In the vein of DuBois

Among the most well-known American sociologists, W.E.B. Du Bois is unique in a couple of ways. He does not shy away from speaking from the first-person perspective, wanting his readers to know what it is like to face social inequality from personal experience. Also, he speaks about global issues, but specifically about America, which he is especially situated to do as a citizen. His views are poignant and were ahead of their time, as we are still experiencing today – and in some ways just now recognizing – the issues he discussed.

In this article, http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/news/2014/jun/18/white-privilege-real/, the author displays some parallels to Du Bois; she speaks from a first-person perspective, and about her own personal experiences. She examines the issue of white privilege and how many white people outright deny its existence, much less have discussions about it or work to fix the problems it causes. As she argues, anyone (not of color) who grew up in America is almost guaranteed to have benefitted from white privilege; but that there is a fervent refusal of white guilt, even to the extent of creating separate histories for people of color – which she states is itself part of white privilege. She goes on to express her concern, similar to Du Bois, that it may be that the only way a white person could understand white privilege would be to live in the skin of a black person – which she notes is inherently not possible.

As a black woman, the author speaks from a place of personal knowledge, and discusses how her life has been affected by the issues still present in this country. If Du Bois were to read this article, I think that he would praise the author. Du Bois was intent on expressing to his readers what the issues of his society were like for the individual – whom is especially partial to an issue – not just from an objective stance. Du Bois’ work is inherently subjective, and the author of this article takes a page from his book – using some more modern examples – citing disassociation from racism in film for example, and asking the reader to consider a sort of racial role-reversal. I believe that Du Bois would be saddened that the issues he faced in his time are still present today, but that he would also appreciate that people of color today are still taking up the fight for equality, and trying to make people face issues that are pervasive and silent.

Men as feminists, more masculine…

Consider, if you will, the ideas presented in this article: http://studentaffairsfeminists.wordpress.com/2014/07/29/why-feminism-is-in-my-best-interest-as-a-man/.  Here, the author makes an argument for the what should be the aspiration of every man to be a feminist, or feminist ally; and, to seek the acceptance of women in doing so.  It is a powerful message.  The author addresses a concept that is also one of Charlotte Gilman’s primary points – that is, the pitfalls of patriarchy.  He says that patriarchy does benefit men a great deal (compared to women), but that in contrast, they also suffer in ways women do not; namely, they die younger and experience greater levels of depression and violence (at least the non-sexual kind) than do women.  Gilman would point out that although patriarchy was created to maternalize men, effectively causing them to take on both male and female social gender roles, it is no longer a beneficial or practical social construct.  Still, the author of this article seems to take an optimistic and objective stance in his argument, and  goes on to imply that, despite the negative effects and the destructive nature of patriarchy, people (men) can still move forward from this social construct.  In this way, he is again in line with Gilman, who also argues objectivity and optimism, in the form of positivism; both Gilman’s work and this article seek to skewer the inherent (modern) faults of patriarchy, while trying to simultaneously offer hope for growth beyond that way of life.

Tale-Yax and Genovese

This article (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/26/nyregion/26homeless.html?_r=2&) illustrates a prime example of the modern human’s indifference towards other people. In reading this article, I was reminded of the case of Kitty Genovese, and how it became clear to those nearby that someone was in grave danger, but still did not choose to help her. Although some of the urban myths surrounding that particular case seem to have been debunked, it is still reported that interventions could have been taken on her behalf. Likewise, interventions could have been taken to aid Mr. Tale-Yax. So perhaps the question is: Why were people so dismissive? I think that Simmel would say that it was a case of blasé attitude. People seem to have been aware of what was going on, but still did nothing; possibly because they felt nothing, which could paint them as immoral – but maybe it isn’t so simple. In traditional societies, people lived or died depending on the willingness of all members of the group to work for the group. In modern societies, however, people are so separated by the multitude of demands on them, even encouraged to be as individualistic and capitalistic as possible, that we lose emotional connections with others – though not strictly due to immorality. In addition, division of labor has actually made it more difficult for us (the every day person, that is) to intervene in any given situation. Granted, in many states across America, there are good-samaritan laws, which allow people to aid others without fear of prosecution, but these can be little assurance that assisting someone will not put us in some sort of danger. Also, we live in a very litigious country – another effect of capitalism and separation from the higher good for the group community. These facts add up to people being so wary and uncertain of other people’s grief, that we become numb, or blasé. People have gotten to the point that they feel it is better to mind their own business, and it is just that attitude that can lead to a case as is featured in the article.

Collards: Disease-fighting Superfood

 

Just a few reasons to consider Collard Greens!

  • Contribute to blood-clotting, and may help maintain a healthy cardiovascular system – due to high levels of Vitamin K.
  • Great for bone health, as they provide a good source of non-dairy calcium.
  • Help protect against cancer, cataracts and heart disease through the antioxidant beta-carotene.
  • Folate (a B vitamin) content can help prevent birth defects and anemia, and assist cell growth and function.
  • Shown to lead to lower cholesterol levels.
  • Digestive health may benefit from the fiber content of Collards – which also aids in fighting against Helicobacter pylori.
  • Contains the phytonutrients lutein, lipoic acid, glucobrassicin, glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiian, glucotropaeolin, caffeic acid, ferulic acid, quercetin, and kaempferol.

 

Nutrient Profile – Macronutrients:

 

Nutrient Profile – Micronutrients:

 

Collard Greens growing in a California field:

 

How to prepare and cook Collards:

  • Collards are in season between January and April, but can also likely be found year-round in supermarkets.
  • Choose leaves that are dark green, and avoid limp and yellowish leaves.  Smaller leaves are better.
  • To keep fresh before cooking, store unwashed leaves in refrigerator’s crisper drawer.
  • Rinse thoroughly before cooking.

Several links for recipe options may be found here: http://www.marthastewart.com/286291/collard-greens-recipes/@center/1009854/winter-produce#258351

 

Another great recipe I found (for Stuffed Collards Greens) at the New York Times website. (See link below)

 

Sources:

1st image credit:  https://www.pittsburghfoodbank.org/blog/collards/

Health benefits info: http://www.healwithfood.org/superfoods/collard-greens-health-benefits.php

http://www.livestrong.com/article/273801-benefits-of-juicing-collard-greens/

http://www.fullcircle.com/goodfoodlife/2012/05/24/everything-you-need-to-know-about-collard-greens/

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=138

http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/food-nutrition/natural-foods/natural-weight-loss-food-collard-greens-ga.htm

Nutrient profile: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2410/2

2nd image credit: http://www.kenrockwell.com/trips/2009-06-monterey/

3rd image credit: http://www.marthastewart.com/286291/collard-greens-recipes/@center/1009854/winter-produce#196548

4th image credit:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/01/health/nutrition/01recipehealth.html?_r=0

 

 

 

Diversity v Solidarity

One of Emile Durkheim’s primary theories about society was that, although societies would advance themselves in various ways through the Division of Labor, they would also develop too much diversity – which would lead to a lack of integrity in the social structure.  Problems caused by too much diversity could be argued as reflected by language or cultural barriers in industrialized countries with multiple groups of immigrants.  Britain is an example of this type of country.  This article addresses the issue of diversity, although it addresses the problem on a scale more economic than cultural: http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/features/too-diverse-david-goodhart-multiculturalism-britain-immigration-globalisation This article is addressing the ‘problem’ of diversity from the perspective of the British political progressive; specifically, what is implied to be an inherent conflict between diversity and solidarity.  The argument follows that the desire of the British state to be economically progressive, in this context through socioeconomic welfare programs, is not as simple in a diverse society as it is in a homogeneous society.  The problem arises from the desire to maintain solidarity (which almost requires homogeneity of cultural values) alongside the ethnic and cultural diversity that already exists within England.  If there is to be a program such as welfare, then the separate (and possibly opposing) values may lead individuals to buck the system.  This article also supports Durkheim’s theory of Division of Labor, in that the waves of immigration into England over the past sixty years have caused separations of more than just class and region, as was previously the case, but also separations of labor movements, which it states are weaker in the presence of ‘significant religious or ethnic divisions’.  This can also be witnessed in America, where there is a limited welfare state, but still disapproval of its existence.  The basis for this objection may be founded in the high levels of sociocultural diversity within the nation, and the aforementioned accompanying barriers of language and cultural values.

Organ Failure…?

There is an article I read recently that contained some rather disturbing information, and information that I was not that surprised to learn when I thought about it. This article is not the most recent to the internet, but I searched it out again because I think it is still relevant. It can be found here: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-many-americans-the-police-kill-each-year/ The article goes into much greater detail than I will here; but, to sum up its contents, it claims that police forces and their officers across the nation are becoming, or have been for a while depending on your perspective, much too eager to use deadly force on people who may not require such “intervention”. Maybe, even more disturbing still, is the idea that there was never a decline in the amount of force police use, but simply less media coverage, and thus less public awareness. The article mentions Michael Brown as one of the victims of extreme police violence, but he is just the most recent example in a long line of people.

I read this article prior to sociological theory, but I was made to think about it again while reading about Spencer’s theories of society as an organism. If society is an organism, then American society is likely ill. I’m sure this is not a surprise to many, but Spencer would probably be sad to see this sickness. While he did state the idea that societies move through periods of growth and stagnation, I don’t think he meant to this degree – where an arguably essential part of society starts killing some of the organism. Spencer argued that societies had requisite needs, and that one of these needs was his “regulatory function”. Well, any society is bound to have crime and those who commit them (until we accomplish Marx’s utopian communism, that is); and therefore, there could be argued the need for police – to regulate and stabilize internal structures, such as the legal system and those who would clash with it. However, in light of this article and its disturbing statistics, perhaps there is a disease in the regulatory function (i.e., law enforcement) of the organism – not just a stagnation. If this is the case, that America has a sick organ, do we need to cut the organ out, or do we need to treat the illness – and how? Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer to that question.

Breaking the bars….

Max Weber’s theories concerning sociology are intricate and variable. For these reasons, his ideas of society cannot be taken to be as black and white, as straightforward, as those of Marx, or several other sociologists. However, his concepts are similar enough, and universal enough, that they can be applied to a dialogue with theorists who came before him and followed after him. One such theorist is Marilyn Frye.

Marilyn Frye is a feminist sociological theorist who writes about oppression, through the lens of sexism, racism and other common issues. One of her theories, the Birdcage theory, is particularly relevant to Weber’s ideas. Relating Frye’s Birdcage Theory with Weber’s Iron Cage of Bureaucracy, for example, seems a fairly easy task. However, in sociological studies – soft sciences – very little is as easy as it seems.

While both theorists argue against the social and cultural traps in which people find themselves, they argue different causal factors. Frye argues that the cages which entrap people and groups are born out of oppression – that oppression is a method of social control and dominance. Weber argues that people and groups are trapped by bureaucracy; but that bureaucracy was, in essence, simply a method of efficiency and organization – that it was meant as a form of control but not necessarily dominance.

Control and dominance may seem synonymous, but in the capitalist bureaucratic societal foundations which Weber describes, control was more about ensuring lawful and moral behavior for and by the masses of large-scale populations and less about ownership of people. Still, Frye’s position that the birdcages – the stereotypes, abuses and unfairness to which a person or a people are subjected is a parallel to Weber’s theory; both argue that any single factor (Frye’s single wire or Weber’s ideal types of the bureaucratic personality) may be discounted once a person sees the whole as greater than the sum of its parts. Both Frye and Weber believe that these individual factors have created a cage from which people can only escape with great difficulty – and that they must be broken for individual freedom to return.

In a recent article by Fortune.com (http://fortune.com/2014/03/26/why-bureaucracy-must-die/), the casual reader can see more – and more easily understandable – examples of why bureaucracy is bad for society. However, while both Frye and Weber argue against the presence of entrapping social constructs on a platform more to do with human freedoms and creative expression, this article argues for the end of bureaucracy based on its obsolete nature.

The article focuses not on the lack of necessity of bureaucracy due to needs for moral or social order, or even its use as a method of control; but, rather, it states that bureaucracy simply no longer works – especially in the digitally modern world. The article does not take an ethical stance, but instead approaches it from a mostly logistical viewpoint.

The reasons for the obsoleteness of bureaucracy are the facts that lay people no longer need guidance from experts, or are unable to express themselves intelligently. While those controls may have been necessary – or once seemed necessary – because there actually were groups of people who knew more than the average person, and could use that advantage to secure their positions, the digital age (specifically the internet), has balanced the scales when it comes to the knowledge (even sometimes expert-level) that is readily available to nearly everyone.

As the common saying goes, knowledge is power, and with the internet being a mostly household tool, knowledge for the layperson increases, and therefore so does power. Simply put, Fortune argues that the digital age has given the common person more power over their environment and social interactions, and bureaucracy is now just a road block. While I am unsure how either Frye or Weber would feel about the approach (internet-based), they would likely approve of the end – no more bureaucratic constraint.

Marx’s Breaking Point…?

In the current American economy and culture, not for the first time, there is a real class divide; but it is perhaps worse now than it has been in a very long time.  As Marx has predicted, there is an enormous divide between the income and wealth of the so-called one-percent and the remaining ninety-nine percent; his bourgeoisie and proletariat.

In this article by Forbes magazine, http://www.forbes.com/sites/rosspomeroy/2014/05/27/is-wealth-inequality-the-future-of-capitalism/, French economist Thomas Piketty outlines his theory about the current state of economic divide in the U.S., and how he thinks it will increase in years to come.  The data is convincing, given the undeniable reports of the financial values of CEOs and politicians, and the government bailouts that big business and the rich receive.

Marx would, or rather already did have, a lot to say about the condition of our society as suggested in this article.  As Piketty puts plainly with his simple r > g equation, the rich in this country are getting richer, while the poor get poorer.  If you add this to the ever-increasing levels of industrialization in this country, and the way people believe that they need more and fancier toys (with the media’s help of course), this is exactly the type of thing that Marx talked about when he discussed his ideas about overproduction cycle.

We produce too much, and de-value the work-force labor through capitalist ownership – leading to worker dissociation.  This also occurs through the outsourcing of jobs and the downsizing of corporations (Marx’s expansion and abstraction), which leads to even greater capitalist (the 1%, or 10%, according to Piketty) financial accumulation.  If you follow Marx’s logic, this leads to even more industrialization, all the way through to recession (which we have already seen), failure of small local businesses, and increase of the working class and the unemployed.

Marx would have a field-day with this, arguing that this is exactly what will inevitably happen, even must happen, in a capitalist (and other class-based) economy.  He would say that the capitalist rich, and their government collaborators, are carving the economy, society and the workers to pieces, and that it will result in an eventual breaking point – leading eventually to communism of course.

I don’t know if this actually will occur in our country, now or ever, but it is clear that something needs to change; and, that Marx had great foresight.

The capitalist conflict

Although he did not originate the phrase, “from each according to their skill, to each according to their need”, Marx did popularize it through his work. This statement, also historically linked with socialism and communism, illustrates one of the basic beliefs of socialists, and why they believe capitalism does not work. Marx believed that, in a society of class equality, the desire to work, in order to produce for the state to then disseminate, should be the goal and personal satisfaction of every citizen. It is also one of the primary reasons most capitalist states hate socialism.

In a socialist economy and communist state, two people otherwise identical, most importantly in quality and quantity of work, may not receive the same amount of compensation if they have differing living requirements, most notably their family size, or their number of dependents. Capitalist societies believe that equal work should result in equal pay, regardless of individual need. These are societies that tend to have heavier corporate influence of the economy, and governmental influence over laws.

For America, this used to mean more freedoms. Capitalism in America meant the further development of industry, more convenient lifestyles through corporate production, and of the ability for the ‘every man’ to achieve the American Dream. However, many people no longer believe that America functions well as a capitalist society. Just ask the Occupy Wall Street movement. In America, there is a real class divide, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, and this is exactly what Marx would argue necessitates the replacement of capitalism with socialism.

Interestingly, some believe that the American government is already responding to this, and has already instituted some socialist systems and legislation, though they would never call it by that name. This article (http://www.cnbc.com/id/49262543#.) discusses whether America has been steadily becoming more and more socialist (or a combination socialism and capitalism), or has been for quite some time now, and highlights some of the reasoning. It cites such programs as social security, Medicaid, Medicare, and general welfare programs, with many people arguing that some or all of these programs are cases of the working providing for the non-working, and thus are socialist in nature.

However, perhaps the best interpretation is whether or not America should be strictly one or the other, or can successfully blend the two systems, as some European countries do. Regardless, over the past few years, there has definitely been economic upheaval, civil unrest and government overhaul in America; and, these conflicts seem to be leading to a turning point – just what Marx predicted.

Yet, for most people, in my experience, Karl Marx is often intimately related to the philosophies of socialism and communism. However, what I have found interesting over the years is that, although he did heavily promote his social and political ideals through his extensive writings, he seems to have been more interested, academically, in capitalism. Rather, he was interested, determined even, in proving, why capitalism would eventually fail, even needed to fail, rather than why socialism and communism would succeed.

For Marx, capitalist societies – or similar societies with inherent class inequality – are inevitable, even necessary, for socialism and eventually communism to occur. Capitalism, as he defines it, is a system and class struggle, wherein most people do not have all of their needs met, while a few have a surplus, creating a fundamental class inequality. This struggle cannot last indefinitely, but will eventually culminate in a breaking point, whereby the displaced ‘lower’ classes, those with fewer of their needs satisfied, will take control of both society and government.

Introductions

Hello all!  My name is Anthony, and I have been fascinated with sociology for as long as I can remember.  Even before I knew there was an official field dedicated to the study of the seemingly ever-changing world around us, the structure and variety of society, I have been observing such things. Just as with any science, sociology starts with observation, ends with results (hopefully), and all the real fun is in between the two.

One of my favorite quotes, which I relate to sociology, is a bit of wisdom from Albert Einstein.  He said, “Everyone sits in the prison of their own ideas; he must burst it open, and that in his youth, and so try to test his ideas on reality.”

Though Einstein himself was not a sociologist, and may not have been referring to this particular field, I think that these words can be applied to anyone, and to any scientific study. In my experience, people only truly understand people, and society, by breaking out of their own habits and moving beyond the so-called ‘Id’. We are part of society, and we can only understand it by being immersed in it.

With that said, I hope to have a great semester, do some investigation, and learn from all your insights.

 

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