What is social inequality?

We explain what social inequality is and the types that exist. In addition, the main causes and consequences of this social problem.

  1. What is social inequality?

Social inequality is understood as a situation of disparity or disadvantage of some portion of the citizenship of a country , or between countries of a region, or between regions of the world, compared to others that are unfairly favored. It is the opposite, logically, to social equality.

Social inequality is a problem of contemporary societies , the product of the uneven development of the various regions of the globe and the imposition of certain ideologies or valuations of some human beings over others. In fact, social inequality is the origin of discrimination , since the latter consists in treating those who are economically, socially or morally disadvantaged in a different way.

Seen in this way, social inequality  implies an unequal distribution of opportunities , respect and access to goods and services, which is based on various cultural or social reasons. It is not, as many would like to believe, a natural or obvious feature of human existence, nor is it a form of “justice” or divine punishment.

Social inequality does not occur in exactly the same way in all places and areas. In some societies it is an issue linked exclusively to the socioeconomic class, while in other places it also involves considerations about race, religion , sexual orientation, etc.

  1. Types of social inequality

Social inequality
Gender inequality can be, for example, discrimination against women.

The most obvious classification of social inequality has to do with the reasons for discrimination. Thus, we can talk about social inequality according to:

  • Economic position . Probably the most common of the forms of social inequality, has its anchor in the economic capacity of the individual or the class to which it belongs, thus separating the world from the rich, the middle class and the poor, obviously detrimental to those They occupy the bottom steps. Those who are below the scale have less access to goods and services, political representation, symbolic and cultural visibility, as well as study and even adequate food. Depending on how far away these social strata are, one can speak of caste societies, in which climbing to the upper rungs is practically impossible.
  • Religion . Religious struggles are as old as man, and in many modern societies they still constitute a factor of inequality between human groups, reserving power and opportunities to those who profess a certain faith, and condemning those of others, often referred to as “ infidels ”or“ heretics ”.
  • Gender . This is discrimination based on biological sex (as in the case of women) or sexual orientation (as in the case of the LGBT community), which reserves the most important and favorable positions for heterosexual men (especially if they are white ) and marginalizes those who do not enroll in a certain traditional arrangement of sexual or erotic roles.
  • Ethnicity . Racial discrimination gives the superior position to certain races or ethnicities, subjugating others to their will because they are considered “inferior” or “different”, and thus denying them access to goods or even fundamental rights, such as life. Some of the great massacres and genocides in history are based on this type of discrimination.
  • Ideology . In this case, it is about political discrimination, that is, the inequality of opportunities and goods between those who adhere to a political doctrine and those who do not, or those who oppose them. This is what happens in totalitarian governments or in dictatorships , for example.
  1. Causes of social inequality

Social inequality does not have a single cause, but is a consequence of the way our history has passed as a species . The French thinker Jean-Jacques Rousseau reflected on the origin of inequality among men and assured that the origin of that was in the social state, that is, that man is not born in inequality, but acquires it at the beginning of compare yourself with your peers and see how they live.

The study of primitive societies has shown that they were much more egalitarian societies in the distribution of labor and benefits, but somewhere in the Neolithic period a process of hierarchy and construction of the State that involved the distribution of labor began and social division, something that would peak with the invention of slavery and the exploitation of man by man.

  1. Consequences of social inequality

Social inequality
Suffering social inequality can lead the individual to depression.

Social inequality has very specific consequences and very contrary to the harmonious development of nations or humanity. The perpetuation of poverty , the strengthening of resentment and the need for revolutions or violent conflicts are just a few of them, since the discomfort of being stuck in immovable social strata often leads to depression or rage in oppressed communities. .

On the other hand, the oppressed never manage to fully develop their potential, since the resources necessary for this are being exploited by others, which causes an incalculable loss of human potential. And poverty, far from being a simple evil, is the source of numerous extremely difficult difficulties to combat: the risk to health, the increase in crime, class hatred, the deterioration of politics , etc.

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