SOC-310-001 Week one Notes
SOC-310-001 Week one Notes SOC 310-001
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This 6 page Class Notes was uploaded by Jaime Jackson on Thursday April 7, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to SOC 310-001 at Portland State University taught by Heidi Esbensen in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 46 views. For similar materials see in Sociology at Portland State University.
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Date Created: 04/07/16
Friday, April 8, y Sociology Notes The Sociological Imagination (C. Wright Mills (1959)) • The sociological imagination according to Mills: “... the individual can understand her own experience and gauge her own fate only by locating herself within her period, that she can know her own chances in life only by becoming aware of all those individuals in her circumstances. In many ways it is a terrible lesson; in many ways it is a magnificent one.” Cultural Relativism • Cultural Relativism refers to the notion that what may be true, what may be valued or prized, and what may be “normal” in one social context, may not be true in other social contexts. Ethnocentrism • Refers to the act of using one’s own culture to measure all other cultures and seeing anything outside your own cultural experience as abnormal. • Although this course is focused on US society, be sure to be aware of any biases toward assuming that the US is better or superior to other nations. • A goal of this class is to develop a critical sociological perspective on US Society that allows you to see the US in a broader context. Levels of Analysis in Sociology • Microsociology: face-to-face and small-group interactions that may affect larger patterns and institutions. - Righteous Dopefiend deals with micro-sociological issues in the context of drug use and homelessness, but also engages discussions on macro-level issues of economics, government, and health care. • Macrosociology: large-scale social structures that affect the lives of groups and individuals. - The Wright & Rogers book American Society: How It Really Works deals with macro-level issues of culture, institutions (schools, military, government) , and social values or beliefs. Social Institutions • A group of social positions performing a social role. • Serve to socialize groups of people to behave according to general social values or norms. • Examples include prisons, schools, the government, the military Culture, Identity, Social Control • Culture: is that complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, art, morals, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by a person as a member of society (E.B. Taylor). Also seen as a system of understanding that creates and shapes knowledge, beliefs, values 1 Friday, April 8, y We care about culture in this course because we want to understand how and why our culture shapes peopl’s life chances, how culture perpetuates racism, sexism and homo/transphobia, and how culture impacts governmental or economic outcomes. Characteristics of Culture • Culture is shared by members of similar groups or societies. These vary across the US, so there is no ONE “American culture” but an array of the following: Values: Shared beliefs about what is worthwhile or desirable in life. Beliefs: Existential ideas, such as a belief in a god/ gods. Norms: Rules and guidelines regarding behavior. Socialization: process by which individuals internalize values, beliefs, and norms and learn to function as a member of that society. • Culture is maintained through sanctions and social control. Sanctions: Means of enforcing norms. Positive sanctions express approval for conformity, and negative sanctions express disapproval for violations. Social control: The mechanism that ensures that people behave in acceptable ways to some degree. Culture is learned. • Culture is adaptable and may be contested. - The Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Portland efforts demonstrate a contestation of cultural and economic values in the US that many do not agree with. Culture vs. Social Structure • Where culture refers to social practices, symbols, or language, social structure refers to the concrete elements of social life, which are embodied and enacted on a regular basis. The two influence each other and are intertwined. • For example, gender role attitudes are elements of culture in that we often ascribe certain characteristics, jobs, or chores to certain genders. • Occupational segregation by gender is an element of structure, whereby institutions or employers integrate gendered cultural values into their employment practices. So some professions become known as “women’s jobs” or “men’s work” Economics In The US: (Capitalist Economic System) • This next section of the lecture explores, with links and text, the issue of economics in the US. We will go over the specific form of capitalism practiced in the US and think about how it contributes to some significant social problems. • In the US, a specific form of capitalism dominates where corporations have extensive power and governments have little capacity to actively regulate the economy. Characteristics of US Based Capitalism 2 Friday, April 8, y • Free Market: US economic preference for few barriers to trade; few regulations • Competition is thought to be good for innovation • Limited government oversight is thought to promote risktaking and economic gains • SelfRegulating markets: related to limited government, many believe that economic markets will correct themselves when they become unstable. Economics In America (Poor Regulation, Low Mobility, High Inequality) • Although the ideology of the free market dictates “small” government, governments do often regulate economic issues. • US does NOT heavily regulate the economy , but does have certain laws in place. However, as we saw in 2008, a lack of regulation contributed to economic meltdown. Strong Corporations • Corporations in the US are very powerful and generate revenues in excess of $2 trillion/year. • Corporations employ 16.3% of private-sector employees, yet make 57% of private sector profits (meaning they make more money than they contribute to the economy by way of jobs). • Corporations have legal personhood, yet pay less in taxes than most people do. This is one reason the US cannot afford ample social safety nets like those in some European nations. Weak Unions • Labor unions in the US are on the decline. In the ‘50s, 30 -40% of workers were union members, today less than 12% of the workforce is. • When unions are strong, wages and benefits tend to rise for all workers in a profession, even if not all workers are unionized. Read just the bullet points here • When unions are weak, it is hard for workers to bargain for increased wages, health benefits, or safety protections. Poor Regulation • The Federal Government rarely updates minimum wage laws, despite inflation. The federal minimum wage is now $7.25/hour and Oregon minimum wage is $8.80/ hour. According to a 2012 study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, if the minimum wage kept up with inflation, it would be $21.72/hour. • In the past, public sector employment has created new jobs and enhanced infrastructural and service-oriented job prospects (like bridge building). In 2012, public sector employment reached its lowest level in 30 years. • There is precedent in the US for stringent workplace regulations (including health, safety, and environmental precautions). Today, we find that many federal agencies tasked with regulatory oversight do not have enough capacity or funding to do their jobs. Take, for example, the recent fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas. 15 people were killed and it was discovered that the plant had not had a federal inspection by OSHA since 1985. 3 Friday, April 8, y Social Stratification and Mobility • Stratification: members of a society are categorized & divided into groups that occupy particular places in a social hierarchy. • Mobility: movement from one social class to another. Given the previously mentioned issues, upward mobility is increasingly hard to achieve in the US. • The “American Dream” legitimizes stratification by reinforcing the idea that everyone has the same chances to get ahead, and that longterm success and failure depends only on the individual. • In reality, upward mobility in the U.S. depends more on race/ethnicity, gender, and social class than on merit or hard work. Capitalism and Free Market Economics • In the Ideal functioning system, capitalism is intended to work best when there is: Little state intervention Free markets Innovation, growth Private ownership Moral valuation of freedom/ property • Milton Friedman, one of the foremost economists when it comes to free market capitalism, reflects on capitalism How Capitalism Really Works • Desire for excessive growth and wealth create inequality and inefficiency. • Capitalism undermines the capacity for individual freedom because: Employment in the capitalist economy requires one to sell their time/labor, which reduces one ’s sense of autonomy and selfdirection Free markets generate inequality Capitalism • Despite the assumption that capitalist systems efficiently allocate goods & services, Capitalism contributes to inequality by concentrating wealth and power among both elite individuals and large corporations Inefficiencies result in the form of information failures, negative externalities, and a shortage of public goods Capitalism’s Inefficiencies • Information: In a free market corporate entities may seek to hide info to maintain profitability, including information about hazards or risks associated with products or industrial practices. Despite existing regulations to prevent such issues, information inefficiencies still arise. The Ford Pinto is a classic example. 4 Friday, April 8, y • Health and Environmental Externalities: Corporations and businesses have an incentive to maximize profits by lowering costs. This lowering of costs often generates outcomes that affect society & individuals in negative ways. Quick explanation from The Corporation. • Time and Public Goods: Capitalism, as currently practiced in the US has short time horizons. Capitalism tends to factor in short-term gains, not the long-term impacts of this economic model. So, long term issues like environmental impacts, or far-off social impacts, are less pressing than present issues of growth (just think about the recent presidential election- much of the discussion was about “jobs” and “growth” not the environment, or education, or health. The Role of Neoliberal Governance • Neoliberalism: refers to the political system that upholds our current form of free market capitalism. It refers to a collectivity of ideological values that favor a lack of regulation and oversight of economic systems. • We live in a neoliberal era today. This means that free market values are embedded in our current political system (yes, even under Obama). Globalization and international financial institutions like the World Bank, The International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization promote these goals worldwide, and the US continues to embrace these approaches at home. • Neoliberalism leads to concentrations of power, and an increase in inequality both within the US, and globally. US Political System: Liberal Democracy • Despite the dilemmas presented by our current form of capitalism and the neoliberal bent of our political environment, the US does feature a liberal democratic system of governance. This system features: Competitive elections Federal and state sharing of power (which means that states dictate many issues themselves) Interest groups and elections • US liberal democracy is currently challenged by campaign finance concerns and an inability to balance military needs with social spending Social Impacts of Capitalism • Erosion of community: In the book Bowling Alone (Putnam 2000), the author describes how the increasing demand for growth and consumerism has generated excessive individualization and promotes selfinterest, a lack of solidarity with neighbors or coworkers, and the desire to “get ahead” which may contribute to the decline in leisure time reported by many in the US. • Commercialization: The “McDonalization” of morally important aspects of life, where we mechanize many life sustaining practices (child care, the arts, religion). 5 Friday, April 8, y • Lack of Voice: The capitalist market does not reinforce opportunities for public engagement and discussion or the capacity to develop skills with which to do so. So people may lack the capacity to successfully organize or oppose economic practices or policies that marginalize them. Conclusions for Part 2 • The “free market” isn’t so free: our present form of capitalism is supported by state intervention in many arenas (health and safety regulations, tax cuts, incentives) and by efforts to reduce regulatory oversight. • Capitalism today has some negative impacts: the desire for growth contributes to economic inequality, a reduction in social support mechanisms, and the generation of health and the environmental externalities. • Neoliberal government and policies maintain and support a capitalist system throughout the world that facilitates this system. • We’ll continue to think about these issues in the coming weeks. Ethnographic Methods • This is an anthropological study that has strong ties to the field of sociology. • An Ethnography requires very indepth, qualitative research. This book is rare in that the researchers worked with this population for more than 10 years. Ethnographies will generally only engage in field work for 35 years. • Questions to consider: Why did the authors choose to focus on homeless drug users? They provide some insight, so what do they say? • Think about their methodological choice: - What is good about this ethnographic approach? What might be some drawbacks to this research approach? - Important Terms • Gray Zones: Where does this concept originate? What does it mean in Edgewater? What are the broader implications of gray zones? • Habitus: ways of acting and behavior, skills, tastes/preferences, that are acquired through lived experience (originates from Bourdieu). Phillipe Bourgois, the main author, adapts this concept. - • Intimate Apartheid - What does this mean? - How does race function as an exclusionary agent in Edgewater? 6
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