Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life, Ninth Edition

Authors: David M. Newman

Pub Date: November 2011

Pages: 616

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Chapter Resources

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Chapter 1. Taking a New Look at a Familiar World

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    28 Up

    Documentarians follow several British children from diverse backgrounds, beginning when their subjects are seven years of age. Every seven years they follow-up with the subjects to see how their lives have changed. In this installment, the subjects are in early adulthood.

    Discussion Questions:

    1. What factors—race/ethnicity, gender, class, region—seem the most critical in shaping the trajectories these lives have taken?
    2. Does knowing “where” these individuals came from—family environment, neighborhood, economic background—help you to understand the “choices” that they have made?
    3. Were you surprised by where any of the subjects ended up at age 28? Or, were their paths “predictable”? Explain your answers.


    Florida Teen Commits Suicide with Live Web Audience (AP)
    News report about a man who broadcast his suicide via webcam. He’d told others in the chatroom his intentions and then allowed them to watch him swallow an overdose of pills. No one tried to stop him.

    1. The young man was physically alone when he took the overdose, yet others were, in a sense, present. Use the sociological imagination to develop ideas about why no one intervened.
    2. How do the people interviewed explain the suicide? Do they reference personal or social factors?
    3. Durkheim cited “integration” as an important factor in suicide. How might the concept apply here?

    Country Boys
    This program tracks the dramatic stories of Chris and Cody from ages 15 to 18.  It bears witness to the two boys' struggles to overcome the poverty and family dysfunction of their childhood in a quest for a brighter future. This film also offers unexpected insights into a forgotten corner of rural America that is at once isolated and connected, a landscape dotted with roughshod trailer homes and wired with DSL. The program is a story of the American dream seen though the eyes of two boys about to become men and an intimate journey through that exhilarating twilight of adolescence when our lives are poised between who we were born and who we could become.

    The Old Man and the Storm
    After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast in the summer of 2005, the U.S. Congress appropriated an unprecedented $126.4 billion for relief, recovery and rebuilding efforts. While it seemed that sweat equity and billions of federal dollars would have been sufficient to bring back New Orleans, years later, much of the money committed to its residents had yet to reach them.  In The Old Man and the Storm, FRONTLINE correspondent and filmmaker June Cross journeys with the Gettridge family of New Orleans for 18 months as they endure devastation, political turmoil and a painstakingly slow bureaucratic process to rebuild their homes and their lives.

    1. Use the sociological imagination to explain the link between the individuals featured and society that is central to these programs. 
    2. Note and describe the social forces at work in the situation presented in each program.
    3. How were these people affected by the larger social forces?  How did they resist them?
  • Audio Links

    “Tuition policy behind Korean student suicides?”

    PRI’s  The World examines the pressure on Korean students to get “superior” grades. At KAIST, a number of students have committed suicide and many outside of the school point to the structure of the university—particularly its tuition fees—as at least partially responsible for the deaths. At KAIST, students with excellent grades have their tuition waived and this puts pressure on students to excel so as to avoid placing a financial burden on their families and bringing shame to the household.
    Discussion questions:

    1. Drawing on what you learned about Durkheim’s study of suicides, analyze what is taking place at KAIST.
    2. Use Durkheim’s classification system to identify the type of suicide observed at KAIST.
    3. How might the structure of KAIST be modified to reduce the risk of student suicide?


    This American Life 322: Shouting Across the Divide

    This program presents stories of the difficulties that arise in communications and relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims. The program includes the story of a family that came to America in the late 1990s.  After September 11, 2001, their otherwise happy life in this country became subject to a high degree of prejudice and discrimination.  It also includes the story of an advertising agency who works on a project to promote American values to the Muslim world for the State Department.

    1. What was the effect of September 11th on the family? How did their behavior change? How were those around them affected by the larger social forces?  How were they able to affect the larger social structure?
    2.  How were the employees at the ad agency expected to have an impact on the larger social context?  How well did it work?
    3. What differences do you find in looking at these stories sociologically as opposed to how you would have otherwise?
  • Web Resources

    Professional Resources

    The American Sociological Association (ASA), founded in 1905 and based in Washington D.C., is a nonprofit membership association dedicated to advancing sociology as a scientific discipline and profession serving the public good. With approximately 14,000 members, ASA encompasses sociologists who are faculty members at colleges and universities, in addition to researchers, practitioners, and students. About 20% of the members work in government, business, or nonprofit organizations [self-characterization].

    Sections are constituent parts of the American Sociological Association. The purpose of Sections is to promote the common interest of association members in specified areas of sociology. In addition to promoting networking among sociologists with common interests, they can also be a useful point of entry into a specific area of sociology for an “outsider”. Those sociologists who work outside of university settings or do “applied” work are often members of the American Sociological Association’s Section on Sociological Practice.

    The International Sociological Association (ISA) was founded in 1949 under the auspices of UNESCO. The association characterizes itself as representing sociologists everywhere, regardless of their school of thought, scientific approaches or ideological opinion, and to advance sociological knowledge throughout the world [self-characterization].

    The Society for Applied Sociology (SAS) was founded in 1985 and provides a forum for sociologists and others interested in applying sociological knowledge to social problems, policy, or organizational needs. The organization also houses the accreditation body for training programs in applied sociology.

    Much of the published work of sociologists appears in professional journals.  A full list of journals published by the American Sociological Association can be found at The two most prestigious sociology journals are the American Sociological Review and the American Journal of Sociology.

    The American Sociological Review is the flagship journal of the American Sociological Association. Founded in 1936, the Review’s mission is to publish original works of interest to the discipline in general, new theoretical developments, results of research that advance our understanding of fundamental social processes, and important methodological innovations [self-description].

    Established in 1895 as the first U.S. scholarly journal in its field, the American Journal of Sociology is a leading voice for analysis and research in the social sciences, presenting work on the theory, methods, practice, and history of sociology [self-description].

    Contexts is a journal published by the ASA that is intended for a broader audience, and it may be especially interesting to undergraduates. Selected articles may be accessed online.

    The Electronic Journal of Sociology was established in 1994 as an alternative to commercial publications. It is a peer-reviewed research journal, available for free via the Internet.

    The Journal of Sociology publishes theoretical and empirical work at the international cutting edge.  

    Careers in Sociology is an online resource with chapters on eighteen different possible careers in sociology.

    Data Resources

    The Statistical Abstract of the United States, published since 1878, is the authoritative and comprehensive summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States [self-characterization].

    Other Resources
    What can I do with a degree in sociology? According to Careers in Sociology, a publication of the American Sociological Association, this question can be answered in a multitude of ways. The booklet says it includes a fresh definition of sociology as a discipline and profession and profiles of students who talk about how sociology led to their current employment. It also outlines possible career paths and offers tips for how to apply to graduate school.

    AcademicInfo is an online education resource center with extensive subject guides and distance learning information with a mission to provide free, independent and accurate information and resources for prospective and current students (and other researchers).

Chapter 2. Seeing and Thinking Sociologically

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  • Video Links

    Jessica Simpson- The Price of Beauty Excerpt from Paris (Episode 102)
    Jessica Simpson interviews former model Isabelle Caro (now deceased) about her anorexia, the reactions to her thinness in the fashion industry, and her controversial anti-anorexia campaign.
    Discussion Questions:

    1. Caro says that the people at modeling agencies were not alarmed by her weight as they were accustomed to seeing very thin bodies. Do you think that fashion industry standards encourage disordered eating in models? Do you believe that the thinness of models encourages disordered eating in women? Do you believe those in the fashion industry have an obligation to attempt to prevent disordered eating?
    2. What was your reaction to the billboards showing Isabelle Caro’s nude body?
    3. Can we consider anorexia as just an individual problem? Why or why not?
    4. If we come to understand anorexia in sociological—rather than wholly individualistic—terms, how might this require us to change our approach to addressing disordered eating?

    Revealed…Manorexia (From Switch)
    A look at the phenomenon of “manorexia,”—male self-starvation. A young rugby player who is recovering from anorexia discusses the pressure on males, particularly within the context of sport, to have lean, muscular bodies.
    Discussion Questions:

    1. The activities—self-starvation and/or excessive exercise—are largely the same for both males and females. But are the social influences that shape disordered eating different for males and females?
    2. How are the cultural expectations for male bodies and female bodies different?


    The Storm
    This report examines the chain of decisions that slowed federal response to the calamity of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, government's failure to protect thousands of Americans from a natural disaster that long had been predicted, and the state of America's disaster-response system four years after 9/11.

    Rules of Engagement
    In December 2006, the Marine Corps filed charges against eight Marines, resulting in one of the most significant criminal cases against U.S. troops during the Iraq war. The charges ranged from unpremeditated murder against four enlisted men involved in the shootings to dereliction of duty against four officers for failing to investigate the killings. In extensive pretrial hearings, the Marines maintained that they were following proper rules of engagement (ROE) and that they had done nothing wrong either during the incident or afterward. In a military courtroom, Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum recalled that his squad leader had instructed him and other Marines to treat the first house they entered as hostile, and that he heard someone racking an AK-47 gun before tossing in a grenade. "I didn't know there was women and children in that house," Tatum, who is awaiting court-martial, said. "Otherwise, I would have physically stopped everybody from going back there to shoot anybody."

    1. What elements of the larger social structure can be observed in these programs? Think in terms of statuses, roles, groups, organizations and social institutions.  Can you find examples of role conflict?
    2. How did following established institutional protocol hinder a successful outcome in each program? 
    3. Explain the problem from each of the three major sociological perspectives.
  • Audio Links

    Radiolab: Season 4 Episode 1: Laughter

    This program explores laughter as a biological and sociological phenomenon. Scientists discuss laughter as a means of communicating important social information and observe that we are unlikely to laugh when alone. Also examined is laughter as something that is “contagious.”

    1. We often think of laughter as spontaneous, something that we simply do because we find a joke or event humorous. Is this actually the case?
    2. What important social information is being communicated when we laugh? What functions does laughter serve in interaction?
    3. Have you ever acted as if you found something amusing and, in order to communicate this to another person, made yourself “laugh”? Describe the circumstances. (Who were you with? What was the thing you pretended to find humorous?)  We often engage in this kind of acting. Why? What does it accomplish?


    This American Life 318: With Great Power

    This episode is focused on stories of power and responsibility. The first act is a story of a woman who possessed information that could free an innocent man from prison.  The second act is the story of a mother and daughter in a family who wished for years they could do something to stop their neighbor from all kinds of shocking behavior. Suddenly they get the power to decisively change things forever and then they have to decide whether they will.

    1. How was the behavior of the women in these stories influenced by the people around them?
    2. How did statuses and roles factor into these situations?
    3. Can you explain the stories in terms of one or more of the major sociological perspectives presented in the chapter?  Be specific and provide details.


    This American Life 378: This I used to believe

    This program is a compilation of stories about people forced to let go of their firmly held beliefs. For example, when the daughter of a pro-choice activist concludes that abortion is murder, her mother goes to extraordinary lengths to persuade her daughter to switch sides. An additional example shows us that after a woman loses her faith, a football coach—whom she's never met—tries to restore it.

    1. How does society play a role in each of the stories presented?
    2. Identify the social statues of the people involved in each of the stories and furthermore how might these statues have influenced each member?
    3. Identify how one social institution mentioned in the episode played a part in how the story played out.
  • Web Resources

    The American Sociological Association (ASA) has a number of sections organized that bring together sociologists who have interests in theoretical issues, including:

    Theory Section:

    Section on Marxist Sociology:

    Sociologists who work from the symbolic interactionist perspective have long had their own professional association, the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction (SSSI).

    Theoretical work in sociology is advanced, in part, through the publication of an official journal of the ASA, Sociological Theory. The journal publishes work in all areas of social thought, including new substantive theories, history of theory, metatheory, formal theory construction, and syntheses of existing bodies of theory.

    Anthropology is a social science related to Sociology and is defined as the study of humankind, from its beginnings millions of years ago to the present day.  The American Anthropology Association (AAA) has two purposes including to advance anthropology as a science that studies humankind in all its aspects, through archeological, biological, ethnological, and linguistic research and to further the professional interests of American anthropologists, including the dissemination of anthropological knowledge and its use to solve human problems.

    Other Resources

    The Stanford Prison Experiment Web site features an extensive slide show and information about this classic psychology experiment. What happens when you put good people in an evil place? Does humanity win over evil, or does evil triumph? These are some of the questions the researchers posed in a dramatic simulation of prison life conducted in the summer of 1971 at Stanford University [self-characterization].

    Dr. Thomas Blass, Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychology at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, maintains a website dedicated to providing accurate information about the life and work of one of the most outstanding social scientists of our time, Stanley Milgram [self-characterization].

    There is no shortage of sites on the World Wide Web that provide more general information about the sociological enterprise. The following are meta-sites that attempt to organize sociology on the Web:

    “Julian Dierkes’ SocioLog”

    Open Directory Project: Sociology. The Open Directory Project is the largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory of the Web, constructed and maintained by a vast, global army of volunteer editors [self-characterization].

    The SocioSite was designed to provide access to information and resources which are relevant for sociologists and other social scientists. It was designed from a global point of view, as it offers access to the worldwide scene of social sciences. The intention is to provide a comprehensive listing of all sociology resources on the Internet. The SocioSite is a project based at the faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Amsterdam [self-characterization].

    WWW Virtual Library: Sociology

    Great Social Theorists, by Frank W. Elwell.In an attempt to promote greater understanding of classical macro-social theory, particularly its implications for social criticism and prediction, I have created an Internet Web Site on eight classical social theorists. I have included bibliographies, PowerPoint lectures, links to primary sources, and other worthwhile Internet materials. I developed these web sites as aides for myself and my students to further our studies of these theorists. They were developed because they offer incisive commentary on the contemporary world order and seeming chaos [self-characterization].

  • Sociologists at Work
  • Macro-Micro Connections

Chapter 3. Building Reality: The Social Construction of Knowledge

  • Flashcards
  • Web Quizzes
  • Video Links

    Confederate Flag Causes Controversy
    The Confederate Flag was raised over a Texas courthouse and residents were divided as to whether or not this was appropriate as they did not share the same definition of the symbol. In this clip, a black Vietnam veteran and a white Civil War re-enactor offer different meanings of the flag.
    Discussion Questions:

    1. Though the people being interviewed were looking at the same physical object, they had very different understandings of what it “is” and what it “means.” (The Vietname veteran said, “I don’t think of the flag that way.”) How can we account for this?
    2. One man who was in favor of raising the flag explained why others objected. He said that opposition is the result of a “lack of education” and that when teaching about the flag, schools offer a “biased point of view.” How would a sociologist explain his ideas?
    3. Is there a single “correct” meaning for the Confederate flag? Explain your answer.

    Millions Irrationally Feared Dead In Minor Train Accident
    Satirical look at how television news programs treat tragedies. In this fake news segment, the topic is a train derailment. The hosts speak with a disaster “expert,” use pie charts, and take calls from people who fear for the safety of their loved ones.
    Discussion Questions:

    1. What is this “fake news” segment drawing attention to?
    2. What elements of “real” news casts are they borrowing in order to make the point?
    3. Television news programs often use maps, graphs, pie charts, and interviews with “experts” in their coverage of stories. How do these lend credibility to the story? 

    News War
    This program examines the political, cultural, legal, and economic forces challenging the news media today and how the press has reacted in turn. Through interviews with key figures in print, broadcast and electronic media over the past four decades -- and with unequaled, behind-the-scenes access to some of today's most important news organizations, the program traces the recent history of American journalism, from the Nixon administration's attacks on the media to the post-Watergate popularity of the press, to the new challenges presented by the war on terror and other global forces now changing -- and challenging -- the role of the press in our society.

    The Persuaders
    Each year, legions of ad people, copywriters, market researchers, pollsters, consultants, and even linguists—most of whom work for one of six giant companies—spend billions of dollars and millions of man-hours trying to determine how to persuade consumers what to buy, whom to trust, and what to think. Increasingly, these techniques are migrating to the high-stakes arena of politics, shaping policy and influencing how Americans choose their leaders.  This program explores how the cultures of marketing and advertising have come to influence not only what Americans buy, but also how they view themselves and the world around them.

    1. Use these programs as a case study to explain how reality is socially constructed.
    2. Do any of the actors in these situations fit the profile of moral entrepreneurs?
    3. Can you find any examples of a self-fulfilling prophecy in these episodes?
  • Audio Links

    'Funemployment' And More Slang For A Recession

    A review of slang that has emerged during and as result of the recession.

    1. Had you heard any of these words or expressions before? If so, which ones?
    2. Prior to the economic collapse, people had spent their vacations at home for financial reasons, people had gotten excited about receiving tax credits…Yet, clever expressions were not in common circulation. Why did words for these emerge with the economic downturn?


    Regional Food Names: When Is a Milkshake Not a Milkshake? Minicast

    Fun discussion of how names for foods vary by region and also the different types of foods available in different areas.

    1. Had you heard of these dishes before? If so, which ones?
    2. If the same dish is served in two areas, why would it go by different names?
    3. Are there dishes that are popular where you come from, or within your family, that people others probably have not heard of? If so, give an example.


    This American Life 328: What I Learned from Television

    This program addresses the role of television in the lives of everyday people.  It includes stories of how we watch television and what the images do to our understandings of the world around us.  From a general sense of who we are and how we relate to others to such divergent topics as Thanksgiving and sexuality, the program explores the function of television in defining the world around us.

    1. Based upon the story about the woman’s conception of Thanksgiving and the man’s sense of his own sexuality, explain the role that television can play in the social construction of reality.
    2. Can you find comparable examples from your own life that fit into the stories from the program?  If so, what are they and how do they relate?
    3. How do language and culture fit into these stories?

    This American Life 88: Numbers

    Numbers lie. Numbers cover over complicated feelings and ambiguous situations.  This program is about quantifying data that is hard to quantify.  Several people presented in this episode, including Andrea, Alex, Jerry and Will, attempt to quantify things such as love and productivity in private and family relationships. 

    1. This chapter in your course textbook addresses qualitative versus quantitative sociological research.  How does this episode compare to what is presented in the textbook?
    2. Are there any sociological benefits to quantifying personal relationships?
    3. What specific research methods were used to collect the data presented in the show?
  • Web Resources

    Professional Resources

    The American Sociological Association’s (ASA’s) Code of Ethics sets forth the principles and ethical standards that underlie sociologists’ professional responsibilities and conduct. These principles and standards should be used as guidelines when examining everyday professional activities. They constitute normative statements for sociologists and provide guidance on issues that sociologists may encounter in their professional work [self-characterization].

    One of the distinguishing characteristics of sociology as a discipline is the rigorous and self-conscious application and development of empirical methods of data collection and analysis. Several ASA Sections are dedicated to advancing the discipline’s methods, including the Section on Comparative and Historical Sociology (; the Section on Mathematical Sociology
    and the Methodology Section (

    Sociologists also apply sociological theories and methods to the study of science and knowledge themselves as a social process. These sociologists are organized in the ASA Section on Science, Knowledge, and Technology.

    One way to use a degree in sociology and do research is to become a program evaluator. Program evaluation is a form of applied social science research. The American Evaluation Association is the professional home for evaluators in the United States. The web site has career information, professional guiding principles and other resources.

    Data Resources

    The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) is a repository for many of the most important data sets used by sociologists in their research. The ICPSR Web site has a search utility that can help you locate a data set that meets your needs.

    Perhaps the single most used source of data for sociological analysis is the General Social Survey (GSS), an annual survey of a representative sample of Americans conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago.
    An example of a data archive on a particular topic is the American Religion Data Archive, a repository for data collections on American religion. The site allows users to search for topics of interest, download data files for analysis, and conduct basic statistical analyses on the site itself.

    Social Explorer provides easy access to demographic information about the United States, from 1790 to present [self-characterization].

    Other Resources

    SocioSite, previously introduced in Chapter 2, provides a brief yet compelling claim of the validity and social importance of the theory of Social Construction of Reality written by Peter Berger and Thomas Luckman.

    Accuracy In Media is a nonprofit, grassroots citizens watchdog of the news media that critiques botched and bungled news stories and sets the record straight on important issues that have received slanted coverage [self-characterization]. It is typically characterized as politically “conservative.”

    Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986. The group works to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints [self-characterization].

    The Primary Objective of Project Censored is to explore and publicize the extent of censorship in our society by locating stories about significant issues of which the public should be aware but is not, for one reason or another [self-characterization].

    The Knowledge Base was designed to be different from the many typical commercially-available research methods texts.  It uses an informal, conversational style to engage both the newcomer and the more experienced student of research.  It is a fully hyperlinked text that can be integrated easily into an existing course structure or used as a sourcebook for the experienced researcher who simply wants to browse [self-characterization].  This site is particularly useful for helping students learn the language of social research.

  • Sociologists at Work
  • Macro-Micro Connections

Chapter 4. Building Order: Culture and History

  • Web Quizzes
  • Video Links

    The American ‘Ethnic’ Food Section
     An American visits a grocery store in Berlin and explores the “ethnic” foods aisle and its selection of American foods—macaroni and cheese, blueberry muffin mix, barbecue sauce, and so on.
    Discussion Questions:

    1. Do you think of macaroni and cheese, barbecue sauce and the other products shown in the video as being “ethnic” foods? Why or why not?
    2. Why would a grocer in Berlin stock these things?
    3. How is food a part of a society or group’s “personality”? What do these foods in particular say about U.S. culture?

    Andrew Eats Maggot Cheese
    Excerpt from the Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods.” Featured in the segment: cheese that contains maggots (a regional delicacy in Sardinia) and the slaughter of an animal.
    Discussion Questions:

    1. Does this show seem to reflect a relativist or ethnocentric view? Explain your answer.
    2.  Why do you think that the host looked apologetic when he said that he liked the cheese and when he said that he “likes liver”?

    Wife’s Wish: Bury Me in the Front Yard
    Discussion Questions:

    1. What burial norms are being violated?
    2. Several reasons for burying a body in a cemetery are mentioned. What are these? Do they sound “reasonable”?  Explain your answer.
    3. Would all cultures object to a family member being buried at his or her home?

    The Mormons
    This program explores both the history and the current reality of the Mormon faith. The producers gained unusual access to Mormon archives and church leaders as well as dissident exiles, historians and scholars both within and outside the faith. The director explained that, "Through this film, I hope to take the viewer inside one of the most compelling and misunderstood religions of our time."

    From Jesus to Christ – The First Christians
    This four hour program draws upon historical evidence to challenge familiar assumptions and conventional notions about Christian origins.  Archaeological finds have yielded new understandings of Jesus' class and social status; fresh interpretations have transformed earlier ideas about the identity of the early Christians and their communities.

    1. Explain the Mormons and the first Christians as a religious subculture. 


    1. What are their institutional norms? 
    1. How do they impose sanctions?
  • Audio Links

    No Secular Music for Funerals, says Australian Catholic Church

    The Catholic Church in southern Australia has banned the playing of romantic ballads, pop and heavy metal music, and football anthems at funerals. The church wants the music at funerals to be sacred “rather than a secular expression of the individual’s life.”

    1. In what way is the church seeking to conserve the norms surrounding funerals?
    2. What is the Catholic church’s concern?
    3. How does this reflect changes in Western culture?

    Muslim Holiday Eid Keeps Texas Butcher Busy

    Brief description of Eid (Muslim holiday). Interview with a butcher in a small Texas town who provides halal (acceptable to those who follow Islamic dietary law) meats for grocers who serve the North Texas Muslim community.

    1. Why the disclaimer at the beginning of the piece that some listeners might find elements of the segment offensive?
    2. What makes a meat halal?
    3. Changes in the ethnic and religious composition of the U.S. shape both the material and nonmaterial culture of the U.S. as a whole. What were some of the changes identified in this piece? 

    Inside Access: Photographer Captures the Taboo

    Interview with a photographer who captures sub- and counterculture groups on the margins. He discusses his techniques for gaining entry to these often secretive groups and how he gains the trust of members. He mentions that it is often difficult to determine which events are staged and which are real. Very similar to what field researchers confront when studying groups that do not welcome outsiders.

    1. Is Karen doing a type of visual sociology? Explain your answer.
    2. What are the difficulties we—whether professional sociologists or individuals in other vocations who are studying social phenomena—face when studying highly secretive groups?
    3. Why would some groups not welcome outsiders? How can this pose a challenge for sociological research?

    337: Man vs. History

    This program presents stories about people taking history into their own hands. In the first act, a man with no practical experience hatches a plan to curb the violence in Iraq. He thought he could get the Sunni resistance to sit down with Coalition forces to negotiate a cease-fire. So he hooked up with a member of the Iraqi parliament and headed to Baghdad and Amman, where, remarkably, doors opened to him.

    1. Do the activities of the man in the first act conform to or violate cultural norms?  If so, how?
    2. What role does cultural variation play in these stories?
    3. Identify the cultural forces that are providing stability in these stories?

    380: No Map

    Norms are defined as culturally expected rules of conduct.  Norms may be ambiguous or contradictory.  This episode reveals stories of people who find themselves in situations far from the beaten path, where there are no guidelines and no useful precedents. 

    1. What do the three parts of this episode tell us about norms in society?
    2. How do the people in these stories react when faced with a situation that seems to be normless?  Why do you believe they act in the manner they do?
    3. A sanction is a direct social response to some behavior.  What sanction(s) are demonstrated in each of the stories?
  • Web Resources

    Professional Resources

    The American Sociological Association Section on the Sociology of Culture exists to encourage development of this perspective through the organized interchange of ideas and research. The Section on Culture considers material products, ideas, and symbolic means and their relation to social behavior [self-characterization].

    Data Resources

    There are a number of major surveys and survey organizations that regularly collect data on individual’s knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, and practices. Among the better known of these are:

    The General Social Survey (GSS): The GSS is a regular, ongoing omnibus personal interview survey of U.S. households conducted by the National Opinion Research Center. . . . The first survey took place in 1972, and since then more than 40,000 respondents have answered more than 3,500 different questions. From Americans’ racial attitudes to the number of guns owned by women to musical preferences over a lifetime, the General Social Survey measures the trends in American attitudes, experiences, practices, and concerns [self-characterization].
    Gallup Polls: The Gallup Organization is one of the world’s largest management consulting firms. Gallup’s core expertise is in measuring and understanding human attitudes and behavior. . . . Gallup . . . conducts The Gallup Poll, the world’s leading source of public opinion since 1935 [self-characterization].

    Roper Polls: Founded in 1947, the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research is the leading educational facility in the field of public opinion. The center exists to promote the intelligent, responsible, and imaginative use of public opinion in addressing the problems faced by Americans and citizens of other nations [self-characterization].

    The Pew Global Attitudes Project is a series of worldwide public opinion surveys that encompasses a broad array of subjects ranging from people's assessments of their own lives to their views about the current state of the world and important issues of the day. More than 200,000 interviews in 57 countries have been conducted as part of the project's work [self-characterization].

    Other Resources

    The field of biology presents a very different explanation to the development of humans than sociology.  Over the years, a specialized area of sociology, called Sociobiology, has developed to attempt to bridge the gap between the nature (i.e., biology) versus nurture (i.e., sociology/culture) controversy.  The Evolutionary Theories in Social Sciences website serves as the premier information site for scholars interested in evolutionary thought in the social sciences [self-characterization].  

    Is a cross-culturally universal language possible? Supporters of Esperanto believe so. According to the Esperanto League for North America (ELNA), a nonprofit organization of Esperantists and supporters of Esperanto in the United States, “Esperanto is a language introduced in 1887 by Dr. L.L. Zamenhof after years of development. He proposed Esperanto as a second language that would allow people who speak different native languages to communicate, yet at the same time retain their own languages and cultural identities. Esperanto is four times easier to learn than other languages.”

    Stimulate cross-cultural study and understanding through Horace Miner’s classic 1956 analysis, “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema.”

    A great way to consider how people understand their own culture is to look at how museums represent cultural artifacts and history. The Smithsonian Institution is called "America's Attic" because it houses a little bit of almost everything from American history and culture. At this site, you can browse or search through selected images from the Collections of the Office of Imaging and Photographic Services. Included are images from current exhibits, Smithsonian events and historic collections.
  • Macro-Micro Connections

Chapter 5. Building Identity: Socialization

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    ‘Tiger Cub’ Discusses Book Uproar with ‘Tiger Mom’
    JuJu Chang and Amy Chua discuss Chua’s book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Response to Chua’s book has been divided with many praising her “Chinese” parenting and others charging that this form of mothering is actually abusive. Chua says that both her book and her approach to childrearing have been misunderstood.
    Discussion Questions:

    1. Chua says that there are critical differences between Chinese and Western parenting styles. What are these? How do these differences affect children?
    2. What reason does Chua give for “pushing” her children to excel?
    3. What roles do culture and ethnicity play in the controversy surrounding Chua’s book?
    4. Do we tend to think that there is a single “right” way of parenting children?
    5. Near the end of the clip, Chang mentions an op-ed piece written by David Brooks of the New York Times. What criticism did Brooks level at Chua? How does this criticism reflect a difference in belief about the relative influences of family and peer groups as agents of socialization?

    Training With Special Forces
     Nightline follows Green Berets on a training mission.

    1. The men are all dressed alike. From the back, it is difficult to tell one man from another—they are virtually indistinguishable as individuals. What is the purpose of this?
    2. Early in the segment Koppel notes that the men are trained to be “self-sufficient.” But, following an incident, one trainee remarks that he was “surprised” that one man’s injury could take “one quarter of the team out of action.”  Discuss how looking after oneself—including avoiding injury—is something one does not only for oneself, but for “the group.”
    3. What is the point of having the trainees enact potential scenarios and interactions? What terms would a sociologist use to describe these activities?
    4. What is the difference between training a “warrior” and training a soldier?
    5. Captain Chang made a bad decision and this cost him not only a mission, but a promotion. How did gender factor into the bad decision?
    6. The master sergeant says he is looking for men who are “independent” and have the ability to “think outside of the box.” How might the training the men receive conflict with these ideals?

    The Soldier’s Heart
    This program explores the psychological cost of war and investigates whether the military is doing enough to help the many combat veterans coming home with emotional problems. With unprecedented access to active duty service members at Camp Pendleton, a Marine base in San Diego, and through interviews with mental health experts both in and out of the military and members of a Camp Pendleton support group, the program uncovers one of the underreported stories from the war in Iraq.                                                                                          

    1. In this program, the soldier’s problems are explained psychologically.  Can you explain them sociologically?
    1. How has the experience of war affected their selves and identities?  Do the soldiers give you any insights into the construction of a looking glass self?  If so what are they?
    1. How do you think their military socialization plays into the situation?  What are the consequences of being in, and out of, a total institution (i.e., boot camp and the military in general) for the soldiers?

    Inside the Teenage Brain
    This program chronicles how scientists are exploring the recesses of the brain and finding some new explanations for why adolescents behave the way they do. These discoveries could change the way we parent, teach, or perhaps even understand our teenagers.  There is a consensus among experts that the most beneficial thing for teenagers is good relationships with their parents. Even Dr. Giedd wonders about the kinds of lessons parents can draw from his science. "The more technical and more advanced the science becomes, often the more it leads us back to some very basic tenets. ... With all the science and with all the advances, the best advice we can give is things that our grandmother could have told us generations ago: to spend loving, quality time with our children."

    1. In this program, children’s behavior is primarily explained from a neuroscience perspective.  How might it be explained from a sociological perspective?
    1. How does social class or race and ethnicity play a role in the socialization process of an adolescent?
    1. Provide one example of gender socialization as seen in the program. 
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    Biracial Children Learn to Self-identify

    Authors Orenstein, Fulbeck, and Durrow talk with Michel Martin of Tell Me More about what it means to be biracial.

    1. Fulbeck observes—and the other panelists agree—that people are always trying to “box us in” by assigning us to particular racial and ethnic categories. But, they say that we are free to decide and no one gets to tell us who we are. Is this true? Are we free to decide for ourselves?
    2. Orenstein says she once thought that it was her responsibility to teach her daughter about gender and it was her husband’s responsibility to teach their child about race and ethnicity. What was her reason for this? Why did she change her mind?
    3. Orenstein says that people often asked about her daughters racial heritage and origins. When asked “Where did she come from?” Orenstein would reply “She came from my uterus.” Does this response address the question being asked? Why or why not? Why do you think people were curious?

    Saving Our Daughters from an Army of Princesses
    Author Peggy Orenstein discusses her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter, a book about raising her daughter, Daisy. Orenstein has written a number of books and articles about how our gendered socialization practices shortchange girls and women.

    1. Orenstein refers to fears about not being able to raise the ideal daughter. What does she mean by this?
    2. What did Orenstein learn about the emergence of the “princess” culture?

    This American Life 109: Notes on Camp

    This program presents stories of summer camp. Camp kids explain how their non-camp friends and their non-camp loved ones have no idea why camp is the most important thing in their lives. 

    1. Does summer camp seem like an important moment in the socialization of the kids who attend? Why or why not? If so, how?
    2. How does camp affect the selves and identities of the young people in the stories?
    3. What is the role of gender in the socialization experiences at camp?

    This American Life 137: The Book that Changed Your Life

    Socialization is defined as the process through which one learns how to act according to the rules and expectations of a particular culture.  Various people, social institutions, and material culture, such as books, influence the socialization process for each individual.  This program is based on the stories of people who believe a book changed their life. It's a romantic notion, and one reason we believe it is because we want to believe our lives can be changed by something so simple as an idea — or a set of ideas contained in a book.

    1. How are the people presented in this episode changed by what they read? 
    2. How can illiteracy stifle the socialization process for those that live in developing countries? 
    3. How does social class play a part, if any, in the socialization process in each story?
  • Web Resources

    Professional Resources

    The study of socialization is often engaged in by social psychologists, such as those belonging to the American Sociological Association (ASA) Section on Social Psychology.

    Although they are interested in the health and well-being of children generally, some member of the ASA Section on the Sociology of Children and Youth also study the process of socialization.

    The Society for Personality and Social Psychology, with over 3,000 members, is the largest organization of social and personality psychologists in the world [self-description].

    These scholars often publish their research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

    Data Resources

    The General Social Survey (GSS): The GSS is a regular, ongoing omnibus personal interview survey of U.S. households conducted by the National Opinion Research Center. The first survey took place in 1972, and since then more than 40,000 respondents have answered more than 3,500 different questions. From Americans’ racial attitudes to the number of guns owned by women to musical preferences over a lifetime, the General Social Survey measures the trends in American attitudes, experiences, practices, and concerns [self-characterization].

    Other Resources

    The Social Psychology Network is the largest social psychology database on the Internet [self-description].

    Michael Kearl’s Sociological Tour Through Cyberspace: Social Psychology

    The question of the relative importance of “nature” and “nurture” in individual development is an enduring one. The effort sponsored by the United States government to map the entire human genome sequence in the Human Genome Project raises both scientific and ethical issues about human personhood.

    The Child Development Institute was founded by Robert Myers, Ph.D. Dr. Myers is a Clinical Child Psychologist with 25 years of experience working with children, adolescents, families and parents.

    How many sexes are there and why? The reality of anatomical hermaphrodites or “intersex” persons force us to confront this question.

    Much stereotypical gender role socialization takes place through the medium of popular culture. Consider how boys and girls are differentially socialized at the following Web sites:

    The toymaker Mattel:

    The clothing company Baby Gap

    Walt Disney movies and videos: and

    It is well known that people don't always 'speak their minds', and it is suspected that people don't always 'know their minds'. Understanding such divergences is important to scientific psychology. This web site presents a method that demonstrates the conscious-unconscious divergences much more convincingly than has been possible with previous methods. This new method is called the Implicit Association Test, or IAT for short.

  • Sociologists at Work
  • Macro-Micro Connections

Chapter 6. Supporting Identity: The Presentation of Self

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    Extra: Gustavo Dudamel's Most Embarrassing Moment
    LA Philharmonic director Gustavo Dudamel recounts about the time that his suit jacket tore while he was conducting a very quiet piece of music.

    1. Though the director did nothing “wrong”—he did not deliberately split the fabric—he still felt embarrassed. How would a sociologist explain this reaction?
    2. Why is this story funny in retrospect?

    What Not to Wear: Frumpy to Feminine
     A woman who is involved in roller derby is given a makeover. Her usual way of dressing is deemed unfeminine--“plumber chic,” something “a Viking” would wear. Discussion Questions:

    1. What is the primary criticism of Chelsea’s clothing?
    2. In talking about the importance of job interview attire, the host says, “Before you can sell a product, you gotta sell you.” What does he mean by this? Is it true?
    3. At the end of the clip, after Chelsea has been “transformed,” the host remarks: “It’s hard to believe that you’re the same woman.” Chelsea points out that she is in fact the same woman.  What does she mean?
    4. Consider how Chelsea looked before and after the makeover. Which do you think is the “real” or at least more “authentic” Chelsea?

    A Hidden Life
    In May 2005, readers of Spokane's Spokesman-Review awoke to a startling story: Spokane's Republican mayor Jim West had been leading a double life. In public, he was a conservative politician who had co-sponsored legislation forbidding gays from teaching in public schools. But in private, the paper reported, West spent hours trolling for young men on the Internet, sometimes using the trappings of his office as bait to lure them into more intimate relationships. The story briefly made national headlines and ultimately destroyed West's political career.  This program looks beyond the headlines to find a story that is much less clear than it initially seemed. Featuring access to all sides of the story and close readings of the mayor's Internet chats and other documents, the program examines a man's struggle with his sexual identity, a newspaper's controversial online sting, and the growing tension between a politician's private life and the public's right to know in an age of online communications.

    Growing up Online
    This program takes viewers inside the very public private worlds that kids are creating online, raising important questions about how the Internet is transforming childhood.  This show features Jessica Hunter, a shy and awkward girl who struggled to make friends at school. At age 14, she reinvented herself online as Autumn Edows, a goth artist and model. She posted provocative photos of herself on the Web and fast developed a cult following.  "I just became this whole different person," Autumn tells FRONTLINE. "I didn't feel like myself, but I liked the fact that I didn't feel like myself. I felt like someone completely different. I felt like I was famous." 

    1. Explain the stories of Jim West and Jessica Hunter dramaturgically in terms of the dynamic between front stage and back stage?
    1. What techniques of impression management were employed in these cases?  Were there performance teams? If so, what were they and who comprised them? Can you find examples of accounts, aligning actions or cooling out in the programs?
    1. Use these programs as case studies to explain the link between social problems and private troubles.
  • Audio Links

    Why We Revel In Others' 'Humiliation'

    Interview with Wayne Koestenbaum about his book Humiliation and sociologist C.J. Pascoe, who has researched humiliation rituals among teenage boys. 

    1. How is humiliation related to impression management?
    2. Why was Koestebaum ashamed of his brother?
    3. According to Pascoe, what are some of the ways humiliation has changed in recent years as result of technological innovations?
    4. One caller spoke about the humiliation of being a registered sex offender. How would Erving Goffman explain why this humiliation differs from those described by other callers?

    This American Life 121: Twentieth Century Man

    One thing that makes our country different from most others is this idea that you can recreate yourself as someone you'd prefer to be: sell everything off, head out West, start a new life. But what happens if you're too good at it? Over the course of his life, Keith Aldrich was a child of the Depression in Oklahoma; a preacher-in-training in booming California; an aspiring Hollywood actor; in the 1950s, a self-styled Beat writer, and then a man in a gray flannel suit; in the 1960s, a member of the New York literati, and then a hippie; in the 1970s, a denizen of the suburbs with a partying life; and a born-again Christian when the Moral Majority helped put Ronald Reagan in office. The program is devoted to the story of Keith's life, as told by one of his nine children, Gillian Aldrich. Keith's life is not only a history of most of the major cultural shifts in the second half of the Twentieth Century. It's also a case study of the question, "What happens if you're too good at transforming yourself?"

    1.  Detail the various presentations of self that Keith negotiates through his life.
    2.  Explain Keith’s life in dramaturgical terms.  Describe his attempts at impression management in front and backstage regions.
    3.  Can you find examples of stigma and stigma management in this program?

    This American Life 75: Kindness of Strangers

    A significant portion of social life is influenced by the images we form of others and the images others form of us.  This program presents stories of the kindness or unkindness of strangers, and where it leads.  All of the stories take place in the city most people think of as the least kind city in America: New York.

    1. What do these stories tell us about how we form impressions of others?
    2. Does Brett use any props to influence the decision the stranger will make about him? 
    3. How did image making play a part in the segments presented in this episode?   
  • Web Resources

    Professional Resources

    Although it is not their exclusive interest, members of the American Sociological Association (ASA) Section on the Sociology of Emotions often study self-presentation issues.

    Symbolic interactionists are disproportionately likely to study self-presentation and impression management. See Symbolic Interaction, the official journal of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction (SSSI):

    Other Resources

    Dr. Peter Ubel and his colleagues sent observers to five Pennsylvania hospitals to determine the frequency and nature of inappropriate talk about patients among hospital personnel while behind their back (i.e., “back stage”).  Learn more about Dr. Ubel and this research at

    Much commercial advertising (print and broadcast) is aimed at selling “images” as much as selling “products.” Consumption of the product being advertised ties the consumer to a particular image being sold. Advertising Age is a trade magazine for those working in the advertising industry and is considered a preeminent source of marketing, advertising and media news, information and analysis.

    One major way in which people manage other’s impressions is through body modification, notably but not exclusively cosmetic (“plastic”) surgery. The following groups promote this practice.

    The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), founded in 1967, is the leading professional organization of plastic surgeons certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery who specialize in cosmetic plastic surgery [self-characterization].

    Statistics on trends in plastic surgery—by type, by gender—are available from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ National Clearinghouse of Plastic Surgery Statistics at the ASPS Web site.

    Not all body altering rituals and practices take place under the “official” rubric of plastic surgery. Piercing (other than ears) and tattooing are becoming increasingly popular among “mainstream” Americans. See Body Modification Ezine:

    Body modification and what it means is personal and cultural. What does it mean to you? People around the world have been piercing, tattooing, and painting their bodies for ages. There’s excellent evidence of this, some of it dating as far back as the 9th-century B.C., in the galleries of the University of Pennsylvania Museum [self-description].

    What about those whose body size does not meet cultural standards? Two organizations exist that advocate on behalf of these individuals.

    The mission of the International Size Acceptance Association (ISAA) is to promote size acceptance and fight size discrimination throughout the world by means of advocacy and visible, lawful actions [self-characterization].

    The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance is a nonprofit human rights organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for fat people. NAAFA has been working since 1969 to eliminate discrimination based on body size and provide fat people with the tools for self-empowerment through public education, advocacy, and member support [self-characterization].

    The “Understanding and Challenging HIV Stigma: Toolkit for Action” toolkit was designed for NGOs, community groups and HIV educators to raise awareness and promote actions to challenge HIV stigma and discrimination. Based on research in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia, the toolkit contains more than 125 exercises [self-characterization].

    The National Communication Association advances communication as the discipline that studies all forms, modes, media and consequences of communication through humanistic, social scientific and aesthetic inquiry. The NCA serves the scholars, teachers, and practitioners who are its members by enabling and supporting their professional interests in research and teaching. Dedicated to fostering and promoting free and ethical communication, the NCA promotes the widespread appreciation of the importance of communication in public and private life, the application of competent communication to improve the quality of human life and relationships, and the use of knowledge about communication to solve human problems. NCA is the largest national organization to promote communication scholarship and education. A non-profit organization, NCA has over 8,000 educators, practitioners, and students who work and reside in every state and more than 20 countries.

  • Sociologists at Work
  • Macro-Micro Connections

Chapter 7. Building Social Relationships: Intimacy and Families

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    Duggar’s Family Album (1 of 5)
    The Duggar family, subject of a TLC reality show, has fifteen children (in this season). In this clip, viewers are introduced to each of the children and given some family background. 
    Discussion questions:

    1. Why do you believe this family has caught the nation’s attention and is the subject of a reality show?
    2. How do the Duggars  violate cultural expectations for what families “should” look like?
    3. Do you think that the family life on camera resembles the family life that occurs off camera? Do you think that the presence of “outsiders” disrupts the usual family routines and dynamics?  Explain your response.
    4. Some have criticized the Duggars for having “too many” children. Who determines the “correct” number of children? Explain your response.
    5. What role does gender play in this family?

    The Little Couple- Man’s Best Friend
    Segment from a TLC reality show that follows a married couple who are both “little people.”  In this segment, the couple discuss the possibility of passing along genetic mutations to their unborn children.
    Discussion questions:

    1. With respect to heredity, what are the couple’s primary concerns?
    2. How do medical technologies shape the choices family make?

    MTV’s 16 and Pregnant Season 2 (Full episode)
    This reality program follows teens who have become pregnant. Jenelle, sixteen, is the subject of this episode. Cameras follow Jenelle as she moves from planning to be a mother to meeting (and not meeting) the demands of motherhood.  Though the show sensationalizes the issue of teen pregnancy, it also highlights the issues of roles and role conflict, particularly within the context of family.
    Discussion questions:

    1. Do you think that the show does a good job of depiciting the “reality” of teen pregnancy?
    2. Why do you believe that this show is so popular?
    3. Teen parents face a variety of challenges. How do the reactions—of friends, family, and the wider society—contribute to these? Use Jenelle’s experience as a starting place for your answer.
    4. How are the roles of “teen” and “mother” in conflict? How about Jenelle’s “daughter” and “mother” roles?
    5. What does Jenelle mean when she says having a child young is doing “everything backwards”?
  • Audio Links

    This American Life 183: The Missing Parents Bureau

    In the first act of this program the reporter talks with single women who are planning to get pregnant with the help of a sperm bank and finds that they all wrestle with the question of how much they want to know about the fathers of their kids—and how much they want their kids to know. The second act is a collection of letters written by a woman who signs her name as "X" and are addressed to the father of her adolescent son. X has no idea where to send the letters, but she keeps writing. The third act is the story of a girl in an acting class that includes an exercises requiring her to develop a character with a troubled past, and then a real psychologist would come in for a session of character group therapy. The girl chose to take on the character of an orphan. In fact, she remembers that everyone else in her class did too. Twenty years later, she visits her old acting teacher and discovers that for some reason, kids today don't want to be orphans.  The final act is the story of two men who adopt a child and the relationship they all have with the mother.

    1. How does the lack of biological parents affect the definitions of family in these stories?
    2. How are the situations of the children in the stories influenced by the broader social institutions?
    3. How do these stories relate to our mythology of family life?

    This American Life 166: Nobody’s family is going to Change
    The family is one of several social institutions in our society.  Host Ira Glass describes a children's book from the 1970s called Nobody's Family Is Going to Change by Louise Fitzhugh, the author of Harriet the Spy. On the surface, it sounds like a rather menacing title for a kids' book. But in fact, the story is about how kids can finally find peace if they stop hoping that their parents will ever be any different. The question is, though: is it true? Does anyone's family ever change?

    1. Do religious, racial and ethnic, and social class endogamy play a role in these stories?
    2. Are any recent trends in the American family at hand in the stories presented? 
    3. What can be found in this episode about family today that is defined as “normal” that once would have been considered deviance?

    Parental Leave: The Swedes Are The Most Generous

    Consideration of parental leave policies, with special focus on those in Sweden.

    1. How do legal policies shape individual family decisions?
    2. How does the policy “level the playing field” for women and men in the workplace.
    3. Do you believe that people in the United States would support a policy like Sweden’s? Explain your answer.
  • Web Resources

    Professional Resources

    Sociologists who study family issues affiliate with the American Sociological Association (ASA) Family Section.

    The National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) provides a forum for family researchers, educators, and practitioners to share in the development and dissemination of knowledge about families and family relationships, establishes professional standards, and works to promote family well-being. The NCFR publishes two scholarly journals - Journal of Marriage and Family and Family Relations [self-description].

    Data Resources

    Official government statistics on these issues is available through the Department of Health and Human Service (DHSS) Administration for Children and Families

    One of the most comprehensive and important sociological studies of the family is the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH).

    The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, or the Forum, is a working group of Federal agencies that collect, analyze, and report data on issues related to children and families. The Forum has partners from 22 Federal agencies as well as partners in private research organizations. This page contains contact information for staff from federal agencies who have expertise with NATIONAL data sets. [self-characterization].

    Other Resources

    There are many opinions about the definition of “family” and “family values,” including those of the following groups.

    Alternative Family Matters was created to assist lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgenders (LGBTs) through the complex process of having children and to help medical practices and community institutions better understand and serve LGBT-headed families [self-characterization].

    Family Research Council’s primary reason for existence is to reaffirm and promote nationally, and particularly in Washington, D.C., the traditional family and the Judeo-Christian principles upon which it is built [self-characterization].

    Father’s Rights Foundation: A Page Dedicated to the Fight for Fathers Rights, That Kids Need Dads Too [self-characterization].

    Focus on the Family’s mission is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in disseminating the Gospel of Jesus Christ to as many people as possible, and, specifically, to accomplish that objective by helping to preserve traditional values and the institution of the family [self-characterization].

    The National Organization for Women: We organize, organize, organize to fight the right wing—whether it’s over attempts to scuttle affirmative action, cut the safety net out from under poor women and their children, or outlaw basic civil rights for lesbians and gay men [self-characterization].

    The Council on Contemporary Families (CCF) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing the national conversation about what contemporary families need and how these needs can best be met [self-characterization].

    The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) is a global research institute with headquarters in Washington, D.C., and regional offices in Nairobi, Kenya, and New Delhi, India. We also have a project office in Mumbai. ICRW is comprised of social scientists, economists, public health specialists and demographers, all of whom are experts in gender relations. We are thought leaders driven by a passion to alleviate poverty and rectify injustice in the world. And we believe that women and girls – in collaboration with men and boys – are essential to the solutions. We know that when their quality of life improves, families are healthier and economies are stronger (

  • Sociologists at Work
  • Macro-Micro Connections

Chapter 8. Constructing Difference: Social Deviance

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    The New Asylums
    This program provides a look deep inside Ohio's state prison system to explore the complex and growing issue of mentally ill prisoners. With unprecedented access to prison therapy sessions, mental health treatment meetings crisis wards, and prison disciplinary tribunals, the episode provides a poignant and disturbing portrait of the new reality for the mentally ill.

    The Released
    This is a story about what happens to mentally ill offenders when they leave prison. This program is an intimate look at the lives of the seriously mentally ill as they struggle to remain free.  As communities across the country face the largest exodus of prisoners in history, the issue has never been more pressing. This year alone, more than 700,000 people will leave prison, more than half of them mentally ill. Typically, these offenders leave prison with a bus ticket, $75 in cash, and two weeks' worth of medication. Studies show that within 18 months, nearly two-thirds of mentally ill offenders -- often poor and cut off from friends and family -- are re-arrested.

    1. Explain what you see in these programs in terms of the three elements of deviance?
    1. How do power and labeling play into the situations presented in these programs?  Is deviance depoliticized in this context?
    1. Explain how these situations fit into either, or both, of the models of criminalization or medicalization?

    Amy Winehouse Dead: Why Did No One Help Her?
    News segment from the day following the death of soul singer Amy Winehouse. The clip contains footage from the makeshift memorial that fans created outside of her house as well as a recap of her brief career.
    Discussion questions:

    1. Consider the statement made in the clip about the relationship of art to substance abuse: “The flipside of genius is addiction.” Do such statements encourage us to expect highly creative people to abuse drugs and alcohol? How might this be an example of a “self-fulfilling prophecy”?
    2. Winehouse was said to have had a “disease.” What is the term sociologists use to describe this way of thinking?

    Celebrity Rehab 5: Intake (Full episode)
    Episode from the VH1 reality show Celebrity Rehab. B-list celebrities who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol “check-in” to a rehabilitation facility. This episode introduces the celebrities and shows the admissions process.
    Discussion questions:

    1. Reality television claims to offer  viewers an “inside” look at the lives of individuals. On this particular program the information that individuals are sharing with viewers is highly personal and, perhaps, of an embarrassing nature. (Recall Lohan’s statement: “I do not want my family to see this.”) During taping, are the individuals on “front stage” or “back stage”? Use concepts from Goffman’s dramaturgy to consider how “real” the episodes are.
    2. During the intake interviews. Dr. Drew asks the patients about their drug/alcohol use and, based on their responses, suggests “reasons” for their addictions. Are these “individualistic” or “social”? Give specific examples.
    3. Use the sociological imagination to formulate alternative explanations for why those who are in entertainment industries or frequently in the spotlight might become dependent on alcohol and/or drugs.
  • Audio Links

    This American Life 207: Special Ed

    This program is composed of stories about people who were told that they're different. Some of them were comfortable with it. Some didn't understand it. And some understood, but didn't like it.  Act one is a series of interviews with three of the people involved in making the documentary How’s Your News?, about a team of developmentally disabled people who travel across the country doing man-on-the-street interviews. The interviewer talks to two of the developmentally disabled reporters, Susan Harrington and Joe Simon, and to the film's non-disabled director, Arthur Bradford. Act two we hear from a mother and her son. By age seven, he'd had heart failure and been diagnosed as bipolar. And then—after a period as the world's youngest Stephen Hawking fan—he got better.  In the third act a woman tells the story of her developmentally disabled brother Vincent, who one day quit his job and then quit everything else, mystifying everyone in his life.

    1. Can you find the three elements of deviance in any of these stories?
    2. Explain the function of labels in these stories.
    3. Are there examples of the medicalization of deviance in these stories? What are they?

    356: The Prosecutor

    A lawyer in the Justice Department gets the professional opportunity of a lifetime: to be the lead prosecutor in one of the first high-profile terrorist cases since 9/11. But things go badly for him. His convictions get overturned, he loses his job, and he ends up on trial himself, in federal court.

    1. How does an absolutist definition compare to a relativist definition of terrorism and how does that fit into this episode?
    2. How do labels affect Rick Convertino’s perceptions of the terrorists and how does that play out in the story?
    3. Explain the social reality of crime in this episode.

    Digital Music Sampling: Creativity Or Criminality?

    This program explores the practice of “sampling”—using a snippet of another person’s recording, often a drumbeat or hook, as an element in the creation of a new piece of music. Sampling is integral to hip hop and rap music, but many consider it a criminal activity. This segment considers how we define the activity: is it collaboration or theft?

    1. What is “fair use”?
    2. If the practice of sampling is limited or banned outright, how might this impede creativity and the production of new music? If musicians and DJs are allowed to engage in sampling without getting the permission of artists or compensating the artists, how might this hamper creativity or the production of new music?
    3. Note the different terms used in the segment: sampling, collaboration, control, artist, original artist, copyright owner, etc. How do the words we use influence how we define of the activity?
    4. Analyze the social and legal issues surrounding sampling from a conflict perspective. How would a structural-functionalist analysis differ from this? Which perspective do you find more useful?

    College and Partying (Think with Krys Boyd)

    Sociologist Thomas Vander Ven talks with Krys Boyd about the reasons college students drink.

    1. Vander Ven says that most research on students and drinking has been of a particular type. What is that? How is his work different?
    2. What does Vander Ven say about the relationship between drinking and identity?
    3. What is a “drinking family”? What does a drinking family do for individual members?
    4. What were the social consequences of abstinence observed by Vander ?
    5. What is “drunk support”? How is it “gendered”?
    6. Are his findings consistent with what you have observed on campus? Elaborate on your answer.
  • Web Resources

    Professional Resources

    The study of deviant behavior has long been central to sociology, and it is the focus of affiliates of the American Sociological Association (ASA) Section on Crime, Law, and Deviance.

    Other relevant sections are Medical Sociology
    (, and Sociology of Mental Health.

    Although their interests extend beyond crime and deviance, members of the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP) frequently study these issues ( The official journal of the SSSP is Social Problems

    Data Resources

    The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) collects, analyzes, publishes, and disseminates statistics on crime, victims of crime, criminal offenders, and operations of justice systems at all levels of government throughout the United States.

    The National Institute of Justice’s Data Resources Program was established to ensure the preservation and availability of research and evaluation data collected through NIJ-funded research.

    The National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) is a federally sponsored information clearinghouse for people around the country and the world involved with research, policy, and practice related to criminal and juvenile justice and drug control.

    The Urban Ethnography of Latino Street Gangs site originally focused on Los Angeles and Ventura counties. It has expanded to include studies of street gangs in Albuquerque and Phoenix. The goal of this site is to find solutions, to share an ever-expanding body of data and literature on Latino street gangs, and to locate successful strategies for prevention and intervention with at-risk youths.

    Other Resources

    The Women’s Prison Association (WPA) is a service and advocacy organization committed to helping women with criminal justice histories realize new possibilities for themselves and their families. Our program services make it possible for women to obtain work, housing, and health care; to rebuild their families; and to participate fully in civic life. Through the Institute on Women & Criminal Justice, WPA pursues a rigorous policy, advocacy, and research agenda to bring new perspectives to public debates on women and criminal justice.

    The Innocence Project was founded in 1992 by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University to assist prisoners who could be proven innocent through DNA testing. To date, 273 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 17 who served time on death row. These people served an average of 13 years in prison before exoneration and release.

    The Innocence Project’s full-time staff attorneys and Cardozo clinic students provide direct representation or critical assistance in most of these cases. The Innocence Project’s groundbreaking use of DNA technology to free innocent people has provided irrefutable proof that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events but instead arise from systemic defects. Now an independent nonprofit organization closely affiliated with Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, the Innocence Project’s mission is nothing less than to free the staggering numbers of innocent people who remain incarcerated and to bring substantive reform to the system responsible for their unjust imprisonment.

  • Sociologists at Work
  • Macro-Micro Connections

Chapter 9. The Structure of Society: Organizations, Social Institutions, and Globalization

  • Flashcards
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  • Video Links

    Is Wal-Mart Good For America?
    This program explores the relationship between U.S. job losses and the American consumer's insatiable desire for bargains.  Through interviews with retail executives, product manufacturers, economists, and trade experts, correspondent the program examines the growing controversy over the Wal-Mart way of doing business and asks whether a single retail giant has changed the American economy.

    1. How does “the Wal-Mart way” fit into the discussion of McDonaldization?  How is it similar? How is it different? How does it complement the theory?
    1. Use what is presented in the program to explain the processes of globalization. Be specific and give examples.
    1. Can the impact of Wal-Mart on society be described as a social dilemma such as the tragedy of the commons? How or why not?

    Black Money
    As the global financial downturn continues and pressure for profits increases on corporations across the world, this program showcases a small group of lawyers in the U.S. Justice Department that are pursuing an aggressive crackdown against an international business tactic -- bribery -- which the World Bank says amounts to as much as a trillion dollars a year in payments.  "Over the past two years, the U.S. government has collected almost a billion and a half dollars in fines in foreign bribery cases," says Mark Mendelsohn, the Department of Justice prosecutor in charge of more than 100 ongoing cases, one of which culminated in a record seven-year prison term for the former CEO of a subsidiary of the Halliburton Corp., and another which ended in a record $800 million fine against the German giant Siemens. "There's a whole world of conduct that rarely sees the light of day."

    1. What does this story tell us about the hierarchy of authority?
    1. Do you feel that the division of labor in multinational corporations complicates the uncovering of inappropriate conduct that is unlawful such as the one presented in this show? 
    1. Discuss how globalization played a part in the illegal behavior presented in this show.

    Chase Bank Reportedly Has Man Jailed Over Check They Issued Him
    Ikenna Njoku went to the bank to cash a check but the teller believed that the check was a forgery and called the police. Njoku was taken to jail and remained in jail even after the bank realized its mistake. The errors of judgment made by the bank caused him to lose his vehicle and his job.
    Discussion questions:

    1. How does Njoku’s story highlight the power of bureaucracies?
    2.  Are you surprised that such a “mix up” could occur?
    3. The teller made a grievous error and the effects multiplied exponentially with each new person and organization that became involved. Who do you believe is ultimately responsible for the losses Mr. Njoku suffered?
    4. What are the difficulties with holding an institution or an individual within an institution accountable for wrong-doing?

    Futurama- Bureaucrat’s Song
    Hermes sings a song about being a bureaucrat.
    Discussion questions:

    1. What are the characteristics of a bureaucrat listed in the song?
    2. What is the meaning of the song’s final line? ( “When push comes to shove you gotta do what you love even if it’s not a good idea.)
    3. What is being satirized in the song? Is it the individual bureaucrat? Or the bureaucratic structure? Explain your answer.
  • Audio Links

    This American Life 215: Ask An Expert

    Act One of this program reports on the "Recovered Memory" movement. In the early 1990s people across America turned to experts in psychology for help and many people were told that the source of their problems could be traced to traumatic events they could not even remember, to memories that had to be recovered through special techniques. In the last ten years, this whole approach to psychology has fallen out of favor. So what happened that so many experts came to believe in a treatment that turned out to make many of their patients worse, not better and what happened when the patients and therapists figured all this out?

    1.   Can you explain the recovered memory situation as a social dilemma?
    2.   What bureaucratic elements are making this situation possible?
    3.   Use this episode to explain how organizational reality is created?

    This American Life 350: Human Resources

    This episode features a true story of little-known rooms in the New York City Board of Education building. Teachers are told to report there instead of their classrooms. No reason is usually given. When they arrive, they find they've been put on some kind of probationary status, and they must report every day until the matter is cleared up. They call it the Rubber Room. Average length of stay? Months, sometimes years. This program also examines other stories of the uneasy interaction between humans and their institutions.

    1. How do individual interests interfere with structural needs in any of these stories?
    2. Can evidence be found that the tragedy of commons phenomenon is playing out in any of the acts presented?
    3. What do you believe Max Weber would say about these stories? 

    Walking Away From The House She Can Afford

    When Heather Baker took out a mortgage to purchase a home valued at $465k house, she figured it would be a good investment. With the collap[se of the real estate market, she estimates that it is worth $225k. Though Baker can afford to make the payments, she has decided to stop paying the note and allow the bank to foreclose on the property because she does not want to lose even more money.

    1. What is a “strategic default”?
    2. Foreclosures bring down the values of surrounding properties and Baker is aware that by allowing her house to go back to the bank that she is harming her neighbors. Yet, she says that if she stays in the house and continues making payments, that she will be losing money. What do sociologists call this conflict?
    3.  Baker says that something (aside from the economic incentive) made it easier for her to decide to let the house go into foreclosure. What was this?
    4. According to the report, about 17% of foreclosures in the previous year were strategic foreclosures. What implications does this have for society as a whole?
  • Web Resources

    Professional Resources

    The two major American Sociological Association (ASA) Sections on these issues are the Section on Economic Sociology
    ( ) and the Section on Organizations, Occupations, and Work (

    We would also find some members of the Section on Political Sociology (, Environment and Technology ), and Political Economy of the World System ( ) working on these issues.

    Journals include: Administrative Science Quarterly
    ( ) and Work and Occupations ( ).

    Data Resources

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics is the principal fact-finding agency for the Federal Government in the broad field of labor economics and statistics.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics also offers a list of statistics web sites in the U.S. and internationally on all sorts of topics of research.

    The National Congregations Study used the model of the NOS to generate a nationally representative sample of religious congregations. Congregations—the relatively small-scale, local collectivities and organizations in and through which people engage in religious activity—are a basic unit of American religious life.

    Other Resources—Exposing the Iron Cage! is a Web site whose purpose is to help spread the word about McDonaldization and explore the wide-ranging impact this process has on our society [self-characterization].

    To gain an appreciation of the scale and scope of major multinational corporations, visit the Web sites of some of the biggest: McDonald’s (, Coca-Cola (, Microsoft ( and Walmart (

    The financial infrastructure of global capitalism is promoted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ( and World Bank (, and the rules of trade between nations facilitated by the World Trade Organization (WTO) (

    For a criticism of the IMF, World Bank, and WTO—the “Three Stooges of Corporate Folly”—and transnational corporations and world trade generally, see The Third World Traveler.

    A religious perspective on the need for international debt relief and reform of international financial institutions can be found at the Web site of Catholic Relief Services (

    This Nation: Institutions.  If you are in need of a good online overview of basic U.S. governmental institutions, this is the place to go. The site also includes a discussion of the bureaucracy, with emphasis on the challenges of reform. Links to Web resources you can use to access government Web sites are also provided [self-characterization].
  • Macro-Micro Connections

Chapter 10. The Architecture of Stratification: Social Class and Inequality

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    A Dangerous Business
    This program examines one of the most dangerous companies in America.  In iron foundries danger is everywhere and demands on workers are relentless. And in this very dangerous business, where they make the water and sewer pipes essential to our lives, there is one company whose production, the government says, has left a trail of death and dismemberment.  But even when workers have been killed the company continued to put employees at risk. And the government has few tools to stop them. With foundries stretching across 10 states and Canada, over the last 7 years the company has amassed more safety violations than all its major competitors combined.  Privately owned by one of the wealthiest families in the country it is called the McWane corporation. This program is a report on how thousands of employees and neighboring communities in the United States and Canada have been repeatedly put at risk by a company in a dangerous business.

    Close to Home
    As the U.S. unemployment rate hits a 25-year high and the Dow Jones Industrial Average hits a six-year low, award-winning FRONTLINE producer Ofra Bikel chronicles the recession's impact on one unlikely American neighborhood -- New York's Upper East Side.  In this program, Bikel sets up her cameras in the hair salon she's patronized for 20 years. It's an intimate space where she has come to know well the surprisingly diverse clientele -- from athletic trainers and housewives to high-end bankers, actors and opera singers. Despite expectations that this neighborhood is a secure bastion of privilege, these days, when clients get in the chair, they offer a window into the country in recession: Some are broke, others don't have a plan, and they're all looking to commiserate.

    1. How do the situations of the people in these two programs fit into the discussion of the social class system from the text?
    1. Discuss these two stories from a structural-functionalist perspective.
    1.  Use a Marxist class model to explain the circumstances surrounding these two programs?

     The State With The Hungriest Americans
    Brief segment that focuses on the extreme poverty in West Virginia.

    1. What is food insecurity?
    2. Are you surprised at the level of poverty depicted in this segment?
    3. Do you believe that people in other countries would be shocked that this level of poverty exists in the United States.

    Bill Moyers- Expose on the Business of Poverty
    Poverty has become big business in the United States as a number of corporations have found ways to fill the “need” many poor people have for credit/financing. This investigative report describes predatory lending practices that specifically target poor people.  
    Discussion questions:

    1. How do poor people represent “a massive pool of wealth”?
    2. What strategies do car sales agents at J.D. Byrider use? What is “opportunity pricing”?
    3. Businesses that make money off of those who are economically marginal have always been around. How have the businesses changed in recent years?
    4. What is a “self-pay patient”?
    5. Some have said that companies like J.D. Byrider and Complete Care Inter are just “filling a need” and that they must charge high interest rates in order to off-set the risks entailed in lending to poor people. Do you think this is true? Explain your position.
  • Audio Links

    This American Life 331: Habeas Schmabeas 2007

    The right of habeas corpus has been a part of our country's legal tradition longer than we've actually been a country. It means that our government has to explain why it's holding a person in custody. But now, the War on Terror has nixed many of the rules we used to think of as fundamental. At Guantanamo Bay, our government initially claimed that prisoners should not be covered by habeas—or even by the Geneva Conventions—because they're the most fearsome enemies we have. But is that true? Is it a camp full of terrorists, or a camp full of our mistakes? In Act one, Jack Hitt explains how President Bush's War on Terror changed the rules for prisoners of war and how it is that under those rules, it'd be possible that someone whose classified file declares that they pose no threat to the United States could still be locked up indefinitely—potentially forever!—at Guantanamo.  Act two explains that Habeas corpus began in England. And recently, 175 members of the British parliament filed a "friend of the court" brief in one of the U.S. Supreme Court cases on habeas and Guantanamo—apparently, the first time in Supreme Court history that's happened. In their brief, the members of Parliament warn about the danger of suspending habeas: "During the British Civil War, the British created their own version of Guantanamo Bay and dispatched undesirable prisoners to garrisons off the mainland, beyond the reach of habeas corpus relief." In London, reporter Jon Ronson, goes in search of what happened. Act three explains that though more than 200 prisoners from the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay have been released, few of them have ever been interviewed on radio or on television in America. Jack Hitt conducts rare and surprising interviews with two former Guantanamo detainees about life in Guantanamo.

    1.  How does the class system factor into the situation at Guantanamo Bay?
    2.  Explain the issue from both a conflict and structural-functionalist perspective.
    3.  Use this story to explain stratification on a global level?

    This American Life 62:  Something for Nothing

    Theoretically, all members of a class system, no matter how destitute they are, can rise to the top.  In practice, however, mobility between classes may be difficult for some people.  The stories presented in this episode are of people trying to get rich quick, or otherwise make something for nothing. As everyone knows, there's no such thing as something for nothing. You always pay a price.

    1. Regardless if it is an attempt to manipulate a lottery system or outlast others in a competition, a story of social class is presented in each of these stories.  What do the stories tell us about social class?
    2. Compare a structural-functional perspective to a conflict perspective of this episode. 
    3. Is a sense of false consciousness adopted by the winners of lotteries and car promotions?  What might Karl Marx state about that possibility?

    Single, Middle Class And Getting By

    Description: Jada, with an annual income of $47,500 is smack in the middle, economically. In terms of dollars and cents she is middle income. But she owes $34,000 in student loans and does not consider herself as living the American Dream. This segment raises questions about the difference between our expectations for what middle class looks like and the reality.

    1. When you think of a middle class lifestyle, what comes to mind?
    2. How does the middle class lifestyle you described in the previous question compare with Jada’s situation?
    3. The expression “middle class” has, for decades, referred to a reasonably comfortable lifestyle. Are the images we have of “middle class” out of step with economic realities?
    4. Is it possible that Jada’s version of “middle class” will become the new definition? Explain your answer.

    Black Postal Workers Brace For Proposed Cuts

    For many, particularly racial and ethnic minorities, a job at the USPS has been the route to a middle class lifestyle. Proposed cuts to the USPS budget and services may lead to the loss of jobs and lower salaries and decreased benefits.

    1. Why is are USPS budget concerns of particular concern for African Americans?
    2. Why has a civil service appointment, particularly one with the USPS, been considered desirable by many African Americans?
    3. How have changes in commerce and technology affected the USPS?
  • Web Resources

    Professional Resources

    The study of economic inequality is so fundamental to sociology that there is no American Sociological Association (ASA) Section on economic inequality per se. Many members of the ASA Section on Sociology of Education are fundamentally interested in poverty and economic inequality as it is mediated, ameliorated, or reproduced by educational institutions
    ( Also, sociologists interested in the inherent connections among race, gender, and class inequality have their own ASA Section ( Marxist sociologists ( are, of course, greatly concerned with these issues.

    Research on economic inequality regularly appears in all general sociology journals. A journal devoted entirely to the issue of poverty is the Journal of Poverty (

    Data Resources

    The National Longitudinal Surveys of the U.S. Department of Labor’ s Bureau of Labor Statistics gather detailed information about labor market experiences and other aspects of the lives of American men and women.

    The Department of Health and Human Services has a Web page on poverty guidelines, research, and measurement
    (, which includes information about how Mollie Orshansky developed the poverty thresholds during the 1960s.

    The Panel Study of Income Dynamics is a longitudinal survey of a representative sample of U.S. men, women, and children and the families in which they reside. Data on employment, income, wealth, health, housing, food expenditures, transfer income, and marital and fertility behavior have been collected annually since 1968.

    The Wisconsin Longitudinal Study is a study of the social and economic life course of 10,000 men and women who graduated from Wisconsin high schools in 1957, and who have been followed up at ages 25, 36, and 53–54.

    Other Resources

    Michael Kearl’s Sociological Tour Through Cyberspace: Social Inequality. This contains more information and links on social inequality than you will be able to handle. Something for everyone. Happy Surfing!

    Does income and wealth inequality matter? Why is it happening? What can be done? Despite the emerging consensus over the fact of rising inequality, there is still wide divergence of opinion over its sources - and potential solutions. was created to serve as a dependable portal of information. Too much inequality, we believe, undermines democracy, community, culture and economic health. Because the problem is so important, accuracy is important, and we are committed to presenting the best and latest information [self-characterization].

    Many objectives of welfare reform are played out on the state and local level. The Web site is devoted to political news on a statewide level. It includes links to political news briefs in each of the 50 states. The welfare reform section at this site provides up-to-date information on the status of hot issues in welfare reform on a statewide level [self-characterization].

    The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a non-profit, non-partisan think tank, was created in 1986 to broaden discussions about economic policy to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers. EPI believes every working person deserves a good job with fair pay, affordable health care, and retirement security.  To achieve this goal, EPI conducts research and analysis on the economic status of working America.  EPI proposes public policies that protect and improve the economic conditions of low- and middle-income workers and assesses policies with respect to how they affect those workers (

  • Sociologists at Work
  • Macro-Micro Connections

Chapter 11. Architecture of Inequality: Race and Ethnicity

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    The O.J. Verdict
    On October 3, 1995, an estimated 150 million people stopped what they were doing to witness the televised verdict of the O.J. Simpson trial. For more than a year, the O.J. saga transfixed the nation and dominated the public imagination. Ten years later, this program revisits the "perfect storm" that was the O.J. Simpson trial. Through extensive interviews with the defense, prosecution and journalists, the program explores the verdict -- which, more than any other in recent history, measured the difference between being white and black in America.
    A Class Divided
    This is one of the most requested programs in FRONTLINE's history. It is about an Iowa schoolteacher who, the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in 1968, gave her third-grade students a first-hand experience in the meaning of discrimination. This is the story of what she taught the children, and the impact that lesson had on their lives.

    1. What expressions of prejudice, discrimination, and racism can you find in these programs?  What stereotypes were exploited?
    2. How did institutional racism factor into the stories?
    3. Use examples from the programs to explain the concept of quiet racism?

    Maz Jobrani Persians Vs Arabs
    Persian/Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani does a stand-up routine for an audience of Iranian-Americans. He jokes about the misconceptions people in the U.S. have about Iranians (mistakenly identifying them as Arab) and notes the differences between Persians and Arabs.
    Discussion questions:

    1. How does Jobrani’s humor rely on misunderstandings and stereotypes?
    2. Do you think that different racial and ethnic groups will find the same elements in this clip funny? Why or why not?
    3. Jobrani takes serious political and cultural issues and turns them into sources of laughter. What do you think this accomplishes?
    4. Do you think that a person who does not have Middle Eastern heritage could “get away with” this? Explain your response. 
    5. What are the “stupid questions” Jobrani refers to? Why might these be frustrating?

    Titles: Whole Foods Parking Lot and Whole Foods Parking Lot rap response: Revenge of the Black Prius
     The first video is DJDave’s satirical rap about the experience of shopping—and parking—at the Whole Foods grocery store on the West Side of LA. The second is performance artist Delia Brown’s “response rap” to DJDave.  Both artists take a black medium (rap) and use it to point out the ridiculousness of certain aspects of white culture and consumption. 
    Discussion questions:

    1. What (or who) is being satirized in these videos?
    2. What is the purpose of using rap, rather than song, to explore the experience of parking and shopping at Whole Foods?
    3. How do class and race function as sources of humor in these videos? What stereotypes are referenced?
  • Audio Links

    This American Life 72: Trek

    This program is an idiosyncratic first-person travelogue about race relations and tourism in the new South Africa.  The interracial producers of the program travel through the still mostly-segregated society and have very different opinions about what they see, especially when it comes to some distant relatives of the white correspondent’s in South Africa.

    1. How do personal racism and stereotypes factor into this story?
    2. What types of prejudice and discrimination can you observe in this story?
    3. Explain the institutional racism that you observe in this story.

    362:  Got you Pegged

    In essence, this episode is about stereotypes.  Shalom goes on vacation with his family, and suspects the beloved, chatty old man in the room next door is an imposter—and sets out to prove it.  Amy thought it was obvious that she was an adult, not a kid, and she assumed the friendly man working at the children's museum knew it too. Unfortunately, the man had Amy pegged all wrong.  These and other stories are presented about the pitfalls of making snap judgments about others.

    1. What stereotypes are applied in each of the stories?  Why do the people stereotyping stereotype? 
    2. What prejudice results from the stereotypes demonstrated in this episode?  Does any discrimination occur?
    3. Is there any evidence of institutional prejudice and/or discrimination taking place?

    Radiolab Season 5 Episode 3: Race

    Description: This episode asks—but never answers—questions about the validity of the term “race.” It examines how understandings of “race” have changed across time and looks at both the scientific and cultural costs we pay for treating “race” as a real and meaningful thing and also examines the costs of treating it as if it is nothing more than a social construct.
    Discussion questions:

    1. Why is it so difficult to determine whether or not “race” is a biological reality?
    2. What are the costs of sorting people into biological categories according to “race”?
    3. Is it possible to retain racial categories without retaining beliefs about superiority and inferiority? Or, are the two inextricably linked?
    4. Why do some geneticists and medical researchers believe that it is damaging to dispense with the concept of “race”?
  • Web Resources

    Professional Resources

    The purpose of the American Sociological Association (ASA) Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities is to encourage research, theory, and teaching concerning the relation between socially defined racial and ethnic groups. The encouragement of scholarship contributing to the welfare of all, rather than the promotion of any particular group’s social or political interests, is a paramount goal of the Section (

    The American Sociological Association (ASA) also includes two other Sections dedicated to the study of racial issues: the Section on Asia and Asian Americans ( and the Section on Latino/a Sociology (

    Race, ethnicity, and nationalism are at the very heart of many of the major social and political issues in the present global environment. New antagonisms have emerged which require a rethinking of traditional theoretical and empirical perspectives. According to the publisher, Routledge, Ethnic and Racial Studies is the leading international journal for the analysis of these issues throughout the world (

    Data Resources

    Data on race are also available from the U.S. Census Bureau

    Other Resources

    Michael Kearl’s Sociological Tour Through Cyberspace: Race & Ethnicity

    The Affirmative Action and Diversity Project: A Web Page for Research: This site presents diverse opinions regarding affirmative action topics; rather than taking a singular pro or con position, it is designed to help lend many different voices to the debates surrounding the issues of affirmative action. This site is an academic resource and it provides scholars, students, and the interested public with on-site articles and theoretical analyses, policy documents, current legislative updates, and an annotated bibliography of research and teaching materials.

    During World War II the U.S. Government forcibly removed over 120,000 Japanese Americans from the Pacific Coast. These individuals, two thirds of them U.S. citizens, were sent to ten concentration camps built throughout the western interior of the United States. The Hirasaki National Resource Center of the Japanese-American National Museum contains information about this event and the successful movement for reparations from the U.S. Government by Japanese Americans (

    The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons (NAACP) is ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination [self-characterization]..

    The American Civil Liberties Union actively opposes “Racial Profiling” in policing (

    Contributors to RacismReview are scholars and researchers from sociology and a number of other social science disciplines and a variety of academic institutions across the U.S. RacismReview is intended to provide a credible and reliable source of information for journalists, students and members of the general public who are seeking solid evidence-based research and analysis of “race,” racism, ethnicity, and immigration issues, especially as they undergird and shape U.S. society within a global setting. We also provide substantive research and analysis on local, national, and global resistance to racial and ethnic oppression, including the many types of antiracist activism [self-characterization].

    WPC (White Privilege Conference) is a conference that examines challenging concepts of privilege and oppression and offers solutions and team building strategies to work toward a more equitable world. It is not a conference designed to attack, degrade or beat up on white folks. It is not a conference designed to rally white supremacist groups. WPC is a conference designed to examine issues of privilege beyond skin color. WPC is open to everyone and invites diverse perspectives to provide a comprehensive look at issues of privilege including: race, gender, sexuality, class, disability, etc. — the ways we all experience some form of privilege, and how we’re all affected by that privilege. WPC attracts students, professionals, activists, parents, and community leaders/members from diverse perspectives. WPC welcomes folks with varying levels of experience addressing issues of diversity, cultural competency, and multiculturalism. WPC is committed to a philosophy of “understanding, respecting and connecting.” (
  • Sociologists at Work
  • Macro-Micro Connections

Chapter 12. The Architecture of Inequality: Sex and Gender

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  • Video Links

    American Porn
    This program reports on the forces behind the explosion of sexually explicit material available in American society. Through interviews with adult entertainment executives and lawyers, porn producers and directors, federal and state prosecutors, anti-porn activists and a Wall Street analyst covering the entertainment industry, the program examines the business ties between respected corporations and porn companies, the rise of extreme hardcore porn, and the pending political battle that may soon engulf the multibillion-dollar pornography industry.

    1. Use what you observe in the program to explain the process of objectification.  Be specific and give examples.
    2. Explain the connection between pornography and rape as presented in the program.
    3. Does pornography, as presented in this program, lead to the devaluation of women?  Why or why not?

    Gender as a Spectrum, Not a Divide
    This short clip describes the four categories of gender in the Navajo culture and contrasts this with the dichotomous understandings of gender and the mandate that one’s gender must necessarily correspond to one’s biological sex.
    Discussion Questions:

    1. How many genders are there in the Navajo culture? Are these related to biological sex?
    2. What does it mean to be a “two spirit”?
    3. At the end of the segment, a tradition of “swapping” clothing is described. Do you think that most people in the U.S. would be comfortable participating in this? Who do you think would be most reluctant to participate in the “swap”: males or females?

    College Rape Victims Speak Out
    College students who have been raped speak about the experience.
    Discussion questions:

    1. In the taped segments, what do the women say has been taken from them? In other words, what was lost as result of the rape?
    2. What role did Facebook play in the contact the women had with the perpetrators after being raped?
    3. Katelyn said that she had known the man who raped her and had even considered him a good friend. Did you find it peculiar that the interviewer then asked Katelyn to offer an explanation for why he would have done this? How did Katelyn answer the question?
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    This American Life 15: Dawn

    In this program a writer goes on a search for a mysterious neighbor from his childhood in Charleston, South Carolina, and stumbles onto an epic story of the Old South, the New South, gender confusion, Chihuahuas, and changing values in American journalism.
    This program documents his quest to find out the truth about the man who lived down the street from him 30 years ago in South Carolina: Gordon Langley Hall, a.k.a. Dawn Langley Hall Simmons. Gordon was rumored to have had one of the first sex change operations in America, then to have married a black man, then to have borne the black man's child. It was said he had a full coming-out party for his Chihuahua. It was said he had voodoo powers. The reporter sets out to find what was true and what was rumor about Gordon Langley Hall, and stumbles onto a sprawling story about changing culture morés in America.

    1. Was Gordon/Dawn objectified? If so, explain how.
    2. Explain this story in terms of institutional sexism.
    3. Are there examples of personal sexism in this story?  If so, what?

    This American Life 204: 81 Words

    This story is about how the American Psychiatric Association decided in 1973 that homosexuality was no longer a mental illness.  In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) declared that homosexuality was not a disease simply by changing the 81-word definition of sexual deviance in its own reference manual. It was a change that attracted a lot of attention at the time, but the story of what led up to that change is one that we hear today, from reporter Alix Spiegel. Part one of Alix's story details the activities of a closeted group of gay psychiatrists within the APA who met in secret and called themselves the GAYPA ... and another, even more secret group of gay psychiatrists among the political echelons of the APA. Alix's own grandfather was among these psychiatrists, and the president-elect of the APA at the time of the change.

    1. What role did the APA play in socially redefining homosexuality in 1973? 
    2. Prior to 1973, how did classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder contribute to prejudice and discrimination against gay and lesbian persons?
    3. What does it mean on a social level to no longer define something as deviant that has been defined as such for a long period of time? 

    Myths That Make It Hard to Stop Campus Rape

    In this segment, a researcher, psychologist and legal expert discuss the problem of rape on college campuses. 

    1. According to those interviewed, what role does alcohol play in sexual assault?
    2. How do most schools address incidences of sexual assault? Why might this contribute to rape as a problem on campus?

    What is a College Major Really Worth?

    In this segment, host Michel Martin discusses a report recently released by the U.S. Census. The report describes the relationship between college major and graduates’ earnings. One of the key findings is that those who have majored in conventionally “masculine” areas (maths, sciences) earn more than those who major in conventionally “feminine” disciplines (education, humanities).

    1. Were you surprised by the earnings gaps between different majors? Explain your answer.
    2. Why are many concerned about the earnings gaps between different fields of study?
    3. How is gender related to college major?
    4. What is a “soft” major?
    5. Why are men concentrated in some academic disciplines while women are concentrated in others?
  • Web Resources

    Professional Resources

    This area is covered by the American Sociological Association (ASA) Section on Sex and Gender ( and to some extent by the Section on the Sociology of Sexualities

    Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS) is an international organization of social scientists—students, faculty, practitioners, and researchers—working together to improve the position of women within sociology and within society in general (

    Consistently ranked as a top journal in both Women's Studies and Sociology by the Thomson Scientific Journal Citation Reports, Gender & Society focuses on the social and structural study of gender as a basic principle of the social order and as a primary social category.  Emphasizing theory and research from micro- and macrostructual perspectives, Gender & Society features original research, reviews, international perspectives, and book reviews from diverse social science disciplines, including anthropology, economics, history, political science, sociology and social psychology.  [self-characterization]..    (

    Another prominent journal for research on gender is Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society (

    Data Resources

    The Institute for Women’s Policy Research includes a variety of topics such as work, health, poverty, and welfare. The institute has great publications on women, employment, earnings, and economic change. You can get added to an e-mail list that announces press releases and Capitol Hill briefings.

    The United States Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau has its own Web site.

    The labor union organization American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) has a Web site which includes a calculator that allows women to calculate how much income they will lose because of the wage gap.

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission maintains a Web site on sexual harassment.

    The U.S. Department of Justice Violence Against Women Office Web site provides information about this issue.

    Other Resources

    The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the grassroots power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. We do this by training activists, equipping state and local organizations with the skills needed to organize broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all [self-characterization].

    Michael Kearl’s Sociological Tour Through Cyberspace: Gender and Society (

    Humanities-oriented (though not exclusively humanities-oriented) women’s studies, gender studies, and queer theory sources are available from The Voice of the Shuttle.

    The Women of Color Web is dedicated to providing access to writings by and about women of color in the U.S. We focus specifically on issues related to feminisms, sexualities, and health and rights [self-characterization].

    For an alternative perspective on gender and reproductive rights—”Pro Woman, Pro Life”—see Feminists for Life (

    Screening Gender is a training tool kit for innovation in program production to promote new approaches to the portrayal of women and men in television.

    The American Association of University Women (AAUW) has dedicated more than 120 years to the advancement of education. To this day, AAUW continues to break through barriers to improve educational opportunities for women and girls. Learn how AAUW makes a difference through research, publications, leadership programs, and as one of the world’s largest sources of funding to ensure that women and girls have access to higher education and the opportunity to achieve excellence in professions of their choice (

    Gender Justice addresses the causes and consequences of gender inequality, both locally and nationally. We pursue this mission through three interconnected program areas:

    • impact litigation
    • policy work
    • public education and training

    In each program area, we seek to highlight the central role of cognitive bias - the subtle but pervasive ways that stereotypes affect our perceptions, decision, and preferences - as a cause of inequality. Likewise, in each program area, we seek to counteract the most harmful consequences of inequality, by working to dismantle the gender-based barriers that keep people from full participation in our economy and our society. While we believe gender inequality is detrimental for everyone, we focus particularly on the needs of those individuals - such as low-income and immigrant workers - who have traditionally had difficulty accessing justice.

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Chapter 13. Demographic Dynamics: Population Trends

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    Living Old
    For the first time in American history, those over the age of 85 are now the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population. Medical advances have enabled an unprecedented number of Americans to live longer, healthier lives. But for millions of elderly, living longer can also mean a debilitating physical decline that often requires an immense amount of care. And just as more care is needed, fewer caregivers are available to provide it. This program investigates this national crisis and explores the new realities of aging in America.

    Can you Afford to Retire?
    The baby boomer generation is headed for a shock as it hits retirement: many of them will be long on life expectancy but short on savings. The two main strategies for funding retirement -- lifetime pensions and 401(k)-style savings plans -- are in serious trouble. In this program, correspondent Hedrick Smith investigates this looming financial crisis.

    1. How do these programs fit with what you have read in the chapter? 
    1. What impacts of age structure can you observe in the programs?
    1. What additional issues were raised in each program that is related to the “Graying of America?”

     New Rules in the Workplace
    Millennials are now beginning to join the job force. In this segment, Doug Akin who has studied the habits of of Millennials, talks about this generation’s work habits. It is a decidedly upbeat assessment of the traits this generation brings into the marketplace.
    Discussion questions:

    1. Why do Millennials switch jobs?
    2. With respect to products, what do Millennials value?
    3. How do Millennials believe that decisions should be made?
    4. Are Akins’s findings consistent with what you have observed of Millennials?
    5. If Akins’s characterization of The Millennial Generation is accurate, how might this generation’s work habits, priorities, and values come into conflict with those of other generations, such as The Boomers and Gen Xers?

     The Age of the Millennials
    Morley Safer reports for 60 Minutes about the characteristics of Millennials and connects these to the cultural environment in which they grew up.  It’s a decidedly curmudgeonly view of the generation.
    Discussion Questions:

    1. According to this report, how are the attitudes and values of this generation incompatible with the current workplace environment?
    2. How are Boomer and Gen Xer bosses told to “handle” the Millennials in the workplace?
    3. Do you agree with the assessment of Millennials offered in this segment? Explain your response.
    4. What do “coddling” and the stress on being “special” have to do with the characteristics found in Millennials?

  • Audio Links

    This American Life 179: Cicero

    This program tells the story of a town that time forgot, or more accurately, a town that tried to forget the times. It's the story of what at one time was one of most notoriously racist and corrupt suburbs in America. In the 1960s, Cicero residents reacted so violently to threats of integration that officials told Martin Luther King, Jr.'s supporters that marching there would be a suicide mission. Today, two-thirds of the population is Mexican-American, but the political machine from decades past still holds power. A parable of racial politics in America, of white Americans not wanting change, not wanting to let in the outside world, and what happens when they have no choice.

    1. What is the effect of migration on this city?
    2. Explain the demographic transition of the city.
    3. Can you find a period effect in this story?

    This American Life 124: Welcome to America

    This program reveals stories of people moving to this country: what they see and hear about America that those of us who were born here don't necessarily see.  Act Two is about Juan Zaldivar, who was born in Cuba. Juan has spent the past four years shooting a movie about his father, to try to reassure him that he did the right thing to leave Cuba with his family in the 1980s and come to America. His father, so far, is not reassured.

    1. How would a demographer view these stories as compared to a lay person?
    2. Do the international migrations discussed in this program lead to conflict for the larger society?
    3. What social responses are apparent about the immigrants mentioned in the program?

    In Job Market, Are Gen Y's Wants Out Of Reach?

    Tell Me More host Allison Keyes talks with Ryan Healy about Millennials and their entry into the job market. A key difference between Millennials and previous generations is their expectations about what they work environment should be like.

    1. According to Healy, what is a key difference between Gen X and Gen Y that accounts for the greater influence of Gen Y on the workplace?
    2. What is “delayed” or “emerging” adulthood?
    3. How does this affect the choices on is able to make about his or her life (e.g., living arrangements, employment)?
    4. Why is it imperative that employers find ways to integrate Millennials into the workplace?
    5. What strengths are Millennials said to bring to the workplace?

    The Way You Learned Math is so Old School

    As result of society’s changing needs, schools have changed the way they teach students to do maths. They now stress algebraic thinking. Because the “steps entailed in calculations are now so different than tjose taight in the past, teachers can no longer assume that parents can help their children with their maths homework.

    1. Why have schools changed the way they teach students to do mathematical calculations?
    2. What assumption can teachers no longer make when they send a child home with homework?
    3. How do such changes contribute to the “divides” that separate the generations
  • Web Resources

    Professional Resources

    Sociologists who study population dynamics are organized in the American Sociological Association Sociology of Population Section

    Within the group that studies populations in general, there are sociologists who study aging, and migration

    Demographers also have their own separate professional organization, the Population Association of America (PAA) (, which sponsors the leading professional journal in this field, Demography (

    Data Resources

    Demographers specialize in the analysis of large-scale data sets, including population censuses like that which the United States government undertakes every 10 years. Consequently, there are far more important sources of demographic data than can be listed here. Some of the more popular sources of data, however, include the following:

    The Population Division of the U.S. Bureau of the Census offers socioeconomic and demographic data in nationally representative surveys.

    The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) Data Dissemination Branch makes available its latest data in published form and electronically.

    The Behavioral and Social Research (BSR) Program of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) supports basic social and behavioral research and research training on aging processes and the place of older people in society. It focuses on how people change with aging, on the interrelationships between older people and social institutions (e.g., the family, health care systems), and on the societal impact of the changing age composition of the population.

    The Demographic and Behavioral Sciences Branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) supports large-scale data collection activities that contribute to research on the determinants and consequences of demographic change.

    The Health Retirement Study is a nationally representative, longitudinal study that provides insights into why people retire and how they cope with declining health in later life.

    The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education ( Here you can find demographic statistics about students all over the U.S. The NCES Kids' Zone is a great place to start looking at interesting facts about education. The NCES Kids' Zone provides information to help you learn about schools; decide on a college; find a public library; engage in several games, quizzes and skill building about math, probability, graphing, and mathematicians; and to learn many interesting facts about education (

    Other Resources

    A degraded rendition of the demographic trade—demography as marketing research--can be found in the magazine American Demographics (

    The Population-Environment Research Network seeks to advance academic research on population and the environment by promoting online scientific exchange among researchers from social and natural science disciplines worldwide [self-characterization].

    The Population Reference Bureau informs people around the world about population, health, and the environment, and empowers them to use that information to advance the well-being of current and future generations [self-characterization].

  • Sociologists at Work
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Chapter 14. Architects of Change: Reconstructing Society

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    Tank Man
    In this episode the producers go to China in search of the single, unarmed young man who, On June 5, 1989, one day after the Chinese army's deadly crushing of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing, stood his ground before a column of tanks on the Avenue of Eternal Peace. Captured on film and video by Western journalists, this extraordinary confrontation became, an icon of the struggle for freedom around the world. The program asks: Who was he? What was his fate? And what does he mean for a China that today has become a global economic powerhouse?

    China in Red
    Filmed over the course of three years, this program is a two-hour documentary that tells the stories of 10 Chinese individuals -- factory workers, rural villagers, and a millionaire entrepreneur -- caught up in China's dramatic, ongoing effort to modernize its economy. Through their intimate personal stories, camera work capturing the unique feel of their cities and homes and with a soundtrack that includes Chinese rock music reflecting the rawness and energy of a nation in great flux, "China in the Red" offers a view of China that is rarely seen in the West.

    1. Use your sociological imagination to explain the link between the individual and society that is central to these episodes.
    1. Note and describe the social forces at work in the situation presented in each show.  What role does ideology play in this context?
    1. Find examples from each episode that illustrates reform, revolutionary and counter movements.

    Iowa Citizens
    Bill Moyers reports on the populist movement in the United States. People involved in this movement are standing together to oppose what they see as injustices in the economic system, particularly the division between “corporate” and “main street” America. This movement is located primarily in the Midwest.
    Discussion questions:
    1. What are the grievances voiced by those in this movement?
    2. One member quotes Brandeis, who said that the concentration of great wealth in the hands of a few is incompatible with democracy. Do you agree?
    3. How does this system use the United States Constitution and American values and ideals to support their position? Do you find this to be an effective strategy?

    Could Saudi Women's Driving Protest Usher in Social Reforms?
    Saudi women are not permitted to drive. The law makes it difficult for women to have any sort of independence. Women are now banding together to protest the law and some believe that this may lead other reforms.
    Discussion questions:

    1. What is the source of the restriction? How is it maintained?
    2. How does the inability to drive affect women as a group? How does it affect society as a whole?
    3. How might this movement usher in other reforms in Saudi Arabia, such as the expansion of political rights?

  • Audio Links

    This American Life 336: Who Can You Save?

    Act one focuses on the hypothetical scenario that there's a group of five people standing on a train track, and you're on a train coming toward them. You can save the whole group by pulling a lever and switching to another track, but the catch is that you'll kill another person who's standing on that other track. Do you pull the lever? According to a Harvard scientist, who posed this question to hundreds of thousands of people on the Internet, nine out of 10 people say yes, they would pull the lever. But then, the questions get harder—and the answers much more confusing. It turns out that different parts of our brains make different moral decisions. Act two is about the, moment when the U.S. government sent out a call for volunteers—regular, non-military people—to go to Iraq and help rebuild the country, Randy Frescoln signed up. He believed in the cause of the war and in the promise of its mission. He had experience setting up agriculture projects overseas, so was sent to the Sunni Triangle to try to reconstruct the broken economy there. But three months into his yearlong assignment, he comes to a horrible realization: the people he's trying to help hate him. In Act three, Brady Udall tells the story of the time he helped a stranger get his car out of a ditch. In exchange, the man promises to help him any time, for any reason—legal or not. Brady carries the man's card in his wallet; he's reassured that he has such a powerful guy in his corner. Many years later, Brady finally looks him up.

    1. How do these individual stories tie into larger social movements?
    2. Can you find examples of anomie in these stories?  If so, describe them.
    3. Does it appear that long term collective action will be successful in these cases?

    This American Life 372:  The Inauguration Show

    The election of Barack Obama was evidence of significant social change in the United States.  On the eve of Barack Obama's inauguration, reporters were sent out all over the country to talk to people about how they're feeling about this new president.  Do they believe things will change?  Do they think there'll be changes in their own lives?  From dozens of hours of interviews, at a Marine Corps base and a button factory, at a New Orleans bar and a Florida town that used to be a stronghold for the Ku Klux Klan, we hear opinions about what's going to happen in America after the ceremony on January 20th, 2009.

    1. Many people were shocked that an African-American could be elected president in the United States.  Did anomie play a role?
    2. Can the election of Barack Obama be considered a social movement?  If so, what kind?
    3. Did technology and the erosion of privacy play a significant part in the election?

    The Tea Party, A Modern Movement

    Talk of the Nation host Neal Conan discusses the Tea Party Movement. He discusses the ideas in the movement, its importance, and the demographic characteristics of those who identify with the movement.

    1. Why is the tea party important as a social movement?
    2. What is the difficulty of counting the number of people who are involved with this movement? What figure is given?
    3. What are the characteristics of those who support The Tea Party? What characteristics do those in The Tea Party tend to share?
    4. What are the central propositions of The Tea Party? How would you summarize their ideology?
    5. How have the two major political parties responded to this movement?

    Phyllis Schlafly Still Championing The Anti-Feminist Fight

    Michel Martin talks with conservative political activist Phyllis Schlafly, whose grassroots efforts are credited with helping to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment. 

    1. Why would Martin be surprised that someone with Schlafly’s “background” would not embrace the feminist movement and would in fact oppose it?
    2. How does Schlafly describe her political career and political involvement?
    3. Does Schlafly believe that women are oppressed?
    4. What term would sociologists use to describe the social movement that is opposed to the feminist movement/feminism?
  • Web Resources

    Professional Resources

    Students of social change and social movements congregate in the American Sociological Association (ASA) Section on Collective Behavior and Social Movements (, though they also are disproportionately drawn to the Sections on Peace, War, and Social Conflict ( and Political Sociology
    ( Sociologists interested in Labor and Labor Movements recently formed an ASA Section of their own (

    Mobilization is a new international journal of research and theory specializing in social movements, protests and collective behavior.

    Data Resources

    The Sentencing Project is a national organization working for a fair and effective criminal justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing law and practice and alternatives to incarceration. Statistics can be found by state. Publications, news, and advocacy information about issues including sentencing policy, racial disparity, felony disenfranchisement, drug policy and women in the justice system are all available. (

    Other Resources

    The following Web sites are run by social movements and other organizations to advance their social change efforts and should not be taken as objective sources of information on the topics in question.

    a. Abortion

    The National Abortion Federation (NAF) is the professional association of abortion providers in the United States and Canada [self-characterization].

    The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League: Our goal at NARAL is to help find sane, workable answers that will ultimately reduce the need for abortions. . . .Until we achieve our goal, it is critical that those who value the freedom and independence we enjoy in this country work hard now to protect a woman’ s right to choose [self-characterization].

    The National Right-to-Life is the largest and most influential organization dedicated to fighting “the culture of death” through public policy.

    The Pro-Life Action League is dedicated to saving the lives of the unborn through the use of nonviolent direct action [self-characterization].

    b. Civil and Human Rights

    Amnesty International is a worldwide campaigning movement that works to promote all the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international standards. or is a joint project of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Leadership Conference Education Fund. The goal of is to recruit, educate and mobilize individuals of good conscience in the ongoing struggle for equal opportunity.

    NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, educates, lobbies, and organizes to influence the formation of federal legislation to promote economic and social justice.

    SojoNet is the online presence of Sojourners, a Christian ministry whose mission is to proclaim and practice the biblical call to integrate spiritual renewal and social justice.

    People for the American Way is dedicated to making the promise of America real for every American: Equality. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. The right to seek justice in a court of law. The right to cast a vote that counts. The American Way.  Our vision is a vibrantly diverse democratic society in which everyone is treated equally under the law, given the freedom and opportunity to pursue their dreams, and encouraged to participate in our nation’s civic and political life. Our America respects diversity, nurtures creativity and combats hatred and bigotry [self-characterization].

    The Society for the Study of Social Problems in Pursuit of Social Justice ( is an organization located at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. According to the web site, the purpose of the organization is “to promote and protect sociological research and teaching on significant problems of social life and, particularly, to encourage the work of young sociologists; to stimulate the application of scientific method and theory to the study of vital social problems; to encourage problem-centered social research; to foster cooperative relations among persons and organizations engaged in the application of scientific sociological findings to the formulation of social policies; to foster higher quality of life, social welfare, and positive social relations in society and the global community and to undertake any activity related thereto or necessary or desirable for the accomplishment of the foregoing purposes.”

  • Sociologists at Work
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