What is social inequality and—according to the readings—where does it come from? Use specific examples from the readings to guide your analysis.
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Social inequality refers to a state in which individual groups in a specific society have different social status. This state of inequality is brought about by the ideologies that make one group in the society superior or superior to another one, such as sexism, different forms of discrimination, and the difference in economic classes. Social inequality affects various aspects of human life such as property rights, education, healthcare, and quality shelter. Social inequality arises when a specific group in society is treated unequally in areas that affect its social well being, for instance, failure to provide a mortgage loan for a Mexican immigrant living in Canada may flow down to affect his ability to have affordable housing, creating social inequality for the not only for him but also the Mexican population.
Define the terms Feudalism and Capitalism. What are a few of the key elements involved in the transition from feudalism to capitalism?
Feudalism is a stage in the development of a society that precedes capitalism, characterized by a series of legal and military principles that thrived in Europe between the 9th and 15th centuries. Loosely defined, feudalism was a system of organization in which land was structured into ‘Fiefs’ managed by lords and tended by servants. Capitalism, on the other hand, is an economic system in which property is owned by private individuals or corporations as opposed to cooperative or state ownership of property.
With time, the feudalism system of organization was replaced by capitalism due to various factors. The transition from feudalism to capitalism was a slow gradual process that was attributed to, among other factors, contradictions within the feudalism system. One of the key elements that pushed for this transition was another system known as mercantilism, a system that arose in the 17th and 18th centuries that asserted that a nations’ economic power depended on a healthy balance of trade. Hence, to remain economically and politically active, it must export more than it imports. Other factors that caused the transition included the development of town life, the loyalty of landed nobility to town rulers, and the rise of republicanism and confidence in civic liberty (Naiman, 2004).
Using Figure 5.1 in the section entitled “Analyzing Social Class” in week 6 as a model, give your own definitions of the terms: Capitalist Class, Middle Class, Working Class, Unemployed. How do these definitions function in contemporary Canadian society? Are they accurate?
- A capitalist class describes a social group whose members are dependent on ownership of the mode of production, and these include industrial units and land.
- A middle class describes a society that comprises a white-collar workforce (professionals), highly-skilled workers, and low-level employees. The wages for members of this class are intermediate between the upper class and the lower class.
- A working-class describes an economic class whose members earn a living from work, especially low-paying jobs that require low expertise. Generally, the members perform blue-collar jobs such as manufacturing or retail.
- In an unemployed economic class, a majority of the members are unemployed and earn their livelihood mainly from the informal sector such as agriculture.
The relevance of Social Class in Canada
The degree to which the concept of social class influences Canadian society is often underestimated. Compared to other societies, Canadians have a tendency of taking pride in being well off. Besides, Canadians tend to interact with persons who belong to their own class or are close to it. A central element of social inequality is income. Canada exhibits a disparity in earnings, the top 20% of families in Canada receive 43.6% of the total income while the bottom 20% only receive 5.2% of the income.
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This disparity also exists between race and ethnicity. For instance, Canadians of Japanese descent have the highest wages followed by English, French, African Americans, and finally, the natives. Gender, as is most societies around the world, affects the socioeconomic class as women earn less than men, hence, men are wealthier than women and enjoy more privileges.
Naiman, Joanne. How societies work: class, power and change in a Canadian context. Black Point: Fernwood Publishing, 2004. Print.