SOCI 1003 Lecture Notes - Nomenklatura, Progressive Tax, Symbolic Culture

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26 Nov 2012
SOCA01-Chapter 8
Social Stratification: Canadian and Global Perspectives
Patterns of Social Inequality
Shipwreck and Inequality:
-social inequality can be compared to a shipwreck
Ex. Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe
-about an Englishman marooned on an island
-his hard work turns the island into a thriving colony
-portrays the work ethic of capitalism
-believed that people get rich if they possess virtues of good business people
Ex. Swept Away
-opposite of Robinson Crusoe
-rich woman treats deckhands rudely, gets shipwrecked w/ one of them, they fall in love but when they
are rescued they return to how they were before
-movie sends 4 messages that contrast w/ the theme’s of Robinson Crusoe
1. You don’t have to work hard to be rich b/c you can inherit wealth
2. Hard work does not always make you rich
3. Something about the structure of society causes inequality (b/c class inequality only disappears on the
deserted island)
-unequal power b/w sexes
4. Inequality has many interrelated dimensions, including class, sex, and race, and different contexts
highlight different conditions of power and exploitation
Ex. Titanic
-at first, the theme is that class differences are important
-as the tragedy unfolds a different theme emerges
-under some circumstances, class differences can be erased
-therefore it can be an optimistic tale that holds out hope for society in which class differences
no longer matter (“American Dream”)
Economic Inequality in Canada:
-idea that money is power is a perennial theme”everything has a price”
-thus selling of sperm, ova, and blood is more common
-global organ shortage has encouraged the sale of organs, esp. in India
-has also stimulated the use of organs from executed prisoners esp. in China
-people selling body parts are almost invariably poor
-people buying body parts are invariably rich
-an increasing number of wealthy people (although not common) take their surgeons to poor countries to
buy organs to prolong their life
-in N.A. esp. the US, poor people more likely to suffer illness that could be alleviated by organ transplantation than
the rich
-also less likely to be offered transplant opportunities
-poor don’t have adequate private health insurance
-poor also more likely to be donors
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-the sale of organs is not banned b/c argue that it might cost buyers their life and also infringe on the autonomy of
-materialism: attempt to satisfy needs by buying products or experiences
-defining characteristic of modern society
-economic prosperity has made Canada one of the best countries to live in
-can be seen in the average income of Canadian families from 1950-2006
-purchasing power of families rose
-due to enhanced productivity, improved worker’s skills, advances in technology
-however, average earnings have increased at a slower rate more recently
-economic prosperity and materialism not equally shared
-the concept of the share of income held by each quintile is frequently used to investigate income inequality
-allows researchers to determine whether inequality is growing or shrinking
-among rich countries, income inequality is lowest in Sweden and highest in the US
-Canada is b/w these two extremes
-income inequality has changed little b/w 1951 and 2005 in Canada
-income inequality has widened in most rich countries but not by much in Canada
Explanations or Income Inequality:
-the job a person holds plays a large role
-some jobs not only pay less but have restricted hours of work or periods of unemployment
-thus, income inequality depends on what kinds of work a person can obtain
-some people earn high salaries b/c they have natural talents at activities that are widely admired
-ex. Jerome Iginla, Victoria Bertram, Shanaia Twain, Mike Weird
-although talent and effort matter, they only pay off when they are reined to particular skills
-many skills are relativepeople can only develop to the level of those to whom they are exposed
-ex. Tennisrequires stiff competition to develop skills
-many skills require recognition and encouragement for development
-when individuals begin to participate in formal education, what they encounter varies in compatibility w/ earlier
experiences, mostly gained w/ family members
-success at formal schooling is the key to acquiring economically valued skills
-since Industrial Revolution, more jobs require formal education
-majority of income earners able to think critically, communicate persuasively, reason logically, and work
-affects the occupation they hold and their incomes
-importance of education as a determinant of occupation and income continues to increase
-the chances of advancing in educational systems is higher for people born into families that are relatively more
-individuals must supply talent and effort to accumulate human capital
-but, rates of success also depend on human capital accumulated by their family in previous generations
Human Capital theory:
-stresses the increasing centrality of education as a factor affecting economic success
-productivity gains can also result from investment in the skills and abilities of people
-knowledge intensive jobs are increasingly numerous in Canada
-better educated workers are more skilled and productive in these jobs
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-part of reason why people w/ same amount of human capital may receive different economic rewards is that they
possess different amounts of social capital
-people more likely to succeed if have strong bonds of trust, cooperation, mutual respect and obligation w/ well-
positioned families
-a related reason of this argument is cultural capital
-emphasizes a set of social skills people have, their ability to impress others, to use language and images
effectively, and to influence and persuade people
-emphasizes your impression-management skills
-but also stresses connections and networks
-both concepts emphasize being part of the right “social club”
-also has the idea that families higher in social hierarchy enjoy more capital of all types
-culture and connections often influence who gets interviewed
Natural talentRewards
Natural talent + EffortRewards
Natural talent + Effort + Skill-rich environments + Developed skillsRewards
Natural talent + Effort + Skill-rich environments + Developed skills+ Social and cultural capitalRewards
Income versus Wealth:
-from the top 10 riches people or families, inheritance is a critical factor
-none of them rose from rags to riches
-suggests a mix of family fortune, business acumen, and opportunism as key determinants of wealth
-only a few acquire the wealth of major enterprises but most own assets (for most adults assets are cars,
appliances, furniture, and savings)
-some wealthier families own equity in a house and more fortunate ones about to accumulate stocks and bonds
-bottom 40% of families own no assets and may owe more than they own
-top quintile have increased in wealth
-wealth inequality increasing rapidly in Canada (not as much as the USsurpass all industrialized countries in
wealth inequality)
-only a modest correlation with income and wealth (some wealthy people have low annual incomes)
-income redistribution has little to do w/ the distribution of wealth therefore, it may not get at the root of
economic inequality
Income and Poverty:
-the number of homeless people are increasing
-homelessness is one manifestation of poverty
-poverty lacks an agreed definition
-disagreement on whether it should be defined in absolute or relative terms
-absolute: focuses on “bare essentials”; suggests that poor families have resources inadequate to acquire basic
necessities of life (but what is essential varies from time to time, place to place, group to group
-most people think of poverty in relation to the social and economic context in which people live
-a relative poverty line also has drawbacks
-most definitions tend to be narrow and focus on income
-deprivation occurs when a family cannot acquire the essentials, not necessarily when income is too low
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