175 posts categorized "Theory"

September 22, 2016

Making Your Home Among Strangers

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

Welcome back to school, y’all!

For the last few years I have introduced our UMass Amherst Common Read book to our Everyday Sociology blog readers, and I thought I should continue the tradition.

This year’s book is Jennine Capó Crucet’s excellent Make Your Home Among Strangers. (See an interview with the author here.) The novel is written almost as if it were specifically crafted to illustrate the issues that all young students might face, but particularly students of color. I highly recommend it. If your parents are at all curious about what college life is like today, you might want to recommend it to them, too!

Continue reading "Making Your Home Among Strangers" »

August 02, 2016

Amazon and Efficiency

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

I recently took a tour of an Amazon Fulfillment Center. It took me two hours to drive there, but I got there on time – you cannot take the tour if you are late. The Center is located in a depressed industrial area, and you see many closed businesses until you turn a corner and see many, many long buildings. Other businesses also have distribution centers in this area, thus they weren’t all owned and staffed by Amazon. Yet.

I signed up for the tour a year and a half ago and received via email with a long list of rules. No hair below the shoulders, no purses or bags, close-toed shoes were required, and no kids under 6. Cellphones were okay to have, but we could not take photos once we entered. One could only reserve a maximum of four spaces at that time. Currently, there are no open dates because they are booked for the next year and a half.

Continue reading "Amazon and Efficiency" »

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 13, 2016

Making the Familiar Strange: An Ingredient for Creative Genius

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

Creativity is a response to our environment – Eric Weiner

In my introduction to Sociology course, students and I work on developing their sociological imaginations, a sociological process and way of thinking that C. Wright Mills identified in the 1950s. Mills claims that in order to understand social issues, we must situate ourselves within our current historical context, take into consideration our personal history, and make connections between ourselves and larger social issues.. This process works in both directions: history influences us and we in turn influence history.

While we cover a breadth of content in my intro course, the sociological imagination is really the one skill that we focus on developing. We pay particular attention to making the familiar strange (a short video of what this is can be found here). But what does that mean?

Continue reading "Making the Familiar Strange: An Ingredient for Creative Genius" »

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.

Continue reading "Ten Sociological Metaphors and Paradoxes" »

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 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.

Continue reading "When Our Heroes are Also Villains" »

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.

Continue reading "The Dead White Guys of Theory?" »

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