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Social Inequality.

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Introduction

Siobhain Bowen Social Inequality Sociology 16/01/03 Inequalities exist in all types of societies. Even in the simplest cultures where variations in wealth or property are non-existent, there are inequalities between individuals, men and women, the young and the old. To describe inequalities, sociologists speak of social stratification. Social stratification lies at the core of society and of the discipline of sociology. Social inequality is a fundamental aspect of virtually all-social processes and a person's position in the stratification system is the most consistent predictor of his/her behaviour, attitudes and life chances. Social stratification is a characteristic of society, not simply a reflection of individual differences. Though it persists over generations, social stratification is universal but not variable. It involves not only inequality but also beliefs. Some say that it is useful to think of stratification as rather like the geological layering of rocks in earth's surface. According to deSwaan, 'societies can bee seen as consisting of strata in a hierarchy, with the more favoured at the top and less privileged at the bottom.' Therefore it is not the cognitive psychology of how much individuals recognise each other but the sociological problem of how groups of people are distinguished from one another. Therefore, the problems that of inequality and the many forms of stratification is all perceptibly different because people are socially formed. ...read more.

Middle

Unlike Marx, Weber insisted that no single characteristic, such as class, totally defines a person's position within the stratification system. Instead, writing in 1916, he identified three analytically distinct components of stratification, class, status and power. Weber used the term class to refer to people who have similar levels of wealth and income. For example, certain workers in the USA try to support their family through jobs that pay the federal minimum wage. According to Weber definition, these wage earners constitute a class because they have the same economic position and fate. Although Weber agreed with Marx on the importance on the economic dimension of stratification he argued that the actions of individuals and groups could not be understood solely in economic terms. Agreeing with Weber, he was right in pointing out that we can not analyse much of our social behaviour by the same criteria we use to measure weight and temperature. According to Weber, 'in context, status, class honour is normally expressed by the fact that above all else a specific style in lie can be expected from all those who wish to belong to the circle.' (Weber 180-252) Agreeing with Weber it is through the development of status that is essentially a question of stratification of status resting upon usurpation. ...read more.

Conclusion

On the other hand, organic solidarity is heterogeneous, with a complex and differentiated division of labour, based on specialization, diversification and cooperation. The organic division of labour increases the extent of interdependency thus individuals will more likely be linked closer to each other than in mechanical societies. 'If there is one truth that history has settled beyond doubt, it is that religion embraces an ever diminishing part of social life.' (Durkheim 1933:49) In the place of a unitary collective conscience, organic societies are (as with Spencer) integrated through contractual relationships. (1933) unlike Spencer, these contrasts and economic exchanges generally depend upon normal ties that are deeper and reach far beyond the short moments during which exchange is made. (1933:27) Finally, the state emerges as the 'organizing centre' of a differentiated society and guarantor of individual liberties since the state articulates and mediates divergent and conflicting values of class and occupation. Social stratification lies at the core of society and of the discipline of sociology. Social inequality is a fundamental aspect of virtually all-social processes and a person's position in the stratification system is the most consistent predictor of his/hr behaviour, attitudes and life chances. Social stratification is a characteristic of society, not simply a reflection of individual differences. Marx, Weber and Durkheim all shared a dual interest in abstract philosophical issues and the concrete reality of everyday life. Together all three had witnessed at first hand the rapid social transformation of Europe during the 19th century. ...read more.

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