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Theories of Inequality

Marxist Social Conflict Perspective

View of Society Causes of Inequality Plan for Action Problems with Marx Useful Insights from Marx

Webers Social Conflict Perspective

View of Society Multidimensional View of Inequality Outlook on the Future

Structural Functional Perspective (Davis & Moore)

View of Society Explanation of Inequality Problems with Davis and Moores Perspective Useful Insights from Davis and Moore

Karl Marx

View of Society

context Political context Modes of production


of production Relations of production


assumptions for Marx

Causes of Inequality and the Labor Theory of Value


of capitalists under

capitalism Leads to exploitation of the worker Leads to sharp divisions between classes Leads to feelings of alienation and frustration by workers.

Plan for Action: Becoming Class Conscious

Concentration Deprivation Economic

and Communication

Insecurity Alienation at Work Polarization Homogenization Organization and Struggle

Problems with Marx


did not occur Capitalism was more prosperous for the worker class than Marx predicted Profits dont necessarily come solely from labor Marx did not account for other divisions in society besides class Marx does not account for authority

Useful Insights from Marx


was right that once in large factories workers would organize

Useful Insights from Marx


is a growing gap between upper and lower classes, e.g. CEO salary compared to worker salary:
45 xs 1991 141 xs 2002 500 xs

In 1996, Business Week published the findings of an income survey of the top two executives at 362 of the nation's largest companies.
CEO pay and other trends (original figures have been converted into constant 96 dollars) (10) 1990 1995 Percent change --------------------------------------------------------------------Average CEO pay $2.34 million $3.86 million +65% Average worker pay $27,615 $27,448 -0.6% Corporate profits $212 billion $317 billion +50% Worker layoffs 316,047 persons 439,882 persons +39%

Current CEO compensation and the bailout.

Useful Insights from Marx


conflict does exist Trends in the deskilling of American workers

Useful Insights from Marx


has generated greater concentrations of wealth owned by fewer people


100 of top 200,000 corps. controlled 40% of industrial assets 1986--top 100 controlled 61%

Source: Wolff, Edward N. 2007. Recent Trends in Household Wealth in the United States: Rising Debt and the Middle-Class Squeeze. p. 15 (

Max Weber 1864-1920

Webers Approach to Inequality


view of society. Webers multidimensional view of inequality. Webers outlook on the future.

Webers View of Society


is located in ideas Religion as source of ideas leading to capitalism


Protestant Ethic The Spirit of Capitalism

The Emergence of Capitalism

Protestant Ethic Protestant Reformation Luthers idea of a calling Notion that God expected people to master the world and master nature Doctrine of predestination (Calvin)

The Emergence of Capitalism


ethic established a rational approach to the unlimited pursuit of profit = capitalism

Webers Multidimensional View of Inequality

Class Status Power/Party

Webers view of the future


is inevitable Iron Cage of Bureaucracy

Structural Functionalist Approach to Inequality (Davis and Moore)


of Society Explanation of Inequality Flaws and Useful Insights

Kingsley Davis (1908-1997) Wilbert E. Moore (1914-1987)

View of Society

ideas of functionalism-society is like an organism with interdependent parts Davis & Moore--society is a hierarchy of positions Key assumptions

Explanation of Inequality

is necessary
best people to take appropriate

positions Insure people perform once in those positions


are positions ranked?


importance Scarcity of skill

Explanation of Inequality

are people matched to positions?


rewards are attached to more important positions (i.e. those that require greater skill or training)
Economic Prestige Ascetic

Flaws of Davis & Moores Theory


to blaming the victim. Equality of opportunity is implied Training is not always costly Over-emphasizes the value of economic rewards Most important jobs are not always highly rewarded (and vice versa) Who gets to decide which jobs are the most functionally important?

Useful Insights

of the importance of occupation to the placement of individuals in society Taps into our notion of how things should work--meritocracy

Inequality Class Consciousness Conflict Change

Inequality Rationality Conflict

Communism Change


Three Perspectives on How Society is Divided

Capitalist (Bourgeoisie)
Class Status Party Hierarchy of Positions

Worker (Proletariat)



Davis and Moore