Societies in the contemporary times face different social issues like class and gender stratification among others. Works of fiction seek to highlight some of these issues via different mediums. In the movie, Hunger Games, the director airs some of the prevalent issues in a futuristic fictitious nation called Panem. Even though the movie is fictitious, the issues of social stratification raised are prevalent in the contemporary society. In Australia, the issue of social stratification has been prevalent for a long time. Apparently, Australia is among the top five developed countries with the most social inequality in society. This paper will compare and contrast the social stratification in Panem and Australia with reference to different social theories.
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Social class Panem and Australia
According to Mack (2002, p. 79), social class ‘is a society’s categorisation of people into socioeconomic strata, based on their occupation and income, wealth and social status, and derived power.’ Australia is allegedly one of the most egalitarian nations in the contemporary world, but this presumedclasslessness exists only in theory. According to Karl Marx and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, societies should embrace egalitarianism, which promotes equality for all especially in property ownership. Mack (2002, p.106) reveals that Karl Marxonce said, “from each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need’. Marx’s statement vouches for socialism, where wealth is distributed equally in society. This form of socialism has no place in Australia and Panem. In the two countries, capitalism defines the economic structures, and thus the haves and have-nots is a deeply entrenched phenomenon in the society.
In Australia, social stratification mainly occurs due to disparities in earnings (Henslin 2014). In the last decade of the 20th Century, the wages of those at the top of the economic hierarchy increased by four times as opposed to those at the bottom of the scale (McGregor 2001).
According to the Marx’s theory of alienation, people lack humanness the moment they start living in a stratified society. By 2001, the rate of unemployment in Australia stood at 7.2%, which accounts for close to 1 million jobless citizens (Graetz2002). Conventionally, the unemployed individuals will not have the monetary resources to fit in some social spheres. Therefore, this form of inequality creates classes as people are classified according to their financial well-being.In a functional capitalistic country, wealth and property ownership is a reserve of the few who have mastered the art of manoeuvring the system through hard work or corruption. Children belonging to the first class citizens stand a better chance of getting the fine things in life as opposed to kids born in poor families.
In Panem, the rift between the rich and the poor is outraging. Workers in some regions, which are known as Districts, do not get their rightfully earned wages. For instance, in District 12, which is the Katniss’ home place, individuals work extremely hard to produce coal for energy, but they rarely get their wages. Ironically, this district does not have a constant supply of energy, despite being the producer of coal. However, those in power reap the benefits of the capitalistic system that is imposed on the citizens of Panem (Fevre & Bancroft 2010).
Katniss lives in abject poverty, but the Mayor’s daughter lives in opulence. In District 12, people barely survive. Katniss’ family survives on hunting and gathering. On the contrary, the Capitol of Panem is characterised with sumptuousness. The country’s wealth and property ownership belongs to the elite class, which inhabits the Capitol. In Panem, children of the wealthy are assured of success once they enlist for the hunger games. On the contrary, children from the Districts like Katniss stand no chance of winning at the games because they are unprepared bot physically and psychologically.
Therefore, social class in Australia and Panem is a norm. In the two countries, income inequalities are evident. In Australia, the wealth belongs to those in power, merchants, and high-end income earners. The low class is struggling just like in Panem where Katniss barely survives on hunting and gathering. The hunger games in Pamen can be equated to the school system in Australia. Children from the wealthy families in Australia are assured of attending the best schools in the region, which improves their chances of success in life. Similarly, in Panem, children from opulent families are assured of success in the hunger games, which draws parallel to the Australian education system. The only difference in social class between the two countries is the intensity of the stratification. While in Panem, individuals from one District are not allowed to communicate with other people from different regions, in Australia individuals are not bound by the law from communicating with others (Hage 2006).
Gender stratification in Panem and Australia
Mack (2002, p.107) defines gender stratification as ‘the unequal distribution of wealth, power, and privilege between the sexes’.In Australia, the issue of gender stratification goes back to the early 20th Century where women were discriminated against based on their gender (Connell 1987]. The functionalist theory underscores gender stratification by holding that gender inequalities exist to have efficient division of labour. In this case, specific genders are expected to carry out some tasks exclusively, thus excluding the other gender from performing the same tasks. For instance, before 1921, women did not have a parliamentary representative.
The first woman was elected to the Australian federal parliament in 1943. Unfortunately, even with such representation, women continued to suffer gender-based oppression and in the 1960s, women were required to relinquish their public service occupations once they married. Private companies also followed the same script. In addition, before 1965, women in the country could not enjoy their drinks in a public bar. Even though such gender-based oppressive tendencies reduced with the enactment of the Sex Discrimination Act of 1984, the execution of such tendencies evolved. In the contemporary Australian society, the pay gap is sickening with women earning between 17% and 28.3% less as compared to their male counterparts. In addition, women rarely get managerial positions and by 2010, only paltry 8.4 % of top boardroom directors were women.
In Panem, the issue of gender stratification comes out clearly in the way the protagonist is portrayed. The protagonist, Katniss, is a woman, but she is dissatisfied with her roles as a female. Therefore, she seeks to carry out masculine duties as a way of rebellion towards the gender stratification that is prevalent in Panem (Simmons 2012). Throughout the film, women are associated with weakness. Katniss is poor, which renders her weak for she lacks the means to push for equality.
In the Capitol, she is not referred by her name. People refer to her as “the girl on fire from District 12”. On the surface, this aspect may seem like praise; however, from another perspective it implies that she can only get a proper name after being married. Finally, women are rarely involved in the country’s leadership. The president is a male and women leadership is rarely depicted in the movie.
Gender stratification in Australia and Panem are similar because in both cases, women are discriminated against. In addition, just like the pre-1930s Australia where women were not allowed in leadership, women in Panem are not engaged in leadership roles. However, the gender stratification differs in the two countries in some aspects. In Australia, women are discriminated via pay inequalities. On the contrary, in Panem, women are discriminated against through non-recognition. They do not enjoy the legal requirement to ensure gender equality, which exists in Australia after the passage of the Sex Discrimination Act in 1984.
Stratification between metropolitan and countryside regions in Panem and Australia
Countryside and metropolitan regional stratification is a common phenomenon in all countries across the globe. In Australia, urban areas are highly developed as opposed to the rural areas. Industries are concentrated in urban areas, and thus individuals living in these areas have better livelihoods as compared to their rural-dwelling counterparts. The rural-urban continuum theory supports this argument by holding that rural areas are always underdeveloped as opposed to urban areas where resources are concentrated. In Panem, rural areas, viz. the Districts, are poorly developed. The basic social amenities like power supply are inconsistent.
People like Katniss live in abject poverty. On the contrary, the Capitol belongs to the bourgeois and politicians. The differences between the Capitol and the districts are clearly cut, with towering buildings and modern infrastructure adorning the former. However, the Districts are poorly developed to the extent of people depending on hunting and gathering for livelihood.
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Rural and urban stratifications in Panem and Australia are similar because the rural areas are underdeveloped as opposed to the developed urban areas in both countries. However, in Australia, the rural areas are fairly developed as opposed to their counterparts in Panem. In addition, only the rich in Panem live in the urban areas as opposed to Australia where poor people inhabit some urban areas. The issue of urbanisation leads to the emergence of cheap housing in urban areas, which attracts the poor, who cannot afford to live in the leafy suburban areas. Ultimately, the low-end housing creates a form of ghetto. In Panem, the Districts are permanent ghettoes.
Social stratification is a controversial issue in the contemporary society. Social class, which is occasioned by inequalities in wages and salaries, is the most pronounced form of social stratification. Gender stratification is also common in spite of having laws against discrimination based on gender. Finally, urban-rural stratification exists in almost every nation across the world. In Australia and Panem, the aforementioned forms of social stratification are prevalent. As expected, social class is the most outstanding form of social stratification in the two countries. The gap between the rich and the poor in the two nations is dismaying. Unfortunately, gender stratification is still prevalent in the contemporary Australia in terms of pay inequalities and leadership roles. As discussed in this paper, the social stratifications in Panem and Australia have differences and similarities.
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