According to Holmes, Hughes, and Julian (2012) “at its most ambitious, sociology attempts to understand human societies from a wholistic point of view – what they are composed of, how they are reproduced over time and how they might differ from other societies”. Viewing society in this context, allows sociologists to understand the foundation of a society; and the motivations / values that underpin its function. Social phenomena, such as ‘sex, gender, and sexuality’ and their respective dominating themes [and inequalities] shape society as a whole. Throughout the following paragraphs, you will be presented with evidence to support sociology’s role in understanding important social phenomena, I primarily focus on gender and some of its widely known inequalities.
Karl Marx, one of the prominent social thinkers of the 19th century, based his theoretical thinking on inequality and social reproduction (Holmes et al, 2012) – most evident in his interpretation of capitalism. Whilst we primarily associate capitalism with social class; gender inequality – particularly in the working world – is intrinsically linked with capitalism and the systemic culture associated with it. Acker (1990) supports this link by arguing that “class is constructed through gender and that class relations are always gendered. The structure of the labour market, relations in the workplace, the control of the work process, and the underlying wage relation are always affected by symbols of gender, processes of gender identity, and the material inequalities between women and men.”
In Acker's (1990) findings on gendering patterns in the divisions of labour, it is noted that “men are almost always in the highest positions of organizational power.” Further to this, an investigation conducted by Meyer (2003) in relation to 'Economic Globalisation and Women's Status in the Labour Market' notes that, whist “globalisation has increased opportunities for women in the workplace, barriers to women's advancement and the predominance of low-paying menial jobs still remain.” These findings present us with but one example of inequalities created by the dominating forces within a society. Following on, in 2012 - when we look closely at the ‘ruling or upper class’ in modern Australian society, the gender / class relationship is still evident - one example is the disparity in the ratio of males to females in leadership positions. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) (2012) ‘Leaders in Top 200 ASX Companies’ series, only 3.5% of CEO’s were female. Furthermore, females occupied only 12% of board directorships and 10% of executive key management positions in these companies. By employing the sociological imagination – by looking at the history of such trends - sociologists could anticipate the reproduction of these gender inequality patterns, in some form in the future.
Sociology also teaches us that motivations, values and 'norms' are not absolute, they are transient - “gender'...