Social inequality describes the unequal distributionof resources across any given population.
When a system of social inequality isbased on a hierarchy of groups it is referred to by sociologists asstratification. Functionalism notes inequality as functional for societyrelating it to biology. It’s a natural state of evolution. Marxism describesinequality as a separation of classes without the opportunity for progressionthis is quite prominent within Australia as there are 2.9 million people livingbelow the poverty line with only 2% of Australians identifying as upper class(ABS, 2016).
Gender inequality is one of biggest issues women seek to equalisenow. It is a prominent issue attempting to exasperate political nations. Australiansare discovering that despite opportunity for all, society is becomingincreasingly unequal. There has been considerable research on the matter thatdebunk Australia as being an egalitarian society (McKay, 1986). Those living inAustralia who fail to recognise the inequality presently are fortunate to livewell above the poverty line and live sound lives. Those in pursuit of socialchange are the ones that are not privileged enough to pertain the same level ofequal rights as the rest of the nation. Thereare currently several social inequalities that face Australia presently.
Theyare portrayed through the media with the fuelling of divisions between racialgroups. Through the expanding gap between the working class and private sectorand the gender inequality that plagues the nations capital. There are various interpretations on inequalityanalysed by different sociologists. Functionalism is the belief that societyfunctions the way it is supposed to. Everyone plays their role in society.
Thefunctionalist perspective was coined largely by late sociologist EmileDurkheim. A functionalist believes that inequality and stratification isfunctional for society with the Davis-Moore thesis cementing the idea thatstratification has beneficial consequences for society operations (Stinchcombe,1963). Unlike other sociological views functionalism believes that socialchange occurs due to natural forces with early sociologists of the theorylikening social change to Charles Darwin’s approach to natural selection(Shields, 1975). Talcott Parsons unveiled the equilibrium model of socialchange describing that society is always in a state of equilibrium and thatnatural forces of change are essential however undesirable, in the growth ofsociety again relating back to the originality of the theory. Karl Marx unlike sociologists of functionalism deemedthat natural order of inequality was undesirable for society.
In short Marxism analysessociety into two classes: The Proletariat and Bourgeoise under the paradigm ofexploitation. Marx claims that capitalism creates the social inequality betweenthe rich and the poor. Capitalists exploit their workers through the refusal offair share of profits (Marxism, 1964).
Marxists through the eye of socialchange view it because of protest or revolution. Unlike functionalists whobelieve social change is unplanned conflict theorists deem social change asfundamental in the equalisation of individuals in the social, economic andpolitical systems. With each emphasis on change follows the conversation ofcriticism.
The advocacy of women’s rights has been a phenomenalstanding point in the last half a century. Feminism aims to equalise both sexesin all aspects of society including economic and political societies. UnlikeMarxists, Feminism creates social development with the outcome leading topositive change. Feminism is broken up into three waves of change over the lastcentury: political, legal and social. Feminism however is facing a major stormof backlash as radical feminists take over and denounce what feminism standsfor through misogynistic views on men. It begs the question however why nochange has happened to political equality because women are afraid to stand forequal rights due to backlash which is exactly what feminism aims to change.
Mass media is a big part of modern societies. Marshall(1996) refers to media as a large-scale organisation using one or moretechnologies to communicate to large numbers of people. The media promotes andreproduces societal values and norms which in turn create common understandingsamongst society. Functionalists like Paul Lazarsfelt and Robert Merton suggestthat the media informs its clients, gives status to different groups however itneglects to criticise the effect on society (Macionis & Plummer, 1997). Themedia today is a dangerous element to society due to only a small few beingable to communicate to a large array of people and the biggest danger of all isthat the audience can not answer back (Mills, 2000). The class dominant theoryclaims that corporations own mass-media outlets and that programming is largelyfunded by advertising and as a result negative publicity is non-existent on amajor advertiser (Gurevitch, Bennett, Curran & Woollacott, 1982).
This isblatantly obvious with coverage of minority groups. Terror attacks carried outby Muslims receive five times the media coverage than those carried out byCaucasians. Analysis of coverage was shown to increase by 449 per cent in thelast 6 years. According to the 2016 Australian Census there are approximately604, 200 Muslims residing in Australia. They make up 2.
6 per cent of thepopulation compared to the 90 per cent of European descent as a result thecalculations can conclude that the media can create a gap and fuel the socialdivisions between the majority and the minorities through the monologue of fearand hatred. Economic inequality refers to the gap between the highestincome earners and the lowest income earners (Eitzen & Leedham, 2000). Thereis a widening gap between the highest and lowest income earners within the wealthiestcountries with Australia being no exception. Income inequality according tosome capitalists as it is important for society because it providescompetition, hard work and innovating ideas (Sutter, 1987), however it fails tomention that capitalism suppresses the working class into oppression due to itsexploitation.
Australia from the outside appears to have high wages althoughworkers must continually fight to maintain their wages against increasingprices. In 1998 the richest 10 per cent of Australians owned 45 per cent of thewealth (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1998). Class today is inseparable thatcapitalists today hold over the clear majority. The private sector need thelabour of their employees to bring resources into motion. This is turn directsworkers activities, reflected through wages. The experience of capitalism inAustralia is heavily criticised yet still lived by. It becomes evident thatcapitalism is exploitive but working class interests need not lie with shortterm victories but with reducing long term exploitation in order to create amore equal society, however it can not happen as it does not correlate withpolitical intentions.
Political capitalism is a system in which the economicelite influence political decisions that surround spending, tax and regulationand in turn the political elite are then supported by the economic elite indecision making thus creating an advantageous benefiting relationship. This isessentially why inequality is obvious between classes because it does notbenefit the political and economic elite fuelling the divide (Holcombe, 2015). Insummary the rich will continue to remain rich and the poor remain poor. As of 2017 there were 150 members of parliament inFederal Politics, of that number only 43 were women.
Feminist movements aim forthe self-representation of rights in any government setting. Women’s rightshave only recently been won however women are still underrepresented in politicalparties. Under the Abbot government, Tony Abbot was the women’s minister of hisLiberal cabinet. Essentially a man represented women’s rights. Julie Bishop wasone of 2 females in the cabinet and disregarded feminism for what it trulymeant and as a result women and their rights were truly forgotten about. Manystudies have concluded on the matter that suggest lower numbers of womenparliamentarians are perceived by the public as exclusion (Sawer, Tremblay& Trimble, 2006). Confirmation by Lawless (2012) suggest that due tostandardised traditional roles, many women feel discouraged from standing aspolitical candidates.
There are 187,100 more females then men within Australia(abs, 2016) however Australian parliament favours the minority. In a recentstudy (Francis, Grimshaw & Standish, 2012) female MPs although aim to finda common agreement amongst issues find it difficult to raise awareness or bringforth issues surrounding women. Feminists preach that gender inequality isn’tjust an image problem within the corporate sector claiming that it has realimplications for the performance of society particularly in the role ofpolitics. According to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia(2013) whilst Australia has made crucial developments in the equalisation ofboth sexes there are still a myriad of barriers facing women in power and itindicates that the current approach to equality is stagnant. “Reducinginequality requires a sustained commitment by the whole of society, withgovernments playing a leading role” (Habibis & Walter, 2015, p. 271).As its concluded within the scope of equality it evident that Australia can notclose the gap between those who are the minority and the majority.
Many sociologicaltheories claim inequality in their own terms however their ideas on social changeare relatively similar in that change occurs through social movements. Moneyand power seem to be at the foreground of issues and economic inequality isalways going to be an uphill battle by those not fortunate to experiences luxuriesof the political and economic elite. Until there is a collective agreementamongst groups the gap can not be made redundant. Australian governments on theoutside claim to want to reduce equality sustained by most Australians but inorder to do that many have to lose their platforms of wealth.