Social Inequality

Topics: Social class, Sociology, Working class Pages: 24 (6096 words) Published: April 25, 2013
Social Inequality

"...all animals are equal here, but some are more equal than others." [G,Orwell, Animal Farm]

What does Social Inequality Mean?
Differential Access to Wealth Power Prestige

In What Areas does Social Inequalities Exist Gender Race Age Ethnicity Religion Kinship

How does differential access to wealth, power and prestige arise from differences between people? Differences are accorded varying degrees of value Those who are most similar to “me” have the highest value Those who are the most unlike “me” have the lowest value Making that which is most like me a social value requires an act of hegemony Hegemony is the domination of culture by one particular cultural group, resulting in the empowerment of certain cultural beliefs, values, and practices over others. To some extent it also requires the “buy in” of the lower ranked group

I.e. anything that can be used to differentiate people


Classification of Societies Based on the Equality-Inequality continuum Egalitarian Societies Ranked Societies Stratified Societies

Egalitarian societies
Eg. Hadza of Tanzania, !Kung bushmen of the Kalahari, and Batek of Malaysia Foragers with few possessions, no land ownership, and little specialization, other than a division of labour based on gender and age lack any clear organisational structure There is a continuing debate as to whether there is inequality between men and women in foraging societies.

Hadza of Tanzania

Marx and Engels argued that the real basis of social and political inequality was property, and that since there was no private property in primitive societies, there was no state and no class or inequality.

Foragers recognize individuals with special skills, but those who possess them are not seen superior in other respects Leaders have influence, but no authority The people possess norms that emphasize sharing and ideals of interpersonal equality.

!Kung bushmen of the Kalahari

Ranked societies
Common in horticultural societies where surplus gives rise to resources and privileges people are divided into hierarchically ordered groups that differ in terms of prestige and status but not significantly in terms of access to resources (wealth) or power. it is possible to identify persons we can label as chiefs whose inherited position has prestige This is often linked to the redistribution of goods.

With ranked societies comes the need to organize labor beyond the household level and the potential for major construction projects (cooperative labor) Individuals can achieve power and prestige Tribe : Oglala Lakota )

Little Big Man


Stratified Societies
Societies divided into horizontal layers of equality and inequality. Marked inequalities in access to wealth, power, and prestige passed from generation to generation. Has a significant effect on individuals’ “life chances.” (Weber) Found almost exclusively within complex societies with centralised political systems and large populations

Ranked divisions are called strata. Stratification systems vary in • the number of

ranked groups, • the degree to which there is agreement regarding their hierarchical placement • the size of the strata •The ability of individuals to move within strata •Supporting ideology

Comparative Systems

frequently, such cultures are symbolized not by the handshake, which reflects equality, but by different forms of bowing, symbolizing inequality

Sweden U. S. 1970 U. S. 1999

China Mexico

Asante Kotoko

Control of wealth and power in the hands of a few. Status and rewards are heritable. Social mobility is limited.

What is Class?
Class is essentially a theoretical concept Classes are strata of a particular kind. defined primarily in terms of roles and economic relationships.


Classes in Canada Upper Class
• Upper-upper class
– About 1%, “old money”

Classes in Canada: Middle Class
• 40 – 50% of population • Considerable racial and ethnic diversity –...
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