Saturday, August 29, 2015

the language of classism

As used in everyday language, have you ever cringed upon hearing the word "classy" or its derivatives (such as "He's a class act!)? Sociologist/activist, Betsy Leondar-Wright, definitely has, and in fact, argues that such terms attribute favorable traits to the wealthy and powerful, and thus, users employ a class-biased language that ultimately serves the interests of the haves. Similarly, those in poverty or near-poverty are similarly cast in a negative light through such a phrase as "lower class." In all, Leondar-Wright argues for the use of a more sensitive vocabulary that would remove implicit bias from discussions of class by using terms that more precisely portray the actual circumstances of people within the class strructure--such as exchanging "the owning class" for the upper class, or "the chronically poor" for those commonly termed "the underclass." See more of her work at Class Matters, Class Action, and in such videos as this one at the YouTube channel, Classism Exposed,    

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

meritocracy: latest video from TSL

This video providing a critical take on the underside of societies that are presumably based on "merit" has just been released by "The School of Life," a website created to promote emotional intelligence and other important things that are typically not taught in the formal process of education (see "about us").

"Meritocracy," the latest among the rapidly growing video collection on the website (and on its YouTube mirror site), argues that the notion that people rise to the top of the class structure based primarily on their individual effort and productivity is fundamentally flawed. if it is widely believed that only people themselves are accountable for their success, then that invariably leads to the conclusion that in those in the lower reaches of the class structure are in poverty due to their own individual failings. As the video states, meritocracy ignores the role of luck and happenstance in people's lives, but it might also note that class systems by their very nature invariably advantage some more than others, if nothing more than by the cultural and social capital accrued by virtue of family origins. One might also add of course that a recognition of the inevitable bias of class should not discourage attempts to extend greater opportunities to achieve, regardless of class background, race, sex, etc,.     
Note: there are many other stratification-relevant videos at this site, including those on various theorists (Marx, Weber, Foucault, etc.) and problems of capitalism (e.g., status anxiety)..

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Greek democracy resurrected

This post was contributed by Rohit Chandan, student in this summer's SOC 3013, Social Stratification.

The July 2015 referendum rejection of bailout conditions set by the European Commission and major lenders should be placed into the larger context of recent developments in Greek politics. The 2014 election led to a populist victory that surprised many observers (see this Guardian article). The leftist party, Syriza, won, which made Alexis Tsipras the new Prime Minister. Greece in the past few years has been experiencing severe economic problems which led to some rather severe austerity measures, as well as the inability to pay its debt to international creditors and countries. Generally, when a nation is facing massive debt, the typical response is that the government will raise taxes and reduce public spending, but many people in Greece are against this formula. A slash in public spending usually hits the elderly, working class, and the young most directly. Pensions are reduced, college tuition skyrockets, and small businesses often fold, while the rich and powerful are rarely affected. Therefore, Syriza's election victory signifies that the Greek masses are no longer willing to accept corruption and austerity as normal states of affairs. The leftist political party has promised to reject existing austerity measures, and instead promote greater unionization, higher wages, and the expansion of government services. Syriza's success clearly has diminished the power of traditional elites, and signifies the ascendance of the popular will in national politics.