How well does this theory explain or predict economic inequality in contemporary American society?

| August 27, 2015

How well does this theory explain or predict economic inequality in contemporary American society?

choose one of the three theorists we will learn about in this course – Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx or Max Weber – and apply his theory to the issue of economic inequality in American society. Your paper will answer the following question: How well does this theory explain or predict economic inequality in contemporary American society? This paper gives you an opportunity to think and write about how these classical sociological theories can be used to understand the world we live in today and our own lives. I recommend choosing the theorist whom you think has the most insightful and relevant theory for understanding economic inequality. Alternatively, you may choose the theorist whose ideas you think would be most interesting to challenge.

Length and Organization: Your paper should be 5-6 pages long (not including the works cited page), be double-spaced and should use 12-point font. Your paper should have an introductory paragraph where you tell the reader which theorist you will be addressing and what kind of evidence you will be presenting. Then you should briefly preview the ways in which this theory is useful or not useful for understanding economic inequality in America (this should be based on the assessment you will present later in your paper).
The middle section or “body” of your paper should include three parts. First, describe the theory by defining the key concepts, explaining how they relate to one another and stating what (if any) predictions the theorist makes about future trends in economic inequality. Second, describe what you consider to be the most important trends or patterns in economic inequality in American society, drawing on scholarly reports and studies. You may choose to focus on the last decade, or you may more broadly discuss the trends in economic inequality over the last 25-50 years. Also, depending on what theorist you choose to assess, you may want to focus on economic inequality between specific parts of the population (such as men compared to women, or whites compared to blacks, Latinos and other racial/pan-ethnic groups) or you may want to discuss overall patterns in income and wealth concentration. Third, assess the theory using the evidence of economic inequality you have presented. Say which parts of the theory are useful for understanding trends or patterns in economic inequality in American society and explain why. Then state which parts of the theory are not applicable with current patterns or trends in economic inequality and explain why they don’t fit.
Lastly, your paper should end with a concluding paragraph. This paragraph should briefly restate the theory you have assessed, and the general patterns or trends in economic inequality that you have discussed. Then summarize which parts of the theory are useful for understanding economic inequality in the 21st-century U.S.

Sources: For this paper you will connect a sociological theory with real-world evidence on economic inequality in America today. On the course website I will provide numerous sources that are relevant for studying economic inequality in the U.S. and assessing the theories, such as U.S. Government reports and academic studies. Over the course of the quarter I will also reference these materials in lecture when we discuss Durkheim, Marx and Weber’s theories of economic inequality. In addition to using the sources I provide, you are also encouraged (but not required) to find additional sources for your paper.
There are several types of data you can use for this paper: trends, group comparisons and mobility tables. Trends in economic inequality are changes over a period of time in the distribution of economic resources (such as changes in the concentration of wealth). Group comparison charts show the distribution of resources between groups or segments of a population (such as the average level of education for different racial groups). Finally, mobility tables show the extent to which individuals move from one economic position to another. In some cases these tables show inter-generational mobility (change between parents’ generations and childrens’ generations) while in other cases they show intra-generational mobility (change within an individuals’ life). Some sources will have a combination of these types of data.

first choose one of the three theorists we learned about in this course – Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx or Max Weber. Each of these theorists has a "theory of inequality" – a set of arguments and/or predictions about economic inequality in modern societies. Your paper should answer the following question: How well does this theory explain or predict economic inequality in contemporary American society?

Select some evidence of the major patterns and /or trends in inequality in the United States. Use the guides I have provided to help you select evidence that will allow you to assess the particular theorist you have chosen. In your paper you will 1) describe his theory of inequality, 2) describe the evidence on economic inequality in American society and 3) assess how well the theory fits with the evidence. In other words, for each of the sources, you should say whether or not it supports the theory and explain why it does or does not support the theory.

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