April 19, 2016

Play and Public Space

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

As a sociologist, I often feel as though much of what I teach and research has a tinge of apocalyptic despair. As a result, I've started looking into topics that center on (or have an element of) joy, hope, happiness, laughter, or playfulness.

In searching for things that make me smile, I've come across a growing body of scholarship on the importance of play in social movements. The research suggests that play helps to build community, maintain interest in a social cause, invites people into the movement, fosters civic engagement, and diffuses power (e.g. clowns who confront police officers).

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April 14, 2016

Explanations are Not Excuses: The Importance of Criminology

Ian d marderBy Ian D. Marder, Ph.D. Student, School of Law, University of Leeds

Founder, Community of Restorative Researchers

Social scientists are concerned with identifying the individual and societal factors that lead people to behave in certain ways. In criminology, the branch of social science to which I belong, we try to find explanations (and ultimately preventative measures) for such behaviors which result in harm. For everything from theft, assault and police violence, to rape, human trafficking and genocide, our task is to ask two questions: why did it happen, and how should we respond?

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April 12, 2016

Ten Sociological Metaphors and Paradoxes

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

A few years ago, as a graduate student I was talking with an older sociologist who was cranky about how qualitative research was "too cute" in its lyrical presentation of data. I asked further about what that meant to her and she told me that she felt sociology should be "straight science." Upon further prompting she exclaimed, "metaphor has no place in sociology." Flummoxed with the conversation, I blurted, "WHAT ABOUT WEBER'S IRON CAGE!?!"

Metaphor is a rhetorical technique wherein one image stands in place of another. (Metaphor is different from a simile, wherein something is explicitly described as "like" something else.) My impolite response to a senior faculty member wasn't my finest moment. Her position, however, was astonishing because sociology is chockablock with wondrous metaphors and creative paradoxes that serve as conceptual tools for research and heuristic devices.

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April 08, 2016

Resume Writing for Sociology Majors

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

What can you do with a degree in sociology?

This is one of the most common questions I get from students thinking about majoring in sociology, and also from those on the verge of graduation. Saying you can do just about anything may be true (I have written letters of recommendation for students to attend law school and medical school, do graduate work in sociology, social work, and criminal justice, as well as jobs in probation, drug abuse counseling, teaching, public relations…the list goes on) but it often doesn't help people who need career guidance.

Prospective employers are looking for specific strengths, and you should tailor your resume to highlight these strengths for each type of position. Don't make the mistake of having one resume filled with your experiences and expect whoever reads it to connect the dots. You need to do that for them.

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April 04, 2016

Sociology for the Masses!

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

"ESCHEW OBFUSCATION"

This was a bumper sticker I remember seeing when I was in college. At the time, I only had a fuzzy idea of what these two words meant. After a little research, I realized that the phrase was a playfully pretentious way to encourage people to stop using big words that nobody understands. I'm sure many students wish they had a rubber stamp with these words so they could imprint them on some of the texts they must read. I felt that way when I was a student and sometimes I still feel that way. In fact, I often think that this slogan should be a rallying cry for sociologists everywhere.

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March 31, 2016

Policing, Solidarity, and Conflict

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Many news stories have noted that violent crime rates have risen in some cities, and some are blaming the so-called "Ferguson Effect." What does this mean?

The Los Angeles Police Department's (LAPD) Chief Charlie Beck wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times discussing the relationship between communities and their police departments. He mentions the "Ferguson Effect" yet redefines it when looking at Los Angeles and its crime related statistics.

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March 28, 2016

Understanding the Ideological Underpinnings of Capitalist Reproduction with Batman, Robin, Donald Trump, and Karl Marx

Howell_ABy Aaron J. Howell, Assistant Professor of Sociology, SUNY-Farmingdale

In some introductory sociology classes and in any classical sociological theory course, students grapple with the ways in which capitalist society reproduces itself. This was an especially pertinent social and political question outside of the classroom during the early industrial revolution of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when the relationship between capital and labor animated political conflict.

A variety of scholars observing the emerging capitalist economic system wondered how a system introducing private property, and the inequities that inevitably derive from private control of resources, could survive.

These scholars spanned the political spectrum from philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who was concerned with the ways that privatization might undermine the "general will" to Sir Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism, who feared that individualism and cronyism might go unchecked, to Karl Marx, a political radical, who argued that the capitalist system was inherently inhumane due to its alienating conditions.

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March 25, 2016

Spatial Inequity and Access to Abortion

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

Abortion and women's access to abortion are often contested issues within the United States. A recent poll by Pew Research found that 51% of Americans think that abortions should be legal in all or most cases. Yet, 49% of Americans polled think having an abortion is morally wrong. How does this difference in legality and morality impact legal decisions?

Have you heard about the Texas abortion regulations case? In 2013, the Texas solicitor general passed an omnibus abortion bill (HB2) that places additional restrictions on abortion providers. Regulations include requiring doctors to obtain hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles from the clinic where they perform abortions, and requiring abortion clinics to be retrofitted to comply with building regulations that would make them ambulatory surgical centers.

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March 21, 2016

Does College Alienate Low Income Students?

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

I teach at a pricey research university. Friends and family—some of whom are alumni— occasionally ask me how much it costs to attend these days. I usually tell them that I don't know; it's easy to forget about the price of tuition when you're not paying it.

So when the Los Angeles Times recently reported that a tuition increase will push the bill for students at my university to over $50,000 for the first time next fall, costing an estimated $70,000 including housing, food, books, and other expenses, I was surprised. A majority of the student body receives some form of financial aid, so not every student must come up with a whopping $280,000 to pay for their degree. When was an undergraduate (at a different expensive private university), I had a scholarship that covered half of my tuition. Coming up with half of the current tuition sounds like an impossible task for most families.

But what about students who do manage to attend a university through financial aid, work study, and scholarships?

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March 16, 2016

Masculinity So Fragile

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

Recently Will Smith's son, Jaden Smith, 17, became the face of the upcoming Louis Vuitton women's wear campaign. In the ads Jaden wears a black skirt and a fringed mesh top (you can see the photo here). This has sparked a mixture of cheers, jeers, and vitriol. Is it surprising that a gender-fluid image for a Spring 2016 fashion catalogue causes controversy? Why? Why would men—and it's mostly men—be so upset?

Here's something a little counter intuitive: masculinity, rather than being cast as the epitome of strength and power, is actually quite fragile. An undergraduate sociology student at UC Berkeley, Anthony J. Williams, added to the #masculinitysofragile hashtag to document the delicate yet heavily policed border between masculinity and femininity, and his contributions sparked an international trend. (Kudos!) This idea has been percolating in social media recently, and there are some solid sociological ideas to back all this up.

So, why the backlash?

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