Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Inequality and Social Change

I am currently working on a paper discussing how "engaged" Americans believe social change happens. I have identified five belief types, as noted below. Belief types can be defined as a categorical belief about a phenomenon, in this case the location of inequality (in the local or the structural) and the location of the solution to that inequality (in the individual or somewhere else). Almost every response maps onto this diagnosis/prognosis template.

I believe these belief types map onto larger cultural narratives in the U.S. For example, the individualist follows the cultural script of the American Dream, believing the solution to inequality is found within the individual pulling themselves up by the bootstraps. The voluntarist follows the civil rights script, where protesting and voting are means of addressing inequality effectively. The authoritative/disciple remind me of the follower type who want strong leadership or someone else to solve issues of inequality. The observer are those who see the problem as out there, as in the government and feel the responsibility for solving that problem is out there as well. However, I don't believe they have a script (cultural narrative) because they do not need one. Since they are removed both from the problem of inequality and the solution, they do not need a cohesive explanation of social change. There is one other category that doesn't fit in completely. I call this fifth group the self-reflective voluntarist who is both self-reflective like the individualist but also wants to change the structure. Since this is a hybrid group, I also believe their narratives is both practical (I can make a difference) and broad enough to offer a solid way to engage structure.

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