While contemporary American society is highly segregated and increasingly unequal, there are settings in which typical social divisions do not apply—in principle (if not in practice) neither limiting one’s ability to participate nor shaping one’s power relative to others. This essay draws on current research on the everyday dynamics of social inclusion and exclusion among the parents of a New York City Parent-Teacher Association to highlight everyday practices of social inequality. Uncovering microsociological dynamics of inequality in settings where established structures of inequality (e.g., segregation and the division of labor) are sidelined by explicit adoption of egalitarian principles, the essay shows that, even when democratic civility prevails, background inequalities on the basis of race, gender, social class, and immigration status are often reproduced in mundane everyday interaction.

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