Hence, the caste as a form of social stratification does not facilitate vertical social mobility. It is for this reason the caste system is called a ‘closed system’, and the caste-ridden society, the ‘immobile’ society.
In a class system, opportunities are provided for social mobility. Here, the status is determined mainly by the talents, intelligence, wealth and achievements of the persons. The status is not ascribed by birth but ‘achieved’ by individual attempts. For example, by his endless efforts and struggles a labourer may become the owner of a factory, a salesman of a business house, the owner of a business firm, and so on. There is scope for the improvement of the social status in the class system. Hence, the class system is called an ‘open system’, and the ‘open-class’ society, the ‘mobile’ society. As and when the society becomes more and more complex, and the life of its members improves, individuals may find better opportunities for the expression of their abilities and talents. But in no society all the deserving individuals can obtain statutes of their likings, desires and expectations.
As Sorokin has pointed out in his “Social Mobility “, only in an ‘ideal’ society all the individuals get employments and statuses in accordance with their capacities. At the same time, it is not possible to make people to confine to their status when they occupy or assume a status without going away from it, or changing it in any manner. For example, even in the so called ‘immobile’ society like India, though a Harijan cannot change his caste-status, he can change his educational, economic, employment and political status. In this sense, there are no completely ‘open ‘ and ‘mobile’ societies and completely ‘closed’ and ‘immobile’ societies. “Open” and “Closed” Societies Open Societies Based on Achieved Statuses: Societies or social stratification systems are said to be “open” or “closed” systems only in a relative sense and not in an absolute sense. A completely “open” society, which exists only in theory, would be one in which all individuals could achieve the status for which their natural talents, abilities, inclinations and training best suited them.
Here, the statuses are “achieved” because individuals obtain them through direct efforts or through competition. Most occupational positions in the modern societies are achieved statuses. An “open society” would not be a society of equals; because, there would be still inequality stemming from unequal achieved social positions. But these social positions would be gained solely by personal achievement and merit. ‘Closed Societies’ Based on Ascribed Statuses: Just as totally open societies would never exist, completely “closed societies could be found nowhere in the world.
A closed society is said to be one in which all individuals were assigned a status at birth or at a certain stage, which could never be changed either for better or worse. Such statuses are called ascribed statuses. Parentage, that is, children inheriting the social position of their parents is the usual position for the ascribed status. But various factors [personal qualities, political and economic conditions, etc.,] from time to time may influence such statuses. In a completely closed society, no individual action, no outstanding merit, or notorious misconduct, could alter one’s ascribed status.
In actuality, all societies fall between these two extremes of ‘open’ and ‘closed’, they contain both achieved and ascribed statuses in varying proportions. India itself is a good example in this regard. Caste based Indian society was regarded as rigidly stratified and relatively closed society for a very long time, even up to the first half of the 20th century. Yet, the caste-ridden society too afforded some chance for social mobility. Talented individuals could occasionally marry into a higher caste; or acquire patronage and the means of education and a better occupation from members of a higher caste. Such individuals and certainly their children would eventually be able to move into that higher caste.