Sociology | Social Inequality
S217 | 20289 | Stuber

Sociologists have traditionally asked three questions about social
equality:  What kinds of inequalities exist?  How large are these
inequalities?  And, how are inequalities created and reproduced?
These are the three primary questions around which this course is
organized.  Throughout the term we will explore the reasons why some
individuals and groups have more wealth, status, power, and privilege
than others; we will also devote considerable attention to exploring
how these advantages get recreated over time.  We will examine these
issues using a variety of methodologies and viewpoints.  Readings will
be organized to provide a better understanding of how inequalities
play out in the economy, education, the media, criminal justice
system, and other social settings.  Although we will pay some
attention to inequalities based on race and gender, our primary focus
will be on inequalities related to social class.  At the end of the
term, after thinking and writing intensively about these issues,
students will have a clear understanding of the patterns of social
inequality within the United States, the processes by which
inequalities are either reproduced or challenged, and an appreciation
of the experiences of individuals across the social class spectrum.
In this course we investigate a series of major changes that have
significantly altered family institutions, gender relations, the
economy and class structure, poverty, government policy, and mass
opinion. A key part of our focus is on the United States in the
historical era since the 1960s. But to fully understand how and why
American society has (and has not) changed, we consider in detail the
important lessons provided by European democracies such as Sweden and
the Netherlands, where similar levels of economic development coexist
with much lower levels of poverty and inequality. This will enable us
to appreciate better the remarkable diversity of developed
democracies, a phenomenon that continues to be poorly-understood in
the media and in most political discussions.

These investigations will also introduce us to a key idea of the
course, namely, that the nature and possibilities for social change
are linked to principles around which a society is organized. To
better understand this phenomenon, we consider leading theories of
social and political change advanced by scholars. We also probe the
mechanisms underlying contemporary American society and its European
counterparts, considering the likely forms of social change in the
near future.