Looking back at its historical origins, the social breakdown crew talks about liberalism and its manifestations in our contemporary world. What is “new” about neoliberalism? John Locke–a British philosopher enshrined in American legal and political doctrine–talks a lot about freedom and liberty, but for whom? To what end? What can be said about conservatism and liberalism as it relates to our sense of self and political affiliations? Join our discussion on neoliberalism and its discontents–we’re not too happy about it either.
Liberalism: the perspective that all individuals must be equally allowed “civil interests,” which he defined as, “life, liberty, health, and indolency of body; and the possession of outward things, such as money, lands, houses, furniture, and the like”
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
A lot of what we talk on this podcast stem from our status as doctoral students (although Penn is finally a newly certified doctor!), but what exactly is a PhD? The PhD is the highest level of education that people usually don’t go for, and the job market for a PhD graduate is quite bleak. So why does anyone bother getting it? Join us this week as we talk story about our own reasons for pursuing a PhD and what PhDs actually do each day besides just thinking!
Sociology, phd, academia, higher education, grad school, graduate, doctoral, doctorate
Violence can seem very personal and easily attributed to biological tendencies. The recent trend in mass shootings have often been explained by issues related to mental health. It’s easy to blame the individual for acts of violence, but that’s only one way of looking at violence. In sociology, violence actually takes many different forms from verbal to physical to symbolic to systemic. And sociologists have interesting theories to explain why violence occurs. This week we discuss the classic debate of nature VS nurture in regards to violence, and how theorists have posited that there is no such thing as violent individuals, but simply violent situations. Join us as we pick apart this gnarly debate!
“Violence might appear to be an unpredictable outburst or unexplainable explosion, but it arises with geometrical precision. It is unpredictable and unexplainable only if we seek its origins in the characteristics of individuals (such as their beliefs or frustrations) or in the characteristics of societies, communities, or other collectivities (such as their cultural values or level of inequality). But violent individuals and violent collectivities do not exist: No individual or collectivity is violent in all settings at all times, and neither individualistic nor collectivistic theories predict and explain precisely when and how violence occurs”
“violence is a set of pathways around confrontational tension and fear. Despite their bluster, and even in situations of apparently uncontrollable anger, people are tense and often fearful in the immediate threat of violence—including their own violence; this is the emotional dynamic that determines what they will do if fighting actually breaks out.”
Is health a privilege or a right? As a society, how do we come to understand health and its social origins and outcomes? Though medicine has been understood as a social science that dates back to Hippocrates–the Hippocratic Oath–medical sociology is not even 70 years old yet! The climb to intellectual legitimacy and sound research is recent. When it comes to matters of stress, food, doctor-patient interactions, racism and sexism, medical sociologists have a lot to say and a lot to do…come join us as The Social Breakdown begins its journey in everything health!
Resist! It’s such a buzzword with deep historical roots, but what exactly is resistance? What does it mean to resist and to struggle? How can we resist? What are some strategies or ways to resist? Many social issues are now at the forefront of the global conversation, especially with Trump’s presidency, from racism to sexual harassment, to basic human decency. Resistance is a difficult and long-drawn out process – it’s not for us, it’s for our children. It’s not for today, but for tomorrow. Change can’t happen without resistance, so join us this week to learn more!
Sociology, resistance, social movements, social change, protest
Sociologists might not be able to make a time machine, but we’re certainly good at mythbusting! Social mythbusting that is! Our first topic to bust: Crime. Citizens of any society have preconceived notions of crime, and these ideas can tell us something about the dominant social order, morality, and normative behavior. So, let’s discuss! Are we living in the most violent time? Trump wants to blame everything on “undocumented criminals,” but are undocumented immigrants accountable for a large portion of crime? Oh– and prison/jail, that’s the same thing, right?
Crime, criminology, criminal justice system
Criminology by Edwin Sutherland (1974) defines the field as, “the study of law making, breaking, and law enforcement.”
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
“both illegal immigrants and legal immigrants have incarceration rates far below those of native-born Americans—at 0.85 percent, 0.47 percent, and 1.53 percent, respectively….Immigration restrictionists cannot have it both ways. They cannot assume that illegal immigrants are super-criminals and that their population in the United States is several times higher than it really is. No matter how you dice the numbers, their incarceration rate falls as their estimated population increases. For consistency’s sake, it’s time for immigration restrictionists to choose which myth they want to believe.” (“The first myth is that illegal immigrants are especially crime-prone. The second myth is that there are actually two to three times as many illegal immigrants as is commonly reported.”)
Part 2 of our series on how to be a sociologist! (Listen to part 1 here). Did you know that sociology makes you a better person? Even if you’ve never taken a sociology class, you can still use the sociological perspective to understand the social world. Regardless of where you are in the world and what position you have in society, you do not live in a vacuum. We are all interrelated somehow. Join us this week to learn about how to employ the sociological imagination to see the connections between your personal problems and public issues. Think, don’t accept! Question your assumptions! See the world critically! And don’t be a dumbass.
Words may not bring you down, but your looks may bring you to far places.How do you know you’re beautiful? If it is a social construction, where does this all come from? Beauty is a rich and powerful phenomenon and we all participate in this process. Good looks allow you to be upwardly mobile. Carving out a particular aesthetic is part of a culture built on consumerism and superficial ideas about human bodies. We have to challenge this and break it down, of course. So come join us in this week’s episode about beauty–in every single way!
Beauty is… a rich and powerful phenomenon, with many meanings at different levels or in different dimensions at different frequencies… The significance [of beauty] is immense, psychological and sociological, economic and literary, philosophical and even theological; they are entwined with non-verbal communication, mood and character assessment, social mobility, helping behavior of all sorts, sexuality and a wide range of personal and moral qualities; furthermore beauty may be seen as physical or spiritual, inner or outer, natural or artificial, subjective or objective, positive or even negative (p. 610-611).
Skin bleaching is “deeply rooted in a history of slavery and colonialism. Historically, “brown” Jamaicans were the product of relationships between black Jamaicans and white slave-owners or colonial rulers, and often received greater access to land and resources as a result of their white ancestry. Today, lighter brown skin is still read as a marker of privilege and access—class is often divided among racial lines, with wealthier and more powerful Jamaicans generally being white and brown, while poor Jamaicans are mostly black. In this context, Charles says, skin bleaching becomes a strategic choice.”
What’s your favorite brand? Do you believe in retail therapy? What about how ‘a diamond is forever’? Consumer culture surrounds us in every aspect of our social lives, and is virtually impossible to ignore, especially with the development of the internet and new media technologies that bombard us with ads while providing us with the tools to be creative and powerful consumers. But are you, the consumer, being exploited by big name corporations? Join us to find out!
Conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure. As wealth accumulates on his hands, his own unaided effort will not avail to sufficiently put his opulence in evidence by this method. The aid of friends and competitors is therefore brought in by resorting to the giving of valuable presents and expensive feasts and entertainments.
Exploitation occurs when someone or something (e.g., a material resource, an opportunity) is used or taken advantage of. Social scientists are chiefly concerned with the exploitation of people and classes, who are generally considered exploited if they are required, by force or by circumstances, to contribute more to some process than they receive in return.
Why does Kim K get to “break the internet?” Do celebrities reflect our exaggerated imaginations? Where does all that money go? Why does Woody Allen get to make movies and Ben Rothlisberger get to still play football? In this week’s we tackle Celebrity status and its presence in contemporary society. Trust us, there is no other status with this much power and mystery…let’s break it down.
Status, Celebrity, American Culture, Popular Culture, Entertainment, Celebrity culture
Short biography on Max Weber, one of the founding fathers of sociology
Jonathan Turner and Jan Stets’ (2004) The Sociology of Emotions – On Theodore Kemper’s theory on structure and emotions, status, and power.
Within social situations, individuals possess relative power (authority), or the ability to tell others what to do, and status (conceptualized as prestige or honor rather than as a position in a structure).
“Celebrity is an omnipresent feature of contemporary society, blazing lasting impressions in the memories of all who cross its path. In keeping with Weber’s conception of status, celebrity has come to dominate status “honor,” generate enormous economic benefits, and lay claim to certain legal privileges. Compared with other types of status, however, celebrity is status on speed. It confers honor in days, not generations; it decays over time, rather than accumulating; and it demands a constant supply of new recruits, rather than erecting barriers to entry.”
Graeme Turner’s Understanding Celebrity (2013) – Evaluates the many taxonomies of “celebrity” and how the title has evolved with society and technology. He also devotes quite a bit of time to discussing how
“the celebrity industry is one that spends a great deal of its time masking the fact that it exists at all.”