The Echoes of the Mind (157-1-1 Stratification Systems

 Stratification Systems

Human stratification systems are broadly categorized into estate, caste, and class systems. These generally follow historical development.


In an estate system, the ownership of property and exercise of political power is monopolized by an elite who control societal resources. The estate system is common in agricultural societies. Feudalism was an estate system, with 3 basic social groups: nobles, a priesthood, and commoners.

Women belonged to the estate of their husbands. Besides sharing the hard life of their husbands, peasant women faced the peril of rape by ‘noble’ men.

Estate systems continued into modern times. In the 20th century, several Latin American countries were run as estate systems.

So-called “communist” societies, such as Vietnam and North Korea, have party members as an elite in what is essentially an estate system. Totalitarian regimes are typically estate systems.