Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sex and the Society

People are obsessive about not being obsessive about sex. Individuals in society try to be open minded, but society both represses and promotes sex. Allan says that sex in society today has become known today as the insidious power within, sex has become a “truth to discover and a thing to control (p 540). The public discourse in society inflicts a kind of moral consciousness on individuals’ perceptions of their “selves” in terms ranging from sexually pure to promiscuous. Sex has become objectified, something to be observed, analyzed, and profited from. Capitalism has objectified sex in order to exploit it economically. The more society represses sex, the more deviant behavior is expressed unnaturally and exploited. Pornography, sex shops, and strip clubs profit from the exploitation of sex. But sex is also exploited to sell many goods thus promoting sex unnecessarily in society, exacerbating an already exaggerated and unhealthy obsession with sex. Society is even sexualizing objects to make a perverse profit. Cars are designed to look “sexy” and some individuals have reported experiencing feelings of love & attraction for objects like cars. Do you think that sex is over emphasized in today’s society? How big a part does sex play in your everyday life. How is society influenced by the media’s portrayal of sex in popular culture?
Michel Foucault uses the example of the Panopticon, an architectural design for prisons which allows constant surveillance of prisoners by unseen guards, to describe how society has come to fear surveillance and thus sanction them lest they be punished by unseen forces. It is a metaphor for how the threat of knowledge on the part of unseen forces exerts power over those being observed, otherwise understood to be society as a whole (Appelrouth & Edles, 2008).

I remember when my father handed me the novel 1984 by George Orwell, he told me that “when a government controls the language, they control the governed.” Throughout my reading of Foucault, I kept remembering what my father told me and then subsequent knowledge I gained from reading the text he had loaned me. In the novel, the Ministry of Truth falsifies historical events and ultimately creates "newspeak" which suits the totalitarian regime in which the story is set. They control the knowledge of the populous in order to keep them under control. For me it exemplifies Foucault’s theory of power/knowledge quite well.

What other examples in our culture, including pop culture, lends credit to Foucaults theory of power as knowledge?

Abstraction Based Reality

There are a few questions that develop in reading these theorists though. Baudrillard argues that cultures and languages were once grounded in reality, but there are aspects that seem to develop more abstractly. These things, religion, spirituality, and philosophies, are critically important, to the point that Durkheim deems religion as something distinctly human. How can these abstractions be argued to have meaning rooted in actuality more in the past than they do now, when they have been abstractions throughout their existence?

Surveillance in the future

Foucault’s Discipline and Punishment, disuccess the observations ofeighteenth century France: “…this uncesasing information had to be documented in a series of reports and registers…what was registered in this way were forms of behavior, attitides, possibilities, suspicious-a permanent account of individual’s behavior” (Applerouth , 2008, p. 661). Think about the ways we as individuals abide by these ideas, for example police reports, what are other examples of these kinds of individual records the government or society has of individuals? In the country that we live in, do you think social security numbers assign to citizens are a way to maintain power over the individual? While at the same time instill fear in citizens by making them a number and thus easier to manipulate? If not do you think this is or something similar is possible in the future?

Discourse and subjects

According to Foucault, the use of discourse to communicate forces an individual to make judgements that subjectify and objectify themselves. For instance, I am a student at UTEP. By entering into discourse about where I go to campus, I limit my explanation of myself. I may want to describe myself as partly a student, partly a researcher, and that some of my learning takes place within and outside of school. However, in order to enter into the discourse of school attendance, based on the methods already existing within society to describe school attendance, by stating "I am a student at UTEP" I give myself a set position and qualities, qualities that I may not agree with completely. Furthermore, as I continue to use that position, I may find my mindset shifting to eventually represent that position completely within myself, even if I did not agree with it originally.

What are some concepts about yourself that you believe you cannot express properly by taking a position as it exists within modern language and culture? What are some concepts you believe have changed based on your own use of a specific position?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

UTEP as a society

Anthony Guiddens talks about the duality of structure and how all social structures are mediums and outcomes they organize. For example, Applerouth (2008) uses Language as a medium and outcome; explaining how at the same time we follow the rules of grammar and language we are creating them (the rules). However, this can be applied to any sociological structure, any society or anything that we can possibly think of. For another example I will mention UTEP is a society that is both creating rules and is creating a medium to follow these rules. So, at the time we are following what we think of as set rules and regulations we are also making either new rules and regulations or the same rules we are following. A constant creation of structure is always happening. In order to fully understand this concept I believe we must participate and create a discussion so my question today is, how and what social structures do you create and/or participate in that you can think of that is both creating and regulating preexisting norms. What structure is both the medium and outcome of itself?

Giddens, Bourdieu, and the Future

The work of these two theorists is useful in that they give us a line of thought that is not positivist in claiming that structure causes behavior nor is it strictly subjective and unable to produce generalized knowledge. This flexibility is both intellectually satisfying and manageable. One problem that arises however is that these two pieces of work are more model and situated interpretable paradigm than a theory that can be used to project. While the simultaneous creation and recreation of Giddens is interesting in explaining how societies perpetuate and change, but it is lacking in the manner of Weber’s iron cage or Marx’s revolution. Similarly Bourdieu’s field, habitus, and capitals can be useful for examining classes, groups, and positions but to looking into the future, it has less utility.

Do the work of these theorists possess utility when speculating into the future?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Chafetz and Collins

Janet Chafetz and Patricia Hill Collins are on the poles of a balance since the first thinks people unwilling conform to social arrangements. The former believes living oppression has made black women especially aware. Chafetz feels attitudes exist that tend to perpetuate gender disparity, “Gender inequality usually functions without coercion. This implies that women cooperate in their own oppression… ‘People of both genders tend to make choices that conform to the dictates of the gender system status quo’” (Allan 2008). Chafetz’s affirmation makes the oppressed responsible for the oppressor’s actions. Collins recognizes there are intersecting oppressions making it difficult for people to think about the alternatives. She considers once people become aware of inequalities they develop a skeptical view about the status quo.

Is experiencing oppression a way to conform to social norms or a way to become aware of them?

Existentialism and Sociology

I found the section on Cornell West extremely interesting. It is clear his values and position were imperative to his theoretical writings. What is less clear is how well his existentialist ideas mix with sociology. Existentialist philosophy argues that there is no fundamental essence of humanity, but rather individuals’ essence is created through the lives they lead (Sartre, 1985). It seems though, most theorists, including Marx whom is imperative to critical theorists, claims that there is something fundamental to being human. This contradiction has bothered me personally as an existentialist and sociologist and seems that there must be a compromise between the two. It was somewhat comforting to know that there is another person who deals with ideas similar to mine, but I wonder:

Just how compatible is a school of philosophy that assumes there is nothing is fundamentally human and a study that often makes assumptions of human nature?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Genuine Self

Erving Goffman introduced the idea of dramaturgy. In dramaturgy, Goffman presented the idea that social interaction is much like the theater. There is a front, backstage, setting, audience, performance, performer and character (Appelrouth & Edles, 2008). In this concept, people are seen as performers who are primarily concerned with their performance and the presentation of their character to the audience (Allan, 2008). Everything that the audience sees of the character is prepared in the backstage while the performance takes place in the front (Appelrouth & Edles, 2008). Through these steps, the individual presents themselves to their audience and the audience is then assumed to rely on how the individual performs his character to determine what is true of the individual’s self.
In the introduction to Goffman’s “Presentation of Self in Everyday Life,” Appelrouth and Edles (2008, pp. 491), state “In a sense, his book is an analysis of the familiar saying ‘actions speak louder than words,’ but after reading Goffman you will never be able to adjust the volume again.” I found this statement to be as profound as it was true. As I read Goffman, I found it very easy to picture situations in which I could clearly define each step in the process of presenting my character to a particular audience. However, I felt that Goffman left little room for the individual to be genuine. He, instead, places more emphasis on the “convincing performance” over the genuine sincerity of the individual performer (Appelrouth & Edles, 2008). I also have difficulty agreeing with his idea that, in order for a performance to work, the individual is expected to “…suppress his immediate heartfelt feelings, conveying a view of the situation which he feels the others will be able to find at least temporarily acceptable.” (Goffman, 1959 as cited in Appelrouth & Edles, 2008, pp. 496). It has been my experience that genuine, honest “performance” in a social setting is valued over being agreeable.

Are there any situations where you feel as if you are portraying your genuine self? How are these situations different from the one's in which you perceive yourself to be portraying a self that is not genuine? Can you tell the difference?

Life is a Stage

Erving Goffman's concept of Dramaturgy provides a logical analogy to the nature of human interaction that society consists of. People participate in social interactions from the time they first understand that other people exist. During each encounter, a certain understanding of the significance or meaning of the interaction is observed and exchanged which provide the basis for the meaning of future interactions. Individuals assume various roles in the interactions that they are acting in the same way a theatrical stage actor might approach a role depicted in a play. The clothing or attire individuals wear serve the same purpose a thespian wears a costume, to project a believable persona or self to the audience. Individuals will choose a setting that is conducive to the goal of an interaction which provides the setting that will cause a successful outcome to a given performance. Mannerisms provide individuals with visual cues that help actors portray their "selves" to the persons they are trying to communicate with. Individual actors may be sincere or deceiving in the the performance given during social interactions.
Are you consciously aware of yourself performing like an actor in everyday societal interactions?

In Yo' Face!

Throughout Goffman's work we continue on hearing this idea that our impressions need to be managed and that we present or have different kinds of selves. Dramaturgy is the understanding or an attempt to understand how social encounters can be compared to as a dramatic stage (Allan, 2007). We have different identities and everywhere but in the privacy of our home we are always acting. Goffman claims that we although may come real close to a loved one (as in the case of marriage) we still put on a face when in presense of them. We are only our true selves when we are alone at home. This idea sets me up to question, If I am alone right now at home, I am working on this blog for a letter grade.... am I my true self or am I simply using a specific face that allows me to write so "eloquently" (this is a joke by the way) in this language to induce your responses? And you, taking the time to read and complete your duty as a student, at home, "alone", are you wearing a mask or is it your true self?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Social Science is STILL Science

According to Horkheimer science can only deal with that which already exists. He also believes that science is geared towards the continued exploitation of certain groups while the few elite continue to prosper. Do you agree with this? At first it sounded reasonable to me, but then I started thinking about all of the things that could be learned through science. A thousand years ago we didn't know that germs existed, but here we are studying them today. Somewhere along the line, someone had to have used science to find out that they even existed. So, in a weird way, we CAN study something that doesn't exist. And what about the oppression part? Do you really believe Horkheimer when he says that science only serves to continually oppress people? Do you really believe EVERY science is like this? And if so, what about Social Science? Are all the people that we are reading about trying to keep us down? Could Horkheimer have been wrong? Could he have just been so critical about the way that some scientists worked in the past that his thoughts were tainted and bias? After all, isn't social science still science?

Critical Theory of Societal Oppression

Critical theory presents a paradigm shift in sociological study bringing a new perspective with a social consciousness to sociology while it seeks to analyze society as an environment consisting of insidious, detrimental & deceiving forms of oppression inflicted on society in the form of culture industry. Critical theory is concerned with identifying all the many subtle, nuanced, covert and obvious ways that humans are oppressed by society today. Critical theory indicts society as being so brain-washed by the system that it cannot develop an objective viewpoint that would expose the status quo for the systemically oppressive machine that it actually is.
What are some of the specific ways in which cultural industry manipulates society?
Do you personally see and feel some aspect of the cultural industry intruding into your life? What are they, and how are you affected?

Critical Theory, the Leviathan, and the Necessity of Oppression

In Leviathan Thomas Hobbes (1651) argues that in nature all people have the rights to all things. This results in lives dominated by fear, violence and power. This is the natural state of war that Hobbes describes as:

“Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withall. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.”

As a result society is created by citizens yielding the rights to all for the security of inclusion. This would of course lead to desires that could not be fulfilled by socially accepted means. This is inherently oppressive, as doubtlessly the critical theorists would agree, but fundamental to the existence of society. Not to be an apologist for oppression by any measure, but the general anti-oppressive nature of critical theory cannot seem to account for this necessity.

Is there a discernable manner to judge a form of oppression’s necessity or must we be required to reject either critical or Hobbesian standpoints?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Functional Conflict

Both of these theories set up unique paradigms that are extremely useful in understanding society at large. Functionalism is useful in understanding how societies operate and perpetuate their existence, while conflict theories will allow for the understanding of inequality and how populations are manipulated and exploited. A normal critique of structural functionalism is that it can be used as a justification for accepting marginalization and exploitation of populations. With conflict theory there is clearly a tendency to cynicism. How much use are these theories individually and coupled?

Coser's Internal Conflict

Lewis Coser considers that conflict is goal related and mentions that there are two types of goals, rational and transcendent; however, he does not mention the eventual interrelations between these goals. On one hand, Coser implies that to achieve rational goals, violence is not necessarily used “if people perceive conflict as a means to achieving clearly expressed rational goals,” if that happens, “then conflict will tend to be less violent” (Allan 2008). Following Coser’s assertion that internal conflict’s goals are rational; their achievement will not imply the strong use of violence. On the other hand, Coser links transcendent goals with strong uses of violence since these types of goals imply an emotional involvement. However, he falls short in considering that conflicts can have the presence of both types of goals. For instance, the beginning of a war could imply emotion directed goals; however, conflict development needs rational and clearly expressed goals to plan both how to protect a society and how to attack an enemy. This is the relation that Coser is not taking into account since he does not mention that both goals could work together.

Do you agree with Coser’s assumption that internal conflicts only works with emotional goals?

Allan, Kenneth. The Social Lens: An Invitation to Social and Sociological Theory. California: Sage Publications, 2007.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Charlotte Guilman was a theorist ahead of her time. She advocated for equality and freedom for women. Although her ideas were at times radical and seemed that she was a little conforminst to the idea that men needed to run the world in order for society to survive. Even when she understood that men were in that dominant place because women allowed them to be there, but women at one time or another lost control of this and became submisive not by choice but because society needed it. Do you agree with this notion that Women should be submissive and men rule even in today's society? how could you defend or attack your point using Guilman's works?

Morbid sex distinction and evolution

Perkins Gilman argues that the morbid sex distinction is a result of a woman's economic dependence on attracting a male. However, I would suggest that this idea ignores the basic biological and evolutionary effects that have taken place that serve to enhance female sexuality. The incredibly quick growth of the skull of the human baby, evolutionarily speaking, has placed an enormous pressure upon the development of female hips and a high importance on the mere ability to successfully bear a child. As recently as a few hundred years ago dying during childbirth was a common occurence. As such, while men continued to be evolutionarily favored to be strong and powerful, the single most powerful evolutionary pressure on women was to be able to have children. As a result of this, gender distinctions became much greater between male and female humans than in other species.

Will we ever come to a point where men and women are physically equal in terms of strength, speed, and size, given the basic evolutionary and biological differences which distinguish men and women?

Monday, February 23, 2009

From Du Bois to Obama

W. E. B. Du Bois and Martin Luther King, Jr. shared many key characteristics. Both were influential men in achieving racial equality. Unfortunately, neither Du Bois nor King lived to see the gains they strived for African Americans come to fruition. Du Bois handed off his legacy to King to carry on where he had left off. Du Bois died the day before Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech, which some herald as the greatest speech ever given. Although neither King nor Du Bois lived to see the equality of all people of color, King believed this equality would happen in time. Just as Du Bois wrote powerfully about the racial inequalities and injustices of African Americans, King spoke powerfully. King and Du Bois also had similar writing styles; both wrote in prose. They used biblical language and powerful imagery. Du Bois wanted changes “now,” and was not satisfied with sitting patiently and waiting, like other contemporaries, namely Booker T. Washington. In similar fashion, neither was King satisfied with waiting patiently for changes, as he called for immediate action with the infamous phrase “now is the time” in his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech (King, 1968). King accomplished what Du Bois was not able to. Du Bois paved the path for King’s civil rights revolution that changed the course of history for racial minorities. Changes in civil rights for minorities did not occur immediately, as Du Bois and King wanted. The journey is still not over; the path continues to be paved by others. However, in the 21st century, Barak Hussein Obama biblically proclaimed “The time is now” in his inaugural speech as the first African American President of the United States (New York Times, 2009). As President Obama declared in his inaugural speech, “A man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath (New York Times, 2009).”
What similarities do you see between W. E. B. Du Bois and President Barak Obama?

King, M. L. (1968). “I have a dream” address delivered at the march on Washington for jobs and Freedom. (August 28, 1963). http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/publications/speeches/address_at_march_on_washington.pdf. Accessed: February 22, 2009.

New York Times. 2009. Barak Obama’s Inaugural Address. (January 20, 2009). http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/20/us/politics/20text-obama.html. Accessed: February 22, 2009.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mead's and the formation of the self

Although Mead considers that individual and society establish a dialectical relationship (Appelrouth & Edles, 2008), he is not taking into consideration structural and social constrains that manipulate the formation of self and the individual relationships. Mead emphasizes a predominant role of individuals in society,
“The individual possesses a self only in relation to the selves of the other members of his social group; and the structure of his self expresses or reflects the general behavior pattern of his social group to which he belongs, just as does the structure of the self of every other individual belonging to this social group.” (Mead, 1934 as cited in Appelrouth & Edles, 2008, p. 343)
Thus, Mead’s theory suggests that structural conditions are not directly involved with the formation of self; on the contrary, that the self only is formed through the continuous relationship within individuals who do not suffer the influence of the social structure they live in. This vision makes it difficult to analyze the pressure that the social structures, such as government systems or religious beliefs, play in the formation of the self. Furthermore, his assumptions would lead one to consider that structural social factors and global political interests are not relevant in the construction of societies.

Have religion, politic, or media a role to play in the formation of the self?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Now you See It, Now it Exist

A central theme behind both Simmel and Mead seems to be the idea of social forms, interaction and social objects and symbols. Simmel explains that social forms are nothing but society's interactions visible to humans. Mead explains that social objects and symbols are nothing but the meaning we give them. So in essence, society is the interaction we have among each other and what that means is that which we want it to mean. So, I ask only one question, is it possible to look for society so much that if we forget to remember what society is on the first place (meaning) it will cease to exist (form)?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What's My Calling?

A topic of great interest for me is the work Weber did on religion and its influences on modern social structures. In his text The Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism (Appelrouth & Edles, pp 154-165), he outlines the characteristics of Protestant Christianity and its direct relation to capitalism in contemporary society. He does not say that Protestantism is the cause of capitalism, but rather offered a breeding ground in which capitalism flourished (Appelrouth & Edles, pp 158; Allan, pp 51). Weber makes this point by offering that Protestantism presented the concept of a calling for all men, not just those of the clergy (Appelrouth & Eddles, pp158). For the time, the concept of a calling, in my belief was a marketing campaign aimed at the poor to affirm their status as workers and give them hope of entering the Kingdom of Heaven by continuing their work. Thus perpetuating the system and maintaining the status quo. Protestantism gives no indication that one must be good at their calling nor like what they are doing. So, if Protestant dogma preached , from the outset, that one was allowed to alter their own calling at any given time, how would that have effected Weber's theory of Protestantism and the Spirit of Capitalism?

Social "Pseudo Science"

Among Weber’s arguments as to why it would be quite an impossibility for the existence of a true social “science” was the idea that in order for the researcher to even perceive a problem in which a study could be conducted the very labeling of the issue at hand as a “problem” would require a cultural (subjective) interpretation of it as such (Allan, 2008). This in effect goes contrary to the beliefs of science in which objectivity is a required basis thus “disqualifying” a discipline (eg sociology) that needs culture (a value-laden concept) for its existence. Every situation must be interpreted in its own unique context and to try and generalize across society would rationalize every thing that makes us uniquely human. We cannot escape what made us who we are. Our upbringing, the way we have been oriented influences (whether we perceive or not) everything we do especially our perception of society. Is it possible to disassociate ourselves from ourselves, from our very being, so as to be able to be objective in our study of humanity? Is it possible for social science to come up with knowledge (nonevaluative) that can be generalized across society and across time?

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

Weber's Social Change

Max Weber considered that social change is achievable by two different ways. The first way is when a charismatic leader, with extraordinary skills, changes the establishment (Allan, 2008). The second way is when people question the legitimacy of the system because they do not trust it anymore (Allan, 2008). However, it is the combination of both that could generate changes. Charismatic authority needs the awareness, comprehension, and participation of a large portion of society, in other words, it needs that most part of the people become critical about the legitimacy of the current system. When these two forces (a charismatic leader and a general critique of the system) act together, social change is truly achievable.
Can charismatic leaders change traditional or rational-legal authority only with their wonderful skills or do they need support from their people?

Bureaucracy; a form of social control

Weber gives us great insight and a different perspective to what we had already seen with Marx, capitalism as a form of social control. Weber however mentions that bureaucracy is an evil necessity in order to organize a chaotic world. To Weber, as societies grow and become democratic people need to create order and laws to be able to control such number of people. A bureaucracy (in its ideal type) would have a perfect division of labor, hierarchy rules and communication, different well assigned positions (of power) and be without emotional connection. with this ideal type in mind, do you believe that a family that has grown so big (such as that of the mother who gave birth to 8 children after having 6 at home) will need to form a bureaucratic organization in order to prevent the whole family to faulter? And if so, how do you think this could be achieved, who will have more power, who will create the rules, will they be able to work in perfect harmony, or is it too much to ask from this ideal type?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Class and social status

Weber discusses the concept of class as the following: “..the factor that creates “class” is unambiguously economic interest and indeed, only those interests involved in the existence of the market.” He also defines the concept of “status honor” as: “expressed by the fact that above all else a specific style of life is expected from all those who wish to belong to the circle.” (Applerouth, 2008) If we apply this to present time, is it wrong to assume that everyone who lives on the Westside of town are rich individuals who have good jobs, drive expensive cars and live in big homes? How would Weber explain this?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Protestant Work Ethic

In response to The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Becker and Woessmann (2007) wrote a paper which questioned Weber’s relationship between prosperity and Protestantism. Becker and Woessmann (2007) ascertain that the relationship between prosperity and Protestantism is not in the religion; rather it is in the form of human capital. In 1871, there was indeed a strong correlation across 435 Prussian counties between prosperity and the proportion of the population that was Protestant. However, Becker and Woessmann (2007) show that this correlation is attributed to the fact that Protestant counties in Prussia had a higher literacy rate. The higher literacy rate was a result of Martin Luther’s demand that all Christians be able to read the bible by themselves. Luther also pushed for expanded education. In the 16th century, school systems did not exist, and often education was limited to children of wealthy merchants and rulers (Faber, 1998). Luther opposed the Catholic tradition of reading the bible out loud in Latin. Therefore, Luther was the first to translate the bible into German so that everybody could read it. Thus, the higher literacy rate translated into economic activities which were necessary for their calling. When Becker and Woessmann (2007) controlled their study for literacy, there was no relationship between Protestantism and prosperity. There was no significant difference in economic success between Protestant and Catholic counties. It is true that the Protestants were richer than the Catholics, but it had nothing to do with being harder workers or being more frugal, it was due to the fact that they were better educated (Becker and Woessmann, 2007).

The results of the Becker and Woessmann study (2007) show firstly that Weber was right; Protestants areas were more affluent in 19th century Prussia than Catholic areas. However, secondly, the study shows that it is the acquisition of literacy that accounts for the higher prosperity of Protestants, rather than work ethic and thriftiness. Regarding the issue of whether there is a relationship between religious domination and economic success, Becker and Woessmann (2007) are inconclusive, and assert that this is a difficult question to determine since the spread of Protestantism, and with it, literacy, came centuries before our time of observation, and individuals’ work ethics could have had many different influences (Becker and Woessmann, 2007).

How have work ethics from different cultures affected the Protestant Work Ethic?

Becker, S. O., and Woessmann, L. (2007). Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History. Department of Economics, University of Munich. [Discussion Paper]. Retrieved from: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/pepg/PDF/Papers/ PEPG07-04_Becker_Woessmann.pdf. Accessed: February 7, 2009.

Faber, R. (1998). Martin Luther on Reformed Education. Retrieved from: http://www.spindleworks.com/ Library/rfaber/luther_edu.htm. Accessed: February 8, 2009.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

How Weber's theory on bureaucracy shades Marx's ideas

In Weber's writings on bureaucracy, he writes about how bureaucracy is very difficult to change, and that "where administration has been completely bureaucratized, the resulting system of domination is practically indestructible." (Weber, Bureaucracy)

Because social systems are a form of bureaucratic administration, any social system put in place makes overall change harder to enact. Because of this, any imperfect form of socialism put in place will be nearly or perhaps completely impossible to change without a total failure of the system itself.

Socialism, therefore, can only be successfully implemented in one single motion; the entire system must be set up basically overnight before the system congeals, so to speak. It also will not be able to change in response to new situations once the system has been formed.

Based on this rationale, is a true socialistic system even possible? I have heard it said that we have never seen true communism, and that the communism of Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, are imperfect expressions of communism. But perhaps true communism is not possible, and all that is possible are imperfect systems that cannot then be improved upon?

Durkheim's and Marx's concept on Religion

Durkheim’s ideas of religion help to clarify its formation, but his ideas are incomplete because he does not consider how and why religions, after their formation, have been used and perpetuated. Although Durkheim’s gives a fair explanation of the formation of the sacred and in consequence the formation of religion, he is not taking into account Marx’s idea of religion as a domination tool. Furthermore, he considers that religion and society are linked tightly to one another, “If religion has given birth to all that is essential in society, it is because the idea of society is the soul of the religion” (Appelrouth & Edles 138). Thus, he is establishing a strong link between both religion and society. Durkheim’s concept of religion implies a power that is generated almost inherently from the collective experience. Those ideas are remarkably explicit when he explains the connection between rituals, symbols, and the sacred, “Rituals create high levels of emotional energy that come to be invested in symbols; such symbols are then seen as sacred, regardless of the meaning of the truth-value of the beliefs associated with the symbol” (Allan 85). In Durkheim’s theory, religion occurs as the natural outcome of living in community. He is emphasizing the idea that religions are formed from the people that join in a collective. Durkheim’s theory is na├»ve since is not taking into account the role that elites’ interests play in the support of certain religious pursues. Is religion a natural product of society or it is a tool of oppression?

Allan, Kenneth. The Social Lens: An Invitation to Social and Sociological Theory. California: Sage Publications, 2007.

Appelrouth Scott & Edles Laura. Clasical and Contemporary Sociological Theory. California: Pine Forge Press, 2008.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Durkheim and Society

Emile Durkheim is focused mainly on the idea that all is interrelated within a society. For Durkheim, society exist because we as a society agree it must exist. We as humans create the laws, the values and even the punishments that exist in it. Society is made by humans, and thus humans are the society and moreover society IS human. Do you agree that in order for things to exist we as humans first have to accept they must? And if you do, do you believe then that all that exists is human?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Durkheim's Societal View

Durkheim views society as the interrelationship of all its various parts (government, religions, the economy, & family). Through its various interactions, people create "ties" to others in society, these ties being the foundational "basis" of society. Societies exist under various levels of "cohesion" ("similarly & likeness"), that is, the extent to which they have "shared social sentiments," common beliefs, opinions, & feelings about the need for things like lawfulness, equal economic & educational opportunity, voting rights, etc. These common sentiments are what cause people in the society to feel obliged to respect the law, pay taxes, serve on juries, join the military, etc. Durkheim calls this concept "social solidarity," or the glue which holds society together.
However, as populations grow, their membership tends to become increasingly less similar, more diverse & "specialized in labor." This occurs as individuals work at "impersonal [selfish] companies" doing evermore efficient but mundane & unfulfilling jobs. This "specialized division of labor causes less self-reliance of people, and more dependence on govenment & society for the means of survival.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Marx in the Age of the Internets

In our westernized capitalistic world it is easy to be affronted by the ideas of Marx and Engels. Capitalism is so entrenched into every aspect of our life that to criticize it seems as it is to condemn our very lifestyle, but viewed with even the most marginal objectivity one can begin to realize and concede that that the claims made follow a reasonable line of thought and are intellectually satisfying. These ideas also carry significant utility in many social sciences such as criminology and, particularly, political ecology. Irregardless of how applicable the bold predictions may be, the paradigm established by viewing the economic environment as conflicted, divided, and accelerating provides a perception that is essential to critical social sciences and is, of course, the basis of Neo-Marx Theory. Though, to support this doesn’t mean that Marx and Engels are free from criticism. In “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844” Marx argues, “Money’s properties are my properties and essential powers-the properties and powers of its possessor. Thus, what I am and am capable of is by no means determined by my individuality.” This is to say that the monetary exchange system deprives us of individuality, but this is rooted in the idea that the capitalist system has debased all aspects of human existence. In the age of working 14 hours a day, six days a week this would be more striking, but working in contemporary society often allows for a degree of free time, hobbies, and the pursuit of personal pleasures this could be questioned. Marx could, and doubtlessly would, argue that even these are entangled by the capitalist system, but in the day of youtube, blogs, and dare I suggest, myspace, the levels of individual creation has become more accessible and reached levels unimaginable more than a decade before. Another point of conflict is in contemporary society there are many laws in existence that either help the working population (minimum wage, worker rights) or inhibit the owning class from doing as they will (environmental protection). The revolution spoken of in the manifesto often conjures up imagery of the patriotic overthrow of the British Empire or the gruesome slaughter of the French, but rather the subtle political shifts seem to be the more preferred venue of social change by the laboring class.

Do the creation possibilities that people elect to partake in during their free time allow engage our species being, or is this just another means for the capitalist system to infiltrate the lives of the population?

Are the regulations and laws in existence that inhibit the control of the owning class the display that a Marxian revolution is not needed for the interests of laborers to be protected or are these practically symbolic acts used to appease the masses, preventing real change from occurring?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I believe that Marx’s theories do serve a purpose, though not the purpose that he imagined. His theories have proven profitable for capitalism. Capitalism has survived through its critique of Marxism. Communism may not be an operable alternative to capitalism, but it has been useful in its reform. Capitalism can only survive through adopting some measures of socialism. The welfare state is an essential government intervention providing social programs as a safety net for capitalism. While the welfare state has many structural problems today, government intervention is necessary to assist the poor and buffer the economy. Businesses cannot be solely relied upon to provide for the welfare of their workers, as profit is the bottom line. What would Marx say about our current system of welfare capitalism?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Discussion Plan

On this blog, we will discuss theoretical ideas in sociology, including key points, critiques, etc.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

This semester, my students will have the opportunity to blog about sociological theory.