Range Of Explanation For Inequality Social Policy

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In this essay I am going to discuss and identify a range of explanations for inequalities in a contemporary UK society. What does Inequality mean? There have been many explanations to the meaning of equality and the reasons why inequality exists. From the authors view point inequality means the inability to bring about equal treatment or same access as another. This view point can be elaborated on exponentially as there are many sources of inequality within the UK. Many questions can be raised when addressing the term inequality and what to do to resolve the issue. Unfortunately there is no quick, easy answer. As the meaning is so vast I will look at a range of explanations which government and researchers have sought to explain it.

The Marxist Approach

Early theorist such as Marx saw an equality built into the socio-economic structure of the community. Mishra (1977, p.70) [In primitive societies the level of technology is low and the division of labour rudimentary. Hence there is no surplus that could be appropriated by a minority. There is therefore a condition of equality in these societies, an equality of bare subsistence to be sure, but life chances are more or less equal for all. Thus the term "rich" and "poor" have no meaning in these societies. With advances in technology, the productive powers of society develop together with the division of labour. An economic surplus over and above the subsistence level now becomes available. With the proportion of this surplus by a small minority, the division between rich and poor arises].Marx believed that to maintain equality that the mode of production should be controlled by the state. Wealth from the production should be distributed on the basis of human need. Therefore supporting the need for a welfare state.

The Functionalist Approach

From a Functionalist's view point inequality is a necessity for a community to survive. Durkheim argues [is not destined to become, as Spencer desires, a sort of agreeable ornament to social life, but it will forever be its fundamental basis. How can we ever really dispense with it?]. A functionalist will argue that in primitive societies there is no formal organization concerned with meeting needs. The needs will be met by kinship and community structure. Townsend 1786 ["What encouragement have the poor to be industrious and frugal when they know... Should they be reduced to want they shall be abundantly supplied"]. This view point argues that inequality is the responsibility of the individual and not that of the state. Lenski published an analysis based on basic assumptions which he took as given. These assumptions were as follows;

  • Humans are social by nature and will co-operate for survival
  • When important decisions have to me made humans are selfish
  • Most items which hold value are in short supply
  • There will be struggle for rewards
  • Humans are unequally endowed by nature
  • Humans are influenced by habit and custom

Linski,s findings was that the more technology that was available the more inequality was installed. Linski 1966.p308 ["significant reversal in age old evolutionary trend toward ever increasing inequality"].

The pragmatic approach

This approach is vastly different from the two approaches I have already discussed.

The pragmatic approach is to look at facts rather than speculation or theories as to why the problem has arisen. The problem I can see with this approach is that the focus is on the immediate problem with no insight as to why the problem is there in the first place therefore prone to repeat itself. The belief is to look at what works and enforce that particular policy. This approach completely disregards any moral values and cultural beliefs. With the blatant disregard to individual community's it would leave a large inconsistency from town to town. Pinker states[ "It can be argued that collectivism on this scale does not have to be consistent with either capitalism or socialism and that its influence has been sufficiently pervasive to create a new social system which will subsequently develop without regard for either of these doctrines].

Examples of Modern Inequality

Lots of questions can and will be raised when looking at inequality at a personal level with very few easy answers.

Why are some people wealthy and some are not?

Why can children only attend schools that are in their en-catchment area?

Why does life expectancy differ from town to town, from rich to poor?

Why is race, religion, gender, sexuality, age discriminated against?

Why does the disabled have limited access to the world?

Inequality for the Disabled

Looking at inequality in a little more depth I have chosen to look at what inequalities the disabled have to live with. So what does disabled actually mean the legal definition of disability according to the DDA 1995 "A person has a disability for the purposes of this Act if he (sic) has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his (sic) ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities."Using this definition does that suggest people who can not care for themselves or socially excluded due to not being fit enough to travel as a result of old age are now disabled. Not just the physical but the mental issues that surround old age as well for example dementia. Family Resources Survey 2002/3 DWP statistics suggest disability affects around 10 million Britons today. Massie 2006.p6. argued "Our historic approach to disability has institutionalized low expectations. These in turn have institutionalized exclusion and fostered often inescapable dependency, compounding the low expectations which create such problems. So when people develop an impairment or long-term health condition, their lives change dramatically. Freedom is restricted. Control is lost and status is diminished. Poverty beckons. Well-being plummets and social interaction lessens. A sense of belonging decreases. The chance to develop and grow as human beings - and as equal citizens - slowly dwindles. The social and economic costs to the disabled individual, and to society, are enormous."

Who becomes disabled? According to the Family Resources Survey Disability Follow-Up (in 1996/7), 78 per cent of adults became disabled at the age of 16 and above. Of these 15 per cent has had an accident in the previous year. 44 per cent have experienced the sudden onset ofa health problem. 41 per cent have had intermittent, chronic or unspecified conditions which got worse. The risk of becoming disabled is also greater for the unemployed, in low status employment such as a plant worker and people who are on a low income. Not only do the disabled have to live with the inequality attached to their disability they have the normal reasons for equality on top. For example racism, homophobia, gender, religion just to name a few. As the world is created to meet the needs of able bodied persons this creates a problem for the disabled. Simple day to day tasks can become quite difficult and some times impossible for the disabled. Just going to the shops for their day to day necessities have there problems which has to be addressed before leaving the house. The disabled have to plan every step of their journey for example, how do I get there, does the bus or taxi have disabled facilities , can I get in and around the shop ,are there shopping carts which cater for my needs. As you can see the list goes on and on. If they can answer no to any of these questions this would be a restriction to their life thus proving an inequality. These questions do not only apply to day to day shopping but to every aspect of their life for example socializing, going to the cinema, theatre for some this is just not feasible without help. Just these issues alone would have a detrimental affect on an individual such as isolation, depression. Hughes & Paterson, 1997, p. 335 argues (that that we apprehend the world through our bodies-and, conversely, that the (impaired) body is made meaningful through culture). How can this be achieved if the disabled can not get anywhere due to services not accommodating the needs of all. The disabled also have difficulty in finding work as not all employees have the facilities to accommodate the disabled. DRC 2007 The World Health Organisation has predicted that depression will be the leading cause of disability by 2020. The anticipated growth in the number of adults with mental health problems and learning disabilities is particularly significant because in the past these have caused people to be among the least likely to be in paid employment. One of the key barriers to work that disabled people face is low qualifications.

DRC 2007 In 2003, 40 per cent of disabled people of working age had no qualifications. There has been a significant increase in the demand for higher qualifications and this trend is likely to continue to 2020. The Learning and Skills Council has warned that without at least a basic grasp of Information Technologyskills, people will find it increasingly difficult to find work. This poses an increasingly significant barrier to work for many disabled people. For example, of those in receipt of Disabled Living Allowance, 37 per cent have never used a computer, while only 37 per cent have used the Internet. The governments solution to the ever growing problem was to introduce new legislation to prevent discrimination against the disabled by prospective employers. DDA 1995 part 2 section 4 states that

  1. It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a disabled person-
  1. in the arrangements which he makes for the purpose of determining to whom he should offer employment;
  2. in the terms on which he offers that person employment; or
  3. by refusing to offer, or deliberately not offering, him employment.
  • It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a disabled person whom he employs-
    1. in the terms of employment which he affords him;
    2. in the opportunities which he affords him for promotion, a transfer, training or receiving any other benefit;
    3. by refusing to afford him, or deliberately not affording him, any such opportunity; or
    4. by dismissing him, or subjecting him to any other detriment.
  • Subsection (2) does not apply to benefits of any description if the employer is concerned with the provision (whether or not for payment) of benefits of that description to the public, or to a section of the public which includes the employee in question, unless-
    1. that provision differs in a material respect from the provision of the benefits by the employer to his employees; or
    2. the provision of the benefits to the employee in question is regulated by his contract of employment; or
    3. the benefits relate to training.
  • In this Part "benefits" includes facilities and services.
  • In the case of an act which constitutes discrimination by virtue of section 55, this section also applies to discrimination against a person who is not disabled.
  • Although there has been many laws passed to prevent discrimination by society not making the world accessible to all this in it self could be described as discriminatory.

    There is now an abundance of charities and organizations to help meet the needs of the disabled. They also can protect the rights of the disabled. The Disability links website provides a huge selection of volunteer services for the disabled from legal advice to help with every day needs.

    After looking at various sources of information I agree to some extent with some of the thoughts and ideas that was presented. I have however seen faults with all the theories. I will however argue that as a nation we will never be free from inequality however should strive to achieve this. What history has proven time and again that by resolving one reason for inequality leads on to develop another. All for mentioned approaches are based on ideologies. But what is an ideal world and who should decide what the benchmark should be. The fact that we all inhabit an imperfect world as individuals with many different views and opinions on how to rectify issues would that in it self lead to inequality?

    • Mishra, R., 1977. Society and Social Policy. Second Edition. London; The Macmillan Press Ltd
    • Durkheim, The Division of Labour in Society (New York; Free Press, 1964) p.221
    • Townsend,J., 1796. Dissertation on the poor laws
    • Pinker, R., 1979. The idea of welfare; London Heinemann Educational Books
    • Linskey, G., 1966. Power and Privilage.New York; McGraw-Hill
    • DDA 1995 http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1995/ukpga_19950050_en_2#pt2-pb1-l1g4
    • http://www.disabilityuk.com/masterpages/links.htm
    • Disability rights commission
    • Family Resources Survey 2002/3
    • Massie 2006.
    • Hughes & Paterson, 1997

    Article name: Range Of Explanation For Inequality Social Policy essay, research paper, dissertation