“What’s in a name?”
- Social inequality: inequality in the distribution of societal values
(wealth, power and prestige). Caused by any ascribed or achieved
- Includes gender, ethnic, racial etc. inequality and socio-economic
- 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).
Two 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 (functionalism)
- 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.
- Stratum is a category of people with similar amounts of wealth, power
- 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. (Marxist)
- Differences and/or antagonism in class interests.
- Normality of class conflict.
- Question: Are there classes in Canada? (yes, but it’s an open-class)
Emergence and maintenance of socio-economic inequality
- Emergence of inequality may be due to chance and to apparently
insignificant differences 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 20 century.
!Kung; the 18 century Iroquois).
Meritocracy and social mobility
- Meritocracy: a social system wherein status is achieved by merit (ability
- It assumes equality of opportunity and perfect social mobility.
- Vertical social mobility is a movement of individuals to different
positions in social hierarchy (or: to different classes).
- Intergenerational and intragenerational mobility
- Upward and downward mobility. - Canadian middle class has been experiencing significant downward