Social mobility is of two types: (i) Vertical Social Mobility, and (ii) Horizontal Social Mobility. (i) Vertical Mobility refers to the movement of people of groups from one status to another.
It involves change in class, occupation or power. For example, the movement of people from the poor class to the middle class, from the occupation of the labourers to that of the bank clerks, from the power position of the opposition to that of the ruling class. (ii) Horizontal Mobility is a change in position without the change in status. It indicates a change in position, within the range of the status. For example, an engineer working in a factory may resign from his job and join another factory as an engineer and may work in more or less the same capacity. Similarly, a teacher may leave one school to join another as a teacher. Social Mobility and Social Stratification: The nature, form, intensity and magnitude of social mobility depend on the nature and the type of social stratification. Class and Caste are the two main types of stratification.
In both the systems same kinds of opportunities are not provided for social mobility. Because, in both the societies the factors that determine the statuses of the individuals differ radically. There is a close link between the way in which individuals obtain their statuses and the nature of social mobility. In the caste system, the status is determined by birth. Since birth cannot be changed, the status which is determined on the basis of birth cannot be changed.
For example, a Harijan cannot attain the status of a Vokkaliga, or Lingayat or Brahmin. Similarly, a Brahmin, born as a Brahmin, dies as a Brahmin. Caste-statuses cannot be changed. 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 statuses of their liking, 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 once 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. Principal Types of Social Stratification: Caste-Estates and Social Class: Sociologists have recognised three major types of social stratification: Caste, estates and social class. Of these, caste system with all its peculiar features is to be found in India only. Estate system as a kind of stratification system existed in Europe during the medieval period. But social classes are almost universal in nature.
They are found in all the civilised, industrialised and literate societies of the world. These stratification systems decide largely the position that a man occupies in society. The extent of social mobility is mostly conditioned by them. The range of one’s social contacts is almost fixed by one’s caste or estate or class. They influence and condition the way of life of people or their ‘life-styles’ to a very great extent.