Singapore University of Social Sciences

Social Stratification

Social Stratification (SOC207)


Social stratification refers to the divisions or hierarchy of layers in society with regard to people’s access to economic and other ‘goods’. An individual’s standing in society is contingent on historical legacies and contemporary conditions. On this basis, ranking, caste, class, ethnicity and other distinctions are forms of social organisation used consciously or inadvertently in the share of societal resources through social networks. In this set of study units we first examine divisions in pre-modern society in terms of ranking, the distinction between tribespeople, peasants, rulers, patron-client relations, and caste. In the second part, we examine the modern society in terms of citizens’ relationship with the state, class based on socio-economic conditions and different political systems. In the third part we explore ideas and practices of race and ethnicity as a way of life and the extent to which such notions gives rise to social divisions and reach to national wealth. The objectives for the student here is to understand the processes of social inequality and stratification, in historical and contemporary contexts. The textbook and readings for this course steer students to view categories of class, race and ethnicity as socially constructed experience and to probe the extent to which these may be maintained. At the end of this section, students should be able to cite examples and explain with illustrations of various forms of social inequality in terms of class and other divisions.

Level: 2
Credit Units: 5
Presentation Pattern: Every July


  • Introduction and overview: forms of social inequality from premodern to modern industrial society
  • Social class theories and perspectives
  • Race and society; Ethnicity and multiculturalism
  • Case studies of social divisions in Asia: India and Japan
  • Case Studies of Social Divisions in Asia: Malaysia; Globalization and Migrant Lives
  • Globalization and Migrant Lives

Learning Outcome

  • Distinguish between the different types of social stratification and inequalities in various historical and contemporary contexts
  • Examine the processes, key concepts and perspectives relating to class, race and ethnicity
  • Discuss manifestations and mechanisms of social stratification specific (but not limited) to Asian cases
  • Demonstrate the social impact of stratification
  • Analyze the relationship between ethnicity and race, and the overlapping bases of identification
  • Explain concepts using empirical cases of social stratification
  • Apply concepts and theories in analysis of Asian case studies
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