Sociology Social Inequality And Poverty Within Contemporary Uk Today.

4554 words - 18 pages


Social Inequality and Poverty

What is Social Inequality?

Social Inequality can be described as "life chances. Max Weber (1864-1920) used this term to describe people's opportunities for obtaining material goods, services and cultural experiences. This focuses heavily on areas such as; possessions (e.g cars, houses), a decent education, access to high quality health care and even pleasures such as holidays and recreations.

Weber's main point is that a person's position in society - especially their economic class position - puts limits on their prospects for getting these "good things" in life. Different social groups have different life chances, for example people born into middle class have advantages over those born into working class. They're likely to live longer, gain better educational qualifications and enjoy higher incomes.


Life chances can be linked to a closely related concept, that of capital. Capital is an "asset", the more capital you have the more control and opportunities you have over life chances. There are a number of different, but inter-linked, types of capital.

Economic Capital - Material wealth, money and property. People who possess large amounts of capital have a much wider range of choice in life. Also, they can invest to increase their wealth. (Money makes money)

Cultural Capital - Bourdieu (1984) argues that social classes have different sets of tastes, preferences and linguistic competences, and parents pass these down to their children. The cultural "know-how" of middle-class groups helps to explain their superior performance in education.

Human Capital - This refers to particular job skills, knowledge and educational qualifications. It can be regarded as a form of investment for future rewards. For example, people study for professional qualifications in anticipation that this will bring them higher income and status in the future.

Social Capital - Putnam (2000) uses this term to describe the social networks and levels of trust in communities. This, too, can be a valuable asset. For example, the "old boy network" helps people find jobs and business opportunities (although it excludes all those who are not part of the network). More generally, "there is evidence that communities with a good stock of social capital are more likely to experience lower crime figures, better health, higher educational achievement, and better economic growth" (McDonnell, 2004)

Outline extremes of inequality (class, gender, ethnicity and age) mentioning; crime, education, health, housing and opportunities.


Crime - Most self-report studies suggest a link between social class and criminal behaviour. Generally, the link between social class and criminal behaviour is that the lower social class ranking you hold, the more likely you are to partake in criminal behaviour. However, there are problems with this...

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