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SOC102H1 Lecture Notes - Utopia, Christopher Jencks, Justice As Fairness

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SOC102 Lecture 1 11/09/2012
Quizzes based on how closely you've assimilated yourself in the readings and the lecture content
Readings are about 30-50 pages / week
Tutorials 4 times in the semester CHECK PORTAL
What is inequality?
The quality of being unequal or uneven
Social inequality is about hierarchal (i.e., better-worse) differences between any 2 people (or
Sociology is dedicated to explaining how social inequality works and the reasons most people
are at the disadvantage
It also means showing social inequality leads to crime, sickness, addiction, violence
Natural Inequalities
Seen by looking at/interacting with others
How do natural inequalities become social inequalities? And with what results?
How do people invent/construct (unnatural) inequalities?
How do differences become inequalities and how do we make them into something (a big deal)?
Where do we get our ideas of inequalities?
Ex. Tallness lack of tallness (being short) may be a result of poor nutrition when you grew up
Example of Beauty
Why are some societies more preoccupied with beauty vs intelligence?
Habits of Inequality Theory
All societies display social inequalities of various kinds class differentiation
Socially constructed: collectively imagined on the basis of a supposed important natural
difference (ex. sex, skin colour)
o There is a cultural mythology behind the inequality. what it means to be a man vs.
woman; black vs. white
There is a struggle to make meaning of the inequality different societies have
different accounts the accounts are dynamic, changing
Are inequalities socially necessary? Are we STUCK with them?
Inequality Has Harmful Consequences
Negative consequences for people they disadvantage, and for society as a whole
Extreme forms of inequality produce most extreme consequences (ex. War)
Societies Vary in Social Inequality
Societies vary in the degree and kinds of social inequalities they display
o Scandinavians show least inequality
SOC102 Lecture 1 11/09/2012
o Less developed societies and the US, show the most inequality
o Canada falls in the middle
Norway is an example of how you don't need inequality for prosperity (half the inequality than
On every inequality, there is a range of intensity of equality
Habits of Inequality: Clear and long lasting patterns of inequality
Correlates of the Inequality Habit
Habits of inequality are related to other cultural patterns: esp.
o Traditionalism: looking back to the "good old days"
o Religiosity
o Militarism
o Parochialism: inward looking "we are the best"
The Cultural Habits: SNPNS
All types of social inequality display similar patterns or cultural "habits" that include the
1. Social Differentiation
2. Narratives of blame
3. Practices of Oppression
4. Narratives of Validation
5. Strategies of Resistance
S = Social Differentiation
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
The process of the transformation of natural differences (for example, in skin colour or sex) into
socially important differences and inequalities
The first step in any conflict of inequality is to perform differences
N = Narratives of Blame
An account of why certain people are different from others and why they deserve to be treated
Socially constructed accounts that attach social/moral qualities to different groups to explain
why advataged people are advantaged and disadvantaged, disadvantaged
Cultural legitimation of the behaviour caused by inequalities
These narratives derive from a belief that the world is just in its distribution of rewards and
punishments (Just World Theory)
P = Practices of Oppression
SOC102 Lecture 1 11/09/2012
A variety of economic and non-economic behaviours (ex. Exploitation, dominiation, exclusion,
discrimination, etc)
These practices
N = Narratives of Validation
Types of resistance by the disadvantaged that undermine the narratives of blame
A response to the narratives of blame
Take various forms
o Deny factual accurcal of blames, denying fault
S = Strategies of Resistance
Collective (social) actions that combat practices of oppression, reduce the inequality, ameliorate
effects of inequality
Take various forms
o Consciousness raising activities
o Social movement formation to achieve social and political goals
o Institutional completeness: the formation of self-sufficient
Popular images of inequality
Views of "everyone is different" and "everyone has a fair chance"
Is Inequality a Problem
How do we decide if something is a problem?
People hold strong, passionate views about inequalities
Objective Aspects of Inequality
Measurable signs of disadvantage
Measuring existence and prevalence
(ex. 2 fold difference between US and Norway wrt inequalities)
Based on philosophical premise called positivism
Physical reality we can perceive with our senses
Subjective Aspects of Inequality
People's evaluations of objective conditions