Functionalism, Liberalism, Racism
There is a sense of ambiguity and inconsistency when it comes to talking about social
inequality. The subordination of a person is not natural, but rather social-historical.
There is no natural inequality between man and woman or slave and slave-master.
Rousseau‟s problem was he did not justify any form of inequality. The problem is that
Rousseau said that what is wrong with social inequality is that there is no just
correspondence. He believed in inequality in a state of nature.
Gandhi supported the system of the Varna as natural and just. Gandhi‟s idea is inconsistent
as the Varna system is not natural. It does not take into idea the position of women. Women
were subordinate to men and only known by their fathers, brothers, sons, or husbands,
Capitalism – Inequality
The idea of inequality and equality in the Western world is barely visible. The transition of
feudalism to capitalism blurred the lines of inequality and equality. Capitalism draws on
the idea of natural inequality.
The dominant ideology of capitalism is that there is no restrictions on mobility within class,
rank, job sector, etc. In feudalism, there was a restriction. That is, if you were born into a
peasant family, you would be a peasant for all your life. The ideology of capitalism was to
challenge the idea of natural inequality. That does not mean that capitalism has no equality
or no inequality. The idea of feudalism was that inequalities are natural. With the transition
from feudalism to capitalism, the natural inequalities disappeared and became unnatural
inequalities or equalities within capitalism.
Under capitalism, what are the various ways to justify the existing inequalities?
The whole idea of the English and French Revolutions were to end the rule of the Landlord
class. The kings were considered gods.
Did the capitalism create equality? Some would say that the greatest inequalities in human
history exists today within our capitalist world. The Idea of Inequality within Capitalism and how it exists today
There are 3 main perspectives on social equality and inequality under capitalism:
LIBERALISM, FUNCTIONALISM, RACIST
1. Liberalism – Durkheim is an example. His main contribution to sociological theory is
anomic division of labour. Division of labour has been presented as a very powerful
justification of social inequality. No known human society is without division of
The first contribution of Durkheim was the division of labour and equality and
inequality under capitalism.
Durkheim‟s theory of division of labour – he divided society into two systems:
organic and mechanical. He attributed mechanical to primitive societies who use
each other. A main question was, “How do people integrate? How do people
bond?” Important to these societies was some kind of social bond. Solidarity is
the main concern. Modern capitalist society lacks integration. The difference
between capitalist and pre-capitalist society is that there is two different forms
of solidarity. Capitalism has a high form of solidarity. The solidarity or
integration that existed in pre-capitalist societies is organic.
Organic and mechanical solidarity are a result of the division of labor. They
represent two different forms of the division of labour. Organic and mechanical
solidarity are two different forms of equality and inequality.
The most important distinction between mechanical and organic solidarity is the
question of choice. In organic solidarity, individuals did not have a choice. They
were societies based on ascription. In mechanical solidarity, individuals can
achieve their position in society.
The division of labour was really elementary. There were more opportunities
created by the advancement of capitalism. Capitalism got rid of the idea of
anyone being born with natural qualifications or natural disqualifications.
The difference between mechanical and organic solidarity is that it‟s not light of
integration because it offers individuals much more than pre-capitalist societies.
Organic solidarity, you have a choice. Do individuals in capitalism have a choice in the existing division of labour? In
reality, no. The real division of labor under capitalism is not organic, says
Durkheim. It is an anomic division of labour, which implies lack of moral
regulations and is a deviation from the norm. The idea of capitalism is that
every individual has a choice, but Durkheim says that not everyone has a
MECHANICAL = NO CHOICE / ORGANIC = CHOICE
The starting point is not equal, but it should be. It is not equal because of
inheritance. Some people inherit wealth, while others do not. Those who inherit
wealth dictate the division of labour. That is anomic division of labour. If the
division of labour is anomic, it is because of the inheritance of wealth.
Durkheim came up with a solution to the above. He said that prison is the old is
dying (naturally dying) and the new is being born (naturally born). It is
transition from old to new. With the old being dead, inheritance can be
abolished and the state can take it to protect people‟s interests.
Private property in the means of production brought up the need for the “state”.
When land became the private property of owners – in order to protect the rights
of this class, the state emerged. The main function of the state is the protection
of private property. The state is an agent of enforcing inequality by protecting a
certain class of people who possess a certain type of private property. Durkheim
said the state will abolish inheritance and when state abolished inheritance,
everybody will have equal starting points. What is wrong with Durkheim‟s
theory is the understanding of the state. Understanding of the state is one of the
most controversial problems in the social sciences. The idea of abolishing
inheritance is an idiocy because the main function of the state is to protect
private property (including inheritance).
Pre-capitalist communities were isolated wholes and self-sufficient. They were small
republics. People produce what they need for themselves. The kind of integration that
existed in these communities is mechanical. If you look at this society as whole, you find a
collection of self-sufficient societies. Agriculture was the dominant road of production. Capitalist communities thrive on interdependence. What happens with capitalism is that
isolation breaks down. Capitalism rises from inception. It aims towards globalization.
No individual or community is actually self-sufficient. We rely on the trades and
commodities of others. For example, getting up in the morning and your daily routine – it
involves relying on the work of others to complete it. For example, sugar on your cereal –
you do not have a sugar plantation. This type of interdependence did not occur in pre-
capitalist society. Kings and Queens ate what the lower class people produced, but the
lower class people did not have much access beyond their own things.
Durkheim said that the previous mode of relations was mechanical and people did not have
much choice. PRE-CAPITALIST SOCIETY = MECHANICAL = NO CHOICE.
CAPITALIST SOCIETY = ORGANIC = CHOICE.
The ideology of capitalism is not equality.
Capitalism claims to be a system of equality. How are inequalities rationalized under
capitalism? 3 main perspectives cont‟d:
1. Functionalism – Functionalist theory relies on structure and function. Society has a
structure made of various parts of society. Society is alike to a human body. All these parts
come together to make the society whole. Society = an organism. Every organ within this
organism has a function. Everything that exists within society is necessary.
A problem with this: Is inequality universal? What is the function of social
inequality? What is the function it performs by the individual? By the society?
The function of social inequality is that society has different needs. Society is made
up of individuals who have particular talents. Society has particular needs. A
particular talent is required to fulfil a particular need of society. The society must
have a system of rewards, which are dictated according to the talent and value of the
function that it produces. Some functions are more or less important than others so
the rewards function is there to encourage the production of talents.
However, even with talents there still may be other factors standing in someone‟s
way. For example: race, gender, orientation, age, etc.
For example, doctors earn more than nurses because they have studied longer and
invest more time than nurses. Also, doctors occur in the healthcare system, saving
lives. In human life, there is nothing that is natural.
This whole system of reward and talent is socially created. They are external
Functionalist theory is weak.
2. Racism – Racist theory of social inequality was talked about by Huxley (in reading).
Huxley‟s first assumption was opposite of what Rousseau and Locke said. Equality is
sanctioned neither by signs, nature, or philosophy. He says that equality is unnatural
and inequality is natural. Rousseau and Locke say inequality is unjust and unnatural,
while Huxley says equality is natural and unjust.
Inequality of property rights is a natural inequality. Those with greater natural ability
and intelligence acquired private property.
The idea here is that the starting point of humanity was like a private property and
those with greater natural ability and intelligence had the most rights to these private
Social inequalities justly correspond to natural inequalities, according to Huxley.
Same thing goes for Galton.
Social inequality depends on your hereditary genius. Hereditary genius was deemed
natural and divine.
There applies Darwin‟s theory of evolution. Social Darwinism held the idea of racial
superiority. It was the right of the superior race to dominate the inferior race.
Important question: If social inequalities are not natural, why are social inequalities
presented as natural? If they are social and historical, why are they presented as
natural? Who presents them as natural and why? Those who benefit from social
inequalities (eg the upper class) will justify it as natural.
Dominant ideology = subjective. Ideology is neither true nor false. It is half truth and half
masks the real truth. It is not only truth. Ideology masks half of the truth. The goal of
ideology is to uncover and remove that mask. To present social inequality as natural is
ideology. It is a half truth.
Symbolic and Material Boundaries
September-24-13 5:02 PM
Symbolic and material boundaries are inequalities.
Marcel Mauss – was a French social scientist and sociologist who said that the domain of
social life is essentially a domain of difference. Social life is about difference. Therefore,
human society is not homogeneous. Instead, it is made of social groups which are separated
by their beliefs, practices, and institutions. Some examples: The Israelis do not eat lamb
cooked in the milk of its mother. Not only that but they detest those who do anything like
that.Another example , there is a group of people, the Touareg, who consume only the
milk of the female camel. They find the cow milk repulsive. There idea is that cow milk is
for the cow baby. They will eat the baby, but not drink the cow milk. Other people find this
repulsive, while these people find cow milk repulsive. Another example , Brahmins will
detest cow meat but love cow milk. They will kill themselves instead of killing a cow. In
Hindu world, cow milk is essentially sacred. They do not eat beef. On the other hand, beef-
eating is common in many parts of the world. During colonization, there was the belief that
the British were a superior race in theory due to the quality of their beef. In theory, eating
beef made your race superior, made you stronger, smarter, etc. Yet, Hindus believed eating
beef would send you straight to hell.
The subjective truth - the people who believe in these ideas are more important than the
Another example , circumcision may be a sign of purity for some while for others, it may
be seen as an act of violence.
The point here that is being made: these practices are material practices, but their main
function is symbolic. These symbolic implications create boundaries across cultures. The
question of boundaries is important because social inequalities are about boundaries and
the boundaries are drawn to include or exclude people.
Two very important criteria to understanding boundaries: 1) what is the meaning of
boundaries? What are symbolic boundaries? Material boundaries? 2) what is the connection
between material and symbolic boundaries? Symbolic is an object representative of something else. Symbol is a signifier
(Sign/symbol). However, there is a difference between a sign and a symbol. Symbols are
defined as signifying something with no connection to its material.
Difference between signs and symbols – with a sign, there is some kind of intrinsic cause-
effect relationship. For example, smoke = fire. The problem with symbol is that there is no
such connection. For example, a flag is made of cloth which can be used to make other
material. A symbol may be a material object, but what it is symbolizing cannot be inferred.
Ie, the material of the object has no connection to its meaning. For example, the cross is
Christianity is a symbol as the material and the symbol are not intrinsically connected. It
carries a meaning and that meaning is not affected by the object.
Culture/Society gives meaning to symbols. The correlation of those meanings can have
social implications or consequences.
What is the social function of symbolic boundaries? They create distinction. Those who
do not believe in those ideas do not share in the practices associated. It is the difference
between the us and the other. So they create distinctions. Symbols are an expression of the
group‟s desire to separate itself from others. In other words, symbols create boundaries.
Those who are not included are considered different and ultimately put in an unequal
stance. These boundaries must have some sort of justification. Two questions: How do we
create boundaries? & What are the social consequences of creating boundaries?
There are 3 factors important to answering this question:
How do we create boundaries?
cognitive, communicative, and political-economic. Behind each perspective, there is some
kind of theoretical understanding.
Cognitive – how are symbols thought of? What is the reason behind not eating beef
for Hindus for example? Symbols must have some cognitive base.
Communicative – how are symbols communicated? Symbols must be
Politic-Economic – Symbols are always enforced by political-economic sanctions.
These three are connected. They answer how symbolic boundaries are created and
Symbolic boundaries have a very important social function which is inclusive and
exclusive. Durkheim’s theory of religion – main concern was with how society achieves integration.
What creates the human bond? Religion is the bond. Durkheim‟s problem was how to
understand religion in sociology.
Durkheim divided the social human worth into two domains: Sacred and Profane Sacred
is not something that involves material value and cannot be understood in terms of
scientific worth. It is something symbolic. It is not day-to-day activities. Sacred is
symbolic. With sacred, there is a sense of fear and respect. It is more important for society
than material things. Profane is not symbolic. It refers to day-to-day activities.
Ideas are related to practices. Every idea involves a set of beliefs/rituals and practices.
Durkheim said that those who believe in these things create a church, meaning a
community of common beliefs and rituals related to the sacred. The idea of sacred
come from society and culture. We are reminded of something bigger than us,
something that exists outside our minds that we internalize.
Symbolic is the basis of human bond. It is the basis of integration. The basis of
integration is actually a symbol that‟s sacred to society. Social bonds are sacred.
Human beings have a tendency to draw boundaries and create labels.
Symbols/boundaries become evidence of a system of domination/control. All symbolic
boundaries are the basis for control. It creates an Us-Other division. Us is part of the
dominating group, while Other is dominated.
Symbolic boundaries are about , which is not true or false but a presentation of the
half-truth. Symbolic boundaries are arbitrary in that it has no object connection. It is not
arbitrary in that it carries a systemic function or social sanction. In that sense, it is true
across all people of societies. Symbolic boundaries create limits of inclusion and exclusion.
They are marvels of distinction.
Bourdieu – Social life is based on the logic of distinction, that people distinguish
themselves from others. The logic of distinction brings people together and segregates them
from one another. In a differentiated society, individuals of different social classes cannot
escape this. Boundaries that we create are symbolic and political because boundaries
determine advantages and disadvantages.
Symbolic boundaries are arbitrary but real. Example: In India, the sacred thread (Janeoo).
Lower class cannot make this sacred thread. Only upper class. What is the relation between material boundaries and symbolic boundaries? Symbolic
boundaries are reflections of material boundaries.
Symbolic boundaries are not consensual. They are essentially coercive. There is no
consensus. Every form of social inequality is created and enforced. People are coerced into
these symbolic boundaries. Social boundaries are not always consensual (controversial
Material boundaries are inequalities. Social inequalities are always presented by the
dominant group as natural. No form of inequality is an accident because every form of
inequality has been challenged.
Human beings have culture/symbols/language/interaction, thus making them different from
In order to survive, we have to rely on others for our resources. Thus, we group together
and create divisions of labour. Nature in its natural form is unnatural to human needs. We
modify nature to fit our needs. Everything is born in the process of production. We do not
Is the basis of inequality material or symbolic or both? Included in material boundaries are
natural resources, labor, etc Labor is not symbolic as symbolic refers to meaning, not
Sacred thread symbolized control of the caste (Brahman…)
Symbolic boundaries are reflections of material boundaries? Symbols are associated with
High Culture and Low Culture
In modern, democratic societies, the gap between high culture and low culture is
Examples of low culture becoming high culture: certain street drugs, baggy jeans, etc. It is
Is the gap between high and low culture disappearing? The media blurs the gap between
high and low culture. In American and European culture, there is no gap. Illusions survive
because they can pass for ideology. Capitalism allows the gap between high and low
culture to disappear. Ideology is a half truth.
Boundaries within high culture and low cultures are disappearing or they are only
appearing to be disappearing?
Are social inequalities eternal? They are universal and historical in a sense that they
constantly appear throughout human history.
Inequalities are not universal/eternal. Inequalities are developed under specific historical
conditions and they can disappear if those conditions are eliminated. This view of social
inequality is historical.
The idea that social inequality is universal is more or less a common theme in sociology.
Dahrendorf (1969) said that questions concerning social inequality are among men. The
questions concerning social inequality among men were historically the very first questions
about social inequality by sociologists.
The main cause of social inequality is found in property. There is something missing from
this. The notion of property is that property exists in every form of society – EARLY ---
LATE. The idea of property exists in every form of society, but inequality does not exist in
every form of society.
Rousseau – Private Property is the basis of inequality. In the state of nature, there is no
inequality. Inequality is founded in the establishment of property and legitimization
(laws/rules/regulations) of such.
Abolition of property [private property in the means of production] did not lead to equality.
Private property is not central to social inequality.
1917-1991 – Berlin Wall marks the end of socialism in the Soviet Union. (not important)
According to Dahrendorf:
1. Inequality is universal
2. Inequality is necessary because every society must have norms and the existence of
norms create inequality. Norms require authority. There is no society that can
function without authority, which means unequal distribution of power. (Absurd logic). Authority creates some sort of inequality. Inequality is a very basic
requirement of any kind of society because most societies cannot exist without norms.
Inequality is a natural condition of every kind of social order.
Argument according to Dahrendorf – society is a bundle of relationships with positions of
power. Therefore, it must be unequal. If this is true, then a major part of human history did
not have society. The problem is that there are no human beings outside society. In other
words, human beings living in traditional society are not human beings at all.
In terms of material conditions, there are two types of society: (1) immediate return in
which there are no inequalities & (2) delayed return in which there is inequality.
In immediate return system, there is immediate access to food and other resources (not
including fast food). This means that everyone has guaranteed access to food and other
resources. Access rights are not formally allocated. They are taken for granted. Access to
material resources/intellectual resources is linked to personal/individual autonomy. No
guaranteed subsistence (one important characteristic of capitalism). No matter where you
are, there is a very small minority which controls the resources.
Restriction on accumulation occurs within delayed return system. This is the capitalist
mode of production. There is the obligation to share. *Property rights exist in these
societies, but they do not create dependency/inequality because these societies are
characterized by disengaged property(?). Property, without giving up individual
autonomy/equality – everyone has equal share in property.
As a resulted of delayed return societies , people are known for what they own. There is a
difference in ownership. There is an inequality of ownership. In other words, property is
used to create distinction. Those symbolic boundaries are a creation of private property. In
modern capitalist society, people are known for what they own. Private property is the root
cause of inequality as that is an example of using property to create distinction. Private
property is the reference point for individuals.
In terms of non-material conditions, there are two types of society:
Material and non-material are intrinsically connected. This equality in material conditions
must be reflected in equality or inequality of non-material conditions. These societies are
not without norms and values, but the norms and values existing in these societies are in fact different. It is a positive ideology of equal access. In theory, everyone has equal access
but in reality, everyone has unequal access.
Immediate return societies are equal in wealth, power, and status. These 3 are
Equality is actively promoted. Inequality is discouraged. Those who go against the norms
of equality are socially ostracized. Inequality is delegitimized.
Some people think property is the basis of inequality. Social systems did not abolish
inequality. In other words, property is not the basis of social inequality. Inequality have
worsened throughout human societies because it is a necessary component of society.
Norms are created by authority and authority creates inequality.
2 types of society: immediate return and delayed return.
What is important here is the bases of social inequality. Private Property (PP) [in the means
of production] as a basis of inequality was recognized a long time ago.
In order to show the goal of private property in the means of production, we must
understand societies of immediate and delayed return.
Societies of immediate return are characterized by absence of private property. Every
individual has equal access to resources. Nobody has more or less than another.
James Woodburn – Right to property + Ideology. Inequality requires unequal access to
property and a culture of ideology that propose and relegates unequal access. In egalitarian
societies, there is equal access to property. The ideology or culture legitimizes that; it
encourages equality, discourages inequality.
Egalitarian societies are equal in wealth, power, and status. Equality is actively promoted
and inequality is actively resisted. Inequality is unacceptable and dangerous. Hence, those
who go against the norm of equality are discarded, rejected, or ostracised. So the idea that
norms create inequality – Dahrendorf – has no basis in history. It is not proven true by
history or society.
3 Main mechanisms to create equality : direct, open, uncontrolled access to material and
Class and Modes of Production October-08-13
Social Inequality Lecture – Marxism, Class and Modes of Production
Class is central to all social life. An understanding of class is one of the most important
things of this course. The concept of class. A lack of understanding of class is at the core of
Do all societies have class? NO. Why don‟t they have class? Those who do not have class
have no means of production nor privatized property.
We will look at class from a Marxist point of view and from a Weber point of view.
Most sociologists use Weber‟s definition of class
DEFINING CLASS (MARXIST VIEW) – The basic concepts of political economy are
the basic tools for defining class.
Sociology has no definition of class. The definition of class is inadequate because
sociology does not have the basic concepts to define class. Class can only be defined in
terms of the basic concepts which are used only in political economy.
How do classes come into existence? What is that process? Class is historical and social.
It develops in the process of production. Society itself develops in the process of
production. If some societies do not/did not have class and other do/did – what has to
happen in the process of production to give rise to class?
In societies where means of production or communally owned, class arises.
Communal production of the means of production means NO CLASS . This is the
Classes do not exist in all kinds of society. In egalitarian societies, there are no
classes because the means of production are communally owned, controlled, and
used. It is used in the interest of the society as a group, not the individual or a
Society itself develops in the process of production. It is that starting point of
development of the private property in the means of production. CLASS A RELATIONAL CONCEPT: Class is a relational concept in the sense that a
class does not exist in isolation by itself. A class exists in relation to other class(es).
There must be two or more classes. There cannot be one single class.
Capitalist society is a class society that exists in inequality. In contrast to feudalism, there is
room for upward/downward mobility. That is, everyone can become a capitalist but not
everyone can be a capitalist because there is a need for a working class in order for the
capitalist class to exist.
The idea of class as a relation means the need for the working class to maintain the
capitalist class. In that sense, class is a relational concept.
The key concept/starting point of political economy - 1) The mode of production – In
order to see the process of production, you see the mode of production. The first mode of
production had no class (PMP – Pre- Mode of Production). Then the class doubles up,
which is the AMP (Agricultural Mode of Production). This leads to the Feudal Mode of
Production (FMP) and then the Capitalist Mode of Production (CMP). PMP, AMP, FMP,
How to identify classes in a mode of production – In order to find classes in the mode of
production, we look for Relations Production (Classes are identified in terms of relation of
production. It is a social relation of productionClass : Social relation of production
(simple Marxist definition).
According to Marx, everyone is a Laborer/Owner. But the division - Owner/Not-Laborer
and Laborer/Not Owner - gives rise to class relations. This is the fundamental basis of
class. From that point of view, everyone has the right to the means of production and to
what is produced in a non-class society. In those non-class societies, rights are balanced in
such a way that everybody has to labor. In class societies, not everybody is obliged to
AMP – The first example of a class society occurred in AMP with the class relation of
slave-master. In this society, the slaves had no right to own anything. A slave experienced
total deprivation. He did not even have right to his own labor. It was a relationship to the
means of production in which slaves had no right to. They were totally dispossessed of
their own labor. Before slavery, it was an egalitarian society which had different states. In
egalitarian societies, every human being was treated as an individual. There was equality in those structures. But the introduction of slavery was considered the starting point of
civilization. Those who labored and produced for everyone were considered uncivilized,
lesser human beings who were compared to animals. The only difference between these
slaves and animals was that slaves were considered “speaking” modes of production. Thus,
in having no rights to their labor, slaves lost their humanity. The logic of social relations -
Your humanity relies on your right in the means of production. An ancient mode of
production was between slave and master.
FMP - When slavery ended, the 2 mode of production was the feudal mode of production
which was divided between serfs/peasants and landlord. The king was divine and owned
every piece of land. He was the biggest landowner. Their relationship to the means of
production – peasants had access to their own mode of production. The serf had the right to
possess a piece of land and a house/cottage, which was landlord‟s property, in return for
labor/performing obligations. Serf also possessed family (unlike the slave who was stripped
of such). In feudalism, the serf has right to his labor so long as he is working on his own
piece of land, but when working on the land that is landlords land, he has to work for free.
Landlord gives serf land in return for free labor. Landlord never touched the plow as he
would be considered inferior (tied to symbolic and material boundaries).
CMP – Next was CMP. The classes were divided between the proletariat (worker) and
bourgeoisie (owner). In order to remain an owner, the capitalist must have the working
class. The worker in capitalism is free in the sense that the capitalist has no legal authority
or political power to force the worker to work. Worker under capitalism is worse than slave
in some sense – the slave was insured of his work because if he did not receive his work, he
would die. But under capitalism, there is no need to keep this. The only way you receive
this is if working under capitalist system. The capitalist system has no obligation to employ
your labor. Workers are insured of their relationship to the means of production.
Thus, 2 types of class society before capitalism : slave societies and feudal societies.
Classes are made in terms of relationship to means of production.
Is class an economic concept? Class is both economic and political. Political class refers to
the power structure/state – power that is institutionalized. The source of political power are
those who own the means of production (the monopoly of the ownership of the means of
production). The relationship is not accidental. It is intrinsic. What is meant by the power structure that is the state is the monopoly of legitimate power (i.e. law, courts, prison, army,
etc.). It is a coercive apparatus. The class that owns the means of production also owns and
controls the means of power. Thus, economic class cannot be controlled without political
class, which is the power structure.
Cultural/Ideological = Legitimation of the class that owns and the class that labors. There
relations must be justified and rationalized. That relation is maintained by the dominant
ideology. In egalitarian society, the dominant ideology is that there are no inequality in
terms of control and the means of production. In class society, the dominant ideology
justifies inequality. The main purpose of the state is to protect that.
DEFINITION - Class is essentially a social relation between the owners of the means of
production and the labourers. It is a social relation between two classes. It is a social
relation that has an economic, political, ideological/cultural component. All of these
components are not separated, but rather interrelated in class. In that sense, class is not
Sociological aspects of class – 1. Class is RELATIONAL. 2. Class relations are inevitably
and necessarily exploited. (EXPLOITATION). 3. CLASS INTERESTS ARE
CONTRADICTORY. 4. CLASS STRUGGLE.
Social Inequality: WEBER
Contradictions of class interests [do not] inevitably lead to class struggle. Pseudo-scientific.
Class is infallible about its [class] interests.
Serf and slave societies were not class societies, but status societies.
Max Weber does not use the term social inequality. Rather, he refers to social stratification.
Stratification varies. The layers of social stratification do not have a clear relationship.
Strata vs Class structure Class relations refers to the relationship within the means of production. The relationship is
determined by their relationship with each other. Class relations mean that one class cannot
exist without another class.
The term stratification does not have a sense of exploitation (class contradiction) or
inequality. These elements are missing from stratification.
Different strata exists side by side without necessarily coming into conflict.
Max Weber disagreement with Marx idea of class.
Class is a pure aggregation, according to Marx.
There is not only one kind of power – economic, cultural, social powers
Max Weber introduced the idea of the status group ] in order to distinguish from class
(which is based on economic power). For example, slave-master, serf-landlord. According
to Marx, status is social honor which is not based on economic power.
The idea of power is a relational concept. Those who have power may dictate
economic conditions and relations to those who may not have economic power. The
problem is with two economically unequal groups meeting and imposing their power.
STATUS = SOCIAL HONOR
Property is not always recognized as a status qualification, but in the long run, it is. This
means that those who have property become a status group. Both propertied and
propertyless may belong to the same status group. This equality of status may become
precarious in the long run.
Status Honor is associated with a style of life that is expected of those who wish to belong
to the status group. There are restrictions on social intercourse, which is not determined by
economic functions or interests. Social intercourse may include belonging to a club,
Restriction on social intercourse means restricting the symbolic boundaries – endogamy.
Strictly within the group – characteristic of a real status group. The status honor is a matter
of usurpation, meaning the members of the status group set themselves apart by drawing
various boundaries. The status groups reserves its honor by drawing these various kinds of
boundaries. Caste and Ethnic groups – Ethnic groups are based on ethnic segregation and caste. A
fully developed status group is a closed caste, which means that the status distinctions are
According to Weber, caste distinctions are not only secular but ritual [religiously
sanctioned]. Any contact with lower caste is ritually polluting. In caste societies, any kind
of physical contact between lower caste and upper caste society was polluted. Upper caste
loses status as a result.
Castes are ethnic communities. Ethnic – Blood relation… Blood relation is important
because they restrict marriage outside the blood group. Restriction on marriage = restriction
on social intercourse – based on belief of blood relations.
Ethnic distinctions – vertically stratified – each caste is given a profession in which
members of another caste may not have access to. Caste distinctions become professional
distinctions. These professional distinctions are closed – with no upward mobility
whatsoever. Ethnic distinctions become functional divisions by being vertically stratified.
Status Privileges – stratification of status goes hand in hand with the monopolization of
ideal and material opportunities. How is this different from control of the means of
production? Certain groups become the object of monopolization by status groups of
entailed estates. „Entailed Estates‟ – property of landlords in feudal times; possession of
serfs. The basis of holding serfs?
Monopolization can be positive or negative. Lord-Serf, Positive-Negative
Privileged Status Groups – Manual labor is a disqualification from these groups. Privileged
Status Groups live off others manual labor.
Old America – Esteem for Labor? Weber says that the disqualification of manual labor as
privileged status group is setting America against the esteem for labor.
Weber important contribution to sociology – Very frequently rational economic action –
enterprise. Any kind of enterprise is a disqualification for status. Bourgeosie is then a
negative status group.
Market is restricted – you cannot „buy‟ the privileges of status groups.
Higgling (Bargaining) is Anti-status behavior. Production – class. Consumption – status.
Status is dominant - When the basis of acquisition and distribution of groups is relatively
stable, status predominates. Peasants and Landlords
The landlords own the means of production. The peasants and landlords are related based
off land relations. Land relations are economic, political, and cultural.
Not possible to discuss a class situation in relation to one class. One class requires the
presence of another class to exist. No single class society.
Capitalists cannot exist without the working class.
Peasants had rights to possess land. They were creatures of land. This means they could
cultivate it and use the produce from that land for their livelihood.
Two kinds of possession rights: permanent/hereditary vs temporary. Permanent was not
really permanent – moreso they were not denied this land. They could be given from crop
to crop or on a contract of a selected number of years.
Rights of Possession means that so long as they meet their terms and conditions, they could
The terms and conditions under which peasants were allowed to possess lands (3 MAIN
1. RENT: Obligation to pay rent (feudal). Rent paid to the landlord. Rent came in the
form of labour rent, rent in kind, or rent in cash. In kind means that it was presented
through produce such as wheat, chicken, cotton, etc. The landlord had the right to
extract rent from the peasant because the landlord owned the land that the peasant
possessed. Relationship: Landlord was owner of the land, peasant relied on landlord
for land. ECONOMIC side of this relationship.
2. CESS: Cess can be understood as a part of tribute. Tribute was more or less arbitrary
in character. For example, if peasant‟s or landlord‟s daughter/son was getting
married, peasants had to pay tribute. The peasant could not move, marry, or die
without paying to the landlord. Landlords had tremendous arbitrary power which they
could impose on peasants. Peasants had to pay a number of tributes per year. 3. FORCED LABOR: Peasants had to provide labor that was forced in a sense that
they had no right to refuse such labor. They had to perform labour for landlord‟s
household needs, religious holidays and festivals, assistance hunting for landlord.
The landlords had the right toextra-economic coercion for the extraction of rent, tribute
(cess), and forced labour. This included the right to beat them, put them in jail, torture
them, etc. They would use instruments of medieval torture against peasants and their
dependents in case they did not fulfill any of their obligations. KATHI – an instrument
which peasant‟s legs are stretched out so that they could not move or sit. They had to stand
there in the sun for a few hours. Sun = hot in India over 2 hours.
Landlords had superior economic, juridical power, and political power. Every landlord was
practically a ruler within his territory. Every landlord was also the judge – had judicial
powers. The peasant was dependent on the landlord.
The rule of landholding in pre-capitalist times was that organic unity of economy and
polity – economic power and landlord‟s economic power married with it the right to rule.
Inequality between landlord (superior) and peasant (inferior) was economic, political, legal,
Culturally, the landlord‟s worth the most honor in terms of social honor. Highest social
honor in their territory. In terms of status, peasant was lower than the landlord. PEASANT
= SERVILE STATUS
In order to understand the servile status of the peasant – TERMS OF ADDRESS FOR THE
LANDLORD USED BY PEASANTS:
4. MAI-BAP – MOTHER/FATHER
5. MALIK MAS–ER
6. ANN DATTA – GRANDFATHER
These terms of address were significant of the servile status of peasants. Peasants used
these for terms of address for landlord‟s wife and children as well. The landlord‟s wife and
children had to refer to the landlord the same way as peasants.
Common between peasant, landlord wives, and landlord‟s son(s): they are all dependent on
the landlord who had exclusive control of land. = dependents.
CHAUMASI – “4 months” – if a landlord died, for a particular period which could extend
up to 4 months, the peasants, particularly peasant women, had to wear the garb of widows. The idea was that if the landlord died, the whole territory of peasants had become widowed
in the sense of losing their master. They also had to fast.
Economic power of the landlord was supported by the political, juridical, and cultural
power. Landlord has highest social honor.
Social Division of Labour –
Landlords had a function. They were warriors/knights. The main division of labor in
these societies was the sword and the plough. The hand the holds the sword will never
hold the plough. Otherwise, they will lose their status. The hand that holds the plough
will never be allowed to hold the sword. Landlords obligated to military service by
the ruler in order to keep their land. PLOUGH = lower honour; SWORD = higher
Distribution of social honour, according to Weber, is that the status group never engages in
manual labour in their lives.
Class or status group? The starting point of the distinction between the two groups is that
one group is based on the distribution of economic power (class) and another group is
based on the distribution of social honor (status). Economic power and social honor are two
separate points. One constitutes the class group (Marx – economic power), one constitutes
the status group (Weber – social honor).
The relationship between landlords and peasants was exploited in the sense that landlords
were exploiting the peasants – they were not getting return from the labor. Landlords were
taking a big part of the produce without paying them. This is a relationship between class
groups as they are being exploited. The interests of peasants and landlords were
contradictory. There was a class struggle (Marx). To maintain contradictory and exploited
relations, a monopoly of coercive power was used (Weber).
The idea of status group is that it is something distinct from class. Class appears in the
market situation and does not operate outside of this. Status group is based on a system of
5:09 PM Social Inequality: CASTE
The basis of class formation is the social relations of production and its relationship with
the political structure and ideology.
The distinction between status and class by Max Weber – Question discussed whether
landlords and peasants could be called a class or a status. Answer: Both.
Is the basis of abstaining from manual labour the basis of social honour or the basis of
These groups control and monopolize all the resources, which is a status phenomenon. The
other group is dependent on the group for its livelihood, which is a class phenomenon.
The whole legal system is controlled by those who control land which is the main source
for resources. Political and economic power of the landlord is the greatest power.
Between landlords and peasants, there were material boundaries. Landlords =
monopolization of land, Peasants = possession of land. What separated them was their
differential access to the means of production. This was also expressed in the symbolic
India was under the control of Indian chiefs, Princes, and Rulers.
Symbolically, the life of the landlord and the peasant were separate.
In India, no peasant was ever allowed to ride or own an elephant. Nor were they allowed to
own a brick house. (SYMBOLIC BOUNDARIES).
Questions of class and status very relevant to landlords and peasants.
Caste is an unusual institution – Caste has been enigmatized by mainstream sociologists
Caste sociology is very Weberian. Caste excludes class – so goes the argument.
Caste = Unique. Indian Society = Caste Society. Indian Society = Unique. No other society
Instead of seeing caste as product of human society in history, Indian society is tied down
This Indian exceptionalism is very much part of caste sociology. Varna vs Caste – Varna was a division of labour in the earlier states of Indian society and
history (2500-1500BC). Those people who were dominant in India, they descended from
this group of Aryans, who are from Central Asia. Two Varnas: (1)Aryans (came from
outside). (2)Indigineous population that was there). Aryans came and conquered this
population and became the dominant ones in India. Dasas – Slaves/servants.
Three Varnas then came from this: ARYANS & NON-ARYANS - (1) Priest/Brahman,
(2)Warrior/Kshatriya, and (3)Those who engaged in economic activities/Vaishyas
(including pastoralism and horticulturalism).
Then pre-societies passed from pastoralism to agriculture. Then came a 3-fold division
turned into 4-fold division: Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishyas, & Shudras (those who engaged
in labor such as agricultural service and possessed nothing).
This is the origin and the evolution of the varna system.
The relationship between varna and caste is that at some point the division of labour
became more complex. Occupational and professional groups came into existence and
division of labour expanded. Thus, the difference between them is that varna can be used in
two senses: Varna means color & Varna means choice. Varna means the difference
between people on the basis of color and choice. Indigenous people living in Indian were
darker than the Aryans who were of fair/lighter complexion. The three-fold Varna division
implied that it was based on choice.
Our term for caste is JATI, meaning “by birth”. The cen