1 Chapter 7 The Cultural Construction of Social Hierarchy
2 Problem 7 Why are modern societies characterized by social, political, and economic inequalities?
3 Questions 7-1 How do societies rank people in social hierarchies? 7-2 Why do social and economic inequalities exist? 7-3 How do people come to accept social hierarchies as natural? 7-4 How do people living in poverty adapt to their condition? 7-5 Can a non-stratified community exist within a larger hierarchal society?
4 Inequality There are few, if any, modern nations in which one portion of the population does not in some way enjoy privileges that other portions do not share. In the U.S., in 2006, the poorest 20% of the population earned 3.4% of the total income, whereas the richest 5% earned 22.3%.
5 Question 1: How do societies rank people in social hierarchies? Social classes: a system of social stratification based on income or possession of wealth and resources. Individual social mobility is possible in a class system. Castes: a system of social stratification based on assignment at birth to the ranked social or occupational groups of parents. There is no mobility from one caste to another, and intermarriage may be forbidden
6 American Social Hierarchies In American society people are stratified by income and personal possessions into social classes. They are classified by cultural or family background into ethnic groups or by skin color into racial categories. They are also classified by gender and age, as well as by standards such as education.
7 Caste System In a caste system, individuals are assigned at birth to the ranked social and occupational groups of their parents. A person s place in the social order is fixed; there is no mobility between castes. Castes are separated by rules that forbid intermarriage, eating together, speaking to each other and working together.
8 Youth and Class Excluded from local economies Neo-liberalism has cut off state aid Marginalized in society Crisis of masculinity Autonomy and own space
9 Youth and Class The dilemma of youth as a marginalized social category is also evident in the obsession with social structures that they create. These are particularly evident in the American high school. -Jocks -Nerds -Geeks -Cheerleaders -Punks
10 Question 2: Why do social and economic inequalities persist? There is a basic contradiction in Western values: We praise equality, but massive inequalities persist and, in fact, grow nationally and internationally.
11 Debt and the Redistribution of Wealth We can divide people into two economic categories: Net Debtors Net Creditors
12 Devaluing Labor Stratification arises when one group seeks to exploit the resources or labor of others. Means of production: the materials, such as land, machines, or tools, that people need to produce things Surplus value of labor: suggested by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels for the portion of a person s labor that is retained as profit by those who control the means of production
13 Outsourcing The movement of industry and jobs from richer countries to poorer countries Outsourcing has contributed to the decline in wages and the destruction of labor unions
14 Constructing a New Racism New racism is racism based on culture instead of biological characteristics. Modern forms of racism are a 17 th and 18 th century phenomenon created to justify European economic expansion, slavery, and the killing and subjugation of millions of people.
15 Constructing the Ideology of Racism Ideology of class: set of beliefs characteristic of stratified societies that justifies the division of a society into groups with differential rights and privileges as being natural and right
16 Constructing Race In the 1800s, Samuel George Morton collected and measured thousands of skulls to try to prove that whites were the naturally superior race. He believed he proved that white skulls (and therefore brains) were larger than those of other races, meaning that whites are naturally more intelligent.
17 Constructing Race His findings were disproved in 1977 by Stephen Jay Gould, who shows that Morton s finding were skewed and incorrect.
18 Constructing Intelligence The concept of intelligence neatly solves the problem of the presumed equality of opportunity in America. People accept the idea that intelligence explains how well people do in life. Thus, people s rank in society depends solely on their own natural ability. Moreover, if intelligence is inherited, then we can explain why the children of successful people tend to be successful and why certain groups are disproportionately poor.
19 Constructing Intelligence
20 Constructing Stratification by Gender The belief that the superiority of men over women was not socially constructed but natural. Many people believed that women s bodies defined both their social position and their role, which was to reproduce, as men s bodies dictated that they manage, control, and defend.
21 Constructing Gender There is still a belief, found in language, that men are naturally superior to women. Even the language of science contributes to this misconception.
22 Constructing Gender Our language still depicts the female body as a machine. Menstruation and menopause are viewed negatively. Menstruation: failure to reproduce Menopause: the body is no longer able to fulfill its proper goal
23 Question 4: How do people living in poverty adopt to their condition? Anthropologist Oscar Lewis coined the term culture of poverty to describe the worldview of people who inhabit urban and rural slums. Some anthropologists maintain that the behavior of people in poverty represents their adaptations to their socioeconomic condition. These conditions are the result of inequality, reinforced by racism and an economic system that requires cheap labor.
24 Reciprocity and Kinship In the late 1960s, anthropologist Carol B. Stack conducted studies of how families cope with poverty. She worked with a predominantly black community she called The Flats, in a Midwestern city of 55,000. Unemployment was over 20% and 63% of the jobs were in low-paying occupations such as maids, cooks, and janitors. Only 10% of whites lived in housing classed as deteriorating, compared with 26% of blacks.
25 Reciprocity and Kinship Stack discovered that the residents fostered kinship ties and created fictive kinship links to form cooperative groups that would ensure economic and social support in times of need. People regularly swapped food, shelter, child care, and personal possessions. Anthropologists call this type of sharing generalized reciprocity.
26 Reciprocity and Kinship The advantage of generalized reciprocity is that widespread sharing ensures that nobody lacks the basic needs for survival. In balanced reciprocity, items are exchanged on the spot. Negative reciprocity is an attempt to get something for nothing or make a profit.
27 Culture of Poverty Anthropologists have found that people living in poverty find ways to adapt to their circumstances. The Flats - El Barrio - Shantytowns They do not passively accept their position at the bottom of a stratified society. They have the same social and economic aspirations as those who have greater income and opportunity.
28 Crack in El Barrio Selling crack enables some members of El Barrio to amass both wealth and prestige. (?) In this environment of little economic opportunity, drugs play economic, psychological, and social functions. Women in El Barrio face their own special problems. They must be able to balance the demands of the two state agencies that dominate their lives the penal system and the welfare system.
30 Question 5: Can a nonstratified community exist within a hierarchical society? For thousands of years, groups in stratified societies attempted to create utopian social settings. Anthropologist Charles Erasmus examined hundreds of utopian communities in an effort to discover why most failed but some succeeded. He found that the main problem was trying to motivate members to contribute to the common good without the promise of individual rewards.
31 The Hutterites The Hutterites originated during the Protestant Reformation. In 1528 they began to establish colonies throughout what Germany, Austria, and Russia. Their pacifism brought them into conflict with European governments, and in 1872, to avoid conscription, they immigrated to South Dakota.
32 The Hutterites During World War I, a confrontation over military conscription with state and federal authorities in the United States resulted in a Hutterite move to Canada. Their successful agricultural techniques were valued in the United States during the Great Depression and state governments persuaded them to return to the United States. In the early 1970s, there were more than 37,000 Hutterites distributed among 360 colonies in the United States and more than 9,000 in 246 colonies in Canada.
33 The Hutterites The Hutterites reject competition, violence, and war and believe that property is to be used and not possessed. They respect the need for government, but do not believe they should involve themselves in it or hold public office. It is a family-based, agricultural community in which everyone is expected to contribute to the work and share equally in the bounty.
34 The Hutterites Members do not participate in decision-making until they are married. Women are considered intellectually and physically inferior to men. Hutterites renounce private adornment and ostentatious displays of wealth and practice collective consumption.
35 The Hutterites The Hutterites, by a collective effort, have created within the larger society a community without poverty, without economic classes, with little or no crime, where each person, without the promise of material reward, contributes to the common good.
36 Hutterites of North Dakota
38 Glossary of Key Terms Balanced Reciprocity (p.285) A form of exchange in which items of equal or nearequal value are exchanged on the spot. Culture of Poverty (p. 284) A phrase coined by Oscar Lewis to describe the lifestyle and worldview of people who inhabit urban and rural slums. Generalized Reciprocity (p. 285) A form of exchange in which persons share what they have with others but expect them to reciprocate later. Gini Coefficient (p. 256) A measure of variability, developed by Italian statistician and demographer Corrado Gini, used to measure income distribution. Means of Production (p. 267) The materials, such as land, machines, or tools, that people need to produce things. Negative Reciprocity (p. 285) A form of exchange in which the object is to get something for nothing or to make a profit.
39 Outsourcing (p. 268) The process whereby corporations and businesses move all or some of their operations from rich countries to poorer ones to reduce their labor costs and escape environmental and labor laws. Racism (p. 270) A set of beliefs, behaviors, and symbolic representations that turn perceived or constructed differences among people thought to be indelible into inequality. Social Classes (p. 261) A system of social stratification based on income or possession of wealth and resources. Individual social mobility is possible in a class system. Structural Violence (p. 299) The actions or policies of governments or multilateral organizations that result in denial to the poor of basic rights of food, shelter, or livelihood. Surplus Value of Labor (p. 267) The term suggested by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels for the portion of a person s labor that is retained as profit by those who control the means of production.
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