Social Class

  • Upward and Downward Mobility,
  • We have a number of ways to break down society into social layers, ex. Classes
    • Lower class – manual work, labour, low-pay jobs.
    • Middle class – professionals, better paying jobs
    • Upper class – very wealthy businessmen and family wealth
      • Correlates to amount of income.
    • When we think of social positions, can there be movement? Yes. Various ways.
      • Individual can move horizontally – move within the same class.
        • Accountant switches job to different accounting company.
      • Vertical movement – move up or down the social hierarchy.
        • Manager at restaurant becomes CEO of fast food restaurant. But if he gets demoted to serving food, fall downwards.
      • Various types of social constructs that allow for social mobility.
        • Caste systemvery little social mobility, because your role is determined entirely by background you’re born to and who you’re married to. A lot of social stability.
          • The Hindu caste system.
        • Class system – allows for degree of social mobility, combination of background and movement, often by education. Less stability.
        • Meritocracy – concept that people achieve social position solely based on ability and achievements. Highly idealized. Birth/parental background doesn’t matter. Extreme social mobility. Equal opportunity.
  • Intergenerational and Intragenerational mobility, Social Mobility
    • If change in social class happens in a person’s own lifetimeintragenerational mobility.
    • Intergenerational mobility – change in social class between generations
      • Parent is working class and son is working class.

 

  • Absolute and Relative Poverty
  • 2 different ways of thinking about poverty – does it threaten survival of person, or does it exclude them from society?
    • Absolute poverty – An absolute level at which if you go below, survival is threatened. Minimum level of resources a human being needs to survive. This level no matter where you are.
      • $1-2 a day, talking about developing countries.
      • However, someone in Arctic needs a lot more than somewhere else. There’s variability absolute poverty does not consider.
      • The median level of income in a society can gradually rise as country gets richer. When it does, we find less people live in absolute poverty – decrease in poverty.
    • Relative Poverty – in developed countries, use a different marker – a % level below the median income of the country. Ex. In Us, instead of $1-2 a day, median income is above $80/day.
      • <60% of the median income.
      • If a country’s income rises up, absolute poverty line won’t change, median income level would.
      • Relative poverty is not about survival, its people whose incomes are so low in their own society they’re being excluded from society.
  • Social Reproduction
  • Huge amount of social inequality between rich families and poor families. Large social inequality seems to replicate itself cross generations. Perpetuation of inequality through social institutions (such as education/economy), social mobility counters this.
    • Social reproduction – transmission of social inequality from one generation to the next
      • People with rich parents end up wealthy themselves; poor families give birth to kids in poor neighborhoods, with less access to education and opportunities, and they grow up to be poor also
    • They have financial capital, and can invest it to obtain social capital – building up reliable, useful social networks. (Connections)
    • Can also expose you to cultural capital – knowledge, education, and skills transmitted across generations
      • If parents exposing you to trips abroad and learning foreign languages. Or cultural items of social inequalities from one generation to the next
    • Doesn’t educational system allow poor people to gain capital too?
      • Our educational system doesn’t value cultures of low classes. It doesn’t value the culture and social networks of the poor population.
      • Education system can reinforce this social stratification.
  • Social Exclusion
  • Being an integral member of society has lots of advantages – access to good social networks, housing, educational resources, and resources in community.
    • But certain individuals can be excluded to the peripheries of society, and are prevented from participating in society.
    • Reduced right and access to resources/opportunities
  • Some can drag people into the periphery of society
    • The poverty magnet can drag people away from the core part of society, and experience a greater degree of social exclusion.
    • The ill-heath magnet can also drag people away, can’t participate in society.
    • Certain groups may face discrimination, based on their race/gender/sexual orientation/etc – the discrimination magnet.
    • Education, housing, employment all important factors. With lack of any of these they can be relegated to fringes.
  • People in periphery often have many of these magnets combined, have tremendous forces pushing them away.
    • They may also have greater consequences like ill health and criminal activities.
  • Segregation is a way of separating out groups of people and giving them access to a separate set of resources within the same society
    • Idea “separate but equal”, which is rarely true in practice.
    • Segregated people often have worse resources.
    • Segregation is maintained by law/public institutions, or more informal processes like “hidden discrimination”.
    • Social isolation – when community voluntarily isolates itself from mainstream, based on their own religious/cultural/other beliefs.
  • Environmental Justice
  • Where we live plays a huge role in environmental benefits and risks we’re exposed to.
    • Areas with high poverty and lots of racial minorities, often have few environmental benefits (green spaces, parks, recreation).
      • They also get a lot of environmental burden compared to wealthier parts. Includes waste facilities, manufacturing/factories, energy production, airports.
      • At risk because they often have few alternatives, little awareness of risks they face, and other pressing issues.
      • More health problems like asthma, obesity, etc.
    • Wealthier population society has much higher benefits.
      • More politically and economically powerful, and able to demand beneficial facilities are placed close to them and burdening facilities far way.
      • Also better represented in environmental/lobbying groups.
    • Big concept is environmental justice – looks at the fair distribution of the environmental benefits and burdens within society across all groups.

 

  • Class Consciousness and False Consciousness
  • Means of production – way we produce goods, ex. Factories and farms. Owned by fairly wealthy individuals, which hire a large amount of workers which offer their labour, without owning any of the means of production.
    • There’s a class divide, a hierarchy of upper/lower class.
  • Theory by Karl Marx – workers in working class don’t realize they’re being exploited and oppressed by this capitalistic model of working.
    • Workers can develop class consciousness, and realize they have solidarity with one another and struggle to overcome this oppression and exploitation.
      • Involves seizing and obtaining means and redistributing the means of production among the workers.
    • False consciousness – unlike class consciousness, instead of seeing they have solidarity with one another, they’re unable to see their oppression.
      • And owners can promote this false consciousness by controlling classes, making it more difficult for workers to see their oppression.
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