Social Organization of Work and Inequality
This study addresses the socio-historical conditions linking work and inequality from the industrial period to today. Over the past 200 years, changes in social and economic policies have orchestrated to the rise in social and economic inequalities across the world. Research findings have repeatedly indicated that such inequalities have had adverse impacts on social and health outcomes. Recent surveys found that citizens all over the globe are prepared to work hard to improve their living standards. However, global governments are committed to induce polices that seek to reduce the underlying working conditions and inequalities to attain a more equitable society (Wharton 21).
Socio-historical conditions have been acknowledged in a wider aspect as vital determinants of social and health outcomes. This study has focused on the perceptions towards socio-historical conditions relating to government responsibilities and increased inequalities in the society. Democratic economies have shown that governments are sometimes dependent on public opinion. From early 19th century, we have witnessed adequate evidence of socio-economic disparities in social and health outcomes (Cumbler 40). Recent researchers have discovered these differences. Although, life expectancy has been improving over the years across all socio-economic classes, the ethnic and socio-economic gap in the work place has remained significant across different sectors of the population. Individuals with a higher socio-economic status continue to enjoy a reduced mortality and morbidity rates than individuals with lower socio-economic status. Inequalities at the workplace continue to persist based on socio-economic strata. In addition, up to the period of 2001, we have witnessed an increase in economic and social deprivation within geographic inequalities. This indicated that ethnic inequalities had dropped or even reversed between 2002 and 2008 (Sweet and Meiksins 33).
Government policies have been introduced to make a difference by influencing the socio-historical conditions linking work and inequality. These policies have focused on decreasing unemployment instead of increasing or maintaining welfare benefits. Besides a minimal increase in tax breaks and benefits for the low-income earners, steps towards reducing inequalities have encompassed increasing the minimum wage and the training rate. Further, new policies have introduced steps to improve access to better housing and employee benefit packages. In most cases, the targeted help seeks to assist low and middle-income households in employment (Navarro 49).
When Greenhouse and Coming Collapse of the Middle Class videos were released, they chimed with the post-class attitudes. The videos argue that high rates of inequalities have been associated with a battery of issues including higher rates of murder crimes, low life expectancy, and unemployment. It appears that the high and mighty in the society have wrecked the overall financial system making all the citizens ill, as well. However, the claims presented in the videos have received notable criticisms from sociologists within the liberal political spectrum (UCtelevision 2008). However, whether wrong or right, the two videos have raised deep concerns with one concern remaining wide open. They have framed the arguments on inequality in a biological context hence harking back on outdated philosophical aspects of human nature. This has raised the question, as to whether human beings are so flexible that they can be fiercely competitive or egalitarian species (Evans 28). Researchers have conducted a series of studies on this question. First, the human species has spent almost 96% of their life as hunters and gatherers. This nomadic existence did not have room for poverty thus; there was no difference in material possession. Anthropologists have observed that wealth is a burden to hunters. In the ancient times, people valued their collection of possessions and carried them along their nomadic lives (Wharton 52).
Around 1000 years ago, human beings began possessing more than one another did. Because farmers were sedentary, they could store their possessions in buildings and claim a great portion of land. Because farming was more efficient than gathering, labor divisions developed. Others planted adequate food to supply to those who did not produce enough such as soldiers, artisans, and kings. Inevitably, those who did not produce food ended up wealthier than those who produced food. Leaders (Kings) skimmed surplus produce in the name of taxes to finance temples, palaces, and armies. Priests developed mechanisms of spinning yarns as tithing thus justifying all the robbery in exchange for their own income. After some thousand years, within a blink of an eye, the world had undergone total evolution. Human beings had transformed from living in tiny egalitarian plots to large-scale societies with high inequality levels (Navarro 88).
Later on, it was hardly surprising that drastic appearance of inequalities did not precipitate deleterious impacts for the human body or mind. The videos have been associated to the advent of farming including increased population density and exposure to emerging threats such as infectious diseases. Evolutionary psychologists have predicted that our ancestors argued that the new social inequality landscape was damaging. Further, they claim that natural selection has not had adequate time to adapt to the changing world. According to Wharton and Sweet, human beings are increasingly becoming tiny disparities in socio-economic status. The two videos demonstrate that this sensitivity was crucial when our ancestors lived in tiny hunter-gatherer bands: difference in status was relatively slight. However, in the modern world, international elites earn thousand times double those at the bottom of the economic ladder and enjoy a completely different lifestyle than the rest. Because the detectors of our status has gone into overdrive, in today’s world, a sensitivity evolving to assist low-status people signal obedience tends to generate pathological results (Ryscavage 55)
Wharton and Sweet support the idea that it is impossible for all of us to succeed hence some must fail. These videos have been supported by studies focusing on dominance hierarchies across species. For instance, a study conducting in the civil servant of Britain found that employees in lower grade positions demonstrated a higher level of facing anticipated stress than individuals in higher job positions (Carnegiecouncil (b), 2009). On the contrary, it appears that individuals at the top of the pyramid, who enjoy much decision-making roles, are likely to have minimal stressful lives. An emerging theory claims that the lower an individual is at the command chain, the lesser command he/she has over the daily life. Taking orders, as opposed to issuing orders leads to a rise in heart rate, blood pressure, and stress hormones (Sweet and Meiksins 74). Inequality can be positive in some way. It is not necessarily a negative sum game, whereby all people end up worse: instead, it is a zero sum game where the health of the poor is offset by the health benefits of the wealthy sitting at the top of the pyramid. In the society, while other succeeds, other must fail. Evolutionary psychologists have also explored the experimental aspects supporting claims that human beings are naturally opposed to inequalities (Wharton 90).
During the evolutionary period, inequality levels might have fluctuated. The last ancestor, whom we share most features existed in Africa some six million years ago. Some ancestor species have proven to be domineering even today and due to their brutal nature, they tend to punish their juniors. However, anthropologists such as Christopher Boehm have published evidence that all this has evolved nearly 500,000 years ago with the development of spears. The discovery of more advanced weapons implied that we could not determine the outcome of a task based on physical strength. Weaker males could not perform better than strong ones. This led to the transition of more egalitarian societies, whereby leadership was guided by skillful bargaining and negotiations than mere brute force (UCtelevision 2008). If this is right, the hunter-gatherer egalitarianism, which is unusual from the evolutionary perspective, a mere stage between socio-economic inequality and dominance hierarchies generated by the advent in farming. Besides our natural condition, the minimal rate of inequality among hunter-gatherer bands seems to be a fragile accomplishment stemming from a certain phase of advances in military technology. Researchers agree that this is a short-term respite within species, who are inherently predisposed to hierarchical agreements (Rossides 63).
For us to produce an equal society, we must put in efforts to contend with out innate desire for socio-economic status and our competitive instincts. The egalitarian era might have also transformed due to the discovery and developments in weaponry enabling early human species to hunt big. We have a big deal of meat in our store than we can consume. Therefore, others consume most of the meat. However, the link between egalitarianism and sharing has not passed ways of equal distribution (Cumbler 70). Some scholars claimed that early human species did not divide their possessions equally among the band members as if they exercised some form of illiterate communism. Instead, those who did not have anything snatched some from their successful counterparts. This primitive model of human sharing is referred to as tolerated theft. Those who are successful are forced to tolerate those who are not (Carnegiecouncil (a), 2009).
In addition, the difficulty of concession results in egalitarianism, not due to kindred spirit or fellow feeling. The realization that inequalities dig deeper into the psyche than egalitarianism indicates the form of society we should invest to create. We cannot jump from the video’s empirical evidence to the hierarchical frameworks of moral judgments, as this would accumulate to a naturalistic fallacy. However, human beings face considerable obstacles in the path to achieving great socio-economic and work and equality. This remains to be a mere desire in today’s economy (Rossides 99).
For instance, efforts that seek to foster equal working society must contend with the competitive instincts and inherent desire for status inhibited by human beings. These cannot be disputed and thrown away as mere cultural artifacts by economic reforms. This was the belief of the Soviet Union in the new Russian revolution. Contrary to this, these ideologies are deeply intertwined in our nature and they have developed ways of expressing themselves in the society. Indeed, this is the underlying reason behind the communist societies of Europe, which lasted for their time (Navarro 90). It remains a puzzle, how the inefficiencies in the Soviet Union lasted for seventy years that explain the reasons why Russia failed to become a true communist.
While there have been strenuous efforts towards stamping them out, small elements of capitalism continues to persists that ensure the system keeps moving. For instance, bosses in factories are being given bonuses on condition that they meet their set original targets. This demonstrates that this we human beings tend to seek ways to compete, even where competition has been forbidden (Carnegiecouncil (b), 2009). Such restrictions in flexibility have constrained workable social structures suggesting certain mechanisms of tinkering with social systems. We might be far from grasping a communist society, despite wanting one, but it has been possible to develop improved forms of capitalism. Previously, this has been achieved through aligning socially desirable incomes and individual incentives (Cumbler 93).
Social systems have been evolving in the hope of discovering improved forms of organizations, which we could design by ourselves. As much as this might look like a form of political nihilism, but it is an attempt to reverse the current inequalities in the society. However, from a different point-of-view, it is a humble acceptance of the human cognitive limitations revolving around the deep faith in wisdom of the society. This has proven to be extra effective in generating equitable global institutions. For instance, the British common law of accumulated precedents appears to be much better in promoting equality and fairness to justice systems than the Latin American Napoleonic legal systems (Evans 71).
Left to our own devices, we are likely to develop strategies of correcting the extreme inequalities, which do not eliminate all work incentives. This originates from the circulation of sharing norms at the workplace. Norms governing negotiation and sharing at the workplace are cultural advances and not an inherent component of human nature. Different backgrounds dating from 35,000 BC led to the emergence of long-range trading. Since then, it has been a slow journey to the current global economy based on complex mechanisms (Carnegiecouncil (b), 2009). The slow growth of market strategies has been made possible by the evolution of norms making it possible for fair trade. Perhaps, Karl Max was right by suggesting that capitalism would generate destruction. Perhaps, it has simply sowed seeds for mechanisms that soften the worst excess of capitalism (UCtelevision 2008).
Inequalities at the workplace continue to persist based on socio-economic strata. In addition, up to the period of 2001, we have witnessed an increase in economic and social deprivation within geographic inequalities. This was an indication that ethnic inequalities had dropped or even reversed between 2002 and 2008 (Sweet and Meiksins 89).
Carnegiecouncil. (a). Steven Greenhouse: The Big Squeeze. YouTube. 2009. Web. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruxNo3JefiY
Carnegiecouncil. (b). The Big Squeeze — Tough Times for the American Worker. YouTube. 2009. Web. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KgoPIbvhg8&feature=related
Cumbler, John T. A Social History of Economic Decline: Business, Politics, and Work in Trenton. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2009. Print.
Evans, Karen. Learning, Work and Social Responsibility: Challenges for Lifelong Learning in a Global Age. Dordrecht: Springer, 2009. Print.
Navarro, Vicente. The Political and Social Contexts of Health. Amityville, N.Y: Baywood Pub, 2008. Print.
Rossides, Daniel W. Social Theory: Its Origins, History, and Contemporary Relevance. Dix Hills, N.Y: General Hall, 2008. Print.
Ryscavage, Paul. Income Inequality in America: An Analysis of Trends. Armonk, N.Y: M.E. Sharpe, 2008. Print.
Sweet, Stephen and Meiksins, Peter. Changing Contours at Work: Jobs and Opportunities in the New Economy. Sage Publications. 2007 print.
UCtelevision. The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class. YouTube. 2008. Web. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akVL7QY0S8A&feature=channe
Wharton, Amy. Working in America. NY: McGraw-Hill 3rd Ed. 2008 print.