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BASS Philosophy and Criminology

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
A Sense of Inequality: Everyday Understandings of Inequality

Unit code SOCY30241
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Sociology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


What shapes people’s everyday understandings of inequality? This course looks at how everyday ‘views’ or framings of inequality emerge, drawing on a range of fields (including social attitudes and perceptions research; work on social identities and neoliberalism; theories of the psychosocial, affect and the abject; social constructionism; social movements research; resistance studies; and the empirical sociology of critique) to examine how different approaches can help us understand this process. The book examines how troubling social situations come to be regarded as inequalities, explores they come to be understood as ‘class’ ‘racial’, ‘gender’ or other kinds of inequality, and considers how such inequalities come to be seen as susceptible to intervention and change.


The unit aims to:


  • To develop understanding of the complex factors that affect the subjective experience of inequality
  • To critically evaluate different theories of the subjective experience of inequality
  • To develop understanding of the diversity of subjective experiences of inequality through familiarity with a range of empirical literatures

Learning outcomes

Student should be able to:


  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of key theoretical and empirical debates on subjective inequality
  • Engage in theoretically informed discussion relating to people’s consent, resistance or protest about unequal social arrangements
  • To synthesis, summarise and critically evaluate information from a range of sources in order to produce assessed coursework. 
  • Understand the variable meanings of ‘inequality’ in academic and popular discourse
  • Acquire and demonstrate transferable skills through group work and debates


  1. Introduction: should people care about inequality?
  2. Do people care about inequality? Subjectivity and consent, acquiescence and false consciousness
  3. Attitudes and perceptions of inequality
  4. Misrecognising inequality (restricted viewpoints, symbolic domination, hegemony)
  5. Internalising inequality (symbolic violence and doxa, internalized racism and sexism)
  6. Affective inequality (from shame and resignation to indignation and anger)
  7. Protesting inequality (protest, riots, social movements and ‘nonmovements’)
  8. Countering inequality (everyday insubordination, resistance and misbehaviour)
  9. Making sense of inequality (interpretation and the practical character of understandings of inequality)
  10. Course review: why do people put up with inequality?

Teaching and learning methods

There will be a 2 hour lecture plus 1 hour workshop per week.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%

Recommended reading

Bayat, A. (2013) Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle-East, Stanford University Press.

Boltanski, Luc. (2011) On Critique: A Sociology of Emancipation. Cambridge; Malden, MA: Polity.

Bottero, W. (2019) A sense of inequality, Rowman and Littlefield.

Bourdieu, P. (1992) ‘In Conversation: Doxa and Common Life’, (with Terry Eagleton), New Left Review, 191 (1): 111-121.

Dorling, Danny (2015) Injustice: Why Inequality Still Persists, Policy Press.

Hills, John (2014) Good Times, Bad Times: The Welfare Myth of Them and Us, The Policy Press

Holloway, John.  (2010) Crack Capitalism. London: Pluto

hooks, b. (2003) Rock My Soul: Black People and Self-Esteem, New York; Washington Square Press.

Lamont, M., Moraes Silva, G., Welburn, J., Guetzkow, J., Mizrachi,  J., Herzog, H., and Reis, E. (2016). Getting Respect Responding to Stigma and Discrimination in the United States, Brazil, and Israel. Princeton University Press.

McCall, L. (2013) The Undeserving Rich: American Beliefs about Inequality Opportunity and Redistribution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sayer, A. (2005) The Moral Significance of Class, Cambridge: CUP.

Scott, James C. (1990) Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts. New Haven: Yale UP, 1990.

Tyler, I. (2013) Revolting Subjects: Social Abjection and Resistance in Neo-liberal Britain, London: Zed Books.

Wilkinson, Richard and Kate Pickett (2010) The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, Penguin.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Practical classes & workshops 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Wendy Bottero Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Coursework essay - 2500 words, 50%

Online, open book exam - 50%

One formative assignment - essay plan



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