Ageing, status politics and sociological theory.
As a feature of social change and as an aspect of social stratification, ageing and age groups have been seriously neglected by sociological theory. This article attempts to conceptualize age groups in a multi-dimensional model of stratification which considers ageing in relation to economic class, political entitlement, or citizenship, and cultural life-styles. This multi-dimensional model provides an analytical basis for rejecting functionalist theories of ageing, which emphasize the positive functions of social disengagement, activity theories, which show that self-esteem in ageing is an effect of continuing social involvement, and Marxist social gerontology, which argues that retirement is determined by labour-market requirements in capitalism. The article concludes by developing a reciprocity-maturation curve of ageing which explains age stigmatization through exchange theory as an effect of declining social reciprocity. Both young and elderly social groups in a period of economic recession are perceived to be socially dependent, and become the targets of 'the politics of resentment'. The processes of social ageing can be located in the core of sociological theory, because they are connected fundamentally to the conditions of social solidarity.
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