Abstract

The current dispersion of stratification research into several seemingly unrelated topics such as social mobility and various kinds of inequality (racial, ethnic, gender, income, etc.) is unfortunate and unnecessary. It is unfortunate because a good theory can improve understanding of each of these and goes on to open new avenues for the development of theory itself. It is unnecessary because a general theory of stratification in fact exists, though this is not immediately obvious because its expressions have evolved with the passage of time, and because its basic unity is obscured by terminological differences among its contributors.

The theory's original form was written in 1377 by Ibn Khaldun as the basis of his theory of human organization (sociology), and was buttressed by his profound knowledge of pre-14th Century societies. His form of it is a conceptually simple framework consisting of a two-class hierarchy of absolute power, together with an analysis of the rise, dissolution, and replacement of power holding groups.

Beginning around a century ago this framework was augmented and elaborated both in terms of a more refined set of dimensions of types of power and of modern statistical concepts by which to describe the structural variations of power in societal stratification systems in any society.

The paper reviews the evolution of the theory and brings it up to date. Measurement methods as well the theory's implications are discussed.

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