Theories of Age Inequality

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  • Theories of Age Inequality
    • Functionalism
      • Parsons: Social cohesion is based on age groups knowing their places and roles
      • Cummings & Henry: Older people need to disengage from the workforce to make way for younger ones, this refreshes society
      • The position of the elderly has improved with a statutory retirement age and state pension, but they lose status and power as their children leave home and they retire
      • Eisenstadt: Children have less status than adults; they must be taught these roles
      • Children must be socialised into adult roles
    • Postmodernism
      • Children are encouraged by the media to take on adult behaviour
      • Fetherstone & Hepworth: There is constant pressure from the media to stay young and delay ageing, called the 'mask of ageing'
      • Milne: Wealthier retired people have 'grey power' and they are conspicuous consumers
      • Social significance of age is changing, age groups are diverse and fragmented and boundries are becoming blurred
    • Feminism
      • Oakley: Inequalities experienced by children are linked to those of women and the patriarchal nature of society
      • Cannon: Older women are materially deprived compared to men as a result of the gender pay gap and time out of employment
      • Children are controlled by adults in relation to when they start education/ work, where they play, use of time, and some are controlled by abuse and neglect
    • Marxism
      • Inadequate state pension leads to some people being on benefits
      • Young people without skills and retired people form a reserve army of labour, both have little power and are easy to hire and fire
      • Phillipson: Capitalism needs people to be useful in terms of 'labour power' it doesn't want people on benefits
      • Elderly have less disposable income and so do not produce or consume


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