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HOI - Introduction Notes.docx

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Introduction – The Inequality Myth The Game of Life - Milton Bradley created the Game of Life o Updated to reflect changes of economic and cultural surroundings o Tiles added to represent life accomplishments  rewards socially useful decisions - Does game represent world we live in? o Yes and no o We avoid certain obstacles and attain certain goals, have to make choices o But many of the choices we make in life are not made consciously or freely o Everyone starts off with different choices and resources  born with different life chances - Max Weber coined the phrase life chances o Effective b/c it recognizes the probabilistic nature of life o Useful in studies of social mobility (study of why and how some ppl get ahead in life and others don’t) - Our game of life depends on social and economic background at birth o Socio-economic starting point depends on parents’ class status o Not everyone starts out on ‘equal footing’ - Each person has different set of life chances for gaining education, wealth, power, prestige, good health, etc. - Unlike the game, not everyone is offered different opportunities (ex. income) o People born into rich, powerful, famous families likely live under these conditions o Likewise with the poor o Not always the case  there are rags to riches stories but are rare What Is Inequality? - Often compare yourself to other people and see who has been more successful in ‘game of life’ o Differences form foundation for social inequalities Inequality – state of being unequal or uneven - Inequality is about receiving more or less of life’s rewards o About comparing better and worse differences btwn 2 people - Many natural inequalities  ex. beauty, intelligence - Sociologists interested in how natural inequalities become social inequalities - Sociologists look at how people: 1) Perform inequalities  how do we display our inequalities in order to take advantage 2) View inequalities 3) Explain inequalities  how do we theorize inequalities 4) Justify inequalities  how people make moral sense of why some ppl are rich, some poor 5) Invent inequalities  how we create/construct/ teach people to perform these inequalities - Inequalities in appearance have long term impacts o Ugly ppl (defined by others and themselves) often suffer mental/physical health problems - Inequalities often have additive and multiplative effects o Ppl with 2 or more disadvantageous qualities are worse off than ppl with 1 o Ex. plain looking, dumb, people are disadvantageous unless they are born rich Intersectionality/conditionality – disadvantages interact with one another multiplicatively - Intersectionality/conditionality makes it impossible to predict effects of inequality o Forces us to specify the condition under which we might expect a certain characteristic to cause the greatest disadvantage - Intersectionality originated as feminist concept associated with work of Kimberlé Crenshaw o Proposes that various biological and social categories (ex. gender, race, class, ability, sexual orientation) can interact on multiple levels to produce systematic social inequality o Biological and social categories don’t act independently of one another  they interact to create unique forms of discrimination and disadvantage - 1960s-70s feminists proposed combination of gender, race, and class determine course of a person’s life - Gerhard Lenski confirmed important of intersectionality when introducing status consistency o Ex. middle-aged worker of high status because he gets paid well but of low status because he didn’t graduate high school  conflicting social positions have +ve and –ve effect o Ex. Janice has PhD in philosophy but can’t get job that capitalize on her education so she works at Starbucks and Banana Republic - Status inconsistency has consequences we can’t predict by averaging one’s advantages and disadvantages - People who are status inconsistent feel uncomfortable about their situation o Tend to adopt radical political stances against consistently higher status groups - Intersectionality implies that disadvantages comes in different combos o Disadvantaged ppl may find it hard to share a common identity and band together to take political action  their lives differ too significantly - Doesn’t mean that everyone is unique o Sociologists can’t draw general conclusions about inequality - Constructed inequalities carry moral distinctions  ideas of better or worse o These distinctions are root of problem - Differences do not necessitate inequality  some countries less likely to dramatize differences in inequality Views about Inequality - Inequality exists everywhere  some level of inequality is normal, natural, inevitable - People tend to hold strong, passionate, often bitter views on inequality - If people believe that social inequality is evil, the belief becomes part of our reality o Influences views and behaviour o Can lead people to take action o People’s beliefs about class, race, gender, and sexuality shape the social organization of inequality - Sense of unfairness ppl feel about being poor, discriminated against, victimized by domestic violence, etc can lead ppl to take action in hopes to make their life better o Can potentially alter their lives and others too - Construction of social problem usually involves search for villains to blame, creation of moral panic, pursuing crusade for better behaviour, demanding improved laws, and sometimes initiating full-blown social movements that put the problem on the political agenda Claims-making – process where people try to capture public attention and mobilize opinion around particular problems and their possible solutions - Inequality is a social problem characterized by: o Measurable feature that threaten people’s well being o Strong beliefs in inequality as a social problem that warrants collective, remedial action That’s Not Fair! - Jean-Jacques Rousseau made first theory about social inequality o Suggests society provides some ppl with more privileges than others o Unevenness not natural  socially arranged o This imbalance may force people to respect/obey more privileged ppl - Rousseau asks if there are any circumstances where this unequal distribution is justified o Suggests that social inequality has to be proportional for it to be just o Social inequality is unjust if it exceeds natural inequality - (downside) Theory asks us to imagine a natural law to judge human laws against but it is impossible to identify natural laws - (upside) Rousseau identifies why most people care about social inequality  unjustifiable privilege is unfair - Ppl have general sense of what’s fair and unfair o Strong emotional response when we see someone receiving unjust privileges or if we’re deprived of rewards o Rousseau says we know when unjustified privilege has gone too far and we reject it - Rousseau’s view supported and helped ignite French Revolution (1789) and Russian Revolution (1917) - Inequality might be constant feature of human condition o People in large, modern societies don’t seem able to escape privilege and unfairness - Is inequality unavoidable? o Economic liberals say yes  inequality is price we pay for dynamic economic growth under capitalism - Communist states tried to reduce economic inequalities through rejection of capitalism o Ultimately failed  only created equally abusive forms of inequality o New politically based inequalities were created  even harsher and less fair than the class inequalities - Few people today believe that perfect equality can be achieved through c
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