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Annual Editions: Sociology, 11/12
UNIT 1: Culture
Part A. American Culture and Cultural Change
1. Understanding American Worldview, J. LaVelle Ingram, Life in the USA, 2007
J. LaVelle Ingram created this article to explain to immigrants the peculiar worldview of the country they are adopting. It is contrasted with other worldviews and explains some important cultural differences between societies.
2. The Atrophy of Social Life, D. Stanley Eitzen, Society, September/October 2004
Social interaction "is the basic building block of intimate relationships, small groups, formal organizations, communities, and societies." Therefore, Stanley Eitzen is concerned about numerous social trends that he reports hinder or even eliminate social interaction, and that indicate a growing isolation as individuals become increasingly separated from their neighbors, their co-workers, and even their family members.
3. The Myth of the "Culture of Poverty," Paul Gorski, Educational Leadership, April 2008
The culture of poverty myth accuses the poor of having beliefs, values, and behaviors that prevent them from achieving. Thus their failure is their fault. This myth must be challenged. Most poor people do have the work ethic, value education, and other characteristics which contradict the culture of poverty myth. Opportunity structures play a big role in poverty.
4. Islam in America, Bobby Ghosh, Nation, August 30, 2010
America prides itself on its diversity but that is changing with respect to Muslims. Bobby Ghosh presents painful stories of intolerance and hatred against American Muslims, and reviews the arguments against Islam and some of the widely held erroneous beliefs that poisons feelings toward them. The article also sketches the history of intolerance in America.
Part B. Value Issues
5. The Denial of Virtue, Amitai Etzioni, Society, 2008
Many economists and social commentators deny that people act virtuously. The infinite episodes of virtuous behavior are interpreted as rational, self interested behavior, or due to genetical wiring. Amitai Etzioni argues that moral values do affect human behavior, so life involves more than self interest, and that sociology is a valid social science.
6. Diversity within Unity: A New Approach to Immigrants and Minorities, The Communitarian Reader: Beyond the Essentials, edited by Amitai Etzioni, Andrew Volmert, and Elanit Rothschild, Rowan & Littlefield, 2004
This statement, signed by many communitarians, seeks to assuage the increasing fear of impacts of immigration. It favors diversity of cultures within unity on shared core values.
7. The Dubious Value of Value-Neutrality, Stephen H. Balch, The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 16, 2006
Stephen Balch questions whether we should be value-neutral. Since all education serves many purposes besides imparting information, it can not be and should not be value-neutral. Universities should be open to all points of view, promote critical thinking, and favor views that are best supported by data and logical arguments.
UNIT 2: Socialization and Social Control
Part A. Influences on Personality and Behavior
8. Worth Every Penny, Jim Giles, New Scientist, November 24, 2007
Jim Giles proposes a very sensible idea that many consider radical. He proposes that people be rewarded for doing what is beneficial to society. He would pay people for doing good. Believe it or not, this is a revolutionary idea.
9. The New Sex Scorecard, Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today, July/August 2003
As everyone knows, men and women are different. Recent research has greatly increased our understanding of these differences and Hara Estroff Marano reviews these differences including mental, sexual, health, emotional, and psychological.
Part B. Crime, Law Enforcement, and Social Control
10. Fighting Crime: An Economist’s View, John J. Donohue, Milken Institute Review, First Quarter 2005
It is amazing what conclusions we would come to about crime and punishment if we used economic logic as John J. Donohue shows in this article. We would stop building prisons, abolish the death penalty, expand the police force, adopt sensible gun controls, and legalize drugs among other things.
11. Too Many Laws, Too Many Prisoners, Economist, July 24, 2010
The lead in sentence summarizes this article. "Never in the civilized world have so many been locked up for so little." Many lives are ruined by misguided criminal laws, misguided sentencing laws, and by misguided prosecutors. The results are tragic, costly, and penalize our society.
12. The Aggregate Burden of Crime, David A. Anderson, Journal of Law and Economics, October 1999
David A. Anderson makes a valiant effort to compute the annual costs of major types of crime and the net annual total cost of all crime which he claims exceeds $1 trillion or over $4,000 per capita. Fraud and cheating on taxes costs Americans over 20 times the costs of theft, burglary, and robbery.
UNIT 3: Groups and Roles in Transition
Part A. Marriage and the Family
13. The Frayed Knot, The Economist, May 26, 2007
The thesis that marriage is in trouble is a half truth. It is true for the lower class and not for the college-educated class. Thus there is a marriage gap and it contributes to the income gap.
14. Good Parents, Bad Results, Nancy Shute, U.S. News & World Report, June 23, 2008
Nancy Schute claims that research has determined what motivates children and exactly what discipline methods work and what don’t: Parents must set limits; avoid micromanaging; not nag, lecture, or yell; and praise less and love more.
15. Peer Marriage, Pepper Schwartz, The Communitarian Reader: Beyond the Essentials, edited by Amitai Etzioni, Andrew Volmert, and Elanit Rothschild, Rowan & Littlefield, 2004
Pepper Schwartz celebrates the widespread diffusion of peer marriages in which spouses regard each other as full social equals, both have careers, share family decision making, and more equally share child-rearing responsibilities. He argues that peer marriages generally result in stronger families and greater satisfaction.
Part B. Gender and Gender Roles
16. Feminists and Fundamentalists, Kavita Ramdas, Current History, March 2006
Women’s rights have increased greatly throughout the world, but these rights are being threatened by the growth of fundamentalism in many countries. The worldwide women’s movement is working hard to advance women’s rights against these reactionary forces.
17. The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage, Theodore B. Olson, Newsweek, January 18, 2010
Gay marriage is hotly debated today and probably will be for a considerable time into the future. The arguments are based on values and cost benefit analyses of its impacts. Now the arguments have moved into the courts to determine whether constitutional rights were violated when California Proposition 8 overturned legislation which legalized gay marriages. Currently Proposition 8 has been overturned but the legal battle is continuing. This article covers all of the issues that lie behind this debate.
Part C. City and Community
18. An Age of Transformation, Economist, May 31, 2008
The transformation that the Economist assesses is the transformation of America from urban and rural life to suburban life. More people live in the suburbs than cities and rural areas together. In the past, cities excelled in jobs and heterogeneity. Now these characterize the suburbs.
19. Why Aren’t U.S. Cities Burning?, Michael B. Katz, Dissent, Summer 2007
Sociologists should be surprised that American cities are peaceful. Most of the conditions that produced nearly 150 riots in 1967 have continued and some, like racial segregation, have worsened. Michael B. Katz tries to solve this paradox.
UNIT 4: Stratification and Social Inequalities
Part A. Poverty and Income Inequalities
20. A World Enslaved, E. Benjamin Skinner, Foreign Policy, March/April 2008
Did you know that there are more slaves living today than at any time in human history? E. Benjamin Skinner claims that you could buy a child slave for sex and work for $50 in Haiti and fly home with her in one day. He claims that there are 300,000 slaves in Haiti. This is how he begins his expose of worldwide slavery.
21. Antipoverty Policy for the Excluded Poor, Herbert J. Gans, Challenge, November/December 2009
Herbert J. Gans describes how the poor are more resented and victimized in America compared to other industrial nations and are minimally helped by social programs. Our policies and the functioning of our economy favor upper groups and give little opportunities for the poor.
22. Goodbye, Horatio Alger: Moving up Economically Is Now Impossible for Many, If Not Most, Americans, Jeff Madrick, The Nation, February 5, 2007
One of the prized characteristics of America has been the opportunity to go from rags to riches. Unfortunately, moving up economically is now impossible for most Americans. Income mobility has declined dramatically in the last three decades in America and now several European countries have more income mobility than the United States.
23. Connecting the Dots, David K. Shipler, from John Edwards, et al., Ending Poverty in America, The New Press, 2007
Poverty is a complicated subject. The obvious aspects are the lack of good jobs, lack of skills, and lack of opportunity. Less obvious are the reasons why the steps to eliminate poverty are not taken. David K. Shipler explains how multiple problems intersect and make it nearly impossible for many of the poor to get out, and stay out, of poverty.
Part B. Welfare and Welfare Reform
24. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: An Overview, Robert Ek and Larry Goolsby, Policy & Practice, February 2010
In 1996 America ended Aid to Families with Dependent Children and replaced it with a new welfare program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, (TANF) with a strong emphasis on temporary assistance, encouraging mothers to work. TANF was a success because it caused welfare rolls to shrink, but some problems remain.
Part C. Racial and Ethnic Issues and Inequalities
25. Inequalities that Endure? Racial Ideology, American Politics, and the Peculiar Role of the Social Sciences, Lawrence D. Bobo, from The Changing Terrain of Race and Ethnicity, edited by Maria Krysan and Amanda E. Lewis (Russell Sage Foundation 2004)
One way to understand the continuing racism in the United States is to see that the past attitudes, behaviors, and institutions recreate themselves in the present. Change occurs but change is also resisted by those who fail to perceive the workings of the persisting inequalities in America.
26. Whites Swim in Racial Preference, Tim Wise, from Poverty and Race in America, edited by Chester Hartman, 2006
According to Tim Wise, America has had a strong affirmative action program from its founding. It was a white affirmative action program and, though it has been cut back, some of it is still in existence. Whites, however, are ignorant of its presence because they have come to assume that they have earned all that they have.
27. The Decline of Bigotry in America, Philip Perlmutter, Society, November 2009
Bigotry has many different targets, causes, and consequences, which are examined by Philip Perlmutter. His message is that bigotry has declined significantly and will decline further.
Part D. Sex Inequalities and Issues
28. Great Expectations, Judith M. Havemann, The Wilson Quarterly, Summer 2007
Women have taken tremendous strides toward equality in the corporate world and now hold half of all management and professional jobs and their leadership style is superior to that of men. However, they rarely hold top management positions. Why? Several explanations are discussed.
29. Female Power, Economist, January 2, 2010
Do you agree with the Economist on the opinion that "The economic empowerment of women across the rich world is one of the most remarkable revolutions of the past 50 years? It is remarkable because of the extent of the change. . . [and] because it has produced so little friction." This article documents and explains this revolution.
30. The End of Men, Hanna Rosin, The Atlantic, July/August 2010
Hanna Rosin overstates her case in the title but she does show that women are advantaged over men in many ways. More women are working than men; over 50% of managers are women; three fifths of college degrees are earned by women. The deeper question behind these facts is whether modern life that favors verbal skills over physical skills is loading the dice in favor of women?
UNIT 5: Social Institutions: Issues, Crises, and Changes
Part A. The Political Sphere: Power, Politics, and Administration
31. Who Rules America?: Power, Politics, and Social Change, Fifth Edition, G. William Domhoff, The McGraw-Hill Companies, 2006
G. William Domhoff is the leading proponent of the power elite view of American politics, which is explained in this article as it applies to political influence in America today.
32. Inside the Hidden World of Earmarks, Eamon Javers, BusinessWeek, September 17, 2007
The main criticism of the American government is that it is not fair. The rich and large corporations get much of what they want and the general public gets little of what it wants. One of the processes that achieves these results is earmarks. Eamon Javers explains this process and its impacts, and calls for its reform.
33. Foresight for Government, David M. Walker, The Futurist, March/April 2007
Today’s governments must govern in terms of long-term challenges. They must prepare for the future. David M. Walker, the comptroller general of the United States, is responsible for making the Government Accountability Office an anticipatory agency, and discusses some of the greatest future challenges that our government must face.
Part B. The Economic Sphere: Changing Consumption, Workplaces, Workforce
34. Reversal of Fortune, Bill McKibben, Mother Jones, March 2007
Bill McKibben raises the age old question "Does money buy happiness?" in a new way, i.e., "Is more better?" The data indicate that economic "growth no longer makes us happier." In fact, the things that contribute most to happiness are under stress in modern life.
35. The Capitalist Manifesto: Greed Is Good (To a Point), Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek, June 22, 2009
Fareed Zakaria describes how American capitalism works. It "means growth, but also instability." It is both good and bad, but mostly good. It is driven by self interest (greed) to produce good products at low cost for high sales and good profits, but self interest can go astray when institutions fail to turn self interest into socially beneficial actions.
36. Nine Powerful Practices, Ruby Payne, Educational Leadership, April 2008
The greatest educational challenge is to raise the achievement level of students living in poverty. Ruby Payne offers nine strategies for doing just that. Some are technical and some are relational.
37. Medical Guesswork, John Carey, BusinessWeek, May 29, 2006
John Carey reports that the medical decisions of most doctors are based on very little empirical evidence. His report features medical crusader Dr. David Eddy, who is championing evidence-based medicine.
38. Pandemic Pandemonium, Josh N. Ruxin, The National Review, July/August 2008
Josh N Ruxin warns that the worst health problem today is the imminent danger of a pandemic. Pandemic threats include AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and influenza. Developed countries are not too concerned about these diseases but their vitality in poor countries allows the development of very dangerous strands of these diseases that can threaten a large part of the world.
39. In Search of the Spiritual, Jerry Adler, Newsweek, August 29–September 5, 2005
Jerry Adler presents a full and rich report on spirituality and religion in America that covers both statistics and practices.
UNIT 6: Social Change and the Future
Part A. Population Issues
40. Population & Sustainability, Robert Engleman, Scientific American, Summer 2009
Consumption patterns have greater impacts on the environment than population growth but reversing the growth in population is essential for achieving long-term balance with the environment. Is population control the answer? A better answer is to help women have control over their fertility.
41. How to Feed 8 Billion People, Lester R. Brown, The Futurist, January/February 2010
The demand for food is growing faster than the supply of food because of "population growth, the growing consumption of grain-based animal protein, and, most recently, the massive use of grain to fuel cars." Meanwhile soils are eroding, water shortages are increasing, and the improvements that made the green revolution are near their limits so expanding production is difficult and per capita grain production is declining. Lester R. Brown proposes conservation, productivity, and consumption changes to address the food crisis.
42. Immigration Benefits America, Steven J. Gold, Society, September 2009
As stated in his title, Steven J. Gold argues that immigration benefits America socially and economically even though many immigrants come from cultures quite different from ours. Many voice fears that immigrants will change us for the worse, but history shows that America successfully assimilates immigrants for both our and their benefit.
Part B. Environment and Society
43. Climate Change, Coming Home: Global Warming’s Effects on Populations, Sarah DeWeerdt, WorldWatch, May/June 2007
Global warming is constantly in the news but its impacts, other than the melting of arctic ice and the threat to polar bears, are not widely known. Sarah DeWeerdt identifies some of its major impacts and warns of possible future world food shortages, spreading infectious diseases, and rising sea levels.
Part C. Technology for Better or for Worse
44. Who’s Afraid of Human Enhancement? A Reason Debate on the Promise, Perils, and Ethics of Human Biotechnology, Nick Gillespie et al., Reason, January 2006
A major cultural debate of this century is how society will deal with biotechnology. The potential for reducing diseases, disabilities, and abnormalities on the one hand and to enhance performance on the other hand is great. Eventually children can be "designed." This article debates "What should biotechnology be allowed to do?"
45. Biotech on the Farm: Realizing the Promise, Clifton E. Anderson, The Futurist, September/October 2005
The fact that new technology can produce both good and bad outcomes is at the heart of the debate about genetic engineering. Clifton Anderson explains how it can help farmers feed future populations with better diets but also entails high risks. He recommends a Genetic Science Commission to guide the development of genetic research to maximize the benefits and minimize the harms.
Part D. Terrorism and War
46. Defeating Terrorism: Is It Possible? Is It Probable?, Marvin J. Cetron, The Futurist, May/June 2007
One of the leading futurists, Marvin J. Cetron, directed the most extensive projects forecasting the future of terrorism and reports its findings here. It is scary!
47. The Jihad against the Jihadis: How Moderate Muslims Waged War on Extremists—and Won, Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek, February 22, 2010
Fareed Zakaria explains how moderate Muslim leaders are waging a war on extremists and winning. The likelihood that a major Muslim country will succumb to Jihadist ideology has dramatically declined. "Modern, somewhat secular forces are clearly in control and widely supported across the Muslim world."
48. War in the Fifth Domain, Economist, July 3, 2010
The possibilities of cyber warfare are frightening. Cyber terrorists could cause financial chaos costing trillions, screw up electrical grids, or widely infect military hardware. Worst case scenarios include oil refineries and pipelines exploding, air-traffic-control systems collapsing, orbiting satellites spinning out of control, major corporations being hacked to death, and the Internet being crippled. Society could soon break down as food becomes scarce and money runs out. Protection from these attacks is extremely difficult.
Part E. Macro Changes for the World and the United States
49. A New End, a New Beginning: Prepare for Life as We Don’t Know It, John L. Petersen, The Futurist, September/October 2009
John L. Petersen, a noted futurist, forecasts that major changes, a transformation, lie ahead, because multiple trends are converging, problems are much larger than government, the problems are systemic, we are not taking appropriate steps now, the issues are too complex to adequately understand, and the issues are global. We must plan for the transition now.
50. A User’s Guide to the Century, Jeffrey D. Sachs, The National Interest, July/August 2008
Jeffrey Sachs attempts to identify, briefly describe, and assess the consequences of the major developments of the twenty-first century. The world is converging technologically and economically, economic and population growth are threatening the environment, and vast inequalities in income and power between and within nations are destabilizing and increasing conflicts.
51. Can America Fail?, Kishore Mahbubani, The Wilson Quarterly, Spring 2009
Kishore Mahbubani argues that America is guilty of groupthink, which prevented us from anticipating the meltdown of the housing and financial markets. Now our worship of individual responsibility and freedom makes us irresponsible, our hatred of taxes leads to crippling debt, our over extension of American power makes us hated throughout the world, our self righteousness closes our ears to the voices of others, and our acceptance of our political system guarantees its subordination to special interests. Unless we wake up America will fail.
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