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L2_Payne (2006), Social Divisions as a Sociological Perspectieve-Chapter15

L2_Payne (2006), Social Divisions as a Sociological Perspectieve-Chapter15

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Unformatted text preview: This chapter wiEl provide you with a broad critical understanding of the followng Issues in social division: E! The definition ofa sociai divismn is Social divzsions are sociain embedded forms of social inequality 5 Seeial difference, sociaE Inequality and somal dimsion i3: Although universal and persistent. social divasmns are not immutable or ‘natoral' . a: Sociai divasion and socéai cohesion: overlapping memberships. cross» cutting ties and seeial conformity The compiexity of multiple memberships and identities a: Social divmon and sociological theory: structurai-fonctionaiism. Marxism and post—modernism E5 Are there only a few soc1al divisions or many? Alternative perspectives Hierarchy and inequaiity versus ‘others’ and personal identity anemia (MG)- jimm- DNWWJ “5 A fawn LGC‘IQQL PFiZ—fi’FC'fivE r l‘N Vfl‘iiflEr (tips), jOClQL, Divalent-i} We have deiiberately written each of the chapters so far in a way that ‘definesi social divisions indirectly by taliong about key examples. This approach Elves a good feei of what social division is all about through an exploration of C8585 and details. An alternative approach wouEd have been to start with a formal definition expressed as a set of abstract principies. A fall definition1 of course needs both examples and a precise statement of principles This final chain“ provides the other part of the definition and will also enabie us to reflect 0H what social divisions in the plural might mean as a way of ‘seeing’ society- While division can reSuit in two, three or more categories, these form an interrelated whole that inciudes ali members of a society: paradoxicaliy the distinction between the categories expresses the iogical connection between them- These distinctions are marked by clear—cut -— rather than minimal — difierences in material circumstances or cuitural advantages (aithoogh "clear-cot’ and LlPWIL‘i‘lZE {ah/p l‘lfw lama: FQLOianu/ii Mch'uuav 347 348 SOCIAL DiVlSlONS as A SOCiOLOGlCAl PERSPECTIVE ‘rninirnal‘ are terms winch at the margin involve subjective iudgements).'1'h differences between categories are maintatned by a normative order that supports those who accept the division and constrains those who seek to alteti A definition of ‘social divisions” A "soCIal division] of the kind explored in the preceding chapters conforms t : nine core charactertstics: o A socral division is a prtnCiple of socrai organisarton resulting tn a sometys wide distinction between two or more logically interrelated categories of people, which are somally sanctioned as substannally different from one another in material and cultural ways. ' e Although not permanently established in a given form1 a social division tends to be long—lastmg and is sustained by dominant cultural beliefs, the organis- ation of social institutions and the situational interaction of individuals. e Membership of a category in a social divxsxon confers unequal opportun ties of access to dealrahie ‘resoarces’ of all kinds and therefore different life: chances and lifestyles from membership of other categorres. A socral divismn is socially constructed, in the sense that it is not a Simple manifestation of ‘naturai’ or ‘inevitable’ laws of exrstence, but this does not mean that tr can be ignored or revised by the moment—to—moment social interactions1 interpretations, decrstons or socral acts of individuals. The extent of differentiation between categories varies from some] divrsion to social divrston, but movement across a divide is either rare or relatively slow to be achieved. a Being socially divided tends to produce shared soCIal identities for people in the same category, often expreSSed by reference to their perceived differ— ence from those in an alternative category of the same division. However much specific social divisrons are opposed by those disadvantaged by them, the principle of secret divisions is a universal systematic feature of human society. 9 Each soc1al division encompasses all members of soCIery in one or other of its categories1 but individuals seldom have matching profiies of category membership across the range of socraE diVisions. a An examination of life chances and lifestyles is an empirical method of identifying social divisions and categories. This definition means that rather than concentrating on just one or two social divrsions, we need to include at least a dozen in our sociological perspective (Payne 2004}. Geoff Payne 349 As we saw in Chapter 1. the idea of soCial divisron entails pom extenswe differences and a continuity of exrsrence over time, which stems from its inte— gration in the social order through values, institutions and daymby—day 1nterac~ tions. On the one hand, there is a sense, if not of permanence, then massive inertia: at is not easy to challenge and change the boundaries. On the other hand, all the contributors have shown how things have changed over time and Stressed that soc1al divisions are not immutableThe key to understanding this is the embedded nature of the social practices that sustain each division. It follows that, while not "natarai’ laws, divisions are typically encountered as constraining {particularly so for those tn the less advantaged categories} or sustaining {more so for the advantaged). It might be tempting ~— and rndeed not unfair — to read this emphasis on constraint. disadvantage and differential life chances as meaning that to some extent each of the contributors perceives socml diviSion as inherently undesrr» able. Some conunentators1 like Marsland and Saunders, have commented on the general tendency of sociologiSts to side with the underdog, or indeed to be ideologically biased. While at will be apparent from the style and content of the chapters that the authors have varying degrees of personal commitment to their topics, they are also all concerned with its socrologtcal analysrs.The fact that the div1sions can reasonably be identified as seeial intust'tce, a potential source of unhappiness and even Civil strife should lend purpose, rather than bias, to the analysis. All seeial arrangements entail settlements that bring rela— tive advantage: those who gain most from present circumstances are likely to wish them to condone1 nor to have them challenged and to present the current outcome as a consensus supported by all parties, rather than one that yields advantages for some, to the disadvantage of others. One tests of soci— ology is to question things that would otherwise be taken for granted, even if there are those who would rather not have such questions raised. Because a social analyst is unhappy with the current patterns of a particular social division does not automatically lead to bias or a Simplistic belief that all social divrsions can somehow be removed. One may take comfort that this div151on or that takes a different form in some society described by anthropol— ogists or historians, but there is no evidence of societies - even the simplest hunter-«gatherer societies w operating without divisions. However, the univer‘ sality of divasion is no justification for the continuation of all divisrons in exactly their current form, or of extremes of differentiation. Nonetheless, it is a feature of soCial divismns that they pers1sr. As has been seen, one class system may gtve way to another, or the role of women may be enhanced through emancrpation or entry into the workplace, but the core division surv'ives. It may be possible to he sootally mobile between classes, for cracks in the glass ceiling to be exploited or for us all to move through the life» 350 SOCIAL DiWSIONS AS A sooowch/u PERSPECTIVE - course, but these are opportunities for individuals who need to devote many years of their lives to achieving the transition from one category to the other or ' moving the boundaries. Divisions are not absolute or invariable, but they do a pretty good tab of seeming so to be. In part, this appearance of substance comes from the nature of the crate gories. These are ‘opposttional’ both in the sense of opposing interests or" different categories (advantagedidisadvantaged}, but also in terms of defining one category in terms of another, as its mirror image. Although it is possible to make more of these notions of difference and comparison {for example see Hetherington and Munro E997), there is little to be gained from straying into the arcane world of much post—structuralism and post— modernism. Contrary to any impression given by the often wordy elabora— tions of such writings, the core issue is fairly straightforward. Identity :5 not only shared with others, but expressed as not sharing or belonging with others. The identification of a more advantaged group, to which the disad— vantaged do not belong and which is socially demarcated, makes the proba- bility of change seem less likely. The characteristic lifestyles and life chances that go with category membership and identity mark off the boundaries- between them, helping the sociologist to locate social divisron but reinforcing the maintenance of the differences. This methodological point also relates to the observation that individuals hold dual (or multi») memberships in a range of annual divisions. As the Intro— duction stressed, people take their identities from a mixture of categories and therefore have some choice of identity. The ‘profiie of membership’ difi'ers from person to person, and is one of the reasons why simple explanations of social behaviour being ‘cansed’ by membership of a single category do not work. All social life is not determined by somal cla55, whatever may have seemed to be the case with sociological analysis in former times. Definitions as differentiation The advantage of formalising and elaborating a definition in this way is that it provides a means of marking ed” a boundary between social divrsions and other similar, but significantly different, ideasThis is a source of potential confusion-3 as the lack of a clear distinction in some of the literature (for example Braham and lanes 2002) shows. Not all separations of people into Opposing categories are of a scale to merit inclusion as actual divisions. For example, the many ‘tages’ and ‘hells’ popular in contemporary media representations (‘road ragfi’: ‘trolley rage‘, ’neighbours from hell’, holidays from hell’ and so on) may involve disagreements and conflicts, but they hardiy constitute a soCial division. They Geoff Payne 3 5 I certainly are not society—wide, not all—inclusive diVisions, not permanent, nor socially sanctioned as ‘natural’.To be counted as a sociai division requires that all the criteria should be in place.This latter requirement also helps to distin— guish between the idea of a social division and other concepts such as soCiaE inequality and social difi'erentiation. ‘Social inequality’ is a condition of disproportionate access to ‘resources’, that is, not just financial resources but any human or cuitural resources. State- ments about social inequalities tend to deal, at their most simple, with ‘facts’. Thus one can talk about specific social inequalities in, say, housing, educa~ tional qualifications, risk of being a victim of crime or access to political influ— ence. It is certainly interestmg to learn that 7 per cent of the population own 84 per cent of the land in Scotiand, that l per cent of adults own over 40 per cent of personal net capital in England and Wales, or that the worst off one— fifth of our society have incomes lower than half the national average. But what is ‘interesting’ lies in discovering why and how such patterns of inequality come about, are maintained and what the consequences are for those experiencing them. ?attcrns of inequality may result from social divisions or be the Visible markers of divisions. They are closely associated with divisions. However, as Roberts (2001: 4) has suggested, social divxsron is an all-embracmg term: even when it is used to refer only to class, gender and ethnicity, it does not presuppose a simple hierarchy or set of soCial strata, and places the interaction of the diviSions at the centre of research and debate. The idea of social divisions brings greater meaning and structure to the simple patterns of differences. It attempts to include the way in which some core features cover the whole population, contributing to their various senses of identity and woricing as an interrelated set, Without prioritismg one divi- sion above all othersTlie discussion of health (Chapter 14) illustrates this point very clearly. ‘Social difierentiation’, on the other hand, is a more Specific term often used to deal with a itey difierence between ’nmple’ tribal or agrarian soc1eties and more complex, industrial and contemporary societies. In the iatter soc1» eties, with their more complex social diiriSion of labour, the greater specialisa- tion and range of tasits, in particular around production and occupations. demarcates peOple from each other and groups from other groups. This formulation, drawing on Durkheim‘s concerns with socxal cohesion and his ideas of mechanical and organic solidarity, was particularly attractive among those sociologists who were attempting to deal with evident and extensive social inequalities without recourse to class analysis, for example in a US context where ‘class’ carried the politicaily charged summation of Marxism and anti—American ways. 353 SOClAL DlVlSlONS AS A SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE Social divisions and social cohesion The account of social life presented in this volume is characterised on the one hand by division, disadvantage, hierarchy, inequality and resistance, and on the other by group or category identity as the basic unit1 shaped by a sense of difi'er« once from others. The question this poses, and which was noted in passing in the Introduction, is that if social life is so fragmented, does it make much sense to think in terms of such a vast conglomerauon as ‘society’, or even the extensive divrsmns like class, gender or ethnicity that create the categories on which iden~ nry is based. preople lead their lives in terms of divisions and categories, each remarltably difierent from the next, how is collective life possible (Crow 2002)? Why does everything not fly apart and collapse in chaos? On the whole, despite divisions, things do hold together (as the discussion of community in Chapter 13 showed).The Simple answer to understanding this lies in seeing how soCial divisions interconnect and institutional processes constrain. In the first place, while human behaviour is not totally constrained by structures of relationships and normative assumptions, individuals conduct their unique lives within frameworks of accepted actions. Social divisions are ‘sustained by dominant cultural beliefs‘, so that they are carried in our heads Social diwsions also operate through complex, powerful and extensive institu— tions, that is, through systems of ways of acting in recognised1 appropriate ways backed by positive and negative social sanctions. Our capacity to modify this through situational interactions is constrained .' not just by what 15 in our heads, or the promise/threat of sanctions, but the willingness of others to engage on their part in that modification. If they are members of the same category, they are also part of a constraining system that:_ encourages group identification and solidarity, not non-conformity. If they are -. members of a more advantaged opposrnonal category, they have a vested-'3 interest to preventing the individual from modifying relationships that give . them advantages. The scope for adapting meanings and beliefs, innovatory = action and creating change is limited by the willingness of other acrors to3 tolerate and support non—conforming behaviour. In that senso, soCial structuration is essentially a social process and one tha never starts Wltl'l a clean sheet of uncommitted other actors. The normative order that Is inherited and recreated is certainly not monolithic or uniform, 3 but its component elements and segments are indeed powerful. it is usually; easier to go on doing the same thing, eaSIer not to ‘rock the boat’; acceptance- of one’s lot in a given category is usually the easiest solution. _ This does not provide a complete answer, horvever, because if people are al in fragmented categories1 now do the cultural/instironooal/interactional_- processes hold the disparate categories together? Socrai cohesmn is more Geoff Payne 3 5 3 common than social disorder or disintegration and, indeed, lower level conflicts of interest are largely kept within bounds, mainly because individuals have multiple memberships of categories. It follows that unless memberships {or boundary lines} coincide, social leESlOIlS do not reinforce one another. For instance, being working class may ofi'er one source of identity and motivation for action, but the members of the worldng class are also variously black or white, male or female, fit or ill, old or young. These other identities fragment the class identity and in turn are fragmented by class and all the others. It is also the case that divisrons are not equally ‘socially visible’, They may be embodied to varying degrees in physrcal difi'erences (age, ethnicity, gender or disability}.They may manifest themselves in more or less dramatic forms: a dichotomy is likely to be more obvrous than a division into a mulitplicity of categories. Small minorities may be excluded from public consciousness by media selectivity or physical isolation (Payne 2004). These differences feed back into our senses of identity. lfwe think of the 13 main divisions in this book (Chapters 2—44), and treat each of them as consisting of a dichotomy, that alone would offer 26 categories to which individuals could belong. Those categories can logically be combined. in the sense of a profile that an individual might manifest as a result of her or his 13 memberships, in over 8,000 different possible profiles. Of course, some profiles may be unlikely: to a considerable extent, disadvantage on one division tends to be associated with disadvantage on others, as Anthias (£998: 531) argues with reference to gender, ethnicny and class. However, this is numeri— cally balanced by the fact that most of the SOClEll divisions exist with more than two categories in each (see for example the number of classes in Chapter 2). Complex mulnple memberships blur differences in two ways. First, their complexity intervenes to reduce the chances of a "Single issue3 identity or cause for action emerging. Even when individuals consciously define themselves in specific terms w feminist, black, class warrior, grey panther — their own other memberships still have a part to play. The same is true of those who attempt a dual identity, for example black feminist. The multiplicity of memberships of people in a group mitigates against them all ‘movmg in the same direction" at once; whatever the individual may intend, the views of others have to be taken into account and their membership-based agendas contribute to a confusion of perspectives. Complex profiles disgmse the underlying divisions. Multiple memberships bring together individuals in one social context who are disparate in other contexts. Employees may define themselves in class terms, but share national identity with their employers. Conversely, they may use gender or ethniCity as grounds for not acting in class terms1 by seeking to exclude or discriminate against women or the minority ethnic groups despite their shared membership of the working class. Employers and managers are 354 SOCIAL DlWSlONS As A SOCIOLOGlCAL PERSPECTIVE then able to exploit such differences for their own ends. Only when social divi— srons coincide are major ‘fault lines’ in society likely to develop. These ‘overiappmg ties’ were sharply demonstrated in Gluckman’s (I960) classic account of feuding between clans among the Nuer and other African peoples. Drawing on several anthropological studi...
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