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Introduction to Sociology--The concept of Marginalization

1 Aditya Anupkumar

The concept of Marginalization

Introduction to Sociology Project 1

Aditya Anupkumar - #3

Introduction to Sociology--The concept of Marginalization

2 Aditya Anupkumar

Marginalization, marginalisation (n)--the social process of becoming or being made marginal (especially as a group within the larger society); "the marginalization of the underclass".

"All men are not created equal, and that is the root of social evil"

-Frank Herbert

Introduction to Sociology--The concept of Marginalization

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The term "Marginalization" generally describes the overt actions or tendencies of human societies whereby those perceived as being without desirability or function are removed or excluded (i.e., are "marginalized"...) from the prevalent systems of protection and integration, so limiting their opportunities and means for survival. Marginalization has aspects in sociological, economic, and political debates. Marginalization may manifest itself in forms varying from genocide/ethnic-cleansing and other xenophobic acts/activities at one end of the spectrum, to more basic economic and social hardships at the unitary (individual/family) level. Of course, the forms of marginalization may vary--generally linked to the level of development of society; culturally, and as (if not more) importantly, with relation to economics. For example, it would generally be true, that there would exist more "marginalized" groups in the Third World", and developing nations, that in the Developed/First-World nations. Indeed, there can be a distinction made, on the basis of the "choice" that one has within this context--those in the Third World who live under impoverished conditions, through no choice of their own (being far removed from the protectionism that exists for people in the First World,) are often left to die due to hunger, disease, and war. One can also add to this various minorities, as well as women... Within the First World, low-income drug addicts stand out as being the most marginalized. This deliberate or chosen marginalization of people carries with it aspects of a so-called "Social Darwinism". In the context of the term "marginalization," some terms of a socio-political nature can be better defined. For example, "War," is in essence the large-scale social violence, aiming to marginalize a perceived enemy. Similarly, "Enemy" is in essence the declaration of a peer as one with hostile intent, and the intention to marginalize-- making, either by "their own choosing", or by a choice of targeted aggression, the "enemy" a marginalized (or to-be marginalized) entity. Marginalization lies at the core of all social conflict issues, which are themselves described by varying terms for their aspects and forms/incarnations.

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Eugenics was the name given to a set of "science"-based ideas that advocated for the marginalization (killing and deportation) of people deemed "inferior," by criteria of their race alone. The word "eugenics" (well-born) was coined in 1883 by Sir Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin; to refer to the study and use of selective breeding (of animals or humans) to improve a species over generations, specifically in regards to hereditary features. Within a few years, Galton had improved his definition to include the specific varieties of "positive" eugenics (encouraging the "most fit" to reproduce more often) and "negative" eugenics (discouraging or preventing the "less fit" from reproducing). However, the principle defined by Galton, was directly in connection with the teaching and work of Darwin. According to Darwin, the mechanisms of the natural selection are thwarted by human civilization. One of the objectives of civilization is somehow to help the underprivileged ones, therefore to be opposed to the natural selection responsible for extinction of the weakest. The more horrifying aspect of Eugenics is in its application; marginalizing any part of society not seen as "capable"--such "Negative" eugenic policies have in the past ranged from segregation to sterilization, to even extermination. The most famous--or rather, infamous usage of Eugenics in history has been that of Germany under Adolf Hitler, and his attempts to create a "pure" German race. Among other acts, the Nazis performed extensive, often cruel, experimentation on live human beings to test their genetic theories. During the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazi regime sterilized hundreds of thousands of people who they viewed as mentally "unfit," and killed tens of thousands of the institutionalized disabled in their compulsory euthanasia programs. The nation that had the second largest Eugenics movement was the United States. Beginning with Connecticut in 1896, many states enacted marriage laws with eugenic criteria, prohibiting anyone who was "epileptic, imbecile or feeble-minded" from marrying. The Immigrant Registration Act acting on the threat of "inferior stock" from Eastern and Southern Europe was another such study in Eugenics. Some states also practiced sterilization of "imbeciles" for much of the 20 Century. The U.S. Supreme


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Court ruled in the Buck v/s Bell case of 1927 that the state of Virginia could sterilize those they thought unfit--the words of the ruling being something to the effect of "Three generations of imbeciles would be precedent enough to warrant forced sterilization". Between 1907 and 1963, the most significant era of eugenic sterilization, over 64,000 individuals were forcibly sterilized under eugenic legislation in the United States. When Nazi administrators were on trial for war crimes in Nuremberg after the Second World War, they justified their mass-sterilizations (over 450,000 in less than a decade) by pointing a finger at the USA as their inspiration. Such controls, when applied to society would be ones where the marginalized would have no choice but to accept the decisions imposed. It must be noted; that Eugenics has taken a back-seat, and has since become a more derogatory term; though it has reappeared recently in a different form; dealing with the question of cloning. Social Darwinism is a descriptive term given to a kind of social theory that draws an association between Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, and the sociological relations of humanity. In Progress: It's Law and Cause (1857) Spencer wrote: "This law of organic progress is the law of all progress. Whether it be in the development of the Earth, in the development of Life upon its surface, the development of Society, of Government..., this same evolution of the simple into the complex, through a process of continuous differentiation, holds throughout." Malthus's (another noted Author on Social Darwinism) 1798 work An Essay on the Principle of Population, for example, argued that as increasing population would normally outgrow its food supply, this would result in the starvation of the weakest. Some historians have suggested that the Malthusian theory and similar concepts were used by the British to justify the continued export of agricultural produce from Ireland, even as the Irish were suffering from famine, in particular the Great Famine of 1845-49. Because Social Darwinism came to be associated in the public mind with racism, imperialism, and eugenics, such criticisms are sometimes applied (and

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misapplied) to any other political or scientific theory that resembles a Social Darwinism.

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Running counter to the marginalizing systems of though/beliefs, are two different systems of belief. One focuses on Individuals within societies, ignoring the "uncivilized" system of natural selection, and concentrating rather, on the progress of society as a whole; while the other simply discounts the total validity of power and obligation within society, and balances the problem of marginalization, with the concept of the individual as the "private state". Immanuel Kant contradicted this in his own works, when dealing with the concept of Universal History. His ideas about society were more Utopian; calling for Society, and consequent "civilization" as a natural progression away from natural selection, and social Darwinism. Kant's works pointed to a society working within itself, with itself, to improve as a whole; rather than shedding the "unnecessary" or "unwanted" genetic stock. His 9 Theses of Universal History are: · All of a creature's natural capacities are destined to develop completely and in conformity with their end. · In man, (as the sole rational creature on Earth) those natural capacities directed towards the use of his reason are to be completely developed only in the species, not in the individual. · Nature has willed that man, entirely by himself, produce everything that goes beyond the mechanical organization of his animal existence and partake in no other happiness or perfection that what he himself, independently of instinct, can secure through his own reason. · The means that nature uses to bring about the development of all of man's capacities is the antagonism among them in society, as afar as in the end this antagonism is the cause of law-governed order in society. · The greatest problem for the human species, whose solution nature compels it to seek, is to achieve a universal civil society administered in accord with the right. · This problem is both the hardest and the last to be solved by the human species.

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· The problem of establishing a perfect civil constitution depends on the problem of law-governed external relations among other nations and cannot be solved unless the latter is. · One can regard the history of human species, in the large, as the realization of a hidden plan of nature to bring about an internally and for this purpose, also an externally perfect national constitution, as the sole state in which all of humanity's natural capacities can be developed. · A philosophical attempt to work out a universal history of the world in accord with a plan of nature that aims at a perfect civic union of the human species must be regarded as possible and even as helpful to this objective of nature's. The aim of these Theses was to describe every human as a member, and contributing factor to society (thus also wiping out the unwanted implications of the forms of social orders that would lead to marginalization of the various groups.

Another philosopher dealing with this question; though in a slightly different light, was Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau's views were of a more transcendentalist nature, lessening the possibility of the marginalization of parts of Society; by emphasizing the need for a balance between the Society and the Individual. In criticism of social progress via heredity, Thoreau said, "Merely to come into the world the heir of a fortune is not to be born, but to be still-born, rather. To be supported by the charity of friend, or a government pension, - provided you continue to breathe, - by whatever fine synonyms you describe these relations, is to go into the almshouse." In relation to

society and social expectations, Thoreau states, "Perhaps I am more than usually jealous with respect to me freedom. I feel that my connection with and obligation to society are very slight and transient." This brings up the question of social obligation and social order, and how they affect the actions of the individual. Though more radical, these views do counter the effects of marginalization. Thoreau does not forsake society, but rather distances himself from it, to maintain his state of "self", as he wishes, so as to not be influenced by necessity of the needs and demands of society. ("Now that the republic ­ the res-publica ­ has been settled, it is time to look

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after res-privata ­ the private state, - to see, as the Roman senate charged its consuls, "ne quid res-privata detrimenti caparet," that the private state receive no detriment. The pressures in society, on its constituent individuals, and the pressures of (class/caste/religious)-differences is also noteworthy, and Thoreau speaks of the plight of individuals and of their indifferent acceptance of fate--"Thus will men lie on their backs, talking about the fall of man, never making an effort to get up"

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Society then, is either one of natural selection, where only the fittest survive; or it is one, where mankind moves forward together, in a "civil" manner. An interesting aspect of Society is the idea of conformity; and the relation between the conformist and non-conformist groups in a social situation--i.e. the Dominant group and the marginalized one. According to C.H. Cooley, conformity may be defined as the

endeavor to maintain a standard set by a group. It is a voluntary imitation of prevalent modes of action, distinguished from rivalry and other aggressive phases of emulation by being comparatively passive, aiming to keep up rather than to excel, and concerning itself for the most part with what is outward and formal. On the other hand, it is distinguished from involuntary imitation by being intentional instead of mechanical. Thus it is not conformity, for most of us, to speak the English language, because we have practically no choice in the matter, but we might choose to conform to particular pronunciations or turns of speech used by those with whom we wish to associate.

The ordinary motive to conformity is a sense, more or less vivid, of the pains and inconveniences of nonconformity. Most people find it painful to go to an evening company in any other than the customary dress; the source of the pain appearing to be a vague sense of the depreciatory curiosity, which one imagines that he will excite. His social self-feeling is hurt by an unfavorable view of himself that he attributes to others. This example is typical of the way the group coerces each of its members in all matters concerning which he has no strong and definite private purpose. The world constrains us without any definite intention to do so, merely through the impulse, common to all, to despise peculiarity for which no reason is perceived. "Nothing in the world more subtle," says George Eliot, speaking of the decay of higher aims in certain people, " than the process of their gradual change! In the beginning they inhaled it unknowingly; you and I may have sent some of our breath toward infecting them, when we uttered our conforming falsities or drew our silly conclusions: or perhaps it came with the vibrations from a woman's glance." "Solitude is fearsome and heavy-hearted," and nonconformity condemns us to it by causing gene, if not dislike, in others, and so interrupting that relaxation and spontaneity of attitude that is required for the easy flow of sympathy and communication. Thus it is hard to be at ease with one who is conspicuously worse or better dressed than we are, or whose

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manners are notably different; no matter how little store our philosophy may set by such things. On the other hand, a likeness in small things that enables them to be forgotten gives people a prima facie at-homeness with each other highly favorable to sympathy; and so we all wish to have it with people we care for. It would seem that the repression of non-conformity is a native impulse, and that tolerance always requires some moral exertion. We all cherish our habitual system of thought, and anything that breaks in upon it in a seemingly wanton manner, is annoying to us and likely to cause resentment. So our first tendency is to suppress the peculiar, and we learn to endure it only when we must, either because it is shown to be reasonable or because it proves refractory to our opposition. Marx summarizes his own material theory of history, otherwise known as historical materialism as: In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. Coming then, to the marginalized themselves; today groups that are marginalized in most parts of the world; developed or otherwise are those coming from ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities, and also homosexuals, and even against drug addicts and AIDS patients. In less developed economies, women also tend to be marginalized, as also the physically and mentally challenged. In nations such as India, there is also the problem

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of the marginalization of Dalits, Tribals, and other backward castes and communities. We have various forms of marginalization--they may be blatant or subtle. Examples of subtle forms of marginalization would be selective hiring in various industry, or discrimination against candidates for employment on the basis of religion, origin, sexuality or sexual orientation, or on medical grounds. More blatant forms would be targeting groups for violence or harsh criticism; the spreading of hatred and xenophobia, and so on. Sociologists often find themselves analytically unraveling civilizations. In the Indian context, India seems to be a civilization that is coming apart in reality. The victimization of Muslims within Indian society, the responses leading to violence; the marginalization of backward classes and scheduled castes and tribes as well as Dalits; the economic marginalization of large sections of society all contribute to this unraveling. In India, the problem of marginalization then, is very real. We see it with women and women's rights--perhaps not as much in Metropolises, but definitely in smaller cities and towns, and villages. Discrimination exists against women at every level, from Female Infanticide to Widow Remarriage, and so on... The plight of Dalits is also not much improved (largely due to corruption allowing only a fortunate few to benefit from the programs in place). Muslims also face some marginalization, as do people of various other minorities. The marginalization of the honest is another problem--so is the marginalization of various issues, ranging from corruption to the environment.

What role does the Media play in all of this? The Media's role over the past many years has been to further the stereotypes, to make them seem the norm, or normal. The Role that Media should play is in raising awareness of social issues and prevalent factors that cause the Marginalization of the various groups, and to so "reeducate" the `masses' on the concept of Marginalization.

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The question must be asked, "Is simply stopping the propagation of the theory of marginalization, while working towards a more equal society enough to remove, or at the very least reduce the problem of marginalization? Is it even possible?" Similarly, the Media's role should also be to educate the Marginalized of their rights under a democratic constitution (it perhaps starts a cycle of change; within the haves and the have-nots, and between the powers-that-be (governments) and the marginalized...) Marginalization is such that it becomes more and more problematic, the more you talk about it without acting upon it, against it. From Social Justice at an individual level, to International Law, every part must contribute against marginalization, for it occurs at every level, deliberately, by choice, or without choice. The effects of Marginalization are immense. Those who are marginalized generally suffer from a crisis of identity (often portrayed as "the bad guy") and this perhaps leads to a rise in social militancy / delinquency (in terms of castes, religions, ethnic and linguistic groups, people suffering from Medical problems (AIDS, etc) those of other sexual orientation (homosexuals); while women and the physically handicapped, or mentally challenged, are simply smothered and subdued into the acceptance (without choice) of whatever is offered to them, and/or whatever views and beliefs are forced upon them. This the cycles back to the marginalized being viewed in this light, since they are forced to be so. In terms of decision-making abilities and power, the marginalized are also shunned and shunted away from the mainstream, remaining a "fringe" group, with little real representation (and due to their marginalization, little desire to organize

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protest against this marginalization.) Policies and Political Representation are meant to cater to the larger audience, and to those in power, or those with power; and even here, those already marginalized remain largely so. For every stage of marginalized people, there exists a hierarchy of inequality within that group, contributing to the degree of marginalization. This hierarchy generally falls in place on the basis of two factors--Education of the group within which the marginalized fall, and that of their support structure; and the Financial situation/power for them, within their own group at a family level, and then at a (local scope) social level, and then onto the global scope. The degree also depends (internationally) on the laws and safeguards in place that aid or thwart the upliftment of the groups. It is the most vicious of cycles, and the role the Media plays in this propagation is immense.

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The problem of how the media represents news and propagates views today is described by Jean Baudrillard in his essay, "Simulacra and Simulations"; conceptualizing the relation between perception and reality. It would note, that the Media generally follows a pattern such as this "Whereas representation tries to absorb simulation by interpreting it as false representation, simulation envelops the whole edifice of representation as itself a simulacrum. These would be the successive phases of the image: (1) It is the reflection of a basic reality. (2) It masks and perverts a basic reality. (3) It masks the absence of a basic reality. (4) It bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrum. In the first case, the image is a good appearance: the representation is of the order of sacrament (The "real" story). In the second, it is an evil appearance: of the order of malefice (somewhat changed). In the third, it plays at being an appearance (the story that is published): it is of the order of sorcery. In the fourth, it is no longer in the order of appearance at all, but of simulation. (rumors, and "taught views", as well as general misconceptions formed in the mind of the viewer)" This sums up the progression of any story within the Media, and also shows how marginalization is increased (and its ebb or flow is consequently dependent upon its portrayal in the world of the Media)

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Bibliography (1) Marginalization--Wikipedia (2) Eugenics--Wikipedia (3) Social Darwinism--Wikipedia (4) Immanuel Kant--Theory of Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Intent (5) Henry David Throreau--Life Without Principle; Walden and Other Essays (6) C.H. Cooley--Human Nature and the Social Order--Emulation (7) Karl Marx--A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (8) N.J. Demerath--The Pitfalls of Pluralism; Harvard International Review (9) Jacques Derrida--Structure, Sign, and Play (10) Jean Baudrillard--Simulacra and Simulation


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