A Theoretical Perspective on Global Stratification

Dependency theory

was created in part as a response to the Western-centric mindset of modernization theory. It states that global inequality is primarily caused by core nations (or high-income nations) exploiting semi-peripheral and peripheral nations (or middle-income and low-income nations), which creates a cycle of dependence (Hendricks 2010). As long as peripheral nations are dependent on core nations for economic stimulus and access to a larger piece of the global economy, they will never achieve stable and consistent economic growth. Further, the theory states that since core nations, as well as the World Bank, choose which countries to make loans to, and for what they will loan funds, they are creating highly segmented labor markets that are built to benefit the dominant market countries.

We’ve examined functionalist and conflict theorist perspectives on global inequality, as well as modernization and dependency theories. How might a symbolic interactionist approach this topic? The book Factory Girls: From Village to City in Changing China, by Leslie T. Chang, provides this opportunity. Chang follows two young women (Min and Chunming) employed at a handbag plant. They help manufacture coveted purses and bags for the global market. As part of the growing population of young people who are leaving behind the homesteads and farms of rural China, these female factory workers are ready to enter the urban fray and pursue an ambitious income. As a symbolic interactionist would do, Chang examines the daily lives and interactions of Min and Chunming—their workplace friendships, family relationships, gadgets and goods—in this evolving global space where young women can leave tradition behind and fashion their own futures. Their story is one that all people, not just scholars, can learn from as we contemplate sociological issues like global economies, cultural traditions and innovations, and opportunities for women in the workforce.

Summary

Dependency theory is the most common lens sociologists use when looking at the issues of global inequality. Dependency theory, on the other hand, sees modernization theory as Eurocentric and patronizing. With this theory, global inequality is the result of core nations creating a cycle of dependence by exploiting resources and labor in peripheral and semi-peripheral countries.

References

Armer, J. Michael, and John Katsillis. 2010. “Modernization Theory.” Encyclopedia of Sociology, edited by E. F. Borgatta. Retrieved January 5, 2012 (http://edu.learnsoc.org/Chapters/3%20theories%20of%20sociology/11%20modernization%20theory.htm).

Caniels, Marjolein, C.J. Roeleveld, and Adriaan Roeleveld. 2009. “Power and Dependence Perspectives on Outsourcing Decisions.” European Management Journal 27:402–417. Retrieved January 4, 2012 (http://ou-nl.academia.edu/MarjoleinCaniels/Papers/645947/Power_and_dependence_perspectives_on_outsourcing_decisions).

Chang, Leslie T. 2008. Factory Girls: From Village to City in Changing China. New York: Random House.

Hendricks, John. 2010. “Dependency Theory.” Encyclopedia of Sociology, edited by E.F. Borgatta. Retrieved January 5, 2012 (http://edu.learnsoc.org/Chapters/3%20theories%20of%20sociology/5%20dependency%20theory.htm).

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Rothschild's Introduction to Sociology by Teal Rothschild is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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