Class and Inequality in Canada
Myth of Class Inequality
• “Working” class- proletarians
• Most Canadians believe they are middle class and thus largely classless
• No need to revolt
o 19% had annual incomes below the average in 1970, In 2005, its at 53%...the
gap between the have and have not’s are growing.
o The bigger the gap between haves and have-nots determines the inequality.
o Income equality is increasing in Canada.
o Income Inequality- the extent to which income is distributed unevenly in a
o Although the gap between the rich and poor widened, Canadians in the poorest
income group saw their income levels rise, albeit minimally. (There’s growing
Why does it matter?
High inequality raises a moral question about fairness and social justice, however there
is no consensus on when income inequality reaches its tipping point.
Over 70% of Canadians think the widening gap is against Canadian values.
The majority of Canadians are willing to pay more to protect
Myth of Class Mobility.
Occupational mobility confused with class mobility.
Working class mistakenly think they can move up a class.
Opportunity for all: no need to revolt.
And yet, it’s difficult to jump classes: education, talent, marriage, lottery and
Myth of Class Gains.
Proletarian material gains relative to upper class. I.e. phones, cars, Trivial distractions keep revolt at bay.
Myth of the Self Made man
Nobody can do it by themselves.
Like culture, nobody lives in a vacuum…other people, groups and institutions
train, teach and assist us all.
Equal opportunity for all does not exist: born of different classes, parents and no
choice in location of birth or childhood.
Hard work is necessary but not sufficient to generate material wealth: holding 3
part-time minimum wage jobs is hard work!
60% of Canadians would have trouble paying the bills if their paycheque was delayed
by a week.
Myth of the Competitive Man
Capitalism accentuates, encourages and is premised on competition: Jobs,
Taken to the extreme—‘survival of the fittest’—then the Nazis had it right.
E.g. Might makes right
Humans are also co-operative by nature…we need each other!
Class as Personal Attributes
Class position or identities assigned to individuals or households.
Derived largely from position in economy
Classes have differing degrees of wealth, opportunity & power
Classes occupy differing places, everyday geographies
Major identities of ‘class’?
Income, Occupation, Education.
More education, more income…
What percentage of Canadians own their home? 2001 census…27.7% without
How man Canadian children grow up in poverty? 1in 5 kids
Richest Canadians mostly just go on getting richer. What is the Purpose of Credit Cards?
All about purchasing power
Encourages excess consumption through a loan.
On average Canadians are going into more debt
Higher income students are twice as likely to attend higher education than lower
What’s the point?
Income, occupation, education are major determinants and identifiers of class
Wealth and access to opportunities, resources and power are not universal in
Job mobility, not class mobility is more likely.
Class division is alive and well: Canada is NOT class-less.
Spatial/geographical consequences of class
Class as Geographical
Social geographies of ’everyday life’ deeply affected by economic relations and class
Class identities are played out in space
Class relations are played out in space
Class inequalities evident in everyday spaces.
Class identities are played out in space: where you work, where you live (home), how
you travel, hat sports you play, what and where you eat…
Class relations are played pout in space: Office job interview, public streets, economic
protesters, striking workers
Class inequalities evident in everyday spaces.
Q: What possible explanations account for the inequalities in wealth? Among the answers…
Economic modes of production.
Spatial variations in resources.
Political and social will
Read Chapter 3 for this week.
Meet in instruction room in Weldon for tutorial tom
Lecture 3: Places of Leisure and Consumption
1. Leisure, Recreation & Tourism
2. Consumption &Consumer Spatial Behaviour
3. Retail Place design
1. A. Leisure: the time available to an individual wen work, sleep and other basic
needs have been met.
Leisure varies demographically. Most leisure time held by: very young, wealthy,
retired and unemployed.
More work and stress, less personal and free time.
Leisure varies over space. British have more leisure time than Canadians
Russia has 40 public holidays
Sweden has 36 public holidays
France has 35 days off
Italy has 30
USA has 13
Leisure varies over time. It increased over 20 century. From 53 hrs a week in
1900 to 42 hrs in 1999. BE AWARE!
Some challenge contention leisure time increases over 20 Century.
B. Recreation: Activities willingly performed after discharging of employment
duties and social obligations
What one willingly does during leisure time. A subjective attitude
C. Tourism: temporary movement to destinations outside normal home and work
place, the activities undertaken during the stay and the facilities created to cater
to their needs.
D. Recreation Activity Continuum
Home based: reading, gardening, tv, socializing
Daily leisure: theatres, restaurants, sports event, shopping
Day trips: attractions, picnics, beach
Tourism: overnight ‘away’
Geographic range: Home, Local, regional, National & international
E. Geographical sites of Leisure places
Primary site: inside home (backyard)
Secondary site: outside home (local and regional place)
Tertiary site: Away from home (international flight)
F. determinants of activities
Largely a function of class: age, income, education.
What you do for a living impacts what you do in your leisure time. We do what
we’re familiar with.
With rise of leisure time, the rise of recreation and tourism industries:
Entertainment, Sports (watching/participating), tourism, shopping.
Consume places, materials and services for fun, employment, amusement.
Leisure as a form of consumption
2. Consumption and Consumer spatial Behaviour
A. Consumption: the process of consuming Consumer Culture: Thoughts, values, beliefs, actions that produce and re-
produce the excessive consumption of material goods and services.
How excessive is your consumption??
Google: ecological footprint…most Canadians need 5 earths!
Commodification: the objectification of virtually anything as a commodity for
the purpose of exchange in the market place. E.g. labour, images, sounds,
Tourism sector in Canada is highly developed…transportation,
accommodation, food and beverage services and other tourism industries e.g.
recreation & entertainment, travel etc…
B. Consumer Spatial Behaviours
Flowstravel patterns e.g. how far they’re willing to travel.
C. Spatial Behaviour Tendencies
Assuming shoppers are rational and optimizing, people become drawn toward
perceived dominant centre.
People won’t go thru one shopping area to go to another of perceived equal
Patronize closest shops with equal facilities.
Follow habitual flows (habits). This is why places have point’s rewards and
Habits include shopping at the same store or taking the same route to certain
Will act on perceived images (hence advertising) e.g. place promotion Consumer decision-making imperfect. You can never fully know the market
D. Consumer decision making
3-stage information model: Home-work journey, socializing (word of mouth),
Spatial Behaviour = Spatial Awareness
Influence of Spatial Design on Consumers
- Grocery stores are designed to get you in. They are designed to get you to buy
- Product placement…more expensive at eye level
- Retail environments are designed to influence customer spending. E.g. Smells,
sights, locations of goods, etc…
3. Retail Place design
- Retailers seek profit: music, pleasant smells, featured displays, product shelf
location, lighting, stacking, free samples, packaging colour
- How to maximize savings in such an environment? Make a list! Eat before you
go! Know the layout, know what is where. Look below eye/ waist level.
Consumption as a question of inequality and social justice
- Inherent moral question of right or wrong about how we consumer for fun. E.g.
- What inequalities, if any, and what moral transgressions, if any, are produced or
sustained through shopping in an everyday store?
The paradox of choice
How can choice prevent society from changing? Because were so busy with our job
and what wine to buy and what we have, we don’t have time to change and what we do
have we don’t want to jeopardize. If you’re obese and unemployed, it’s your fault, you
made bad choices. You should question the choices people ask you. The structured choices are to be
Advertising tells you you’re not good enough! Smells, looks, body etc…
Existentialism: the human condition is one of perpetual remaking and you have choices
- Group of people
- Local culture and connectedness
- A group that shares commonality.
- “A positive social relationship embracing a sense of shared identity and mutually
caring social relationships”
- Positive favourable
- Relationship shared, structured
- Sense feeling: belonging, caring
Such conceptions criticized:
- Sense of feeling so subjective and variable has no analytical value
Contemporary geography recognizes:
- The idea of community—the sense of identity and belonging—provides people
with meaning and structure to geographies of everyday life
Community is a structure of meaning or imagining. An abstraction, a mental concept.
- Community has different meaning for different people
- Used for political gains through appeals. We are Canadian yay.
Communities have positive meanings:
- Solidarity, support, belonging, trust, familiarity
- Privilege unity over difference, generates social exclusion (part of it or not), sets
B. C. Sense of Place
- “Meaning and identities given to space through imagination and experience”
- Intrinsic to the concept of community
- Community is a ‘sense of place’