Equality of opportunity is an idea that opposes caste systems and states that people should be able to compete with equal opportunity. However, this does not mean equality of outcome. The difference between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome is that having equal opportunity in life means that everyone is equal before the law, while equality of outcome states that everyone ends up with the same with the same material wealth and income. This is a controversial political ideal and is not something that can be ensured in American society. One reason equality of outcome cannot be ensured in the United States is because one of the many values of American society is a free market. This means that all individuals are able to buy and sell what they want, with very little to no government intervention. As Max Weber stated, the market is open for people to bring their individual skill set and some people have more talents and skills than other people, meaning that they will play a more important role in society than those who have less valuable or impressive skills.
Because of the free market in American society, there will always be people in the capitalist society that strive to have more wealth and income than others. Since everyone has different skills, and certain roles in society are more important than others, it is agreed by members of society that people who perform those roles be paid more because the skill is more desirable. While not everyone may be in agreement with the concept, the individuals who perform the desirable roles in society seek the education needed for them, whether they be doctors or musicians. Another reason why American society cannot ensure equality of outcome is because of greed. Many people who have lots of wealth are born into it and do not need to do much besides investing to keep their wealth. Since these people do not want to give up their wealth so that everyone can have the same or similar wealth and income, ensuring that equality of outcome happens in American society is very unlikely.
Social stratification is organization, of a society, into groups that have different social rankings. These social rankings affect an individual’s life chances, and often their ability to move their social position upward. A class, a system of social stratification, is a group of people who share a similar economic position in society. The three theories of social stratification focus on the class system. Davis and Moore promoted functionalist theory, stating that stratification and inequality is functional to society. They believed that stratification exists for good reasons because it ensures that the most talented and worthy people would be given the most important roles to play in society, and that social inequality is overall a necessity. Davis’ and Moore’s theory states that an individual’s class status is achieved by their talents and skills, specifying that social Darwinism is a main role-player. Karl Marx, a conflict theorist, said that class ranks exist because of everyone’s different roles in the production process. The “Bourgeoisie,” or capital class, own means of production. The working class, the “Proletariat,” sell their labor to the capitalist class in exchange for wages. Marx stated that people in a lower position on the production chain have lower class position in society, and it is because they own less means of production. For example, an owner of a corporation with lots of expendable income and employees has a more important social rank than one of the employees.
Max Weber argued that class position is regulated by the market and that social status is honor given to members of society by a large group. Individuals enter the market with their talents and skills and, based on their skill set, are placed into different classes. These talents and skills are earned and learned through socialization. I agree most with Marx’s theory of social stratification because owning means of production, even today, is what gives people wealth. Societies function with the consumption of produced materials and content and without production, society would not continue to function the way it does. For example, a popular music artist might make hundreds of thousands of dollars when they sell a song because they control the means of producing that type of material that many individuals enjoy.