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Later life, inequality and sociological theory

Irwin, S. (1999) Later life, inequality and sociological theory. Ageing and Society, 19 (Part 6). pp. 691-715. ISSN 0144-686X

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A central concern of many theorists of later life has been to elucidate the processes which shape the marginalisation and relative disadvantage of older people in contemporary society. This concern parallels a current argument within sociological theorising: that life course stage and generational location constitute increasingly important dimensions of social difference and inequality. It is an argument of the paper that many current approaches operate with metaphors of society which ultimately locate those in later life at the margins by virtue of the theoretical terms being used. Too much has been claimed for life course-based divisions and too little has been claimed in respect of life course-related processes. The paper develops an alternative, moral economy, perspective with the aim of furthering analysis of the social organisation of life course-related rights, claims and obligations and their relationship to lifetime inequalities across the population. Such an approach offers a resourceful framework both for interrogating the diverse circumstances and experiences of those in later life, and for conceptualising social inequality and its reproduction.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: © 1999 Cambridge University Press. Reproduced in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.
Keywords: later life, life course, generation, inequality, moral economy, social claims, work, welfare
Institution: The University of Leeds
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law (Leeds) > School of Sociology and Social Policy (Leeds)
Depositing User: Repository Officer
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2006
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2014 22:03
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X99007588
Status: Published
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Refereed: Yes
Identification Number: 10.1017/S0144686X99007588
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/1306

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