Annual Editions: Sociology 13/14, Forty-First Edition
Unit 1: CultureUnit OverviewPart 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 dif-ferences between societies.
2. The American Narrative: Is There One & What Is It?, William H. Chafe, Daedalus, Winter 2012
William H. Chafe shows that America has two major moral premises from the early Puritans until today: serving the public good and individual freedom. These more or less balance each other and over the long run serve us well. The current drive to undo the programs that assist the needy including social security and medicare may destroy that balance if unchecked and weaken the country.
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 which 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. I Can’t Think!, Sharon Begley, Newsweek, March 7, 2011
Research summarized here reveals that our minds are stimulated as the subjects it considers become more complex, but after a point they experience overload and begin to make more errors and bad decisions. Sharon Begley reports on the ways that our increasing exposure to information is impacting us.
5. Fear and Loathing of Islam, Moustafa Bayoumi, The Nation, July 2/9, 2012
Ever since 9/11 American Arabs and Muslims have become an outcast group even though they were very well integrated into American society. Many untrue, terrible stories about Muslims are spreading like wildfire through talk-radio, the internet, and other media that have little regard for the facts. Actually Arab Americans have had an exemplary record as good, patriotic, and successful Americans.Part B. Value Issues
6. 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.
7. What Do We Deserve?, Namit Arora, The Humanist, May/June 2011
A major key to political, economic, and cultural issues is the question "What is just or right?" Namit Arora uses Michael Sandel’s book, Justice, to explore this question. People should be rewarded for their skill and effort but because chance and innate advantages play such a large role in outcomes, some adjustments are required for outcomes to be considered fair. How these adjustments are made shape political philosophies and differentiate societies.Unit 2: Socialization and Social ControlUnit OverviewPart A. Influences on Personality and Behavior
8. Passage to Adulthood, Frank F. Furstenberg, The Prevention Researcher, April 2010
We become what we are largely because of our genes, experiences, socialization, social roles, and structure of society. When young people transition to adulthood later in life than four or five decades ago socialization, social roles, and changing social structure play a large part as this article explains. Educational requirements, economic conditions, cultural influences, and family structures make it harder for young people to achieve independence at an early age.
9. Worth Every Penny, Jim Giles, New Scientist Magazine, Nov 24, 2007
Jim Giles proposes a very sensible idea which 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.
10. The Perfected Self, David H. Freedman, The Atlantic, June 2012
B. F. Skinner’s controversial theory of behavior modification was denounced decades ago as a vehicle for government control. However, his ideas are making a comeback today.
11. 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
12. 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.
13. Wrongful Convictions, Radlev Balko, Reason Magazine, July 2011
Radley Balko shows that there are many wrongful convictions. DNA testing has cleared 268 convicted persons but few cases can be tested by DNA. Balko makes a valiant effort to estimate the number of wrongful convictions and ends up with a 3–5% number for felony crimes, but in the end one can only guess. His careful explication of the criminal justice system shows the many ways that injustice can be done and demonstrates the need for reforms.
14. Cruel and Unusual: The True Costs of Our Prison System, Robert DeFina and Lance Hannon, Commonweal, January 28, 2011
One of America’s black eyes is its prison system and the laws that send so many people to jail for long terms. America leads the world by far on incarceration rates due largely to the politically popular tough on crime policy involving mandatory sentencing and the three-strikes-and-you’re-out rule. Research indicates, however, that high incarceration rates contribute very little to lowering crime rates.
15. How Wall Street Crooks Get Out of Jail Free, William Greider, The Nation, April 11, 2011
The one area where tough on crime is not applied is corporate crime. Despite the horrific impacts of the recent financial crisis on the economy and country not one financial executive has gone to jail. William Greider explains how the political system works to protect the cheaters and not the cheat-ed.
16. The Aggregate Burden of Crime, David A. Anderson, Journal of Law and Econom-ics, October 1999
David A. Anderson makes a valiant effort to compute the annual costs of major types of crime and the net annual total costs 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. The white collar crimes of the last decade have greatly harmed society.Unit 3: Groups and Roles in TransitionUnit OverviewPart A. Marriage and the Family
17. All the Single Ladies, Kate Bolick, The Atlantic, November 2011
Kate Bolick shows that the institution of marriage is being battered by many forces of change making successful marriages more difficult. These include work–family tensions, changing gender roles, declining pools of compatible partners, sexual and other freedoms, and major cultural changes. Further transformation of marriage patterns are to be expected.
18. How to Land Your Kid in Therapy, Lori Gottlieb, The Atlantic, Ju-ly/August 2011
Lori Gottlieb develops an interesting thesis about parenting: the good is better than the very good. The very good in raising children which she criticizes is the "too good" parenting. For example, parents believe that they should try to make their children as happy as possible, but that can make them less adaptive and less happy in later life.
19. Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, Anne-Marie Slaughter, The Atlantic, July/August 2012
Women cannot have it all (a good career and a good family life) because the system (mostly the work world) is not set up to allow women to have it all. The system must be changed and Anne-Marie Slaughter suggests the ways it should be modified.Part B. Gender and Gender Roles
20. Death by Gender, Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, Dissent, Spring 2010
One of the greatest inequalities in the world is gender inequality in patriarchal societies. Women and girls are often killed by their fathers, brothers, or male cousins for the "honor" of the family when they have been raped or molested or perceived as contaminated for behaviors that would be normal in other societies. Gender inequality has many other facets, including the trafficking of women as sex slaves and their forced recruitment as suicide bombers.
21. The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage: Why Same-Sex Marriage Is an American Value, Theodore B. Olson, Newsweek, January 18, 2010
Gay marriage is hotly debated today and probably will be for a considerable time. The ar-guments 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
22. Urban Legends: Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are the Answer, Joel Kotkin, Foreign Policy, Sept/Oct 2010
Joel Kotkin claims that the theory that megacities are the wave of the future is an urban legend. The truth is that vibrant smaller cities, suburbs, and towns are the wave of the future because at some point centralization is dysfunctional and small cities and suburbs operate at a more humane scale.
23. Relationships, Community, and Identity in the New Virtual Society, Arnold Brown, The Futurist, March/April 2011
How have online relationships and communication impacted us and how might they impact us in the future? Arnold Brown explores a wide range of changes wrought by online relationships and activities and how they affect individuals and organizations. They are increasingly impacting identity formation and reformation.Unit 4: Stratification and Social InequalitiesUnit OverviewPart A. Poverty and Income Inequalities
24. 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. With the claim that there are 300,000 slaves in Haiti. He begins his expose of worldwide slavery.
25. The Impact of Globalization on Income and Employment: The Downside of Integrating Markets, Michael Spence, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2011
Everyone knows that the American economy is in trouble from competition with developing countries. Michael Spence details the impacts and explains the current trends. His conclusion is that the Amer-ican economy is in serious trouble for the foreseeable future.
26. The State of Poverty in America, Peter Edelman, The American Prospect, June 22, 2012
Peter Edelman says that poverty in America is a big problem because it rests on the shortage of work and the prevalence of low-wage work. These problems are likely to get worse not better. The poor number 103 million and most of them are trying to work as much as they can. The poor have been helped by many policies but changes in the labor market will continue to keep the poor numerous for many years.Part B. Welfare and Welfare Reform
27. The End of Welfare as I Knew It: How Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Failed the Test of the Great Recession, Diana Spatz, The Nation, January 2, 2012
The welfare law in 1996 was praised for lowering welfare rolls and pushing many into the job market. It also had its negative side which Diana Spatz presents. In many places it was administered badly and unjustly. Some of the people who were dropped should not have been.Part C. Racial and Ethnic Issues and Inequalities
28. Roots of Racism, Elizabeth Culotta, Science Magazine, May 18, 2012
Elizabeth Culotta explains the roots of intergroup prejudice and conflict by reporting the findings of anthropologists and psychologists on ingroup–outgroup attitudes and interactions. Throughout human history, prejudice based on group differences has played a major role in human violence and craziness.
29. A More Perfect Union, Barack Obama, Vital Speeches of the Day, May 2008
The anti patriotic tirade of Reverend Wright forced Obama to address the issue of race. He began with the high ideals of the Constitution and how slavery mocked these ideals. Soon he is telling his own story and how his career was made possible by the many struggles that narrowed the gap between the ideals and the reality. Therefore, he could not agree with Reverend Wright’s condemnation of America. His speech was informative, patriotic, and inspiring.
30. Understanding Unconscious Bias and Unintentional Racism, Jean Moule, Phi Delta Kappan, January 2009
Jean Moule identifies unconscious bias which leads to unintentional racism of which the perpetrators are usually unaware. These biases are based on stereotypes and are hard to correct at both the conscious and especially the subconscious levels. Moul points out the many very negative impacts that un-conscious biases cause.Part D. Sex Inequalities and Issues
31. Female Power, The Economist, January 2, 2010
Do you agree with the Economist 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.
32. 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 will be earned by women. Etc. 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 ChangesUnit OverviewPart A. The Political Sphere: Power, Politics, and Administration
33. The Rule of the Rich, Bill Moyers, The Progressive, February 2011
All sociologists to some extent accept the power elite theory that the economic elite have inordinate influence over the political system. Bill Moyers presents a cogent version of this thesis and shows how this power structure adversely affects society and so many lower groups.
34. Neutralized: Can American Democracy Survive the Demise of Impartial Institutions?, John B. Judis, The New Republic, April 28, 2011
According to John B. Judis democracy is threatened because so many institutions are loosing their impartiality and are becoming highly politicalized or ideologically narrow. The judicial system and public academic institutions must be impartial in their judicial decisions, teaching and research. Also countries are better off when their news media and sources of information are largely professional and unbi-ased.Part B. The Economic Sphere: Changing Consumption, Workplaces, Workforce
35. The Withering of the Affluent Society, Robert J. Samuelson, Wilson Quarterly, Summer 2012
Robert J. Samuelson is pessimistic about the economic future of America. He believes that the country will recover form the recession but only to modest growth and no growth on average for the young. Massive transfers from the young to the elderly is their prospects for many decades. Many aspects of the economy are taken into account in his analysis.
36. Hard at Work in the Jobless Future, James H. Lee, The Futurist, Mar/Apr 2012
James H. Lee is also pessimistic about America’s economic future. Automation and new technologies will make many workers redundant, including white collar and professional workers. The jobless future in his title is exaggerated but a severe shortage of jobs is to be expected. The ramifications are worrisome.
37. 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 insta-bility." 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.
38. 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.
39. Getting Higher in Shape, Daniel deVise, The Washington Post Magazine, February 20, 2011
Daniel deVise criticizes the U.S. higher educational system. The top research universities and liberal arts colleges may be the best in the world but the rest should be improved in eight ways: 1) measure how much students learn in college, 2) end merit aid which largely funds the children of upper-income families, 3) make the bachelor degree a three year degree, 4) revive the core curriculum (it is out of date), 5) bring back homework (a half century ago it was 25 hours a week, now 15), 6) tie public funds to finishing college, 7) cap athletic subsidies, 8) stop re-teaching high school in community college. These proposals should provoke debates.
40. A Thousand Years Young, Aubrey de Grey, The Futurist, May-June 2012
How would you like to live a thousand years? Aubrey de Grey says that advances in medical and biochemical treatments can overcome the ageing process and keep us young for many centu-ries.
41. From Hospital to "Healthspital": A Better Paradigm for Health Care, Frank W. Maletz, The Futurist, March/April 2011.
Frank W. Maletz is convinced that the U.S. health care system must be reformed. The key plank in his program is to put the priority on preventive care instead of treatment. He advocates an integrated, holistic health delivery system based on a great deal of retrievable information.
42. 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 which covers both statistics and practices.Unit 6: Social Change and the FutureUnit OverviewPart A. Population and Environmental Issues
43. The New Population Bomb: The Four Megatrends That Will Change the World, Jack A. Goldstone, Foreign Affairs, January/February 2010
The four world changing trends are 1) shift of population growth from developed countries to the developing countries, 2) The aging of the labor force in developed countries and increasing numbers of young people in developing countries, 3) rapid growth of Muslim countries, and 4) most of the world’s population will become urbanized, with the largest cities being in the poorest countries, where critical services are scarce. These are very challenging trends which will collapse many governing structures unless major adaptive changes are made. "The strategic and economic policies of the twentieth century are obsolete, and it is time to find new ones."
44. The New Geopolitics of Food, Lester R. Brown, Foreign Policy, May/June 2011
According to Lester R Brown the world is in a long term worsening food crisis that will have troubling economic, social, and political impacts. Falling water tables are a serious problem in countries containing more than half the world’s population. Soils are severely depleting. Deserts are expanding. Croplands are being diverted to ethanol production. Global warming harms food production. Societal troubles are approaching.
45. The World Will Be More Crowded—With Old People, Phillip Longman, Foreign Policy, Sept/Oct 2011
Phillip Longman’s message to young readers is that one of your major problems is the burden of the elderly that you must bear. Once retired they no longer contribute to society but only take from it and burden the young. In the developed nations there are too many old people and too few young people. This threatens world prosperity.
46. Immigration Benefits America, Steven J. Gold, Society, September 2009
As stated in his title Steven J. Gold argues that immigration socially and economically benefits America even though many immigrants come from cultures quite different from ours. Many voice fears that immigrants will change our culture and society for the worse, but history shows that America successfully assimilates immigrants from quite different backgrounds.
47. Over the Top, Fred Pearce, New Scientist, June 16, 2012
Will humanity’s ever-increasing demand for materials and energy go into reverse? Fred Pearce investigates the controversial claim of "peak stuff."
48. Conquering Climate Change, Dennis M. Bushnell, The Futurist, May/June 2010
There is enough uncertainty about many aspects of global warming to keep the debate alive even though most relevant scientists support the human caused global warming thesis. But how much certainty is required before ameliorative actions are taken? Dennis M. Bushnell explores this issue and recommends serious actions immediately to avoid or minimize many potential devastating consequences.Part B. Technology for Better or for Worse
49. Who’s Afraid of Human Enhancement?: A Reason Debate on the Promise, Perils, and Ethics of Human Biotechnology, Nick Gillespie, et al., Reason Magazine, January 2006
A major cultural debate of this century is how society will deal with biotechnology. The po-tential 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?"
50. Engineering the Future of Food, Josh Schonwald, The Futurist, May/June 2012
Josh Schonwald points to fabulous possibilities for genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Fears stand in the way of real progress in developing GMOs which would greatly improve and extend life. We already eat a lot of GMOs because GMO soybeans and canola dominate the market, so there is no reason to hold back GMOs if proper testing is done.Part C. Terrorism and War
51. The Year in Hate and Extremism, 2010, Mark Potok, Intelligence Report, Southern Poverty Law Center, Spring 2011.
Mark Potok demonstrates the recent substantial increase hate groups and extremist ideas. The most dramatic growth was in the antigovernment "Patriot" conspiricy minded organizations which grew by 60%. Others are racist and/or anti immigration. The FBI is very concerned about this trend and so should be the public.
52. War in the Fifth Domain: Are the Mouse and the Keyboard the New Weapons of Con-flict?, The 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 D. Macro Changes for the World and the United States
53. 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 or 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.
54. 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.
55. 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.
56. The Broken Contract: Inequality and American Decline, George Packer, Foreign Affairs, Nov/Dec 2011
George Packer analyzes the decline of the American institutional structure which he attributes to the broken American contract. America functioned adequately when the social contract between labor, business, and government governed the political economy. That contract is broken and American effectiveness has dramatically declined.
57. The Future of the Liberal World Order: Internationalism after America, G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2011
Ikenberry states that even though the U.S. influence abroad is different from the past, the liberal world order is intact, and that China does not want to rock the boat as they have benefited richly from the liberal status quo.