Social Class Systems Inequality Questions

1. According to the text, functionalists and conflict theorists understand the social class system differently. Their respective analyses of class differences, justification for the class system and degree of mobility possible within the system are sharply divergent. How can we understand their radically different assessments of the social class system in the U.S.? What seems to be in the center of the dispute?

2. In his presentation of the basic measures used by sociologists to describe social inequality in our social system, Andersen examines how inequality is structured in the U.S., and how social inequality is distributed in the United States. Under what circumstances might these measures not reveal social class boundary lines? That is how, according to Andersen, might the conventional methods that sociologists use NOT be adequate to determine where one class begins and another ends?

3. When you consider how far apart the conflict and functionalist views of the social class system is, your eyes must surely be drawn to the evidence each uses to support the divergent assessments. What about that evidence? What would count for evidence? What if anything might settle the disagreement among sociologists about the nature, the desirability, and the composition of our social class system? How can we tell whether there is sufficient upward social mobility in the U.S.?

4. In Andersen’s view, what are the larger consequences of the patterns of inequality sociologists have identified? Why do sociologists keep a close watch on levels of inequality in American society anyway? Why should they care about the phenomenon? Or perhaps sociologists are really not that concerned?


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