SOCA01H3 Lecture Notes - Meritocracy, Class Conflict, Bourgeoisie
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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,
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
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
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
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