Inequality & Social Policy Seminar: Don Tomaskovic-Devey


Monday, February 7, 2022, 12:00pm to 1:15pm

Relational Inequalities: An Organizational Approach

Don Tomaskovic-Devey, Professor of Sociology, UMass Amherst

Abstract: Relational Inequalities explains the processes through which resources are generated and distributed in and between organizations, arguing that relational approaches to inequality should displace the more widely embraced, but misleading, individual and societal social science approaches. We identify three generic processes that steer the distribution of resources between and within organizations – social closure, exploitation and claims-making. The core argument we make is that each of these generic processes is profoundly conditioned by the intersections of social categories, organizational dynamics, and the institutional fields that define the frontiers of legitimacy, morality, and respect within organizational spaces. Markets as well as legal and cultural institutions are refracted through local workplace inequality regimes, as are individual traits and biographies. As a result, organizational inequality regimes show a great deal of diversity, even in the same country, industry, and firm. Each chapter of the book presents case studies of organizational variation in inequality dynamics and illustrates inequality generating processes as they are conditioned by interactional and institutional contexts to produce varying levels and types of inequalities. These case studies span industry, country, and continent, as well as race, gender, citizenship, education, and class, to illustrate both what is generic and what is contingent in the constitution of organizationally produced inequalities. In doing so we demonstrate how scholars can better understand inequality by moving towards research designs that compare inequality regimes in similar and contrasting organizational fields. The book ends with a strong program for social scientific research and, more importantly, for inequality reduction. To advance equality and justice agendas the relational inequality model implies a series of global goals, including moving from tribalism to universalism, from hierarchy to citizenship rights, and from markets to human dignity.

Don Tomaskovic-Devey is Professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
He is the founding Director of the UMass Center for Employment Equity and the coordinator of the Comparative Organizational Inequality Network. He has projects on the impact of financialization upon U.S. income distribution, workplace desegregation and equal opportunity, network models of labor market structure, and relational inequality as a theoretical and empirical project. His long-term agenda is to work with others to move the social science of inequality to a more fully relational and organizational stance. He is advancing this agenda through empirical studies of jobs and workplaces, as well as social relationships between jobs within workplaces and the social relationships that link organizations to each other. This agenda is supported by principled theory and methodological projects. He is best known for his contributions to Relational Inequality Theory as well as organizational sampling and measurement methods. He is a founding member of the UMass Computational Social Science Institute. He is also a founding member of the EEODataNet, a network of researchers using data from and for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Due to HKS Covid guidance, this seminar will take place virtually.