271 posts categorized "Social Problems, Politics, and Social Change"

April 04, 2014

The State of the Dinner

Slika 10By Teja Pristavec

Sociology Graduate Student, Rutgers University

This February, President Obama sat down for dinner with his visiting French colleague, President François Hollande. In the company of the First Lady, other government officials, and some celebrities, the men enjoyed an appetizer of Illinois caviar, Pennsylvania quail eggs, and twelve varieties of American-grown potatoes. The main dish was a Colorado beef steak with mushrooms, Vermont cheese and salad, followed by a dessert of Hawaiian chocolate cake, Florida tangerines, and Pennsylvania vanilla ice-cream. Three types of wine accompanied the meal. Not just any types of wine: they were American wines made by French-born winemakers. Nothing in this meal was left to chance. But why was the encounter so carefully planned? Would it make a difference if, to celebrate the French-American friendship, the presidents raised a glass of Italian wine instead?

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March 28, 2014

The Dark Side of Seeing Only the Bright Side

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

As a self-starter, I like self-help books, and have read or listened to number of audio books in the genre. I have listened to many books on discovering one’s passions and creativity, on personal finance, relationships, career building, and those promoting emotional well-being. I can truly say that I have learned a lot from them, and they have taught me how to understand myself and others better.

But even while listening, on occasion I am reminded of the limits of self-help books. For instance, many personal finance books suggest that readers control their spending—stop buying that daily latte, and eventually you will have a million dollars. Well, I don’t drink coffee, and I’m sure there are many people who cannot save or invest for a million dollars even if they don’t either. As a college professor, I am in the economic group that would likely benefit more from this kind of financial advice, say, compared with a low-wage worker who struggles to pay bills each month. Advising someone in these circumstances to skimp on coffee is not going to help them.

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March 21, 2014

The Context of Understanding World Events

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

How aware are you of world events? As you are reading this, whats happening in the world?

As I write this, there are things happening with Russia and the Ukraine and Crimea. The missing Malaysian airplane is still missing. I wonder if theyll find it by the time you read this?

There are many things going on in the world that concern people--if they know about them.

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March 18, 2014

Stop and Frisk Through a Sociological Lens

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

If you live in or near New York, no doubt you have heard of a policing policy called “stop and frisk.” For those unfamiliar with the practice, stop and frisk involves police officers questioning and searching pedestrians for weapons if they deem them to be suspicious. This is different from an arrest, and there need not be a crime under investigation to justify a stop and frisk.  Instead, the idea is that this practice could stop a crime before it even happens.

In 2013, a judge ruled that stop and frisk was unconstitutional, as it was mainly used to stop—and many would argue harass—people of color on a daily basis. When Mayor Bill DiBlasio took office in 2014, he vowed that the police would discontinue the practice.

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March 13, 2014

Gentrification in Spike Lee’s Old Neighborhood

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

The old complaints about how New York isn’t New York anymore are coming up again. In truth, they are rarely far from many people’s lips. All neighborhoods change, and at times those transitions can be quite unnerving and very, very personal. But it is a tricky issue that touches on race, class, and community.

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March 10, 2014

Peace and Friendship in Crimea

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

If you have been following the news you have probably heard a lot about Crimea. I’m guessing that many Americans had (or maybe still have) no idea where Crimea is or why we should care about it.

This has not been the case for me. Whenever I think of Crimea I always think of peace and friendship. Such a sentiment may seem rather odd given the current geo-political strife that is confronting that region of the world. With Vladimir Putin flexing his military muscles and President Obama spewing threatening cease and desist warnings, peace and friendship are not the keywords that one currently associates with Crimea.

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February 24, 2014

Sociology Lessons in Kindergarten

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

I happen to know several children who are either in kindergarten or will be soon. Hearing about their experiences and those of their parents made me realize that kindergarten offers many sociology lessons, both inside the classroom and out.

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February 19, 2014

C. Wright Mills, Public Sociologist

Screen shot 2014-02-05 at 1.32.27 PMBy Arlene Stein

Professor of Sociology, Rutgers University, and co-editor of Contexts

While there are certainly aspects of our lives which are unique to us as individuals, so much of what we experience— the ways we eat, we think, we live— are products of how and where we are situated. Society, in other words, makes up people. 

At the same time, we also act upon the world--we make history. We do so by raising children and teaching them, to the best of our abilities, to be good citizens; by participating in the world of work and being a part of different organizations, by developing relationships with coworkers, subcultures, and at times, by joining social movements. 

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February 10, 2014

Parsons, Seeger, and Marx

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Pete Seeger, one of many well-known sociology majors, passed away in January 2014 at the age of 94. His education in sociology reflects a specific time and place in history and his life experiences and impact on society reflect changes within sociology itself.

Seeger was a folk singer and activist, best known for songs like "If I Had a Hammer" and "Turn! Turn! Turn!" As is widely reported, he went to Harvard in 1936 to major in sociology to prepare for a career in journalism. Two years into the program, he dropped out (or, after failing an exam or failing to take an exam, he lost his scholarship).

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January 27, 2014

What to study? Bingo vs Monopoly

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

I was asked to have a conversation with students about how I picked my research topic. It’s an old question, and the answer is often a mix of factors. Sometimes sociology books include an introduction or appendix on choosing a research project but often they do not. I’ll put it in rather unconventional terms: You’re either a Bingo researcher or a Monopoly researcher.

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