Weber proposed a three component theory of stratification. Unlike Marx, Weber did not limit stratification to only economic factors. His theory stratified society on the basis of Class, Status and Power.

A class is a group of people whose actions are based on a shared class situation. Weber proposed three conditions which form a class situation –

  • People having a particular causal component of their life chances
  • The causal component is represented by the economic interests.
  • A commodity Market

Weber’s disagreements with Marx

Weber disagreed with Marx’s view that only ownership or non ownership of property lead to formation of classes. According to Weber, the property less group having the skill sets valued in the market can lead to formation of different social classes.

Weber found no evidence to support bi polarization of classes. According to Weber, if petty bourgeoisie lose their business to big companies they would join white collar workers and not necessarily the manual worker class. White collar middle class expands with the growth of capitalism.

Weber rejected the inevitability of a proletariat revolution. According to him, it was not necessary that those who share same class situation would develop common identity to fight for their common interest.

Three component theory of stratification

Class – Economic dimension 

For Weber class is not a community, but merely a group of people in the same economic situation. According to Weber, there are four class grouping in a capitalist society.

  • The propertied upper class
  • The property less white collar workers
  • The petty bourgeoisie
  • The manual worker class

Status – Cultural and social dimension 

Status is linked to the respect one garners from the society. Class forms due to unequal distribution of economic resources, status is unequal distribution of social honour. People who share same social honour and status situation form a status group. They share similar life style and often, do not interact with the outsiders the way they would within the group. A good example is the caste system of traditional Hindu society in India.

Party- Political dimension 

Party is linked to social power. Parties constitute group of people who influence policies and make decisions in interests of their membership. Parties can either represent class interests or status interests and sometimes mix of both class and status interests. Parties are structures struggling for domination. They are the most organised elements of Weber’s stratification system.

According to Weber class, status and power do not necessarily co-vary – a person may be high on one of these dimensions and low on other. This can prevent people from coming together to form a conflict group and bringing about the social change.

Structures of Authority

Although Weber was almost as critical of modern capitalism as Marx was, he did not advocate revolution. He wanted to change society gradually, not overthrow it.

Domination is the probability that a certain specific command will be obeyed by a group of persons. Domination can be legitimate or illegitimate. Weber calls legitimate domination as authority. The authority is made legitimate to followers on three basis – rational, traditional, and charismatic.


Traditional authority

This type is legitimised due to established belief in immemorial traditions and the legitimacy of those who exercise authority under them.

Charismatic authority

People respond to such authority due to exceptional sanctity, exemplary character, heroism or special powers of leaders.

Legal Rational authority

People respond to rational authority because of their belief in legality of rules which give certain people right to issue commands using such authority.

Social Change

Traditional and legal rational authority maintain social stability. Only charismatic authority can bring about social change. But, after the death of a charismatic leader influence of his authority weans away. He has to transform into traditional or legal rational authority so as to influence people to follow his ideals even after his death. Weber termed this process as routinization of authority – a charismatic authority is made routine either through traditional or legal rational authority.