171 posts categorized "Theory"

April 12, 2016

Ten Sociological Metaphors and Paradoxes

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

A few years ago, as a graduate student I was talking with an older sociologist who was cranky about how qualitative research was "too cute" in its lyrical presentation of data. I asked further about what that meant to her and she told me that she felt sociology should be "straight science." Upon further prompting she exclaimed, "metaphor has no place in sociology." Flummoxed with the conversation, I blurted, "WHAT ABOUT WEBER'S IRON CAGE!?!"

Metaphor is a rhetorical technique wherein one image stands in place of another. (Metaphor is different from a simile, wherein something is explicitly described as "like" something else.) My impolite response to a senior faculty member wasn't my finest moment. Her position, however, was astonishing because sociology is chockablock with wondrous metaphors and creative paradoxes that serve as conceptual tools for research and heuristic devices.

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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.

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March 28, 2016

Understanding the Ideological Underpinnings of Capitalist Reproduction with Batman, Robin, Donald Trump, and Karl Marx

Howell_ABy Aaron J. Howell, Assistant Professor of Sociology, SUNY-Farmingdale

In some introductory sociology classes and in any classical sociological theory course, students grapple with the ways in which capitalist society reproduces itself. This was an especially pertinent social and political question outside of the classroom during the early industrial revolution of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when the relationship between capital and labor animated political conflict.

A variety of scholars observing the emerging capitalist economic system wondered how a system introducing private property, and the inequities that inevitably derive from private control of resources, could survive.

These scholars spanned the political spectrum from philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who was concerned with the ways that privatization might undermine the "general will" to Sir Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism, who feared that individualism and cronyism might go unchecked, to Karl Marx, a political radical, who argued that the capitalist system was inherently inhumane due to its alienating conditions.

Continue reading "Understanding the Ideological Underpinnings of Capitalist Reproduction with Batman, Robin, Donald Trump, and Karl Marx" »

March 09, 2016

Social Networks, Interlocking Directorates, and the Power Elite

Christopher andrewsBy Christopher Andrews

Assistant Professor of Sociology, Drew University

Social network analysis involves studying social structures through the use of networks and graphs, allowing sociologists to visualize and measure properties of the ties that connect individuals, groups, or organizations. Rooted in the formal sociology of Georg Simmel (e.g., dyads vs. triads), anthropology (e.g., kinship diagrams), social psychology (e.g., group dynamics), and mathematical sociology, social network analysis has been used to study friendship and acquaintance networks, terrorist organizations, criminal drug markets, disease transmission, and sexual relationships, just to name a few examples.

How does it work?

Continue reading "Social Networks, Interlocking Directorates, and the Power Elite" »

February 24, 2016

When Our Heroes are Also Villains

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

"We can be heroes, just for one day." This is the famous line from one of David Bowie's most popular songs, "Heroes." Bowie was indeed a hero to many people, and his passing at the beginning of the year was met with an outpouring of sadness from fans around the world. Bowie was known as a musical genius, a gender-bending norm breaker, and a crusader for racial justice in the music industry. But he was also known to have had sex with underage groupies and for some critics this dark side of his legacy is something we should not ignore.

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February 05, 2016

The Dead White Guys of Theory?

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

When teaching sociology—particularly theory—we'll often hear about how most of the classic readings we assign are written by "dead white guys." And when you look through the canon it is, indeed, very pale and very male.

Few women are credited in shaping early sociology. Marianne Weber influenced her husband Max and Georg Simmel, and was a powerful sociologist in her own right. Harriet Martineau translated and edited Auguste Comte's famous Cours de Philosophi Positive so well that Comte preferred her version of his book over his own. Charlotte Perkins Gilman (of The Yellow Wallpaper fame) and Jane Addams both described themselves as sociologists, taught sociology courses, published articles in the American Journal of Sociology, and were charter members of the American Sociological Society (now called the American Sociological Association). Mary Jo Deegan writes on the exclusion of women in the American Sociological Society here.

Still, I think that it is completely fair to concede that classical sociological theory has a lot of "dead" and "guys."

What about that "white" part, though? Let's examine that more closely.

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December 18, 2015

Sociology and Holiday Rituals

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Do you have certain holiday rituals that you look forward to each year, or at least feel compelled to participate in? Sociology provides us with tools for understanding these practices more deeply.

For Emile Durkheim, one of sociology's key nineteenth century thinkers, shared values and beliefs help to form society itself. Emphasizing particular values during end of year holidays like giving, connecting with family and friends through visits, cards, or well wishes serves a very important purpose. He contends that societies are more than just a collective of individuals, but rather people learn to be part of an already-existing society. Holidays aid in this process.

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November 26, 2015

The Sociology of Everything

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that in the eight years  Everyday Sociology has analyzed a wide range of topics using a sociological perspective. From bumper stickers to babies, marriage to McDonald's, vacations to vaccines, drugs to diapers, and traveling to Twitter, it may seem as if everything relates to sociology.

You don’t even have to read this blog to get a sense of the scope of the discipline. Just look at the course offerings in the sociology department at your local college and you’ll see what I mean. You can take classes on a wide array of themes such as Sociology of Religion, Medical Sociology, Sociology of Violence, Environmental Sociology, Political Sociology, Sociology of Aging, Sociology of Sport, Sociology of Film, Sociology of Death and Dying, Sociology of Sex and Sexualities, and the Sociology of Organized Crime. These are just some of the classes available in my medium-sized department. If we surveyed sociology departments around the world then the list of would be infinitely longer.

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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.

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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" »

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