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Theoretical Examination of Social Stratification Essay


The essay is a critical examination of an article written by Mark Thomas, titled “Economic Security for Middle Class Families”. Through the reading, two theories are compared; social conflict and functionalism.

This is done by comparing the characteristics of their approaches and how they will analyze the problems brought forth in the article. Lastly, one of the two theories is chosen based on how best in my view interprets the issues. It is then used to come up with possible resolutions to the issues raised.

The article provides some worrying statistics with regards to well being of middle-class American families. Most families 2 out of 3 experience unstable financial grounds. Others are in borderline or at risk of falling back to lower class. It is worth noting that the findings were backed by participants of a press conference that launched the report (Thomas, 2007).

Comparison of functionalism and social conflict theory

Functionalism theory is coined to the findings and arguments of Durkheim. This theory holds that a society is made up of interdependent sections which work in harmony to meet the needs of a given society. It mainly focuses on how people come together, join forces and a form a society.

The fundamental of the theory rests on how good or bad actions being taken are to the equilibrium. Additionally, it sees individuals as occupying fixed roles in the society, consensus is build on common values, there is need to disorganize and adjust in order to attain equilibrium and society is viewed as an entity that is bigger than the sum of its parts.

With regards to functionalism, the problem facing middle class American rests on the failure of the government and the relevant authorities to develop plans that meet the needs of a given society. When individuals are not given equal opportunity to access education, health and political positions then there is bound to be a serious problem (Thomas, 2007).

On the other hand, social conflict theory developed by Marx centers mainly on power, equality and exploitation. According to the theory groups or persons are subjected the conditions they are faced with by those in power since distribution of material as well as non-material resources are skewed.

The rich in the society oppress the poor due to the power the former holds. According to Thio, 2008 political culture and economics play a major role in explaining the imbalance in distribution of resources.

For this reason, conflict social theory if used to explain the problems being experienced by middle class families holds that those individuals in upper classes subject middle class families to work hard making huge profits that are channeled back to the rich.

This leaves the middle class at risk since policies are put in place to ensure that their lives remain the same or even become worse. Having in mind that majority of middle class families cannot afford to acquire material and non material resources, and then they are at risk of losing a grip on them due to the exploitations they are subjected to.

It is worth noting that although the two theories are distinct from one another, they share a common thing; that of seeing the society at a macro-level analysis. Structures such as education, wages, education, politics, culture among others and how they impact on the well being of individuals are tackled in both theories (Thio, 2008).

In my opinion, the social conflict theory seems to best explain the problem being faced by the middle class families. It is worth noting that the majority of individuals in this class are African American (Macionis, 2009).

This thus rests on the injustices the groups were subjected to in the past which seem to haunt them upto date. Although efforts have been made to provide them with equal opportunities in education, employment and health, they still suffer from exploitation in terms of salaries and wages.

Based on the selected theory, it is necessary to bridge the imbalance or inequality of distribution of resources. It is not only important to strengthen and make education, health services and debt reduction a priority but ensure that employment opportunities are equal and wages discrepancies are minimal.

This will provide the affected individual with an opportunity to thrive in such a class and even struggle to climb the ladder of social stratification (Thio, 2008).

In my opinion, I believe that the statistics presented here are objective, valid and factual. From the information presented by the author it is evident that middle class American families are experiencing economic, political and cultural instability.

My view rests on the fact that the presented information come from a primary research and was backed by reputable individuals who were present during the launch of the report.


From the review of the article by Mark Thomas, the problems being faced by middle class American families have been differently interpreted by functionalism and conflict social theory.

Both are distinct but share a common characteristic; that of being capable of analyzing society in a macro-level. Social conflict theory seems to be one theory that best interprets the problems. Based on this, there is need to come up with policies that will uplift individuals in middle class.


Macionis, J. (2009). Society: The Basics. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson.

Thomas, M. (2007). “Economic Security for Middle Class Families” Web.

Thio, A. (2008). Sociology: A Brief Introduction. New York: Pearson.

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