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Theoretical explanations of Ethnic Inequalities

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Tara Doherty

on 29 April 2014

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Transcript of Theoretical explanations of Ethnic Inequalities

Theoretical explanations of Ethnic Inequalities
Neo Marxist
Weberian explanation
Weberian explanations differ from the marxist ones in suggesting that ethnic differences may be viewed as more important than economic differences in explaining inequality.
In this sense weberian explanations are more flexible and multi dimensional, certainly than traditional marxist ones.
Some sociologists have suggested that the neo - Marxists actually use a great deal of Weberian theory in their work.
radical plans to boost integration
Common value system
Functionalists use the common value system to explain ethnic inequalities.
Ethnic differences and inequalities are temporary and based on cultural differences between minority or immigrant groups and their host nation.
Such differences are inevitable for a period of time, but functionalists argue that the maintenance of social order and the collective solidarity meant that minority groups slowly adapt to the majority culture over time.
This is known as ASSIMILATION
This is where a group gives up their cultural values and adopts the culture of the majority - a kind of cultural melting pot.
Assimilation was considered a positive outcome of racial and ethnic equality and a means of preventing a state of anomie.
Functionalist & New Right
Closely related to the functionalist views are those of the new right, where attempts have been made to foster assimilation and ethnic integration.
In the UK, for example, there have been attempts to legislate that the English language must form part of compulsory training for ethnic minorities at risk of marginalization and ethnic separatism.
However such approaches have been blamed for fuelling ethnic conflict in some parts of the UK.
Is Ethnic assimilation working?
Writing in 1966 in the USA, he argued that the 'American Negro' was a second class citizen.
At that time skin colour symbolised inferiority and was used as a justification for placing black Americans at the bottom of the social ladder.
Parsons argued that over time the common value would change: minority ethnic groups would either become assimilated or integrated into an emerging shared value system and would play a full role in the meritocratic society.
Firstly there is no agreement on what the common value system is. Is it in fact a white middle class male perspective?
Secondly there is no evidence that minority groups assimilate into the mainstream culture, the multicultural UK is a good example of diversity over time.
Finally, the persistence of racism against the same minority groups would suggest that long term evolution cannot explain inequalities between ethnic groups.
Furthermore, functionalists treat society as one homogenous group, whereas evidence would suggest that the inequalities experienced by ethnicities are based on the areas they live in.
For Marxists, racism and inequality play an important role in the capitalist economic system.
COX (1948) proposed that radical differences and racism itself had been the creation of the economic system - that racism was created and sustained by capitalism.
Racism helped to maintain a false class consciousness by using divide and rule tactic: by creating divisions within the working class itself, there is less opportunity for the working class to unite and revolt.
Castles & Kosack (1973)
They have argued that ethnic minority groups could also be used as part of the reserve army of labour, supporting the capitalist system while providing an illusion of meritocracy.
These workers are forced to work for lower wages than their white counter parts in order to survive.
For Marxist writers, minority ethnic groups form a sub section of the working class and prevent the development of a 'class in itself' to a 'class for itself', a key process in Marx's theory of class development.
Westgaard and Resler (1976) disagree with this analysis and argue that minority groups form part of a unified working class, not a divided one.
These economic arguments are powerful, however historical evidence shows that racism precedes the development of capitalism (Solomos, 1986) and most Neo Marxists would reject Cox's over simplistic argument that capitalism created racism.
They have developed the economic position and blended it with some cultural arguments.
Similarly, it is perhaps over simplistic to argue that ethnic - minority groups form part of a united working class.
Neo - Marxist writers have combined elements of the economic arguments with work on cultural differences, and acknowledge that ethnic differences cannot adequately be explained in such a deterministic manner as they had been by traditional Marxists.
Miles (1980)
Miles made an important contribution when he argued that M/E groups are part of the same class structure as the majority; however, they formed a radicalised part of it.
By this he meant that E/M may always be treated or perceived as being different, because of radical factors.
This does not, of course, imply direct racism, but may be a form of cultural racism
Miles (1980)
Miles used the concept of radicalised class fractions to explain the existence of E/M in the petite bourgeoisie, or middle classes (which do exist, as the Neo Marxists argue).
In short, E/M can be found in all social classes, but their ethnicity means they will be subject to differential treatment.
Other Neo Marxist writers have developed the traditional economic arguments and shown how E/M can be scapegoated by the ideological state apparatus.
Hall (1979) argued that ethnic relations are historically specific and subject to change over time.
E.G Immigration problems in the 1970's.
The Neo Marxist studies begin to fuse economic and cultural arguments in explaining inequalities.
This could be applied to polish migrant workers- who enter the UK legally (member of the EU), but who face difficulties fitting into British society as they are percieved by some as 'taking jobs' and by others to be be culturally different and therefore troublesome.
However, neo Marxists have still not tackled the formation of racist attitudes themselves, which does not fit with the growth of capitalism.
There is also a strong argument put forward by Weberian based sociologists that ethnic/ racial differences override economic differences in explaining inequality.
Parkin (1968)
Parkin terms M/E groups as 'negatively privileged status groups'. He uses the concept of social closure to argue that the more privileged groups can operate a system of social segregation and keep minority groups out of positions of authority.
The concept of the glass ceiling can be used here, although some have suggested that for minority workers the ceiling can be used here, although some have suggested that for minority workers the ceiling is actually concrete as they are denied vision of the white male dominated boardroom.
Rex & Moore (1967)
Argued that minority groups were severely disadvantaged in the labour market , that they formed part of the dual labour market, being placed in the secondary labour market.
Their life chances and market position were noticeably weaker than their white counter parts; they were marginalised and risked forming an underclass in scoiety.
It was racial differences rather than economic differences that had created this situation.
Questions have been asked about the differences between these approaches and the neo marxist idea of radicalisation and class fractions.
There are clear overlaps, but the weberian explanations probably do give more credibility to ethnic differences than to economic ones, and for marxist writers the opposite is true.
The main criticism against them comes from the postmodern views, but these can be taken as a critique against all the classic sociological theorists.
Postmodern sociologists in this area are keen to extend the analysis of ethnicity beyond that of recalling disadvantage and offering structural solutions.
In a world characterised by diversity, fluidity and fragmentation, postmodern writers have engaged with the concept of superdiversity and are producing work which documents the range of diversity within the UK.
Post modernists are working to bring about lasting change, not only in material circumstances but also in seeking to ensure that grand themes and analyses are no longer applied to whole ethnic groups -who they argue are not all experiencing the same advantages and disadvantages and who are as diverse as they are common.
Modood wants to develop a more plural approach to ethnic relations that will extend into the future, rather than looking backwards.
His work stresses difference and diversity of experience rather than commonality, and this is critical of the portrayal of EM groups as being victims (Modood and Berthoud 1997
What do the following terms mean and which theories do they link to?
Super- diversity
Ethnic penalty
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