SOC102- Global inequality.

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Global Inequality

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Global Inequality


Apparently, social inequality emanates from a society with organized hierarchies of class, gender, and races that brokers resources access and rights in ways that make their distribution unequal (Giddens & Griffiths, 2006). Social inequality can manifest itself in different ways such as wealth and income inequality, inequitable access to cultural resources and education as well as unfair treatment by police or in judicial systems among others. The following paper seeks to discuss social inequality in line with corporations and sweatshops as examples. The paper starts with an overview of social inequality before addressing Global Corporations and Sweat Shops and finally providing theoretical perspective and application.

Overview of Social Inequality

Admittedly, social inequality is characterized by the existence of unequal rewards and opportunities for different social status and positions in a society or group. Social inequality contains both recurrent and structured patterns of unequal distributions of wealth, goods, opportunities, punishments, and rewards. For example, racism is considered as a phenomenon whereby access to resources and rights is distributed unfairly across racial dimensions. Connectively, in the U.S situation people of color typically experience racism that benefits white people through ensuring that they confer on them white privileges. Consequently, this allows white people greater access to resources and rights than other Americans .

Accordingly, social inequality can be measured in two main ways, which include inequality of opportunities and inequality of conditions. In equality of conditions is the unequal distribution of wealth, income as well as material goods. For example, housing is an inequality of conditions whereby the homeless, as well as those people who live in housing projects, sit at the bottom of the hierarchy while the rest who live in multi-million dollar homes are at the top of the hierarchy. Another example relates to the level of the entire communities whereby some people are unstable, poor, and always experiencing violence while the others work in high government positions or operate large businesses thus enjoying secure, safe, and happy conditions in their lives.

On the other hand, inequality of opportunities is the unequal distribution of possibilities in life across individuals. In most cases, such variations are manifested in measures such as health status, the level of education as well as unfair and biased treatment by the criminal justice system. For instance, research has shown that university and college professors are more likely to ignore letters and emails sent by people of color or women compared to emails from the white men. Notably, this provides privileges of the outcomes of educational performance of white men though channeling a skewed amount of educational and mentorship resources to the white people. Based on the above overview, it would be careful note that discrimination at the community, individual as well as institutional levels are one of the most important aspects of the process of harnessing and promoting social inequalities of class, race, sexuality, and gender.

The study has shown, for example, that men are systematically paid more than their women counterparts for the same type of work, thus widening disparity in the society (In Lenger & in Schumacher, 2015). According to sociologists, racism is built into the very foundation of the community and is present in all of the social institutions. In the society, many types of social issues show forms of social inequality around the world such as cultural tourism, people smuggling, global corporations and sweatshops. In light of these types of social inequalities, the following sections seek to discuss global companies and sweatshops to illustrate inequality issues in the world.

Global Corporations and Sweat Shops

In many cases, multinational and Transnational Corporations (TNCs) that do business in different countries across the globe have been accused of exploiting and weakening developing nations through scouring the globe for cheap raw materials and inexpensive labor (Brym & Lie, 2010). Accordingly, multinational companies around the world often pay only a fraction of they would have paid in their home countries for the same products (Held & Kaya, 2007). Despite the fact that they help in contributing to the economies of emerging economies, the main beneficiaries of their investments and profits come from their home nations.

Studies have shown that multinational companies roam in many poor priorities where there is vulnerable workforce such as in Bangladesh, Haiti, China, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Vietnam, and India, among other nations. In these countries, laborers work up to fourteen hours or more on a daily basis to receive sub-poverty wages and in horrible conditions. In most cases, TNCs are not accountable thus they care less when they ruthlessly exploit already dehumanized global workforce by denying them a living wage, civil liberties as well as the right to work in dignified and healthy safe conditions (Brym & Lie, 2010).

In this way, multinational corporations play a critical role in keeping global stratification in place. On the other hand, since the 19th century, the term “sweatshops” has been around (Brym & Lie, 2010). The definitions of the word sweatshop may vary, but generally, the term refers to the workplaces that are characterized by poor pay, with no or few benefits and in harsh, unfavorable, unsafe, and hazardous conditions. The employees in these workplaces are inhumanely treated by their employers, and in most cases prevented from raising pertinent welfare issues or organizing for redress.

Notably, the term itself tend to refer to the tactic of “sweating” to the maximum the profit made by each worker, which is a practice that was derived and thrived in the late 19th century (Brym & Lie, 2010). According to the Sweatshop Watch group, a sweatshop refers to workplaces that violate the law and in which workers are subjected to poor conditions of working such as safety and health hazards. At the same time, workers are subjected to extreme exploitation characterized by poor living wage as well as long working hours (Martell, 2010). Besides, arbitrary discipline in the form of physical and verbal abuse is directed to the workforce. Workers are also subjected to intimidation and fear when they organize, speak out or attempt to form or join workers’ unions.

Based on the above brief overview of both global corporations and sweatshops, it is clear that any TNC or multinational company and industries that intimidate its workforce as described is a form of “sweatshop” (Held & Kaya, 2007). For example, apparel is one of the most global industries across the world which employees the greatest numbers of the workforce. Statistics show that American apparel industries are present in more than 150 countries around the world, with over two million workers.

Accordingly, most of the employees of these industries are teenagers and young women who work in garment sweatshops that produced for the American retailers (Held & Kaya, 2007). The study has shown that more than eighty percent of the of the worker in the apparel industry that produces clothing for the American retailers work under conditions that violate both local and international labor laws. Ironically, despite apparel retailers promising to ensure that the system is cleaned up, the situation has been getting worse for workers.

Theoretical Perspective and Application

Evidently, global inequality and stratification are closely associated with social issues (Kornblum & Smith, 2011). In this light, although there are several theories that explain inequality in the world, sociologists focus mostly on modernization, dependency, and global inequality methods. According to modernization theory, countries that are categorized as low-income, are affected due to their lack industrialization but can improve their standing on world economy by adjusting their attitudes to work as well as their cultural values. Modernization theory also argues that low-income nations can enhance their economic performance through industrialization and other forms of economic growth. However, sociologists and critics read malice in the interpretation of the modernization theory in that it supposes that all nations have the same resources thus can follow the same path (Brym & Lie, 2010). At the same time, this theory assumes that the primary objective of all nations is to become as developed as possible as is the case with capitalist democracies provided by the United States and Canada. The modernization theory leaves no room for the possibility that views technology and industrialization as not the only alternatives for economic growth.

In reference to modernization theory, social inequality has become more profound since developed nations understand the basic elements of economic growth thus less willing to allow less developed nations to overtake their dominance (Kornblum & Smith, 2011). Therefore, developed nations use different means including global corporations and sweatshops to exploit the already ailing economies of developing nations. The natural resources found in emerging countries are explored and exploited to benefit citizens in wealthy countries.

On the other hand, dependency theory was developed to respond to the Western-centric mindset of modernization theory (Kornblum & Smith, 2011). According to dependency theory, global inequality is mainly caused by core nations with high incomes who exploit peripheral and semi-peripheral countries. In this way, developed nation contribute in creating a cycle of dependence (Holton, 2014). Evidently, during colonialism period, metropolis and core nations developed the conditions for the underdevelopment of hinterlands and peripheral nations through a metropolis-hinterland relationship. Consequently, the resources available in hinterlands were extracted and shipped to metropolises whereby they would be converted to manufactured goods before being shipped back to hinterlands for consumption.

Based on dependency theory, exploitation in less developed countries is endemic in different sectors such as in agriculture, mining, and others whereby corporations extract raw materials, which are shipped to wealthy nations to produce finished goods such as shoes, instant tealeaves, toys, or garments. Workers in such factories and industries are harassed and intimidated such as in Asia, Africa, Central and South America according to the International Labor Organization (ILO).

Other theories that are related to social inequalities are globalization and functionalistic theories (Boatcă, 2015). Specifically, global approach focuses on the international flows of capital disinvestment and investment in the increasingly globalized world market, which explains why corporations and sweatshops can integrate and establish themselves abroad (Kornblum & Smith, 2011). On its part, functionalist theorists support social inequality and argue that it is desirable in the world (Kornblum & Smith, 2011). According to this theory, the capitalistic nature of corporations and sweatshops is the reward of efforts they apply to get the desired income, which justifies their actions.


As noted above, social inequality is present in almost every society. Besides providing the definition of social inequality, this paper has discussed two main categories of social inequality including inequality of opportunities and inequality of conditions. Further, the paper has presented multinational corporations and sweatshops as examples of global inequalities. Finally, this work has provided theoretical perspective on the issue of social inequality


. Farnham, Surrey, UK: AshgateGlobal inequalities beyond occidentalismBoatcă, M. (2015).

. Sociology: Your compass for a new world, the brief editionBrym, R. J., & Lie, J. (2010).

Belmont, California: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.SociologyGiddens, A., & Griffiths, S. (2006).

. Cambridge: Polity.Global inequality: Patterns and explanationsHeld, D., & Kaya, A. (2007).

. New York, NY: Palgrave.Global inequalitiesHolton, R. J. (2014).

Understanding the dynamics of global inequality: In Lenger, A., & In Schumacher, F. (2015).

.Social exclusion, power shift, and structural changes

. Belmont, CA: Sociology in a changing worldKornblum, W., & Smith, C. D. (2011).

Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

. Cambridge: Polity.The sociology of globalizationMartell, L. (2010).