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Global Inequality

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University of Toronto St. George
Robert Brym

SOC101 Jan. 26/2011 Global Inequality Gross National Income Per Capita by Child Mortality Rate, 2006 Higher income = lower child mortality rate Relationship between Income & Life Expectancy Film • In 1810: life expectancy below 40, UK still a bit better • Industrial Revolution makes western countries move up • 1948 WW2 ends, imperial powers begin to decolonize • Asian countries start to catch up in 1980s, African countries caught up in civil war, AIDS • Huge inequality between countries at the top & those at the bottom, & within • World is converging, possible for all countries to catch up • Once colonies became independent they made enormous progress Misc: • Most countries in the world are improving; some are not (sub-Saharan Africa) • When we think about global inequalities, we need to look at differences between the classes of people – poor countries lack substantial middle classes • Gap between rich & poor is greater in poor countries than in rich • Cost of ending world poverty is low & increasing life expectancy in poor countries Two sociological theories that seek to explain global inequality: #1 Modernization Theory • Global inequality results from various inadequacies in the poor countries themselves • Poor because they lack capital for investment in industry • Do not have developed business techniques necessary to run an economy • Do not have stable governments (people do not want to invest here, business investors want stability) • Lack a western mentality: which emphasizes the importance of saving money, & investing some of the money you save, importance of education, & self-control in having children • Rich countries can best help poor countries by transferring western culture & capital which will help poor countries cap population growth, have stable governments, & allow agricultural growth Criticism of Modernization Theory: • For last couple hundred years, most powerful countries have deliberately impoverished these poor countries (had political & military relationship that ensures the poverty of these countries) • If you focus on characteristics of the country, you are blaming the victims • Victims of politics of rich countries • Colonization/annexation caused global inequality in the countries that are now poor • Ignores what was taking place in colonial policy #2) Dependency Theory • For 250 years, the most powerful countries in the world have impoverished the least powerful countries as a matter of state policy • Thus, the countries of the “third world” or “global south” accounted for 73% of world industrial production in 1750 but only 7.5% in 1913, the worlds 12 richest countries accounted for 90% of world industrial production • Something happened between 1750 & 1913 to elevate the richest countries, & depress the productivity of the rest of the world the Industrial Revolution • Colonies forced to become source of raw materials & cheap labour for the rich countries, as well as markets • Why? Industrial Revolution enabled Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Russia, & the US to amass enormous amounts of wealth, which they used to establish powerful armed forces to subdue & then annex or colonize most of the rest of the world between the middle of the 18 & the middle of the 20 th century • Main exception: Japan (considered less valuable than China & India) • Japan was one example of a non-Western country that industrialized early, because it was not co
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