8 posts from May 2013

May 30, 2013

Whither the Good Death?

Elizabeth luthBy Elizabeth Luth

PhD student, Sociology, Rutgers University 

When asked, the majority of Americans say they would like to die at home, free from pain, and having said goodbye to loved ones. Dying peacefully at home and surrounded by loved ones may not seem like a lofty aspiration for the end of one’s life.

Yet, the reality of death in America often does not reflect those expectations. Despite declines in the proportion of Americans dying in hospitals, Americans spend more time than ever before in intensive care units in the months leading up to death, often undergoing invasive and painful procedures that add days to one’s life while compromising quality of life.

Continue reading "Whither the Good Death?" »

May 27, 2013

Suicide: Data versus Assumptions

SternheimerBy Karen Sternheimer

Back in 2007, I blogged about the many misperceptions about suicide. Many assumptions surround suicide, specifically the notion that suicide is a much bigger problem now than in the past and one that disproportionally affects young people. Both of these assumptions are incorrect.

Continue reading "Suicide: Data versus Assumptions" »

May 23, 2013

Ideologies in the News: How Powerful Ideas Become Common Sense

Wayne mellingerBy Wayne Mellinger

Instructor, Antioch University

A “dominant ideology is a way of looking at and understanding the social world that reflects the perspectives of the rich and powerful.  British sociologist John B. Thompson  aptly describes ideology as “meaning in the service of power.”

Because dominant ideologies are meaning-laden events, social scientists have developed approaches to studying them that are highly attuned to the details of discourse and the interpretation of texts—that is, how ordinary people make sense of these symbolic events in everyday life.

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May 16, 2013

The Myth of the Self-Made Person

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

What do the alleged Boston Marathon bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have in common with Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, J.K. Rowling, Jimi Hendrix, and Ben Franklin?

Bomb suspectOprahBf

The answer: All of these individuals are said to have become who they are by their own individual means.

Continue reading "The Myth of the Self-Made Person" »

May 12, 2013

Honoring Parents

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

How do you spend the two days of the year that we honor the challenging and important job that parents do? Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are celebrated in the U.S. in May and June, respectively. Both days generate many family interactions, restaurant orders, greeting card sales, and phone calls.

On the surface, these days appear to be equivalent and equally valued holidays that are meant to honor those who generate and raise children. However, the history and current practices highlight some differences in what mothers and fathers mean to our society.

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May 09, 2013

Benefitting from Housing’s Burst Bubble

SternheimerBy Karen Sternheimer

I recently purchased a home in Los Angeles, something I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to afford. When prices started skyrocketing in the mid-2000s, like many other people I chose not to buy and saved my money instead. I was glad I did, despite some acquaintances insisting that prices would only get higher. In 2005, the median price of a single family home in Los Angeles was about $529,000; by 2008 the median price fell to $340,000. (The median is the point at which half of all homes cost less, and half cost more).

After watching prices and interest rates fall, I began looking in earnest. I got very excited to see I could actually afford to buy in a neighborhood where I would like to live. I began by looking online, and found many places that fit my criteria: in my price range, a reasonable commute to work, nearby places to walk or hike, and safe enough for me to take a walk alone. In fact, there were so many places that I got picky, at first only wanting to see places that had been decorated to my taste. If I didn’t like the flooring or the kitchen countertops, I passed. Most of the listings were short sales, meaning the homeowner owed more on their mortgage than they could expect to sell for. Banks will often agree to accept less money in order to avoid the more expensive and time consuming foreclosure process.

Continue reading "Benefitting from Housing’s Burst Bubble " »

May 06, 2013

Thinking Critically About Statistics and Their Sources

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

In the sciences, we use theory and methods to empirically assess “reality”. While we can often play with data to explore the relationships between our concepts(our variables), it is important to frame what we’re doing with good theory.

An interesting graph has made its rounds through social media lately. It shows a strong relationship between Internet Explorer market share and murders in the U.S.

Continue reading "Thinking Critically About Statistics and Their Sources" »

May 02, 2013

To ”Commit Sociology”

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

Recently, when the Canadian Government arrested men suspected of planning a terrorist attack, Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned the media not to “commit sociology” by asking for their motives. (It’s a reference to a W.H. Auden poem.) Best not to think too much, apparently, about the world around you.

In my Foundations of Social Theory class, we began the semester with the broad, big worldviews that many people often use unreflexively and to their own detriment: horoscopes, homeopathy, numerology, dousing, conspiracy theories, and the like. I hope you are equipped for the task of making sense of the world you’ll find around you: to “commit sociology.” 

Maybe you ascribe to one of those all-encompassing meta-theories: the astral alignments determining behaviors and the gods working in mysterious ways. What have you learned about sociology that will explain your everyday challenges? An engineering class may help your colleagues get jobs but it won’t help them understand the dynamics of the world they live in. The same could be said about journalism, food studies, and management classes. How could I not try to convince you that sociology, and theory, will?

Continue reading "To ”Commit Sociology”" »

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