SOC315 – The Political Spectacle: Symbols in Politics


Politics, politics, politics– what a fascinating part of our society that feels all-consuming sometimes. This week we’re going to explore politics using a Symbolic Interactionist lens and the fantastic work of Dr. Murray Edelman to make sense of what’s going on in our state and federal governments every day. Is politics an earnest attempt at changing our society for the good? Is it just a spectacle meant to distract us? Or maybe somewhere in between? Tune in here to learn more and stay healthy out there!


  • For a refresher on what Symbolic Interactionism is, check out:
  • Murray Edelman’s biography
  • We used two of Edelman’s books quite a bit in this episode, they are:
  • Edelman argues that politics is made up of two types of symbols:
    • Referential Symbols: “economical ways of referring to the objective elements in objects or situations: The elements identified in the same way by different people. Such symbols are useful because they help in logical thinking about the situation and in manipulating it” (Edelman 1967:6). 
    • Condensation Symbols: “evoke the emotions associated with the situation. They condense into one symbolic event, sign, or act patriotic pride, anxieties, remembrances of past glories or humiliations, promises of future greatness: some one of these or all of them” (Edelman 1967:6). 
  • Penn read a quote from Joel Best’s article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Telling the Truth About Damned Lies and Statistics
  • Kellyanne Conway’s misleading ignorance of where COVID-19’s name comes from can be read about here.
  • Ellen’s sci-fi obsession was recently quenched with VOX by Christina Dlacher, which has relevant themes about the power of language in politics
    • Other great dystopian sci-fi books surrounding politics and power? The Power by Naomi Alderman, The Handmaid’s Tale & The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, and many many more. If you wanna geek out or have more recommendations, contact Ellen!
  • Virtual dating platforms are taking off according to the NY Times!
  • Movie star Matt O’Damon?

SOC112 – (Neo)liberalism and its Discontents


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.


Neoliberalism, liberalism, sociology, economics, capitalism, politics, freedom, culture


  1. John Locke’s biography 
  2. 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”

    From John Locke’s (1693) Some Thoughts Concerning Education 

  3. A Letter Concerning Toleration by John Locke (1689) 
  4. Definition of indolency 
  5. 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.”

    Declaration of Independence (1776) 

  6. John Locke Against Freedom (Jacobin 2015) 
  7. What is neoliberalism? 
  8. Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know Now (Free Press 2017) 
  9. Battle for the Net: Save Net Neutrality 
  10. Linda Taylor, welfare queen: Ronald Reagan made her a notorious American Villain (Slate 2013) 
  11. The Truth Behind The Lies Of The Original ‘Welfare Queen’ (NPR 2013) 
  12. “Noam Chomsky: Neoliberalism is Destroying Our Democracy” (The Nation 2017) 
  13. Globalization and its Discontents by Joseph Stiglitz (2003)
  14. Nobel Prize-winning economist Stiglitz tells us why ‘neoliberalism is dead’ (Business Insider 2016) 
  15. America is a neoliberal horror movie: Why “They Live” is the perfect film for our depraved times (Salon 2015) 
  16. U.S. Conservatives Outnumber Liberals by Narrowing Margin (Gallup Poll 2017) 
  17. Barack Obama: The deporter-in-chief (Al Jazeera 2017
  18. Here’s an offensive word we should retire right now (Chicago Tribune 2016)
  19. Let’s enjoy the white supremacist freakout after DNA tests show they aren’t 100 percent white (Salon 2017)
  20. White supremacist learns he’s 14% black 
  21. Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity (Wacquant 2009)
  22. “What is ‘Neo’ About Neoliberalism?” (New Republic 2017)