October 10, 2001
Soc. Group Paper
Some Principles of Stratification: A Critical Analysis
In his article, “Some Principles of Stratification: A Critical Analysis,” Melvin Tumin examines a previously written article on the subject by sociologists Kingsley Davis and Wilbert Moore. Tumin argues against Davis and Moore’s statement that “Social inequality is thus an unconsciously evolved device by which societies insure that the most important positions are conscientiously filled by the most qualified persons” (Thompson 114). The validity of Tumin’s reasoning can be seen by evaluating some of his arguments according to a framework of personal relevance.
First of all, Tumin says that Davis and Moore’s assumption that certain positions are more functionally important and require special skills is not necessarily true.
In the long run, everybody’s job is important to a functioning society. He uses the example of skilled engineers and unskilled workmen being needed to run a factory. From a more personal view, that of a college student, it can be seen that for a university system to work, highly specialized professors need administrative personnel to do work like scheduling the professors’ classroom space or registering students for their classes. Both professors and administrative personnel are needed for the university to run smoothly.
Another interesting argument Tumin makes is that access to education depends on the wealth of one’s parents, and if a person cannot afford to attend college they may be denied the opportunity to find their talents. Thus, unlike what Davis and Moore say, much more talent may exist in a society than is actually found and utilized. Personally, if my parents had not provided me with financial assistance to attend college, I would either be working right now to save money for college, or I’d be working a couple jobs while going to school, probably making it take longer to earn my diploma. Tumin’s argument that no society considers its young as less morally worthy than older persons is reinforced by the fact that my parents are willing to invest their income into financing my education.
Finally, while Davis and Moore contend that converting talents into skills involves a sacrificial training period, Tumin says that psychic and spiritual benefits for people undergoing the training process outweigh their sacrifices. Although many college students are sacrificing the income they could be making at a full-time job, they have the reward of living in a campus community. This setting grants additional freedoms a full-time job would not provide, like a very flexible schedule with many free hours, freedom from parental restrictions, and the opportunity to participate in a variety of clubs and sports not enjoyed by the community at-large.