200 posts categorized "Theory"

April 16, 2018

Community Building and Women’s Activism

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

As I’ve discussed in previous posts, affordable housing in urban areas, particularly places like New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C., and increasingly Chicago, is scarce and oftentimes inaccessible. Movements for access to housing have mobilized around expanding or implementing rent controls (for instance, in Chicago through the Lift the Ban coalition), while others have focused on training people how to advocate for policies that support equitable access to housing (such as the Resident Access Project or RAP in Washington State). As is the case with RAP, many housing activists aim to increasing residents’ knowledge and skills through leadership development and empowerment.

As scholars of both social movements and organizational studies have noted, some of the most effective leaders provide skill building, work to build self-confidence among followers, create opportunities for personal development, and understand when to move from a leadership to follower position.

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April 09, 2018

Masks and Nods: Distancing and Bids for Acknowledgement


Jonathan WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

The recent news about Amazon Go stores developing technology that eliminates the need for cashiers has renewed concerns over technology’s ability to not only eliminate working class jobs, but also peel away another layer of interpersonal connection. Small interactions can matter, big time.

Cities and shopping are zones of personal contact, places for micro-level exchanges. It got me thinking a lot about all those small interactions that I enjoy. (My friends tease me over how much I like to make small talk with people and it’s somewhat true. I often try simple nonstandard interactional responses like: “How would you like your coffee?” “Black like my heart.”) I love small micro interactions.

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March 05, 2018

Mindhunter as Social Research

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

I recently watched a Netflix show called Mindhunter. The show—based on a non-fiction book—is about the beginnings of a crime division in the FBI that attempts to tackle serial killers.

If you’ve ever taken a sociology class, the first and most obvious thing about the show are the explicit references to our discipline! One of the main characters, Debbie, played by Hannah Gross, is a graduate student in sociology, studying deviance. In the first episode Debbie explains the sociological approach to deviance to her date, a somewhat listless young FBI agent named Holden (played by Jonathan Groff of Hamilton and Glee fame). In a bar she admonishes Holden: “You teach about criminality but you’ve never heard of Labeling Theory?” (Although, granted, Debbie doesn’t get Durkheim right.)

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February 19, 2018

What Would You Do?

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

Consider the following scenario: You are in a clothing store shopping for a new outfit. As you are browsing through the selections you notice that a black female customer is being targeted unfairly by a sales clerk. Instead of allowing this customer to shop freely as you are, the sales clerk is following her around, constantly asking her what she wants, making obnoxious comments to her, and eventually telling her that she should leave the store.

What would you do? Would you say something to the sales clerk or seek out a manager to complain? Would you say something to support the customer and voice your concern over the way she is being treated? Or would you continue on with your business and pretend to ignore the interaction you just witnessed?

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January 18, 2018

Joining the Conversation: Why Study Theory?

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

If you are a student of sociology, one of the first things you learn is about theory. You are probably also required to take an entire course in sociological theory, which is not always students’ favorite course in the major. In our program, many students try and put it off, are told by others that it is “hard” or don’t see why they need it anyway.

When you become a student of sociology—or any other discipline, for that matter—you are joining a conversation already in progress. In the case of sociology, a conversation that has been taking place for more than a century and a half. In order to understand the conversation, and hopefully add to it yourself, it is important to know what everyone has been talking about.

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January 08, 2018

The Sociology of Knowledge and Textbooks

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Sociologists are interested in all things social, even how we come to know what we know. The sociology of knowledge is a fundamental question in sociological thought: how is knowledge produced? We also think critically about the social contexts in which we create what humans define as “knowledge.”

So how do you know what you know? Beyond your personal experience, what you learn as a student informs your depth and breadth of knowledge. As you prepare for exams, there are typically two sources of knowledge that you need to master to earn a good grade: things that your professor said in lectures in conjunction with ideas you read about in your assigned texts.

We often take for granted that these are main sources of knowledge without thinking about how ideas become part of your course work, and your textbooks specifically. The production of textbooks is a good example of how knowledge is produced in a social context.

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December 25, 2017

How Sociology Can Save the World

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

The title of this post comes from the name of a Lifelong Learning Institute class I taught recently. Lifelong Learning Institutes exit throughout the United States offering non-credit courses for adults 55 years and older. The class I volunteered to teach met once a week for four weeks. Here was the description of the course:

How Sociology Can Save the World: Let's face it: The world is pretty screwed up! The gap between the haves and the have-nots is skyrocketing, the earth is imperiled by human-caused climate change, and various acts of intolerance seem to be on the rise in many countries. Although there is no quick and easy remedy to all of the world's ills, we can take steps individually and collectively to get us back on track. In this class we will consider four sociological concepts that, if they were more widely understood and applied, could address many of the problems that threaten our collective existence. Each week, short readings that center around one of the four sociological concepts will be assigned.

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December 18, 2017

“So, What are you doing after you Graduate?”

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

Perhaps you know what you are going to do after you graduate. As the fall semester starts to wrap up, there might be a nagging voice in the back of your mind that asks, “What are you doing to do after you graduate?” (Or maybe it’s part of family conversations as you get closer to your graduation date!)

Why do people pick the careers they do? Certainly, some people graduate with a good sense of a career. Some people knew what they were going to do from their first year of college. (That was definitely not me.)

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November 13, 2017

Getting a Job: Latent and Manifest Functions of Education

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

The purpose of getting a college degree may seem obvious: the median weekly earnings of those with college degrees are nearly double what those with high school diplomas alone earn, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For those who hope to earn more money, a degree seems like a good idea. It is also likely to reduce the odds of being unemployed; according to BLS data, college graduates’ unemployment rates were about half of the rate for those with high school diplomas alone.

But what is it about a college degree that yields the higher weekly earnings and the greater likelihood of employment? Is it the content of what students learn, or other factors that are a less overt part of the college experience?

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September 11, 2017

The Nuances of Naming

B Raskoffy Sally Raskoff

The alt-right. White nationalists. White supremacists. Nazis.

Naming groups is part of what we do so that we can know who is who and what they are about. It’s also important to identify who is included as “us” and who is considered “them.”

Knowing your in-groups and out-groups facilitates our social interactions in positive, neutral, and negative ways. Reference groups operate on a less personal scale than in-groups and out-groups, as they are typically large scale and operate on a national or international level.

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