Social a very powerful consequence on individual action.

Social inequality,
probably like most of the different social problems our society is facing now,
can be traced back very early in our history, and may be an inevitable
consequence of our advancement as a society. As societies evolve and become
more complex, common social standing cannot be kept and maintained anymore.
Social inequality may be originated on how human beings, as they advanced in
their mode of living, started to specialize and divide the kind of task they
can do or perform in relation to the development of the group or society it
belongs to. Such idea does not seem to be harmful, if anything it may seem just
practical and natural that human beings learn such strategy to adapt and evolve
in his environment. However, in our modern society, we now have the concept of
social inequality ultimately brought by such evolution. We can understand these
ideas about social inequality through different perspectives: Durkheim’s
functionalist approach, Marx’ class struggles or conflict theory, and Weber’s
multidimensional approach considering wealth, power, and prestige. The
different perspectives are actually important and relevant in understanding
social inequality for it represents more valuable topic for discussion and
exploration to understand differences in societies and its development, which
is ultimately one of sociology’s goal as a field of study. The importance of
such phenomenon then is not a matter of question of importance, but it is a
necessity to sociology.

            For Durkheim, such social
stratification resulting to inequality is simply a function of the system due
to the divisions of labor that maintains social organization and solidarity.
Durkheim thought of society as an object, a thing that has a very powerful
consequence on individual action. He believed social inequalities exist because
it basically has a role in facilitating social cohesion. Not that it is
functional in the sense that it is “healthy” for the society, for Durkheim it
is actually reflective of abnormalities and pathologies in the system solidified
by two forms: mechanical or organic. A society with mechanical solidarity,
cohesion is based from social relations regulated by shared belief systems –
common conscience, hence deviance or being perceived different tended to
emphasize violations of social norms or the common conscience. On the other
hand, a society with organic solidarity is based from the idea that development
of societies into more and more complex organizations does not require
disintegration but interdependence. Production cannot be made alone,
individually; hence there is a need for interaction that recognizes
interdependent needs. In relation to such explanation of social organization
and cohesion, such social inequality may be considered an anomie on Durkheim’s
perspectives. Anomies may be understood as insufficient normative regulation
which could happen when social changes cause individuals within a society to
experience alienation from group goals and values, losing sight of shared
interests based from mutual dependence. Values became norms which are
generalized instead of personally embraced. Such made human’s ultimate capacity
for consciousness and activity routinely, dull, losing its sense in the role of
production, making individuals less committed to the process or the
organization. Moreover, another form of anomie identified by Durkheim is egoism.
As people became more and more individualized yet less and less committed to
social values and norms it results in self-centeredness which is ultimately
destructive of the individual’s well-being and present itself as an anomie in
social solidarity (DL Durkheim: 23-47). Durkheim ultimately believed the
division of labor created this social stability, thus moving history
forward.  On the other hand, Marx and
Weber, focused on the specifics of social inequalities; class, status groups,
and wealth, power, and prestige.

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            Marx may have one of the most famous
and most referenced theoretical perspectives on inequalities due to his class
theory. For Marx, inequalities itself made way for social development, “the
history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”.
Inequalities focus on the difference among individuals and societies their
relative positions in the regard of the means of production and control over it
of which all of societies depend, and of which differential access means
differences in resources and power. In the world of capitalism, the bourgeoisie
hold the means on which all of society depends which gives them all the
resources and power, while the proletariats are basically exploited to keep the
system of capitalism running and organized. Marx believed that this creates a
sort of hostility, which in turn creates periods, and causes revolutions.
History ultimately then moves forward because the division of labor creates
conflict. Moreover, such make the development of class interest possible –
differences of values, beliefs of societies according to their class (MCP Marx
and Engels: 469-491).

Weber on the other hand, further specified this and not just
focused on economic inequalities per se. Specifically, Weber refers to status
which is related to how people judge or relate to each other; class which
refers to one’s means of acquiring resources; and party which relates to
politics in general. According to Weber, individuals and groups tend to look
after their own interests in relation to this thus reproducing and sustaining
social inequality. According to Weber, status is formed out of our tendency to
judge other people according to set of categories in relation to our group
identification; social status then develops from it. Status then is based on
identification and validation of oneself in a group and denial of other group
and their members in relation to differences in norms and values within groups.
On the other hand, wealth and economic advantages are significant elements of
class and can further be extended for one’s acquisition of power and prestige,
which also affects one’s status and that of the group (CSP Weber: 43-61).  Weber ultimately thought status is your
position in society, prestige. For class, he believed this is how much money
you have.

            The perspectives of Durkheim, Marx,
and Weber do not actually contradict each other despite the differences, but
complement and support each other’s claims. Durkheim provided a general view of
social organization according to each one’s function in its cohesion while Marx
and Weber specified the possible solidarities and anomies that keep the
different societies together. Such theories show social inequality as a social
problem but a problem that still persists due to the existence of the
individuals, the groups, and the whole of society’s interaction which keeps its
existence despite all anomies. We came this far in our conception of social
inequalities for we also came this far as a complex society and civilization.
Individuals after individuals’ interest as well as the group interest that they
present and bring into the interaction of things ultimately keep the society
together. Individually, the effects of social inequalities are felt at different
levels among societies. Depending on socioeconomic or socio-demographic status
discrimination are rampant in all areas of our society which just make the
anomies worse. Individuals negatively affected by the conditions in a society
that necessitate such negativities would ultimately not achieve the kind of
solidarity that Durkheim envisions.

            According to Marx, such inequalities
can only be solved through revolutions – over throwing the class which holds
the mode of production by the masses who were being exploited. Struggling it
seems will ultimately lead to class consciousness. But, such should first
address the elements specified by Weber – inequalities in wealth, power, or
prestige. Moreover, since Durkheim perceived it functional under an abnormal
society, it would seem that there is no possible solution or there is which
would not be very easy… Dollard in his Caste and Class in a Southern Town
closed the chapter V with this statement, “Perhaps an increasingly democratic
organization of American society would begin to function psychologically by
forcing increasing number of people to suppress their hostile and exploitative
tendencies towards others, in all spheres, the economic, the sexual, and that
of prestige.” (CC Dollard: 61-77)

            Ultimately, it is not just about
overthrowing a specific class, or simply understanding each one’s function or
the specifics of it in a society. Solving social inequalities require so much
from the individual and the collective in terms of values and belief
reorientation. It requires interdependence not on forced solidarity, but from
interdependence based from the idea of needing each other naturally for this
society to prosper as a whole.


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