Friday, February 27, 2009

Excessive Sex-indulgence Damage

Charlotte Gilman talks about the “excessive sex-indulgence” disorder that is prevalent in society today and this can be seen in popular culture. The excessive sexual appetite that males have for females is a more exaggerated feature in humans than in other animals. This characteristic is increased directly in proportion to the extent in which females differentiate themselves from males. Women today exaggerate their bodies’ femininity more than ever before and this has caused great harm to the human race. Colored & big hair, massive amounts of make-up, leg and underarm shaving, and unnatural feminine clothing like stiletto pumps & push-up bras have all exaggerated societies’ idea of the “ideal” woman’s body to the point where a large percentage of men are disfuntionally addicted to sex and/or the act of sex itself.
20% of all Internet profits go to the porn industry. Prostitution flourishes wherever it is legal or not. Women are also very driven to glamorize their appearance in order to attract a life mate and they are trained at a very young age that pretty & sexy looks attract more spousal candidates, causing them to disfigure their bodies with anorexia and bulimia as well as breast implants liposuction, and face lifts.
How many of you choose your fashions in order to attract a mate? Do you see examples of this condition (excessive sex-indulgence) in the people you interact with daily?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

White Consciousness

Du Bois argued that oppressive culture lead to double consciousness for oppressed populations, but a number of other thinkers including James Baldwin and Thandeka who speak of white guilt. This white guilt is the result of knowledge of benefit from a racist system or in other cases the inability to stop or intervene in blatantly racist acts (typically perpetrated by family members). Is this feeling of guilt a second form of consciousness for majority populations? Why or why not?

Connection with Emotions

Audre Lorde was a black lesbian writer who considers it necessary to think in depth about men and women’s roles in society. Although Lorde was a feminist as we can consider Gilman, she shares more characteristics with Du Bois’ ideas and academic writing style. For example, she justifies the connection with our emotions as a way to criticize current social gender agreements,"But as we come more in touch with our ancient, non-European consciousness of living as a situation to be experienced and interacted with, we learn more and more to cherish our feelings, and to respect those hidden sources of our power from where true knowledge and, therefore, lasting action comes" (Lorde 1984). Also, Lorde considers that the White academic style denies the use of artistic expressions in academic writing because white-men logic is not attuned enough with such language. Therefore women need to restore links with our inner emotional spaces to recover from and fight back men’s oppression over women. Du bois also prefers an academic style which lets him connect with his black folks emotions, “The style is tropical-African. This needs no apology. The blood of my fathers spoke through me and cast off the English restraint of my training and surroundings” (Du Bois 1904 as cited in Appelrouth & Edles, 2008, p. 276). Although emotions have been forbidden from the academic language, Lorde and Du Bois write their academic papers in that way because that helps them to express the oppression they were feeling and how they feel it. According to Du Bois and Lorde, “White” logic avoids people connection with their emotions because they can realize that the way things are told and explained in White society do not include dissident points of view.

Do you consider that to write from the standpoint of our emotions could it be a way to start breaking oppression?

Appelrouth Scott & Edles Laura. Clasical and Contemporary Sociological Theory. California: Pine Forge Press, 2008.
Lorde, Audre. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. California: Crossing Press, 1984.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Monetary systems and trust

According to Simmel, the presence of a strong, government-backed monetary system increases overall trust. This is due to both the fact that it inspires trust in a nebulous entity, and the fact that individuals with money receive the benefit of the trust that money inspires.

The recent collapse of the financial system in the United States has caused people to lose faith in those institutions, though trust in the almighty dollar still remains. However, many countries have monetary systems that do not inspire trust, as a result of enormous amounts of inflation, disinflation, deflation, or outright defaults on debt. This lack of trust in money results in less trust in business, which then serves to greatly hinder the economic development of that country.

Is it possible for a country or an economic system to develop a high level of trust, without a trustworthy monetary system?

Countering the ILLs of Urbanization

In Simmel’s view urbanization had both positive and negative effects (Allan, 2007). The overload of stimuli prompts a shutting off (a desensitized state) from the environment and more importantly a detachment from those persons around us in order for us to be able not just to cope with the bombardment to our senses but maybe even to be able to lead productive lives. This detachment, according to various theorists including Durkheim and Simmel, is bound to create an anomic state which can lead to conflict. In your view what forces, institutions, behaviors, innovations etc. are stepping up to counteract the ills that this urbanization (anomie) might bring?
Allan,K. 2007. The Social Lens: An Invitation to Social and Sociological Theory.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.


According to Mead (as cited in Allan, 2007), symbols are abstract and arbitrary there is nothing “natural” to them it is we and our actions or responses that give meaning to these. For instance, a gun at first glance may be perceived as dangerous and thus a meaning of “weapon” is assigned to this object (social) or the gun may be seen as fun and defined as a sportsman’s tool (or toy). Prior experience (interactions) with the object of course will have much to say on how it is perceived by the individual. So the gun or any object for that matter has no intrinsic meaning or function it is up to us through our use of it that gives it a meaning. This “meaning assignment” also occurs in the way we perceive certain actions or behaviors we engage in, that is certain behaviors are deemed illegal in contemporary society that may not have been seen as such before (or that one day may not be seen as illegal/inappropriate). “We are continually changing our social system in some respects, and we are able to do that intelligently because we think…” (George Herbert Mead,1934 as cited in Appelrouth & Edles, 2008) Can you think of certain behaviors that were not illegal in the past but now are? How about current illegal actions that in the future may become legitimate or not seen as wrong?
Allan,K. 2007. The Social Lens: An Invitation to Social and Sociological Theory.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.

Applerouth, S. & Edles, L. D.2008.Classical and Contemporary Sociological Theory:

Text Readings.Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.

A More General, General Other

The final stage of Mead’s model is the creation of self through the role taking of the general other. This is an understandable statement, but introduce Simmel’s ideas of urbanization and there are distinct new implications. The formations of rational social networks, anomie, blasé attitudes, and lack of strong ties to others, among other things would doubtlessly shift both how we are able to relate to others as well as the manner we would perceive their reactions. This would clearly affect our manner to manipulate our actions for desired outcomes.

How would you suspect that Simmel’s ideas of urbanization would affect Mead’s ideas of the general other?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Problems with Ideals?

Weber’s work is both interesting and continues to be useful today and by exploring the stratifications of class and leadership demonstrates that he was willing to engage the complexity of society, but the ideal types that are used as a measure throughout his work seem to limit his utility to a minor extent. It is understandable to use these ideal types, but the fact remains that people are limited and erroneous. For example, the ideas that bureaucracy stems from the human desire to be organized is a fine assertion, but the idea that this will lead to absolute domination from a system that gives no regard to emotion or general human chaos is not a claim that follows reason. Seeing how Weber was aware of this being an ideal, it is doubtable that he thought this would ever be obtained, but this begs the question of what utility does creating this ideal type provide rather than simply making observations on existing bureaucracies?

Weber's Rationalization

As I look around the world I can see the obvious rationalization all around. From the way that we import and export trade, to our communications, to transportation. Besides tribal places in third world countries, I seriously can not think of one single aspect of world life has not been rationalized in some way by bureaucracy. Can you think of any???

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Durkheim and Crime

not only that the way remains open to necessary change, but that in certain cases it directly proposes these changes... crime [can thus be] a useful prelude to reforms."

I think this quote refers to social change in a sense. I think what Durkheim is saying is not necessarily about crime per se, but more about deviating from the social norm. If enough people do the same thing over and over than eventually it will become part of the norm. The example that comes to mind would be the decriminalization of medical marijuana in New Mexico. Most people, some not all, see smoking marijuana as a crime. But, are the people who are going through chemothereapy or who are suffering from glaucoma committing a crime when they use medicinal marijuana to ease their ailments? They are not smoking for recreational use they are smoking because they have found it eases their pain. People kept on doing this and doctors kept prescribing it eventually it became legal. There was a change that was made. Soon after other states began to legalize medical marijuana. Another example that was given in class was the subject of gay marriage. Gay people are choosing to get married and some churches are allowing them to. Their marriage is recognized in the eyes of God, but their marraige is not recognized by the states. Eventually according to Durkheim this act of gay people getting married will bring about change and it will become legal. My question is, are there other acts of deviating from the norm that will eventually be a prelude to change and reform in today's society?

Durkheim and the Arab World

When applying Durkheim to modern sociological study, most obvious to my mind are the fundamental differences between the societies of the Middle East and the US and the conflict which may or may not be a direct result of those differences. It can be assumed, based on Durkheim's description of mechanical solidarity (Appelrouth & Edles, pgs 105-106, 2008; Allan, pg 87, 2007), that many Middle East societies could be classified as such. Many of these societies are unindustrialized, tribal communities with strong familial attachments. They are tied to one another through common moralistic beliefs. Their system of law and punishment is driven by moral agendas and upheld by the group.
On the other hand, the US has organic solidarity, as described by Durkheim (Appelrouth & Edles, pgs 106-108, 2008; Allan, pg 87, 2007). We are an industrialized nation in which people depend on one another not through familial connections, but utilitarian necessity. We are connected based on what other people can provide us. People in the US are quite individualistic, their actions are generally independent of the group and their connection with the collective consciousness is loose, generally through an intermediary.
It is my opinion that conflict between these two groups, is driven , in part, by the differences in their social structure. Durkheim describes, in The Division of Labor in Society (Appelrouth & Edles, pgs 104-110), the conflict that can arise from forced division of labor. I see the clash between the Middle East and the US being one possible product of this conflict. US capitalism and the division of labor which it promises to introduce, is viewed as a threat to the mechanical solidarity of the tribal life currently adhered to in much of the Middle East. With the expansion of capitalism, driven largely by the US, it is no wonder that some in the Middle East view it as a threat to their way of life. Capitalism threatens to dismantle the close familial and tribal connection present in that part of the world for generations. Durkheim, in my opinion, has very accurately predicted the ensuing conflict.

What other connections can you see between Durkheim's theories and Middle East/US conflict?

Durkheim, Suicide, and Wall Street

For the application Durkheim’s work with suicide seems most available. Durkheim argues that social institutions that regulate desires and social changes are the primary factors in suicide. Using this, examining the current economic situation which has been riddled with several high profile suicides should prove enlightening. It would be hard to argue that the American society put easily obtainable limits on the desires due to the capitalistic accumulation inherent to The American Dream. Also the current economic situation is clearly devastating which can be considered a social change. As a result Durkheim would project an increase in suicides. Data is not yet available, but current scholars are projecting that there will be similar results, though not yet immediately (Idov, 2008, ).

Does the article (link provided) support Durkheim's argument?

Durkheim and Crime

"Imagine a society of saints, a perfect cloister of exemplary individuals. Crimes, properly so called, will there be unknown, but faults which appear venial to the layman will create there the same scandal that the ordinary offense does in ordinary consciousness. If, then, this society has the power to judge and punish, it will define these acts as criminal and will treat them as such." (Durkheim, The Rules of Sociological Method)

Durkheim indicates that crimes is a function not of criminal intent, but of the variation of individual moral and ethic codes from a mainstream agreement as to proper actions. In modern society, the range of individual behavior and accordingly their moral and ethic codes continues to grow. The internet has helped foster further variation in behavior due to the ability to find other people of similar ideas, reducing the pressure to be like the "mainstream."

If Durkheim is right, and the current trend towards further individuality continues, then the range and amount of criminal activity should continue to increase for years to come. Do you agree or disagree with this statement, and why?

Are we really unique individuals?

Social facts in Durkheim’s own words “ every way of acting, fixed or not, capable of exercising on the individual an external constraint; or again, every way of acting which is general throughout a given society, while at the same time existing in its own right independent of its individual manifestations”(Appelrouth & Edles, 2008). In his view individuals within a society were subject to following social facts not only if they were aware of them but also when they were oblivious to their existence (Appelrouth & Edles, 2008). Many of the norms we follow have been instilled in us since birth and we have been enculturated into society. It is just “the way things are” and we follow unknowingly. This we do collectively as a group or society, the individual may believe that he/she came up with their own individual ideology but it has been the outside influence that has provided the “materials” so that such “individuality” can be created by the person (not from within but from without). What are some things in our present-day society that we follow without even questioning? Think hard, what maybe some things that we ascribe to without even knowing?
Applerouth, S. & Edles, L. D.2008.Classical and Contemporary Sociological Theory:

Text Readings.Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.