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Davis Moore Thesis

Davis Moore Thesis

Author: Zach Lamb

Examine the arguments in the Davis-Moore thesis, and the idea of egalitarian society.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello, welcome to Sociological Studies. Thank you for joining me. In this lesson, we're going to describe the Davis Moore Thesis.

Well, Kingsley Davis and Wilbert Moore were a pair of sociologists who gave us the Davis Moore Thesis in a paper called "Some Principles of Stratification" written in 1945. Their thesis held that some stratification is functionally necessary for society. All human societies have exhibited social stratification in some form.

So why? Well, they reasoned that it was functional for society. They were writing in 1945. World War II was ending. We were going to be entering a period of relative harmony and instability in American society. And functionalist thinking was of the rage at that time period. One of the most famous sociologists ever, Talcott Parsons, would then develop his ideas of functional social systems. And so it was natural to think about social stratification as functional for society, as well.

How might, then, social stratification be good for society? Well, they reasoned that the division of labor in society-- think about all of those different occupations out there in the world, all the jobs, all those empty structural positions in the division of labor that we as people fill. You could be a doctor, you could be a lawyer, you could be a hair stylist, you could be a receptionist, you could be a garbage collector, you could be a chef, a janitor, a teacher, a bus driver, a dentist, a police officer, a government official, and on and on and on. A software developer, an entrepreneur who starts his own company.

So some of these positions then in the division of labor are more or less functional for society as a whole. By more or less functional, I mean they are more important, more critical for the functioning of society than others. So you might say that a doctor is highly critical for the functioning of society because he keeps us healthy, whereas a receptionist then might be less functional for society because anyone can answer the phone, and it's not as important of a task as maintaining the health of the citizenry.

So Davis and Moore reason that compensation is due to tasks that are more functional. So the more functionally important and critical the task is for society, the more you're going to be rewarded. So this explains stratification and the reason we do not have a more egalitarian society. Egalitarian being equal because different levels of compensation then attract the brightest minds into the most difficult and the most complex jobs. So being a doctor, being a lawyer.

So in order to entice these people to want to go incur all of the advanced levels of training and education and foregone income because they're in school, you need to offer higher compensation. So then Davis and Moore give us the structural reason why stratification exists. Because we need to induce people to go into the most complex, highly functional occupations for society. And if everything was equal, meaning everybody got equal compensation for better or worse work, well then what incentive do you have to incur all the extra cost and go do all this if you don't have to do that. You could just get rewarded the same.

So they give us a structural reason why we have social stratification. But they don't speculate as to what amount society should give to this position and what amount society should give to that position. Each individual society decides that on their own. But the important idea is that most functional occupations for society are rewarded financially in terms of money, and as well as socially in terms of status and prestige.

Have a great rest of your day. I hope you enjoyed this introduction to the Davis Moore Thesis.

Terms to Know
David Moore Thesis

A theory that argues that some social stratification is good for society.


Belief that all people are equal and deserve rights and opportunities.