Give a sociological explanation for the persistence of class inequality by discussing Marx's and Engels' famous critique of industrial capitalism as a form of structural discrimination in The Communist Manifesto.
In The Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels begin by discussing that in all epochs of history, society has been categorized in a hierarchy of groups or classes. This continues to be the case. Concerning their own time, Marx and Engels write:
Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinctive feature: it has simplified the class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.
In a modern context, this could be said as the "haves" and the "have nots." The bourgeoisie became the owning class, effectively condensing all previous owning classes (feudal, aristocratic, etc.) into one class. The economy of the Industrial Revolution, focusing more and more on industrial production, all workers became equated with exchange value. The ruling social and economic relations of capitalist society become the relations/means of production. The goal of the owning class is to accumulate capital (wealth and resources); as a consequence the owning class exploit workers and other nations' resources (especially in the global market) in order to accumulate this capital. The owning class keeps a majority of the profits (surplus) of that production.
It (bourgeoisie or owning class) has agglomerated population, centralized means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands.
This is strikingly similar to statistics in America over the last decade and a half. As of 2010, the top one percent of America's population owned 35 percent of the nation's privately owned wealth. This is obviously an absurd imbalance and this is the kind of imbalance Marx and Engels presumed would lead to a revolution.
The exploitation of the poor, according to Marx and Engels and as applicable today, depends on a culture of dependency: dependence of the poor, working class on capitalists (those who own capital and means of production.) "No sooner is the exploitation of the labourer by the manufacturer, so far, at an end, and he receives his wages in cash, than he is set upon by the other portions of the bourgeoisie, the landlord, the shopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc." In a sense, those on the lower end of income brackets can never catch up; thus, their dependence on the owning class is sustained.
Class inequality exists today because of this imbalance of wealth and capital. Those that have means of production can buy the labor of the worker. The worker has no capital; therefore, all he/she can do is sell him/herself. As long as the owning class (bourgeoisie or our current 1-20 percent) continues to control most of the wealth while receiving exponentially high incomes, their advantage to continue exploiting the lower classes is sustained.