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1010 chp 8.docx

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SOCI 1010
Deborah Davidson

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Class and Status Inequality Chapter 8 Introduction  Class and status are embedded into our daily routines.  We make assumptions about others on the basis of their relative class and standing.  Connected to class are assumptions of levels of power.  Today, the power associated with social class is much more indirect and subtle.  The Canadian corporate elite are obscured by their corporate connections. That is, they are not well known even if the corporations they run are well known to the public.  Power relations are often muddied by interconnections with other patterns of inequality.  Social factors such as gender, race and ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation, and immigrant status play important mediating roles. Class and Status Inequalities in Sociological Thought  Social stratification is one of the foundational concerns in sociology.  It refers to the hierarchical arrangement of individuals based upon wealth, power, and prestige.   The term, social stratification, stresses the layering of groups of people based upon their privilege and social class.  According to most sociologists, there are two basic types of status: ascribed and achieved.  An ascribed status is assigned at birth and includes race, gender, disability, and age.  An achieved status is earned over the life course.  A meritocracy is is based upon achieved status. Hmm.  Are you reading Halfbreed????  Although most people prefer such a system, understanding an individual’s social status is more complex than attributing it to their strengths or weaknesses.  The myth of meritocracy – that resources are distributed on the basis of merit – deserving of because of achievement – how is this a myth?  Comparisons of Canada with other nations suggest that we have a relatively open stratification system.  A global perspective suggests that there are more opportunities for upward mobility, but it is also known that ascribed status limits opportunities for some Canadians.  Income and economic assets alone are not clear indicators of social class.  The nature and determination of social class are not clear-cut, and there is some division among sociologists as to the overall significance of social stratification. Conflict Approaches to Social Stratification  Karl Marx argued that society is best characterized by conflict.  A distinguishing feature of capitalism is that it is split between two central classes: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.  The bourgeoisie control the means of production while the proletariat have only their labour to sell in the marketplace. The Canadian corporate elite are obscured by their corporate connections. That is, they are not well known even if the corporations they run are well known to the public.  The means of production refer to things that create wealth including tools, factories, land, and investments.  Several characteristics of the capitalist mode of production distorts the social structure: private property, expropriation of surplus wealth, division of labour, and alienated labour.  Capitalists are able to keep wages low because capitalism ensures the existence of a reserve army of labour.  The reserve army of labour refers to people who are unemployed and, consequently, depress wages.  Marx argued that class conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat would become inevitable as inequality became more pronounced.  Eventually, this polarization would lead to the proletariat developing class consciousness.  Class consciousness is an awareness of workers’ shared interests and their ability to react in those interests.  Marx predicted a socialist revolution, the eradication of capitalist economies, and a new mode of production.  Weber was a conflict theorist who argued that there was more to social class than just property ownership and economic inequalities.  3 P’s - power, property, prestige [Weber] 7 ways - Income, occupation, education, location, religion, race, family name  Class refers to the ownership of property.  Status refers to prestige and social honour.  Power refers to the ability to exert power and control over others despite their objections. Structural Functionalist Approaches to Social Stratification  Émile Durkheim drew attention to the social functions played by social stratification.  He argued that early societies were held together by mechanical solidarity. This refers to union based on a minimal division of labour, similarity of people based on shared experiences and common beliefs.  As the division of labour becomes more complex, organic solidarity becomes evident.  In such societies, no one can survive without each other.  Durkheim noted that there can be anomic divisions of labour where class polarization takes place. Symbolic Interactionist Perspectives on Social Stratification  Symbolic interactionists are less interested in how inequality is created as they are in how it is experienced.  They are interested in how symbols enable people to carry out uniquely human actions and interactions.  Thorstein Veblen suggested that the business class and the leisure class were very different. While the former is interested in earning profits, the latter is more interested in conspicuous consumption.  Conspicuous consumption refers to purchasing expensive goods and services in order to put them on display.  Symbolic statements about wealth are abundant throughout society including in university settings where brand names such as Lululemon, Bench, and UGG are readily apparent.  Status symbols provide people with ways to express and exaggerate their social position and worth. Feminist Explanations for Social Stratification  In the past, there were few female social class theorists.  Feminists have drawn attention to the feminization of poverty in Canada.  Across the globe, women are disproportionately poor- income, choices and opportunities, inequality and inequity  At home and in the workplace, women are disadvantaged.  Class and Status Inequality in Canada The Wealthy, Elites, and Super Rich  The dominant structural functionalist approach to social stratification was first challenged by sociologist C. Wright Mills.  He argued that elites had the effect of jeopardizing democratic processes.  Class and Status Inequality in Canada, cont’d The Wealthy, Elites, and Super Rich  Latest data on economic inequality in Canada shows that in 2007, the average after tax total of Canadian families for the richest quintile was $126,700, while the lowest averaged $13,900.  There is considerable evidence that there exists a small, wealthy elite in Canada who occupy positions of extreme wealth and privilege.  Class and Status Inequality in Canada, cont’d The Poor and Economically Marginalized  One of the most common distinctions used to define poverty is between absolute and relative poverty.  Absolute poverty refers to a state in which people lack the basic necessities of life including food, clothing, and shelter.  Relative poverty is a state in which people are poor relative to the
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