194 posts categorized "Sally Raskoff"

July 19, 2016

Health Institutions as Bureaucracies

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Have you ever been in the hospital? There’s a good reason sociologists use hospitals as one example of a total institution. One’s experience there can certainly match up nicely with the definition of a total institution.

Sociologist Erving Goffman had a lot to say about total institutions. They are places in which people live and work, cut off from the outside world, and perform routine activities, controlled by the rules of the organization.

We had a baby born into our family recently and I was reminded of the total institution typology when spending time in the hospital. Our family members, the new mom, dad, and their new baby slept in the hospital for a few days following the birth.

Continue reading "Health Institutions as Bureaucracies" »

June 16, 2016

Dancing with Hierarchy

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

I had the opportunity to attend the filming of a television show, a dance competition program on the night of its final competition before a winner was announced. It was quite the event and my sociological imagination worked overtime!

Hierarchy was an obvious element of the proceedings. The audience members were stratified into two main groups. The people who were fortunate enough to get the tickets in advance lined up at one gate, nowhere near a parking lot. The others who had some connection to people working in the industry or on the show lined up at another parking lot, much closer to the designated parking lot. I was in this line, thus I had a good vantage point to notice these differences.

Continue reading "Dancing with Hierarchy" »

May 02, 2016

Polling Methods

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Are polls getting less reliable? Some say so. Our changing technology, including social media and the 24-hour news cycle, can have an effect on opinions and behavior. People who hear that a candidate already has a good lead might change their opinion or not show up to vote. On the other hand, some estimates of the error rates of polls suggest that they are somewhat stable as pollsters change their methods to adapt to society's dictates.

Or are polls still pretty accurate, taking the pulse of the people? Some say so. If the difference between opinions is huge, then a poll can certainly pick that up. However, if opinions are just a few points apart, polls may not be able to show those differences accurately.

Continue reading "Polling Methods" »

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" »

March 01, 2016

How We Know: Opinions and Assumptions vs. Empirical Reality

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Have you heard people say that they know what causes something or they know why some thing happened? We all do this; it's one of the ways, we make sense of the world around us. We generalize about what we see, based on our experience and on previous knowledge that we remember.

Generalizing is how we understand what we encounter. When we see something new, we evaluate what it might be based on how it looks and how people might be using it.

My favorite example of this is a podium or lectern. When you first saw one, did you know what it was? Did you know how it was used? If it was in an empty room, perhaps not, although you might notice the angled top, how it was placed in the room relative to other things like chairs or desks. If someone uses it, then you have more information to figure that out.

We generalize about people when we encounter them; we often make many assumptions about them, based on their appearance that may or may not convey in accurate information about them. We also do this when encountering new situations.

Continue reading "How We Know: Opinions and Assumptions vs. Empirical Reality" »

January 13, 2016

Thinking Sociologically about New State Laws

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Every New Year there is typically a new slate of laws that take effect, based on voter and governmental decision-making. Have you ever taken a look at those laws through a sociological lens? Are we enacting new laws – formalizing social norms – that make sense for the current state of our culture? How do these laws reflect changes in our society?

Every year, the Los Angeles Times publishes a list of these new California state laws. Their website has links to understand more about the story, per their reporting. The bullet points below are pulled from the 2016 list.

Continue reading "Thinking Sociologically about New State Laws" »

December 08, 2015

Who Gives to Charity?

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

After Thanksgiving, we are encouraged to give of ourselves, our time, and our money. Many people serve food in shelters and food kitchens on Thanksgiving. Many continue to do something charitable into December and sometimes into January. Some actually continue giving or volunteering throughout the year.
However, in November and December there is a huge jump in charitable behaviors.

Who are these people? Why do people do this?

Continue reading "Who Gives to Charity?" »

November 16, 2015

Fiction with a Sociological Attitude

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Sociology is everywhere, right? Certainly we can find great examples of sociological concept in fiction.

I intended to do a top 5 list but that expanded to this top 10 and, as you may notice, it crept up to 15 (or more, depending on how you count). So many other books can and should be included, such as Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. But these are a good start. Some are not always referenced in lists for sociological reading, while a few are classics. Many are from science fiction, a tradition full of alternate realities and worlds that reflect or mimic our own. Some are easy to read, others are, well, not so much. Some can be used for class assignments or enrichment, while others are suggestions for further reading and practice in applying sociological theories and concepts. I’ve included the main sociological concepts each book addresses within my descriptions too.

Continue reading "Fiction with a Sociological Attitude" »

October 12, 2015

Learning Sociological Lessons from Party Crashers

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

I recently had the pleasure of attending a major decade birthday party (40!) at a winery. The party was up a hill in an area separate from the winery’s general tasting/party area. There was a sign at the bottom of the hill that said “Private Party.”

Well into the party, two men came up the hill, looked around, and headed toward the table with the wine bottles. They were engaged in conversation by one of the guests who was not aware that they were not invited. They were both well into their wine drinking and not very logical in their conversational abilities. Some other guests encountered them and let them know that we were aware that they were there and that they were crashing a private party.

Continue reading "Learning Sociological Lessons from Party Crashers" »

September 14, 2015

Junk Mail and the Sociological Imagination

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

As you learn more and more about sociology and how to use your sociological imagination, keep an eye out for the many everyday items that cross your path. You can use those items to know more about our society.

For example, the following two-sided laminated flyer came my way a few days ago, thanks to a good friend. She had received it in her mailbox.

One side is bold, red, white, and blue, announcing “College Men” who can move your stuff. They are friendly, use tools and trucks, and “customers prefer us 1 bijillion times more than the other guys.”

Continue reading "Junk Mail and the Sociological Imagination" »

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