The varying forms of social classes and stratification inevitably cause conflict in a society. While each type of society has benefits, as I read, only problems came to mind. In an egalitarian society, every member has an equal opportunity for success. There are no limits on race, gender, sex, etc. Morgan Fried describes egalitarianism by saying; “there are as many positions of prestige in any given age/sex grade as there are persons capable of filling them.” In theory, this would mean that everyone is prestigious when they utilize the talents they have, such as hunting, carving, basket weaving, etc.
And there is little competition because everyone is able to go into the field they want. In reality, however, the problem I see with egalitarianism is that no competition could lead to mass competition. For example, if resources are shared equally and everyone has an opportunity to utilize those resources, then egalitarianism works well. If there is a shortage of a resource and it is unable to be distributed equally, if everyone is prestigious then how do they decide who gets access to the resource? Potentially, mass conflict can result from egalitarianism.
Rather than seeing potential problems in a ranks society, I saw a bit of confusion in this section. The chiefs in these societies “enjoy a special prestige,” celebrate with feasts, and are obviously of a higher status than the commoners. However, there is controversy over whether or not they have material benefits. They also lack power because they can not force commoners to do anything. My question is, what makes the chief so special? If they receive more food, but host parties and potlatches and give that food away, what is the point? Maybe my confusion derives from an unintentionally closed mind, but the rank system left me with some unanswered questions.
The most familiar form of social stratification is class societies. In a class society, not every social group has the same opportunity to be successful. The most dangerous factor in a class society is the growing inequality of wealth. After a while, the accumulation of wealth is ultimately about the accumulation of power. Power, by definition, is making someone do something, even if they don’t want to do it. The risk in having a class society is that decisions can be made by those who have the most money, not who is the most educated and qualified to make the decision. The major problem I saw while reading was the threat of corruption, which is a major possibility in the setup of a class system.
There is no such thing as a perfect society, each structure poses new problems that are unavoidable. As a researcher, and anthropologist first class, it is my job to recognize those problems and not judge, but observe and identify potential solutions.