SOCA01H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 11: Cultural Capital, Social Exclusion, The Hidden Curriculum
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Lecture 11 – Social Stratification (Part B)
The Functional Theory of Stratification
It argues that inequality is useful and inevitable
This theory is wrong in a certain way and it is not liked by leftist because of what it argues.
•Is inequality inevitable?
Inequality does seem inevitable. As soon as you get a surplus inequality comes to existence.
1. Kibbutz in Israel:
-Initially small agricultural communities, small scale attempt to create equality.
-They tended to separate children from their parents. They tried to break the parent-children link because
most of inequality is passed down through family; this fell down quickly. If you want to get rid of
inequality you have to get rid of family as we know it.
-They rotated positions because if you keep rotating then you have no position of power. What happened
is that some people were just better at doing certain things, so over time they started reappointing people
which wasn’t the original plan. So leader parents passed on advantages to kids by a halo effect.
2. Soviet Union & communism:
-Planned to do as much as possible to create equality.
-Everyone was supposed to get very similar wages; the wage gap was only 10:1. Now, why get the
responsibility of being the director of the factory if you get the same pay as the cleaning guy?
-Members of the communist party had more power, if you had this power you converted into wealth. The
leaders had country houses, cars, specialized “Western goods” shops, and they could travel.
-Once you had power and wealth, you translated that into status
-The children of the leaders went to best schools. That is when you get real stratification when things are
passed on. Otherwise, the inequality is wiped out when you die.
Emergence of inequality
Inequality in power (from large-scale organizations) is translated into status and economic outcomes
e.g. military: being a general is not an easy task; we are not all made to be generals.
•The Functional Argument
-Some jobs (e.g. physician) are more functionally important than others (e.g. janitor). This is not a bad
theory; it is conservative but still wouldn’t throw it out.
-Functionally important jobs require more training. e.g. it is easier to train a janitor than a physician. To
motivate people to make the sacrifices necessary to train for important jobs, they must receive large
rewards for their work.
e.g. 1 Doctors: lots of school, income they forgo while they study, long work hours, never really stop
studying. Thus, a good paying job
e.g. 2 Airline pilots: lots of practise hours, many years before they fly the bigger planes, unstable
schedule. Thus, good pay and lots of perks
Critique of Functionalism
1. Establishing the best
In Functionalism the position is open to best person, a talented and qualified person of any group. But
how do you assess the “best”?
e.g. 2 Is the best doctor the one with the highest grades? For doctors there is a bunch of other things that
come into the equation interpersonal relationships, placebo effect, etc. Often you don’t know who the best
e.g. 1 Roosevelt C marks but great leadership
2. How determine which jobs are most functionally important i.e. contribute more?
Imagine a strike and use the following criteria to judge functional importance:
-Time to impact: How long does it take before the strike is felt?
-Criticality: How significant the impact is?
-Replaceability: How easy is it to replace them?
Time to impactCriticalityReplaceabilityMoney made
TTCA day or twoFairly critical$$
Civil servants Months Low Fairly easy$-$$
DoctorsDays Fairly criticalLong time to replace $$$$$$
Police Minutes, hours
typically bring in the
military (trained to
(shorter in summer)CriticalExtremely easy $
(food and gas
Fairly easy $$$
Hockey playersForeverVery low Borderline, you want
-Much wealth is inherited
-Legacy positions: the elite or children of former students inherit the position (e.g. Harvard)
-Occupations preserve scarcity
-use power to limit access
-Disproportionate rewards, even if the occupation is important they demand too much
-Particular Baseball player 20 mill/year
What is fair?
-How much more rewards do you need to motivate the best people to fill the most important positions? 10
times more? 100? 1000? In 1988, 93 times more. In 1999, 419 times more.
-CEO making more money even though their company is going bankrupt
-CEOs vs. production workers struggle
-Trickle theory doesn’t work; money was being sucked up instead
-Tiger Woods $2.5 million to show up at a tournament. Is he worth it? Yes he is! More TV audience and
more people show up; thus, more money
Ungar believes in this theory
Oa/Ia = Ob/Ib = K
-a,b: people or groups
-Outcomes (rewards) proportionate to input (contributions). i.e. justification to get a higher education
-What inputs count in reality? Looks, race, gender
-What inputs should count? Moral judgement. Merit-ocracy: based on merits level, must have a level
playing field. Equality of opportunity and outcome.
Criterion to assess inputs:
-should count if it is achieved not ascribed.
-must make a positive contribution and benefit society in some way.
1. Intelligence (mixed status)
-Do they make higher contributions?
-Applied intelligence leads to a high contribution
e.g. 1 Hedge funds managers, if they make $100 million, is a $5 million pay off fair? They should get
money when they make it only.
e.g. 2 Tiger Woods, utterly irreplaceable right now. Unique example
2. Wealth/social bearing/ contacts
-i.e. family or background variable, are mostly ascribed
-Do they make higher contributions?
-Background matters lawyers, diplomats, bankers big investment guys
-How much ascribed vs. achieved?
-Do they make higher contributions?
-modeling, actress, tv broadcaster, personal trainers, sales clerk!, book sellers (univ!)hehehe,
-Real equality of opportunity requires end of the family as we know it or the limiting or elimination of
-Increasing head start programs would also help
-Kurt Vonnegut Cat’s Cradle talks about US “Handicapper-General”
-Facial justice – there are more ugly people than good looking people 1 in 10,000 thus make pretty people
•Marx on Stratification: Class Conflict
-Get exploitation of wage labour by capitalists
-Capitalists own means of production
e.g. coal miners, made all the wealth but only got 10 % of it.
Factory system was underway, he was writing at the worst period. There were no unions; kids worked
from7 years old on, 6 days a week or more, 60 hours a week,
-Workers became relatively poorer, “class-conscious” and organize
Relativistic argument: Owners wealth increase faster than worker’s, thus gap increases n they become
-A “crises of overproduction” will eventually result in revolution. Not happening, too much stuff and not
enough money to buy it.
It was an extremist theory that didn’t work out, “it’s very hard to predict, especially the future”. He was
describing the worst of the situation.
It argues that inequality is useful and inevitable. This theory is wrong in a certain way and it is not liked by leftist because of what it argues. As soon as you get a surplus inequality comes to existence. Initially small agricultural communities, small scale attempt to create equality. They tended to separate children from their parents. They tried to break the parent-children link because most of inequality is passed down through family; this fell down quickly. If you want to get rid of inequality you have to get rid of family as we know it. They rotated positions because if you keep rotating then you have no position of power. What happened is that some people were just better at doing certain things, so over time they started reappointing people which wasn"t the original plan. So leader parents passed on advantages to kids by a halo effect: soviet union & communism: