From a sociological perspective, does a government have a role to play as far as social stratification is concerned? Reliance on the text books cannot directly answer this question simply because it is not explicit.
The implied logic that answer the question stems from the argument pertaining to the way in which the government go about providing access to scarce resources and social reward that evidently stratified societies that may have the implication for structural violence that potentially triggers violent conflict. Against this premise, this article perhaps the first of its kind meticulously looks at the role of the government as the sole architect of social stratification.
It does so by focusing on the government of Liberia as a major example that arguably fit the contextual framework. To begin with the crux of this article, a concise conceptual clarification of social stratification will help to do justice to the caption under interrogation.
As a broader concept, the phenomenon social stratification could be conceptualized as the way in which the government that controls the society through policy frameworks opens the corridor for people to compete for scarce resources that determines their ranks on the social class ladder.
Corridor as employed in this article resonates with Laverne Thomas (1990) argument that given talents, effort and opportunity, individuals can move up the social class ladder. He furthers the argument about the true reverse that circumstances that hampers or reduces individuals’ climbing on the same ladder. What is important to infer from Laverne’s argument is the role of the government seen as the crux of this article.
Doubtlessly, the vision of the government of Liberia to make Liberia a middle income country by 2030 as captured in the Agenda for Transformation explained the government intention to narrow the sharp or wide gap entranced in the social stratification of Liberia.
Not only has it explained the intention of the government. It explains that the government has a major role to play in our social stratification as it relates to access to scarce resources and social rewards. This is evident by the passage of the decent work bill mainly for the working class such as factory workers, unskilled workers etc. Of course all societies are stratified due to scarce resources. But what is important is the wide gap created inadvertently or unconsciously by government action.
From the conflict school of thought pioneered by Karl Marx explaining social stratification, it is learned that because resources are scarce, society is prone to conflict especially in situation where circumstances that impedes individuals’ access to climbing the social ladder is engineered by government policy. This assertion arguably linked nearly to all of the violent conflicts in Africa to the way in the societies was stratified.
The apartheid policy in South Africa that stratified the blacks’ majority at the bottom of the social ladder and the 132 years Americo Liberians rule that stratified the indigenes at the bottom of the social ladder are classic or contemporary examples.
Because social stratification has the implication for structural violence, the government has a role to play to ensure that gap is not too wide. Now let’s look at the roles of the government of Liberia. In first and foremost, primary and general role of any government as in the case of Liberia is to create a level playing field that opens the corridor for members of the society to use their talents, skills, effort and opportunity to compete for scarce resources that will influence their climbing on the social ladder.
As mentioned earlier, the vision of the government to create or make Liberia a middle income country by 2030 indicates the government intention to narrow the wide social stratification gap that have the potential to give those stratified at the bottom of the ladder the inclination not to resort to violence or be used by politicians to cause social upheaval. How to actualize this vison that will reduce the wide gapis arguably contingent upon the government creating level playing field or enabling environment that will remove unintentional circumstances that impedes people completion for scarce resources.
The key question about how the government can create a level playing field deserves to be answered. In the intellectual faculty of the author, strategic investment in education provides the avenue for people to compete for scarce resources.
This compelling assertion suggests the difficulties to be encountered for realizing middle income society by 2030 as long as our educational systems remain in mess. In other words, strategic investment in education must be aligned with the vision for middle income society.
This is the reason why the Agenda for Transformations for raising Liberia by 2030 captured Education under pillar III captioned Human Development. Closely related to strategic investment in education is the labor market absorption of not only people with the requisite qualification from the diaspora.
Granted every qualified Liberian from the diaspora has the right to be absorbed by the labor market. However, if the government fails to strategically invest in education demanded by the labor market, those privileged from the diaspora will always occupied the jobs so as to retain their positions on the social ladder.
Consequently, the gap remains wider. As mentioned earlier, if the government in theory or principles claims to open the corridor for people to compete for scarce resources but inadvertently allow circumstances that stand in the way, it can be argued that the playing field is not level. In the case of Liberia, it is speculated that the practice of fraternity can be equated to circumstances that stand in the way of some people.
From time in memorial, it can be argued that disable people on average are often stratified at the bottom of the social ladder thus forcing them to be street baggers. Creating a level playing field for people to compete for scarce resources must be captured by the vision for middle income society by 2030 especially for disable people that to some extend certified the labor market requirements.
To conclude, no matter how the government open the corridor for people to compete on the social ladder for scarce resources, the society will forever remained stratified on grounds that it is part of human nature that not everyone is suited for every position in the society. However, the government must create a level playing field so that those that did not reach at the top of the ladder will not feel that circumstances created by the government prevented them. In this way, people will not have the inclination to see violence as the option.
About the Author Mr. Ambrues M. Nebo holds MSc in the top 5 % of the graduating Class in Peace and Conflict form University of Ibadan, Nigeria, Post Graduate Certificate with distinction in Public Administration from Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration Ghana, BA Hon (Magna Cum Laude) in Sociology from African Methodist Episcopal Zion University College in Liberia and various International Certificates in peacekeeping operations from the Kofi Anna International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Ghana. Besides this article, he has authored a dozen of articles dealing with contemporary issues in Africa and Liberia in which some of his articles (Stop Pointing Fingers at the West for Political Problems in Africa, Is Prolonged Regime, a Recipe for Potential Problems in Africa? and Instead of the International Criminal Court, blame our Leaders, The dark side of Majority rule in Africa) can be accessed online at google search and www.academia.edu.