Conceptualizing Inequality: Classical Perspectives

In every society, there is inequality. In his book, the Politics of Inequality, Jason Myers argues that inequality arises due to different incomes. People associate different income brackets to power and influence. Those who earn more strive to maintain their financial standards by living lavishly and buying expensive items. This then sets a hierarchy within social settings. What emerges then is a trend which brings about class systems within the society. This, in essence, is what causes inequality. If all people within the society had equal incomes, then there would be the class or social systems within a society (Held et al, 2007).

Atkinson (2011) argues that inequality arises due to differences in incomes. It is all about power and money. People attach different values to money. The more one has the more power he wields. It is for this reason that politicians invest so much money in their campaign. It is believed that when one spends more money, then his social standing greatly improves, so much so that he gains respect. The opposite is true for people with little income. They are hardly recognized within the society. They are basically faceless. This can also explain why people are always in a rush to acquire wealth when the slightest opportunity presents itself (Grusky et al, 2006).

Wage labor and capital, according to Karl Max, is where one is rewarded in relation to the services he offers. For instance, if one works for six hours a day in hard labor, then what he is paid is directly proportional to the work he does. Labor brings about capital, and the same capital is used to drive the economy and propel individual growth. Inequality, according to Karl Marx arises when a laborer doing the toughest job gets paid the least compared to his boss, who gives orders (Beard et al, 2009). Hence, this is the bitter truth. There will always be inequality in the society.

Why is it that people always fight for power? Can power be used to control wealth?


  1. Beard, V. A., & Labor and Population Program. (2009). Conceptualizing poverty: A look inside the Indonesian household. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.
  2. Held, D., & Kaya, A. (2007). Global inequality: Patterns and explanations. Cambridge: Polity Grusky, D. B., Kanbur, S. M. R., & Sen, A. (2006). Poverty and inequality. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press.

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