Social inequality: Topic 3C

Theorectical explanations of ethnic inequality

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Functionalist explanations for ethnic inequality

The host imigration model.- Patterson

  • stresses the importance of culture and shares many of the assumptions of functionalist sociology
  • This theory depicted britian as a stable harmogeneous and orderly society with a high degree of concensus over values and norms. This equelibrium was disturbed by the arival of imigrant "strangers" who subscribed to different sets of values.
  • He discribed the culture clash between west indians (boisterous and noisey and not in the habbit of queing at bus stops) and the english hosts (who valued privacy, quiet and keeping oneself to oneself). The host imigration model interpreted these clashes in terms of understadable fears and anxieties on the part of the host community. The hosts weren't racist just unsure about how to act towards newcomers and their confusion sometimes spilled over into suspicion and resentment as the migrants competed with the hosts for jobs and houses.
  • For patterson the main problem wasn't racism or black white hostility but cultural "strangeness". She was reasonably optomistic about long term prospects for racial harmony and throught britians black migrants would eventually move toward full cultural assimilation by shedding their "old" ethnic values and taking on the values of the host society.
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Functionalist explanations for ethnic inequality 2

Some of the problems and strangness that imigration brings may be:

  • Some ethnic minority groups may have language problems which reduce their chances of finding employment in Britian: Modood et al- found 3 5ths of bangla women half of **** and 1 5th of **** and bangla women didn't speak english or only limited english.
  • Some patterns of disadvantage may stem from cultural choices of ethnic groups: Dahya- argued first generation ****s deliberatly chose to live near eachother in the inner city to protect and maintain their chultures.
  • The cultural traditions of certain ethnic groups may help to acount for their economic activity rates: ie the custom of 'Purdah'- the seclusion of women is one possible explanation for the low participation rates of south asian women.
  • Theres ethnic diversity both in education and in the workplace- the different success rates of ethnic groups may be a reflection of their cultural assets and traditions some groups seem to be more entreprenurial than others.
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Functionalist explanations for ethnic inequality 3

  • Functionalists also incorporate cultural explanations in their theory- steryotypes accociated with cultural racism probably originate in Britian's colonial past. People pick up on these steryotypes in the course of normal asocialisation and a great deal of preducice therefor is the result of faulty steryotypes and a lack of accurate knowledge about the true nature of black people. This is particularaly true for those who live outside the inner city where most ethnic minority groups people reside.
  • However the chair of the commision for racial equality Trevor Philips- commented at the CRE Race in media awards 2005 that reality  TV has done more for racial understanding than any other media creation in recent years. He siad shows like big brother gave people a more varied veiw of what asian and black people could be like. So called "reality tv" had given many British people a chance to erncounter people from other ethnic groups they would never have met in their own everyday lives.
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Functionalist explanations for ethnic inequality 4

  • Robberts- states that cultural explanations of the economic differences between asains and african caribbeans are plausible as asian imigrants brought strong entreprenurial traditions with them and these soon found expression in the establishment of ethnic buisness. But the traditional culturees and networks of african caribbeans  had been weakened by their experience of slavery indeed some commentators argue that theres an anti enterprise attitude among afro carib groups.
  • Cathmore- reports the success of black entrepreneurs are often treated with suspicionn in britian e.g the black community may accuse them of "selling out" or adopting "white values.
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Functionalist explanations for ethnic inequality:

  • most socs agree culture has some impact on peoples ambitions and acheivments but culture is not neccacaraly the main reason for racial disadvantage, even if it cannon be ignored entirely.
  • Some cultural explanations can be criticised for "Blaming the victim" and the fallacy of "ethnic absolutism" and can lead to the inflexable attitude that "they" are totally to blame.
  • If south asian women have low economic participation rates some people might think its their own fault- its their culturekeeping women at ome and this effectivelly removes blame from structural factors such as racism in the workplace or the lack of suitable employment oportunities in the locality.
  • Danger of pathologising afro carib communities exagerating their weakness and disorganisation. These cultures may be different rather than weak so some sense of balance is necessary.
  • Racial hostility hasn't declined as predicted by Patterson- the basic structure of british society remains unchanged and the struggle over jobs, housing and money continues. This may create racial tension.
  • Patterson underestimated the percistence and vitality of ethnic minority cultures.
  • Gilroy- critical of "ethinic absolutism" the assumtion that ethnic cultures are somehow "fixed" and "final" this fallacy mistakenly assumes that each ethnic culture has a permanent essence which never changes and every member of the culture is bound forever to it. He aruges that cultures are dynamic not stat and always evoving. Furthermore their arent mutually exclusive
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Functionalist explanations for ethnic inequality:

  • they frequently borrow from one aother and theres great overlap. Third no culture is uniform and homogenous it always contaions internal diversity and individual differences in lifestyles and values. And fourthly gilroy argues that cultures are formed, maintained and changed within particular social contexts so the cultures of a group can't ever satisfactory be understood in isolation form its position in the social structure.
  • Today the goal of assimilation has been abandoned for multi culturalism is the norm.
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Weberian explanations of ethnic inequality

  • Status inequality
  • Theres not only a class struggle for status, income and wealth but an ethnic struggle also however status and power is in the hands of the magority ethnic group thereby making it diffcult for ethnic minority groups to compete equally for jobs, housing etc.
  • Ethnic minorities who do manual jobs are technically part of the working class but are likely to face predudice and discrimination from the white working class as they suffer from status inequality in adiction to class inequality. Even mc asians doing proffessional jobs may experience status inequality in the form of predudicial attitudes held by members of both the white middle and working classes.
  • Evaluation
  • However whilst Weber is helpful in highlighting the importance of status he fails to explain why some ethnicities are alinged to higher status and others have less. Marxists would argue this theory lacks a strucuteal explanation.
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Waberian explanations of ethnic inequality 2

Organisation of the job market

  • predudice and discrimination can be seen in the distribution of ethnic minorities in the labour force. The dual labour maket theory (barren and Norris)focuses on ethnic inequality as well as gender inequality in employment. They point out that women and black people are more likely to be found in the secondary sctor and are less likely to gain primary sector employment as employers may subscribe to racist beleifs about the unsuitability of black people and even practice discrimination agaisnt them either when applying for jobs or by denying them responsibility and promotion. Furthermore the legal and political framework supporting clack people is weak- trade unions are generally white dominated and have been accused of favouring white workers and being less interested in protecting the rights of black workers. The race relations act of 1976 is generally thought of as feeble. However the recent amendments madeot it  in 2001  increases the nead for greater clarity concerning the meaning and status of raace. Building on the PacPherson report *** extends coverage of the race relations act to the functions of public authorities in general- not just the police. It also places a "general duty on public authorities" to work topwards the elimination of unlawful discrimination and promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different racial groups.
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Waberian explanations of ethnic inequality 3

With this amendment the race relations act has a much wider impact seeking to ensure that racial discrimination is outlawed through the public sector and placing a duty on all public bodies and authorities to promote good race relations. Its too early though to say if this amendment has had any impact.

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Waberian explanations of ethnic inequality 4

  • Underclass
  • Rex and Thomlinson- aruge that ethnic minority experiencsed of both class and status inequality can lead to poverty which is made more severe through racism. Concequently a black underclass may be created which is marginalised, feels alienated and frustrated. Sometimes these feelings may errupt in the form of inner city riots if young blacks feel they are being harrased by the police and socially excluded.
  • Cricism
  • Considerable overlap between the white and black population in terms of poverty and unemployment but the constant threat of racism does suggest some sort of break with the interests of the white working class. In adition the concept of status inequality does help to explain the aparent divisions between the white and black working class.
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Marxist explanations opf ethnic inequality

Marxists argue that black people are a part of the exploited proletaiat and its this rather than any lack of status due to ethnicity that determines their fate in capitalist society. Racial confliects are usually the symptomes of some deeper underlying class problem.

They suggest that racism and racial inequality are deliberately encouraged by the capitalist class for 3 ideological reasons.

  • Legitimisation- racism justified the low pay and poor working conditions because black workers are seen as sesond class citizens. Capitalist employers benefit from the cheep labour of ethnic minoritores.
  • Divide and rule- if blakand white workers unite then they are in a stronger position to campaign for better wages and conditions castles and Koack- argue that employers prefer them to be divided by racism so they can be playyed of agaisnt eachother. Employers may use the black workforce as a reserve armey of labour to prevent white workers from demanding higher wages.
  • Scapegoating- When a society is troubled by severe social and economic problems then widespread frustrations and agression can arise. Instead of directing this anger at the capitalist class whites are tempted to pic on vunerable groups.
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Marixst explanations for ethnic inequality 2

They use black people as scapegoats and it msy be blacks who are blamed for unemployment and housing shortaged. Scapegoating is in the interests of the richer and more powerful groups as it protects them from direct criticism and reduces the pressure for radical change.

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Marxist explanations for ethnic inequality:3

  • Miles (1989)- Argues that the class position of black people is complicated by the fact that they are treater as socially and culturally different. They become the victims of racist ideologies which prevents full social inclusion. He argues that ethnic minorities are members of racialised class fractions whilst most black people are members of the wc they also recognise the importance of their ethnicity. Whilst members of the white wc may stress the importance of ethnicity through predudice and discrimination black people may react by stressing their ethnicity in actions such as campaingning for recognition of their need to observe particular religeous or cultural traditions.
  • He achnoledges thast some ethnic minorities may become part of the middle class and see their interests lying with capetalism. Furthermore thier ethnicity may be a crucial influence in their buisness practices and financial success however the fact of their ethnicity probably makes it impossible for them to be fully accepted by the white middle class.
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Marxist explanations for ethnic inequality:4

Institutional racism

  • Acording to this veiw racist assumptions are built into the rules and routines of social institutions concequently they neglect the needs of their racial and ethnic minority clients or even discriminate against them. As employing agencies they fail to recruit minorities in sufficient numbers and minorities are under represented at their higher levels. This doesn't necessarily mean that every individual working within these institutions supports racist attitudes and behaviour but regardless of their personal veiws on racism they tend to reinforce it just by going aboit their normal buisness.
  • Racism is taken for granted and habitual and become so instiutuionalised that its not even recognised as racism yet it has serious concequences for racial and ethnic minoritories as it reinforces their socioeconomic disadvantage. Institutional racism can be difined as "any situation in which groups socially defined as races are systematically disadvantaged in respect of social rewards, capaceties or opportunities."
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Postmodernist explanations of ethnic inequality

  • Modood- rejects the notions of Waberian and Marxsit sociology which seeks to generalise and seek blanket explanations for ethnic groups as a whole. They stress difference and diversity among ethnic groups and focus on identity arguing that the globalisation of culture has led to a national cultural identity being eroded. British culture isn't imune and all ethnicities including white have begun to "pick and mix" producing an array of new hybrid identities. Racial difference becomes a matter of choice and racial disadvantage is impossible to discuss as ethnic identity isn't fixed.
  • The extent and impact of racism will differ from person to person as identities are chosen and interact. Postmodernists argue that once identity is better understood targeted ethnic disadvantage can be adressed. Once we know that Jamacan boys not born in Britian in a particular area are more likely to drop out of school then something meaningful could be done to address this problem.While postmodern ideas are illuminating they can be accused of neglecting social and economic factors that impact on life chances.
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Postmodern explanations of ethnic inequality:2

Modood et al- ethnic minorities in britian

  • The fourth major survey of ethnic minorities in Britian carried out by the indipendent policy studies instiute in 1997 with survey specialists SCPR showed that minority ethnic groups should no longer be seen to be in the same position. The differences between minority groups are as important as the black white divide and the study suggests that some groups can no longer be considered economically disadvantaged.
  • "Ethnic minorities in britian: diversity and disadvantage" is still the largest study of ethnic minorities ever carried out in Britian. It was based on detailed interveiws with 5,196 people of caribbean souch asian and chinease origin and 2,867 white people were also surveyed to provide a comparison.
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Postmodern explanations of ethnic inequality:3

The study extended the scope of race relations reaserch by investigating serveral issues in new ways. Key findings:

  • Ethnic variations in health can be explained by socioeconomic circomstances rather than biologocial or cultural factors.
  • Racial predudice, discrimination and harrasment were still problems which concern all minority groups- a quarter of a million people suffer harasment each year
  • Distint cultural practices are giving way among the british born to more culturally mixed lifestyles- younger generations have a more assertive attitude to their ethnic identity certainly compared with their grandparents who desired to fit in even if that meant supressing their own traditions.
  • Of those born in britian half of caribbean mena n a third of caribbean women have a white partner getting on for half of caribbean whildren having one white parent.
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Postmodern explanations of ethnic inequality:4

  • Owen ang Green (1992)- cite indian and chinease as two ethnic groups that have made significant economic progress in the British labour market since the 80's and recent figures indicate that their average earnings are similar to those of white workers. More generally evidence suggests that increasing numbers from the minorities are entering the ranks of the proffessional middle class. Sociologists are also starting to notice the growth of "black buisness" and the spread of self employment among minority groups even though groups such as indians are moving into white collar work its possible that whites fill the higher status positions within this sector.
  • However somne sociologists question is self employment is really a privledged sector of the economy. Minorities may be forced into setting up their own buisness as racail discrimination prevents them from getting employed. Sometimes these buisnesses are precarious ventures in extreemly competative markets offering small returns for long hours and with the owners only managing to survive becuase they can draw upon cheep family labour.
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