Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Applerouth, S. & Edles, L. D.2008.Classical and Contemporary Sociological Theory:
Text Readings.Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press
And what about movies in which we see the people drinking or eating certain products, or saving up to buy a specific name brand thing, or the movies that show the status of people according to the type of car that they drive. My favorite quote is one from the movie "Bride Wars" when one of the characters is purchasing her wedding dress and the sales lady is sure to remind her about the name brand dress she is buying and says: "We don't alter Vera Wang, you alter your body to fit Vera."
And what about the ads for a certain pair of jeans where you see two sexy people kissing/making out and you are only able to see the very top of the jeans (if any part at all). Or how about the ad that shows a lady in the shower and you see her silhouette while the jeans are thrown on the floor. Is this really an ad for the jeans? Or is it merely the ad for the image that the jeans will give you?
Advertising is all around us and if we are not careful, we too will be sucked up into the seduction of advertising and end up buying things that we only think that we need when in reality we have done fine without them this far.
So here are my two challenges for you:
#1) Go out and try to find more of these kinds of advertisements and write about them here in the comment section. (This task will be all too easy to complete.)
#2) I dare you to go out there and find an advertisement that is actually an advertisement of itself. Not those advertisements where the sign-value overshadows the use-value of the product. (Like my jean ad example.)
Have fun on your search but be careful. This is an assignment, not a reason to go shopping. ;)
Sunday, May 3, 2009
I am also a little on the fence regarding Allen's interpretation Foucalt's conceptualization of power. I usually read Foucalt and see that power is at the heart of his theory - that it exists in relationships, that it exists, yes, in the very mundane ways that we carry on in our life (i.e. self-discipline), yet I like Chafetz' and Kanter's use of power (thus, I am not sure if I disagree with Allen's interpretation or if I just like Chafetz' and Kanter's notion better). In Chafetz', Kanter, and Zucker (1977), power is absolutley recognizeable in a person or at least with an associated office that a person may occupy. For instance, I may not have any power as regular student, but as the President of a club, the office gives me certain powers (this is also very Weberian!). Perhaps, someone can clarify Allen's interpretation of Foucaldian power.....
As for Baudrillard, I am not sure what to make of his theory. The most helpful concept from him is the "sign," and yet I do not see this "sign" as being a particuarly new contribution. I see a lot of Veblen in his work. Maybe someone else saw something I didn't: in that case, what is Baudrillard's greatest insight
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Sunday, April 26, 2009
However, what I think is one of the most valuable perspective is within WST is the discussion about the powerful and stabalizing role of the semiperiphery. The semiperiphery acts very much like the middle class for the U.S. The semiperiphery are buffers.
I also appreciate the nuanced perspective that Wallerstein offers to explain why the semiperiphery does not flat-out revolt or rebel. Legitimacy as it is intertwined with fear for one's future and perhaps a sliver of hope that one is on her/his way to the core is enough, according to Wallerstein, to keep the semiperipheral nations in line. What do you make of the role that Wallerstein assigns to the semiperiphery? What is going to happen if more and more semiperiphery states decline in this steep world wide recession? What ramifications might (does) Wallerstein predict?
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
To what degree is the manner in which you choose to express yourself upon your body determined by the cultural capital you have grown up with and written into your instinct? What aspects of your physical self, such as clothing or build, reflect the cultural upbringing you have received?
For instance, there was the sudden construction of “narco mansiones” (drug trade mansions) that sprung up down the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez valley where money was no obstacle. The owners went over the top in trying to give the impression to others that they were now a part of an elite class and in their attempt the appearance of the homes took on an eccentric air. The difference in the way these individuals were raised (in some cases with limited life-chances, limited education in quantity and quality, and thus with cultural capital unlike the old rich) became manifest in the way they lived their lives. In a world of imitation not their own. What is your take on this? Are these nouveau rich on their way to restructuring and reconceptualizing what it means to be and to live rich?
Monday, April 20, 2009
Disembedding mechanisms are central to this process of time-space distanciation. I am particularly interested in the notion of expert systems and believe that it is relevant to the transformation of America's land grant colleges. In 1862, Morill Land Grant Act was signed. The intention of the policy was to encourage (through incentives) the collaboration of U.S. faculty with local farmers to improve sound economic practices and viability for small farming communities, and thus, to have these small communities contribute to the larger national economy. Wendell Berry writes about how the land grant colleges have evolved to the point that local knowledge and local savvy is no longer appreciated or even sought. Many Land grant colleges do not work in an egalitarian partnership with their local communities, and they often introduce methods/machinery/practices that are foreign to or even intimidating to small farmers and ranchers. If we use Gidden's framework, we can begin to see how the "modern" university links together the 4 institutions of globalization. Do you find this situation problematic or is this simply progress - with both its manifest and latent functions revealed?
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Do you think that Blacks should be paid for the dollar value of the labor and interest that accrues from their ancestor’s participation in the American tobacco, sugar, and cotton industries?
Where do you sit in the matrix of domination? Can you list some ways in which you oppress others, and ways in which you are oppressed?
Monday, April 13, 2009
Friday, April 10, 2009
As someone who is vested in the investigation of social issues for groups that are often categorized as "minorities," particularly women and Latina/os, I have struggled to describe and discuss what I mean when I use the label "women" or "Latinas." I NEVER want to appear as an essentialist.
Just as Smith and Collins point out, it is the voice of women and/or Latina/os that I interview that I aim to represent, to put forward in an attempt to make space for a different kind of theory. As I read Smith and Collins carefully, I began to understand how discussing and describing the "Latina family" experience or the condition of "women in higher education," is a way of recognizing and validating both the similarities, but perhaps, more importantly the rich differences that characterize the women and Latina/os that I work with in my research. I am deeply appreciative of Collin's discussion on essentializing (presented in Appelrouth et al., 2008) where she writes:
"Black women's collective standpoint does exist...Because it both recognizes and aims to incorporate heterogeneity in crafting Black women's oppositional knowledge, this Black women's standpoint eschews essentialism in favor of democracy.." (pg. 616). Collins provides the language to help me elaborate my own work in which I explore the experience and perspectives of Latinas in higher education or Latino families, as they are involved in school-family partnerships, etc....
Can you think of other ways that Collin's and Smith's work helps us to reconnect the sociological discipline to matters of practical, democratic purpose? And what do you make of Butler's response to Collin and Smith?
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Can you think of a time when you were confronted with two different audiences at once and you were forced to choose one self over the other?
How did you handle that situation?
Allan,K. 2007. The Social Lens: An Invitation to Social and Sociological Theory.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.
Allen explains Blumer's perspective: institutions and structures do not act, but people do! (pg. 304). - In what ways, though, do we often take for granted this idea of an acting structure when in fact behind the structure are human actions?...
Friday, April 3, 2009
With that being said, I found Hochschild's work absolutely fantastic. While Goffman alludes to the idea that a situation's meaning is prescribed for people, Hochschild anchors the different experience/actions/situations of men and women in larger social and structural situations. I thought that her analysis of marriage and the "different futures" that a husband and wife have in store are real situations that reflect the social and structural locations and expectations of men and women, especially as they are shaped by a consumer-service market economy (which is driven by mostly powerful men). I drew many parallells between Hoscshild's argument and Chafetz'. Kudos to Hoschild for a strong theoretical analysis that allows us to understand individual action, indiviudal situatedness as a matter of social phenomena.
Why do you think that Hochschild's work is classified as symbolic interactionism, given her ability and willingness to bring structural level analysis into the theory?
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Do you consider that a common person can achieve the characteristics of Horkeiheimer’s and Adorno’s heroes?
Monday, March 9, 2009
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Critical theory presents us with the notion that we have all been seduced by attractive and powerful cultural and intellectual institutions, particularly as they are facilitated by political-economic forces. I especially like how critical theorists link positivism and the uses of social science/practice to our delusions of freedom. When I read these chapters, I thought of a 1982 piece by Josef Bleicher, where he outlined very carefully how the evolution of science is connected to the "bourgeoisie." He writes: "Science acquired its social significance in the context of the rise of that stratus of society that had most to gain from it in political and economic terms: the bourgeoisie." Clearly, Bleicher extended the line of thinking put forward by Horkheimer and Marcuse. Do you agree that science and the practice of social science have been/are a tool of the powerful elite?
Bleicher, J. (1982). The hermeneutic imagination: Outline of a positive critique of scientism and sociology. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
How do you contrast mass media from a mid-20th century and 21st century perspective? Are Adorno’s theories on culture relative today?
Appelrouth, S., and Edles, L. (2008). Classical and Contemporary Sociological Theory. California: Pine Forge Press.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
The meal itself which consists of pig feet, beef tripe, hominy, seasoned in red chile sauce in a stew-fashion is not all that tasty but the family eats it with together bringing even extended family over. The members may be separated all week and may be even for longer periods but at the meal (preparation and consumption “the manifest part”) the unity or familial solidarity in a way is rekindled. So like Merton’s rain dance the meal may not taste great or even do away with your hunger (the meal is usually limited to a bowl) but the latent aim (ie bringing or keeping the family together) is fulfilled. In your personal/family life can you think of “rituals” you take part in that may appear to be old-fashioned, unfulfilling which might in reality be serving other (hidden) positive purposes? What’s your menudo?
Applerouth, S. & Edles, L. D.2008.Classical and Contemporary Sociological Theory:
Text Readings.Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Mostly, though, it is assumed that "things will work themselves out" and that the system is fair to everyone, and so "it works; whatever inequalities there are is a result of people falling into the places that thier efforts afforded them"... In general, structural functionalism provides this sort of safe, un-critical view of the world. On the other hand, if we read Dahrendorf and Collins, we are told that conflict is natural, pervasive, and has functional qualities - under the right condiions. I really like Dahrendof's conceptualization of power as a tool for understanding the nature of democracy. What are your thoughts on Dahrendorf's quote on page 222 in the Allen text? How is this perspective quite different from Parson's outlook?
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
What other sorts of morbid excess in sex distinction do you think is prevalent today, for either sex?
Allan,K. 2007. The Social Lens: An Invitation to Social and Sociological Theory.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press
Even wonder we want to know the sex of our baby before they are born?
Sure, you may say that it's so they can pick a name. But why not just pick a name for both sexes and then when the baby is born pick from there? Or you may say it's better to know so that you know what kind of decor to put in their room. But why? Why do we socialize our kids like that? Why does the baby's sex matter so much even BEFORE it is born? Why do we buy pink things for someone at their baby shower if they are having a girl? What's wrong with pink for a boy or blue for a girl? And have you even looked a baby that belonged to a stranger and asked how old "he" was and had the parents snap at you, "She's a GIRL!" Well, I sure have. They all look the same to me at that age anyways. Why do people get so offended? Why have we done this in our culture? Do you see where this fits into any of Gilman's theories?
Monday, February 23, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Individuals in society are like actors in the never ending play called life. We all play various roles in each interaction we are involved in, and we are all very familiar with the roles and the meanings or significance of the interactions.
How does Simmel use his concepts of the "I" and "me" to describe the way that individuals internalize or feel the influence of society?
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
To a very large degree I can see the validity of this theory. I have visited large cities and found them thick with the apathetic, blasé attitude which Simmel describes. However, it is my opinion that this theory excludes the explanation of the anomalistic metropolis such as the one I have experienced in El Paso. I grew up in a fairly rural community, in New Mexico with a population barely one-tenth that of El Paso, where the emotional and communal connection was barely noticeable, if at all present. There was no desire to have dealings with the affairs of others within the community. In fact, the only community camaraderie which was at all palpable was found at the sporting events of the local high school. I have found the opposite to be true of what I perceive to be the metropolitan setting in El Paso. There is, in my opinion, a greater emotional connection between the people within this community than within the significantly smaller community. I notice more people here offering money to homeless individuals on the street. I can easily strike up a conversation with someone at the bus stop or in the library on campus. I rarely, if ever, rely on the shield that I produced and maintained in the sixteen years that I lived in this small town in New Mexico.
How do you think Simmel would account for this type of anomaly?
I think right now I would take on the role of the stranger because I just got a new job not too long ago. I belong in the sense that myself and everyone I work with are all working towards the same goal and for the same thing but I feel distanced from everyone there because I am the youngest. I'm there but not really there at the same time. In Appelrouth and Edles the example of Native Americans and Chicanos as being strangers in their own land is given. They are strangers because they are allowed to join the military and fight, they are allowed to work, yet they are still somewhat ostracized in society. I would say this is more true for Native Americans, they belong to society as Americans and that they work, yet they are not quite with us at the same time. My question is, what other types of strangers are out there? Are there any examples of strangers in your everyday life?
Sunday, February 15, 2009
However, I ask myself, would I have stopped and listened? I would like to say that I would have; however, I probably would not have. People in the United States are too often in a hurry. We are always in a rush to be on time; we must not be late. We keep moving, never stopping, and do we even think about what we might be missing? We must also keep in mind Kant’s quote about context, “the viewing conditions must be optimal (Kant, as quoted by Weingarten 2007)”. If you took a Picasso painting out of its frame from a famous museum, and put it in another cheaper frame and hung it in a coffee shop, would that painting receive the same appreciation; would it sell for the same price? The answer would probably be no because context matters. The location and setting of a Picasso painting in a coffee shop would have been confusing. Neither is a Washington, D.C. metro a context where you expect to see a world famous violinist performing as a street musician. In Kant’s analysis, the viewing conditions would not have been optimal. Many people do not pay attention to their surroundings if they are not prepped for it.
How would people from other major cities around the world have reacted; would they have reacted differently? Are there cultural characteristics that some societies have that will allow them to stop and enjoy the music?
Allan, K. (2007). The Social Lens: An Invitation to Social and Sociological Theory. California: Pine Forge Press.
Weingarten, G. 2007. Pearls Before Breakfast. Washington Post. (April 8, 2007). Retrieved from: http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/
AR2007040401721.html. Accessed: February 14, 2009.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Simmel's view is quite powerful because he allows us to see that, as humans, we have a direct role in creating social life, structures, and giving those meaning, and at the same time, he suggests that as urbanization/industrial exchange/and other characterisitics of modernity intensify that we, as co-constructors, can lose power, become distant from, and lose an authentic understanding of the symbols and structures that were once created purposefully by individuals or small cutlural groups. What is one example of how a cultural symbol/structure that once embodied deep meaning for you or a small group of your friends/family, has lost or become far removed from you/your group? Using Simmel's framework for explaining why symbols/ideas lose meaning, what are the reasons behind this lost meaning?
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Today's' society, and its voracious appetite for acquiring all types of consumer goods has lost its original virtue, that is the pursuit of work as a divine purpose or "reason to live." We would be wise to find and maintain true intrinsic value to our individual work product, in order to maximize our fulfillment in life!
What are some of your life views on why you are pursuing a career, and why do you think you are motivated to work hard? Are you pursuing riches, fame, or status?
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Friday, February 6, 2009
For me, Weber draws attention to the power of ideas that undergird the economic, political, and social structures that shape our lives as humans. At the same time, Weber does not forget that material interests/conditions circulate around and through the production and reproduction of ideas. Weber helps us see how the world is shaped by ideas as well as material conditions; how does he do this? What are some specific examples that Weber offers in terms of linking the Protestant Ethic to the Capitalist Spirit? Can you apply Weber's argument in any way today?
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Similarly, egoistic suicide occurs when people are unable to find a "basis," or a reason to continue to live their day to day lives, usually due to isolation. Society does not adequately "regulate," or intervene in individual lives by providing structure, purposeful employment, recreation, &/ or self-actualization in general.
Both types of suicide occur in modern industrial society [more often] during both economic boom & bust. During good economic times, people can become suicidal when they perceive others are doing so much better financially, that their own insatiable [greedy] nature is so unfulfilled, that life become no longer worth living.
Altruistic suicide occurs when [usually religious] individuals consider their existence to "be situated beyond life itself, i.e. the afterlife. Like suicide bombers, who believe they will obtain virgins in heaven for murdering innocent people upon their suicide.
Finally, suicides termed "crisis of widowhood" occur upon the death of a spouse, or a loved one. The suicide victim finds him or herself in a totally new [lonely] living "situation", and are no longer able to cope with the rigors of life without their significant others(s).
Monday, February 2, 2009
In Durkheim's definition of religion he says that people gather in specific places with the same belifs and they practice the same rituals while using scared objects. (Remember, the definition has NOTHING to do with God.)
Regardless of who you were going for in this years Superbowl, think back about how you watched the game. Did you and all your friends gather at one mutual place? Were there any things that you all did together as a group when certain things happened in the game? (Like when Steeler James Harrison intercepted that pass from the Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and ran those 100 yards!) Could you point out any possible sacred objects involved?
As you might have guessed, my opinion is that football is a religion by Durkheim's definition. Can you see where he is right?
Saturday, January 31, 2009
According to Durkheim, people commit suicide because society has failed to give them a sense of self, or because they have excessive or deficient social integration. As we can see from the 2008 economic recession, this is true. However, Durkheim fails to elaborate that there is a genetic basis for suicide risk. Studies show that low seratonin levels and other psychiatric illnesses are leading causes of suicide (CMAJ 2000). With the advancement of medical research, Durkheim would have had no way of knowing the genetic basis of suicide in the 19th century. Undoubtedly, there are environmental reasons for suicide, but it is inaccurate to say what we know today that there are not internal influences for suicide, as well.
How applicable is Durkheim's theory of Suicide today given what we know about medicine and psychology?
Basky, G. 2000. Suicide linked to seratonin gene. CMAJ. 162: (9).
Stern, L. 2009. Killer economy? Newsweek. (January 14, 2009). Retrieved from:
http://www.newsweek.com/id/179422. Accessed: January 31, 2009.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Given his functionalist view of society, Durkheim puts forth a theory that suggests societies work relatively fine, if we can remain bound together by our collective consciousness. Who defines this collective consciusness? Who makes laws? Who says a crime is a crime? And is it really a reflection of a common public opinion?
Durkheim suggests that "crimes" serve a purpose in society, that they bound us together to define and reaffirm who and what we are and what we believe in. However, he offers no theories of change. In other words, we do not know how, for instance, the "crimes" of Socrates were eventually interpreted as acts of moral and political justice/expression.
The link that is missing, for me, in Durkheim's analysis, is where, how and in what ways a collective consciousness can be "redefined." While he is definitely not a conflict theorist, he admits that economic/societal growth results in disasters that lead to a break in social and moral bonds, but who puts these bonds back together, how and in what way? And why in the world, should we be okay with it as he suggests, especially in the Introduction to Suicide?
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
How would Marx argue that a communist society is better suited to the basic human tendency toward altruism?
Monday, January 26, 2009
Commodities such as oil & gas, cars, houses, and mortgages are so profitable that capitalists greedily produce them so excessively that they glut the marketplace. Capitalists must now stop production as excess inventory becomes a cost, no longer profits. Stopping production now forces capitalists to lay-off workers, diminishing their ability to obtain money to buy their “needs.” Demand goes down while supply goes up, outstripping demand, thus creating surplus.
This phenomenon Marx calls “commodity fetish” occurs as workers become “infatuated with their own products as if it (they) were an alien thing(s),” something consumers (workers) are compelled to purchase and possess.” Our self-worth is built to a large extent on people’s ability to obtain money, because of the power it gives us to obtain the objects of our needs. However, upon attainment, the objects leave us empty & unsatisfied; creating a new need for still additional products.
The existence of capitalism entails not only an overexploitation of humans but of the world’s natural resources. With the help of industry, production has exceeded demand, which means that the bourgeoisie class needs to stress consumerism as a value. Such an eternal cycle between overexploitation, overproduction, and overconsumption has generated damaging consequences to the environment because it has been justifiable and sometimes has been shown as a patriotic duty. Last week, an interesting e-mail circulated at UTEP which advocated people to decrease consumption of the bottled water (see http://www.thinkoutsidethebottle.org/). Using Marx’s concepts, could it be said that the ruling class, in this case private companies, are stressing, as a value, the consumption of “pure” water. Advertising campaigns are emphasizing at least two of the following ideas. The first one is that to buy bottled water is better than fixing public water utilities, which could ensure pure water for everybody. The second one is that the important thing is to provide each individual with “pure” water without taking into account the ecological damage that the overaccumulation of plastic bottles generates in the environment. Following Marx’s ideas, bourgeoisie must ensure the consumption of its commodities (in this case bottled water) by spreading certain values to guarantee profit. At the same time, proletarians will follow bourgeoisie’s values, which transform pure water in a commodity rather than a human right. The question that remains is if proletarians could do something to avoid the commodification of basic needs.
I find this to be the exact case in today’s society. There are may be politicians that have come from poor backgrounds but they are indeed not poor today. I also see that though we claim there are several classes (lower, working, middle, etc.) the reality is that these are all just different levels within the proletariat class and the so-called middle class has been diminishing for the past decade. Keeping this in mind, do you agree with Marx’s two class system or do you believe that there are other groups in between? How to you see the future of the class system here in America?
President Obama just issued a pay freeze on all Washington D.C. politicians who make more than $100,000 a year. This means that while the working class will get raises throughout the year, these politicians will not. His justification is that “the rest of America in tightening their belts, so can we.” He also plans on giving a tax cut to those within the working class while increasing taxes on those that earn more than $250,000 a year. (Remember that he too is part of that tax increase.) Do you think that this will bring back what has been lost in our middle class? Putting your political beliefs aside, do you think that he is trying to punish those that have been in charge while rising up those that have been exploited?
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Johnson, H.B. (2006). The American dream and the power of wealth: Choosing schools and inheriting inequality in the land of opportunity. NY: Routledge - Taylor and Francis Group.
Lareau, A. (2003). Uneqal Childhoods: Class, race, and family life. CA: University of California Press.