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Generic Processes in the Reproduction of Inequality: An Interactionist Analysis

Michael Schwalbe, Sandra Godwin, Daphne Holden, Douglas Schrock, Shealy Thompson and Michele Wolkomir
Social Forces
Vol. 79, No. 2 (Dec., 2000), pp. 419-452
Published by: Oxford University Press
DOI: 10.2307/2675505
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2675505
Page Count: 34
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Generic Processes in the Reproduction of Inequality: An Interactionist Analysis
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Abstract

The study of inequality has been largely defined as the study of its measurable extent, degree, and consequences. It is no less important, however, to understand the interactive processes through which inequalities are created and reproduced in concrete settings. The qualitative research that bears on understanding these processes has not yet been consolidated, and thus its theoretical value remains unrealized. In this article we inductively derive from the literature a sensitizing theory of the generic processes through which inequality is reproduced. The major processes that we identify are othering, subordinate adaptation, boundary maintenance, and emotion management. We argue that conceiving the reproduction of inequality in terms of these generic processes can resolve theoretical problems concerning the connection between local action and extralocal inequalities, and concerning the nature of inequality itself.

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