What is Missing? Cultural Processes and Causal Pathways to Inequality

Socio-Economic Review, Volume 12, Issue 3, July 2014, Pages 573–608, https://doi.org/10.1093/ser/mwu011

36 Pages Posted:

See all articles by Michèle Lamont

Michèle Lamont

Harvard University - Department of Sociology

Stefan Beljean

Harvard University

Matthew Clair

Stanford University - Department of Sociology

Date Written: April 2, 2014

Abstract

This paper provides a framework for understanding the ways in which social processes produce social inequality. Specifically, we focus on a particular type of social process that has received limited attention in the literature and in which inter-subjective meaning-making is central: cultural processes. Much of the literature on inequality has focused on the actions of dominant actors and institutions in gaining access to material and non-material resources, or on how ecological effects cause unequal access to material resources. In contrast, we focus on processes that contribute to the production (and reproduction) of inequality through the routine and taken-for-granted actions of both dominant and subordinate actors. We highlight two types of cultural processes: identification and rationalization. We describe and illustrate four processes that we consider to be significant analytical exemplars of these two types of cultural processes: racialization and stigmatization (for identification) and standardization and evaluation (for rationalization). We argue that attention to such cultural processes is critical and complementary to current explanations of social inequality.

Keywords: Inequality, economic sociology, cultural processes

JEL Classification: D63, D73, I00, J71, Z13

Suggested Citation

Lamont, Michèle and Beljean, Stefan and Clair, Matthew, What is Missing? Cultural Processes and Causal Pathways to Inequality (April 2, 2014). Socio-Economic Review, Volume 12, Issue 3, July 2014, Pages 573–608, https://doi.org/10.1093/ser/mwu011, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=

Michèle Lamont (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Sociology ( email )

33 Kirkland Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Stefan Beljean

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Matthew Clair

Stanford University - Department of Sociology ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://sociology.stanford.edu/people/matthew-clair

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