than others. The executives of these industries are paid more than their counterparts in industries producing less important goods. Of particular interest in this context is the invention of the car which has always been considered a sign of social-economic status. Those who own cars are perceived to belong to the upper class while those without are poor.
Analysis of Articles
In his article, Wealth and Stratification Processes, Spilerman explores the current stratification patterns in the Unites States. He builds his article on information obtained from a literature search concerning household wealth trends in the country and how wealth variables have been used in social and economic planning. He looks at the role wealth plays in stratification and explains why household wealth has not been given a central role in research on stratification (498). He explains how inequality is transmitted from one generation to another and argues the case for factoring in household wealth in not only stratification research but in social and economic planning and/or policy. He concludes that living standards models and those of consumption potential ought to take into account household wealth as well as wealth transmission in the society.
Another article relevant to the current topic is that by Becares and Priest, titled Understanding the Influence of Race/ Ethnicity, Gender, and Class on Inequalities in Academic and Non-Academic Outcomes among Eighth-Grade Students: Findings from an Inter-sectionality Approach. This article details a study the authors conducted to examine how different inequality axes intersect to affect/determine non-academic and academic outcomes among school-going children. While they have not stated the research question in this article, it can be deduced from their objective to be: How do different axes (of inequality) intersect to affect non-academic and academic outcomes among school-going children? Examining different social groups, the researchers noted big inequalities as far as the socio-economic outcomes of different disadvantaged or advantaged classes were concerned. They conclude by stating that discrimination based on gender, class, or ethnicity affects not only just academic outcomes but also life in general. They assert that achievement gaps cannot be fully eliminated if social stratification brought about racial and gender discrimination is not given attention and addressed (Becares and Priest 13).
Deductions about Causes
It is thought the theory of Marxism best explains social stratification, as those who own the means of production are considered as the upper class in society. Those who have to sell their labor power to survive (hence by working for the upper class) are the middle or working class who usually have to struggle in society. The main cause of social stratification, according to this theory, is the access to resources (or means of production) in the society. The trend of social stratification in American society has been cause by inequality in society as may be dictated by limited access to opportunities by some people while others own and control these resources.
Deductions about Effects of the Movie
Indeed, social stratification is caused by a limited lack of resources by some people in the society while others have full access and control to them, just as insinuated by the theory of Marxism. The theory postulates that social stratification stems from control and ownership of resources in the society, what it refers to as the means of production (Billings 60). The articles looked at support this assertion. For instance, Becares and Priest state that access to resources as well as socialization experiences and expectations differ considerably by race and gender hence social stratification along these lines (4). Likewise, Spilerman explains that poverty, economic status, and living standards of a given family are a reflection of that familys total resource base (497-498). In the movie, stratification can be noted along these resource base for indeed Melanie and her family as well as old boyfriend belong to the lower working class whereas her new partner, Andrew, who is the son of a mayor belong to the upper class. While the movie is largely a work of fiction, it is based on real life stories where tensions are often noted when intermarriages occur between families that do not belong to the same class. While the movie does well to depict the dilemma Melanie faces in balancing her social and familial relations, it in a way ignores any challenges Andrew may have to face when making a decision to marry a girl of a lower class.
From this report, it can be concluded that social stratification is an issue that deserves more attention that it is currently receiving. True as it were, the task of achieving equality and creating a society where anyone can achieve anything is not an easy one, unless different axes of inequality are looked at. Most importantly, creating equal opportunities for everyone and ensuring there is equal access to resources will go a long way in addressing stratification. For instance, if ethnicity and racism are shunned, it will be possible for Latino or Black children to have equal education opportunities, hence a chance to attend the countrys best schools. That way they would boost their chances of success and mobility.
Becares, Laia, and Priest, Naomi. Understanding the Influence of Race/Ethnicity, Gender, and Class on Inequalities in Academic and Non-Academic Outcomes among Eighth-Grade Students: Findings from an Intersectionality Approach. PLOS ONE, 1-17 (2015). DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0141363.
Billings, Dwilight, B. Rethinking class beyond colonialism. Journal of Appalachian Studies, 22(1) (2015), 57-64.
Spilerman, Seymour. Wealth and stratification processes. Annual Reviews in Sociology, 26 (2) (2000):497524.
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