Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"the rich are indeed different..." they are greedier.

A new study conducted by social psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley suggests that the wealthy are more likely to engage in selfish behavior. The research design combined direct observation with various experiments, and consistently found the rich more inclined than the non-affluent to take unethical advantage of the situation or actually cheat others. While readers access to the Piff, et al. article is limited by a pay-wall, descriptions of this research are available through various online pieces published over the past day (e.g., see ScienceNow, CNN, and Bloomberg).
  • Saturday, February 25, 2012

    slideshow: Occupy eviction in D.C.

    Lucian Perkins shot this series of images documenting the forced removal of Occupy protesters from McPherson Square in Washington, D.C. during early February, 2012.  His work is part of the Facing Change slideshow collection that addresses various social justice issues.

    Friday, February 24, 2012

    the road back to work

    NPR has created a multi-part audio documentary that follows six St. Louis residents who were unemployed at the beginning of 2011. The subjects were given audio recorders to provide ongoing diaries of their experiences during the period. While some became re-employed, none found jobs that were comparable to those they had lost. The series gives insights into the difficulties of finding jobs in today's economy, and coping with the various stressors that come with being jobless. An interview with the series creator is available in a recent episode of Talk of the Nation.

    Tuesday, February 21, 2012

    media spin on Foxconn and Apple

    ABC's Nightline tonight aired, iFactory, its investigation of Foxconn, the primary assembler of Apple electronic products. Mike Daisey, who brought working conditions at Foxconn to light last year, is critical of ABC's effort as he believes it amounted to little more than a guided tour of the facility by company management (see his blog post). Daisey's own observations at the Chinese plant have generated subsequent reportage by the New York Times, as well as that by ABC, among other news services. He is currently starring in his off-Broadway show, "The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs".

    Monday, February 20, 2012

    Dean's ideology and consciousness via Super Bowl add

    Paul Dean provides us with an excellent example relevant to our reading selection from Marx's German Ideology.  Please read his text from the Sociological Cinema and view the video in preparation for tonight's class.

    Thursday, February 16, 2012

    Patriots for Self-Deportation

    If you suspect that one or more of your ancestors, near or far, immigrated to the U.S. without going through the legal process, take heed of Patriots for Self-Deportation.  This organization is dedicated to facilitating your voluntary exit from the U.S.  For an example of the flap it has generated at the local level, see this recent article by Ayala in the San Antonio Express-News.  PFSD is the brainchild of the Yes Lab.  

    Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    The Interrupters

    The Interrupters, now accessible for online viewing as part of the PBS Frontline series, examines attempts by former gang leaders to stop youth violence in inner-city Chicago.  Additional information on making the documentary and the intervention process itself is available through NPR interviews with directors and an interrupter featured in film.

    Slavery By Another Name

    Notwithstanding the Emancipation Proclamation, slavery did not end in the south until well into the 20th century.  A host of laws were enacted following the Civil War which ensured the forced labor of black men in mines, fields, and factories.  Now available online, this just-released PBS documentary examines the nature and consequences of the wholesale enslavement of southern blacks through the criminal justice system.  The video website also offers a collection of visual history interviews produced by StoryCorps.

    Sunday, February 12, 2012

    who benefits from the "safety net"?

    "The government safety net was created to keep Americans from abject poverty, but the poorest households no longer receive a majority of government benefits.  A secondary mission has gradually become primary: maintaining the middle class from childhood through retirement." (my emphasis)   
    Appelbaum and Gebeloff, from "Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It"
    New York Times, February 11, 2012 

    This article, video, and related interactive graphic examine the growing reliance on federal programs among those Americans who may not consider themselves to be poor.  Residents of a Minnesota town were interviewed by Appelbaum and Gebeloff to explore the contradiction between asserting that government assistance is wrong, while simultaneously receiving it.  A related NY Times story by Kopicki, examining data from a poll conducted in December, 2011, notes most Americans say they expect to pay more in taxes than they will ever receive back in terms of personal benefits.  Younger adults were particularly apt to report that Social Security and Medicare would not be around when they came of age to draw on them (see related poll graphics).

    Friday, February 10, 2012

    Downton Abbey and alternate realities

    This New York Times article by Judith Newman explores the immense popularity of PBS's Downton Abbey  within the U.S., along with several books that offer alternative views on relationships between English masters and servants.  Was it the case that they were characterized by noblesse oblige, perhaps even coupled with social intimacy, or were they typically distant and exploitative in nature?  Newman implies that the depiction may largely reflect the social background of the writer, as does a recent piece by Heilpern appearing in the Nation about the author of Downton Abbey.  Newman, as well as Timson in a recent article in The Globe and Mail, see the popularity of this series in light of America's financial crisis and growing preoccupation with inequality.

    Thursday, February 9, 2012

    income inequality: who are the 1%?

    Deemed the unholy opposition by the OWS movement, a recent article in The Economist provides a brief overview of this emergent social category in terms of income, estimated wealth, occupational background, educational attainment, as well as party affiliation and political beliefs.

    Tuesday, February 7, 2012

    a heavy price

    Gold lust is exacting a heavy price among children living near the mines of northern Nigeria. According to this Human Rights Watch article and video, over 400 children have died in this area from lead poisoning, and thousands more remain in need of critical medical treatment. Children are largely exposed to lead as they work in local gold mines, and by general environmental pollution throughout miner homes and in soil and water. To date, no clean-up efforts have begun. (See related videos at this site.)

    Saturday, February 4, 2012

    self-deportation and generalized oppression in Alabama

    Alabama lawmakers may have done better had they consulted the work of the late sociologist, Robert K. Merton, before enacting recent law against undocumented workers and their families. Specifically, Merton emphasized the fact that intentional change often carries latent dysfunctional consequences, i.e., serious, unintended, undesirable outcomes. The law was supposed to make life so difficult for immigrants without papers that they would simply leave the state. However, as Jack Hitt explains in Alien Experiment, Act One of this This American Life episode, it has made living and working in Alabama far more difficult for many others, in addition to those initially targeted.

    more on the rhetoric of class politics: "I'm not concerned with the very poor," says Romney.

    Mitt Romney indicates in a February 1, 2012 interview with CNN, the Americans he would not be concerned with helping should he become president (see top clip). Newt Gingrich seizes the moment later that day and declares he is "fed-up" with  Romney, and other politicians, such as Obama, "dividing Americans against each other" (see middle clip). Two days later, Romney retracts his statements, claiming he "misspoke."  Note: In the Republican debate during the New Hampshire primary in early January, 2012, Rick Santorum denies the existence of social class in the U.S. altogether, actually declaring "There are no classes in America" (see bottom clip).

    Thursday, February 2, 2012

    social exclusion infographic

    The above infographic, available at visual.ly describes the ways in which people may be marginalized and excluded from participating in social institutions. The UNDP has developed an accompanying PDF report, Beyond Transition, Towards Inclusive Societies, on conceptualizing and measuring social exclusion in six eastern European nations.