January 27, 2015

Emotional Labor, Status, and Stress

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Virtually no job comes without stress. Whether it’s meeting the expectations and deadlines of coworkers, clients, or supervisors, nearly all work can at times be challenging. Sometimes the work itself isn’t as challenging as managing relationships with the people we work with.

Emotional labor involves managing our emotions to meet our job expectations.  For example, retail clerks are expected to be upbeat and enthusiastic about the merchandise (and in general), even if that is not truly how they feel. Emotional labor is also part of dealing with the personalities of those we work with. This labor is not necessarily always stressful. Asking a coworker about a sick relative may be a way to convey your concern about their family without taking much of an emotional toll. But in other cases emotional labor can be very stressful, and this stress can be minimized or magnified based on one’s status.

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January 23, 2015

Punk Rock Professors

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

It’s been said that “music soothes the savage beast.” Although that may be true, I think music can also have the opposite effect: it can turn the calm individual into a maelstrom of frenetic energy (think Animal from the Muppets). That’s certainly been my recent experience with music.

Questionable authorities

For over 10 years, I’ve been part of a punk rock cover band called Questionable Authorities. There are five of us in the band: a biologist, a psychologist, and three sociologists. We are all tenured, well-respected professors at SUNY New Paltz who do typical professor things such as teach and mentor students, write academic books and articles, and chair departments and campus committees. But we also play punk rock music together. We even have an official band video of our punk version of the SUNY New Paltz alma matter (set to the music of The Dead Kennedy’s Holiday in Cambodia). We are still waiting for this video to go viral (or at least get more than 200 views—hint, hint).

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January 21, 2015

Community, Policing, and Accountability

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

In response to the recent murders of unarmed black men by local police officers in Ferguson, Cleveland, Staten Island, and Oakland, to name a few, the Obama Administration created a task force to improve community policing.  The idea is that if police officers are embedded within the communities they serve, instances of racial profiling, and excessive use of violent force would be less likely to happen. The task force also hopes that community policing will help to facilitate greater conversation, interaction, and friendliness between police officers and residents.

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January 16, 2015

Art and the Social Construction of Reality

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

What is art? This is an unanswerable question, certainly one that I will not attempt to answer in this post.

 A recent visit to our local museum of contemporary art triggered this question, as I passed by exhibits including a plywood box, a drain, scribbles with hand-drawn maps on brown pieces of paper, sock puppets, as well as diary entries that including the creator’s daily weight, body temperature, and her body’s elimination schedule.

For these pieces to be in a museum, someone must have declared them to have artistic merit (with which professional art critics might disagree). Perhaps the creators consider themselves to be artists and set out to create art and are thus regarded by others as artists. How one defines art is not just an individual endeavor, but one that is grounded in our social context.

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January 13, 2015

The Birth Lottery and Global Inequality

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

When you think of inequality what comes to mind? As sociologists, many of us are trained to immediately point to the “holy trinity” of sociological analysis: race, gender, and class. We may think of the achievement gap in education, the gender pay gap, the extreme disparity between CEO pay and average worker pay, or toxic or environmental injustice as some of the typical manifestations of inequality. There is no denying the importance of race, class, and gender to any discussion of social stratification. However, there is another dimension of inequality that is arguably more pernicious than the holy trinity but is not spoken about nearly as much: the country in which you were born.

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January 06, 2015

Smart Phones and Postmodern Theory

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

I have been to several concerts within the past year and have noticed that there are always at least a few people who use their phones to take videos during the concert, even if there is an explicit “no photography” rule in effect.

For audience members, these video-takers are very distracting. They are holding up a lighted object, often partly blocking the views of those behind them. From the perspective of the performers, not only can they be distracting, but for those who don’t want unauthorized images or videos of their work posted online, there can be copyright issues to consider.

At a recent show, I saw at least two people taking videos in my immediate vicinity, despite being told that all cell phones must be turned off so they would not interfere with the electrical equipment at the tiny venue (maximum capacity 155). It’s hard not to look at a smart phone while it’s taking a video right in front of you in a darkened room. At this concert, the “videographer” was zooming in and out of the stage, and shaking the phone to add his own effects to the music. It created a blurry, shaking, pulsating light in front of me.

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January 02, 2015

Fear, Travel, and Anomie

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Sociologists explore the ways in which societies experience and produce fear. Frank Furedi and Barry Glassner both wrote books with nearly similar titles in the late 1990s on the culture of fear. Within the Everyday Sociology Blog, Karen Sternheimer has written about how fears of media itself distract from other issues, such as poverty and inequality.

Societies spend a lot of resources on issues that are not as much of a threat to most people than other issues, as in the case of Ebola or the Flu, as Sternheimer wrote in a recent post. One of those is much more likely to affect more people—and kill more people—and it’s not the first disease mentioned. Sociologists explore how and why fears are manufactured, as well as who benefits from the construction of fears, particularly fears of things that are unlikely to harm most people.

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December 30, 2014

Kung Fu Sociology

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

With a title like Kung Fu Sociology you are probably wondering what this post is about. Here are some possibilities to consider:

  1. The contributions of sociologists from Asia and the Far East
  2. An analysis of the sociological dimensions of martial arts training
  3. A sociological review of the Kung Fu Panda movies
  4. A reflection of a quote from a recently deceased French sociologist

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December 23, 2014

The Season of Giving, Charity, and Capitalism

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

Within the United States, we often hear the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas called the “season of giving.” During the past three years, this season has been kicked off by Giving Tuesday.I n the true spirit of capitalism, Giving Tuesday draws on the monetary successes of Black Friday and Cyber Monday in order to tap into two great American pastimes: charitable giving and shopping.

According to a study by the National Philanthropic Trust, in 2013 the average American household donation was $2,974. Furthermore, Americans donated $241.32 billion to charities; this dollar amount vastly outpaced the combined charitable giving by foundations ($50.28 billion) and corporations ($16.76 billion).  But what does it mean to give charitably?  Where did this idea of charity come from? And, why do Americans donate?

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December 15, 2014

Police Misconduct as a Social Problem

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Are you angry about the legal system’s decisions about the cases in which have police killed unarmed black boys or men? Or are you angry that people are angry about that?

It is not clear whether the rates of unarmed black man being killed by police are increasing, but we are seeing more media coverage when it happens. It’s about time.

Is this a problem of individuals? Yes, on the one hand. It’s a problem for them personally if it happens to them or someone in their life. But it’s also a problem for society. One of the key tenets in sociology is that the personal isn’t just personal, it’s societal, and it’s political. The things that we experience are linked to larger social structures.

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