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Lecture 1 What is Social Inequality?
the dictionary defines inequality as the quality of being
unequal or uneven
social inequality is about hierarchal (better-worse)
differences between any two people or groups
Sociology is dedicated to explaining how social inequality
works and the reasons most people are at a disadvantage
It also means showing social inequality leads to crime,
sickness, addiction, and violence.
our personal experience tells us there are many ntural
inequalities between people
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
Finally, sociologists are interested in how people invent
or construct(unnatural) inequalities.
The example of beauty
consider the performance of social inequalities in
connection with physical beauty.
Why do some societies reward beauty- especially in
women- more highly than they reward, say, intelligence?
What are the unwelcome consequences of being plain
To explain the creation, performance and preservation of
social inequalities, we need to develop some concepts.
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. ( eg., sex, skin color)
NOT TALKING ABOUT HUNTER-GATHERERS.
HOW MUCH INEQUALITY? WHAT ARE THE FACTORS.
Inequality has Harmful Consequences:
all types of social inequality have negative consequences
for the people they have disadvantage, and for society as
The most extreme form of inequality produce the most
Societies vary in Social Inequality
Societies vary in the degree inequality
Scandinavian countries show least inequality
Less developed societies, and the us show most
inequality Canada falls somewhere near the middle
societies with the widest variety and the intensity of
inequality are most likely to display clear and long lasting
patterns we call, “habits of inequality”
Correlates of the Inequality Habit
The habits of inequality are related to other cultural
The cultural habits SNPNS
ALL TYPES OF SOCIAL INEQUALITY DISPLAY SIMILAR
PATTERS OR CULTURAL HABITS THAT INCLUDE THE
Social differentiation Narratives of blame
Practices of Oppression
Narratives of Validation
Strategies of Resistance
SocialDifferentiation : 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
This process is the transformation of natural differences
for example In skin colour or sex into socially important
differences and inequalities.
Narratives of Blame: are socially constructed accounts
that attatch social or moral qualities to different groups
to explain why advantaged people are advantaged and
disadvantaged people are disadvantaged. These narratives derive from abelief that the world is just
in its distribution of rewards and punishment( more about
this later) and this is called Just World theory.
Practices of Oppression: A variety of economic and non
economic behaviours including exploitation, domination,
exclusion, discrimination, stigmatization
Narratives of Validation
Are socially constructed accounts that attatch diff even
opposite social and moral qualities to groups in society,
as a response to narratives to blame.
Strategies of resistance: Collective social actions that combat practices of
oppression reduce inequality, or ameliorate the effects of
Is inequality a problem?
We have to recognize that social issues like inequality
have atleast two aspects
Objective or subjective elements
scientific, and political elements.
Objective: measurable signs of disadvantage ( income)
this is based on philosophical premise, called positivism,
that there is a physical reality we can perceive with our
Subjective: are peoples evaluations of objective
conditions these moral or esthetic judgements reflect peoples tastes
and values; and they are a social reality in their own
we can make and test theories about peoples subjective
beliefs and the social outcomes of these beliefs
SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION… PUTTING A PROBLEM ON THE
POLITICAL AGENDA….MAKE PEOPLE NOTICE IT
“CLAIMS MAKING” – MAKING AND PROMOTING
PARTICULAR WAYS OF THINKING.
Some problems deserve our attention even if most
people are ignoring them, most of the time
Causes ethical problem….
Inequalities based on race might pose practical problems,
such as income, Poverty, crime and demoralization
The lack of intergroup contact, due to racism may isolate
non white people from mainstream Canadian society. Racism might produce secondary psychological effects
like prejudice and even self hate...bad health conditions
Poor health conditions are important indicators
Rousseau;s Theory: discusses the diff between natural vs
social inequality….first theory arguably.
Argues that social inequality must be proportional to be
Social inequality is contrary to natural right whenever it
is not combined in the same proportion with physical
Any privelidge or inequality that is not explained and
justified by a natural difference is contrary to natural
right and to the laws of nature
He identifies why most people care about social
inequality Its because extreme inequality extreme priviledge and
He is saying we all know when socially unequal priviledge
has gone too far, and we reject it
INEQUALITY IS INEVITABLE
IT IS THE PRICE TO BE PAID SOME ARGUE…
SOCIAL INEQUALIT IS THE OPPOSITE OF SOCIAL
JUSTICE BUT JUSTICE IS A DIFFICULT CONCEPT
CHRISTOPHER JENCKS… MISS JONES ALLOCATING HER
TIME TO KIDS IN A CLASROOM…CAN THIS BE ACHIEVED
VIA INEQUALITY OR EQUALITY?
Whats the fairest way to allocate scarce resources?
Democratic equality…treat everyone the same
Moralistic justice…reward biggest effort Weak humane justice…reward most economically
Strong humane justice…reward all disadvantaged
Utilitarianism- reward fastest learners STARTING Points 9/RS 7,10. 9/11/2012 2:08:00 PM
STARTING POINTS CHAPTER NINE:
- they can be as oppressive as capitalist*** even if they do not own means
- state institutions NOT PRIVATE INTERESTS…excercise much of the power
- Marx saw this conflict as a problem inherent to CAPITALISM
- Durkheim saw it as inherent to INDUSTRIALISM
The context: a time where privileged capitalist class exploited working class
to gain high profits and social dominance.
- but today modern workplace, & modern economy is more complex
characterized by global competition.
What are the social, economic and psychological consequences of being
exploited at work…
The three founders of sociology( Marx,Weber,Durkheim) were concerned
with the workplace conflicts arising out of class relations.
The excercise of economic and political power today is global and
multinational///HOW CAN WE RECONCIEVE CLASS CONFLICT IN GLOBAL
TERMS? Gender Inequalities
Starting Points Chapter 5.
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Functionalist Approach: What function does it perform for society as a
whole? How does gender inequality contribute to the wellbeing of society as
Talcott Parsons: gendered division labour is the most effective and efficient
way to carry out societies tasks for reproduction and socialization.
Critical theories: Who holds power and benefit from a particular social
arrangement? Who is best served by gender inequality?
-Marxists would say (referring to class relations) CAPITALISM requires the
low cost social reproduction of a workforce from one generation to the next…
families= best + cheapest way to raise new workers
Women= cheapest family labour.
This approach assumes working class men and women are on the same side.
Both are equally victims of the capitalist class. The feminist approach
assumes the women have diff experience from men and may be exploited by
men of their own class INCLUDING CAPITALISTS.
They see gender inequality as serving men… Theory of patriarchy- that men
are the main and universal cause of women’s oppression- is compatible with
Marxist analyses that view working class womens as being the victims of
both class and gender oppression.
Symbolic interactionism: How is social arrangement symbolized?
- how is gender inequality negotiated, symbolized and communicated in our
society? They are concerned with the ways that gender differences become
stable gender inequalities-for example the ways that young women become
objectified and turned into sex objects
sexual double standard: men have more sexual freedom than women:
Example : define sexual freedom as mens free access to women.
When and how did the arrangement emerge?
A social constructionalist would note that gender inequality began to decline
in 1960-1970s largely because actions of the womens movement. TYPES OF FEMINIST SOCIOLOGY:
- majority of feminist theory postulates that most gender differences are
CHART On page 129.
Ann Oakley wrote book on Sociology of Housework…as a result housework
began to emerge as a type of legitimate, difficult, and worthwhile work, not
just the labour of love.
OAKLEYS THOUGHTS ABOUT FAMILIES WOMEN, AND HOUSEWORK:
“ Society has a tremendous stake in insisting on a womans natural fitness
for the career of mother: the alternatives are all too expensive”
- families are nothing other than the idolatry of duty
- housework is work directly opposed to the possibility of human self
-there are always women who will take men on their own terms. If I were a
man I wouldn’t bother t change while there are women like that around.
Gendered Socialization :
Children learn about what it means to be a girl or a boy through their
families…largely by a process of socialization.
Mass media provides indirect experience with people of the opposite sex
- objectifies women
The Beauty Standard:
- appearance norms…shared notions about beauty that literally attract s to