SOCI 461 Lecture Notes - Social Inequality, Organ Transplantation, Social Capital

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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
-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
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