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SOC101Y1 (470)
Chapter 8

Chapter 8.doc

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Margaret Gassanov;

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Chapter 8- Social Stratification Introduction Social stratification- persistent patterns of social inequality within society High rent + low vacancy more homeless people Northern BC- Gitksan Nation still trying to negotiate treaty with federal government that began in 1977 land from ancestors that were taken away without compensation Black Democrat from Texas may become the only Black U.S. senator- Ron Kirk doubted Bushs wisdom of starting war to bring down Saddam Hussein Common theme: existence of groups (nonwhites, homeless, unemployed, etc.) ranked lower than others in social stratification system Low position little power, wealth, prestige Stratification: a Cornerstone of Sociology 4 basic areas of inquiry in sociology o Social structure- how society is organized (formally and informally) o Social order (what holds society together?) o Social change (how and why do societies and values held by its members change) o Social stratification- manner in which valued resources (wealth, power, prestige) are distributed, the way in which advantages of such are passed from generation to generation Descriptions of social structure that ignore stratification system are inadequate If describe Canadian society to someone without referring to some features of stratification (aboriginals are more likely to live in poverty, large corporations are run by men, etc), then listener would not have adequate understanding of society Inequalities in wealth can threaten social stability (poor resenting (dislike) wealthy demand more equality) Inequalities in power can be used to maintain social order (corporations lobbying governments for changes in labor laws difficult for unions to organize company employees) Understanding social stratification is also essential for studying social change (since it is usually the stratification system that is undergoing change) o Movement of women into positions of power in North America- features of changing stratification system Main source of power shifts from control of political system to include control of the emerging free-market economy o E.g. massive social, economic and political changes in former Soviet Union in late 1980s Social Hierarchies in Stratified societies Difficult to not have stratification in a society E.g. very small group living on isolated island where necessities are easily obtained o Social hierarchy skill differences in fishing o Inequalities in wealth lots of children in a family more labor Stratification is pronounced in most societies Cross-cultural variations in criteria by which people are ranked, degree to which they can move from one position to another within hierarchy, and extent of inequality in wealth and power that exists within hierarchy Ascribed and Achieved Status Status: rank or position that one has within social hierarchy Ascribed status: assigned to individuals- typically at birth (connected with age, gender, race- factors that cannot be earned or chosen cannot change) Achieved status: position in hierarchy that has been achieved by virtue of how well one performs in some role (occupational status) Meritocracy: everyone has equal opportunities to compete for higher-status positions and, presumably, those most capable would be awarded highest rank Social mobility: more qualified move up the social hierarchy to replace those who are less competent and who were consequently compelled to move down Open and closed stratification systems Open stratification system: merit (rather than inheritance), determines social rank, therefore social change is possible Dramatic changes in status of various groups have occurred in this country over time (slaves, Chinese laborers, etc.) Canada does not have aristocracy like Britain- where children of wealthy and powerful families inherit positions and titles Caste system: strict rules regarding type of work that members of different castes can do (common in India) Closed stratification system: little or no social mobility occurs, because most or all statuses are ascribed Canada offers more opportunities for upward social mobility- implies open stratification system Discrimination limits opportunities for many Canadians (gay, disabled, old, women) Social stratification system consists of a number of different hierarchies, some based on ascribed characteristics, others on achievement Class and Class structure Studies of gender, race, ethnicity and work share emphasis on inequalities in income and wealth/ property, and on resulting inequalities in power On average, women earn 70% of what men earn Minorities, women, lower-level employees tend to earn less Material inequality (differences in income and wealth and property) overlaps other social hierarchies Class: position of an individual or a family within an economic hierarchy, along with others who have roughly the same amount of control over or access to economic or material resources People are members of particular class (working class, professional class, etc.) Due to similar economic situation and opportunities, result of their shared position within a societys system of economic production Class structure: overall economic hierarchy composed of all such classes (structure relative stability of social ranking Socioeconomic status: ones general status within an economic hierarchy, based on income, education and occupation Economic hierarchy is not completely closed relatively stable and permanent composed of categories of individuals with similar amounts of control over material resources Few people think in terms of class, but we ask why people think about classes despite prominence Explanations of social stratification Karl Marx: capitalism, exploitation and class conflict 1818-1883- born in Germany, lived in England Focused particularly on rapidly changing European world that he observed during his lifetime Writing about social and economic forces brought about economic change look back over history A time when industrial capitalism was changing economy and society Factory-based systems of production emerged, rural peasants moved to cities, material inequality was extreme Industrial Revolution was a time when both level of economic production and degree of inequality in society increased tremendously Modes of production and social classes Mode of production: overall system of economic activity in society means of production: components of modes of production technology, capital investments, raw materials social relations of production: components of modes of production that includes relationships between main classes involved in production slavery and feudalism (peasants worked for landowners for some share of produce) was mode of production for industrial capitalism in Europe 2 major classes o Bourgeoisie- capitalist class that owned means of production o Proletariat- working class that exchanged its labor for wages o Petite bourgeoisie- middle class that comprised of independent owners/producers (e.g. farmers) and small business owners o Marx: Petite bourgeoisie would disappear as capitalism matured- members would either go up to bourgeoisie or proletariat Value of product sold was directly proportional to average amount of labor needed to produce it E.g. furniture- more $$ than its pieces of more labor needed to build it Surplus value: excess that resulted because value of goods produced by wage-laborers exceed amount needed to pay for means of production This resulted in exploitive relationship, because when commodities were sold, surplus value turned into profits for owner Workers had no legal freedom, because they received wage for labor and were not forced to stay with job, and owners controlled all aspects of work Class Conflict and Class Consciousness Class conflict: conflict between major classes within a mode of production, which eventually leads to evolution of new mode of production Feudalism capitalism as a result of growing power of merchant class relative to traditional alliance of landowners and aristocracy, and deteriorating relationship between land owners and peasants Capitalism socialist- disappearance of private ownership, exploitation and inequality Class conflict between wage-laborers and owners of means of production change Revolution begins when working class recognize they are being exploited Wage laborers need to become aware of common enemy- transformed from a class in itself to a class for itself Class consciousness: phenomenon whereby members of a class recognize their shared interest in opposition to members of another class Marxs vision: working class recognize its enemy revolution destroy institutions of capitalism replace with classless socialist society based on collective ownership of means of production Responses to Marx Critics of Marxs ideas pointed to communist countries Socialist system of government and absence of private property- but inequality had not disappeared New hierarchy emerged: control of political and bureaucratic apparatus- main basis of power (CHINA!! Nod nod) Emergence of capitalist economy in Eastern Europe- not eliminating material inequalities, but changing their source Controllers of some form of production/ access to some marketing system wealthier Majority
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