Theories of Social Inequality

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Theories of Social Inequality In briefly evaluating the classical and modern explanations of social inequality, it is essential that we step outside the realm of our own lives, class position, and discard any assumptions we might have about the nature of inequality. This process of critical pedagogy allows us to view our world, not from our perspective, but from a wider, more critical analysis of inequality's nature. Also, it should be considered within this wider perspective that all theories of inequality have a class perspective, where the theorist, based on the position their theory takes, is making claims from (or for) a particular class (whether they want to or not). With this in mind, it seems that most of these theories come from fairly elite class perspectives and, in turn, tend to be more pessimistic about bringing change to the inequalities they are evaluating. Of the classical (elite) explanations of inequality, Max Weber's seemed to be most accepted within the domain of sociology and other social sciences dealing with modes of inequality. Weber, who believes that we are living within a sort of "iron cage" which cannot allow us to look beyond the rules and regulations of our capitalist system, emphasizes the importance of power relationships in society. Those who are in class positions at the top of the apex (of power distribution) are the people who, one, hold most of the power in society, and two, make the choices for the direction and reproduction of society. The majorities at the bottom of the apex, with very limited power, are unable to make choices that would bring them to their ends. The core attributes of the economic system are alienation and the bureaucracy, which create a dehumanizing effect on the charac... ... middle of paper ... ...m, the capitalists decide what, when, & how the conditions of labor are to be performed. The working class, on the other hand, are trading their labor for capital—making them basically products for capitalists to exploit. So, in terms of surplus, the capitalist receives all surplus (and is trying to maximize his surplus) while the working class are providing the capitalist with the means for his end (profit). In this system, Marx believes that these positions of class are maintained by the very structure of the capitalist system. This system is geared to reproduce itself, as it must, in every aspect of the life it provides—socially, ideologically, politically, and so on. Therefore, wealth and material gains become more important than moral and social improvements, and we begin to value our world in terms of efficiency, profitability, and material worth.
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