SAMPLE LECTURE NOTES

  Here are examples of lecture notes for six different sessions of the course:

 

WHAT IS SOCIOLOGY?                                     THEORIES AND METHODS

THE SOCIAL MEANINGS OF SEXUALITY         THEORIES OF DEVIANCE     

MYTHS ABOUT CLASS IN THE U.S.                 KEY INSIGHTS OF SOCIOLOGY

 

Session 2 -  

I. Sociology and the Sociological Imagination

What is Sociology?    The systematic study of human society and social interaction.

Sociological imagination - quality of mind that allows one to grasp the relationship between the individual and society; and to understand the connection of personal, everyday life experiences to larger social processes and structural changes...

** Allows one to connect personal troubles with larger social forces and to understand them as public issues...

E.g., problem of divorce > Ask how many know someone who is divorced; ask them common explanations for why divorces occur...

-- Most people talk about their divorce in personal terms-- e.g., they ask "where did I go wrong?" or they focus on their money problems, comm'n probs, their partner's bad traits, or their own need to "find out who they really are." Their solutions in turn focus on individual adjustments -- e.g., putting less emphasis on money, working fewer hours, talking more, etc.

-- We rarely hear divorced people (or people in general) talk about the fact that the divorce rate is over 40 percent (44%)... This rate indicates that divorce is more than a personal issue -- something is happening in our society that is influencing and changing marriage itself as a social institution. Divorce is not just happening to a couple down the block -- divorces are not unconnected personal events. Sociologists point to the prevailing social patterns (e.g., social and geographic mobility, changing gender roles, changing sexual norms, unrealistic emphasis on romantic love, emotional fulfillment, etc.) and their consequences for most marriages...

-- This viewpoint is foreign to most people, especially Americans. We are taught and encouraged to think in individualistic (or psychological) terms...

-- Stress how our most "personal" choices are shaped by social and cultural factors (e.g., marital preferences)...

Well, we've talked briefly about "the sociological imagination" and how it differs from everyday, "common sense" viewpoints... Next let's discuss how sociologists typically construct theories about various social realities. Then I'll talk about the major theoretical perspectives that guide sociologists as they conduct research and analyze social life...

II. Theorizing/ Thinking Sociologically

-- Allude to "facts" shared during earlier quiz > Discuss w/ Class how facts do NOT speak for themselves... "Facts" have to be interpreted in terms of a theory... We rely upon theories to make sense of "facts/reality"

** Let's talk about how sociologists construct theories

A. The Research Wheel -- Phases of Theorizing

1) Stating/Defining the Problem

-- Choose issue/question to investigate drawing upon personal experience or commonsense observation; (often begin by simply "looking around" and wondering why something exists or is happening; Next you might review related research of others)

-- If a good deal of research has been conducted, may develop a hypothesis to be tested...

** What is a hypothesis? If A, then B... E.g., If people have less education, they are more likely to be poor...

** Discuss EXAMPLE w/ students > E.g., Why do people go to college? To UNI?

 

2) Gathering Data

-- Discuss Variables -- Independent (proposed cause) vs. dependent (proposed effect)

-- Choose a particular sampling procedure and related methods of how to collect data...

 

3) Analyze Data and Identify Patterns

-- May note correlations (or relationships) between factors such as race, social class, or religious beliefs and choices re: college attendance...

** Caution about difference b/t correlation and causation

E.g., Studies have demonstrated that rates of violent crime go up as the sale of ice cream also increases. This is a positive correlation, but should we conclude that eating ice cream causes people to get violent and commit crime?... (This could really simplify the Crime Bill!)

Well, as it turns out, this positive correlation is explained by a third variable that's not so apparent at first... That is, if we take a closer look, we see that warm weather will lead to more ice cream being sold, but it will also lead more people to be out in public places and thus increase the opportunity for violent crime to occur...

 

4) Generating or Developing Theory

-- Need to explain observed patterns in data; (E.g., why and how certain key factors shape decisions; What accounts for variations, etc.)

** Stress how hypotheses/ theories are never "proved"... Always tentative in nature; Open to further testing, modification, etc.

** Briefly allude to differences between induction and deduction...

 

SOCIOLOGICAL THEORIES AND METHODS

Intro

I. Major Perspectives

A. Structural-functionalism (Founders> Spencer, Durkheim, Parsons)

The guiding question of this theory is "How is social order maintained?" 

--  Functionalist theorists look at society as an organism comprised of different, interrelated parts. Functionalists refer to these parts as subsystems or institutions (e.g., economy, government, religion, education and the family). They believe that each subsystem has a function -- subsystems are also mutually interdependent and reinforcing and this contributes to the stability of the larger social system. E.g., the family serves various economic and emotional functions (reproduction, replacement, socialization and care of the young).

-- Functions can be manifest or latent in nature (e.g., "the hidden curriculum")

Emphases: Stability - Evaluate patterns in terms of whether they contribute to the maintenance of society... Functional patterns have positive consequences while dysfunctional patterns have negative consequences... (E.g., reliance on cars has led to environmental problems and weakened family and community ties)

Harmony - Assume parts of society (like parts of an "organism") work together for the good of the whole and are characterized by harmony...

Evolution - Change occurs through evolution -- adaptation of subsystems or institutions to new needs and demands... Also proposes that changes in one subsytem will likely lead to changes in others...

Key Problems of this theory: (1) functionalism has a conservative bias - e.g., it assumes that a society is geared toward maintaining equilibrium or harmony. It tends to overlook divisions based on race, class, and gender and how these divisions lead to conflict and tension. (2) S-f is also unclear at times about what function an institution or subsystem serves (note overlap of and change in functions)

 

B. Conflict Theory (Key Founder> Karl Marx)

The guiding question of conflict theory is "How is society organized (or divided) and who benefits from this arrangement?" 

--  According to conflict theory, capitalist societies are characterized by basic inequalities in wealth, power and prestige. Privileged individuals and groups (the "haves" or bourgeoisie) benefit from existing social arrangements and they do so at the expense of less privileged groups (the "have nots" or proletariat). The privileged (or "haves") possess a great deal of power because they own and control the means of production -- i.e., the means through which people make a living.  The "have nots" must sell their labor to the "haves" in order to make a living and meet their basic needs. 

In general, conflict theorists stress that social life is characterized by conflict between the "haves" and "have nots."  This conflict is rooted in competition for scarce resources.  Obviously, the "haves" (or bourgeoisie) have a distinct advantage in this conflict because they have more access to and control over scarce resources. 

Emphases: Conflict theorists focus on the effects of inequalities of power and rewards... They ask: Who benefits and who suffers from existing arrangements? They also believe that change occurs as a result of conflict between competing classes (i.e., the haves vs. the have nots) or interests...

Key Problems of this Theory

There are three central problems with conflict theory -- (1) It has difficulty explaining the more orderly and stable elements of social life; (2) It neglects or downplays the cultural and symbolic aspects of social life (because it emphasizes economics and class); (3) It tends to assume that power differences lead to conflict but differences do not necessarily provoke conflict...

 

Symbolic Interactionism (Founders> Mead, Cooley)

-- Examines people's everyday interactions and the processes through which they interpret and give meaning to one another's behavior... (Tell story of not knowing person's name/identity in grocery store -- illustrates what happens when we don't know the "meaning" of someone -- we don't know how to act...)

3 key assumptions of SI:

1) People act toward things based on the meanings they give to those things.

2) People give meanings to things based on their ongoing interactions and negotiations with others. Meanings grow out of social relationships and they are continually negotiated.

3) As people's relationships change, the meanings they give to things change.

-- Interactionists often focus on socialization processes, such as how people create and sustain culture, develop a self, play roles, negotiate identities, and communicate with each other.

Emphases:  Interactionists stress the importance of language as the basis of social life.  They also focus on the processes of interaction through which society is constructed and sustained.

 

 

II. Sociological Methods

Sociologists use a number of strategies, or methods, for systematically carrying out research. Each of these methods has some strengths and weaknesses...

What are some of the methods sociologists use?

** After they identify, ask them what each one refers to...

E.g.: Survey -- a research method in which subjects respond to a series of statements or questions in a questionnaire or interview... Various types -- mail, face to face, and interview.

Lab Experiment -- narrow down your investigation to a carefully controlled measurement of the relationship between a few key variables > Refer to Milgram experiment which will be shown in a couple of weeks...

Field Experiments -- intentionally change or interfere with a setting in order to see how people respond> E.g., In one study conducted in the early 70s, 15 college students put bumper stickers on their cars that supported radical organizations (such as the Black Panthers) -- None had received a ticket in the previous year but, after putting on the bumper stickers, they received 33 tickets in 17 days...

Participant observation -- systematically observe a group of people while sharing their routine activities and experiences. Try to gain an "insider's view" of the group -- i.e., you try to understand the group from the perspective of those who belong to it... Refer to Adlers' research on drug dealers, Snow and Anderson's research on the homeless...

-- Well, rather than talking at length about research methods, I'm going to give you a chance to have a first-hand experience of the method most often used by sociologists--i.e., the Survey...

  Purpose: To give you an idea of what a survey is like, to give you an experience in being the subject of sociological research, and to give you some data about what you and your fellow students think about various topics that will be addressed in this course. I'll be sharing the results of this survey with you as we look at various issues...

Administer Survey -- ** Ask students to take survey...

After doing so, ask them to identify the limitations of or probs with this survey. E.g., address these questions:

1) What are the limitations of the data we'll collect through this survey? For instance, how representative is it?

2) What are some "problem items" (e.g., vague, loaded, leading questions; incomplete or overlapping response categories, etc.) in the survey> Identify at least 5 items you see as problematic and discuss the difficulties you had in responding to them. After this, rewrite TWO of these items so that they are complete or at least improved...

Wrap-up re Survey

-- Allude to the polls done by the media nearly every day and how we need to be cautious about their findings b/c of the samples and questions they are based upon.

Key Probs:

1) Samples chosen for polls are often biased -- e.g., phone-in polls such as those tapping opinions about the death penalty (Those who phone are not representative of larger pop'n) > Ask class about how representative our survey will be -- I.e., how generalizable will it be? Can we generalize about how college students feel about various topics?

2) Questions posed in poll surveys are often leading or loaded -- e.g., a recent poll asked people "Who is to blame for the "gridlock" that exists in Washington? The President or Republicans?" This question is problematic in a number of ways. First, it doesn't ask people whether or not they think gridlock exists, it asserts that it does exist. Second, it's a loaded question b/c it uses the word "blame" -- It would be a more neutrally phrased if it asked who do you think is primarily responsible for gridlock? Third, it's incomplete b/c it limits people's choice to only the President or Republicans. This leaves out several other possible choices such as Democrats, the Senate, the House of Reps, the public, etc.

Key point -- Be wary of the results reported in many polls -- Critically reflect upon their sample and the questions they pose...

 

 THE SOCIAL MEANINGS OF SEXUALITY

I. The Social Meanings of Sexuality

Wrap up re: Sexual Euphemisms ExerciseThree basic meanings that we can derive from words we use re: sex

1) Sex is of prime importance to us -- That is why we have so many words that refer to it... 

2) Sex is repressed -- it is important but shrouded in secrecy, associated with dirt, impurity, etc.

3) Many gradations of meaning are attached to sex -- sex has many varying meanings> varies by gender, context, etc. > E.g., some terms suggest fun and recreation, some suggest intimacy, others reflect aggression and violence...

II. What is sex?

-- Well, we've talked about euphemisms for sex and why they're important, let's talk next about what "sex" is... I.e., what are we referring to when we use the term "sex?"

** Is sex only limited to specific acts like intercourse? Why or why not? What makes an act sexual in nature? Stress parameters of sex are unlimited > varies by group...

III. The Social Construction of Sexuality

-- Highlight Foucault's argument re: sexuality -- no urge is more socially shaped...

-- Reiterate how sociologists view sexuality as a socially shaped and learned phenomenon rather than a "natural" or "instinctive" one > Again highlight the cultural variations that exist in regard to sexual expression and conduct... As noted in the text, some cultures believe sex should only be engaged in outdoors while others insist that it take place indoors; some cultures believe sex should only take place during daytime hours while others think should only take place at night... Moreover, a few cultures (e.g., New Guinea tribes) forbid sexual relations between men and women for over 9 months out of the year...

-- In addition to varying cross-culturally, sexual conduct has also changed significantly within our nation over time (Note the changes which have occurred regarding premarital sex)...

-- Most importantly, these variations and changes in sexual conduct indicate that sexuality is clearly not a matter of instinct for human beings... Instead, they suggest that human sexual behavior and feelings are learned phenomenon which generally conform to the prevailing norms and values of the society concerned... People learn norms, values and scripts regarding sexuality and "appropriate" sexual behavior during the socialization process...

A. Sexual Scripts - define sexual sensations, events, objects, situations and people. These scripts consist largely of social conventions that guide sexual behavior. In general, people follow certain commonly accepted rules and understandings (e.g., a sequence) in defining a situation as sexual and then acting upon that definition... Note the problems of script ambiguity - how to interpret signals...

As John Gagnon has proposed, sexual scripts essentially provide members of a society with the "who, what, when, where and whys" of sexuality. I.e., they tell them with whom to be sexual, what to do sexually, when to be sexual, where to engage in sexual activities and why...

-- Allude to gender differences implicit in "traditional gender/sexual scripts"

** Wrap-up -- Gender is a FAR MORE powerful shaper of our sexual attitudes and behaviors than sexual orientation> allude to Blumstein and Schwartz’ key findings re: American couples (sexual frequencies, meanings of various sexual practices, relative importance of intercourse as a part of sex)

 

IV. Marriage Myths - ** Ask the class to take the Marriage Quiz

-- Discuss the 12 items selected and common responses

The Marital Life Cycle (Enduring M-c Marriages w/ Children)

1) Beginning Marriages - Experience the highest level of marital satisfaction- Key issues include negotiating role expectations and establishing boundaries with families of orientation...

2) Youthful Marriages - Key issues include adjustment to the arrival of children (alters couple's emotional and sexual rel'ps, social outings, etc.)- Conflicts often arise about childcare responsibilities and parental roles; Wives are likely to experience conflict between commitment to career vs. parenting... Men tend to feel the limits of their occupational success (or lack thereof)...

3) Middle-aged Marriages - Couples experience the lowest level of satisfaction when the oldest child reaches adolescence> increased conflicts occur over issues of autonomy, tidiness, communication and responsibility... As children become adults, families may have to adjust to their absence from and then return to the home - Adult children living at home may provoke resentment and conflict over rules, schedules, etc.

– During their late 40s and early 50s, a married couple often reaches their financial peak - this lessens economic strains and conflicts... However, they face emotional adjustments in opening up the family to new members (in-laws) and in caring for their parents... Sociologists refer to the latter problem as the filial crisis - it is usually experienced most keenly by women...

4) Aging Marriages - Marital satisfaction again rises - Key issues include adjusting to retirement, role change and role loss; negotiating involvements with children and grandchildren; and struggle with fears of illness, death and sexual failure... As they age, the couple also faces the problem of isolation> results from the loss of family and friends and leads to a closing in of boundaries and involvements...

V. Marital and Family Breakdown

A. ** Discuss the marriage "pyramid" (See Below) Draw inverted pyramid with following levels:

Top -- 92 -- What % of adults will get married at least once?

2nd -- 44 -- What % of adults will get divorced?

3rd -- 80 -- What percent will remarry? (80 men; 75 women)

4th -- 65 -- How many will divorce again?

Bot.-- 50 -- How many will marry a third time?

-- Stress the strong and persisting belief in the ideal of marriage even in the face of widespread divorce/marital breakdown... Note the paradox re: high rates of reported marital happiness and high rates of divorce (People who are not happily married get divorced...)

-- Well, let's look next at some of the problems experienced within families in America...

 

VI. What is a Family?

** Discussion: What is a family? See Scenarios OR ask students to work in pairs to come up with a definition of family...

– Discuss definitions (and scenarios, if using exercise)...

Traditional sociological def'n of FAMILY - A group of 2 or more people related by blood, marriage or adoption. (Usually live together and coooperate economically) .

-- Regardless of how they define the family, sociologists agree that it is a basic and very important unit of social life... The family serves as a key insititution which coordinates relationships and ties among people...

** Briefly allude to the key functions of the family -- e.g., reproduction/ replacement of members of society, regulation of sexual behavior, economic sustenance, providing for the care of the young, and providing for the intimacy needs of all of its members (latter is a more recently emerging function of the family)...

 

VII. Marital and Family Breakdown

– Discuss changes occurring in family forms; Also note that the most rapidly increasing family forms are the female-headed, single parent family and the blended family...

Well, let’s look next at some of the problems experienced within families in America

Abuse and Violence

** Ask class members to define and discuss "What is Abuse?" List components of definition and/or examples on the board...

** Discuss dimensions of abuse > may be direct or physical or it may take more indirect forms such as oppression, intimidation, exploitation and neglect > Stress that severe neglect can be the worst form of abuse... (e.g., have most long-term and damaging effects)

Basic Components of Abuse (Virtually all forms)

1) Power -- differential levels of power b/t those involved in the behavior

2) Competition - use ex. drawn from "Mommie Dearest" movie -- Mother never let the daughter win when they swam together... Nurturing parents often allow their children to win to build the children's self-esteem, confidence, etc.

3) Demoralization - Abuse often characterized by humiliation of other; systematic stripping away of their sense of self-esteem... In many senses, the abuser takes their sense of vitality and value away...

A. Social Definitions of Abuse -- Highlight how definitions are based on cultural and historical conditions...

1. Cultural differences -- E.g., "sandbagging" in China... Also discuss various forms of Muslim punishment for deviant behavior

** Discuss the "norm of violence" that prevails in the U.S. (see Straus article)

** General point -- Stress how we need to understand the place of abuse/violence in larger social environment in order to understand it in marriage and family relationships > Violence and aggressive acts are often culturally approved (sports, movies, military, punishment, sexual coercion)

2. Temporal/ Historical Differences -- Discuss the example of "rule of thumb" -- Ask class if anyone knows what this euphemism refers to... (19th c. England and U.S. > It was acceptable to beat you wife with a stick as long as it wasn't wider than a thumb...

B. Marriage License as a Hitting License

-- Note prevalence of violence in intimate relationships (1 of 5 families, 30-40% of college students in dating relationships)

-- Prevalence of violence in Marriages> Show graphs re: Extent of Spouse Abuse/Battering in U.S. & Attitudes toward Abuse/ Violence...

-- Emphasize that abuse is often mutual -- i.e., engaged in by both partners in a realtionship... In fact, more physical attacks are initiated by women (refer to graph) BUT battering is typically far more severe when done by men...

Discuss why it is important to give first attention to wives as victims of battering in construction of social policy...

C. Why Do Women Stay in Violent Relationships? **Ask students to identify major reasons:

a. Economic dependence

b. Belief that the abuser will change; Related notion -- Salvation ethic -- focus on appealing traits of the "real man" who they can save from being destroyed by addiction, etc. Wife assumes responsibility for helping overcome his problems...

c. Fear they will have no place to go; Most shelters for battered women won’t accept children.

d. Fear of losing out financially and in child custody in any divorce settlement b/c their husbands control the family finances and can hire good attorneys

e. Appeal to higher loyalties -- involves "putting up with" violence for the sake of some higher commitment, religious or traditional. E.g., commitment to service of husband or to maintaining an intact nuclear family at all costs...

f. Fear of leaving relationship b/c this does not guarantee the violence will end; to the contrary, it often triggers more serious or even fatal violence.

 

 

Principles of Soc -- Session 15

THEORIES OF DEVIANCE

I. Theoretical Analysis of "Deviant" Subcultures and Activity

A. Functionalist Perspectives: Strain or Anomie Theory (Merton)

- Rooted in assumptions of functionalist theory > Briefly allude to Durkheim's notions re: "functions" of deviance > **ASK STUDENTS: What functions would deviance serve? That is, how does society benefit from defining some things as deviant? Highlight how it creates and reaffirms moral boundaries...

- Note that functionalists see deviance as an "objective" or "absolute" phenomenon...

- A prominent functionalist theory of deviance developed by Robert Merton > ANOMIE THEORY:

Merton believed that deviance resulted from an imbalance in the social system> This imbalance produced "anomie," a state of confusion existing in both ind'l and society because social norms are weak, absent or conflicting. According to Merton, anomie arises due to an imbalance between socially approved goals and socially available means for achieving them. In the U.S., anomie exists because people are socialized to believe that one has to "make it" by achieving financial success, or be a "loser" or "failure." However, as you know, not everyone can be wealthy, and some people -- e.g., those with little education or few job skills -- are not very likely to realize financial success. Those who accept the goal of wealth/prosperity but find the approved means (or opportunity structures) blocked may fall into a state of anomie (confusion or lack of integration) and pursue prosperity through disapproved methods (e.g., con games, fraud, theft, etc.). Merton thus proposes that deviance is an adaptation by members of a group to structural strains. In essence, structural strains exert pressure on some people to deviate rather than conform.

- Merton posited that people can respond to the discrepancy between approved goals and approved means for attaining them in one of five ways: SEE RELEVANT TRANSPARENCY

MODES of

adapting                     Accepts goals     Accepts means

Conformist                         Yes                         Yes

Innovator (Con man)          Yes                         No

Ritualist (bureaucrat)         No                          Yes

Retreatist (addict)              No                           No

Rebel (revol'y)                   No (creates             No (creates

                                            own goals)             own means)

 

Problems with theory: Functionalist/conservative bias, failure to explain why wealthy people engage in deviance, overlooks the processes of deviance definition

 

B. Interactionist Theories

1. Differential Association Theory -- Explains deviance as behavior that is learned in the same way as conformity - through interaction with other people. More specifically, deviant behavior is learned through differential association, or social relationships oriented toward particular types of people, such as criminals ("Bad crowd" theory). People will tend to be conformists if their socialization emphasizes respect for prevailing norms, but they will tend to become deviant if their socialization encourages contempt for such norms.

-- According to DA theorists everyone associates with both conformists and deviants, but certain factors determine when deviant influences will have a stronger impact on an individual.

These factors include: (*Illustrate with discussion of associations and experiences of "con artist" subculture)

1) intensity of contacts with others (more likely to be influenced by intimates).

2) age of contacts (more powerful when person is younger)

3) ratio of contacts (the more one associates with deviants vs. conformists, the more likely s/he is to become deviant).

Problems - although it explains certain forms of deviance, it neglects others which don't require direct instruction (e.g., check forgery) or which may be learned through contact with conforming citizens; Also fails to explain how some acts become defined as deviant...


2. Labeling Theory

-- Anomie Theorists hold that certain groups in our society are under special pressure to engage in deviant acts b/c of social and cultural constraints... E.g., people who are young, male and poor are believed to exhibit higher rates of deviance b/c they face more barriers to achieve valued status.

-- Labeling theory begins with a very different notion> viz., all people break rules and engage in deviance at one time or another. (They even break serious rules for which they could be jailed, e.g., theft, vandalism, statutory rape, drinking and driving, tax violations...) Yet, only some people get the label of deviant...

-- Labeling theorists highlight the fact that "rule breaking does not a deviant make." Instead, they propose that deviance is created through a political process> Certain groups have the power to define others as deviant> These groups have the power to force rule breakers or norm violators to play the role of deviant and to think of themselves as deviant...

-- Labeling theorists thus focus their attention on the processes of deviance creation and definition - i.e., the political processes through which rules are made and/or applied, and through which those who break these rules are labeled...

-- The political aspects of deviance creation process is revealed when one looks at who tends to become "labeled," monitored, and, in turn, arrested (as revealed in the Chambliss article on policing)

Key Premises of Labeling Theory:

-- Most people engage in some rule breaking behavior that falls under the category of primary deviance > nonconformity that is temporary, exploratory, trivial or easily concealed... This kind of deviance typically goes undetected.

However, the situation changes significantly if a person's deviant acts are discovered and made public by significant others, especially if these others seek the help of "third parties."

-- The person may then be officially labeled as "deviant" > e.g., as nut, weirdo, pervert, criminal, etc. This application of a label is a crucial event. A label is particularly powerful and "sticky" when applied to a person... (Highlight notion of the self-fulfilling prophecy)

-- Labels can become a "master status" - i.e., a status through which all other behavior and characteristics become interpreted...

-- "Labeling" theorists stress that labeling someone as deviant tends to force him to identify himself as deviant and to associate with other deviants, which in turn reinforces his deviance and leads him down the path of a deviant "career."

Key point: Deviance is not inherent to particular acts or attributes; instead, it is something that gets created and defined through social and POLITICAL processes... What becomes most important in understanding "deviance" is understanding who has the POWER to apply the label of deviant to particular acts, attributes, or individuals...

This was clearly illustrated in the assigned readings you took the quiz on - particularly the Chambliss article on policing... 

 

C.  The Conflict Theory of Deviance 

Conflict theorists focus on the social and economic structures that produce "deviance," such as inequalities in wealth, power, and privilege.  Conflict theorists argue that:

1) Powerful economic interest groups (e.g., the "haves") are able to get laws passed that protect their own interests. Laws and powerful social rules have an inherent class bias -- the poor and disadvantaged are systematically discriminated against through laws and public policies.  Laws and policies are also used to control potentially dissident groups.

2) The administration and enforcement of laws are also characterized by class (and racial) biases. According to conflict theorists, the government serves primarily as a tool of the ruling class and operates above all to protect their interests.

3) The key source of deviance is the structure of society, particularly its economic structure.  Thus, in order to address and effectively "resolve" the problems of deviance, you need to transform American society.  For example, you need to eliminate inequalities, redistribute wealth, and create more just laws.  

*Key difference of conflict theory vs. other theories -- Conflict theory emphasizes the illegal and socially harmful behavior engaged in by political and economic elites (or the "haves"). 

 

MYTHS ABOUT SOCIAL CLASS IN THE U.S.

Myth #1: The U.S. is fundamentally a classless society and whatever economic differences exist are largely insignificant.

-- Allude again to skewed distribution of income, consumer goods, and capital goods in America and how this was illustrated through our distribution of candy...

-- Today let’s begin by looking in more depth at Capital Goods and the distribution of wealth in America:

CAPITAL GOODS - Items/resources that make more money for you > e.g., stocks, bonds, real estate, rental property, etc.

** What's more important, consumer goods or capital goods? (Latter, of course)

Patterns of distribution re: wealth in America

** Bill Gates (of Microsoft) has more wealth than 40 percent of the U.S. population!

1) The richest 10 percent of the American population owns 73 percent of the total wealth and 90 percent of corporate stocks; The richest 1 percent owns 60 percent of the total wealth and 62 percent of corporate stocks... The poorest 20 percent has MINUS 0.4 percent of total wealth...

2) The richest 1/2 of 1 percent (.005) of Americans own about 25 percent of the entire population's net worth.

3) The top 1/3 of 1 percent (.003) of adult American wealth holders own more than 20 percent of all personal property and financial assets (business capital equipment, etc.)

4) The richest 1/20th of one percent (.0005) of adults own 20 percent of all corporate stock, nearly 70 percent of the worth of all state and local bonds, and 40 percent of all bonds and notes.

5) The richest 1 percent of the American population holds 62 percent of all business assets, 78 percent of all bonds and trusts, and 45 percent of all nonresidential real estate.  They also own  own about 61 percent of all corporate stock...

6) Between 1973 and 1993, the richest 1/2 of 1 percent of Americans went up in their average wealth by 147 percent. The next 9.5 percent went up by about 65 percent. In California, the average income of the richest 20 percent of citizens increased from $98,020 to $127, 020 since 1979 while the average income of the poorest fifth of the state’s families feel from $12,300 to $9030.

7) The bottom 50 percent of all American families have only 3 cents of every dollar worth of wealth in our country.

-- Discuss ownership of BONDS...

** Candy bar example -- If I divided this class into 10 families and used 10 candy bars to represent all the wealth in the U.S., the top family in the class would get 9.5 of the 10 candy bars -- AND the richest person in this family would receive 6 of the candy bars. 

** Ask students:  Is this distribution of wealth fair? Is it based on individual ability?

**Point out that most wealth is inherited - Over 86 percent of the households of over $100,000 income reported that inheritances were a substantial portion of their overall assets... Also, wealth itself gets rewarded at a much higher rate than initiative> the income from wealth (putting your money in investments and then doing nothing) is going up twice as fast as income from work...

 

MYTH #2: We are essentially a middle-class nation and we are all getting more affluent.

*** Share Stats from Class Survey -- When asked about their SES, students identified themselves in the following ways:

Working Class – 10% (21)

Middle Class – 82% (168)

Upper Class – 7% (15)

REALITY: Statistically, it is getting harder to move "upward" in our society (only 1 in 5 men can expect to surpass their father's income) and it is becomeing more difficult to even stay in the middle-income level. The gap between the rich and poor is the widest since the gov't began collecting information in 1947. Morover, the percentage of middle-income households has been falling steadily since 1967. Most people moving out of the middle class are going downward NOT upward.

 

MYTH #3: Everyone has an equal chance to succeed. (Fair play notion of equality)

REALITY: Our class standing has a significant impact on our "life chances" and our likelihood to succeed (in terms of income, health, education, etc.)

– The lower one's class standing, the more difficult it is to secure appropriate housing, the more time you spend on routine taks of everyday life, the more sick you tend to be, the earlier you tend to die, the less you have income for things that are beyond the necessities..

-- SHOW RELEVANT TRANSPARENCIES from Eich’s Windows Slides re: impact of class on health, mortality, life chances, etc.

** Discuss notion of "indirect inheritance" -- identify, along with students, the indirect ways in which people acquire the economic and cultural capital that gives them a better chance to succeed...

Key points -- We do not have an equal opportunity to succeed. (Opportunities are shaped by direct and indirect inheritance)

 

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