By Jonathan Wynn
There were Black Friday protests at my local WalMart in Western Massachusetts, organized
by unions and worker’s rights advocates. If you watched the news you may have seen
one in your town too. Protesters object to the fact that the company offers
low-pay, limited-benefit jobs while the Walton family holds as much wealth as
the bottom third of the U.S. population. This follows reports from Hostess
(makers of Twinkies), claiming a worker’s strike gave them little choice but to
shut down production, and liquidation seems eminent. Hostess feels the pinch from owing over a billion
dollars to creditors, including their workers’ pensions but also to hedge
funds (like Silver Point Capital) that own 30% of the company’s debt).
Of course, you can still buy
Twinkies at WalMart.
While some lament the potential loss of the yellowcake confection (according to
a book on Twinkies, some of the ingredients are "more closely linked to rocks
and petroleum than any of the four food groups," and the primary sweetener
is high-fructose corn syrup), we don’t talk too much about the working
conditions of the folks that make them. Liquidation of Hostess would not only
eliminate jobs but worker’s pension plans as well, even though workers already made significant
concessions and the CEO pocketed a 300% increase in his
Continue reading "Twinkies & Big Macs: Thinking Sociologically About Black Friday " »
holidays such as Thanksgiving provide a wonderful opportunity for us to apply
many of the themes related to sociological mindfulness. It is useful to think
about the role that holidays play in society, the values and beliefs these
holidays instill, and the extent to which we can deconstruct the “facts” and
assumptions of these holidays. Consider some of the myths and realities of
Thanksgiving taken from sociologist James W. Loewen’s national bestseller, Lies My Teacher
Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong.
Continue reading "Giving Thanks? " »
If you are a student, and even if you are not, chances are
this time of year means you are very busy. Whether it’s the upcoming holidays,
exams, term papers, or other obligations, for some reason the end of the year can mean
a lot of busyness.
I recently had a student come to my office hours to talk
about his progress, and the student admitted that he was overcommitted to many
campus activities and that it had affected his coursework. I’m sure he is not
alone; students regularly struggle with their workload and find that it is
virtually impossible to devote the amount of time to each of their classes as
they would like to.
I can relate, as I have been busy grading and juggling my
own deadlines and workload. What can sociology add to our understanding of
Continue reading "The Sociology of Busyness" »
By Peter Kaufman
Is racism funny? This question may
seem outrageous. In fact, I can hardly believe I’m asking it because no one
with even the slightest amount of sociological insight would ever entertain
such a thought. Let’s face it: There is nothing funny or amusing about racism
or any other form of oppression such as sexism, homophobia, or ableism.
Continue reading "What’s Funny about Racism?" »
Tanya Erzen is an
associate professor of comparative religious studies at Ohio State
University and visiting scholar at University of Washington.
A teenage fan of the Twilight series explains that she thinks Edward Cullen, the
brooding and gorgeous vampire hero, is controlling, creepy and even violent in
his relationship with Bella, an ordinary human high school girl with whom he is
passionately in love. While the fan
criticizes Bella and Edward’s tumultuous relationship, she is simultaneously wearing
a button on her jacket with the text, “Edward can bust my headboard, bite my
pillow and bruise my body any day.” This refers to the part of the story when Bella
awakes with her entire body black and blue after losing her virginity on her
honeymoon. In the aftermath, there are
feathers from the pillow Edward has bitten drifting around the room, and the
bed is shattered into pieces.
Continue reading "Thinking Sociologically about Twilight" »
Are you planning to vote during this year’s election? If so,
you will be participating in a form of civic engagement, a
subject of sociological study examining anything from volunteering,
participation in social movements, or any action we take that involves
consideration of the greater good.
Sociologists study what factors motivate people to make
commitments towards creating social change, and often use ethnography to study the
how this process works from the inside, focusing on how people work together
(and sometimes struggle to work together) in the course of commitment to a
Continue reading "Voting as a Social Act" »
By Sally Raskoff
Did you see the news
about the relationship between chocolate and Nobel Prizes? Dr. Franz
Messerli reported in a New England
Journal of Medicine article that a country’s chocolate consumption is positively
and statistically significantly associated with their rate of winning the Nobel
Prize. If a country has high chocolate consumption, they are also likely to
have many winners of the Nobel Prize.
Continue reading "A Tasty Correlation" »