Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Friendships around the world

Wallerstein's world-systems theory has a Marxist approach emphasizing on division of labor, exploitation, and the process of accumulation and overproduction. Globality interconnects variety of individuals with variety of backgrounds. Living in the country where there is variety of individuals think about the friendships you have, do you know anyone from another country? If so, how does thier culture and experience affect your relationship? How does this world-system theory influence the friendship?

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Wallerstein World System Theory (WST, hereafter) always makes me rethink so much of my own perspective (and perhaps, some of my hopes). When I read WST, I have images that there is black hole, that I will call Capitalist World Economy (CWE),which swallows up everything: states, people, businesses, schools, hopes, peace, health, environment...society! It is a difficult switch to read Wallerstein after reading Bourdieu and Giddens because with WST, although, I agree with the underlying critique, it is an analysis that seems so hopeless whereas both Giddens and Bourdieu provide some hope that people and groups are not powerless ...

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

Individuality in appearance

Giddens wrote about the nature of individuality in modernity, and that due to the lack of a default method of physically presenting the self, an individual is forced to make choices about self-presentation. Bourdieu discussed the nature of Habitus, how cultural capital becomes embodied within an individual over the course of their life. These two concepts clearly intertwine in the nature in which cultural capital is written on an individual's body in the expression of the self.

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?

The nouveau rich

In today’s globalized society where information of all types is more readily accessed as before there are instances when even bits of “elite”-level education (albeit a watered-down version) and “culture” (modes of living) can trickle down to the lower classes. For example, in talking with an expert in the field an observation was made that the nouveau rich that is being created by the illicit drug trade appear to be picking up on certain cultural practices followed by the elites. These actions being copied by the recently working-class individuals stand out of place mainly because such actions are exaggerated. It has been suggested by many that it is as if these new rich do not know how to be rich.
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

What kind of relationships do you have?

A. Giddens discusses the concept of “pure relationships”. He defines these types of relationships as any relationship an individual has “purely for the sake of the relationship” (Allan, 2008, p.406). This could be the relationship you have with your best friend. On the other hand he also discusses “traditional relationships” in which the intentions of the relationship are based on a social purpose. Giddens provides arranged marriages as a type of traditional relationship. Think about all the types of relationships individuals have in society. What are some examples of pure and traditional relationships you have or have had in your life experiences? It may help to think of relationships you have based on trust, would these be social (traditional) or personal (pure) relationships?

Gidden's on expert knowledge

Gidden's theory outlines how modernity sets us up for a perpetual march towards progress. One of the reasons that it is "perpetual" or unending is because modernity has allowed us to stretch time and distance in new, almost limitless ways. This time and space distanciation has resulted in the break up of tight-knit primary groups, a changing nature of friendship/relationships, and the division of spaces into nation-states or organizational territories among other effects...

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

Popular Culture in Today's Society Destroys Market Morality

White dominated society tends to look down upon Blacks as a social class because they are inaccurately perceived (stereotypically) as inferior, lazy, un-educated, unintelligent, etc. In reality, people are products of their “total life’s experience, and Blacks are experiencing “Market Saturation Syndrome.” a heinous condition that features the pursuit of “fleeting hedonistic pleasure and ‘quick & sleazy’ monetary gain… ” as the primary goals of the young Black America. This market ‘saturation’ is comprised of the all the “societal texts” that all young developing and impressionable earthlings mentally ingest through whatever media they are exposed to in today‘s popular culture. This is persistently eroding market morality causing Black nihilism, whereby Blacks experience the pervasive feelings of hopelessness & meaninglessness that living as a black person in America feels like. The problem is exaggerated for Blacks because of the nature of their socially oppressive heritage. Society has profited hugely from the historical exploitation of Blacks, and this has caused the disintegration of formerly strong Black civic, religious, and family institutions. Thus society has an obligation to use the portion of the “historical” wealth stolen from Blacks through slavery, Jim Crow, and other oppressive mechanisms in order to provide social programs and/or somehow repay the remnant ancestors of slavery, Jim Crow, & all other racial prejudice.
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?

Forms of domination

Collins wrote about the nature of the matrix of domination, in that many forms of domination and oppression exist, and that individuals often fit into the matrix in places that both cause their oppression and at the same time allow them to oppress others. In fact, most individuals in the world will find themselves oppressed in some way, while also having the ability to oppress others. In this, some of the most oppressed individuals in the world can also oppress others, as in when a poor migrant worker beats their child.

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?

Alternative to Feminist Theory?

Dorothy Smith proposes that in order to understand a woman's society one must part away from the traditional male driven society. In order to understand how a woman doesn't really ever leave her role as a woman one must take the standpoint of a woman. This I find a little difficult to do because of my biology. I am unable to understand a woman's point and suffering because I am a man. However, as a minority in this country I am able to understand a little of the harships encountered by minorities. Instead of taking the standpoint theory to understand feminism, is there an alternative to this so that society can be undrestood and studied completely without having to take on someone else's role? If not, do you think that my standpoint as a minority can help me understand a woman's harship?

Monday, April 13, 2009

The things people do

Think of the last time you read a magazine article or a self-help book. Dorothy Smith discussed the idea of texts as the way society controls individuals, for example "magazine articles and books" (Allen, 2008, p. 486). Where you influenced by what you read? How did you react to it? Do you think you will question what you read from now on?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Smith and Collins

I enjoyed all of the readings for this coming week. I found Smith and Collin's work to be particularly useful. Let me tell you how:

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

Good ol' Goffman

According to Mr. Goffman, the self is the central organizing feature of all social encounters and we have both our core self and our various situational selves. The way that I see it, the situational selves are like the different "hats" that we wear in life. We may be parents, and students, and spouses, and employees, and commuters, all at different times. (Sometimes even at the same time!) Switching roles doesn't make us any less genuine, it simply means that we may behave or speak differently in front of one particular audience as opposed to another. For example: You wouldn't speak to your grandmother the same way that you would speak to your professor, and you wouldn't speak to your spouse the same way in which you would speak to your employer. Your core values and beliefs are all the same in every situation but the self that you are using in one situation may be completely different from another.

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?

How many selves?

Goffman discusses the concept of dramaturgy, in which he explains there are several roles individuals act out in specific situations. Think about the last interaction you had with another individual(s), what kind of actor where you playing and why? Was it only one self that was being exposed, or several?

the multiple "self"

Goffman viewed social life as if it was a play and we were the actors following social roles as if they were a script (Allan, 2008). This dramaturgical perspective, as he called it, interprets our behavior as one which we use to create a certain impression or impressions about ourselves in the minds of others using both verbal and non-verbal cues (Allan, 2008). We aim to project these impressions to our audience to instill in them a certain belief about us so as to elicit a certain behavior from them. This “act” may change according to the persons we are surrounded by or holding an interaction with; it is not really consistent all the time. There could be a question that arises from this change in role: “When are we our real selves?” According to Goffman’s view do you think we can have many "real selves"? Or do we actually have a central or main “self” but we show different aspects of it to different people or groups of people? What do you think?

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

On second thought....

Okay, I posted the other day and was not too happy with SI. Re-reading Allen's chapter for the third time this morning, I am revising my position. I am liking Blumer a little more now....I especially like how

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

The Managed Heart

After reading Blumer, Goffman and Garfinkel, I was disappointed. As Allen comments in the latter part of the chapter, it has been very difficult for theorists to provide us with theoretical tools and frameworks that allow us to move across the macro-meso-and micro levels - without being extremely reductionistic and/or deterministic...However, at the micro level, especially the work put forward by Blumer and Garfinkel, I find it particularly difficult to draw a critical analysis. The lens is so narrow and the "situations" are so, well, situational.

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?