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Keith, Cultural Commentary and the Culture of Gerontology. Featherman, L. Selbee, K. Sorensen, Old Age, Retirement, and Inheritance. Inkeles, C. Mayer, G. Wagner, D. Reviews "Taken as a whole, this volume is an excellent example of the value of the cross-fertilization of ideas from several disciplines Request an e-inspection copy. Share this Title. Recommend to Librarian. Shopping Cart Summary.

Items Subtotal. View Cart. Age is also established in the social structure as a "criterion for entering or relinquishing certain roles" Riley et al. Although there is some recognition that inequalities arise as age strata are constructed and reformulated through the changes in society and age-related processes Riley et al.

Thus, the processes and changes that are captured in the diachronic view of the age stratification approach are generally absent in assessments of social inequality. Instead, researchers tend to start with the assumption that age strata, with clearly defined roles and consequential rewards and expectations, exist and comprise a system of age-based inequality Foner , Foner ; Riley et al.

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Hence, these theories of inequality are generally framed within the synchronic model of the age stratification perspective. To illustrate, let us now turn to the specifics of how age stratification researchers might conceptualize age-based social inequality in two spheres—the economy and the family. In this body of research, paid employment and family membership are considered socially valued roles because they function to maintain order in society. According to the age stratification perspective, older and younger age strata are relatively disadvantaged because they tend not to take part in the productive roles that are highly valued in modern society.

Labor force entries and exits are allocated by age both directly through labor laws and indirectly through educational criteria for entering jobs and also by the perceived age-related performance abilities for job exit. There are age differences in the kinds of jobs people hold and in the age distribution of the workforce.

These age-related roles and expectations for labor force participation lead to different rewards according to age. Thus, compared with labor force participants, retired workers and young people tend to be less powerful and economically disadvantaged.


Within labor markets, older workers assume more power and tend to make more money than younger workers, especially in well-established firms Foner ; Foner and Schwab ; Riley et al. Age stratification discussions of the family have focused on the age-graded nature of the family, its changing structure, its functions, and the roles and norms associated with different types of memberships in families Foner Inequality within families is generally assessed through economic differences and power imbalances between parents and their younger children.

In families of procreation, parents have more power and economic control than their children because they assume socializing and caregiving roles.

A Comparative Perspective on Reproductive Aging and Social Behavior

The focus in discussions of later life families is on whether older parents are neglected by their adult children Riley et al. Although these discussions tend not to be framed within the context of power, an imbalance is implied in which the power shifts from parents to children.

Cohort flow is one of the fundamental processes in the age stratification perspective Riley et al. Riley and her colleagues , p. Thus, besides specifying age as strata or a biopsychosocial process, age stratification researchers conceptualize age in terms of cohorts. Following Ryder definition, Riley defined a cohort as an aggregate of individuals who experienced the same event within the same time interval; birth cohorts are only a special case of this more general definition.

Notably, Ryder's conceptualization allows for individuals to be grouped according to any significant event. In practice, however, year of birth tends to be the event that is assigned meaningful significance. Thus, Riley viewed cohorts as aggregates of individuals who are born in the same time interval. The conceptualization of cohorts in arbitrarily defined 1-year and 5-year age groups is a fundamental problem in the application of age stratification perspectives.

This approach serves to reify chronological age as the basis of inequality and ignores the more subjective dimensions of age Marshall ; Passuth and Bengtson By assuming that 1-year or 5-year age cohorts take on meaningful significance, this approach masks qualitative differences in personal experience that are age related Marshall Maddox and Wiley and Marshall have voiced concerns over the atheoretical nature of the term cohort as it is used in most social science research.

According to Marshall , it is more meaningful to assess age relations in terms of groups of people who experience a significant historical event in different ways. These groups would not necessarily be defined in 1-year or 5-year birth cohorts. Rather, depending on the historical event of interest, they may encompass people born over a span of 2, 7, or perhaps even 20 years see also Elder Ryder p.

Here again, however, he has reduced cohorts to single years without considering theoretical implications of doing so. For instance, it may make more theoretical sense to compare a group of individuals who completed their formal schooling during the years of the Depression to those who finished their schooling immediately before World War II see Elder , for an example of this general approach, and Appendix , Note 3.

The preceding discussion illustrates that age conceptualized as a biopsychosocial process, as strata, and as cohorts predominates as the primary basis of difference in the age stratification perspective. Researchers tend to treat these systems of difference as if they cross-cut each other in similar ways, rather than to assess their interlocking nature. According to Foner p. A quick comparison of age strata and social class characteristics reveals their differences see Dowd Probably most central is that whereas an individual's social class tends to be permanent, membership in different age strata is a fluid and expected process.

However, overstating the differences may be as misleading as inflating the similarities. For instance, Dowd suggested that a central difference between social class and age lies in the existence of legal statutes that prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of age; no laws prohibit the hiring of managers over workers.

Age Structuring in Comparative Perspective - David I. Kertzer, Klaus Warner Schaie - Google книги

He went on to state that the concept of discrimination simply does not extend to social class, a fact that underscores popular conceptions of the class hierarchy as a "natural" result of either a sifting process based on talent and ability or a more complicated process involving societal needs and differential socialization patterns.

Dowd , p. This argument is somewhat misleading because it simplifies the complex and subtle structures of employment that perpetuate gender-, ethnic-, and age-based inequality. Mandatory retirement, for instance, is an age-based event that often results in lower incomes and limited life chances. Substituting mandatory retirement and age hierarchy for social class and class hierarchy in the previous quotation illustrates that there are some similarities between class and age stratification.

This is not to say that they are the same. Rather, exaggerating the differences leads to the treatment of age as a secondary source of inequality, which may be as problematic as assigning primacy to it. However, within the context of these limitations, researchers and theorists should not lose sight of the importance of this approach in conceptualizing age as a system of inequality. By unraveling the effects of individual aging and age strata from cohort flow within the context of historical time, this approach provides useful tools for those developing theories on approach diversity see Appendix , Note 4.

In the late s and early s social gerontologists began to critique the normative and highly individualistic theories that were then prominent in aging research Marshall and Tindale —79; Tindale and Marshall Responding to these critiques and the calls for a more radical and critical approach, several scholars from different countries began to assess old age from a political economy perspective Estes ; Estes, Swan, and Gerard ; Guillemard , Guillemard ; Myles , Myles , Myles ; Phillipson ; Townsend ; Walker To explain age-based inequality, political economists focus on the interrelationships among the economy, the polity, and the ideological structures that these systems of domination construct and reconstruct.

Political economists account for the problems that older people face by considering structural characteristics of the state, the economy, and inequalities in the distribution and allocation of resources that these institutions create. Hence, political economy theories focus on social structural explanations of inequality rather than on individual reasons such as the naturally diminishing physical or mental capacities of older people Estes ; Guillemard ; Myles , Myles ; Phillipson ; Townsend , Townsend ; Walker A substantial body of aging research has emerged over the last 20 years that draws on the political economy perspective.

Studies from this camp that are among the most provocative have examined the following:. How social policy has structured dependency in old age Phillipson 31 ; Townsend 32 ; Walker 33 , Walker How the commodification of the needs of older adults benefits capital and creates an "aging enterprise" Estes 24 , Estes How old age is dependent on the division of labor in society as well as on the distribution and allocation of resources.

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Related to this is how the institution of retirement creates a "social death" that serves to define old age Guillemard 26 , Guillemard The contradiction between the principles of democratic citizenship and the principles governing the capitalist system of allocation; in other words, the contradictions that arise in a social welfare state that assumes primary financial responsibility for its older population in a market economy that eliminates older people from the workforce Myles 28 , Myles 29 , Myles To a greater or lesser extent, these studies consider the socially constructed nature of aging, old age, and dependency; the influence of ideology in this construction; the legitimation of social interventions pertaining to elderly people; the influence of state, capital, and labor relations on aging and old age; and the effects of social policy for elderly people Estes ; Estes, Linkins, and Binney Although a discussion of the specifics of each of these arguments is beyond the scope of this article, it is important to briefly consider the role of the state in political economy research.

Although the state comprises many institutions education, criminal justice, health care , researchers from the political economy of aging perspective generally equate the state with the governing bodies responsible for the policies relating to social welfare. The term social welfare in studies of aging most often refers to social security and health benefits Estes et al.

The importance of the state in this research stems from the power that it has over resource allocation and distribution in the context of its relation to capital and to labor and its ultimate responsibility for the survival of the economic system Estes et al. In the political economy perspective, the state is thought to reflect the interests of the most powerful members of society and the existing social order is thought to be the result of power struggles in which the state participates Estes ; Estes et al.

Unlike consensus models where the state is considered a "neutral entity, operating in the universal interests of all members of society" Estes , p. Important advances in the study of social inequality and aging have come from the political economy analysis of state policies relating to retirement and pensions. For instance, Myles , Myles , Myles showed that income inequality in older age is a function of both the overall levels of inequality in a given society and the way pension systems alter or reproduce that inequality.

Although inequalities in preretirement years persist after retirement, an understanding of income inequalities among older people and between the old and the young requires an analysis of public pension structures. Traditionally, public pension structures have either been based on preretirement incomes or on the idea of a national minimum benefit. In the first instance, pensions perpetuate class-, gender-, and ethnicity-based inequalities in older age by "graduating" pension incomes according to preretirement income.

In the second instance, income equality among older people is achieved because the same sum of money is paid to everyone on the basis of citizenship only flat benefit structure; Myles , Myles , Myles Most Western capitalist nations have pension structures that combine flat and graduated pension schemes Myles The interplay between graduated and flat benefit structures highlights a contradiction in modern, liberal democratic states between the rights attached to the ownership of property and rights afforded to persons in their capacity as citizens Myles , Myles According to Myles , the strategies that different countries use to come to terms with this contradiction determine the relative pension benefits of older people and are a reflection of class struggles within the state.

Thus, Myles suggested that the quality and quantity of pension benefits are largely a function of the political mobilization of the working class and the election of working class parties. This brief summary of Myles's work illustrates the power that the state has in determining the economic status of older adults. Few scholars would dispute this point, although political economists disagree over the precise conceptualization of the state see Estes ; Estes et al. Most would also agree that old age and aging are socially constructed, in part, through these and other state policies.

The preceding discussion of the state illustrates that scholars who study age from a political economy perspective tend to conceptualize age as strata. Thus, from this perspective Western capitalist societies are thought to be organized on the basis of whether one is old, middle aged, or young.

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  7. Unlike age stratification researchers, political economists are critical of these divisions and question how a particular chronological age becomes the marker by which one is defined as old and how the polity and the economy legitimize old age by defining it as a problem and then by developing solutions to deal with the problem Estes ; Guillemard , Guillemard ; Myles ; Phillipson ; Walker , Walker Several political economists have argued that the transformation of old age into a social category based on chronological age was made possible by the establishment of a set of age-based pensions administered by the state and that old age has come to be defined in terms of retirement Guillemard , Guillemard ; Myles ; Phillipson ; Walker Estes described an "aging enterprise" that comprises "programs, organizations, bureaucracies, interest groups, trade associations, providers, industries, and professionals that serve the aged in one capacity or another" Estes , p.

    The interests of those that constitute the aging enterprise are realized by making elderly persons dependent upon the services they offer. In doing so, aged persons are processed and treated as a commodity Estes ; Estes et al. Further, this socially constructed problem, and the remedies invoked on the policy level, are related, first, to the capacity of strategically located interests and classes to define the problem and to press their views into public consciousness and law and, second to the objective facts of the situation. Estes et al. The crisis ideology perpetuated by the state and the media regarding the aging of the population and social welfare is another example of how old age becomes socially constructed as a problem.

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    5. The message conveyed is that with the increasing number of elderly people will come a financial burden too large to bear the emphasis is usually on the baby boom generation reaching old age. However, Myles has demonstrated that although the structure of state spending, ownership, and control will likely change, it is unlikely that population aging will bankrupt nations.

      Political economists have advanced the state of theorizing in gerontological research over the last 20 years by examining issues relating to older age through a critical lens.