Academic journal article Trames

Acceptable and Unacceptable Sources of Inequality in Romania. A Visual Study

Academic journal article Trames

Acceptable and Unacceptable Sources of Inequality in Romania. A Visual Study

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The paper submits the results of a descriptive research on the perception of inequality in Romania. I have tried to discover the subjective perspectives of inequality (whether there is inequality in Romania, which are the unequally distributed resources and which are the unequally, yet acceptably distributed resources, in Romania). What is new about this paper consists both in the methodological approach (perception of inequality, qualitatively studied, by means of the visual method) and in its results (by the richness of details with which inequality is described). I have also attempted to compare the perception of inequality in subjects from two different societies: Romania and Italy. This attempt has resulted in a few hypotheses (to be tested in wider representative studies), which aim at explaining the differences in the perception of the inequality sources, as well as the differences in terms of inequality acceptability.

In Marshall (2003) inequality is defined as "unequal rewards or chances offered to society's groups" (p. 288). Cherkaoui (1996) shows that "any uniform distribution of a resource is unequal. Inequalities are basically social, as they are related to some economic, political, prestige stratifications, or of other nature" (p. 133).

I tried to discover the structure of inequality in contemporary Romanian society, from the perspective of my subjects. Which resources are perceived as unequally distributed in Romania? Which are the features of social stratification, according to my subjects; which are the status-related beliefs they share?

I likewise tried to discover which are the resources perceived as unequally distributed, yet acceptably, in Romania? Where applicable, which are acceptable sources of inequality? Kerbo (2009) posits that "social stratification means that inequality has been hardened or institutionalized and there is a system of social relationships that determines who gets what and why. When we say institutionalized, we mean that a system of layered hierarchy has been established. People have come to expect that individuals and groups with certain positions will be able to demand more influence and respect and accumulate a greater share of goods and services. Such inequality may or may not be accepted equally by a majority in the society, but it is recognized as the way things are" (p. 10).

2. Theoretical framework

Sociology offers an abundance of literature with respect to inequality. Kerbo (2009) posits that social inequality results from the people's differentiated access to resources and services. When referring to inequality, most authors bring into question other related concepts (most frequently social stratification or social classes).

Any sociological analysis related to social stratification starts with Marx. In Marx's conception, stratification is underlain by the economic dimension of social life: "property is the origin or, at least, one of the foundations of the inequality between people" (Cherkaoui 1997:113). Marx envisions 3 types of property: labour force, capital and land.

Marxist tradition of thought relative to stratification was supplemented by Weberian tradition (equally strong and prestigious in the sociological theoretical frame of inequality). Unlike Marx, Weber posits that, in describing social stratification, we must consider not only the economic aspects, but also some other types of resources. The 3 dimensions of social ranking envisioned by Weber are: economic, statutory and political, wherefrom the class, status and political hierarchies ensue.

Most subsequent studies on inequality started from the aforementioned traditions. Most researches on inequality have focused on social classes and identified various types of resources that generate cleavages. Then there are authors who claim the disappearance of social classes (if not those in se, at least those per se, where class awareness exists). …

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