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The purpose of this paper is to test three explanatory theories of the perception of social inequalities using a quantitative survey and supplemented by qualitative interviews. We will examine the theory of “in the best interests” associated with social position, the theory of the possible effect of relative deprivation mechanisms, and the theory of values in terms of social justice. The results show contrasting effects of the different explanatory variables according to the perceived level of inequality. Social status, as well as relative deprivation mechanisms, explain the impact felt at the personal level, whereas they have practically no effect on the wider perception of social inequalities. On the other hand, the perception of inequalities in society is associated, whatever the subject’s social status, with principles of justice. It is not the position of individuals in the system of social stratification that informs their perception of inequalities, but rather principles that are largely independent of their social status.


  • inequality
  • social justice
  • social status
  • relative deprivation
  • discrimination
  • social stratification.
Olivier Galland
Yannick Lemel
Alexandra Frénod
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