Discussion Global Inequality

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Discussion Global Inequality

Discussion Prompt 1: In your own words, define
discrimination and prejudice and provide at least two examples of each. Include
both institutional discrimination and institutional racism.

Discussion Prompt 2:Review the following website, which
provides statistics if the world were 100 people.
http://100people.org/statistics_100stats.php?section=statistics

What is your reaction to this? Discuss this project in terms
of global inequality, which you studied in this week’s materials. How could the
different sociological perspectives explain global inequality?

In 2000, the world entered a new millennium. In the spirit of a grand-scale New Year’s resolution, it was a time for lofty aspirations and dreams of changing the world. It was also the time of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a series of ambitious goals set by UN member nations. The MDGs, as they became known, sought to provide a practical and specific plan for eradicating extreme poverty around the world. Nearly 200 countries signed on, and they worked to create a series of 21 targets with 60 indicators, with an ambitious goal of reaching them by 2015. The goals spanned eight categories:

Discussion Global Inequality

Discussion Global Inequality

To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
To achieve universal primary education
To promote gender equality and empower women
To reduce child mortality
To improve maternal health
To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
To ensure environmental sustainability
To develop a global partnership for development (United Nations 2010)
There’s no question that these were well-thought-out objectives to work toward. Many years later, what has happened? As of the 2010 Outcome Document, much progress has been made toward some MDGs, while others are still lagging far behind. Goals related to poverty, education, child mortality, and access to clean water have seen much progress. But these successes show a disparity: some nations have seen great strides made, while others have seen virtually no progress. Improvements have been erratic, with hunger and malnutrition increasing from 2007 through 2009, undoing earlier achievements. Employment has also been slow to progress, as has a reduction in HIV infection rates, which have continued to outpace the number of people getting treatment. The mortality and health care rates for mothers and infants also show little advancement. Even in the areas that made gains, the successes are tenuous. And with the global recession having slowed both institutional and personal funding, the attainment of the goals is very much in question (United Nations 2010). As we consider the global effort to meet these ambitious goals, we can think about how the world’s people have ended up in such disparate circumstances. How did wealth become concentrated in some nations? What motivates companies to globalize? Is it fair for powerful countries to make rules that make it difficult for less-powerful nations to compete on the global scene? How can we address the needs of the world’s population?

Global Stratification and Classification
Just as North America’s wealth is increasingly concentrated among its richest citizens while the middle class slowly disappears, global inequality involves the concentration of resources in certain nations, significantly affecting the opportunities of individuals in poorer and less powerful countries. But before we delve into the complexities of global inequality, let us consider how the three major sociological perspectives might contribute to our understanding of it.

The functionalist perspective is a macroanalytical view that focuses on the way that all aspects of society are integral to the continued health and viability of the whole. A functionalist might focus on why we have global inequality and what social purposes it serves. This view might assert, for example, that we have global inequality because some nations are better than others at adapting to new technologies and profiting from a globalized economy, and that when core nation companies locate in peripheral nations, they expand the local economy and benefit the workers. Many models of modernization and development are functionalist, suggesting that societies with modern cultural values and beliefs are able to achieve economic development while traditional cultural values and beliefs hinder development. Cultures are either functional or dysfunctional for the economic development of societies.

Critical sociology focuses on the creation and reproduction of inequality. A critical sociologist would likely address the systematic inequality created when core nations exploit the resources of peripheral nations. For example, how many Canadian companies move operations offshore to take advantage of overseas workers who lack the constitutional protection and guaranteed minimum wages that exist in Canada? Doing so allows them to maximize profits, but at what cost?

The symbolic interaction perspective studies the day-to-day impact of global inequality, the meanings individuals attach to global stratification, and the subjective nature of poverty. Someone applying this view to global inequality might focus on understanding the difference between what someone living in a core nation defines as poverty (relative poverty, defined as being unable to live the lifestyle of the average person in your country) and what someone living in a peripheral nation defines as poverty (absolute poverty, defined as being barely able, or unable, to afford basic necessities, such as food).

Global Stratification
While stratification in Canada refers to the unequal distribution of resources among individuals, global stratification refers to this unequal distribution among nations. There are two dimensions to this stratification: gaps between nations and gaps within nations. When it comes to global inequality, both economic inequality and social inequality may concentrate the burden of poverty among certain segments of the Earth’s population (Myrdal 1970). As the table below illustrates, people’s life expectancy depends heavily on where they happen to be born.

 

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