SOC102H1 Chapter Notes -Poverty Threshold, Social Integration, Social Exclusion

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Chapter 2: Class, poverty, and economic inequality
Learning objectives
-To understand the sociological concept to social class and inequality
-To describe the difference between absolute and relative poverty
-To discover different measures of poverty, including LICOs and the poverty line
-To examine poverty and income inequality in Canada and around the world
-To recognize the concentration of wealth that exist in capitalist societies today
-To see how social inequality is related to other social problems
-To know the effect of poverty on children, youth and the elderly
-To understand homelessness and urban poverty, and their effects on health
-To learn about different theoretical perspectives on economic inequality
-To examine various solutions to the problems of poverty and economic inequality
-Economic inequality are the large differences in income and wealth between individuals and groups
within a society; differences in the economic power of nations
-Poverty and inequality are important social issues
-Takes sociological imagination to connect poverty and inequality and to issues of ideology,
governance and power Marx provided the sociological imagination with the developing notion of
social class
oSociological imagination is a term used by Mills in his 1959 book, the Sociological
Imagination, that describes the sociologists ability to connect seemingly impersonal and
remote historical forces to the most basic incidents of individuals life; sociological
imagination allows people to distinguish between personal troubles and public issues
-People organize according to their relationship to the means of production
-Those who own the means control the jobs
-The proletariat has to sell their labor to the capitalists in order to survive
-The capitalists to maximize the profits, pay the proletariat as little as possible and sell their products
for as high price as possible
-Marx’s binary is fundamental to social relations, as people are locked in constant battle
-Classes are groups of people who share a common economic condition, interest and for Marx, the
relationship to the means of production
-For Marx the relation to the means of production is central
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oWhile capitalists maximize their profits, the proletariat struggle and through unions, co-
operatives, legislation and other means improve their wages, working conditions, job security,
and the prices they have to pay for food, shelter, etc
-People in the same relation to the means of production have an interest in banding together
oFor this to happen people in a class must develop an awareness of their common interests,
commit themselves to working toward a common goal and come to see individual well-being
as connected to collective well-being
This is the development of class consciousness and class awareness
-Capitalist systems have the tendency to produce monopolies of wealth and increasing inequality,
globalization and imperialism, overproduction and recurrent financial crisis those at the bottom
will do almost anything to survive
-Owners may take steps to prevent the betterment of the proletariat by different means
oPrevention of unions and discussions of problems
oLegislation sympathetic to the owners
-Workers themselves may be reluctant to unite around a common cause due to R&E differences
-Workers may suffer from ‘false consciousness whereby they come to accept the discourse the values
of the dominant class, and thus a willingness to believe arguments that promote individualistic
solutions to problems, or to blame the poor and the unemployed for their problems
-Workers may be ‘alienated’ from politics and each other, thus they cannot put their trust into
unionization and class conflict
-Workplaces are ‘contested terrains’ where the classes meet and struggle for control
-Over through of capitalism by communist (egalitarian) society
oCritical to this class consciousness and awareness
oOppressed classes can only bring about change after becoming aware of their relation to the
ruling class and their historic roles
oHow should the proletariat organize?
oWhat kinds of revolutionary strategies are likely to succeed?
oWhat stand in the way of success?
-Today Marx’s view is to simplistic
o(1) It is no longer necessary to own a business to own the means of production
o(2) Working class is international unification is even more difficult
-Are inequalities based on different values we, as a society, place in different jobs and social roles?
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oFunctional theory of stratification’ maintains that most people in industrialized and developed
societies agree about the relative social value or particular roles
Therefore they agree that some people should receive more money than other
Example: doctor versus used cars salesman
Easier to replace the salesman
More reward for doctors to ensure continued flow of medical training
oThis view is supported by the relative social value and stability of occupational prestige
oThis theory fails to address a number of facts
Cannot explain why the differences between the top-paid and low-paid are narrow or
wide why in some capitalistic societies they are relatively narrower than others?
Why do some people get a lot of money without providing any benefits for the society
Example: actors, sport stars, criminals, band executives
There might be disagreement within society which roles are important
Ignores inheritance of wealth and status
-Not all inequality is due to Marxs vision of exploitation
oUnregulated market forces
oTax structure
oConnection between the ruling class and the rich
-Marx all classes rest on inequality all inequality rests on differentiation
-Not all differentiation lead to inequality
-Inequality does not necessary result in class formation
-For revolutionary purposes, class formation required class consciousness, which depended four
changes in the thinking of the working class
o(1) Identification of being a member of an exploited class
o(2) Seeing the owners of production as their enemies
o(3) Everything is at stake in the battle for equality
o(4) Social change is possible through conflict
-Social mobility is the movement of individuals from one social class to another during the course of
ones life time
oProfessions of engineering, law, management and accounting are especially good for this
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