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Sociology of inequality

Patterns of unequal access to social resources are also commonly called social inequalities.According to G D Berreman out of differentiation of persons that is a natural and universal phenomenon, inequality or social evaluation of differences arise. They are a result of association of individuals to different social groups that are evaluated differently by the society. Inequality is an important area of study in sociology. In every society some people have a greater share of the valued resources like money, property, education, health and power than others. These social resources can be divided into four forms of capital according to Pierre Bourdieu-

  • Economic capital in the form of material assets and income.
  • Cultural capital such as educational qualification and status.
  • Social capital in the form of networks of contacts and social associations.
  • Symbolic capital like social status and good reputation.

Often these forms of  capital overlap and one can be converted into the other.Inequalities existed from age and studied by many scholars.Rousseau identified two kinds of inequality among people first natural or physical inequality ,referring to difference of age,health,bodily strength and mental abilities and second moral or political inequality referring to differences in privileges that are established or authorized by the consent of people themselves. Haralambos and Holborn in their Sociology : Themes and Perspectives ,2014  have classified all types of inequalities  in two broad types of inequalities  which are inequality of power and inequality of material well being.These inequalities become repressive when they are rigidly enforced.Caste,slavery,bondage etc are such examples .Inequalities take the form of stratification in a society when they are present in the structure of the society in different hierarchical patterns. Inequalities exist at micro level as well as macro level.Globally nations are also divided as first world countries and the third world countries.Dependency theory expresses these inequalities from a Marxist perspective.Marxists attribute inequalities in societies to the unequal access to the forces of production. According to them ,opportunities and resources are monopolized by few at the expense of the others which lead to inequalities in societies. Functionalists argue that inequalities in society as inevitable as they ensure that all kinds of jobs get done in the society. Inequalities are a result of unequal capabilities of individuals and they get unequal rewards for that. According to Goran Therborn in his, The Killing Fields of Inequality 2015, inequalities are produced and sustained socially by systemic arrangements, processes and distributive actions, individuals as well as collective. Hence both individual and collective actions cause inequalities and both structures as well as social actions are causes of it. Attempts  have been made to measure inequalities especially economic inequalities  in objective terms by the economists. There are several surveys and reports which have highlighted various forms of inequality.


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