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Chapter 4

SOC102 Habits of Inequality Chapter 4

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Lorne Tepperman

Habits of Inequality Chapter 4 – Exclusion A new life stage - Many factors influence our experience of time - KATHY CHARMAZ o Physical disability (and extreme aging) undermines our ability to make plans and carry them out  undermines our sense of a personal future  undermines our sense of self as a unique, independent entity  This is the experience of people who are bedridden with a debilitating chronic illness - Aging has a huge effect on our ability to make and execute plans independently, our ability to play chosen social roles and our ability to be who we want to be o This is true for old and infirm people, but equally true for infants, toddlers, children, adolescents, young adults, and twenty-somethings - Many studies attempted to conceptualize new age groupings, which help us make sense of our current realities o Cluttered nest syndrome o Sandwich generation - ERIK ERIKSON o Eight-stage theory  divides adulthood into three stages – young (20 to 45), middle (45 to 65), late (65 and up) o For ARNETT, the young was too broad because it contained too many different life experiences, which meant the younger of the young adults were going through a complex developmental sequence of their own  E.g., from living with parents at 20, to owning a home and having a family by 45 - ARNETT o In-between status  the identity confusion of adolescence and the mature responsibility of adulthood o Had the opportunity to observe and interact with his subjects (young adults) in their natural environments o Noticed a disconnect between what classical theories said about aging and what he saw in his students o “They are not a thing like me” o Interviewed twenty-somethings to find out how they differentiated themselves from thirty-somethings  His participants said they were taking their time, finding themselves, and enjoying life,  His participants saw the big 3-0 as a threshold full of symbolic significance  Real life seemed to start at 30 and a final acceptance of adult responsibilities was inescapable  30 was the new 20  Women were more likely to hold this view because more concerned about the biological clock and their declining fertility o Emerging adulthood  period of instability, exploration, and self-analysis experienced by twenty-somethings  Represents another period in the continually lengthening life course o Emerging adults  characterizes twenty-somethings  Something special about the twenties that makes them different from people in their thirties and forties  Emerging adults tend to embrace change and new opportunities, while rejecting commitment, so they can be sure that the path they take through life will be a satisfying one  Many parents are ambivalent about such open-ended, flexible alternatives and opportunities  This approach is seen as getting something without giving anything back  Emerging adults get to explore and find themselves while being financially supported by their parents, who themselves may not be able to afford it  Many parents and emerging adults find it reassuring to hear that this is what’s normal now  By 30, emerging adulthood is over and emerging adults move on to the commitments of adult life  They do not remain emerging adults forever o Thinks that taking this time to be self-focused is a wise decision  Adulthood  associated with independence in decision-making, financial gain, and socially accepted love life  Emerging adults have access to all of these benefits before they become traditional independent adults, so able to try out some of their options before making a commitment and ensure that the choices they make will be satisfying  This means a more self-fulfilled and content population, instead of one that feels stuck with the choices that were actually thrust on them o Not the first researcher to explore youth development or to find signs of ambivalence, confusion, and alienation among young people - The psychological view on development focuses on personality transitions (like Erikson’s eight-stage theory) - The sociological view on development focuses on social transitions o The transition to adulthood is characterized by five milestones  Completing formal education  Moving out of the parental home  Becoming financially independent  Getting married  Having a child o Sets clear, concrete criteria to be fulfilled at each stage o Makes comparisons with the past quite easy  “A typical 30 year old in 2001 completed the same number of milestones as a 25 year old in the early 1970s”  More and more people have been taking varied and non-traditional routes to adulthood What we can learn from car rental companies - Neurological research has shown that the brain keeps developing until 25 years old o Consistent with Arnett’s emerging adulthood as a developmental stage o Pre-frontal cortex  responsible for rational planning o This is why car rental companies charge enormous rates for those under 26 years old because young people are most likely to get into accidents - ARNETT o Realizes that people had the same brains fifty years ago as they do today o Doubts that today’s new adults are incapable of taking on responsibility  Instead, they are facing a new period of uncertainty and exploration that suits what is going on in the brain at this point in time o Describes emerging adulthood as a universal, developmental phase in terms of perceptions, thoughts, and world views o Realizes that the social context creates the developmental phase for young adults  The social context is found in developed countries, where current social, cultural, and economic conditions allow for this newly emerging period of life  The conditions are rooted in trends that started decades ago, including the need for more education, the globalization of manufacturing jobs, the replacement of those jobs with positions that deal with information technology, and the de stigmatization of premarital sex and cohabitation  These factors mean that today’s twenty-somethings are delaying the developmental steps traditionally associated with adulthood o Emerging adulthood  an extension and refinement of an age category that used to be called young adulthood - Centenarians  people over 100 years old - Super-centenarians  people over 110 years old - KENNETH KENISTON o His work came out when today’s baby boomers were twenty-somethings o Interviewed male undergraduates at Harvard University o Described young people as ambivalent, unsure, aimless, and unable to settle down into life o Saw some evidence of young people’s alienation from consumer capitalism and military-industrial complexes, which was related to childhood experiences o Embedded with assumptions and stereotypes like gender inequality - Perhaps every generation develops its own theories about discontented or uncommitted young people as a way of criticizing contemporary society, it is certain that the period of youthful dependency is growing all the time, and this is bound to extend the length and depth of youthful anxiety - Age and inequalities based on age are socially constructed o Age inequalities often translate into exclusion from full membership in society o The economic system encourages age inequalities  Requires younger people to complete a lengthy education before they are considered economically viable  Offers few opportunities for older people to continue work if they want to  Makes retirement difficult to sustain, given the present economy - Age-related research focuses on the upper portion of the age continuum due to the fact that older Canadians already make up a substantial and costly proportion of our population - Women are more likely to feel the high price of aging since they benefit more from their good looks in youth - AGATHA CHRISTIE o Only archaeologists are likely to value their wives more as they get older The invention of childhood - Age categories/groups are socially constructed, and inequalities based on age are also socially constructed o Boundaries defining each age group are imprecise and flexible o Often renegotiated in response to scientific or medical discoveries o Reflect the demands of important social institutions (e.g., schools, workplaces)  Schools have defined childhood  Workplaces have defined retirement age o As the requirements for schooling and work change, the ages of childhood and retirement change  E.g., more schooling is required to prepare young people for paid work  young people spend more years being economically dependent  young people are infantilized (e.g., freed of adult responsibilities, adult norms, and adult respect)  extends the period of childhood beyond its original pre-adolescent meaning o Nothing but imagined communities of people with economic dependence/independence in common  Easy to see how age-related myths and stereotypes arise  E.g., myths of infantilized young people about being innocent or irresponsible - Age  social marker; a way of designating the number of years since a person was born - Doing age  a performance of our age o When people perform an age that is very different from their apparent chronological age, they are criticized/ridiculed o Without the performance of age, chronological age has no intrinsic social meaning - ARIES o Criticized for being Eurocentric o Proposed that the notion of childhood was invented at a particular time in European history, for particular reasons  Ideas about childhood changed as ideas of children changed  Notions of exploration, play, discovery, dependence, and imagination have not always been linked to childhood  Conceptions of childhood as protected, idealized, and revered time of life were invented at a particular time and place o Confirmed the theory that institutions like schools play a large role in shaping our ideas about age th  Before the 16 century, European students were taught all together, rather than being divided into different classes according to age  Age was unimportant before the industrial times, so the notion of childhood did not exist o Concluded that the invention of formal schooling and age-based segregation of students that adults started to view children as significantly different from themselves o As education became more common, schoolchildren became objects of conspicuous consumption (e.g., treasured, protected, enriched)  With the rise of compulsory public education in the 19 century, all families were forced to give up their children to education for some part of their youth since learning was seen as children’s developmental duty  Industrialization of work  industrialization of schooling  changed the notion of childhood  Universal mandatory education shaped the idea of universal childhood  Created a distinct life stage that segregated children from adults  Young people viewed with pre-adult developmental needs to be satisfied before entering adult life o Lengthening periods of formal education increasingly segregated children from adult society  Today, people stay in school for 15 to 25 years  The economic need to educate and isolate children led to the new, imagined images of childhood  The discovery of childhood did not bring about prolonged schooling  The social and economic circumstances of the times brought about childhood as a distinct period of life - Aries’ arguments meshes well with Arnett’s o ARNETT  Emerging adulthood reflects a continued extension of cultural childhood into the period traditionally considered adulthood, but not full adulthood  Has its own unique, socially constructed characteristics o Social marginality o Behavioural irresponsibility o Economic dependence - G. STANLEY HALL th o The same process that ARIES describes in the invention of childhood also invented adolescence around 20 century o Considered how changes in the social, cultural, and economic contexts had created adolescence o Adolescence  a new period of life between childhood and adulthood o The expansion of education and child labour laws:  Children became more financially dependent on their parents for longer periods of time  Gave children the time and opportunity to attend to developmental tasks (e.g., finding themselves, identifying their life goals, gaining psychological independence from their parents) o Chronological period of adolescence  12 to 18 years old  A time of important, visible changes that distinguish older children from younger children  A greater emotional volatility than that of younger children  A real result of hormonal change?  A real result of extended economic dependency? th  Another socially constructed idea about age? - Before the 17 century, some people believed that children made up a separate age group o This belief was based on the fact that infants and young children are more fragile, have higher mortality risks, ad have special needs for food, shelter, affection, and protection o Children’s physical vulnerability has always made them distinct from older, self-sufficient adults - For sociologists, the issue is not that these age differences exist, but rather how they are magnified, dramatized, and performed - ARIES o Work criticized for being based on unrepresentative data and relying too heavily on the writings of moralists and educationalists o Analyzed the ways in which age groups become more distinct over time in response to emerging social concerns - We cannot understand Arnett’s discovery of prolonged childhood among twenty-somethings unless we understand Aries’ theory of the development of childhood in human history o We can make some sociological predictions about how age groups will develop in the future o As we live increasingly longer and the population becomes increasingly older, there will be even more social differentiations between age groups o We will have to keep inventing age groups as people lead longer lives, under conditions of ever longer dependency Langer’s time machine - OLGA KOTELKO o 90 years old o Won numerous world records in track and field o Did not become an athlete at a young age  At 65, joined a softball team and loved the competitiveness  At 77, joined track and field and brought the energy of a 55 year old o Refuses to be excluded or lead the rest of her life in roles that society has ascribed to her o Represents the reality that older people today are unlikely to renounce life and wait for death by the sidelines - ELAINE CUMMINGS and WILLIAM HENRY o Disengagement theory  the exclusion of older adults from the labour market is functional for society as a whole  As people age, they decline both physically and mentally, more prone to illness and disability, less efficient at work, must give up their positions for the good of society, and withdraw to the borders of society where they can prepare for their certain death  Elderly people must disengage from the normal activities of adulthood o Suggests that older people’s retirement from paid work severs several functions for society as a whole 1) Empties important social positions, allowing people from the next generation to move up the social hierarchy 2) Allows retiring individuals a moment of recognition for their contribution (e.g., retirement party) 3) Ensures that society regularly replaces outdated skills and ideas with more useful ones o Reminds us that change is both natural and crucial to society’s effectiveness  Without personnel turnover, the economy might be less efficient and less equipped to compete globally o Fails to account for the experiences of many elderly people in our society today o Misrepresentation of age-based interests as a social good o Suggests that what is good for young people is good for society as a whole  Proved untrue by Langer’s study - Many people disagree with the disengagement theory, especially with the assumption that excluding older people from financially rewarding and socially important roles is good for society o Forced retirement is age-based discrimination called ageism  Does not serve society as a whole  A form of inequality exercised by the younger majority to further their own interests - Not all old people have gone along with the disengagement theory o Contrary to disengagement theory  many elderly people remain active and fight obsolescence o Corresponding to disengagement theory  many people rarely withdraw from society of their own will  Employers and retirement rules push them out of the workforce - Senescence  decline in physical and mental abilities over the aging process o Partly rooted in social causes o Although these changes are biological, our society also tends to view old people as frail, weak, and dependent, regardless of their actual condition - ELLEN LANGER o Recruited male volunteers over 75 years old o Turned back the clock to twenty years earlier (e.g., watch old television shows, become responsible again, do everything for themselves without the care and support of others) for one week o Determined to have her participants act independently during this week  Participants lost many of their inhibitions and started to express themselves autonomously and individually o Found cognitive and physical changes  Improvements in dexterity, walk, posture, IQ, vision, hearing, cognitive abilities, joint flexibility, blood pressure, and arthritis o Showed that our abilities decline with aging not only because of biological changes, but also because these changes are socially expected  The way other people treat us as we age makes a huge difference to our actual competence and abilities  Negative expectations and beliefs are exclusionary and disabling  Make people less competent that they could be  Exclusion promotes ageism and mis-treatment of older adults  Exclusion is a form of dehumanization - Old age is a social invention, just like childhood or adolescence o Old age was only recently invented o People did not used to think about old age since most died young, so only a few would have been old people  Those who were in good health may have continued to participate fully in social life  Those who were infirm quietly watched the younger people from the sidelines until they died - Paid retirement  a 19 century German invention o Designed to aid aging people o Signalled the invention of old age, which only truly came into effect with industrialization - OTTO VON BISMARCK o Defined people as being of old age if they were over 65 o New difference between middle-aged and elderly people became widely recognized - The invention of retirement led to the idea of old age o Old age was created by the spread of paid retirement o Childhood and adolescence were created by the spread of education - For more than a century after Bismarck, most aged people in the West were viewed as unproductive and expected to retire from work with a pension - Today, many people continue working past the traditional age of retirement (e.g., self-professionals = doctors, lawyers) - Elderly people are no more willing to take a backseat and watch social life from the sidelines, than are poor people, women, or racial and ethnic minorities o Evident through the abolishment of mandatory retirement in Canada  Allows people to stay employed regardless of their age o Canadian Human Rights Act and Canada Labour Code were amended to prohibit federally regulated employers from setting a mandatory retirement age, unless there is a genuine occupational requirement to do so o No one knows how long people will continue to work  Those who enjoy their work will continue working  Those who need the extra money will continue working A shared fate - The most significant 21 century phenomenon related to the human population is that average age is rising all over the world o One in four Canadians will be 65 years of age or older by 2051 - In present-day societies, old people are more numerous, but less powerful and more excluded than they were in some (but not all) pre-modern societies o Old people are forced or urged to retire from paid work, which is justified by differentiation and justification o Old people are not always excluded in these ways  In some parts of the world and throughout human history, elderly individuals held positions of authority and power in communit
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