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Ted Sr. Most sociologists define social class as a grouping based on similar social factors like wealth, income, education, and occupation. As we note later in the chapter, there is dispute within the discipline about the relative importance of different criteria for characterizing economic position.

Whether the Marxist emphasis on property ownership is more important than the Weberian emphasis on gradations of occupational status is a matter for debate. Either way, the concept of class does imply a shared standard of living based on social factors like wealth, income, education, and occupation. These factors also affect how much power and prestige a person has. In most cases, having more money means having more power or more opportunities. The standard of living is based on factors such as income, employment, class, poverty rates, and affordability of housing.

Because standard of living is closely related to quality of life, it can represent factors such as the ability to afford a home, own a car, and take vacations. Access to a standard of living that enables people to participate on an equal basis in community life is not equally distributed, however. In Canada, a small portion of the population has the means to the highest standard of living. In , the richest 1 percent took In , the median income earner in the top 1 percent earned 10 times more than the median income earner of the other 99 percent Statistics Canada, Wealthy people receive the most schooling, have better health, and consume the most goods and services.

Wealthy people also wield decision-making power. One aspect of their decision-making power comes from their positions as owners or top executives of corporations and banks. They are able to grant themselves salary raises and bonuses. Many people think of Canada as a middle-class society. They think a few people are rich, a few are poor, and most are pretty well off, existing in the middle of the social strata. But as the data above indicate, the distribution of wealth is not even. Millions of women and men struggle to pay rent, buy food, and find work that pays a living wage.

Moreover, the share of the total income claimed by those in the middle-income ranges has been shrinking since the early s, while the share taken by the wealthiest has been growing Osberg, Low income measure: The LIM is defined as half the median family income. A person whose income is below that level is said to be in low income. The LIM is adjusted for family size. People are said to be in the low-income group if their income falls below this threshold.

The threshold varies by family size and community size, as well as if income is calculated before or after taxes. Market basket measure: The MBM is a measure of the disposable income a family would need to be able to purchase a basket of goods that includes food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and other basic needs.

The dollar value of the MBM varies by family size and composition, as well as community size and location. MBM data are available since only. The three measures produce different results. In , according to each measure, the following numbers of Canadians were living in low income:. Using the LICO measure results in a decreasing share of people in low income from to , followed by a slight upturn in and The LIM measure results in a share of people in low income that has increased since The news from sociological research into inequality is that the gap in income and wealth between the rich and the poor has been increasing in Canada Osberg, Note: Median income is not the same as average income.

This discrepancy does not simply mean that the very rich are increasing their share of the wealth at the expense of the very poor — the middle classes are also losing their share of the wealth. One way to analyze this trend is to examine the changing distribution of income in Canada over time. In Table 9. Instead, Table 9. Why is this news? For several decades, Lars Osberg notes that the joke was that the study of income inequality was like watching grass grow because nothing ever happened Between and , changes in income inequality were small despite the fact the Canadian economy went through a massive transformation: It transformed from an agricultural base to an industrial base; the population urbanized and doubled in size; the overall production of wealth measured by gross domestic product GDP increased by 4.

Dympna Devine

As Osberg puts it, the key question was why did economic inequality not change during this period of massive transformation? From until the present, during another period of rapid and extensive economic change in which the overall production of wealth continued to expand, economic inequality has increased dramatically. What happened? Neoliberal policies of reduced state expenditures and tax cuts have been major factors in defining the difference between these two eras.

The biggest losers with regard to neoliberal policy, of course, are the very poor. As Osberg notes, it was not until the s and s that the homeless — those forced to beg in the streets and those dependent on food banks — began to appear in Canada in significant numbers Others have argued that because capitalism is built on the basis of structural inequality, equality of condition is impossible.

The idea that equality of opportunity — a meritocracy — actually exists and that it leads to a meaningful access to social mobility — the movement of people from one social position to another — is debatable, as we will see below. In fact degrees of social inequality vary significantly between jurisdictions. The Gini Index is a measure of income inequality in which zero is absolute equality and one is absolute inequality. This comparison indicates that a much greater equality of condition can exist even under the same pressures of globalization if different social and economic policy models are chosen.

If addressing poverty and inequality rather than promoting greater transfers of wealth to the rich is a reasonable goal, a variety of viable policy alternatives are available from which Canadians can choose. In some countries, like the United Kingdom, class differences can still be gauged by differences in schooling, lifestyle, and even accent.

In Canada, however, it is harder to determine class from outward appearances. For sociologists, too, categorizing class is a fluid science.


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In Marxist class analysis there are, therefore, two dominant classes in capitalism — the working class and the owning class — and any divisions within the classes based on occupation, status, education, etc. However, class is defined with respect to markets rather than the process of production. This leads to a hierarchical class schema with many gradations.

Nevertheless the skill the surgeon sells is valued much more highly in the labour market than that of cable TV technicians because of the relative rarity of the skill, the number of years of education required to learn the skill, and the responsibilities involved in practising the skill. Analyses of class inspired by Weber tend to emphasize gradations of status with regard to a number of variables like wealth, income, education, and occupation.

Based on the Weberian approach, some sociologists talk about upper, middle, and lower classes with many subcategories within them in a way that mixes status categories with class categories. There is an arbitrariness to the division of classes into upper, middle, and lower. Nevertheless it is difficult to see what the life chances of the hockey player have in common with a landscaper or truck driver, despite the fact they might share a common working-class background. Social class is, therefore, a complex category to analyze.

It also has an important subjective component that relates to recognitions of status, distinctions of lifestyle, and ultimately how people perceive their place in the class hierarchy. One way of distinguishing the classes that takes this complexity into account is by focusing on the authority structure.

Schools & Social Inequality: Crash Course Sociology #41

Classes can be divided according to how much relative power and control members of a class have over their lives. On this basis, we might distinguish between the owning class or bourgeoisie , the middle class, and the traditional working class. In contrast, the traditional working class has little control over their work or lives. Below, we will explore the major divisions of Canadian social class and their key subcategories. Often, Marx and Weber are perceived to be at odds in their approaches to class and social inequality, but it is perhaps better to see them as articulating different styles of analysis.

Thus, Weber provides a multi-dimensional model of social hierarchy. It is important to note that although individuals might be from the same objective class, their position in the social hierarchy might differ according to their status and political influence. For example, women and men might be equal in terms of their class position, but because of the inequality in the status of the genders within each class, women as a group remain lower in the social hierarchy.

With respect to class, Weber also relies on a different definition than Marx. Class is defined with respect to markets rather than the process of production. However, as the value of different types of property e. A skilled tradesman like a pipe welder might enjoy a higher class position and greater life chances in Northern Alberta where such skills are in demand, than a high school teacher in Vancouver or Victoria where the number of qualified teachers exceeds the number of positions available.

If we add the element of status into the picture, the situation becomes even more complex as the educational requirements and social responsibilities of the high school teacher usually confer more social prestige than the requirements and responsibilities of the pipe welder. It has one variable: the relationship to the means of production. If one is a professional hockey player or a clerk in a supermarket, one works for a wage and is therefore a member of the working class. It would seem that hockey players, doctors, lawyers, professors, and business executives have very little in common with grocery clerks, factory or agricultural workers, tradespersons, or low level administrative staff despite the fact that they all depend on being paid by someone.

You will recall the four components of dialectical analysis from Chapter 1: Everything is related; everything changes; change proceeds from the quantitative to the qualitative; and change is the product of the unity and struggle of opposites. The main point of the dialectical analysis of class is that the working class and the owning class have to be understood in relationship to one another. They emerged together out of the old class structure of feudalism, and each exists only because the other exists.

In addition, change proceeds from the quantitative to the qualitative in the sense that changes in purely quantitative variables like salary, working conditions, unemployment levels, rates of profitability, etc. The dialectical approach reveals the underlying logic of class structure as a dynamic system and the potential commonality of interests and subjective experiences that define class-consciousness.

As a result, in an era in which the precariousness of many high status jobs has become clearer, the divisions of economic interests between the different segments of the working class becomes less so. In Canada, the richest 86 people or families account for 0. In terms of income, in the average income of the richest 0. Money provides not just access to material goods, but also access to power. As corporate leaders, their decisions affect the job status of millions of people.


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As media owners, they shape the collective identity of the nation. They run the major network television stations, radio broadcasts, newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, and sports franchises. As philanthropists, they establish foundations to support social causes they believe in. They also fund think tanks like the C. Howe Institute and the Fraser Institute that promote the values and interests of business elites. As campaign contributors, they influence politicians and fund campaigns, usually to protect their own economic interests.

While both types may have equal net worth, they have traditionally held different social standing. People of old money, firmly situated in the upper class for generations, have held high prestige. Their families have socialized them to know the customs, norms, and expectations that come with wealth. Often, the very wealthy do not work for wages.

Some study business or become lawyers in order to manage the family fortune. New money members of the owning class are not oriented to the customs and mores of the elite. They have not gone to the most exclusive schools. They have not established old-money social ties. People with new money might flaunt their wealth, buying sports cars and mansions, but they might still exhibit behaviours attributed to the middle and lower classes. Many people call themselves middle class, but there are differing ideas about what that means.

That helps explain why some sociologists divide the middle class into upper and lower subcategories. These divisions are based on gradations of status defined by levels of education, types of work, cultural capital, and the lifestyles afforded by income. Professions are occupations that claim high levels of specialized technical and intellectual expertise and are governed and regulated by autonomous professional organizations like the Canadian Medical Association or legal bar associations.

Comfort is a key concept to the middle class. Middle-class people work hard and live fairly comfortable lives. Upper-middle-class people tend to pursue careers that earn comfortable incomes. They provide their families with large homes and nice cars. They may go skiing or boating on vacation. Their children receive quality educations Gilbert, In the lower middle class, people hold jobs supervised by members of the upper middle class. They fill technical, lower-level management or administrative support positions. Compared to traditional working-class work, lower-middle-class jobs carry more prestige and come with slightly higher paycheques.

With these incomes, people can afford a decent, mainstream lifestyle, but they struggle to maintain it. They generally do not have enough income to build significant savings. In addition, their grip on class status is more precarious than in the upper tiers of the class system. When budgets are tight, lower-middle-class people are often the ones to lose their jobs. The traditional working class is sometimes also referred to as being part of the lower class.

Just like the middle and upper classes, the lower class can be divided into subsets: the working class, the working poor, and the underclass. Compared to the middle class, traditional working-class people have less of an educational background and usually earn smaller incomes. While there are many working-class trades that require skill and pay middle-class wages, the majority often work jobs that require little prior skill or experience, doing routine tasks under close supervision. The work is considered blue collar because it is hands-on and often physically demanding.

Beneath those in the working class are the working poor. Like some sections of the working class, they have unskilled, low-paying employment. However, their jobs rarely offer benefits such as retirement planning, and their positions are often seasonal or temporary. They work as migrant farm workers, house cleaners, and day labourers. Some are high school dropouts. Some are illiterate, unable to read job ads. Many do not vote because they do not believe that any politician will help change their situation Beeghley, How can people work full time and still be poor?

Even working full time, more than a million of the working poor earn incomes too meagre to support a family. In , 1. Even for a single person, minimum wage is low. A married couple with children will have a hard time covering expenses. Members of the underclass live mainly in inner cities. Many are unemployed or underemployed. Those who do hold jobs typically perform menial tasks for little pay.

Some of the underclass are homeless. For many, welfare systems provide a much-needed support through food assistance, medical care, housing, and the like. Social mobility refers to the ability to change positions within a social stratification system. When people improve or diminish their economic status in a way that affects social class, they experience social mobility. A high degree of social mobility, upwards or downwards, would suggest that the stratification system of a society is in fact open i.

Upward mobility refers to an increase — or upward shift — in social class. Actor and comedian Jim Carey lived with his family in camper van at one point growing up in Scarborough, Ontario. Ron Joyce was a beat policemen in Hamilton before he co-founded Tim Hortons. There are many stories of people from modest beginnings rising to fame and fortune. But the truth is that relative to the overall population, the number of people who launch from poverty to wealth is very small. Still, upward mobility is not only about becoming rich and famous.

In Canada, people who earn a university degree, get a job promotion, or marry someone with a good income may move up socially. Some people move downward because of business setbacks, unemployment, or illness. Dropping out of school, losing a job, or becoming divorced may result in a loss of income or status and, therefore, downward social mobility. Intergenerational mobility explains a difference in social class between different generations of a family. For example, an upper-class executive may have parents who belonged to the middle class.

In turn, those parents may have been raised in the lower class. Patterns of intergenerational mobility can reflect long-term societal changes. Intragenerational mobility describes a difference in social class between different members of the same generation. For example, the wealth and prestige experienced by one person may be quite different from that of his or her siblings. Structural mobility happens when societal changes enable a whole group of people to move up or down the social class ladder. Structural mobility is attributable to changes in society as a whole, not individual changes.

Many people have experienced economic setbacks, creating a wave of downward structural mobility. Many Canadians believe that people move up in class because of individual efforts and move down by their own doing. Others believe that equality of opportunity is a myth designed to keep people motivated to work hard, while getting them to accept social inequality as the legitimate outcome of personal achievement.

The ideology of equality of opportunity is just a mirage that masks real and permanent structural inequality in society. The rich stay rich, and the poor stay poor. Data that measures social mobility suggest that the truth is a bit of both. Typically social mobility is measured by comparing either the occupational status or the earnings between parents and children. Some data are available on daughters as well, but it is less common and therefore difficult to use to make cross-national comparisons.

The data show that there is a much lower degree of social mobility in the United States than in Canada. While earnings elasticity from data in the United States was 0. This suggests that Canada has a relatively high rate of social mobility and equality of opportunity compared to the United States, where almost 50 percent of sons remain at the same income level as their fathers. The higher degree of social inequality is linked to lower degrees of social mobility. The main factor that contributes to the difference in the intergenerational earnings elasticity figures is that there is a great degree of intergenerational social immobility at the lower and higher ranges of the income scale in the United States.

For example, over 25 percent of sons born to fathers in the top 10 percent of income earners remain in the top 10 percent, compared to about 18 percent in Canada. On the other hand, in the United States, 22 percent of sons born to fathers in the bottom 10 percent of income earners remain in the bottom 10 percent, while another 18 percent only move up to the bottom 10 to 20 percent of income earners.

The figures for Canada are 16 percent and 14 percent respectively Corak et al. For example, the chance that a son born to a father in the 30 to 40 percent or 40 to 50 percent ranges of income earners i. In contrast, a son from the bottom 20 percent of income earners had only a 38 percent chance of moving into the top 50 percent of income earners. Class traits , also called class markers, are the typical behaviours, customs, and norms that define each class.

They define a crucial subjective component of class identities. Class traits indicate the level of exposure a person has to a wide range of cultural resources. Class traits also indicate the amount of resources a person has to spend on items like hobbies, vacations, and leisure activities. People may associate the upper class with enjoyment of costly, refined, or highly cultivated tastes — expensive clothing, luxury cars, high-end fundraisers, and opulent vacations. People may also believe that the middle and lower classes are more likely to enjoy camping, fishing, or hunting, shopping at large retailers, and participating in community activities.

It is important to note that while these descriptions may be class traits, they may also simply be stereotypes. Moreover, just as class distinctions have blurred in recent decades, so too have class traits. A very wealthy person may enjoy bowling as much as opera. A factory worker could be a skilled French cook. Pop star Justin Bieber might dress in hoodies, ball caps, and ill fitting clothes, and a low-income hipster might own designer shoes. These days, individual taste does not necessarily follow class lines. Still, you are not likely to see someone driving a Mercedes living in an inner-city neighbourhood.

And most likely, a resident of a wealthy gated community will not be riding a bicycle to work. Class traits often develop based on cultural behaviours that stem from the resources available within each class. Class distinctions were sharper in the 19th century and earlier, in part because people easily accepted them. The ideology of social order made class structure seem natural, right, and just.

About this book

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, American and British novelists played a role in changing public perception. They published novels in which characters struggled to survive against a merciless class system. These dissenting authors used gender and morality to question the class system and expose its inequalities. They protested the suffering of urbanization and industrialization, drawing attention to these issues. For speaking out so strongly about the social issues of class, authors were both praised and criticized.

Most authors did not want to dissolve the class system. They wanted to bring about an awareness that would improve conditions for the lower classes, while maintaining their own higher-class positions DeVine, Soon, middle-class readers were not their only audience. The act increased literacy levels among the urban poor, causing a rise in sales of cheap newspapers and magazines. These reading materials are credited with the move toward democratization in England. Many of the novels of that era are seen as sociological goldmines.

They are studied as existing sources because they detail the customs and mores of the upper, middle, and lower classes of that period in history. Global stratification compares the wealth, economic stability, status, and power of countries across the world. Global stratification highlights worldwide patterns of social inequality. In the early years of civilization, hunter-gatherer and agrarian societies lived off the Earth, rarely interacting with other societies. When explorers began travelling, societies began trading goods as well as ideas and customs.

Due to mechanical inventions and new means of production, people began working in factories — not only men, but women and children as well. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, industrial technology had gradually raised the standard of living for many people in the United States and Europe. The Industrial Revolution also saw the rise of vast inequalities between countries that were industrialized and those that were not. As some nations embraced technology and saw increased wealth and goods, others maintained their ways; as the gap widened, the nonindustrialized nations fell further behind.

Some social researchers, such as Walt Rostow , suggest that the disparity also resulted from power differences. Applying a critical sociological perspective, he asserts that industrializing nations took advantage of the resources of traditional nations. As industrialized nations became rich, other nations became poor Rostow, Sociologists studying global stratification analyze economic comparisons between nations. Income, purchasing power, and wealth are used to calculate global stratification. Poverty levels have been shown to vary greatly.

In the United Nations implemented the Millennium Project, an attempt to cut poverty worldwide by the year Undernourishment in developing regions fell from As we have seen earlier in this chapter, the growing inequality in Canada can be seen as a product in a shift in government policy from a welfare state model of redistribution of resources to a neoliberal model of free market distribution of resources.

This transition does not take place in a vacuum, however. Just as global capitalism is an economic system characterized by constant change, so too is the relationship between global capitalism and national state policy. Throughout the 19th and first half of the 20th century, the role of the state in the wealthy Northern countries was typically limited to providing the legal mechanisms and enforcement to protect private property.

Capitalism itself was for the most part regulated by competition until stock market crash of and the Great Depression of the s. From then on, an awareness grew that the capacity for producing commodities had far exceeded the ability of people to buy them Harvey, The economic model of Fordism, adopted in the wealthy Northern countries, offered a solution to the crisis by creating a system of intensive mass production maximum use of machinery and minute divisions of labour , cheap products, high wages, and mass consumption.

This system required a disciplined work force and labour peace, however, which is one reason why states began to take a different role in the economy. This set of policies collectively became known as the welfare state. The accord also reaffirmed the rights of private property or capital to introduce new technology, to reorganize production as they saw fit, and to invest wherever they pleased. Therefore, it was not a system of economic democracy or socialism. When Fordism and the welfare state system began to break down in the late s and early s, the relationship between the state and the economy began to change again.

In step with the development of the post-Fordist economy of lean production, precarious employment, and niche market consumption, the state began to withdraw from its guarantee of providing universal social services and social security. The market is said to promote more efficiency, lower costs, pragmatic decision making, non-favouritism, and a disciplined work ethic, etc.

Of course the facts often tell a different story. For example, government-funded health care in Canada costs far less per person than private health care in the United States OECD, The policies of deregulation that caused the financial crisis of , led even Alan Greenspan b. As we noted earlier in this chapter, while the policies of government within the capitalist state have been changing, they are not occurring in a vacuum; rather, they are unfolding in the context of the developments of global capitalism.

From its origins, capitalism has been global in scope. Marx and Engels described globalization in The process of globalization intensified after World War II, and especially in the late 20th century with the introduction of new technologies that enabled vast volumes of capital and goods to circulate globally. The globalization of investment and production means that capital is increasingly able to shift production around the world to where labour costs are cheapest and profit greatest.

He has argued that political actors no longer:. The terrain on which corporate, political, environmental, and other types of decisions are made is no longer confined to the boundaries of the state, which diminishes the ability of national governments to independently control economic and foreign policy. Thus, globalization represents a weakening of the autonomy and power of states.

Neoliberalism is not only an internal domestic response to the economic crises and fall in the rates of profit, which began in the late s, but also is a response to the ever more competitive global market for capital. As a result wealth has also been redistributed upwards.

Rather than a sovereign state system of unique and independent nation-states, in many ways the global order is better described today as a single unit within which state sovereignty has been transferred to a higher entity Negri, , p. Similarly, the Kyoto Protocol on climate change or the Ottawa Treaty on landmines are examples of global initiatives that blur the boundaries of nation states.

Antonio Negri b. Empire, rather than being a form of imperialism like that which dominated in the era of colonialism, is a new political form that has emerged in response to the dynamics of global capitalism. Basketball is one of the highest-paying professional sports. There is stratification even among teams. For example, the Minnesota Timberwolves hand out the lowest annual payroll, while the Los Angeles Lakers reportedly pay the highest.

Even within specific fields, layers are stratified and members are ranked. In sociology, even an issue such as NBA salaries can be seen from various points of view. Functionalists will examine the purpose of such high salaries, while critical sociologists will study the exorbitant salaries as an unfair distribution of money. Social stratification takes on new meanings when it is examined from different sociological perspectives — functionalism, critical sociology, and interpretive sociology. According to functionalism, different aspects of society exist because they serve a needed purpose.

What is the function of social stratification? In , sociologists Kingsley Davis and Wilbert Moore published the Davis-Moore thesis , which argued that the greater the functional importance of a social role, the greater must be the reward. The theory posits that social stratification represents the inherently unequal value of different work. Certain tasks in society are more valuable than others. Qualified people who fill those positions must be rewarded more than others. The cashier position does not require the same skill and training level as firefighting.

Without the incentive of higher pay and better benefits, why would someone be willing to rush into burning buildings? If pay levels were the same, the firefighter might as well work as a grocery store cashier. Davis and Moore believed that rewarding more important work with higher levels of income, prestige, and power encourages people to work harder and longer. They also stated that the more skill required for a job, the fewer qualified people there would be to do that job. Certain jobs, such as cleaning hallways or answering phones, do not require much skill.

Other work, like designing a highway system or delivering a baby, requires immense skill. The Davis-Moore thesis does not explain, he argued, why a media personality with little education, skill, or talent becomes famous and rich on a reality show or a campaign trail. The thesis also does not explain inequalities in the education system, or inequalities due to race or gender. Tumin believed social stratification prevented qualified people from attempting to fill roles For example, an underprivileged youth has less chance of becoming a scientist, no matter how smart he or she is, because of the relative lack of opportunity available.

The Davis-Moore thesis, though open for debate, was an early attempt to explain why stratification exists. The thesis states that social stratification is necessary to promote excellence, productivity, and efficiency, thus giving people something to strive for. Davis and Moore believed that the system serves society as a whole because it allows everyone to benefit to a certain extent. Critical sociologists are deeply critical of social inequality, asserting that it benefits only some people not all of society. For instance, to a critical sociologist it seems problematic that after a long period of increasing equality of incomes from World War II to the s, the wealthiest 1 percent of income earners have been increasing their share of the total income of Canadians from 7.

Rather than creating conditions in which wealth trickles down, tax cuts and neoliberal policies tremendously benefit the rich at the expense of the poor. This is an example of the way that stratification perpetuates inequality. Contrary to the analysis of functionalists, huge corporate bonuses continued to be awarded even when dysfunctional corporate and financial mismanagement of the economy led to the global financial crisis of Nor is it the case that corporate elites work harder to merit more rewards. Over the period of increasing inequality in income, the only group not working more weeks and hours in the paid workforce is the richest 10 percent of families Yalnizyan, Critical sociologists try to bring awareness to inequalities, such as how a rich society can have so many poor members.

Many critical sociologists draw on the work of Karl Marx. During the 19th-century era of industrialization, Marx analyzed the way the owning class or capitalists raked in profits and got rich, while working-class proletarians earned skimpy wages and struggled to survive. With such opposing interests, the two groups were divided by differences of wealth and power. Marx saw workers experience deep exploitation, alienation, and misery resulting from class power Marx, He also predicted that the growing collective impoverishment of the working class would lead them, through the leadership of unions, to recognize their common class interests.

With the abolition of private property i. Marx did not live see the state socialist systems in the Soviet Union and elsewhere that called themselves communist but ended up replacing capitalist-based inequality with bureaucratic-based inequality. Today, while working conditions have improved, critical sociologists believe that the strained working relationship between employers and employees still exists. Capitalists own the means of production, and a neoliberal political system is in place to make business owners rich and keep workers poor.

Moreover, the privileged position of the middle classes has been steadily eroded by growing inequalities of wealth and income. Nevertheless, according to critical sociologists, increasing social inequality is neither inevitable nor necessary. Within interpretive sociology, symbolic interactionism is a theory that uses everyday interactions of individuals to explain society as a whole. Symbolic interactionism examines stratification from a micro-level perspective.

In most communities, people interact primarily with others who share the same social standing. It is precisely because of social stratification that people tend to live, work, and associate with others like themselves, people who share their same income level, educational background, or racial background, and even tastes in food, music, and clothing. The built-in system of social stratification groups people together. Housing, clothing, and transportation indicate social status, as do hairstyles, taste in accessories, and personal style.

This marks individuals from an early age by such things as knowing how to wear a suit or having an educated manner of speaking. Cultural capital is capital also in the sense of an investment, as it is expensive and difficult to attain while providing access to better occupations. Bourdieu argued that the privilege accorded to those who hold cultural capital is a means of reproducing the power of the ruling classes. Cultural capital becomes a key measure of distinction between social strata.

In the Theory of the Leisure Class , Thorstein Veblen described the activity of conspicuous consumption as the tendency of people to buy things as a display of status rather than out of need. Conspicuous consumption refers to buying certain products to make a social statement about status. Some people buy expensive trendy sneakers even though they will never wear them to jog or play sports. All of these symbols of stratification are worthy of examination by interpretive sociologists because their social significance is determined by the shared meanings they hold.

What Is Social Inequality? Stratification systems are either closed, meaning they allow little change in social position, or open, meaning they allow movement and interaction between the layers. A caste system is one in which social standing is based on ascribed status or birth. Class systems are open, with achievement playing a role in social position. People fall into classes based on factors like wealth, income, education, and occupation.

Social Inequality and Mobility in Canada There are three main classes in Canada: the owning class, middle class, and traditional working class. Social mobility describes a shift from one social class to another. Class traits, also called class markers, are the typical behaviours, customs, and norms that define each class. Global Stratification and Inequality Global stratification compares the wealth, economic stability, status, and power of countries as a whole.

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By comparing income and productivity between nations, researchers can better identify global inequalities. Theoretical Perspectives on Social Inequality Social stratification can be examined from different sociological perspectives — functionalism, critical sociology, and symbolic interactionism. The functionalist perspective states that inequality serves an important function in aligning individual merit and motivation with social position.

Critical sociologists observe that stratification promotes inequality, such as between rich business owners and exploited workers. Symbolic interactionists examine stratification from a micro-level perspective. What factor makes caste systems closed? Global Stratification and Inequality Billingham, C. Parental choice, neighborhood schools, and the market metaphor in urban education reform. Urban Studies, 52 4 , — Middle-class parents, urban schooling, and the shift from consumption to production of urban space. Sociological Forum, 28 1 , 85— Boterman, W.

Urban Studies, 50 6 , — Bourdieu, P. The contradictions of inheritance. Bourdieu Ed. Butler, T. Gentrification, education and exclusionary displacement in East London. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 37 2 , — Byrne, B. Sociology, 40 6 , — Not just class: Towards an understanding of the whiteness of middle class schooling choice. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 32 3 , — Multicultural desires? Parental negotiation of multiculture and difference in choosing secondary schools for their children.

Sociological Review, 62 3 , — Crozier, G. Making it work for their children: White middle-class parents and working-class schools. International Studies in Sociology of Education, 21 3 , — White middle-class parents, identities, educational choice and the urban comprehensive school: Dilemmas, ambivalence and moral ambiguity. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 29 3 , — Cucchiara, M. Re-branding urban schools: Urban revitalization, social status, and marketing public schools to the upper middle class. Journal of Education Policy, 23 2 , — Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 44 1 , 75— Perils and promises: Middle-class parental involvement in urban schools.

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American Educational Research Journal, 46 4 , — Choosing selves: The salience of parental identity in the school choice process. Journal of Education Policy, 29 4 , — Forsey, M. The globalisation of school choice? Oxford: Symposium Books. Freidus, A. Urban Education. Goyette, K. Setting the context.

Lareau Eds. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. Hassrick, E. Parent surveillance in schools: A question of social class. American Journal of Education, 2 , — Ho, C. Every day and cosmo-multiculturalisms: Doing diversity in gentrifying school communities. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 36 6 , — Hollingworth, S. Multicultural mixing or middle-class reproduction? The white middle classes in London comprehensive schools.

Space and Polity, 14 1 , 47— Holme, J. Buying homes, buying schools: School choice and the social construction of school quality. Harvard Educational Review, 72 2 , — James, D. How Bourdieu bites back: Recognising misrecognition in education and educational research. Cambridge journal of education, 45 1 , 97— Neoliberal policy and the meaning of counterintuitive middle-class school choices.

Current Sociology, 58 4 , — Kimelberg, S. Beyond test scores: Middle-class mothers, cultural capital, and the evaluation of urban public schools. Sociological Perspectives, 57 2 , — Attitudes toward diversity and the school choice process: Middle-class parents in a segregated urban public school district.

Urban Education, 48 2 , — Kroeger, J. Social heteroglossia: The contentious practice or potential place of middle-class parents in home—school relations. The Urban Review, 37 1 , 1— Lamont, M. The study of boundaries in the social sciences. Annual Review of Sociology, 28 1 , — Levin, B. An epidemic of education policy: What can we learn from each other?

Levine-Rasky, C. Canadian Journal of Education, 31 2 , — Dynamics of parent involvement at a multicultural school. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 30 3 , — Intersectionality theory applied to whiteness and middle-classness. Lewis, A. Everyday race-making. Navigating racial boundaries in schools. American Behavioral Scientist, 47 3 , — Sociological Theory, 22 4 , — Musset, P.

Neal, S. Multiculture, middle class competencies and friendship practices in super-diverse geographies. Social and Cultural Geography, 14 8 , — Nogueira, M. A revisited theme—Middle classes and the school. Apple, S. Gandin Eds. Abingdon: Routledge.

Racial-Ethnic Identity Publications

Latin American economic outlook How middle-class is Latin America? Olmedo, A. Papers, 96 6 , —