Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Today's Morbid Excess

In Women and Economics(Appelrouth & Edles, 2008), Charlotte Perkins Gilman discusses the idea of “sexuo-economic relations,” which is created by human kinds newest manifestation of the evolutionary environment. Human beings have created an environment based on the social concepts of structure, culture and relations, which has replaced our natural setting as catalyst for our evolution (Allan, 2008). In her statement “We are more affected by our relation to each other than by our physical environment…The serious dangers and troubles of human life arise from difficulties of adjustment with our social environment” (Perkins, 1898 as cited in Appelrouth & Edles, 2008, p.215), Perkins lends support to the idea that human evolution is no longer based on the natural environment, but the social environment which we have created. Resulting from this notion, we have created the structure of the economy as a mechanism for survival (Allan, 2008). In “sexuo-economic relations,” according to Perkins, men become the economic environment of women, as women and children are dependent upon men for their livelihood. It thus becomes the woman’s economic trade to attract a man who is capable of providing for her and her children (Allan, 2008). The better a woman is at her trade the better she and her offspring will be provided for. Also in this theory is the creation of over accentuated, “morbid excess in sex distinction,” which encompasses the sole female commodity, in Perkins’ view, as well as the early social sexualization of female children (Allan, 2008). This is something we can clearly observe in everyday life. Mothers have their female babies ears pierced so as not to have them mistaken for male babies. Young female children are dressed up, their hair teased up and their faces coated in makeup before they are paraded in front of judges who declare one of them more beautiful than the rest. This behavior is not valuable to survival within the natural environment. Within the environment which we have created for ourselves, the social and economic environment, sex distinction to this degree is a mechanism for survival.
What other sorts of morbid excess in sex distinction do you think is prevalent today, for either sex?

human evolution

Gilman argues women focus on their"attraction skills" women "devotes herself to cosmetics, clothes, primping, and subtle body language" (Allen, 2008). Furthermore, she discusses the female body as evolving and becoming "smaller, softer, and more feeble and clumsy" (Allen, 2008). What do you think would be Gilman's view on homosexuality and fitting iinto this evolution of bodies and behaviors?

It's okay, it's just a mascot

Dubois’ talks about movement from general to specific concept of discrimination can be observed in everyday life as he says (Allan, 2007). There are certain blatantly racist behaviors symbolic or overt that we now just take for granted as “just normal” and acceptable, for example, the mascot for the NFL’s Washington team: the Redskins. The team’s name is accepted without a second thought; the degrading aspect it carries is not questioned. In the eyes of most everyone this is just the name of a beloved sports franchise no critical look is taken. In your opinion, why have we become so complacent and accepting of such a racially charged symbol? Do you think we did not just become and have always been this way?

Allan,K. 2007. The Social Lens: An Invitation to Social and Sociological Theory.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press

We must know the sex!!! But why???

Know any pregnant people?
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

DuBois - How does it feel to be a problem?

DuBois presents us with an analysis that urges us to explore the subtleties (as well as the more explicit) ways that power disparities shape our lives through structural, cultural, and formal institutional arrangements. The "how does it feel to be a problem?" piece in Allen(2007) is an especially important and meaningful way to provoke the audience. What are some of the ways that you, as a member of society or of a collective, might make people feel like problems? Have you ever felt like a problem? Why and how did this realization come to you?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Gilman's Analysis on Sexuoeconomic Relations

Gilman suggests that there are three environments that influence the human race: the natural, the material, and the social (See Appelrouth et al., 2008, pg. 209 or Allen, 2007, pg. 141-2). The social, particularly as it is related to the development of a sophisticated economic system, is enormous in its influence. With the economy as an organizing force, Gilman writes that women have been relegated to a position where they are unable to develop thier natural strenghts, their talents, or their own economic talents. All that she has, all that she is known for stems from the sexuorelationship that she is tied to. What are the accompanying or reinforcing influences that kept women in this position - beyond the economic structures that Gilman identifies? In other words, what other institutions/influences were (and continue to?) define what a woman's role is in society? Does Gilman's own positionality "narrow" her view of the world as well as this part of her analysis?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Interaction is Society according to Simmel

Simmel describes society as existing in social "forms" of interaction. These interactions are basically categorized by the characteristically similar types of forms that constitute the form or "type" of societal interaction. Think of all the ways you have interacted with society on a daily basis for the last year. They are really just repeat performances with different characters and details. For instance, going to classes with different professors, with differing teaching styles and techniques. They tend to following similar patterns of lecture, reading, and writing assignments. We know how we are to "act" in the interaction with every professor because we have previously experienced this form of interaction.
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


According too Simmel, fashion allows for us to express our own personal choices while still following society and its norms. I have seen how on a "level playing ground" fashion is still arranged so that there are differences in groups. For example: There are schools where dress codes are enforced and all the students have to wear the same outfits to school. When all the kids are dressed the same, how is it that they look so different? They still find ways to express themselves so that they don't look like everyone else. What do you think it would take for students to stop trying to dress so differently from one another? Do you think that if we lived in a true Communist society according to Marx that this would be attainable?

A Tale of Two Cities

Georg Simmel presents the idea of the blasé attitude which is adopted by individuals who become overwhelmed by the psychological overstimulation of the city setting. This attitude, perpetuated by the money economy within the metropolis, leads to the emotional withdrawal of the individual in favor of the “psychological intellectualistic attitude” (Simmel, 1903, as cited in Appelrouth & Edles, 2008, p. 266). The intellectualistic or blasé attitude acts as a shield for an individual against constant stimuli inherent in the metropolis. It prevents the emotional investment one might be more prone to acquiring in the social setting of a more rural community (Appelrouth & Edles, 2008).

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?

Dealing with city lifestyles

Simmel discusses the blasé attitude as a type of protection individuals in a metropolis use to adapt to the “intensity of city life” (Applerouth, 2008). Do you think individuals with what are considered mental conditions such as depression, anxiety, or phobias failed to take on a blasé attitude to manage lifestyles in the city and this is why they developed these conditions? Or is it that they are taking on a blasé attitude which individuals in a society failed to recognize as a way to manage these extreme lifestyles in the city?

The Stranger

The title itself sounds somewhat mysterious and exotic. I was originally going to blog about something else but I didn't think of blogging about this till we discussed it in class.
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

Metropolis and Metropolitan Life

Applying Simmel’s theory of “Metropolis and Metropolitan Life,” brings to mind a 2007 sociological study based upon context, perceptions, and priorities published in the Washington Post (Weingarten 2007). Joshua Bell, a world famous violinist, posed as a street musician in a Washington, D.C. metro station to see if early morning commuters would stop and recognize the quality music, or continue on their way without noticing. As a result, almost everyone that morning walked by. Only a handful of people stopped to appreciate the music. Therefore, the Washington Post (Weingarten 2007) posed the epistemological question, “If a great musician plays great music, but no one hears, was he really any good?” The Washington Post used Kant in their analysis of the experiment, “To properly appreciate beauty, the viewing conditions must be optimal (Kant, as quoted by Weingarten 2007).” People did not stop to listen to Joshua Bell that morning because they were worried about getting to work on time. Many employers do not tolerate their employees being even a few minutes late. Workers in highly specialized division of labor, “become a mere cog in an enormous organization of things and powers which tear from his hands all progress, spirituality, and value in order to transform them from their subjective form into the form of purely objective life (Allan 2007, p. 125).” Thus, they develop a blasé attitude toward urban life.

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

Mead and Simmel

Mead and Simmel move us closer to understanding the role of the individual and self in social life. While Mead tells us that the individual makes meaning of "self' through social interaction, Simmel suggests that the meaning and experience of life is created and understood largely through social interaction, but also that certain social constructions and/or cultural symbols can take an objectified form which can become impositions.

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

Weber & Capitalism Today

Weber's concept of the influence that The Protestant Ethic has played in the development of rational capitalism provides a fascinating incite into the cause (creation) and characteristics of capitalism in today's modern society. The motivations for working hard and accumulating wealth are easily seen in America's excessive consumer society. However, the stigma of "conspicuous consumption" as an embarrassment before society, has indeed been long forgotten. As Weber has noted, modern capitalism has lost its original nobility in its "call to please God."
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

Status and Credentials

"Status may be based on one or more of three things: a distinct lifestyle, formal education, or differences in hereditary or occupational prestige", (Allan, 2008). What I want to focus on is education as a social status. Having a higher education can help you move up in your status. You would earn more money and begin spending and maintaining the lifestyle of living and keeping a higher social status. Also having a higher education gives me credentials and I am able to get a job and move up based on what I know rather than who I know. But if I never received a higher education and right out of high school I was able to get a job somewhere and through my hard work and determination I was able to rise to the ranks of CEO, would I still be seen as having the same type of credentials as someone who received their PhD and has a job in a university teaching and doing research?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Weber & The Protestant Ethic

In the Protestant Ethic, Weber suggests that central ideas in Protestant/Calvinistic religion laid the foundation for what he deems the "spirit of capitalism." Every time I read Weber I am fascinated to see how he not only engaged Marxian theory, but also improved upon it.

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

Durkheim & Suicide

Durkheim identifies 4 basic types of suicide. Anomic [economic] suicide occurs when individuals are out of touch with society & become isolated.
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

Work and its relation to suicide

Durkheim explains anomic suicide as being a sudden rupture of a social equilibrium. The anomie is what society suffers as a result of an absence of moral and legal rules. This is absence is due to an economic imbalance and/or weak institutions in the society. Durkheim also defines two other types of suicide: altruistic, occurring when the individual has over adapted to the social system, and egoistic, when the individual is away from the norm. If we look at work as an addiction and its relation to suicide: work helps me to survive yet there are individuals who live to work. Can this then be considered an addiction to work or work as a form of social suicide? Could it be that individuals would rather have work as an addiction than any other (drugs, food, and/or alcohol) as it provides you with money, awards, and recognitions?


Did everyone enjoy the Superbowl game last night? I know I did. It was even better than last years. It was a great game for it to be Warner's last. It would have been nice to see him go out as a winner, but even though Arizona lost, I feel that they went out in style.
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?