Sociocentric systems are used in complex societies to justify differential treatment and injustices within a society, nation, or culture. This feature of complex social systems has been documented by sociologists who have specialized in the phenomenon of social stratification. As virtually all modern societies today are complex, the following characteristics of stratification presumably can be found in all of them. According to Plotnicov and Tuden (1970), Each has social groups that
- Are ranked hierarchically;
- Maintain relatively permanent positions in the hierarchy;
- Have differential control of the sources of power, primarily economic and political;
- Are separated by cultural and invidious distinctions that also serve to maintain the social distances between the groups; and
- Are articulated by an overarching ideology that provides a rationale for the established hierarchical arrangements. (pp. 4-5).
Given this phenomenon, we should be able to identify, for any given group in our society, where approximately it stands in the hierarchy of power, what the sources of power and control are, how the distinctions that indicate status are formulated, how social distances are maintained between the groups, and the overarching ideology that provides the rationale for the way things are.
Try to construct a hierarchy of the social groups within the culture with which you are most knowledgeable. First identify the groups with the most power and prestige. What characteristics do these groups have? Then identify the groups with less and less power until you reach the groups with the least amount of power. How do the groups with the most power keep their power? To what extent is it possible for groups with the least power to increase their power? To what extent do they seem to accept their limited power? To the extent that they accept their limited power, why do you think they do?