Table of Contents
- 1 Concept of Equality:
- 2 Concept of Inequality :
- 3 Some important things to know about social inequality:
- 4 The Concept of a hierarchy:
- 5 How the Concept of hierarchy is used in the study of social stratification:
- 6 The relationship between hierarchy with power and authority
- 7 Concept of Social Exclusion:
- 8 What social exclusion is:
- 9 Three Broad Overlapping Usages of the Concept:
- 10 The Concept of Poverty:
- 11 Absolute and Relative Poverty:
- 12 Deprivation:
- 13 Absolute Deprivation and relative Deprivation:
- 14 Theories of poverty
- 15 The culture of poverty: Oscar Lewis
- 16 Situational Constraints Theory is a solution to a “culture of poverty.”
- 17 Poverty and Social Stratification
- 18 The Marxist view of poverty
- 19 From Weber’s point of view, poverty is:
- 20 Functional perspective on poverty :
- 21 The way to solve the problem of poverty:
Concept of Equality:
The study of social division is always linked to the ideas of equality and inequality, which in sociology mean “social equality” and “social inequality.” Both of these ideas seem to have been around as long as people have been thinking about society, because they are so tied to what we value. In the past of humanity, there have been a lot of social leaders and reformers who worked hard and fought for equality and to get rid of or at least reduce inequality. Even though they tried, inequality still exists, and making everyone fair is still a dream that hasn’t come true.
1. Since the beginning of time, “equality” has been one of the most important things to people. But social division has always been a part of how people live together. J.J. Rousseau, one of the thinkers behind the French Revolution of 1789, understood this when he said, “Men are born free and equal, but everywhere they are in chains.” The fight for equality and against unfairness and inequality is still going on today.
2. In general, the word “equality” means “the state of being the same in some way.” Equality, or social equality, is when everyone in a group or society has the same amount of money, power, or status. Social equality is when everyone has the same amount of power, wealth, or respect or shares it with everyone else.
3. Even though the word “equality” has political, legal, and psychological connotations, sociologists have mostly talked about it in terms of how it affects society as a whole. Since the French Revolution and the rise of liberal governments in Europe, most people have thought of equality mostly in terms of political equality. For instance, liberal democracy believes that equality means that each citizen has the same rights and responsibilities. In this case, equality includes constitutional rights, which are things like the right to hold government office, the right to use all civic rights, and so on.
4. Fair distribution of income and wealth is a big part of social equality. The liberal democratic focus on individual equality doesn’t give similar income and wealth a lot of attention. Critics have said that the uneven division of income and wealth hurts all other efforts to make everyone the same. Because people with more money or resources always have an edge over those with less. Sociologists have shown how people’s material means affect their chances in life. For example, they have shown how a child’s material means affect how well he or she does in school. This kind of access to material means also affects a person’s ability to go to school and get a lawyer.
5. Equalitarian Goals of Welfare Have Not Been Met: Many empirical studies have shown that, despite efforts to help poor people with education, housing, health care, income maintenance, etc., inequality has stayed the same or even gotten worse. It is surprising to learn that the liberal governments of the West have shown that egalitarian goals of welfare are not acceptable to the majority.
Concept of Inequality :
1. There is inequality in every society, no matter when or where it is. People’s looks, skills, physical strength, and personalities may all play a role in keeping injustice alive. But there are also trends of inequality based on how people are placed in society.
• There are two different kinds of inequality:
2. Natural inequality is based on things like age, gender, height, weight, etc., while man-made inequality can be either horizontal or vertical. For example, different occupational groups do different things, but when these groups become social groups by being put in a hierarchy and interacting with each other within the group and between groups, this is called social inequality.
3. How to Use the Idea of “Social Inequality” in an Analysis of “Social Stratification”: “Social inequality” refers to differences that are caused by society. Stratification is one way that people are treated differently in society. It means that there are different social groups that are ranked based on how much power, respect, and money their members have. Those who are part of a certain group or layer will know that they share some interests and identities. They will all live the same way, which will set them apart from people in other social classes. In old India, Hindu society was split into five main groups: the four Varnas and the out caste, also called “untouchables.” The Brahmins are at the top of this order, and the people who can’t touch them are at the bottom. Different people in the past have looked at this kind of inequality from different points of view, such as economic, political, religious, etc.
4. PLATO was one of the first people to admit that there will always be differences between people and to suggest ways that money, status, and power could be shared differently for the good of both the person and society.
5. Plato’s idea for a society is for it to be divided into classes, with each person belonging to one of three groups:
• The helpers or workers.
6. He made sure that everyone had the same chances in life, no matter where they were born.
7. Aristotle was worried about what would happen if people were born, strong, or rich differently. He mentioned three classes:
• Very Rich,
• Not good at all,
8. St. Thomas and St. Augustine were different because of their power, wealth, and status.
9. Machiavelli asked who should be in charge and what kind of leadership will bring order, happiness, wealth, and power. He saw conflict between the rich and the poor. He liked democracy better. About how leaders are chosen, he said that inequality in the situation is okay as long as everyone has the same chance to become uneven.
10. Thomas Hobbes thought that all men wanted power and special rights, which could lead to chaos if there wasn’t a set of rules that everyone agreed to follow. These rules make up the “Social Contract,” which says that the people give the right to rule to one man who represents everyone’s wants and needs. The sovereign can be kicked out of power if he doesn’t do enough to keep everyone safe and fair.
11. Max Weber drew attention to the fact that there are three kinds of groups based on different kinds of inequality and that they can be separate from each other. Weber thought there were three kinds of market situations:
• Labour market,
• The money market,
• Market for goods.
12. Weber said that the second type of inequality was social honour or reputation, and the third type was power. Caste is an example of a hierarchy of social groups, which is what social stratification is. People in a group have the same name, the same hobbies, and the same way of life. As members of different social groups, they either benefit from or suffer from the fact that awards aren’t given out in the same way for everyone.
13. But class stratification isn’t the only way people are different from each other. Even if there are no social divisions, there can still be differences between people. A hierarchy of social groups has been replaced with a hierarchy of people, it is said. Even though many sociologists use the terms inequality and social stratification interchangeably, social stratification is seen as a unique type of social inequality.
1. Differentiation is the cause of social inequality. All societies have differences between their people. Some people are treated differently than other people because they have certain traits. In fact, every culture makes a difference between old and young people and between men and women. Society treats people differently based on things like skin colour, religion, physical strength, level of schooling, and so on. Because of these differences, there is no way to avoid injustice.
2. Social inequality is a fact of life. No society in the world gives everyone the same amount of respect. In this easy way, inequality is a fact of life in all human societies. So, there have been clear differences in standing between people in all of the societies we know about, no matter how big or small, recent or ancient. When a society values men more than women, the rich more than the poor, Christians more than Muslims, Brahmins more than Dalits, Whites more than Blacks, and so on, this is a sign of social inequality. It goes without saying that people with higher status have better access to the benefits that society has to offer. At the same time, people who aren’t as important don’t get these benefits.
3. Social inequality is often built into the structure of a society. In all modern societies, different groups of people have different positions, which is an example of how social inequality is built into the structure. In these societies, inequality is built into the way things work, and different social standings are passed down from one generation to the next. People in these societies are grouped into “strata” like layers of rock. People in any social stratum have different opportunities to get social benefits than people in any other social stratum. This means that society as a whole is stratified.
4. Social inequality is a source of social conflict and social change. Inequality is one of the most important social problems of our time. Inequality between people has always been a source of conflict, war, and social change. It has led to terrible fights between slaves and their owners, peasants and nobility, workers and capitalists, and poor and wealthy people. Since Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto in 1848, which brought the problem of social inequality to the forefront of political debate, these tensions and conflicts have become of global importance. Social inequality is closely linked to many other problems in our society, such as social instability, economic ups and downs, political conflicts, possible violence, insecurity about one’s position, fear, and not knowing what will happen next, and so on.
5. Most of the time, social inequality is kept up by the power of ideas. It’s important to remember that “social inequality is rarely kept up mainly by force.” They are kept alive instead by the power of ideas. Members of both the dominant and subordinate groups tend to accept without question the philosophies, or sets of ideas, that explain the differences and make them seem “natural” and even moral. For example, our society’s sex roles show how traditional roles have made men more powerful than women. In the same way, the caste roles in India show that the top castes tend to rule over the lower castes because they have always been seen as better.
6. Social inequalities are not always caused by natural or biological differences. Many systems of stratification are supported by beliefs that say social differences are caused by biology. For instance, Whites say that they are biologically better than Blacks and see this as the reason for their power. In Germany, Adolf Hitler’s fans also thought that people of the Aryan race were better by nature. In India, too, the higher castes said that they were biologically better than the lower castes who could not be touched. Rousseau said that differences between men that were caused by their biology were small and not very important, while differences that were made by society were much bigger and more important. Most academics agree with this point of view.
The idea that natural or biological differences are to blame for social differences seems to make sense.
Justifications for the system of division. The ideas help to make it seem like social inequality is reasonable and makes sense. Inequality, its causes and effects, and how they are linked to social class, gender, ethnicity, and even region or locality, continue to be important topics in sociology.
The Concept of a hierarchy:
The word “hierarchy” means “gradation” or “ranking system” when taken at face value. This word comes up a lot when people talk about the different levels of society. It means that people and groups in any society are not treated the same way, but are instead given different grades. The idea of order means that people in a society are given different grades or ranks based on the types of positions they hold.
Hierarchy means “any relationship between people, groups, or classes that is based on a ranking system.” Hierarchy, in a broad sense, is the “ranking of statuses within a society or organisation based on some accepted measure of importance within the system.”
1. Any kind of system, whether it’s social or not, is said to be hierarchical or gradational if it has different levels or layers on top of each other. The more structured a system is, the more layers it has and, in general, the farther the top and bottom are from each other. In a system, like Caste,
The caste system and its order help us understand social inequality and social distance.
2. Hierarchy is an important idea because it makes it easy to figure out where a person or group fits in a society. So, for example, we can say that in a caste system, the Brahmins as a caste group are at the top and enjoy all the benefits that come with it, while the untouchable castes are at the bottom and have to deal with all the disadvantages that come with it. Many castes, which are often called “intermediary castes,” live in different places in between these two extremes.
3. In the same way, the class structure is also set up in a hierarchy, with the capitalists and the rich at the top and the workers and the poor at the bottom. The middle class is in the middle, between the rich and the poor. Sociologists have also talked about a six-tiered class system.
The hierarchy principle is also important in how power and influence are used. In most bureaucracies, power and influence flow from the top down. Hierarchy is used to organise how power and authority are used and how people and resources are managed. The higher up a person is in the system, the more power and control over resources he has, and the same is true for him. You can see this kind of hierarchical principle in almost every part of society, from politics and business to religion and education.
Concept of Social Exclusion:
1. Social exclusion is “a process by which people or households are deprived, either of resources like money or of social connections to the larger community or society.” “Social exclusion means that a person is cut off from fully participating in the larger community.”
2. To live a full and active life, people need more than just food, clothes, and a place to live. They also need access to things like schooling, health care, transportation, insurance, social security, banking, and even the police or courts.
1. Systematic social exclusion happens because of the way society is built. Even if the people who are left out don’t want to be, they are still left out. For instance, you never see rich people sleeping on the streets or under bridges, like the thousands of homeless poor people who do this in cities and towns. This doesn’t mean that the rich can’t use sidewalks and park chairs, because they could if they wanted to, but they don’t. People sometimes use the wrong reasoning to justify social exclusion by saying that the people who are left out do not want to be there. When exclusion keeps someone from getting something they want, it’s not clear how true this kind of case is. When people are treated unfairly or insulted for a long time, they often stop trying to be included. For example, top caste Hindu communities have often made it hard for lower castes, especially dalits, to get into temples. After being treated this way for many years, Dalits started building their own temples or switching to Buddhism, Christianity, or Islam. After doing this, they might not want to go to the Hindu temple or religious events anymore. But this doesn’t mean that people aren’t being left out of society.
2. Social exclusion means that people are denied chances. This idea draws attention to a wide range of things that keep people or groups from having the same opportunities as the rest of the population. It means that some people don’t have access to things they need, like schooling, health care, transportation, insurance, social security, banking, or even the police or court system. It is not enough to just give people food, clothes, and a place to live. To live a fuller and more busy life, you need more freedom and better access to all the basics of a civilised life, just like everyone else.
3. Social Exclusion Is Not a Mistake: Most of the time, social exclusion is a built-in way to keep some people from having their social rights. It happens because of the way society is set up. As a matter of caste rule, the “untouchables” in India were not allowed to do many things, like go into temples, eat with people from higher castes, get water from public wells, get the same schooling as others, etc.
4. Social Exclusion is Unwilling: People are left out of social groups even if they don’t want to be. In the case of India’s “untouchables,” for example, it is put in their hands. They can’t do something they want, like get an education or go to a church.
5. Long-term exclusion can lead to a reaction against being included. When a group is treated unfairly and insulted for a long time, it is often forced to develop a reaction against being included. So, it might stop trying to be a part of the group. For example, the upper castes in India have kept the dalits from entering temples for decades. This could force the dalits to build their own temple or convert to another faith like Buddhism, Christianity, or Islam. If they start doing it, they might not want to go to the Hindu temple or sacred events anymore. But it can’t be said that everyone who was left out would think and act the same way. Situations like this show that people can be left out of society even if they don’t want to be.
6. The point is that the person will be left out no matter what they want. India, like most other places, has had a long history of discrimination and exclusion. At different times in history, there were protests against inequality based on caste, gender, and religion. But biases still exist, and sometimes new ones appear. So, legislation alone can’t change culture or make changes that will last. To get rid of them, there needs to be a constant social effort to change awareness and sensitivity.
Three Broad Overlapping Usages of the Concept:
1. Social Exclusion and Social Rights: In this situation, social exclusion means that people can’t use their rights because of certain barriers or processes.
2. Social exclusion in relation to social isolation: This usage shows how some people or parts of the population are kept away from or apart from others in most social situations. During the time the British ruled South Africa, discrimination and exclusion led to the social isolation of the natives.
3. Social Exclusion in Relation to Marginalisation: This usage refers to the most extreme kind of social exclusion, in which some “are denied opportunities and paths on the basis of educational credentials, party membership, skin colour, religious identity, proper manners and style of life, social origins, etc.
4. People often think that exclusion is the same as inequality, hardship, unfairness, and injustice, and that inclusion is the same as equality, fairness, and justice. However, this is not always the case. In real life, this is not always the case. There are times when even being included would lead to painful situations. For example, if they fight successfully against exclusion and discrimination, some women members may be hired by a company where most of the workers are men. Even if they are accepted or hired, these women may find it embarrassing to work in a place where men are in charge and are not very helpful.
The Concept of Poverty:
Poverty is a social problem and one of the ways that injustice shows itself. The study of poverty is at the heart of any study of social equality. This includes looking at who is poor and why they are poor. Poverty is when a person or group of people have a low standard of living for a long enough time that it hurts their health, confidence, and sense of self-worth. A situation in which there aren’t enough resources, usually material but sometimes culture. Poverty means that a person doesn’t have enough of the things he needs to keep himself and those who depend on him healthy and strong.
Absolute and Relative Poverty:
The word “poverty” refers to the general level of living in a society, how income is shared, the status system, and what people expect from each other. People often talk about the difference between pure and relative poverty.
1. Absolute Poverty: A person is in a state of absolute poverty when they don’t have the means they need to stay alive.
2. Relative Poverty: Sociologists often use relative meanings of poverty to talk about people or groups who don’t have as many resources as other people in society. This is also called their relative standard of living.
• Absolute poverty is often called “subsistence poverty” because it is based on a person’s needs for food, clothes, a place to live, health care, etc. When looking at poverty in the Third World, subsistence meanings of poverty or definitions of absolute poverty are very helpful.
• Studies from around the world show that, in terms of basic needs, the overall amount of poverty is very high. According to some studies, almost half of the people in countries with low incomes live in extreme poverty. Poverty is still a big problem, even in India.
“Deprivation” is a word that comes up a lot when people talk about social injustice. From a sociological point of view, unemployment is a lack of access to social goods. It includes poverty and other ways of being less fortunate.
1. “In general, deprivation means that people don’t have what they need.”…the lack of economic and emotional supports that most people consider to be important to life. These include money and a place to live, as well as taking care of children.”
2. The above meanings make it clear that some human needs, like money, care, a place to live, and safety, are very basic and that meeting them makes life fuller and more comfortable. People think that when these needs are met to their satisfaction, the person’s potential develops more fully.
Absolute Deprivation and relative Deprivation:
1. Absolute deprivation means not having enough food, water, a place to live, or power. It means losing or not having enough money to meet basic wants like food, clothing, and a place to live.
2. Relative deprivation is the feeling of lack that people have when they compare themselves to others. In this case, people who don’t have something compare themselves to those who do, which makes them feel like they’re missing out. So, relative deprivation not only includes comparison, but it is also usually defined in subjective terms. The idea is closely tied to the idea of a “reference group,” which is the group to which a person or group of people compares themselves.
3. Deprivation or disadvantage is judged not by objective standards but by comparing it to the relatively better advantages of others, like members of a reference group whom one wants to be like. So, a millionaire can feel less successful than his friends who have more than a million dollars.
4. The idea of “relative deprivation” has been used to study social movements and revolutions. It is said that “relative deprivation,” not “absolute deprivation,” is more likely to lead to push for change than “absolute deprivation.”
Theories of poverty
The culture of poverty: Oscar Lewis
1. Many experts have noticed that the way poor people live is different in some ways from the way other people live. They have also noticed that people living in poverty in different places have some things in common. Many of the things that make people poor in different countries are the same.
2. Similar situations and problems often lead to similar reactions, and these responses can turn into a culture, which is a group’s learned, shared, and socially transmitted behaviour. This line of thinking has led to the idea of a “culture of poverty” (or, more accurately, a “subculture of poverty”), which is a group of people who are poor but have their own rules and values. Oscar Lewis came up with the idea after working with poor people in Mexico and Puerto Rico. Lewis says that the “design for living” of poverty is passed down from one generation to the next.
3. As a way of life that shapes how people act, the culture of poverty has the following parts. Lewis said, “On the level of the individual, the major characteristics are a strong feeling of marginality, helplessness, dependence, and inferiority, a strong focus on the present with little ability to delay gratification, a sense of resignation and fatalism.” On the family level, life is marked by “free union or consensual marriages, a relatively high rate of mothers and children being abandoned, a trend towards mother-centered families, and a much greater knowledge of maternal relatives.” There are a lot of divorces and guys leaving their families, so there are a lot of families headed by women. On the level of the community, one of the most important things about the culture of poverty is that people don’t participate and fit in well with the big institutions of the larger society. Lewis’s study shows that most urban poor people don’t belong to trade unions or other groups, don’t vote, and don’t use banks, hospitals, department stores, museums, or art galleries very often. They also don’t usually join political parties or take part in national welfare programmes. Most people only take part in one organisation, and that is their family.
• The culture of poverty is seen as a way for the poor to deal with the fact that they are poor. Lewis says that it is a “reaction of the poor to their marginal position in a class-stratified and highly individualistic society.” But the mindset of poverty is more than just a response to an event. It becomes a culture because its traits are rules for how to act that the poor internalise and pass on from one generation to the next. As a result, the culture of poverty tends to keep people in poverty because its traits can be seen as ways to keep people in poverty: attitudes of fatalism and resignation make people accept their situation; not joining trade unions and other groups makes the poor less powerful. By the time they are six or seven years old, most slum children have taken on the basic values and attitudes of their subculture. Their minds are not set up to take full advantage of changing conditions or more chances that may come their way in the future.
Lewis says that the culture of poverty best describes and explains the position of the poor in colonial societies or in the early stages of capitalism, like in many Third World countries. He says that it either doesn’t exist or isn’t very strong in advanced capitalism and socialist societies. However, some people have said that the idea of a culture of poverty can be applied to the poor in advanced industrial societies.
Situational Constraints Theory is a solution to a “culture of poverty.”
1. Many academics don’t see the way poor people act as a result of established and internalised cultural patterns. Instead, they see it as a response to “situational constraints.” In other words, the poor act the way they do because they have to, because of things like low income, unemployment, and so on. They don’t act that way because of a society of poverty. The situational constraints argument says that if poverty were taken away, the poor would change their behaviour easily in reaction to a new set of circumstances.
2. So, American sociologist Hylan Lewis, who has done a lot of research on how poor people act, says, “It is probably more useful to think of lower class families reacting in different ways to the facts of their position and to their relative isolation rather than the demands of a lower class culture.” The situational constraints thesis also argues against the idea that most poor people don’t know about the norms and ideals of the rest of society. It says that poor people have the same values as the rest of society. The only difference is that they can’t put many of those values into action. Again, the situational constraints argument says that once the problems of poverty are gone, it won’t be hard for poor people to act like everyone else and take advantage of chances.
Poverty and Social Stratification
Sociologists are looking at society as a whole, and the class system in particular, more and more instead of just studying the poor themselves to figure out why they are poor. Peter Townsend says, “The description, analysis, and explanation of poverty in any country must take place within the context of a general theory of stratification.” From this point of view, it’s important to look at the poor as part of the whole system of classes. Questions about poverty are directly linked to questions about how and why stratification systems work.
The Marxist view of poverty
1. From a Marxist point of view, the only way to understand poverty in a capitalist society is through the system of injustice that comes from a capitalist economy. Wealth is mostly held by a small group of people: those who own the means of creation. Members of the subject class only own their work, which they have to sell on the open market for pay. Capitalism needs workers who are very driven. Since money is the main thing that makes people want to work, those whose skills are not needed by the economy, like the elderly and the unemployed, must get less money than wage earners. If this wasn’t true, there wouldn’t be much reason to work. Different ways of paying people for their work also keep them motivated. In a very competitive culture, workers compete with each other as individuals and as groups for jobs and money. In this way, the low-paying jobs are the foundation of a competitive wage system. Low wages help to lower the pay demands of the whole workforce because people tend to judge their own incomes based on what the low paid make.
2. From a Marxist point of view, the state in a capitalist society mirrors the interests of the ruling class, so government actions are not likely to do much other than make poverty less bad. So Kincaid says, “It is not reasonable to expect that a government whose main goal is to make a capitalist economy work well will take effective steps to get rid of the low-wage sector.”
3. Westergard and Resler say that the ruling class reacted to the demands of the labour movement by allowing the creation of the Welfare State, but that the system works “within a framework of institutions and assumptions that remain capitalist.” From their point of view, “containment” is the key word; the demands of the union movement have been met by the current system. Westergaard and Resler say that poverty exists because a capitalist economic system makes it hard for poor people to get the money they need to stop being poor.
4. J.C. Kincaid says that “widespread poverty is a direct result of the limited effectiveness of social security.” Like Westergaard and Resler, Kincaid thinks that the way a capitalist economy works creates a certain kind of social division that leads to poverty. Kincaid says this about the situation: “It’s not just that there are rich people and poor people. It’s more like some people are rich because some people are poor. Since the question “Why poverty?” is basically the same as “Why wealth?,” the only way to understand poverty is to look at how the class system works as a whole. So, from a Marxist point of view, poverty, just like wealth, is a natural result of a capitalism system.
From Weber’s point of view, poverty is:
Weber says that a person’s “class situation” depends on his “market situation,” or the favour and benefits he can get with his skills and knowledge in a competitive market. From this point of view, groups like the elderly, people who are always sick, and single-parent families don’t have much power in the market, so they don’t get much out of it. In fact, their situation makes it hard for them to compete in the market. But not everyone in these groups is poor, and this is because of how the market worked for them before they were in their current situation.
1. Most of the poor people who are old, sick, disabled, or from single-parent families are from the middle class.
Members of other social groups make enough money to be able to save, invest in pension plans, insurance policies, and shares of stock for themselves and their dependents. This protects them from the risk of being poor if the main breadwinner dies, gets sick, or gets old. In this way, poverty is caused by social class, not by human disability, inadequacy, or bad luck.
2. Kincaid says, “The bargaining power of workers is a key factor in figuring out wage levels.” Most low-paid workers are women, and because of this, they tend to be less aggressive. They are usually part of weak groups or none at all. The parts of the workforce that don’t have unions tend to have the lowest pay.
In a piece called Politics and Poverty, Ralph Miliband looks at the bargaining power of the poor. He says that the poor are the least powerful group fighting for the limited and valuable resources in society. Miliband says, “The poor are part of the working class, but they are mostly left out of the groups that have grown up to protect the working class’s interests.”
4. The “shame of poverty,” which is still a taboo, makes it harder for poor people to fight for their rights and get public support. Ralph Miliband comes to the conclusion that the poor can’t get good deals because they are poor. He says that “economic deprivation is a source of political deprivation,” and that “political deprivation in turn helps to maintain and confirm economic deprivation.”
5. Westergaard and Resler say that it takes attention away from the bigger structure of inequality that makes poverty possible. So, the poor must be looked at as part of the whole class system, not just as a separate group. Ralph Miliband makes a related point. He says that the poor are not all that different from the rest of the working class. The poor are not a different group. Instead, they are the most disadvantaged part of the working class. In order to understand poverty, you need to know how inequality works in a society with different classes.
Functional perspective on poverty :
Herbert J. Gans says that poverty stays around in part because it helps a lot of people. Poverty is good for those who are not poor, and especially for the rich and strong. Because of this, they have a reason to keep people poor. From this point of view, Gans describes what he calls the “functions of poverty” for people who are not poor.
1. There are temporary, dead-end, dirty, dangerous, and low-paying jobs in every market. Because of poverty, this kind of work has to be done. Gans says that “poverty functions to provide a low-wage labour pool that is willing or, more accurately, unable to be unwilling to do dirty work for low cost.” Without the low-paid, many businesses would not be able to keep running as they do now. Gans says that jobs in hospitals, restaurants, big parts of agriculture, and some parts of the clothing industry depend on people who work for low wages.
2. Poverty gives a fast-growing part of the workforce direct access to jobs and financial protection. Gans said, “Poverty creates jobs for a number of occupations and professions that serve the poor or protect the rest of the population from them.” The people who work in the “poverty industry” are the police, probation officers, social workers, psychologists, doctors, and the people who run the business.
Gans’s third point is that the presence of the poor gives the rest of society comfort and support. They set a standard for failure that shows people who aren’t poor what they’re worth. Gans says that ‘poverty helps to guarantee the status of those who are not poor’. It does this by giving us “a reliable and fairly permanent measuring stick for comparing status.”
Gans says that the poor help to keep norms in place because norms “are best justified by finding violations.” Gans has come to the same result as those who say that poverty must be looked at in terms of class differences, but from a slightly different angle. From both points of view, poverty exists because it helps the rich and because the poor can’t do anything about it. Gans comes to the conclusion that poverty continues because “many of the functional alternatives to poverty would be quite dysfunctional for the more wealthy members of society.”
The way to solve the problem of poverty:
1. Once poverty is seen as a part of injustice and not just a problem of the poor, society as a whole needs to be restructured to fix it. Now, it can be said that the main thing that keeps poverty from going away is not the actions of the poor, but the greed of the rich. So, Herbert J. Gans says, “The main things standing in the way of getting rid of poverty are an economic system designed to keep and grow the wealth of the already wealthy.” From the point of view of division theory, the way out of poverty is to change the way people are put into groups. This war on poverty would be much harder to fight than the last one because the rich and strong would have to give up a lot.
2. Westergaard and Resler say that many lawmakers make the basic mistake of thinking that “the causes of poverty can be read off from the characteristics of the poor.” This has led people to think that poverty is mostly caused by old age, family breakup, having a big family, being unemployed, having a physical or mental disability, or being sick for a long time. “Individual conditions” are seen as the “causes” of poverty in this way. So, it stands to reason that remedies must be made for each person, and each disease needs its own help and treatment. For example, people who are out of work get money, and “problem families” get help from social workers and therapists. The government’s plan is based on how they see the problem. Westergaard and Resler say that the diagnosis is wrong because it doesn’t look at the pattern of inequality as a whole. Poverty isn’t just a problem for one person; it’s a problem for a whole class. People who are poor are not in the middle class. The same things that make poverty happen are also the things that make society unequal.
3. The Welfare State has mostly failed to move money from rich people to poor people. It just moves resources around within each social class instead of between them. Kincaid says that the only way to end poverty is to take a lot of resources from the rich and give them to the poor. From this point of view, poverty is a society problem, not a problem with a single person. It says that society as a whole is the problem and that society needs to change because of this. Westergaard and Resler both take the same stance. They say that government efforts to fight poverty can’t work because “they aren’t meant to change the general structure of inequality in a big way.”
4. From a Marxist point of view, the fact that poverty is officially recognised and treated can be seen as a way to hide the real nature of abuse and oppression. Westergaard and Resler say that when the government focuses on one part of inequality, like the situation of the poor, it tends to hide truth by taking attention away from inequality’s larger structure. The same thing happens when poverty is seen as a personal problem instead of a problem of class. This keeps the rich in their privileged situation, which is based on the poverty of the working class. Also, the birth and growth of Welfare States were influenced by the demands of the working class for better conditions. The government has given up just enough to ease the anger of the middle class. The job of social workers can also be seen as a way to keep the working class in line and protect the wealthy. Kincaid says that “most of the individual problems that social workers are currently trying to solve are caused by a society that is not set up to meet people’s needs.” He says that many social workers still think that people who are poor have a “defective personality structure, can’t get along with others, and can’t judge themselves and others in a realistic way.” This makes it clear that the poor are to blame for their own situation. Some Marxists even think that people who work in social services are members of the ruling class.
5. From a Marxist point of view, the answer to poverty is not to change the way social security works or to give people who are considered poor more money or services. Instead, it needs a big change in the way society works. So, Ralph Miliband says that we can’t get rid of poverty until we get rid of inequality in general, which “requires changing the economic structures in which it is embedded.”
6. Both Westergaard and Resler agree that there can’t be a big transfer of wealth until capitalism is replaced by a socialist society where the means of production are owned by everyone. They say that inequality will stay mostly the same as long as the free market system of capitalism decides how rewards are given out.
7. Kincaid comes to the conclusion that since capitalism is based on making the most money instead of meeting people’s needs, “poverty cannot be eliminated in a capitalist society. It can only be eliminated in a socialist society run by the workers, in which people’s needs, not profits, determine how resources are used.”