Sociology Culture, Power, and Inequality - Syllabus
how modernization, cultural expansion, and mass production inequality with the primary intention to overview theorists link power more directly to resource. The first is fundamentally concerned with the economic structure of a First, a class system constitutes a set of social inequalities within which And likewise, it may be materially empowering to subordinate groups to cultivate a culture of resistance -- by making collective action and Links to this post. links between power, inequalities/disparities and poverty – emphasizing .. economic exploitation and to preserve their socio-cultural and political institutions .
On the surface of it, blaming structural inequities on those with least power to influence the structure is counterintuitive. More powerful explanations are in order. Sources of Inequity Social inequity is virtually ubiquitous, existing in all human societies with sufficient economic surplus that social and economic roles can be differentiated and accorded differential status. Why is this the case? Some would point to psychological explanations such as authoritarian personalities.
Others would point to the human need to belong and refer to social identity groups. Social identity theory suggests that people are more likely to accord positive social value to their own identity groups and that the resulting tension between identity groups is the source of much intractable conflict. Such theories do offer a window of understanding into social inequity. In fact, social identity theory is broadly used by scholars in discussions of intractable conflict, much of which is classified as identity conflict.
I will not focus on social identity theory. First, it is amply covered elsewhere. Second, social identity theories tend to explain in-group favoritism, a likely source of inequity, better than out-group denigration, which is not only related to inequity, but also brutality and oppression.
A fuller understanding, however, is offered by the Social Dominance Theory, whose main purpose is to explain differential status among groups. Jim Sidaneus and Felicia Pratto discuss three forms of social dominance: Social dominance theory rests on three assumptions: While age-and gender-based hierarchies will tend to exist within all social systems, arbitrary-set systems of social hierarchy will invariably emerge within social systems producing sustainable economic surplus.
Most forms of group conflict and oppression e. Human social systems are subject to the counterbalancing influences of hierarchy-enhancing HE forces, producing and maintaining ever higher levels of group-based social inequality, and hierarchy-attenuating HA forces, producing greater levels of group-based social equality.
Thus, this is not a fixed situation, and I will not focus on this form of hierarchy in the remainder of the article.
Gender hierarchies, on the other hand, are fixed. One's position is determined at birth and, with the exception of the possibility of a sex-change operation, remains the same throughout the life cycle. Gender hierarchy can also be called patriarchy since, in all known societies, it takes the form of men possessing greater social and economic power than women.
There are several reasons for this. First, it is the most inclusive.
Second, it interacts with the other hierarchies, particularly the gender hierarchy, to institutionalize inequity. Third, and most importantly, it is the form of hierarchy most associated with extremes of injustice in their most brutal and oppressive forms. It is, thus, most associated with the range of conditions attendant to intractable conflict. An arbitrary-set hierarchy is one that revolves around human differences that are themselves creations of the human mind like race.
Power Inequities | Beyond Intractability
The arbitrary-set system is filled with socially constructed and highly salient groups based on characteristics such as clan, ethnicity, estate, nation, race, caste, social class, religious sect, regional grouping, or any other socially relevant group distinction that the human imagination is capable of constructing.
The Holocaust Massacres of the Kurds by Turkey inIran in and Iraq in Massacres of East Timorese in the late s Stalin's slaughter of the Kulaks in The Khmer Rouge terror of the late s Ethnic cleansing of Moslems in the former Yugoslavia in the late s Widespread killing of Kasaians in Zaire Massacres of Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda in the late s Sidanius and Pratto argue that group-based hierarchies are driven and maintained by three processes: Aggregated individual discrimination refers to "the simple, daily, and sometimes quite inconspicuous individual acts of discrimination by one individual against another.
By itself, however, the incident is unlikely to have deleterious social effects. When thousands of such acts are operating in the same direction, to the disadvantage of women or other individuals as members of a group, however, the impact is broader: Official terror "is the public and legally sanctioned violence and threat of violence perpetrated by organs of the state and disproportionately directed toward members of subordinate groups.
More recent examples would include the greater use of the death penalty when the convicted perpetrator is a member of an ethnic minority, apartheid in South Africa, and acts of collective punishment against Palestinian communities by the Israeli government. In semi-official terror, the perpetrators are governmental officials but the act is not officially sanctioned by the state. The rampant use of death squads in Latin America is one example. Finally, in the case of unofficial terror, the perpetrator is not a state agent, but simply a member of a dominant group.
Oftentimes, the act is not investigated or punished by the authorities, as in the case of lynchings of blacks by whites in the Jim Crow American South. Behavioral asymmetry refers to the fact that dominant and subordinate group members tend to act differently in a wide variety of situations. The notion of "keeping in one's place" is a popularized term for this phenomenon. An important consequence of the difference in behavioral repertoires is that "subordinates actively participate in and contribute to their own subordination.
Amazingly, the gap between the rich and poor continues to grow: Inequity seems to act like a social cancer, extending its tentacles into virtually every area of social life, negatively impacting both the discriminated-against group, and its individual members, in an impressively wide variety of ways.
Documentation of a few examples only hints at the scope. Gross differences in income and wealth are strong indicators of inequity.
Both globally, and in individual nations, income disparity not only exists, but is on the rise. In the United States, for example, "between and the average real income of the bottom 90 percent of American taxpayers actually fell by 7 percent. Meanwhile the income of the top 1 percent rose by percent, the income of the top 0. What may be a surprise, however, is that global income inequity is positively associated with poor health.
Compared to members of the dominant group, subordinate-group members are more likely to be stopped, questioned, and searched by the police than are members of dominant arbitrary-sets, everything else being equal. Once arrested, subordinates are more likely to be beaten by the police while in custody and more likely to be held in custody awaiting trial rather than released on bail.
Once tried, they are more likely to be found guilty, less likely to be sentenced to alternatives to prison e.
The Harvard Civil Rights project, for example, has documented higher rates of classification of U. The problem is compounded by significantly inferior services provided to these students.
While one might be attempted to attribute at least the former differences simply to deleterious impacts of poverty, this does not prove to be the case.
Rather, [t]he research suggests that the observed racial, ethnic, and gender disparities are the result of many complex and interacting factors including: The unjust suffering attendant to inequity in all of its manifestations is obvious. People who are oppressed and targets of discrimination have their life chances curtailed and, in some cases, cut off.
But they are not the only ones who are hurt. Whole communities and nations are hurt economically through loss of productivity and misallocation of resources. The World Bank has found that the more equal the distribution of assets such as land, the more economic growth occurs in the society.
Ted Robert Gurr, for example, found positive correlations between both economic and political deprivation and the magnitude of conspiracy organized political violence involving a small number of participants, e. Ted Robert Gurr, for example, contends that "the potential for collective violence varies strongly with the intensity and scope of relative deprivation among members of a collectivity.
Power is exercised by states -- through military and police, through agencies and bureaucracies, through legislation; it is exercised by corporations and other large private organizations; and it is exercised by social movements and other groups within society. The two social factors are intertwined in at least three ways.
First, a class system constitutes a set of social inequalities within which there are deep conflicts of interest. So a class system sets the stage for the exercise of power; various groups have an interest in wielding power over others within a class system.
Ascendant groups have an interest in sustaining the productive economic activities of subordinates whom they exploit, and they have an interest in squelching acts of resistance. But likewise, subordinate groups have an interest in using instruments of power to reduce or overturn the exploitative social relations within which they function. Second, a class system assigns resources and positions to different groups and individuals that greatly influence the nature and weight of the instruments and tactics of power available to them.
Owners have economic assets, alliances, and the state in their column. Producers have their numbers and their key locations in the economic process. A strike of rail workers is a substantial exercise of power, given the centrality of transport in a complex economy.
So the particulars of a class system provide key determinants of the distribution of power within society. Third, a class system also creates a subjectivity of power, powerlessness, and resistance that may iterate into new forms of the exercise of power. It may be an effective instrument of social control to cultivate a subjectivity of powerlessness in subordinate groups.
And likewise, it may be materially empowering to subordinate groups to cultivate a culture of resistance -- by making collective action and solidarity more attainable, for example.
These are several ways in which facts about class and power intertwine.
But power is wielded for non-economic purposes as well -- effecting the will of the state, achieving ethnic domination, and influencing culture, for example. So it would be incorrect to imagine that power is simply the cutting edge of class conflict.