Sociology: Privilege

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1. (a) Privilege is defined as a favor or right granted to some people, but not to everyone.
(b) Power is defined as strength, ability, or a driving force. (c) Difference is defined as the way in which two things are not the same. (d) According to MacIntosh there are two types of privileges. The first is based on what she calls “unearned entitlements,” which are things that all people should have. Some examples are feeling safe in a public place or working in a place where they feel that they belong and are valued for what they can contribute. The other type of privilege is what MacIntosh calls “unearned advantage,” and occurs when “unearned entitlements” are restricted to certain groups. An example would be a white person feeling out of place at a downtown nightclub. (e) The paradox in privilege is that individuals are the one’s who experience privilege or the lack of it, but individuals are not what are actually privileged. Instead, privilege is defined in relation to a group or a social category. For example, race privilege is more about white people than it is about white people. Privileges are only granted in society when people identify the individual as belonging to a specific category, race, gender, or cultural background. By saying that oppression is the flip side of privilege the author means that for every social category that is privileged, one or more other categories are oppressed in relation to it. Oppression points toward the social forces that “press” upon people and hold them back, thus blocking their pursuit of a good life.
2. (a) Capitalism is defined as an economic system based on ownership of resources by individuals or companies and not by the state. Capitalism as it relates to sociology has to do with the fact that it not only produces enormous amounts of wealth, but that it creates extreme levels of inequality among social classes and societies. Capitalism also has made the rich richer and the poor poorer and has opened the gap in the U.S. class system. The matrix of domination says that each particular form of privilege, whether based on race, gender, sexual orientation, class, religion, or ethnicity, exists only as a much larger system of privilege. It works by simplifying and clarifying the gray areas that we encounter in privilege. It allows us to see that each form of privilege exists only in relation to all the rest and keeps us from trying to figure out which is the worst or most oppressive.

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