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Soc102 Lec 10

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University of Toronto St. George
Lorne Tepperman

Sociology Lecture 10: Can We Do Better? WhatAre People Seeking? -people have been searching for a "better world" for last two centuries -people's ideas to what it is varies over course of time Everyone Wants Things That Require More Equality -People say the same things when it comes to what they care about: 1) Good Health 2) Safety for themselves and loved ones 3) Amodicum of Respect and dignity - no one desires sickness, war and crime -yet, we see more of these undesired outcomes wherever inequality is most extreme Why Does Extreme Inequality Persist? 1) many people have been led to believe inequality is natural and inevitable -this includes extreme inequality 2) some people benefit from this system of inequality -they want things to remain status quo How Do We Break Our Habits of Inequality -people hate to admit past mistakes -hate to make an effort to change our behaviour and thinking -are there particular reasons why people can't think differently about inequality? The Persistence of Income Inequality -GINI Index helps us measure inequality very precisely -allows us to chart changes over time -inequality has decreased in Canada over past 2 centuries -it has however risen in past two decades -despite a history of social measures to reduce inequality, income inequality persists Laying Blame for Inequality and Poverty -Today there are 3 popular ways to look at causes for inequality that results in poverty 1) many blame internal causes -includes laziness, addiction or lack of IQ 2) others blame external causes -social policy, discrimination, low wages 3) another group look at fatalistic causes to try and explain poverty -bad luck or fate Canadians Differ FromAmericans in Their Beliefs About Inequality -Most Canadians recognize it is a combination of internal and external factors that determine one's economic standing -Compared to Americans, CAN more likely to believe external factors play a larger role in poverty and inequality creation CanadiansAre More Sociological ThanAmericans, WhoAre More Psychological -Compared to Americans, CAN maintain a greater concern for justice in face of economic inequality -more likely to connect poverty to external factors -shifts blame from people to social structures and processes The Politics of Blame -In general, people view poverty and income disparity differently -depends on: 1) their personal just world belief 2) their country's unique cultural history -Also, right leaning people favour internal causes while left favour external Just World Beliefs -people differ in willingness to believe in a just world -the idea that effort (and virtue) is rewarded and laziness (and wickedness) is punished -beliefs are normally formed in childhood -through negotiation between parent and child -while we all want to believe this, evidence shows otherwise Comfortable People in Developed Countries Indulge in Just World Thinking -people who believe in a just world have hard time accepting evidence that shows its not -where a majority of people are poor and powerless, just world belief is generally weaker Just World Believers are Dangerous in a Great Many Ways -just world believers promote war making -they form collective narratives that blame their opponent -Military and other violent conflicts are often facilitated by an unfamiliarity with others -often accompanies just world views Trouble Changing Their MindsAbout Inequality -people who have just world beliefs are reluctant to change their views about issues of fairness and equality -cannot simply reject justifications for income inequality or other kinds of inequality The International Variation in "Just World Beliefs" -these beliefs vary strongly between societies -same as degrees of inequality in each society -ex: CAN vs US -just world beliefs influences a society's habits of inequality It Matters How People Explain and Lay Blame of Poverty -how public sees inequality is important -dictates how we help (or fail to help) disadvantaged people -different beliefs about blame and personal responsibility reflected in proportion of taxes paid in different countries -victim-blaming countries tax rich people at lower rates Taxes, as Transfer Payments and Social Programs, Reduce Social Inequality -amount of taxation in a country determines how much money is available -money used to create social policies and programs -aimed to help poor and others who need aid -Both CAN and Scandinavian countries tax at higher levels and have lower inequality levels then US -they make the external attributions to poverty that lead to greater aid for the poor WeAre MoreAble to Deal With Societal Inequality Than Many Other Societies -Canadians have weaker just world beliefs than people in many other countries -ex: are more likely to attribute poverty to external factors -means we are more able to develop solutions to economic inequality Canada is More Equal Than Some Societies, But Less Equal Than Others Canada is In the Middle and Can Move Up or DownAs the Nation Chooses -Today, CAN ranks somewhere in the middle in terms of income inequality -more equal than many societies, but still more unequal then many -our choices of the future tied to our present beliefs (like just world) -all of the forms of inequality in our society are linked in some way to just world belief Habits of InequalityAre Generalized -societies differ in their general predisposition towards inequality -predisposition shows itself in all major domains of social life -class, gender, race, aging etc. ACommitment to Liberty, Through Free Markets, Cannot Produce Equality -an unregulated market might fulfill some people's desires for liberty -cannot create equality -seems fair to everyone -it is not because it is like a roulette wheel whose odds never change ACommitment to Equal Opportunity Does Not Produce Equitable Outcomes -Certain groups in the population tend to have low incomes and education -children less likely to get more education and higher incomes -means less likely to attain biggest societal rewards -so despite a formal commitment to equality of opportunity through formal education, the class structure is perpetuated AStatement of the Habits of Inequality Theory -Whether due to class, gender, race or otherwise, all types of social inequality display similar patterns or cultural habits -call these patterns: -social differentiation -narratives of blame -practices of oppression -narratives of validation -strategies of resistance The Role of Social Differentiation, Found inAll Societies -Social Differentiation involves -identifying diff kinds of people who are assumed to be essentially and unchangeably diff -defining this difference as consequential for social and economic life -Without social differentiation, inequality does not exist -in all societies, these inequalities are then culturally rationalized or justified The Development of Narratives of Blame -Narrative of blame stem from just world beliefs -people construct these narratives to try to explain why certain groups are poor or victimized -ex: because they are lazy and lack a work ethic or below average IQ -this need to make sense of and to justify inequality has intensified along with rising income inequality -income inequality has been rising for past 20 yrs Narrative s of Blame are Morality Tales -they are moral theories and demand conformity -assume that everyone shares the same understanding of what is normal and proper -assert people are punished
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