Social Inequality - Sociological Concepts & Theories

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Social Inequalities
Sociological Theories
Functionalism
Believe there is a purpose behind all inequalities and they keep the organic analogy of the
agents of socialisation working effectively.
Durkheim ­ believes harmony is achieved through the 'division of labour' and that conflict may
occur but its controlled.
Parsons ­ there is a stratification of individuals in the order of their importance which is
agreed through socialisation resulting in a 'value consensus' (giving people common goals).
David & Moore ­ meritocracy means the most able get the most important jobs and
stratification keeps the top in their position and the lower people working hard.
People don't all start at the same level, therefore meritocracy is impossible.
Society isn't harmonious.
Postmodernism
Attempts to make sense of globalisation.
Believes no one explanation is truer than another ­ they are all simply opinions.
There is less concentration on social relationships and more on the relationship with what we
consume.
Inequality is based on lifestyle choices not economic classes.
Waters ­ found that people see images in the media and wish to portray them.
Pakulski & Waters ­ 'class is dead'.
Media makes society more diverse by showing what is available.
Hall ­ new ethnicities being introduced into society is a result of globalisation.
People constantly change their identities.
Gilroy ­ the biggest barrier in ending inequalities is racial solidarity.
Modood ­ there is super diversity in the UK because of the high number of ethnic groups.
The traditional source of identity is still important.
Feminists believe these 'metanarratives' ignore gender inequality.
Those in poverty cannot choose their lifestyles.
Weberianism
Inequalities are a produce of class, party & status.
Life chances are based upon the opportunities people have access too.
CLASS
Based on income, wealth & occupation.
Weber ­ 4 classes
· PetitBourgeoisie
· Privileged by education or property
· Blue collar workers
· White collar workers
Believe homogeneous classes exist (several layers within one class)
Middle class is expanding, and the polarisation between the rich and the poor hasn't happened
yet.
STATUS
Based on others perception of the individual.

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Crompton ­ the British ruling class work to maintain their position and operate using social
closure.
People can be in the same class but have different status'.
PARTY
Based on political party, trade unions & pressure groups individuals are associated with.
Economic wealth doesn't automatically give the individual power.
Ethnic minorities have less power & are underrepresented in trade unions leading to a
'racialised' underclass.
NeoMarxism
Focus on the relationship between the infrastructure (economics) and the superstructure
(agents of socialisation).…read more

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Cummings & Henry ­ the older generation need to leave work in order to refresh society with
the younger workers.
Age groups aren't homogeneous.
Hunt (evaluation) ­ the elderly don't always disengage from work.
MARXISM
The young without qualifications and the elderly are the 'reserve army of labour'. Both have
little power and are easy to hire and fire.
The elderly don't have disposable incomes so don't produce or consume.
McDonald & Marsh ­ the young people in deprived areas have less status and power.…read more

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Beechey ­ women accept less pay because their work only supplements their husbands wages.
LIBERAL FEMINISM
Oakley ­ canalisation & manipulation through socialisation creates the gender roles.
Hauri & Hollingworth ­ men are doing more domestic work.
Somerville ­ women are much better off today they can get divorced, gain an education and
have control of their fertility.
Wilkinson ­ notes there was a 'genderquake' where the service sector increased and women
were empowered.…read more

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Westergaard & Resler ­ the inequalities suffered by ethnic minorities are the same as that of
the white working class.
FUNCTIONALISM
Migrants will assimilate there identity and inequalities will lessen.
Patterson ­ racism is just confusion & ignorance, its not deliberate and it will go.
Solomos & Back (evaluation) ­ assimilation doesn't mean a decline in inequalities.
Underclass
Murray ­ the New Right describe the underclass as 'benefit scroungers'.
Murray ­ there is a clear underclass.…read more

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Roberts ­ the upper classes wealth is reduced as taxes increase.
Scott ­ upper class own property for power rather than use.
Scott ­ upper class remain the ruling class as they operate a 'power bloc' a form of social
closure used to stop the socially mobile.
Sklair ­ found a 'transnational class' with increasing power (I.E. CocaCola company).…read more

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