341 posts categorized "Social Problems, Politics, and Social Change"

June 21, 2016

The Logic of Consumption, Your Friends and Your Health

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

We live in a consumption-oriented society. It’s not hard to find examples of ways in which we are encouraged to buy things, not just for survival, but presumably to make us happy. Advertising is predicated on the notion that a new product will help us become more attractive, make our lives easier, and in short, make us feel good.

And sometimes having new things does improve our lives, sometimes in small ways and sometimes dramatically. Driving a newer, more reliable car might ease our worries about car repairs and safety. Replacing any malfunctioning product—say, a computer that you use for work or school—with one that works better is certainly an example positive outcome of consumption.

Consumption isn’t just about buying things and enjoying them; its logic is so pervasive that it shapes how we think about many other aspects of society. For example, if we view ourselves primarily as customers rather than workers, we might be more likely to support policies that claim to make goods cheaper, rather than prioritizing better wages or living conditions, for instance.

Continue reading "The Logic of Consumption, Your Friends and Your Health" »

June 09, 2016

Air Travel, Class, and Relative Deprivation

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Air travel is one of the only places where class distinctions are made starkly apparent: whether you are sitting in first class or in coach (although some airlines also have "business class" or "economy plus") serves as a visible reminder that there are class differences in America.

A study of "air rage" incidents recently made the news, finding that "disruptive passenger incidents" were about four times as likely to happen when there was a first class cabin. When everyone had to walk through the first class cabin to board, the outbursts were especially likely to occur.

Continue reading "Air Travel, Class, and Relative Deprivation" »

June 06, 2016

The Compassionate Sociologist

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

Is there a connection between sociology and compassion? Do you know of any sociologists who explicitly and unabashedly frame their work in the context of compassion? Do you consider yourself a compassionate sociologist?

For years, I've been mulling over these questions and thinking about the connection between sociology and compassion. I've been wondering if it's possible to study people and society without caring deeply for the people and the society you are studying. In other words, are sociology and compassion undeniably linked?

Continue reading "The Compassionate Sociologist" »

June 01, 2016

Connecting Across Race

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

The Black Lives Matter movement was made possible by social media, and offers an opportunity for different groups to have a conversation about race in America.

My grandparents were very religious and active in the civil rights movement. Bomb threats were directed at churches in the Washington D.C. area that planned to house southern African Americans making their way to the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In coordination with their church, my grandparents housed dozens of men and women in their home. (For a vivid retelling of the time by one of the key figures in the movement, see John Lewis's graphic novel, March.)

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May 25, 2016

Suicide Rates: Percentages and Rates, Age and Gender

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a report on suicide rates, finding that suicides in the United States had increased by 24 percent between 1999 and 2014. Like most people, I learned of this report after reading upsetting headlines about this increase. My local newspaper, the Los Angeles Times reported that "US Suicides Have Soared Since 1999."

As sociologists, we learn to look at the original data to get the real story beyond the headlines. What do the data tell us? Is it the same story as being told in news reports?

Continue reading "Suicide Rates: Percentages and Rates, Age and Gender" »

May 12, 2016

Goal Displacement: Solar Panels, Congress, and Your Education

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Telemarketers notoriously violate the Do Not Call list and sometimes call people repeatedly, presumably to sell something. A colleague recently mentioned that she had been called about solar panels, and she told the caller she already had solar panels installed at her home. "No problem, I'll call back later," the telemarketer told her, and proceeded to call back several times that week.

Why would a telemarketer call back even after being told that someone already had solar panels, which is not a product you would need to buy repeatedly? It certainly would make the recipients of these calls angry, and annoying someone is rarely a good way to sell a very expensive product.

Could it be that success for telemarketers isn't judged by how many solar panels they sell, but by how many people they speak to on the phone and how many possible "leads" they get? I've read claims that some telemarketers' calls are made just to see if anyone will pick up the phone; your number is then marked as a possible lead, and even sold to another telemarketing company as a live number. In effect, your answering the phone becomes the product they are selling.

Continue reading "Goal Displacement: Solar Panels, Congress, and Your Education" »

April 25, 2016

Affordable Housing: An Oxymoron?

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

A few years ago, I had a student who was extremely anxious as the summer approached. While most of her classmates couldn't wait for graduation or summer break, she was scared. She had no family and had no place to live. Her worry about finding short-term housing was preventing her from sleeping at night and she began having difficulty in her coursework.

This is just one example of one of the challenges many people face—and not just students or low-income people. The cost of housing has priced many people out of the rental market, even people with steady incomes. The rental website Zumper lists the average rents in the 50 largest cities in the U.S. In nearly half (22) of these cities, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is over $1,000. That's about what a minimum wage earner makes in a month before taxes, assuming they earn the federal minimum wage of $7.25 and work 40 hours a week.

Continue reading "Affordable Housing: An Oxymoron?" »

April 19, 2016

Play and Public Space

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

As a sociologist, I often feel as though much of what I teach and research has a tinge of apocalyptic despair. As a result, I've started looking into topics that center on (or have an element of) joy, hope, happiness, laughter, or playfulness.

In searching for things that make me smile, I've come across a growing body of scholarship on the importance of play in social movements. The research suggests that play helps to build community, maintain interest in a social cause, invites people into the movement, fosters civic engagement, and diffuses power (e.g. clowns who confront police officers).

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April 04, 2016

Sociology for the Masses!

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

"ESCHEW OBFUSCATION"

This was a bumper sticker I remember seeing when I was in college. At the time, I only had a fuzzy idea of what these two words meant. After a little research, I realized that the phrase was a playfully pretentious way to encourage people to stop using big words that nobody understands. I'm sure many students wish they had a rubber stamp with these words so they could imprint them on some of the texts they must read. I felt that way when I was a student and sometimes I still feel that way. In fact, I often think that this slogan should be a rallying cry for sociologists everywhere.

Continue reading "Sociology for the Masses!" »

March 31, 2016

Policing, Solidarity, and Conflict

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Many news stories have noted that violent crime rates have risen in some cities, and some are blaming the so-called "Ferguson Effect." What does this mean?

The Los Angeles Police Department's (LAPD) Chief Charlie Beck wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times discussing the relationship between communities and their police departments. He mentions the "Ferguson Effect" yet redefines it when looking at Los Angeles and its crime related statistics.

Continue reading "Policing, Solidarity, and Conflict" »

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