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Sociology Chapter 7: Stratification and Social Class

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Social class
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is the best indicator of an individual’s “life chances” (the sort of life he or she is likely to have).
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Social class
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is both a source of identity and a structure of inequality.
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Stratification
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is a ranking of people. All societies rank people in some way, although different societies use different criteria. Once ranked, people receive benefits and rewards (money, fame, power, etc.) according to their social location and regardless of their individual abilities. People nearly always stay in the social class into which they were born, even in societies like ours where some social mobility is possible.
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meritocracy
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in which those who rule the society, and those who take the most important jobs, are in those positions because they deserve to be.
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Karl Marx focused on…
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how stratification benefits those on top at the expense of those on the bottom. For Marx, stratification is a case of oppression and exploitation. This perspective best describes the sociological view of stratification today. Stratification divides people, and elites maintain it for their own benefit. They allow a small amount of social mobility to continue so that people will blame themselves when they do not succeed in rising in social class.
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America and the Myth of the Middle Class
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Americans generally believe that class is unimportant and that most Americans are middle class. In fact, however, class inequality is growing. • Since the start of the twentieth century, the middle class has expanded greatly, and as people have gained access to new goods (homes, stocks) they began to identify with owners rather than workers. As a result, most people define themselves as middle class even when they have to stretch the definition quite a bit to do so.
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Income Inequality
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The United States has the most extreme income inequality in the developed world, with the top 5 percent earning an average of 11 times more than the bottom 20 percent. Further, the income gap in the United States is widening, more than doubling between 1980 and 2000. There are even greater gaps between white people and people of color.
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Who Is Poor in America?
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Children and mothers are more likely than others to be poor, while the elderly are less likely than others to be poor.
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The Feminization of Poverty
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Women make up an increasing number of poor people both in the United States and globally Of the poor over the age of 18, 61, are women and 39% men. In high income countries, women live much longer than men eg. France =8.26 years, Switzerland =7.35 years
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bourgeoisie:
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popularized by Karl Marx, term for the upper-class capitalists who owned the means of production. In Marx’s time, they owned factories instead of farms. Today the term is also used to refer to upper-class managers who wield a lot of power
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caste system:
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fixed and permanent, assigned to it at birth, without any chance of getting out
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class:
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a group of people sharing the same social position in society. Class is based on income, power, and prestige
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class system
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system of stratification based on economic position in which people are ranked based on achieved status. The most open form (i.e., permitting the most social mobility) of stratification
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colonialism
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a political-economic system under which powerful countries established, for their own profit, rule over weaker peoples or countries and exploited them for their resources and cheap labor
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culture of poverty
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Oscar Lewis’s theory that poverty is not a result of individual inadequacies, but of larger social and cultural factors. Poor children are socialized into believing that they have nothing to strive for, that there is no point in working to improve their conditions. As adults, they are resigned to a life of poverty, and they socialize their children the same way. Therefore poverty is transmitted from one generation to another
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dependency theory
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theory that focuses on the unequal relationship between wealthy countries and poor countries, arguing that poverty is the result of exploitation
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feminization of poverty
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sociological term for the confluence of factors that has made women a disproportionate number of the poor. (Worldwide, of all impoverished people over the age of 18, 61% are women and 39% are men) (p. 205).
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feudalism
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ystem of stratification common in medieval Europe between the eleventh and sixteenth centuries, in Japan, and a few other regions, where there were a few merchants and “free men,” but most of the population consisted of peasants and serfs, who worked the estates belonging to feudal lords (1 to 3% of the population). Feudalism was also a fixed and permanent system: If you were born a lord or a serf, you stayed there your whole life (p. 192).
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global commodity chain:
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global inequality
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meritocracy
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social system in which the greater the functional importance of the job, the more rewards it brings, in salary, perks, power, and prestige
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modernization theory
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W. W. Rostrow’s theory focusing on the conditions necessary for a lowincome country to develop economically. Arguing that a nation’s poverty is largely due to the cultural failings of its people, Rostrow believed poor countries could develop economically only if they give up their “backward” way of life and adopt modern Western economic institutions, technologies, and cultural values that emphasize savings and productive investment (p. 214).
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poverty line
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estimated minimum income required to pay for food, shelter, and clothing.Anyone falling below this income is categorized as poor
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power:
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the ability to get others to do what you want them to do, regardless of their own desires
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proletariat
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popularized by Karl Marx, the term for the lower classes who were forced to become wage laborers or go hungry. Today, the term is often used to refer to the working class
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social mobility
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the movement from one class to another, it can occur in two forms: intergenerational—that is, your parents are working class, but you become lower, or your parents are middle class, but you become upper class; and intragenerational—that is, you move from working to lower, or from middle to upper, all within your lifetime
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social stratification
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taken from the geological term for layers of rock or “strata,” the ranking of people into defined layers. Social stratification exists in all societies and is based on things like wealth, race, and gender
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socioeconomic status
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your social connections, your taste in art, your ascribed and achieved statuses, and more. Because there are so many components, sociologists today tend to prefer the concept of socioeconomic status to that of social class, to emphasize that people are ranked through the intermingling of many factors, economic, social, political, cultural, and community
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status
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one’s socially defined position in a group; it is often characterized by certain expectations and rights
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structural mobility
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when people experience social mobility because the entire society got wealthier
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underclass
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about four percent of the U.S. population, this group has no income, no connection to the job market, little education, inadequate nutrition, and substandard housing or none at all. They have no possibility of social mobility and little chance of achieving the quality of life that most people would consider minimally acceptable
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world system theory
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Immanuel Wallerstein’s theory that the interconnectedness of the world system began in the 1500s, when Europeans began their economic and political domination of the rest of the world. Because capitalism depends on generating the maximum profits for the minimum expenditures, the world system continues to benefit rich countries (which acquire the profits) and harm the rest of the world (by minimizing local expenditures and therefore perpetuating poverty)
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Class consciousness
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is the perception that a class structure exists, as does the feeling of shared identification with others in one’s class.
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Estate.
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n a (n) _______ system of stratification, the ownership of property and the exercise of power is monopolized by an elite who have total control over society resources.
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One’s place in the stratification system is an
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Ascribed Status
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mode of production
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ociety organizes itself in order to produce the things it needs, and to distribute rewards for this, and this system is our mode of production
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relations of production
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The relationships people develop to facilitate this process are called the relations of production.
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Burgeoise
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and everyone else works for them. Marx called the upper class, who owned the means of production, the bourgeoisie, and the lower class, who worked for the owners, the proletariat. Marx said that the system was inherently unfair because the proletariat was
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Means of production
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Karl Marx defined classes in terms of their relationship to: