The Social World II - complete course notes

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30 Mar 2012
- Social inequality means differential access to:
Power ability to influence others’ actions
Privilege access to power and resources
Prestige honour and respect in society
- Shown by income and wealth in capitalist society through socially-created status symbols
- Economic power = income + wealth debt
Wages, salaries and All assets: real estate, cars, bank accounts
government assistance stocks & investments, RRSP/RESP
- The income inequality gap has been growing for the past 40+ years in Canada as the country has shifted
from a welfare state to a neo-liberalist free-market economy; this results in minimal government
control/presence in the economy
Average wages have risen, but the gap between the highest and lowest income jobs are
growing real wages for most have fallen
Intergenerational gap in income: young workers start off with lower wages, make less, and
make less progress (eg. promotions)
Some individuals are more disadvantaged than others and make less money: racialized,
females, disabled, and immigrants
The gap in wealth is growing, with the top 10% of families holding 58% of the wealth, and 24%
of families with no wealth
- Why inequality exists:
1. Order Theories
Meritocracy: social hierarchical position is based on personal merit, and each individual gets
what they deserve
Inequality is needed to motivate the best to fill the most important positions with their talent,
and is based on personal abilities
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These most important positions are decided upon by those in positions of power, with an
emphasis on education
Success and position in society is determined by:
Biological determinism: men are naturally stronger and more intelligent than women
Functionalism: every individual falls into a social position based on their natural abilities,
and are given equal chances to succeed and compete for the 3 p’s (power, privilege, and
These theories deny the structural basis of inequality in capitalism
2. Change/Conflict Theories
Marxism: class
Assume that there is no meritocracy in an unequal society
Identifies unequal opportunities to success class, gender, race, disability, age
Privilege is passed on class inherited through family trusts, education, social connections
There is limited intra- and inter-generational social mobility
Higher education allows for better mobility, but even through schooling children are
disadvantaged by race, ability, class and gender inequality is reproduced through:
White male focus of course material, biased curriculum and teachers
Streaming of students into different fields
Feminism: gender
- Poverty:
10.5% of the Canadian population live in poverty, including 1 in 9 children, with 54% living in two-
parent families, 42% with at least one full-time income-earner, and 2/3 with parents with multiple
Canada ranks 25/33 in the top developed countries for the percentage of money spent on social
programs (unemployment, early childhood education and childcare services_
Vulnerable groups: immigrants, racialized, disabled, females (especially single parent female
families 1/3 are in poverty)
Qualifying criteria for unemployment insurance (only 40% of working males and 32% of females)
and the cost of childcare are issues that contribute to these statistics
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A. Absolute poverty: the basic, minimal acceptable standard of goods and services for survival
Market basket: developed by the Canadian government as a measure of absolute poverty a
basket of goods necessary for the survival of individuals and families, depending on the
community (do the individuals have enough income after tax to buy the basket?)
B. Relative poverty: less than the average acceptable community standard of living in the local social
Low income cut-offs: proportion of income spent on essentials, depending on geography and
community, compared to family size
Low income measure: half the median income in Canada, with no regard for geography or
1. Safe and affordable housing: rise in homelessness in Canada, with no national housing strategy
¼ households pay more than 30% of their income on housing
2. Hunger: requires families to cut into their budget for essentials, rent substandard housing,
move often to save rent, purchase poor quality food, utilize food banks, and own minimum
amounts of clothing, often second-hand
3. Health and social factors: low social and material living conditions result in high levels of
physiological and psychological stress from coping with conditions of low income & education,
unemployment, food & job insecurity, inadequate working conditions, poor early childhood
development, poor housing, social exclusion, inaccessibility to health services, discrimination
(Aboriginal status, gender, race, disability), lack of supportive relationships, etc.
Income & wealth: residents of the wealthiest 20% of neighbourhoods live longer than
those in the poorest 20% of neighbourhoods, residents in economically-deprived
neighbourhoods have higher death and suicide rates
Job security & working conditions: job security is decreasing, with increase in precarious
forms of work (part-time, self-employed, temporary)n in which women are over-
represented; 1/3 Canadians report work-related stress with more women (eg. sexual
harassment), 30% of workers report health and safety risks with more men (eg. physical
Unemployment: leads to material deprivation and poverty, reduced income and benefits,
lowers self-esteem, disrupts daily routines, increases anxiety, increases likelihood of
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