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.