Wealth and Poverty

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Wealth

1996 the richest 1% owned 19% of all wealth

problems measuring wealth;

  1. has many varied sources so difficulty in measuring ( shares , land etc)
  2. problems with rich lists( The times rich list) no access to bank accounts so true wealth can only be estimated
  3. Estates method- through the amount of tax; many of the richest avoid this tax , eg giving their money to a relative or leaving the UK to avoid tax
  4. Wealth can be measured through Surveys; has low response rates and validity problems
  • Between 1979-1999 average income rose by 55%
  • But in this time top 10% of earners had an 82% rise in their average income
  • The bottom 10% of earners had a 6% rise in income
  • Poorest 50% of the population own 6 % of the wealth (2002)
  • Most wealthy 1% owned 23% (2002)
  • Everyone has become richer but the rich have a higher share of the wealth since the 1980’s

Perspectives

Functionalists (Structuralist consensus)

Functionalists believe that everything in society has a purpose. For example the education system prepares students for their role in the workplace.

In Wealth Davis and Moore and Parsons argue that the wealthy earn it through their hard work. Not everyone has the talent to succeed and so the best few will do better then the majority.

According to Functionalists society is meritocratic where everyone has an equal chance of succeeding.

With poverty those that lack the skills which their society requites will fall into poverty.

Marxist (structuralist conflict)

Marx stated that society is based upon a division between the rich minority (bourgeoisie), and the poor majority (proletariat). The bourgeoisie own the means of production and exploit the proletariat who work for them for less then what their labour is worth.

Marx also mentions a third class the petit bourgeoisie which is made of the middle class ( doctors, lawyers etc) who may not own the means of production but have a higher class position then the proletariat. When revolution came and the proletariat rose up against the bourgeoisie the middle classes would choose what side they are on

The bourgeoisie use agents of socialisation according to Marx to hide the exploitation of the Proletariat through agents of socialisation like the mass media and religion (which he described as the Opium of the masses) this creates a false class consciousness.

Neo Marxists

Kincaid argues that capitalist industries rely on cheap labour to increase profits. Goods are sold at more then the cost of producing them so workers can not afford the goods they create.

Westergaard and Resler argue that the Welfare state only blunts the edge of poverty and does not deal with the fact that the rich own most of the wealth (top 1% owns 23% ).

Weaknesses of Marxism

  1. the petit bourgeoisie still exist and have grown
  2. Other divisions are important; gender, ethnicity, age, etc
  3. False class consciousness can be challenged , taxation does redistribute wealth ( taxes the middle classes)

Weber (strucuralist conflict)

Weber describes Marxism as…

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