Stratification and Social Mobility, Slavery in Islam: A Critical Structural-Functionalism Approach

Stratification and Social Mobility, Slavery in Islam: A Critical Structural-Functionalism Approach

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9731-7.ch010
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In this chapter we propose a Weberian three dimensionality of stratification to explore the amount of upward and downward movement that goes on within and between Islamic societies and the industrial world. Our argument regarding social mobility provides intriguing clues as to the connection between legal systems (specifically civic laws based on religious jurisprudence), and stratification systems. We will discuss the issue of slavery and status inconsistency and contrast it with the caste system, which forbids upward, downward, inter-caste and intergenerational social mobility. We argue that the slavery system of stratification is more complex than the caste system, as there is an element of uprising and resistance built into the slave system by means of religious economic values. We will pay close attention to the role of Islam as a belief system which provides pathways for social mobility through the production and distribution of goods and services. In a previous chapter on sociality and inequality, a general proposition was made that, as human groups are formed, ranking and hierarchies come into existence in correspondence with rewards and the manner in which they should be distributed. From this viewpoint, inequality is a manifest function of a sociality whose latent function is to create poverty. This is an ethical issue for which Islam devised a variety of mechanisms to address. . For Marx, with his locus of attention on the specific, inequality is a manifest function of capitalism whose latent functions, among others, are monopolization and the enlargement of stratification.
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Islamic Economy, Foundations And Stratification

Since the Iranian Revolution in 1978, we have learned more about Islamic movements, the Islamic economy, and Muslim societies than in preceding centuries. Still, the field of Middle East Studies, spurred by both non-Muslim and Muslim scholars, can deeply probe the historical, sociological, political, economic, and cultural dimensions of the belief system to discover whether the Islamic economy, or the economy of Islamic societies, provides social mobility. By “social mobility” we mean a class-system society that, through a stratification system, provides four modalities: upward, downward, intergenerational, and intragenerational movements between classes. The subject of mobility has become politically popular as the affluent are choking off opportunity from others. Most often the problem of inequality is accompanied by a lack of upward social mobility.

There are two different ways to measure upward mobility. The first is known as relative mobility, which tracks where people end up in a national ranking of incomes as compared with where they started. If a child ends up in roughly the same place in the income distribution as his or her parents, even if the country as a whole becomes richer, he/she is not considered to be especially mobile. The second measure is absolute mobility, which examines people’s annual incomes relative to their parents’ income. As a comparison we review the case of the United States, where absolute mobility has continued to improve in recent years because incomes have risen. For example, in the United States, median family income is about 12 percent higher today than it was in 1980, adjusted for inflation. As a result, most adults today have more income at their disposal than their parents did at the same age. Yet the growth rate of absolute mobility has slowed, as economic growth has slowed to a disappointing level over the last 15 years. The incomes of middle-class and poor families have slowed even more sharply because a large share of recent economic gains have gone to a small slice of affluent workers – often described in political shorthand as “The 1 Percent.” (Leonhardt, 2014).

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