What Part Does Social Stratification Play in the Cause of Relative Poverty?
What Part Does Welfare Play? Is it Altruistic or a Means of Social Control?
Could Continuing Relative Poverty Instigate Insurgence?
Poverty has many dimensions. There are numerous social and psychological reasons why people might be poor. The negative ramifications of relative poverty are considerable since it has several guises: intellectual, spiritual, financial, physiological, and their respective offshoots. It is therefore, inevitable that relative poverty will precipitate and exacerbate a multitude of stressful social situations that invariably become intergenerationally perpetuated. The area in which the child grows and his parental heritage are important factors. Children may come from a long line of families that do not encourage education. The degree of stimulation and encouragement children receive depends on the psychological and socio-economic dynamics of their families, especially during their early years. It depends on their school environment, peer association within that environment and whether their schools are situated in disadvantaged or culturally enriched areas. Children may come from chaotic backgrounds; their families may have suffered sudden, extreme, adverse circumstances. They may have been emotionally, physically or sexually abused. Neglect and abuse in childhood render the child consumed with emotion. Profound feelings of anxiety and insecurity can haunt the child and severely thwart his intellectual concentration. Families may have poor diets with lack of essential nutrients. Older children often miss out on consistent schooling because they have to care for a parent who has become sick or disabled. Others may have lost one or both parents. Young people without siblings who have been deprived of love, nurture and educated guidance will often make poor choices in life since in their sadness and loneliness, they desperately seek to find an idealized sense of family life they have never experienced. A sense of belonging and a family to love is essential for human beings and will take top priority but sadly, that essential need can have disastrous consequences for those who were deprived or neglected during childhood. They are extremely vulnerable. In most instances, it is irrational to reprehend or blame disadvantaged individuals for their plight since in order to make informed choices in life people need to know what they are. Children may be emotionally insecure due to family breakdown. 'Looked after children' may have been fostered or pushed around from pillar to post to a variety of foster and children's homes where they may become confused, depressed, deeply hurt, angry and even subjected to further abuse. All of these circumstances can seriously thwart emotional balance. Such experiences can cause huge gaps in their education and predispose young people to a lingering lack of self-confidence that inadvertently steers them toward poverty in adult life.
From an economic perspective, relative poverty in Western society is caused by low-status or no status in the labour market. The majority of people are not born into backgrounds that facilitate the grooming of individuals into high status occupations. Neither do they possess independent means of generating income. Their families have not inherited wealth, power or access to the old-boy network. Most parents cannot afford to send their children to private schools or even afford to move to areas with the best state schools. Wealthy parents suffering from stress or who want to dedicate their lives entirely to their careers can employ nannies or send their children off to boarding schools which are at least educational life-savers. However, the majority of children do not reside in green, pleasant, culturally enriched environments or have consistency of good education and sufficient nourishment. The idea that we are residing in a meritocracy is therefore, disingenuous.
Sociologists have tended to move away from emphasising the characteristics of the poor as in Oscar Lewis's Culture of Poverty theory and focus more on stratification [social class /occupational hierarchies] as the cause of poverty. Hylan Lewis's Situational Constraints theory remains relevant because of the situations that cause poverty. In other words, the relatively poor generally share mainstream values but they are constrained by the facts of their situation. This is important because there is a strong tendency in sociological functionalism to objectify poorer people, blame them for their own plight and regard them as little more than inevitable cogs for the societal machine, thus displaying little compassion for the aforementioned psycho-socio factors that precipitate poverty.
The education system is instrumental in streaming pupils into occupational directions. It is not surprising that working class children from disadvantaged backgrounds fare worse. There is little point in politicians and educational establishments keep announcing 'findings' that children from relatively poor backgrounds fare worse since they have been acutely aware that stratification is the cause of such findings for decades. Functionalist sociologists such as Emile Durkheim, Kingsley Davis and Wilbert Moore, stipulate that social stratification mechanisms ensure that the state education system sifts, sorts and grades children in terms of their talents and abilities, ensuring that the most talented and able individuals are steered toward positions which are functionally most important in any given era. "It is all about the market and the functioning of society as a collective whole". In past eras, only the children of the elite and moneyed went to school. However, many schools remain harmonious with concerted cultivation whereas working class children often feel alienated within them due to lack of self-confidence and anti-cultivation of the intellect due to peer pressure and parental attitudes. It has long been known how children's minds are formed. Over decades, numerous physiological and psychological studies have revealed that early childhood poverty and neglect seriously affect health, attitude, behaviour, cognitive and emotional growth but once the child is in the late junior and senior phase of schooling, even greater emphasis is focused on his or her future practical placing in the labour market. He becomes a commodity. He has to learn to 'market himself'. Moreover, he has to learn rules, discipline and deference. He has to know his place and learn how to interact and cooperate in preparation for the workplace. Emile Durkheim states, “It is by respecting the school rules that the child learns to respect rules in general. He learns self-control and restraint simply because he should. The school environment is the child’s first initiation into the importance of duty. Serious life has now begun."
Although there are some very caring professionals, the fact that many children are born into unhealthy, disadvantaged backgrounds is put on the back-burner in comparison to the overall infrastructural and superstructural aims. "The wheat must be separated from the chaff." "The less talented and the 'losers' are relegated to a variety of occupational positions at the lower levels." Some teachers indignantly assert that their role is to teach and 'not to act as psychologists or social workers'. Many do not relish the prospect of teaching in schools in deprived areas. The sociologists, Bowles and Gintis, stipulate that irrespective of their indifference or their good intentions, teachers perceive themselves as state authority figures. Pupils are being prepared for their future role in the economic infrastructure. Streaming pupils is what teachers have been instructed to do. They are servants of the state. "They posses the jug of approved knowledge and the authority to dispense it and fill the mugs." Although remedial measures are often put into effect, most children from disturbed and disadvantaged backgrounds lack self-esteem and cultural capital. They find it difficult to compete and therefore, find themselves stuck in menial jobs and relative poverty in later life.
The unemployed, the disabled, the undereducated, the sick, the aged and lone parents with or without jobs are invariably the poorest but only if they and their families are stuck at the lower levels of the stratified system. The unemployed, the disabled, the aged, the undereducated and lone parents from dynasties and wealthier backgrounds suffer little due to family inheritances and financial support. Relatively poorer people caring for a disabled spouse, a disabled child or an elderly person at home have a particularly difficult time. They receive paltry amounts of state assistance often reducing the carer to ill-health, severe stress and despair. On the other hand, the wealthy have ways and means of ensuring their severely afflicted dependants receive the very best of care. Moreover, the affluent possess connections to old-boy networks that recruit their friends and relatives into various highly paid occupations irrespective of whether they are talented or not. They possess investments, savings, insurances, shareholdings and private pension schemes which guard against adverse circumstances such as sickness, disability, old age, trauma or abandonment by a main breadwinner whereas the ‘ordinary’ of the aforementioned groups can only be dependent on subsistence level wages or meagre benefits from public funds.
Generally, women's economic security if they have young children, is dependent on their husband or partner's income. If he is wealthy so is she. If he is relatively poor so is she. There are of course, varying levels of economic security in between. Some women earn more than their partner. Some couples earn equal incomes or both partners have inherited wealth but these are undoubtedly a minority. If a marriage breaks down where the woman was partnered to a low to mediocre wage-earner, she and her children will invariably be thrown into poverty, especially if her own parents are deceased and she is without a supportive family network. Wealthier ex-partners are able to help with support for their children. Women with young children may not work outside the home but mainly tend to be notoriously concentrated in subordinate, low-status, part-time occupations such as nursery work, shop assistants, carers, checkout assistants, textiles, catering, hospital work, cleaning, low-level clerical, factories and various aspects of the food industry. Such occupations supplement their spouse’s income but would be totally insufficient if the spouse were taken out of the equation. Employers are aware that ‘ordinary’ women’s spouses are the main breadwinners. That is in part why their hourly wages are kept low. In the main, women employed in low-status occupations before marrying and having children tend to remain in similar jobs in later years.
With regard to poorer male or female lone parents, the state tops up their low wage if they are able to work. If they are not able to work due to childcare problems and if the absent parent is unable to make any financial contributions, the lone parent will be entirely dependent on the state. Whether totally or partially dependent on the state, they will be relatively poor. Girls or women who become pregnant to unemployed or low-waged men are generally destined for poverty especially if the relationship doesn't last. Young people neglected and impoverished in childhood often have poor judgement in selecting reliable partners. A lone female parent's poverty will be most severe if she is without skills or qualifications, her own parents are deceased, she is working class, and to reiterate, she is totally without a supportive family network. Men having wives and families before earning sufficient wages will suffer similarly but are much more likely to abandon the situation than women. The Welfare System has replaced church charities and workhouses. The increasing feminization of relative poverty in the UK is of great interest to sociologists. Data reveals that matrifocal families are rife in the US. Moreover, the number of female-headed families living in relative poverty in the UK are also increasing . Most families become matrifocal due to the male partner's abandonment of the mother and children or because the male plays a minimal role. Such families are often regarded as part of an 'underclass' and invariably become ghettoized. Children obviously have two biological parents but the parent seen caring for the child is the one who receives the social condemnation. Mostly they are women. The number of fathers caring for children single-handed due to death of the mother or abandonment by the mother is exceedingly small. Very few women with children are entirely self-sufficient. Women with or without children in high-flying occupations will be likely to have derived from very comfortable if not wealthy backgrounds. Worldwide, there are far more females residing in absolute and relative poverty than males.
Governments are on the side of large numbers of employers paying low-wages to enable them to remain in business. Having a job does not mean an end to poverty. Many people are having their hours cut. Young people and women of all ages are increasingly employed in part-time, meagre-waged occupations. Part-time hours mean employers do not have to pay employees for lunch hours. 1.5 million people are on zero-hour contracts and the numbers are growing. Individuals do not know if they are going to earn enough to make ends meet in any given week. The uncertainty causes acute anxiety unless of course, there is also a main full-time breadwinner in the household. Social security payments are invariably affected if people refuse zero hour contracts. Imagine the cost of the bureaucracy involved. Zero hour contracts mean that employers can use people at whim and avoid holiday and sick pay. It is rumoured by some estate agents that landlords are reluctant to give tenancies to people on zero hour contracts because of irregularity of income. Many private and public service sectors deliberately refrain from employing full-time workers. They want them to work no more than five-hour shifts. They are usually women. Young people stipulate that they are often employed in commission only jobs. Most days they earn nothing. Others state that they are first asked to attend an interview. Next they are asked to work voluntarily for a day 'to see how they fare' and will subsequently 'be contacted'. However, they never hear from the interviewer again. Many young people convey that each day, the same ploy is used, extracting a day's labour out of numerous young people without paying them. They add that some advertised jobs are of 'dubious character'.They doubt the legality of what the 'interviewers' are asking them to do. For example, persuading members of the public to part with their money 'for investments'.
The late teen to mid twenty-year-old's state that all the normal jobs have gone. They often wonder "what planet the interviewers are on" because ''the jobs are always crap and a right piss-take''. Poorer, divorced mothers without support from an ex-husband stipulate that they need two or three poorly paid part-time jobs in order to make up a living wage. However, many employers are making employees sign contracts stating that they can only work for their particular company, 'lest they should require cover'. The same criteria does not normally apply to highly skilled or professional workers whose hours are often increased or decreased according to their liking. Some have so much control that obviously they can increase their own hours and salaries when it suits. There is always different criteria for the rich and the poor. Where mediocre and poorly paid people work overtime in order to try and clear their debts, they are penalised by taxes, invariably giving more of their modest earnings to the tax man rather than clearing their debts. They are caught in poverty traps. In many instances, working tax credits are not applicable to non-contracted hours. Some individuals are deliberately employed for as little as fifteen hours a week to keep the unemployment statistics down. If they work for sixteen hours they lose a certain supplement. Many lone parents are reporting that if they have grown children they cannot obtain working tax-credits unless they work at least thirty hours a week. However, they are finding it difficult to obtain jobs offering over thirty hours a week and are sent to work for only fifteen to eighteen hours. This is particularly the case for women without a spouse. If women are supported by a spouse there is no harassment to return to work at all. Separated women with children often convey that they are so poor and fearful of the future that they feel as if they must 'secure another man'. Women and employment is of great interest to sociologists. It is debated that much of the aforestated mainly affects women; that married men with families to support are less likely to be found in jobs applying such criteria. Others disagree, stipulating that men are also employed similarly.
There is in fact, much more taxpayers money spent on WOBs [workers on benefits], 'corporate welfare' and pensioners than on the unemployed. Colossal amounts of money are spent on paying the millions of administrators of benefits. The elderly have been paying into the state pension kitty for a long time but those entirely dependent on it have a very basic existence. Thousands only receive approximately £80 per week, especially lone, divorced, elderly women whose younger years were taken up with childcare, who did not 'secure another man' to assist, or who were generally relatively poor prior to old age. There are no annuities or private pension pots for these people. Housing needs are topped up by supplements such as 'pension credits' and 'savings credits' - different kitties - same source. Although many pensioners worked extremely hard in physically exhausting jobs in their younger years, substantial numbers cannot even afford to keep warm in old age. Thousands have been swindled out of any private pension schemes they may have had. Many cannot afford to retire. On the other hand, the affluent and elite elderly can retire whenever they like. They are hoarders of money. They reside in areas that appeal to them in abodes of their own choosing. They have more savings, inheritances and private pension schemes than they could ever possibly use but the relatively poor are going to have to work until they are seventy and that will undoubtedly become a problem for men employed in truly hard manual work. Bodies and brains weaken with age despite prescribed medications. The elderly have difficulty with bending and become out of breath quickly. Many elderly people are susceptible to rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, heart disease and secondary diabetes are rife among the working and lower middle-class elderly. Their physiological constitution and the quality of life throughout their younger years determines the health and dexterity of the elderly. However, millions of people, relatively poor or not, will be unfit for work between sixty and seventy. Sadly, cancer and Alzheimer's disease are increasing rapidly as the population ages.
A government ploy which the media invariably buy into, is 'setting the working classes against each other' by creating a rift between the unemployed and the WOBs. Moreover, working class people who become more economically secure due to increased combined salaries begin to perceive themselves as middle class and can become incredibly mean-spirited towards those who have not been so fortunate. For a wage, they are quite willing to harass and join with the establishment in oppressing and condemning the relatively poor. Social mobility and wealth without good educations can occur in the building, entrepreneurial and vocational trades but particularly in the sport and entertainment industries. In the main, however, social mobility is an illusion. For every individual who makes it from the bottom to the top there will be millions who will not. Some are earning less than £12,000 per annum; and that includes tax credits. Many individuals are working voluntarily. As with zero-hour contracts, voluntary work keeps the unemployment statistics down. The incomes of the low-paid, even with state 'top-ups', are insufficient for things such as furniture, double-glazing, central-heating, fridge-freezers, washing machines and holidays. Considerable numbers of adolescents from deprived areas convey that they have never had a holiday. The wealthy and the financially comfortable can afford family holidays during peak times. The less well-off cannot. Parents are fined by the schools if they take their children on holiday during the cheaper off-peak times. Poorer members of society can purchase inferior consumer goods with loans or on credit cards whereas the comfortable and the wealthy can purchase holidays and quality goods outright. Banks are in the business of loans and interest; the poor serve them exceedingly well. Millions of mortgages for slums in concrete ghettoes have been sold to people who cannot afford twenty-five-year mortgages let alone the enormous amounts of money it costs to repair the faulty electrics, leaking roofs, diabolical plumbing and crumbling walls. Men in the building trade can overcome such problems but many people, especially lone female parents cannot. Over decades, the slums are paid for over and over at three times their original economic value. Banks and building societies will harass for their money even from families virtually destitute. Such individuals are far better off in social housing but the supply dwindles as many are allocated to poor immigrants and thousands have been sold off. Governments do not really want social housing. They want people, including the relatively poor, to take out twenty-five year mortgages or rent from private landlords. Considerable numbers of applicants for social housing are turned away onto the streets. Homeless. They are desperate. They fall apart emotionally. They feign heart attacks, fainting, nausea in the council offices. The fact that they have to pretend reveals the appalling degree of stress they suffer. Always they are poor, needy, with disadvantaged backgrounds similar to those outlined in the opening paragraph. Some are drug addicts, abandoned women and children, alcoholics, general down and outs and poor foreigners. That is what happens to many disadvantaged children when they become adults.
Sociological data reveals that poorer members of society also have to pay more for utilities such as gas and electricity, particularly those who have to use a 'key' that has to be recharged at their local retailers. Some families and single people sit in the dark and cold because the 'key has run out'; they do not have the money to recharge it. The installation of water meters in deprived areas has caused thousands of families to become afraid of using water for bathing their children and running washing machines The sociologist, David Caplovitz, has documented the expense of poverty in The Poor Pay More. "Substandard housing and inadequate diets are not cheap. That is the paradox of poverty. It is expensive. Rented accommodation in inner city areas is often, in view of its quality, more expensive than housing elsewhere''. Although the relatively poor are often criticised for having 'large black, plasma TVs,' these are quite the norm in today's society. They purchase them on credit with extortionate interest rates for their own and their children's entertainment. They have to have something to take their minds off their plight. The negative ramifications of poverty include an inability to consider future planning, high crime rates, homelessness, poor education - including illiteracy, poor parenting skills, agitation and impatience, anti-social behaviour, alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, anger, anxiety, apathy, broken families and a colossal need of assistance from social services. The sociologist, Herbert Gans stipulates that the poor create jobs for enormous numbers of public sector workers. Such workers would not be needed in anywhere near their degree of enormity were it not for the poor and disadvantaged :
Poverty creates jobs for a number of occupations and professions that serve the poor or shield the rest of the population from them. These include social workers, researchers of the causes of poverty , probation officers, psychiatrists, counsellors, doctors and administrators who oversee the poverty industry.
The majority of public sector workers are paid exceedingly poorly but big money is made by those in the top positions because they possess the power to siphon the collective taxpayers money up towards themselves. Although to most of us, the causes of relative poverty are fairly obvious, the amount of taxpayers money spent on researching it is astronomical. Ironically, throughout the centuries, the bulk of research into the effects of childhood deprivation and the cycle of poverty has been carried out by those from privileged backgrounds.
From a sociological functionalist perspective, stratification, or occupational layers from the top down, is seen as beneficial for society since it ensures that all areas of human want and need are covered. That is why it is functional. 'Ordinary people' who have no choice but to accept low pay are 'handy' for those at the top. There needs to be an excessive pool of labour in order that the supply will always exceed the demand. The supply will continue to exceed the demand especially at rudimentary occupational levels such as various aspects of the food industries, cleaning, warehouse and factory workers, refuse collectors, shop assistants, low-level clerical, distributors, textile workers, labourers, road workers, packers and dispatchers and so on since these are the jobs where most people are concentrated. If there were a huge shortage of workers, society would be pleading for their assistance with offers of high rewards. Although it has become somewhat ‘out of fashion’, the sociological Marxian perspective emphasises that the capitalist class owns the modes, means and relations of production and, more recently, control over the service industries. The workers have no alternative but to hire themselves out in order to survive. Irrespective of how ‘out of fashion’ or critical we may be of this view, we have to admit that it is undeniably true. It is correlative with that outlined in an earlier paragraph in that the majority of people have not inherited independent means of generating income. Malthusian ideology advocated that only the intelligent and the moral deserved a decent life: ["the poor must be repressed."]. Malthusian ideology is still adhered to today albeit subtly. Even though it has been technically possible to alleviate poverty for many decades, no real attempt has been made to relieve global suffering. Elites do not want to alleviate poverty. The intellectual seed that absolute or relative poverty is inevitable was planted long ago; it is as if it is a "law of nature." The reality is that low wages causing relative poverty is wanted by elites who like to use the 'worker ants' to create wealth for them. The sociologist, J.C. Kincaid, postulates that the poor are perceived as a baseline of failure. Low wages help to reduce the wage demands of the workforce as a whole because workers tend to assess their income in terms of the baseline provided by the low paid. Kincaid argues that, "patterns of pay and conditions of work at the bottom of the heap influence the pattern of wages further up the scale.''
Low wages are essential to a capitalist economy since from the viewpoint of capitalism, the low-wage sector helps to underpin and stabilize the whole structure of wages and the conditions of employment of the workers. The poorly and mediocre-waged usually have little or no power; they are expected to accept subordination to the highly paid due to the enculturation of pecking orders and power dynamics. They are even called 'subordinates'. Employers are under no threat regarding the disciplines and hierarchies of the labour market because societal institutions, particularly the family and the education system, have already socialised the future workforce to be acquiescent, easily impressed with occupational status, deferential toward authority and generally compliant with consensus values. It is both commendable and possible for everyone to have a proper living wage in the UK but as argued by Kincaid, if the low-wage sector were abolished by an increase in the real value of the work of the low-paid, several consequences could occur that would be harmful to the capitalist class: in the first instance, the delicate balance of pay differentials would be shattered. Other groups of workers might demand, and possibly receive, increases in their wages which would inevitably reduce profit margins. Secondly, wages within the working class might become similar. That would have the potential to unite the working class which is presently fragmented. A move towards unity would pose a threat to the capitalist class which of course, wants fragmentation. Thirdly, if the real value of the wages of the low-paid were increased, the pool of cheap labour on which many labour intensive capitalist industries and companies depend for profit, might disappear [Kincaid].
Despite claims to the contrary, there is little evidence that the Welfare State has distributed wealth from the rich to the poor. The welfare system, including health services, are not socialistic or altruistic in the politico-economic sense. Colossal sums of money are appropriated by those at the top. "Welfare is simply serving the national interest, especially the national interest of the capitalist class". The sociologists, Westergaard and Resler, argue that in addition, ''the bulk of the monies received by members of the working class have been paid, or will be paid, in the form of taxes by themselves."What the wealthy at first sight appear to lose in the form of social security payments to the poor via progressive tax systems they largely regain in the form of tax concessions on private insurance policies, mortgages, colossal 'pay-offs', perks and wheeling and dealing in all kinds of fraud, especially in the banking business. ''The key word is ‘containment’; just as the differences between the major political parties are marginal compared to their overall commitment to the containment of the established order, the demands of the labour market and the implementation of concessions are also for the purpose of containing the existing social structure." Furthermore, it is not so much how much tax you pay but how much you have left after you’ve paid it that really counts.
With regard to social control, the sociologist, Michael Foucault et al purport that social welfare is conterminous with controlling the masses. Others disagree. The sociologist, Stanley Cohen, for example, stated that the whole idea of state control is a 'Mickey Mouse' concept in sociology. 'Control' has become the ''catch-all phrase for all the conformity induced in human beings.'' However, the fact that conformity is socially induced via societal institutions reveals that social control is in effect. Why bother inducing it if it is not for a given society's method of retaining law and order when ruling elites could just as easily endorse groups to form various anarchical structures of their own choosing? The state wields unbelievable power over individual lives. It wants to crush alternative ways of being and thinking and mould the human race into a collective whole - a sort of hive mind. There is no philosophical questioning of the meaning of life for these people, or of what it means to be human. As far as they are concerned, the meaning of life is free-enterprise, work and the economy. We only have to delve into the appalling history of the workhouses to understand that. It is all about greed and profit, using the masses to acquire wealth, even if that means mining in dangerous conditions, working for meagre wages in factories making plastic ornaments or in the tobacco industry minding machines that churn out cigarettes that kill whilst simultaneously creating taxes for government coffers, including the health industry. The agendas, policies and goals of society are a reflection of the elite who comprise and rule it; unsurprisingly, that involves convincing people that the goals of the elite should also be the goals of the public. People want majority-rule, not minorities ruling majorities. The backgrounds and agendas of elites have nothing in common with the lives of ordinary people. Representative democracy represents the elite whereas the public want a People's Democracy, certainly regarding referendums on specific concerns that affect their lives. The UK is virtually oligarchic. Those in control invariably come from family traditions of Eton, Harrow and Oxbridge. Many derive from aristocratic, ambassadorial and even royal backgrounds. Even if they do not, they will be trapped within the same antiquated parliamentary ideologues and procedures. Voting hoodwinks the public, including the relatively poor, into believing they are participating in the decision-making process. The electorate invariably vote for their own and other people's oppression since they are unfamiliar with the way the contrived system operates. Whether people vote or not they are 'voting' for the continuation of the existing establishment. The 'choices' are Labour or Conservative - both support the existing social structure. Other parties would have a tremendous amount of difficulty gaining even a few seats in Parliament. Votes for other parties simply gain or lose seats for the Conservative or Labour Party. The few major Parties are 'all the same' because they are all representing elite ideologies historically built into the parliamentary framework, reflected and endorsed by the established media. The interfaces may seem a little different but the cores are the same. Welfare and social services exist to reinforce and assist the prevailing ideologies of the hierarchical work ethic, although to what end the goal of the ruling elite's preoccupation with economic growth is hoping to achieve is difficult to ascertain. Those in agreement perceive the role of social workers as ''exercising a variety of forms of social control on behalf of the state'', not only by ''prescribing middle class child-rearing practices'' which the poor and troubled cannot possibly achieve but also by ''processing and regulating access to welfare services and benefits''. [Harris and Webb, 1987]. Consider the Department of Work and Pensions, Income Revenue, ATOS and the National Health Service for example. Each government body or contracted body is linked to the others. They can gather, pass and demand 'confidential' information to and from each other and have control over the masses from the cradle to the grave. Individuals are becoming increasingly bar-coded. Exponential technological innovations will ensure that control will become absolute unless insurrection or some other catastrophe occurs .
The less money people have, the greater the dependency; correlatively, the greater the dependency the greater the control. People can get 'outside' of it to a significant degree if they are extremely affluent. Peter Hewitt asserts that the state should be regarded as a ''network of institutions, deeply embedded within a constellation of ancillary institutions associated with society and the economic system.'' Control is conterminous with society; the ruling elite want control of the masses. There is a vast array of mechanisms in place to ensure that control is maintained, often under the guise of demographics. The mechanisms also include what Louis Althuser termed Ideological State Apparatuses [ISAs] such as the media, religion and education as well as 'buffers' such as social services, health and welfare. "The education system in particular, is a major ISA. It instils blind psychological acceptance of social hierarchies and deference toward authority." He states that such socialisation is part of the 'hidden curriculum'. Moreover, individuals who question culturally induced deference are often accused of 'having a problem with authority', as if he or she ought not. Many nations have mercilessly imprisoned and murdered those who will not comply with ruling ideas made by minority ruling elites; the powerful make the rules for the powerless. Non-compliance has often been labelled as' mental illness'; for example, members of the Suffragette Movement in the UK, and in the US, a 'malady' called Drapetomania. The chief symptom was 'running away'. It was attributed to African/American slaves 'having the audacity' to run away from their white masters. Cohen's idea of control being a 'Mickey Mouse' catch-all concept seems odd. Given its vastness and ubiquity, social control is very much a viable area of study for sociology and the broader social sciences. In fact, it is the most important. It is impossible to study societies without analysing control and the purposes and ramifications of it.
Second to inheritance, stratification is undoubtedly the cause of relative poverty in the the UK. The two are inextricably intertwined. Children born into the bottom tiers are the most likely to suffer from hardship as adults because of lack of opportunities. Stratification precipitates differing levels of knowledge and therefore, differing abilities to steer away from poverty. Society wants differing abilities because there are certain jobs society wants done and it wants them done cheaply. Society does not want everybody to be highly educated for those very reasons although it will invariably pretend that it does. The number of graduates from poorer areas without jobs or having to take menial jobs totally irrelevant to their degrees is testimony to that. Moreover, individuals residing in disadvantaged areas are likely to partner with those residing in the same or similar vicinities thus perpetuating the relative poverty cycle. Poverty and lack of stimulation hinders neuron and synapse connections in the developing child. It is the nature of society itself that is causing disadvantages for many children - it is the economic system. The relatively poor lack resources, lack distractions and lack self-confidence regarding ambition. In short, it is about lack. If the deprived and emotionally damaged child manages to extricate himself from the trappings of poverty, then there must have been alternative, intelligent influences in his life that built his self-confidence and established his equilibrium. Most are not so lucky. Ironically, disadvantaged children are expected to be as responsible and mature as the more fortunate on reaching adulthood, otherwise they are labelled, 'maladjusted.' However, a uniform way of being is impossible in highly stratified societies.
Kincaid asserts that it is not simply that there are rich and poor; it is rather that some are rich because many are poor. In the main, the wealthy inherit lavish properties, businesses, prominent occupational positions and the accompanying perks and monies. The super-rich are in league of their own. Supporters of negative eugenics are always criticising the poor and the uneducated for having more children than the educated, the comfortable and the wealthy. They often advocate controlling the 'breeding habits' of the poor but since time immemorial, the poor have always had more children than the non-poor; that is an inevitable consequence of poverty and lack of extensive education. There is little point in keep highlighting the 'aspirational poverty' of the working classes. For centuries, sociologists, law-makers, politicians and educationalists have been well aware that working class people are not generally socialised into the world of academia. They are groomed for manual and run-of-the-mill work because they reside in poor areas and because society wants those jobs done. Neither is there any point in keep criticising the poor about their manners and their dependency. If society wants stratification it will also have to accept the negative ramifications that it brings.
Considering their mentalities, governments and government measures cannot be expected to do much for the low-waged except to reduce the harsher effects of poverty. Politicians and ruling elites do not particularly care about the relatively poor as long as they do not pose a threat. Most elites have never known poverty and do not intend to. Governments and corporations are in bed together. The wealth they generate is highly concentrated amongst themselves whether by private profit or taxes. Welfare short-circuits insurrection. In order to ‘cool the mark’ and prevent civil unrest and the possibility of insurgence, concessions and the illusion of democracy need to be in place. Although substantial numbers of people are always bemoaning 'spongers' and the welfare state, without it most people would become desperate including the WOBs. Many people would become homeless. Many would become ill and unable to work. Disease would spread. Crime would increase tremendously. Babies would continue to be born [even more without access to contraception]. Unemployment would increase as the millions of people who process welfare would be out of a job. There would be no 'top ups'. Notwithstanding the thousands who would die, revolution would undoubtedly occur. It is only when hardship is unbearably severe among huge numbers of the subject class that insurrection is likely to follow. Even then, it needs good leaders. The affluent and elite never revolt or cause civil unrest. They have no need. It is always the 'have-nots' that instigate insurgence either because large numbers have become sick and tired of their oppression or a specific incident triggers protest. However, in the main, as long as the masses are fragmented by occupational tiers and those in the bottom tiers are 'ticking over', they are unlikely to revolt. Moreover, the agents of social control are mainly comprised of working and lower middle-class people who are quite willing to stand against their own social groups in exchange for a living wage. Agents of social control constitute what Louis Althuser termed the Repressive State Apparatuses [RSAs] and they exist to protect the socially ingrained Ideological State Apparatus. Any sign of civil unrest and the RSA are sent to quell it with batons, guns, tear-gas, tanks, water cannons and other 'legal' weapons of violence made and purchased with the people's taxes. RSA members obey because the state pays their wages out of the collective taxes. Insurrection would necessitate a military coup.
Kincaid further argues that, "It is not to be expected that any government whose main concern is with the efficiency of a capitalist economy is going to take effective steps to eliminate a low-wage sector''. Relative poverty is so inextricably bound to the cold-hearted nature of stratification, banking, politics, trading, competitive economics and the socialisation processes that accompany them, that evolving toward egalitarianism does not seem to be on the agenda for the foreseeable future. Governments are always handing over taxpayer's money to businesses - a sort of 'corporate welfare'. A big problem is tax loopholes, off-shore banking, tax holidays and the lavish homes of politicians courtesy of the taxpayer whilst those at the bottom of the stratified system cannot even obtain social accommodation. Others, already residing in social accommodation, are are being penalised for having spare bedrooms. The poorer members of society are angrier than generally assumed. They are drowning in debt with unpaid bills. They are entrapped by loan-sharks. They can only make minimum monthly payments on credit cards. They juggle bills, debts and essential home repairs by obtaining 'payday' loans with extortionate interest rates. Without a living wage many relatively poor are having to purchase food on credit cards. Thousands are having to turn to food banks. Despite the minimum wage, employers are increasingly engaging employees from abroad, expanding the labour pool while simultaneously undercutting the minimum wage. As far as we are aware, no employers have been prosecuted for undercutting the minimum wage. For those at the poorest levels of existence, the carrot must always be ahead of the donkey. It is designed that way. The donkey can never reach the carrot. Similarly, the low-waged can never reach economic security, but they keep trying and that keeps their minds off insurgence.