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Soc102 Lec 1

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Lorne Tepperman

Sociology Lecture 1 Main Topic: Unequal Chances in Life -Term: "life chances" first coined by Max Weber -effective phrase; describes chancy nature of life -chances out of our control -ex: Game of Life by Milton Bradley -player tries to avoid obstacles in the game to become successful -in ways, it is similar to life -however it is very different because in real life, everyone has a diff starting point. -furthermore, many life choices are not made consciously or freely -socially unrealistic The Role of Social Origins -life chances depend on our social and economic background -society's structure favours people who are born with power (parent's class and status) -this starting point determined by parents we are born to -Economic Capital -Cultural Capital -Social Capital Rags to Riches -People likely to stay in social-economic class/status throughout their lives -Some in industrial societies overcome odds (rare) -rising from rags to richces -gain power and wealth -called social mobilization -social inertia: what resists one's mobility (i.e. the conditions we are born to) Natural Inequalities -Social inequalities: amount of life's rewards received -Natural Inequalities: Inequalities as a result of nature by birth (i.e. genes) -Sociologists interested in how natural diff becomes social inequalities -interested in social consequences as a result of this -ex: advantages of being born smart is a natural diff -> social inequality The Performance of Inequalities -Sociologists are interested in: a) how people dramatize or perform inequalities b) How people view inequalities c) How people explain inequalities d) How people justify inequalities e) How people invent or construct inequalities -Not interested in the natural differences ex: performance of physical beauty -ingrained in our minds what is considered beautiful by the media -The question becomes, what is the consequence of those deemed ugly? -what are the rewards of beauty? Not Just a Matter of Chance -Inequality has additive and multiplicative effects -ex: people with two or more disadvantages suffer more than twice people with one -Intersectionality: process of multiplicative interaction between disadvantages -end results are unpredictable -effects of each disadvantage cannot be summed to find overall effect Our Life Chances are Conditional -phenomenon called: Conditionality -pertains to conditions where particular traits lead to significant social disadvantage -ex: being a woman is not always disadvantageous -under certain conditions, being of lower class is worse Intersectionality -Theory: various social and biological factors interact on multiple levels to produce systematic social inequality -Kimberle Crenshaw's theory -categories include: gender, race, class, ability and sexual orientation -came to prominence b/c feminists claimed gender does not decide one's life -it is a combination of class, gender, race etc Status Incosistency -Status Consistency: coined by Gerhard Lenski -cannot predict effects of intersectionality by adding or averaging dimensions of social status. ex: status inconsistent people: High education, low income=> often act rebellious due to being uncomfortable about their status LivesAre Complex, Not Unique -cannot predict one's life chances by averaging advantages or disadvantages -This does not mean everyone's lives are unique -simply the issue is just complex -sociologists can still draw general conclusions about inequality -in essence everyone can only face a finite number of pressures in reality -the patterns we see are finite because the range of experiences for people are finite Societies Vary in Equality -Wide inequality is NOT an inherent or inevitable result to differentiate people -Scandinavian countries, Iceland, NZ are examples (upper end of Human Development Index) -different people are equal -do not frame differences as better or worse -ex: This was perhaps Robert Owen's aim when he was developing his Utopian Society -make one that is equal and prosperous despite surroundings of inequality Many Counties Do Worse than Canada -many with habits of inequality more marked or ingrained -Canadians identify inequality as a problem -care about the society they live in Views about Inequality -It exists everywhere at all times -no evidence a society can exist without it -range of inequalities that can take place -People however have strong and negative views about it -W.I Thomas and D.S. Thomas: men define situations as real, then consequences become real. -Their beliefs become reality and influences our views and behaviour ex: social inequality is evil then the consequences of it being evil (riots etc) come true -much of human history is driven by this process -what is seen as fair/unfair, justice/injustice, and our views about race, gender etc help shape the society we currently live in. People's Beliefs are important -sociologists study objective social problems, people's beliefs (and subsequent consequences) -need to consider their thoughts, beliefs and objective situations when studying The Social Construction of Problems -involves claims-making (subjective response base on their beliefs) -are subjective responses -a process people use to get public attention on their opinion on certain problems -also to promote their ideas of solutions -these claims usually exist long enough that they are brought to our attention -do not just pop up randomly -process usually (but not always) involves: -searching for villains to blame -creation of moral panic -pursuing a crusade for better behaviour -demanding improved laws -initiate full social movement that will put issue on political agenda Objective+ Subjective Factors -include changes to actual (measurable) reality -as well as changes in our perception of reality -Define social inequality as a social problem characterized by: -Visible, measurable features that threaten people's well-being -Strong beliefs in inequality -a social problem that warrants collective, remedial action Defining "unfair" Inequalities -Jean-Jacques Rousseau was first to theorize about social inequality -social inequality involves privilege -privilege: a right, advantage, favour or immunity specially granted. -for certain individuals, group or class -others outside are not allowed to have this Natural and Social Inequalities -According to Rousseau: any privilege or inequality that does not clearly arise out of a natural difference is contrary to laws of nature -social inequality is unjust if it exceeds natural inequality -asks us to imagine a natural law against which we can judge human laws -impossible for us to define these natural laws -closest to this is in psychology: study the survival value of certain behaviours -hard to do in sociology: cultural variations in social arrangement are huge -identifies why people care about social inequality ex: should Beethoven be allowed to conduct while deaf? -George Bush was a president primarily because his dad was one Inequality= Unjustifiable Privilege -privileges, rewards and opportunities people receive within society -fairness = equality and unfairness = inequality by people -ex: someone who is 2x as good should receive 2x the reward, not 100x (unjust) -we expect an "equal" process to be fair -equality before the law -equality in job opportunities -equality of economic outcome -when people get rewarded unfairly, we experience strong emotional response -whether this reaction is universal or Canadian is unknown -Rousseau: we know when unjust privileges have gone too far and reject it -this is not just modern Canadian response -view has been supported and demonstrated in history (French Revolution) Modern Definition of Social Inequality -unequal (and usually unjustifiable) privileges, rewards or opportunities that different people receive in a given society. -equal = fair, unequal = unfair -inequality seems to be a constant feature of human condition -people in large societies can't seem to escape it. -there are many different factors explaining inequality -they are all linked and dependent of one another Social Inequality still makes a Difference -According to economic liberals, social inequality is unavoidable -communities believe this not to be the case -research via brain imaging shows humans incline to believe in merit of equality -indicates this may be a natural occurrence -reward centers react well when a reward is justifable -we have a tendency to favour equality -inequality still makes a difference today as it did back in Rousseau's time -has important consequences: -sickness and health -crime and justice -war and peace -The real difference is that we know we change society and the inequalities seem even more important. -in the past, such change was questionable and considered the work of "god" Problems of Inherited Disadvantage -social disadvantages usually inherited -have little hope of escaping these inherited status -global spread of capitalism disperses and preserves social inequality to a previously unknown degree -this despite encouraging economic growth People Differ in Views of How to Split Benefits -ex: Ms. Jones grade school class -how to divide up her time to help them learn to read? -what is considered fair? -Christopher Jencks suggests 5 approaches: 1) Democratic Equality: give every student 5 min of help 2) Moralistic Justice: give more time to students who put in more effort 3) Weak Humane Justice: help the les advantaged backgrounds 4) Strong Humane Justice: give more help to students who have disabilities -i.e. short changed by life 5) Utilitarianism: give more time to the best readers and less to the worst -reasoning base on fact best readers will benefit most from more time There is no Single RightAnswer -Tragic choices are needed -Ms. Jones know the desire and skills to learn vary from children -their social and economic backgrounds differ greatly -People debates these problems in public all the time -Difficult to implement fairness The Rawls Principle -unequal distribution of goods is only justifiable when it increases the advantage of the least advantaged groups in society
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