HGA262 Social Inequalities: Global and Local
1. Compare Marxist and Weberian approaches to researching inequality. Theorists Karl Marx and Max Weber often disagreed about issue of class, particularly related to the concept of social stratification and its causes and effects on contemporary society. Karl Marx's conflict theory was based on the idea that in modern society there are two classes of people: the bourgeoise, who own the means of production and factories - and the proletariat, who are the workers. (G. Standing, 2011). According to Marx, the bourgeoise exploit workers in most capitalist societies. They are convinced that they must rely on their capitalist bosses to perform the recommended and appropriate tasks. Marx foresaw a revolution from the workers. As the rich increased in wealth, he hypothesised that the workers would develop a clear class consciousness and a sense of shared experience and identity. No one would be able to control the access to wealth and there would be a balance of equality in terms of status and financial gain. Marx's vision is to be disputed though. As societies become moderned and increased in size, the working classes increased, became more educated, achieving the specific job skills needed attain the type of financial well-being that Marx never thought would happen. Max Weber interpreted Marx's view as being simply simplistic in terms of understanding stratification. He argued that owning property is the only factor that determines what a person's social class is. Social class for Weber is often referred to power and prestige, in relation to property and wealth. Weber pointed out that property can bring prestige, since people tend to perceive rich people as being of high regard. Prestige can also originate from other factors, such as intellectual or athletic ability. For Weber, wealth and prestige are both connected and intertwined with each other. In summary, both sociologists still consider social class to be a grouping of individuals with similar or identical levels of power, wealth and prestige.
2. Does The Spirit Level offer a convincing argument that there is growing inequality? Wilkinson & Pickett suggested in The Spirit Level that the effects of inequality can be harmful in and of itself. Although there are certainly more than enough arguments to be analysed around this suggestion, it is to be discussed around three main arguments: The first one is the issue of race. The conclusion that Wilkinson considers is that it isethnic diversity, and not inequality, that is the main cause of social problems. As a result of this, he has been labelled as a 'racist” sociologist. However, the leaders of the Policy Exchange seem to disagree with this, saying that he is only being “oblivious and not one-sided” in his argument.
The second argument is that more unequal countries suffer worse social and health problems, because of the large groups of people of low socio-economic standards. When it comes to a standing for this argument, and rounds of statistical research, this does seem valid. However, difficulties arise when one tries to define what is meant by “poor” people. In summarising this argument and this term, any delineation will be arbitrary to an extant. (Wilinson, R. and Pickett, K. 2009)
The third argument deals with the problem of culture. Wilkinson and Pickett assume that inequality promotes lack of progression, and that trust is often lost within unequal societies. Mostly, they are suggesting that inequality is a changing factor of national culture. A change like this, with the emphasis on selfishness and individuality, could result in increased inequality through a lack of drive for egalitarianism. However, Wilkinson and Pickett would ask the questions “why do some people live in these places”, “why are they the way they are”, and then point the