A detailed summary of Chapter 2 Class, Poverty, and Economic Inequality from the textbook, Social Problems

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5 Feb 2011
CHAPTER 2: Class, Poverty, and Economic Inequality
Economic inequality are large difference in income and wealth across individuals and
groups within a society; difference in the economic power of nations
In the 19th century, Marx stressed that people will organize appositionally around their
relation to the means of production which leads to different social classes.
a.Classes are groups of people who share a common economic condition, interest or
relation to the means of production
b. In a capitalist society, those who own the capital and technology will control the
industrial society and the proletarians will sell their time and talents to earn wages
to survive
c.The bourgeoisie pay the lowest wages and sell their products for the highest price to
maximize profit
d.The binary- have and have-nots- is fundamental to social relations, forever in
For those in the same social class, they should band together so workers are well-paid
and secure professionally, while the owners continue to reap profits. This is achieved
through class awareness and class consciousness
False consciousness is the acceptance of the discourse and values of the dominant
class, and thus a willingness to believe arguments that promote individualistic solutions
to problems, or that blame the poor and unemployed for their problems
Richard Edwards: Workplaces are contested terrains where social classes meet and
struggle for control
Marx favoured a communist (egalitarian) society, but realized the development of class
consciousness and class development were the true solutions to the reducing inequality
The Functional Theory of Stratification by Kingsley Davis and Wilbert Moore maintains
that most people in industrial societies agree about the relative social value of particular
a.The prestige and social values attached to certain jobs are relatively stable over
b.Yet, the theory fails to explain why job with no social benefit (i.e. actors) get paid a
lot, or why range of salaries are wider in one capitalist society than the other (e.g.
USA vs. Germany)
Inequality is also attributed to unregulated market forces, inadequate laws and the tax
structure (redistribution of wealth) that favours the rich, powerful people who rely on
politicians to serve their interests.
In order for an revolution to happen, workers had to adopt the following views (class
a. Identifying themselves as members of an exploited class
b.Seeing that the owners of the means of production are their enemy
c.Realizing that every thing is at stake in the battle of equality
d.Recognizing that societal change is possible through conflict
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In Vertical Mosaic by John Porter, there is some opportunity for people to cross class
lines, by acquiring a university education where they socialize with those of wealth and
a.The professions of engineering, management, accounting and law are ladders of
upward mobility
Social mobility is the movement of individuals from one social class to another during
the course of ones lifetime
a.Yet, social mobility is restricted- impossible to enter top 1% or to escape bottom 1%
b.For the mid-income earner, there is great intergenerational mobility due to higher
People with more education have larger, more diverse social networks due to exposure to
people in places of higher education, their professional and managerial work
Absolute poverty is lacking basic necessities (food, shelter, medicine) for basic survival
(e.g. starvation)
Relative poverty is survival, but far below the general living standards of the society or
social group in which the poor lives; affects their lives dramatically
The poverty line represents usual standards of living and differs across countries (i.e. it
is elastic). The definition of poverty varies by society, within societies, and also over time
Statistics Canada rely on the these to methods to calculate poverty:
a.Low income cut-offs (LICOs) measures relative poverty based on the percentage
of income devoted to daily necessities (food, shelter, clothing) and determined both
regionally and by population (size of city or rural) because of different costs of living
i.LICOs are income thresholds below which families devote a larger part to
b.Low income measures (LIMs) are a set of figures representing 50% of the
median adjusted family income based on the varying needs of families of different
sizes. Actual incomes are compared with LIMs to determine whether or not a
family can be considered low income.
c.Market- based measure (MBM) is based on an imaginary basket of market-priced
goods and services and on the income needed to purchase the items in the basket.
The determination of what goes into this imaginary basket tends to exclude all but
the absolute essentials of bare survival. It measures absolute poverty.
Human Development Index (HDI) is a combined measure of achievement in three
basic areas of human developmentlife expectancy at birth, literacy, and GDP per capita
used by the UN Development Program to monitor social and economic progress across
In order to differentiate between countries that score similarly, further measures were
a.HPI-2 assesses relative deprivation in these dimensions: vulnerability to premature
death (likelihood to die before 60), exclusion from reading and communications
(adult literacy), deprived standards of living (people living below the income poverty
line) and social exclusion (rate of long-term unemployment)
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