Social class and social inequality in American society. Status, power, authority, and unequal opportunity are examined in depth, using material from other societies to provide a comparative and historical perspective. Sociological origins of recurrent conflicts involving race, sex, poverty, and political ideology.
Social stratification is more than just social and economic inequality. Stratification occurs when there are mechanisms in place to ensure that scarce resources are not distributed equally among individuals and groups. Every known society has been structured to maintain a balance between the â€śhavesâ€? and â€śhave notsâ€?. Stratification systems result in positive and negative consequences for the individuals living in a given society. Every aspect of an individualâ€™s life is influenced by the type of stratification system they are a part of. Oneâ€™s health, residence, marriage partners, level of education, occupation, income, wealth, and mortality â€“ all of these outcomes (and many more) are largely determined by how oneâ€™s society is stratified. Despite this fact, Americans tend to explain unequal outcomes by addressing an individualâ€™s personal choices or the â€ścultureâ€? of the group an individual belongs to. Explanations such as â€śshe did not work hard enoughâ€?, â€śmany women would rather gossip than work on the jobâ€?, â€śintelligence does not run in their familyâ€?, and â€śthose people believe they are entitled to benefits without having to work for themâ€? â€“ these are all examples of explanations that draw our attention away from the fundamental mechanisms that systematically generate inequality throughout a society. Instead, in this class, we will rely on structural-level explanations (economic, policy, institutional) to explain historical and contemporary inequalities by race, class, and gender. Because capitalist nations largely distribute resources and generate inequality through employment and labor markets, we will pay close attention to structural-level explanations that affect labor markets and the social organization of work.
Student learning goals
The primary goal is for students to present students with structural-level explanations for unequal outcomes by race, class, gender and other socially relevant categories.
General method of instruction
Most days of instruction will consist of lecture and discussion. Discussions will usually be centered on the readings and how the readings help us better understand the lecture material.
There is no prerequisite for this course. However, students should come prepared with a basic understanding of sociological theory (i.e. understanding the role of the individual within a given social context).
Class assignments and grading
33% Midterm (multiple choice and short answer) 33% Final (multiple choice and short answer) 25% Reading Quizzes (Weekly short answer quizzes about reading material) 9% Participation
This class does not require any formal writing, but students will be expected to keep up with reading assignments.