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SOCA01H3 (591)

Week 10 Lecture Notes - Class and stratification

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Ivanka Knezevic

Social inequality: inequality in the distribution of societal values (wealth, power and prestige), caused by any ascribed or achieved characteristics. Includes gender, ethnic racial etc. inequality and socio-economic (class/status) inequality. Socio-economic inequality is a relatively stable pattern (hierarchy) of socially sanctioned, economic inequality. Inequality exists in all known societies, socio-economic inequality exists in nearly all known societies (hunting/gathering societies: gender and age inequality, but no economic inequality). Theoretical approaches to socio-economic inequality: Socio-economic inequality can be described and analyzed in two ways: 1. Distributional: the hierarchical arrangement of individuals based upon wealth, power and prestige. Socio-economic status (SES) - is an individual's position in this hierarchy. SES indicators: property, income, education, occupation, occupational prestige, political participation, political power, consumption patterns etc. Occupation is highly correlated with the other indicators of SES Stratum is a category of people with similar amount of wealth, power and prestige. (layer of people in society with a similar SES. Always talk about Strata, never classes. Stratification belongs to structural functionalism Assumed value consensus, therefore exceptionality of conflict. 2. Relational: socio-economic inequality is a relationship between classes, groups who differ in their access to means of production. Can form unions, membership; One class owns means of production Other class does not own means of production; sells their labour; Differences and/or antagonism in class interests. Emergence and maintenance of socio-economic inequality Emergence of inequality may be due to chance and to apparently insignificant difference between individuals/groups. Once inequality emerges, the privileged develop a system of social control (socialization and coercion) to maintain it. Some societies resist establishment of inequality (e.g. the 20th c. !Kung; the 18th century Iroquois). Normality of class conflict. Question: are there classes in Canada? Origins and maintenance of socio-economic inequality Meritocracy and Social mobility Meritocracy: a social system wherein status is achieved by merit (ability and effort) It assumes equality of opportunity and perfect social mobility; very easy to move from one class or social status to another only on merit Vertical social mobility is a movement of individuals to different positions in social hierarchy (or: to different classes) Intergenerational (movement from your parents' social status) and intragenerational (in your own lifetime) mobility. Upward and downward mobility Canadian middle class has been experiencing significant downward mobility in the last 25 years - unknown a generation ago. Open vs. closed stratification systems (Cumming and Duffy "open societies"), (difference of societies that allow for vertical mobility) Marx on classes: bourgeoisie, proletariat and the petite bourgeoisie Class relations are based on (exploitative) relations of production. Three main classes
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