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  • Assuming that we could equally divide all the world’s wealth and assets among everyone, why would stratification soon be evident among societies again? Use one or more of the various sociological perspectives (functionalism, conflict theory, symbolic interactionism) to support your answer.
  • Describe an example of conspicuous consumption, either from your own life, that of your friends or acquaintances, or in the news. Which sociological perspective (functionalism, conflict theory, symbolic interactionism) best explains this phenomenon, and why?
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    Conflict theory provides the strongest explanation for the impossibility of maintaining perfect equality. In the current situation, conflict theory uses the struggle for dominance between classes to explain social inequality. In the situation the question posits, each group begins with the same level of resources. However, some groups and individuals will be more ambitious, more resourceful, and more ruthless than others. The conflict between these groups, therefore, will soon reestablish inequality as the norm.

    For the second question, conflict theory could also provide a good explanation for conspicuous consumption, as people use symbols of material wealth to jockey for position. However, symbolic interactionism provides a clearer explanation for the particular objects people choose to consume. Examples are easy to find, and you can probably think of several among your acquaintance. A person who learned to love books at an early age might become a collector of rare books and manuscripts because of the symbolic value of these objects. A man for whom cars are a symbol of virility and power might collect expensive cars as his form of conspicuous consumption.

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