Sociology of Global Inequalities

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Anja WEISS, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany
Conceptualizing society as a stratified class society has lost much of its appeal since the 1960ies. Today, theorists of social inequalities prefer an intersectional approach (Yuval-Davis) or they focus on microsocial and organizational mechanisms (Tilly).

Class is a difficult topic for international migration scholars, too. Traditionally, migrants were seen as exploited and as segmenting national labor markets. Today, scholars of transnational migration describe a contradictory class mobility (Parreñas): migrants may be poor in the country of arrival while supporting middle class lifestyles in the country of origin.

In an attempt to “decentre” migration (Dahinden) and to theorize migrants’ ‘class’ position in a multidimensional theory of social inequalities, the paper offers a sociological theory of global inequalities. Instead of placing persons in one national welfare-state thereby turning migrants into an exception, the proposed theory argues that all humans are situated in a plurality of functionally differentiated, politically contested, and territorially segmented contexts. For some people the nation-state succeeds in conflating these contexts, but for migrants, elites, and those living in dysfunctional states contexts are plural, in part deterritorialized, and/or extending beyond national borders. Resource rich groups can strategically place themselves in context relations. Therefore, socio-spatial autonomy is an important dimension of global inequalities.

Put differently: Social structure is not contained by the nation-state, but it emerges from a web of context relations. Since the value of resources depends on the contexts in which they are put to use, stratification by citizenship and symbolic exclusion is a constitutive element of social structure.