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.