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Canada (161,487)
Sociology (212)
SY101 (164)

6 - Social Inequality

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SOCIAL INEQUALITY: THE CANADIAN EXPERIENCE IN A GLOBAL CONTEXT WHAT IS SOCIAL STRATIFICATION? - The layering of nations, or of groups of people within a nation, is called social stratification. - It affects our life chances and our orientations of life - Social stratification is a way of ranking large groups of people into a hierarchy that shows their relative privileges. - Social stratification is a system in which people are divided into layers according to their relative power, property, and prestige. SYSTEMS OF SOCIAL STRATIFICATION - The existence of social stratification is universal; different forms. - Four major systems of social stratification: slavery, caste, clan, and class. Slavery - Ownership of some people by others - Slavery was least common among nomads and most common in agricultural societies. - Slavery was not always based on racism, but on one of three other factors. o Debt – an individual who could not pay a debt could be enslaved by the creditor. o Violation of the law o War and conquest - When premodern men raided a village or camp, they killed the men, raped the women, and then brought the women back as slaves. - Slavery was a sign of defeat in battle, of crime, or of debt, and not the sign of some inherently inferior status - Indentured service represents a fuzzy line between a contract and slavery Caste - Caste – status is determined by birth and is life-long - Ascribed status - Endogamy – marriage within own group - Intermarriage prohibited Clan - Every individual is linked to a large network of relatives - A greatly extended family - Membership determined by birth and is life-long - Marriages can cross clan lines Class - Much more open - Based primarily on money or material possessions - Begins at birth but one’s social class may change as a result of what one achieves in life - No laws that specify occupation on the basis of birth or that prohibit marriage between classes - Social mobility – movement up or down the class ladder WHAT DETERMINES SOCIAL CLASS? Karl Marx: The Means of Production - Concluded that social class depends on a single factor: people’s relationship to the means of production - Bourgeoisie – own the means of production - The proletariat – work for the bourgeoisie - Class consciousness – common identity based on their position in the means of production Marx Weber: Property, Prestige, and Power - Social class is made up of: property, prestige, and power COMPLEXITIES OF INEQUALITY - Intersectionality – interrelationships among various inequalities Defining Social Class - Conflict sociologists see only two social classes – those who own the means of production and those who do not o Problem: lumps too many people together - Most sociologists agree with Weber that there are more components of social class than a person’s relationship to the means of production - Social class – a large group of people who rank closely to one another in wealth, power, and prestige Measuring Social Class - Subjective method o Involves asking people what their social class is o Filled with problems  People may deny that they belong to any class  People may classify themselves according to their aspirations  Most Canadians identify themselves as middle-class - Reputational method o People are asked what class others belong to on the basis of their reputations o People see finer divisions at their own class level o People at the top see several groups of people at the top, but tend to lump the bottom into a single unit - Objective method o Researchers rank people according to objective criteria such as wealth, power, and prestige o Sociologists primarily use this method THE COMPONENTS OF SOCIAL CLASS Wealth - Consist of property and income - Power and wealth are very concentrated within Canadian society - The distribution of wealth is more unequal than that of income, and the distribution of inherited wealth is much more unequal than that of wealth in general Status Inconsistency - Status inconsistency – some people have a mixture of high and low ranks in wealth, power, and prestige WHY IS SOCIAL STRATIFICATION UNIVERSAL? The Functionalist or Conservative View - Society works better if its most qualified people hold its most important positions The Conflict Approach: A Critical Response - If stratification worked according to functionalist theory, society would be a merit
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