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Melvin Tumin’s Critique of Theory of Social Stratification

Davis and Moore were of the opinion that stratification exists in every known human society. They argue that all social systems share certain functional prerequisites that must be met if the system is to survive and operate efficiently. One such functional prerequisite is the effective role allocation and performance. Firstly all roles must be filled. Secondly, they must be filled by those who are able to perform them in a best way. Thirdly necessary training for them is undertaken and fourthly the roles be formed conscientiously. All the societies need some mechanism for ensuring effective role allocation and performance. This mechanism that they mention is social stratification and should be seen as a system that attaches unequal rewards and privileges to the different positions of the society. Tumin opponent of functional theory of stratification questions the adequacy of functional importance of positions Davis and Moore assume the highly rewarded positions to be most important. However many occupations of little prestige or economic reward are also vital to the society .He states that some labor forces of unskilled workmen are as important as some labor force of engineers. In fact there is no objective way of measuring functional importance of positions. It is simply a matter of opinion that lawyers and doctors are more important than farm laborers. Tumin also argues that Davis and Moore ignored the influence of power on unequal distribution of rewards. The difference in pay and prestige may be due to differences in power rather than their functional importance. According to functionalists unequal rewards is to motivate talented individuals and allocate them to functionally more important positions. But it is rejected by Tumin and social stratification and act as a barrier to the motivation and recruitment of talent. This is apparent in close systems such as caste and racial stratification. This close stratification systems operate exactly the opposite way to Davis and Moore’s theory. Even relatively open systems of stratification erect barriers to the motivation and recruitment of talent. The considerable evidence is found in western industrial societies that limit the possibilities of the discovery and utilization of talent in general. The lower an individual’s position the more likely he is to aspire and strive for highly reward and position. Thus the motivation to succeed is unequally distributed through out the class system. Thus a social class can act as an obstacle to the motivation of talent. Occupational groups often use their power to restrict access to their positions so creating a high demand for their services and increasing the rewards they receive. Tumin concludes that stratification by its very nature can never adequately perform the functions that Davis and Moore assigned to it. The differential rewards encourage hostility. Stratification is divisive rather than an integrating force. It weakens social integration by giving members of the lower strata a feeling of exclusion from the society.