Wednesday, April 29, 2015

why rich people think (or at least say) they're middle class

Brian Donahue followed Chris Christie recently around on the campaign trail and discovered what he sees as a "baffling" disconnect in Christie's public persona: his strong ability to relate to average people as a "regular guy" despite the fact that he is among the top 1% of wealthiest Americans.
Donahue writes in  When a man standing in front of you looks you in the eye and says, "I don't consider myself wealthy," you have to take him at his word that, well, he's probably not wealthy. But when that man has publicly released his tax returns that show his family's income falls within the top 1 percent of all Americans? Well, you have to start to wonder if something fairly bizarre is going on inside his head. Such was the case with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie last week, who twice told reporters during a swing through New Hampshire that despite earning ten times the median New Jersey income, he does not consider himself rich. In the video above I examine that detachment in the context of a series of events that make them all the more remarkable: Christie's amazing ability to connect personally with voters and sway them to his side with his common touch. It's a knack he's got, and, should he actually run, one he's counting on to vault him back into contention for the nation's first presidential primary. Rich guy? Common man? How to square it all? Watch the video and let me know what you think in the comments below.
In a follow-up piece in the Montclair SocioBlog, Jay Livingston provides an excellent answer to Donahue's paradox by way of using the sociological concepts of "self-perception" and "reference group." 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Japan's disposable workers

Aeon has posted a short documentary on those in Japan unable to find or keep full-time jobs. Estimated to comprise more than a third of the nation's labor force, temporary workers earn a fraction of their former pay, and therefore many have sought housing in low-rent cubicles available in Internet cafes. This video made by Shiho Fukada tells the compelling story of two net-cafe refugees--how they got there, how they manage to endure, and what they hope to become.

Note that the video is part of Japan's Disposable Workers, a larger project sponsored by MediaStorm that is documenting the changing nature of employment and hardship in that nation. In addition to addressing net refugees, this excellent collection includes films and stories about such subjects as workplace stress, depression, and karoshi (death by overwork) and karojishi (work-induced suicide).    

For more information in this blog about net-cafe residents, see Poverty in Japan by Carol Walden and Earl Venne.