SOC102H1 Lecture Notes - Social Inequality, Smart People, Intersectionality

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3 Dec 2011
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SOC102- Lecture 1, September 13th
Is equality attainable, would it hinder economic growth?
Inequality- result of comparison between two things, one has an advantage
-many inequalities are natural (distinguishable between social inequalities)
- measurable differences, intuition is verified
-sociologists not specifically interested in natural inequalities, but rather how
natural inequality influences social inequality, how are inequalities viewed
(thoughts, beliefs, theories), how are these inequalities explained or
accounted for
-how are inequalities justified?
-inequalities are very consequential
Example: beauty – why is there a preoccupation in our society with beautiful
people as opposed to with smart people
-what are the consequences with this beauty preoccupied society for being
plain looking
*whole point of sociology is to generalize and formulate theories, even though there
are many different factors involved
Habits of inequality theory - all societies display some sort of social inequality,
inequality comes in many different forms and each inequality is a separate
entity (operate differently in different societies), socially constructed
inequalities (elaborate mythologies constructed to explain differences
between people)
inequality has negative consequences, most extreme forms have more
extreme consequences (eg mental health, crime, violence, physical health
societies can choose in how much inequality to have, vary in the degree and
Cultural Habits all social inequality display similar patterns
- social differentiation- identifying different “kinds” of people, unchangeably
different, imagining of and inflation of differences
- narratives of blame- accounts of why differences translate into inequalities,
attachment of social/moral qualities, justification of inequality
- practices of oppression- disadvantage certain groups and advantage others,
economic exploitation/discrimination/exclusion
- narratives of validation- responses to narratives of blame, deny factual
accuracy of blame, sometimes hold oppressors responsible for creating
blameworthy conditions
- strategies of resistance- collective actions that disadvantaged people take to
combat practices of oppression, symmetrical to practices of oppression
- continuing struggle- social reality, cannot be ignored, consequence of social
first formal theory of inequality- Rousseau’s theory of inequality
-differences between natural and social inequality (social=moral/political)
-privileges enjoyed by some that end up being detrimental to others
Rousseau argues that inequality arises when the social inequality is not
combined in the same proportion as physical inequality- if social inequality is
not justifiable by natural inequality
Example- George w bush who took advantage of his birth situation when his
natural inequality could not justify it
Can we create a fair society using Rousseau’s argument- social justice
-equity/fair exchange= output is equal to input, fair return on inputs or efforts
-fair allocation/distributive justice= distribution will be fair, person ranking 1st
will have done better than person ranked 2nd in rewards received. Not a 1-1
fit, but rewards are dependent on input (magnitude is not necessarily
perfectly correlated) and relevant
-fair procedures/procedural justice= no bias being exercised against any one
-just compensation= notion that people should get rewarded appropriately to
what they’ve done, and be punished in proportion to the bad things they’ve
Fair ways to allocate scarce resources
-democratic equality=everyone gets same treatment
-moralistic justice=rewards for biggest effort
-weak humane justice=give extra to those who are most economically
-strong humane justice=extra to those who are disadvantaged in any way
-utilitarianism=reward those who would benefit the most, maximize
*all of these can define fairness and equality, but work very differently
John Rawls- argues that should take account of difference principle
-equal treatment for all, unless inequality will benefit the disadvantaged
Some say that social inequalities are based on merit
Why would there be inequality if it wasn’t socially necessary?
Functional theory- unequal inducements to ensure required skills are made
-ignores inheritance
-ignores disagreement about important roles
-fails to explain why people (such as actors, athletes, organized crime
leaders) are so highly compensated and receive so much prestige when their
contribution isn’t necessary to society to function
Just world Theory- people get what they deserve- many people would agree
with this (eg poor people are poor because they are lazy and rich people try
harder therefore deserve it)
- people are persuaded that if they give up their reward now they will be
rewarded more greatly later on
-only makes sense for people who believe that effort is rewarded
-can create a sense of entitlement, we will get what we deserve
-subscribers to just world point of view are generally happy people- tend to
have higher than average levels of satisfaction in life, less anxiety, more
confidence and security