This course reviews contemporary approaches to understanding social inequality and the processes by which it comes to be seen as legitimate, natural, or desirable. We address questions of the following kind: What are the major forms of stratification in human history? Are inequality and poverty inevitable? How many social classes are there in advanced industrialism societies? Is there a “ruling class?” Are lifestyles, attitudes, and personalities shaped fundamentally by class membership? Can individuals born into poverty readily escape their class origins and move upward in the class structure? Are social contacts and “luck” important forces in matching individuals to jobs and class positions? What types of social processes serve to maintain and alter racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination in labor markets? Is there an “underclass?” These and other questions are addressed in light of classical and contemporary theory and research.