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Social Forces Colloquium Series: Don Tomaskovic-Devey, UMass Amherst
November 7, 2018 @ 12:15 pm - 1:15 pm
Relation Inequalities: An Organizational Approach
co author Dustin Avernt-Holt
Organizations are the leading social invention for generating resources and distributing them. Relational Inequalities explains the processes through which resources are generated and distributed in and between organizations, arguing that relational approaches to inequality should displace the more widely embraced, but misleading, individual and societal approaches. We identify three generic processes that steer the distribution of resources between and within firms – social closure, exploitation, and claims-making. The core argument we make is that each of these generic processes is profoundly conditioned by the dominant social categories, organizational dynamics, and institutional fields that define the frontiers of legitimacy, morality, and respect within organizational spaces. Markets as well as legal and cultural institutions are refracted through local workplace inequality regimes, as are individual traits and biographies. As a result, organizational inequality regimes show a great deal of diversity, even in the same country, industry, and firm. We illustrate these arguments with a series of case studies of inequality generating processes. These cases span industry, country, and continent, as well as race, gender, and class, to illustrate both what is generic and what is contingent in the constitution of organizationally produced inequalities. We end with a strong program for not only social scientific research but, more importantly, for inequality reduction. To advance equality and justice agendas the relational inequality model implies a series of global goals, including moving from tribalism to universalism, from hierarchy to citizenship rights, and from markets to human dignity.