Social Inequality Essay, Research Paper
As we prosper through time, inequality is slowly less evident. A lot of people don’t realize that although things are improving with time, inequality is still prominent in our society. The people that are failing to realize that there still is inequality, are the fortunate ones. They rise well above the poverty line, and usually live relatively economically sound lives. They are the people who are supplied with our society’s benefits.
The people that are in pursuit of social change, and constantly bring attention to issues of equal rights and privileges, are often the people that do not have them. They are the ones who suffer daily from different levels of inequality.
The majority of post-secondary students are considered to be privileged people. This tends to cause an ignorance, or lack of education, towards inequality because most of the students do not experience great levels of inequality. When our class was given our first quiz, everybody was able to feel a sense of inequality. As the class was divided into the different time groups, every student felt the unequal opportunity. Even the students that were allotted the most time for the quiz were able to at least see the inequality. As different times were announced the less fortunate students began to complain, and the more fortunate ones realized that their once equal peers, were now placed in an unequal situation. Since most of the students do not experience great amounts of inequality, the unequal time distribution shocked them.
Fortunately for myself, I have grown up in an upper-middle class family. Although my parents have always tried to educate me on inequality, I never experienced much of it. During the class exercise I was placed in group three, and was given six minutes to complete my quiz. Although this was almost enough time for me to complete my quiz, I was definitely jealous of the students that were allotted more time. Even though the groups were arranged randomly, I still felt like I was treated unequally to my peers. I felt unequal to both my peers that had more, and less time, than me. The situation made me angry, and I wanted an explanation from the instructor for the unequal situation that was forced upon me. I felt the injustice because I had a different time to write my quiz than a neighboring peer; who pays the same tuition, and attends the same class as I do. I wanted to know why some of my peers were given more time than I was, thus enabling them to possibly score higher on the quiz. This quiz was the first mark of the course, and was I worried that my first grade was going to be a poor one.
When the instructor explained the purpose of the exercise I realized what an excellent point he had proven. He forced us in an unequal situation that was out of our control. It was nothing we could have predicted or done anything about.
This unique exercise put me on a new level of stratification that I was not used to. It made me feel how other people, not only in my society, but worldwide, feel about inequality everyday. The difference was that I was soon given an explanation, and returned to my regular level of stratification. Many people in our society are given no explanation to their forced inequality. Although the classroom exercise does not compare to the real world, it still stirred feelings of rage, helplessness and discouragement. Looking through the window of the unequal situation changed my views on lower groups of society. It made me realize how difficult social mobility can be. I can understand the Davis-Moore thesis, which states that stratification has beneficial consequences. It is easy for people on the higher end of the stratification hierarchy to agree with this because they believe that the harder one works, the more they will achieve, thus promoting production in society. Individuals at lower ends of the stratification system disagree with that. Their social status prevents them from achieving their best because all of the benefits and advantages are given to those of a higher status. The lower class is constantly denied society’s privileges, such as education. This tends to discourage them, often leaving them feeling helpless. Unfortunately this helplessness tends to be viewed by many higher class people as laziness. What is not realized is that social stratification is a character of society, and not just a reflection on individual differences. Stratification is universal but variable. It involves beliefs and persists over generations (Macionis 220). The lower class often questions the point of its effort into an unforgiving society when the outcome is inevitable. This all ties in with the numerous reasons that cause poverty and homelessness. This ultimately creates a never-ending class system of inequality that so many are trying to dismantle. Class systems are based on individual achievement, which strongly ties in the Davis-Moore Thesis. Unfortunately social mobility is not evenly achieved amongst the levels of stratification. The higher the level of stratification the easier social mobility tends to be. In the example of the class exercise, the level or stratification can be compared to the time given in each group. The more time the person had, the better chance they had at scoring higher on the quiz. The people who had more time on the quiz can be compared to individuals at higher levels of stratification.
Lower classes of stratification are not given the same opportunities as higher classes. Lower classes have ascribed statuses that are difficult to rise up from. For example, if an individual is born into a family where the children are forced to work to support the family, these children may be deprived of the opportunity to prosper. They have the ascribed status of a worker, and have little, if any chance of achieving a more successful status in life. If the individual’s family suffers a great deal of inequality, and the individual wishes to pursue extended levels of education for greater career opportunities, because of their ascribed circumstances they may not have the opportunity.
Most people look down upon lower classes, failing to realize that inequality deprives those people of the equal rights to prosperity. This occurs not only in a few societies, but all around the world.
According to the social conflict paradigm, society is a complex system characterized by inequality and conflict, which generate social change. Power and privilege are distributed unequally by social class, race, gender and age. These inequalities are often reinforced in societal institutions (Macionis 19).
My participation in the class exercise allowed me to have an experience of life through the eyes a lower class individual. Even though the real world is much more extreme than the class exercise, I was still able to understand society and its levels of inequality. After experiencing society from a different perspective, I realize that although society has changed from the days of extreme inequality, it still needs much attention to equalizing the privileges between the different levels of stratification.
Macionis, John and Gerber, Linda. Sociology. 3rd ed. Prentice-Hall Canada Inc.: Ontario, 1999.