What is Social Inequality? 11/21/2011 12:57:00 PM
Life is a stacked deck
Life is a gamble – everybody knows that.
In that sense, this course is also about “heavy odds” – the chances against
most people winning.
People who start life rich, powerful or famous are more likely to finish life
Life is a poker game – a game of skill and cunning -- played with a stacked
Inequality: why some people always win
The dictionary defines inequality as the quality of being unequal or uneven
Inequality is about hierarchical (i.e., better-worse) differences between
any two people (or things), A and B.
Sociology is dedicated to explaining how this inequality “game” works and
the reasons most people face heavy odds
It also means showing social inequality leads to crime, sickness, addiction,
violence and sometimes-even war for society as a whole.
Our personal experience tells us there are many natural inequalities
We know that simply by looking around us and talking to other people.
The question for sociologists is, how do these natural inequalities become
social inequalities, and with what results?
Finally, sociologists are interested in how people invent or construct
The example of beauty
Consider for example the staging or performance of inequalities in
connection with physical beauty.
Why do some societies reward beauty – especially in women – more highly
than they reward, say, intelligence?
Flipped around, what are the unwelcome consequences of being plain
To explain the creation, performance, and preservation of social inequalities,
we need to develop some sociological concepts.
The intersection of inequalities
In fact, the course is largely organized around understanding the key
processes of inequality As we will see, a number of social characteristics – for example, class,
gender, race, and age – significantly affect people‟s well being.
Intersectionality makes it hard to predict the effects of inequality simply
adding together individual disadvantages.
Consider the status inconsistency of women
Though women tend to have lower status than men in most societies, each
“type” of woman will have a different experience
Around discrimination in the workplace or in respect to domestic violence,
Sociologist Gerhard Lenski showed that status consistency matters.
Status inconsistency has consequences for social action that we cannot
predict from the so-called dimensions of status alone.
Intersectionality also means that people in disadvantaged conditions (e.g.,
women, racial minorities, or poor people) may find it hard to share a
common identity and band together for political action.
However, this complexity does not mean that everyone‟s life is different and
sociologists cannot draw general conclusions or make general theories about
Habits of Inequality Theory
All societies display social inequality of varying kinds – for example, class
inequality, gender inequality, age inequality, racial or ethnic inequality.
These social inequalities are socially constructed: that is, collectively
imagined on the basis of a supposedly important natural difference (e.g.,
sex, skin color)
Inequality Has Harmful Consequences
All types of social inequality have negative consequences for the people
they disadvantage, and for society as a whole
The most extreme forms of inequality produce the most extreme
consequences, including poor mental and physical health, crime, and war
Societies vary in Social Inequality
Societies vary in the degree and kinds of social inequality they display.
2 The Scandinavian countries show least inequality
Less developed societies, and the US, show the most inequality
Canada falls somewhere near the middle of the pack
Societies with the widest variety and intensity of inequality are most likely to
display clear and long-lasting patterns we call “habits of inequality”
Correlates of the Inequality Habit
These habits of inequality are related to other cultural patterns: especially,
The Cultural Habits: S-N-P-N-S
All types of social inequality display similar patterns or cultural “habits” that
include the following (S-N-P-N-S):
o Social differentiation
o Narratives of blame
o Practices of oppression
o Narratives of validation
o Strategies of resistance
S = Social Differentiation
Social differentiation is the practice of identifying different “kinds” of people
who are assumed to be essentially and unchangeably different, and whose
difference is consequential for social and economic life
This process is the transformation of natural differences (for example, in skin
colour or sex) into socially important differences and inequalities.
N = Narratives of Blame
Narratives of blame are socially constructed accounts that attach social or
moral qualities to different groups to explain why advantaged people are
advantaged and disadvantaged people are disadvantaged.
3 These narratives derive from a belief that the world is just in its distribution
of rewards and punishments (more about this later) – the so-called Just
P = Practices of Oppression
Practices of oppression comprise a variety of economic and non-economic
behaviors including exploitation, domination, exclusion, discrimination,
These practices of oppression may follow the creation of narratives of blame,
or may precede them, in which case the narratives serve to justify pre-
N = Narratives of Validation
Narratives of validation are socially constructed accounts that attach
different, even opposite, social and moral qualities to groups in society, as a
response to narratives of blame.
They may take various forms:
Deny the factual accuracy of the blame narratives, denying any fault,
deficiency, or misdeed
Deny any choice, guilt, or control over the actions for which blame
narratives hold them responsible.
Hold advantaged people responsible for creating conditions that are
S = Strategies of Resistance
Strategies of resistance include collective (social) actions that combat
practices of oppression, reduce inequality, or ameliorate the effects of
They may take various forms:
Consciousness raising activities
Social movement formation to achieve social and political goals
Institutional completeness: the formation of self-sufficient
Information dissemination (via media, schools, churches) to change
Legal challenges to oppression, through the courts
4 Continuing Struggle
Under continuing conditions of inequality, there will be a continuing struggle
between narratives of blame and narratives of validation; and between
practices of oppression and strategies of resistance.
Under certain circumstances, the struggle over one form of inequality (e.g.,
race) will influence and energize the struggle over another form of inequality
Popular images of inequality
In this course, we will reconsider many popular views about inequality.
If we wished, we could test these popular views and prove them true or false
with empirical evidence
These include views like “everyone is different” and “everyone has a fair (or
equal) chance to get ahead”
Is inequality a problem?
People hold strong, passionate, often angry or bitter views about inequality.
But is inequality a real problem in society or an imaginary one?
To answer this, we need to recognize that social issues like inequality have
at least two aspects
We will call them objective and subjective elements.
Objective aspects of inequality
Objective elements are measurable signs of disadvantage.
Likewise, we can measure the prevalence of inequality.
This “objective” kind of research is based on a philosophical premise, called
„positivism‟, that there is a physical reality we can perceive with our senses.
Subjective aspects of inequality
Equally, we can be interested in the subjective elements of a social issues or
Subjective elements are people‟s evaluations of objective conditions
These moral or esthetic judgments reflect people‟s tastes and values; and
they are a social reality in their own right.
So, a second goal of sociology is to make and test theories about people‟s
subjective beliefs and the social outcomes of these beliefs
5 Both aspects of inequality matter
„Subjective realities‟ no less important than „objective realities.‟
What makes inequality
a social problem?
Often, the social construction of social problems means putting a problem on
the political agenda. A central feature in the social construction of social
problems is called „claims-making‟. That means making (and promoting)
particular ways of thinking
Some problems are more self-evident than others
Some would say problems only become social problems when claims-makers
and moral entrepreneurs succeed in drawing public attention to them
However, some problems deserve our attention even if most people are
ignoring them, most of the time.
Why might racism be a problem?
Ethical problems, practical problems (income inequality, poverty, crime and
demoralization); the lack of intergroup contact, due to exclusion and racism,
may isolate non-white people from mainstream Canadian society. Produces
secondary psychological effects like prejudice and even self-hate.
Racism may even produce bad health conditions which is indicators of social
How is Canada doing, comparatively?
If people suffer from ill health because of racism or another social condition,
we can readily see the result, understand it, and, usually, care about it.
We also need to ask ourselves whether Canada’s problems of racism – or
inequality more generally -- are worse than those found in other societies,
and if so why?
We need to ask these questions because, as sociologists, we do not compare
real societies with ideal societies – that is, with utopias.
Let‟s not be idealists
Thomas Malthus‟s famous quote about ostriches, in his Essay on Population
(1798): “I put out of the question, at present, all mere conjectures, that is,
6 all suppositions, the probable realization of which cannot be inferred upon
any just philosophical grounds.” Malthus does even more than merely
dismiss utopian thinking: he collects evidence from a variety of societies to
support his reasoning about overpopulation.
Rousseau‟s theory of inequality
Why should we care about social inequality? French philosopher Jean-
Jacques Rousseau rightly begins by discussing the difference between
natural versus social inequality
When is privilege unjustified?
Privilege: a right, advantage, favor, or immunity specially granted to. A
certain individual, group, or class, and withheld from certain others or all
Rousseau argues that social inequality must be proportional to be just.
“Moral [i.e., social] inequality, authorized only by positive right [i.e., human
law], is contrary to natural right, whenever it is not combined in the same
proportion with physical inequality.”
One injustice: when the stupid
lead the wise
Any privilege or inequality that is not explained and justified by a natural
difference is contrary to natural right and to the laws of nature.
Rousseau correctly identifies why most people care about social inequality.
It is because extreme inequality, extreme privilege, and extreme
disadvantage, are unfair.
We know it when we see it
Rousseau is saying we all know when socially unequal privilege has gone too
far, and we reject it. By social inequality, sociologists mean unequal ---
usually, unjustifiable -- privileges, rewards or opportunities for
different individuals within a group, or groups within a society.
So, for example, students all expect to be treated equally in a sociology
Is inequality inevitable?
We also expect society to be fair; or else, we are angry, even outraged.
7 That said, inequality, even of the unfair kind, might be a constant feature of
the human condition. But is inequality really inevitable?
According to economic liberals today, inequality is the price to be paid for
dynamic economic growth under capitalism.
What equalities are attainable?
The communist experiments collapsed around 1990 under excess
bureaucracy and the weight of social discontent. We will want to consider
what inequalities are justifiable and what equalities are humanly attainable.
We will also see that social inequality creates and maintains a large
underclass in which disadvantage is transferred from one generation to the
Equality = social justice
Like Rousseau, I will argue that social inequality is the opposite of social
justice. However, like equality, “justice” is a difficult concept. We can
distinguish at least four different kinds of social justice.
Types of social justice
1. Equity or fair exchange: the equivalence of outputs to inputs for all the
parties in an exchange.
2. Distributive justice: a fair allocation of resources, rights, and
obligations across an entire category of contenders. It allows for the
existence of inequalities of outcome, so long as these are justified by
inequalities of input, in relative terms.
3. Procedural justice: guarantees that fair procedures will always be
followed in making allocative decisions, even if these fair procedures
result in unequal outcomes.
Christopher Jencks‟ schoolteacher
Sociologist Christopher Jencks asks how should an elementary school
teacher, Miss Jones, justly allocate her time to helping readers in her fourth
Which is the fairest way to allocate scarce resources?
What is the fair way to do so?
8 Democratic equality - treat everyone the same
Moralistic justice - reward biggest effort
Weak humane justice - reward most economically disadvantaged
Strong humane justice - reward all disadvantaged
Utilitarianism - reward the fastest learners
What principle would you support here?
Rawls: Do no (more) harm
John Rawls's famous „difference principle‟: equality is the default position,
unless inequality will serve to improve the position of the already
disadvantaged.” E.g., affirmative action
Social justice will mean considering society from an impartial standpoint,
with you making the choices as though you were the most underprivileged
Popular view: reward “merit”
If you are rational, you will choose impartially with your own interests also in
mind, since you want to avoid making your own situation any worse.
That is what we can imagine underprivileged people would do too
Far more familiar in our society is the notion that equality means rewarding
people according to merit. However, this “meritocratic” approach forces us
to ask what constitutes merit, and which qualities of individuals we can
But why reward “merit”?
Moreover, who can rightly claim credit for their own merit? Justice may not
be served by rewarding chance attributes. Rawls says that even a quality
like the ability to work hard is a chance attribute. Sociologists have grappled
with this question in the so-called functional theory of stratification, credited
to Davis and Moore (1945).
The functional theory of stratification – Davis and Moor (1945)
The needed skills are scarce, because talent is rare and training is costly.
This scarcity of skills means society will have to induce or persuade people
to train. In the end, inequality benefits all of society. In this sense,
inequality leads to the survival of society. However, the functional theory is
not without problems.
9 Problems with functional theory
1. Ignores the inheritance of wealth and status.
2. Ignores the disagreement about society‟s “most important roles.”
3. Fails to explain why leading figures in organized crime, sports, or
entertainment receive high wages and great social prominence.
Too many exceptions to the rule
The functional theory does a poor job of accounting for many types of
inequalities. Consider the following typology of social “players”
Shakers: Bill Gates and David Suzuki
Princes: Paris Hilton and Prince Charles (And what about Kim
Saints: Nelson Mandela
Pawns: the majority of people in society
The supposed ladder of success
Some members of society are rewarded far too much and most far too little.
It is not clear why North Americans accept the functional theory of
stratification. Perhaps, people accept evident inequalities because they
believe they have good opportunities, perhaps even equal opportunities, to
move up the social ladder. Or perhaps it is because they hold unfounded
beliefs about the fairness of their society
Just World Theory
Lerner and Simmons proposed in 1966 that people use psychological
strategies to make the world seem less threatening. As a child gives up
seeking immediate gratification in favour of a longer-term strategy, the child
comes to feel entitled to certain rewards by virtue of having made the
appropriate sacrifices. However, this only makes sense if the child lives in a
just world where each person eventually gets what he or she deserves.
The positive functions of this belief
Belief in a just world has been shown to be positively correlated to life
satisfaction, mood, and levels of anxiety and depression. Belief in a just
world may also help people feel confident and secure enough to carry on
10 with their everyday lives. Participants may discount news when it is
presented as imminent and catastrophic as it would undermine their
commitment to their personal contact. When encountering negative life
experiences which cannot be simply ignored or discounted, people tend to
shift the blame or rationalize the situation in order to understand their
suffering while also maintaining belief in a just world. For example, Krumie
et al found that 48% of their sample endorsed some form of demonization to
explain their recent divorce.
Blame those who will not or cannot change
When presented with an “innocent” victim whose suffering seemed unfair,
experimental subjects helped the victim if they believed that it would end
the victim‟s suffering. However, when presented with the expectation that
his or her suffering would continue, participants tended to derogate the
victim‟s character and describe the victim in more negative terms.
Blame the unfamiliar. The degree to which people blame victims has been
shown to relate to the degree to which they know or identify with the
victims. People tend to be willing to contribute more resources to save the
lives of identifiable victims than they are to save the lives of statistical or
anonymous victims. Identification appears to also manipulate participants‟
perceptions of perpetrators.
All victims are blamed similarly
The belief in a just world is used in virtually the same ways across victimized
groups. Much recent research has been analyzing participant‟s responses to
victims of sex crimes, primarily rape and sexual assaults. However there has
also been considerable research applying the just world hypothesis to people
with illnesses or disabilities, and to perception of poor and working class
people. Blaming – even self-blaming -- increases with inequality
Poor and working class people are also blamed for their situation and
derogated by people with strong just world beliefs. Belief in a just world
rises in relation to income disparity in society. Victims may also invoke
just world beliefs to cope with their own situation. Victims of chronic pain
who were diagnosed with arthritis endorsed BJW-Self more often than they
endorsed general beliefs in a just world
11 There may be cultural differences
There may be important cultural differences in the just world belief.
For example, Matthew Hunt‟s (2000) study of Californians found that
significant racial and ethnic differences are found in regards to belief in a
just world. Latinos showed the strongest support for the belief in a just
world, whereas blacks showed the weakest. Hunt‟s study also found that
religious affiliation shapes the belief in a just world, but that church
attendance does not.
Key “habits of inequality”
So, starting from differentiation, in this course we will discuss some of the
harmful processes resulting from (increased by) inequality and “othering.”
12 Racial and Ethnic Inequalities 11/21/2011 12:57:00 PM
***Institutional completeness – strategies of resistance
o “I‟m obliged to confess that I do not abolition of slavery…” Alex
a. You can free the blacks, but until they have equal rights, they
will be angry and consider rebelling, and until they become equal
in civil rights, more than just legislative freedom, there will be
o “If my theory of relativity is proven correct…” Albert Einstein
o “The problem of the 20 century is the problem of the colour blind…” first
o “Instead of being presented with stereotypes of age sex and religion…” –
a. Within each variation of ethnicity there is no group that is all bad
or all good
o “All stereotypes turn out to be true” – David Cronenberg
a. Opposite of Margaret Meed‟s quote
b. He is not racist he is saying that it is not by accident that people
end up the way they are. There are reasons why certain ethnic
groups are stereotyped.
o “I hear that melting pot stuff a lot but we are not all melted.” “In
Canada we have never been a melting pot, we are more of a mixed
salad.” Canada is not a melting pot, like the United States (where all
different ethnic groups come together and become a blur. It is a
Differentiation and orientalism
Sociologists want to know which differences become inequalities, and why?
They also want to know how and why differentiations (or social distinctions
One good place to start is with Edward Said‟s book Orientalism. He argues
that the Orient is seen as a reverse version of the West – everything
considered inferior and alien (“Other”) to the West. This is partly political but
not entirely. What is the image of the Orient that Westerners carry in their
heads? And why does it persist?
Seen in images/art of what is thought by Westerners to be “oriental.” Who is the Oriental?
What are they about? The oriental man is painted as feminine/weak but
strangely dangerous and cunning so poses a threat to the white, Western
women. The Oriental woman is seen as exotic and eager to be dominated.
Said analysis, the “Oriental is a sweeping generalization (a stereotype that
crosses cultural and national boundaries).
The book was published in 1978, remains Said‟s most influential work. It is
said to open up new avenues.
Whose story is told?
Orientalism is an image of a prototypical Oriental.
It builds on previously unspoken notions of the other
These wrong notions are taken as foundations for both ideologies and
policies develop by the West.
Mythologies and Inequality
The subjection of subordinate groups (e.g., poor people, women, racial
minorities, and old people) is always accompanied by mythologies
Mythologies stress they are essentially, fundamentally and universally
different (From rich people, men, white people etc.)”
The logic is that people who are in advantage create mythologies to justify
their role as the dominators. Seen as the “role” “job” of westerners to come
over and dominate indigenous people, and the “different” people.
People still care about Ethnicity and Race
Around the world, racial and ethnic conflicts still erupt in genocidal
bloodbaths that kill thousands of people
This has gone on for nearly a century, since the Armenian massacres of
That‟s not counting the
- Genocidal effects of African slavery
- The European conquest of North and South American and
- 19thcentury European programs to exterminate Jews
14 The Persistence of Ethnic and Racial Inequalities
There may be economic reasons for continued distinctions between races
and ethnic groups. In the 19 thcentury sociologists thought these “stupid
distinctions” would disappear the way religion disappeared. Yet they persist
Defining Race and Ethnic Group
However not all racial and ethnic inequalities can be reduced to class
inequalities. Nor are they the same:
Race: a set of people with physical or genetic characteristics that are
deemed to produce identifiable differences in appearance
Ethnic Group: a set of people who consider themselves to share common
characteristics that distinguishes them from other groups in a society
New Ethnic Groups Form all the Time
New ethnic groups are constantly being formed as populations move
Especially, as they move from their country of origin to a new receiving
country, as immigrants
It is usually immigration (and/or group conflict) that creates awareness of
Every time you create a group with boundaries around it, and another group
with boundaries around it, conflict is created.
Survival of Ethnic Groups
Some immigrant communities – ethnic groups in particular cities or countries
Other immigrant communities purposely maintain their ethnic distinctiveness
Historian Benedict Anderson coined the term “imagined communities” to
describe people who group together around a common history and culture
Sociologist W.I. Thomas says, “What people believe to be real is real in its
Under what conditions will people continue to believe they belong to the
same group? Why do Italian-Canadians exist in Toronto and not Dutch-
Defining Ethnic Communities
15 Ethnic community – bounded group of interaction people with the same
ethnic background, often I a defined geographic location
Membership means adopting shared norms and associating mainly with
other group members
Often, communication with non-members is limited to a few areas of
Not all Ethnic groups are ethnic communities.
Why can some ethnic groups maintain their heritage, exist as an ethnic
community? Retain their traditional language, tradition? Sending your kids to
To say the Portuguese community is complete, is to say unlike the other
groups, Dutch, Ethiopian, and other ethnic groups, is to say that everything
a Portuguese community member does is Portuguese (who they interact with
like doctors, lawyers, everywhere they go like church, school bank) They
create stereotypes around people outside their boundaries, in order to
successfully maintain cultural identity of people on the inside. This is a
Strategy of Resistance
Totems and Community Solidarity
Ethnic community solidarity is based on blood and kinship
Symbolically, it is also based on rituals and ritual objects Durkheim called
According to Durkheim in (preliterate) tribal rites, anything could serve as
the basis for group solidarity (e.g., a bird, an animal, a rock)
He noticed that there were rituals (group activities done in unison at a
special location/time) Noticed there were ritual objects, he wondered what
was the purpose of these ritual items (eg. Totem poles). He says the exact
item/practice doesn‟t really matter for the purpose of religion or cohesion, it
has no particular meaning, all it does is create group solidarity, they are a
large part of the survival of the group (in peoples minds) “we are the people
of the bear, or the lion”
That is not to say ethnic groups are “nothing”
How Ethnic Groups Compete with Other Groups
16 *Max Weber noted that ethnic groups practice closure (exclusion and
usurpation (capture) to maintain them selves.
The processes that form ethnic consciousness and class-consciousness are
Part of the formation and maintenance of ethnic communities is the capture
of things away from non-members, and the exclusion of non-members.
This is important in a country like Canada, which is “multicultural”.
Multiculturalism does not mean simply do not disrespect other cultures, does
not mean, “be nice”. What is remarkable about our society is that there is a
political commitment to helping ethnic communities survive. There is
committed spending into the maintenance of ethnic communities, which
helps them survive, and consequently maintain their boundaries and
exclusion from one another.
Ethnic groups are Imagined Communities
Western Conquest and Colonization encourage (but did not invent
distinctions between ethnic and racial groups
Even pre-colonized and post-colonized
Cultural (totemic) Objects have Different Meanings for Different Groups
My friend Luba came from a Ukrainian background. ON her parents a wall
was a picture of Bohdan Chmielnicki (or Khmelnytsky), a famous Ukrainian
Cossack hero of the 17 thcentury. Led the largest mass murder of Jews in
history – an estimated 100,000 murdered – prior to the Nazi holocaust
***Though ethnicity is “admirable”, it is “nice” to have things that help them
feel more at home, it is dangerous because what might be positive for one
group is negative for another. Ethnic assertion is a strategy of warfare
The Role of Institutional Completeness
However, merely imagining an ethnic community is not the same as
maintaining it. To survive, ethnic communities rely on what Raymond Breton
has called institutional completeness: “a set of institutions (for example,
stores, schools, churches, and newspapers) that help people maintain their
traditional culture, social connections,
Diasporas in the Global World
17 Today when communication and travel are relatively easy, we can
realistically speak about global ethnic communities, with sub communities in
different parts of the world
Diaspora describes the resulting network of ethnic communities that
maintain contact with one another around the world – thanks to the
technology and communication revolutions
When we talk of ethnic communities were talking about international
communities. For example, what is the relationship of the interconnection of
Arab relations around the world, between the relationship between Arab and
Israel communities in Toronto?
The Problems of Assimilation
Between 1918 and 1920 Thomas and Znaniecki published their multi-volume
work The Polish Peasant in Europe and America
It studies the social life of Polish peasants and the social and economic
disorganization experience in the early twentieth century
The authors explain why immigrants often fail to meet new challenges while
trying to assimilate into the new North American culture.
Why did people stay and why did they leave? How is a polish peasant going
to make out in a large city? Why do we study this? Why do we want to
know? Because exactly the same thing is happening to the immigrants
coming from Somalia, small parts of Africa and Asia
Creative methodology - Authors used numerous primary documents to study
Problems of Assimilation
o Expectations Unfulfilled
o Many peasants immigrated to America expecting easy success
o After arriving, many immigrants failed to alter their social
o Thomas and Znaniecki conclude that immigration to America
demands great change form the immigrant
o Yet American society provides none of the means needed to
bring this about
o Tensions within the Family
18 o They found Polish immigrant families experience a significant
disruption to traditional patriarchal relations.
o Children are challenging parents for a say in the household
because children learned faster than parents so they didn‟t
understand as much
o Suddenly, wives are challenging husbands because men are
frustrated because they can‟t find work. Frustration taken out on
family. Higher divorce rate because of immigration process, and
other domestic issues
Bogardus and Social Distance
Ethnic communities put boundaries around themselves and experience the
boundaries that other communities have created
Emory Bogardus invented and popularized the Social Distance Scale (1925)
The Bogardus scale measures the extent to which participants would accept
members of a certain racial or ethnic (or other) group into various
The bogardus Social Distance Scale is a cumulative scale (also called a
-Agreement with any item implies agreement with all preceding
How the scale is scored
The scale asks people the extent to which they would be accepting of each
group (a score of 1.00 for a group is taken to indicate no social distance)
As close relatives by marriage (score 1.00)
As my close personal friends (2.00)
As my neighbors on the same street (3.00)
As co-workers in the same occupation (4.00)
As citizens in my country (5.00)
As only visitors in my country (6.00)
Would exclude from my country (7.00)
Some Trend in Social Distance
Some ethnic groups are regularly deemed less acceptable than others are,
and people create more distance form these groups
19 Some ethnic groups are less accepting than others – their average distance
scores are higher than the average distance scores generated by other
Tolerance is generally increasing over time – as shown by decreased social
Another Classic Work: French Canada in Transition
As a study in social distance, consider the improved relationships between
Canada‟s French – speaking and English-speaking Canadians, and between
Quebec and the rest of Canada
Discussed in French Canada in Transition (1943), written by American
sociologist Everett C. Hughes
English-French relations in Canada have been troubled since the 1760s,
when an English army defeated a French army on the Plains of Abraham
It is because of change, how it used to be and how it is now. After a period
of intense violence between both groups, there is a period of peace between
the two groups.
What happened? Hugh‟s writes this book from a small Milltown in Quebec.
He is observing the relations between the two groups. Management is
English the workers are French. There is a class conflict between two groups.
The guys in economic power come from a culture that is familiar with a
colonial environment. These French come in and experience culture shock,
they are working with machines under domination of people with different
language and different values. This culture shock is similar to what the
Polish peasants were experiencing.
Modernization and Exploitation
Hughes described “French-Canadians [as] self conscious and sensitive
By 1963, Hughes in a new preface noted that French Canada was still in
He continued to believe the problem grew out of deep-seated conflict with
Problems with modernization were attributed (perhaps wrongly) to the
English speaking management. Disruption of French-Canadian life was
attributed to the English where it should be attributed to Capitalism and
20 French Identity still Matters!
Today, 50 years since the Quiet Revolution, French-Canadian nationalism
has been channeled into an uneasy, constantly readjusting federalism
The symbolic issues arising from pride and memory are still rooted in the
humiliation of being pulled unwillingly into a world dominated by others with
French Canada is still in transition and it still matters to Canada, which way
they choose to go.
Like studies in the Southern US
A similar example of this type of study was Deep South a social
Anthropological Study of Caste and Class (1941).
That study posed a similar question: “How do people separated into distinct
classes and castes live together in a small community?”
The Vertical Mosaic
- Another attempted to understand Canada‟s ethnic relations
focuses on the role of immigrants and ethnic minorities in
the Canadian class structure.
- Consider John Porter‟s class, The Vertical Mosaic 
- Why ethnic groups get locked into certain positions in class
structure and why class mobility is not possible?
- He claimed through higher education this could be fixed.
21 Gender Inequality 11/21/2011 12:57:00 PM
Gender relations are often unequal
“If you want something said ask a man, if you want something done ask a
woman” – Margaret Thatcher
Sex versus Gender
For sociologists, there is an important difference between sex and gender.
Sex: biological characteristics that make a person biologically male or
female. The biological basis for why we are different.
Gender: the social expectations that people describe as masculine or
Social Construction: the process that makes sex differences seem large or
small, important or unimportant
**Women have power without having political equality.
Men are said to have rational which makes it possible for them to carry out
tasks, and women are seen as emotional beings. However, women can
manipulate men with their emotions.
Differentiation and Socialization
As the sociology of housework suggests, domination requires making
essential and universal distinctions between different “kinds” of people in a
Several patterned or institutionalized processes maintain gender inequality,
as narratives of blame.
Learning narratives of blame
First, there is Gendered Socialization.
Parents who start to treat their children male or female as soon as
they are born determines their nature. Parents more likely to grow up
girls as more masculine then boys more feminine.
Second, Schools maintain gender ideologies about the differences
between boys and girls. School organizations itself may play a part in
teaching gender beliefs and ideologies. Most important, schools
channel boys and girls into different courses of study. Gender
segregation even at U of T, in different educational programs Education for Women
Women were not admitted to North American universities at all until the late
19 thcentury. It took a full century until women became more numerous than
men in university programs. Despite this flood of women into post-secondary
education, segregation has continued. Women and men are in different
programs, which lead to economical inequality
The Role of Mass Media
Plays a large role in calling attention to gender differences and suggesting
these are natural or inevitable differences.
Mass media dramatizes differences between men and women in advertising,
music videos, movies, beauty pageants, situation comedies and pornography
These mediums often encourage stereotypes
The media still teach women to be sexy and beautiful love objects for men
The Sexual Double Standard: Another Narrative of Blame
Mainstream media continues to treat men as experts in the fields of
business, politics, military matters and economics
One of the key cultural devices that keep women and men different is the
sexual double standard
It is evident in the way men and women dress in traditional, especially
Notion of double standard: girls who are supposed to be virgins, but
when held captive act like whores. Men are animals who once captured by
the “right woman”; their “good side” is brought out.
**The double standard is disappearing.
Women, Religion and Fashion
Characteristic of Orthodox religions is to cover-up female body; reveal the
male body because women are “uncontrollably seductive”. Traditional
societies are very concerned with covering up the female body so that men
won‟t be tempted
What is “domination”?
Why historically have men dominated women at work and home?
23 Max Weber defines domination as “the probability that certain specific
commands (or all commands) will be obeyed by a given group of persons”
Seen in parent-child relationships, employer-employee and student-teacher
Weber on “authority”
His definition is a useful way to examine all unequal relationships that
become regularized or institutionalized
The relations between men and women show attempts (by men) to routinize
patterns of dominance and attempts (by women) to subvert dominance
Over time, gendered marital inequality creates a permanent pattern of
dominance and subordination within the home and the larger community
Domination and Legitimacy
Domination is power relationship that implies voluntary compliance or
obedience. People obey because they have an interest in doing so, or at
least think that they have such an interest. Usually there is a believe in the
legitimacy of the actions of the dominant individual or group. Obedience is
not haphazard or brief, but sustained and institutionalized.
- Science, for ex, has persuaded us that there are specific differences in
Weber‟s 3 types of Legitimate Domination
The relations between men and women show attempts (by men) to routinize
patterns of dominance and attempts (by women) to subvert dominance
Over time, gendered marital inequality creates a permanent pattern of
dominance and subordination within the home and then the larger
Weber‟s theory calls attention to the relative rarity of violence and naked
force in most relationships, including relations between men and women
Weber identified three pure types of „legitimate domination‟ based on the
grounds on which their claims legitimacy were based:
24 The longer the dominated group stays dominated the more they feel they
need their dominator. An example of this might be “Stockholm Syndrome”
Patriarchy as Authority
We grant legitimacy (or authority) to a power arrangement when we
consider it valid. Powerful people eliminate the need for naked force if they
can convince subordinates that they really ought to obey and that a failure
to obey them is immoral, sick or abnormal
In many societies patriarchy has served as a legitimating ideology.
The “head of the household” myth
Today, patriarchy has come to mean male domination of any kind. Can be
specific or generic. Historically men have dominated households. Women are
viewed as servants, conveniences, and means of reproduction. They were
expected to do what the head of household wanted. Women who were not
compliant were seen as “hysterical”, mental illness
The traditional patriarchal “head of household” ideology refers to the
principal earner in any household. In theory, it could refer to the oldest or
highest earning female –but rarely in practice
Using “normality” as a stick
Today, women have the legal tools to challenge and escape domineering
males, though they often lack the economic tools. Michel Foucault has
argued that people are taught compliance with authority is “normal” and
people who repeatedly oppose authority are abnormal and sick. Whenever
the subordinate group no longer accepts traditional privileges
unquestioningly, the status order starts to break down.
Citizenship as a way Forwards
Perhaps, as citizenship becomes a new source of equal rights in a society,
men are less able to maintain their dominance over women. It is because
citizenship is so important for equality that the early feminist movement was
mainly concerned with suffrage.
The discovery that housework (women‟s work) is work
25 However, legal and political rights do not always translate into social
How do we translate ideal (formal) rights into actual (real) rights that
change people‟s lives in practice?
In 1974 sociologist Ann Oakley published The Sociology of Housework – the
first to consider housework as real, unpaid work. She found out that women
hate it. They just felt obligated, because without it they would have no social
The alienation of Housework
They are deeply unhappy; yet they feel morally and socially obliged to play a
fundamentally alienating, frustrating and self-destroying role.
Judith Hammond (1977) wrote that Oakley “narrowed and distorted the
picture of housewifery into that of a thankless joyless task.”
However, Oakley has rightly called our attention to the neglected topic of
housework. “Families are nothing other than the idolatry of duty”
Women are the ones with the duty to do work they don‟t want to do. If they
are forced to do housework and not go out of the home they will not go out
and realize they are equal to their husbands.
**This is why a very common story for housewives throughout the 20 th
century, was depression, secrete alcoholism and other mental illness
Women still lack opportunities
Women have still not achieved full workplace equality
However, a classic study, Men and Women of the Corporation (1977) by
Rosabeth Kanter (Harvard Business School professor and business
consultant), argues that this is because women lack opportunities
Kanter‟s book challenges assumptions about the traditional system of reward
That‟s why they are timid at work
It is because women have less opportunity for promotion that they are
forced to act “like women”: subservient, devious and seemingly unambitious
All the “corporate women” (executives, secretaries or even wives) are in a
similar bind. Because of powerlessness, they behave in “typical” female
26 ways, which supports the male view that women, by nature, are poor
executive material. Kanter says that women‟s behavior is not reflective of
who they are, but the position they are in. If they are put in a position where
they are believed and expected to be aggressive, they will be aggressive. If
they are put in a position where they are told/expected to be timid, they will
Minority status promotes timidity
People in a numerical minority often feel restricted in what they can do
Adding a few “token women” to an organization does not significantly
increase choices for women nor allow women to flourish
To reduce inequality and increase productivity, traditional hiring and
promotion practices have to change.
Kanter‟s idea is that there has to be a large number of members of a
disadvantaged group in order to have variety, and to truly have change,
because if there is only one “token” individual, they will feel they have to
carry the burden of representing an entire minority.
Tokenism prevents us from seeing how people could potentially adapt and
grow into their roles
It is an organization‟s interest to make the best possible use of its human
capital: for example, its talented women.
Legislation has been important in promoting that change
It is CRAZY for legislation to determine promotion/wages/etc. based on
physiology. Organizations beginning to recognize diversity as an asset.
Companies now have to make quotas on the number of minorities
Narratives of Blame versus the Reality
Study found 5 key reasons for leaving work:
Not being valued
Male-dominated work environment
Lack of opportunity
And (least important) work-life issues
27 As an employer makes more sense to hire a man, because he has a wife to
take care of his home duties, therefore he can work more. A second belief
many men hold is that women cannot hack it in business. However in a 2009
Harvard Business School survey on “the exodus of women,” only 6% admit
quitting because the work was too demanding.
Men and women are taught different things on how to have conversations.
Women have more emotional capabilities where as men are seen as more
More than a Labour of Love
Study on the family life of miners
Sex as a domestic work: duties include providing meals, childcare, emotional
support for husbands and children, shopping paying bills and organizing
family schedules. They also include satisfying husbands‟ sexual demands.
Women in this community are trained to recognize and care for the needs of
others, even if it means denying their own needs.
Capitalism and Patriarchy in Flin Flon
Patriarchal system dominates women‟s lives socially and psychologically
Equally, a class-based capitalist system dominates men‟s lives socially and
Women in Precarious Work
At the other end of the job continuum, women are more than men likely to
do precarious work,
These are jobs that are part time and temporary; provide lower incomes,
fewer benefits, less prestige and lack of unionized support.
Women are always at greater risk of poverty
As custodial parents, divorced women have more (child-related) expenses to
pay than their husbands
If women are willing to accept responsibility for household duties that may
mean that they are taking on part-time work, instead of full time work.
Women‟s problem is at home more than out in the workplace. They have to
persuade their husband to
28 Class Inequality and Exploitation 11/21/2011 12:57:00 PM
Class, as Marx would have found about, is less identifiable to people. They
tend to identify to racial and ethnic, and gender inequalities before they
identify to class inequality.
Class Inequality: the unequal distribution of economic wealth and power.
It has important and direct effects on people‟s health, on crime, and on
intergroup conflict. There are important relations to other kinds of inequality
(ex. racial, gender). However, class inequality is different from other
inequalities we‟ve discussed.
Unlike racial groups, which have distinguishing physical features
Unlike ethnic groups, which have distinguishing cultural features
Unlike gender groups, which have distinguishing physiological features
Class differentiation has no self-evident features. It requires a lot of
cultural in genuinity (for ex. the invention of a “culture of wealth” and
a “culture of poverty”)
Self-awareness of class differences – class-consciousness – will be hard to
establish and maintain. Because it is difficult for people to see which class
they are in and why it matters. Therefore, strategies of resistance will be
hard to establish and maintain.
Signifying Class Distinctions
Classes are created by economic relations (Marx says some own means of
production, some are means of production), however, must be signified by
cultural (non-economic) means. Patterns of fashion and consumption reveal
Veblen‟s Leisure Class
Veblen‟s book Theory of the Leisure Class 91912) critiques modern Western
society – the conspicuous consumption of the upper class bourgeoisie. W
Highlighting class differences in various ways – e.g., through private
schooling, private clubs, and educational credentialing. Interested in
describing the “upper-class”. The way they live, why they live that way, and why they are so wasteful (preforming social class to distinguish themselves
from people who couldn‟t preform that way. It reaffirms their status
providing a group boundary).
Pierre Bourdieu‟s book Distinction
Same idea as Veblen. Learned expertise and competent practices reproduce
social domination from one generation to the next. Members of the ruling
class teach their children esthetic preferences in order to pass along the
class-based cultural capital: resources that transfer class position
across generations. (For ex. Two reasons why people attend private
schools is 1. Credentials to get you to next level 2. You learn how to dress,
party, eat, etc. in an upper-class manner.) Cultural Capital induces all
cultural symbols and practices that embody interests and function to
enhance social distinctions (for ex. artistic tastes, style in dress and eating
habits to religion, science and philosophy-even language itself.) He says why
it is in theory possible for everyone to acquire cultural capital of all those
people who go to elite schools, realistically they won‟t. People who are born
poor will not gain cultural capital, just as no matter how lazy people who are
born rich will not loose cultural capital. The middle class is about not falling,
and trying to rise. He emphasizes that classes are very adamant in guarding
secrets of their cultural capital (good taste, not because taste got them
there, but because they define what it is).
Blaming the Victim: The Culture of Poverty
Anthropologist Oscar Lewis says, at the other end of the class system…
A poor urban underclass perpetuates itself by practicing and teaching its
children self-defeating values. People in poverty have strong feelings of
marginality, helplessness, and dependency, of not belonging. They
believe the existing institutions do not serve their interests and
needs. Along with a feeling of powerlessness is a widespread feeling
of inferiority and personal unworthiness. The question is whose fault is
this? They lack Historical Perspective - have very little sense of history –
know only their own troubles, their own troubles their own local conditions,
their own way of life
30 Usually they have neither the knowledge nor ideology to see the similarities
of their problems and those of others like themselves. Lack of class-
The Economic Base: Origin of Class Relations
The sociological study of class inequality begins with Karl Marx
Class inequalities are linked to both differentiation and exploitation – the
bourgeoisie (Capitalists) exploit the proletariat (workers). By bourgeoisie we
mean the class of modern capitalists, owners of the means of social
production and employers of wage lab