Monthly Archives: September 2008

Structure of Feeling in Beverly Hills

by bmckernan

With the American fall television season upon us, a recent NY Times article examines the underlying class distinctions found in some of this season’s newest programs. After surveying the offerings, it appears that the days of the middle-class sentimentality of such programs as The Cosby Show are a thing of the past. The article suggests that rather than focusing on supposed middle-class families, television shows today are often mainly interested in the conflicts between members of the upper-class. Additionally, the article goes on to point out that the upper-class on US television are often incredibly wealthy, with teenage characters chartering jets for first dates and even the less fortunate residing in Beverly Hills mansions. The British scholar Raymond Williams spoke of understanding a social group’s “structure of feeling” through their cultural outputs. In a time of economic turmoil, it may be interesting to utilize Williams’ approach to make sense of how these celebrations of opulence can coexist with the realities of financial uncertainty and a diminishing middle-class.

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David L Altheide on Electronic Media and State Control

Sudhir Venkatesh on Gang Leader for a Day

By Feistyle

In a video speech, Sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh talks about his time spent studying and living with a Chicago gang called the Black Kings in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  His study was made famous in the book Freakonomics and has been documented in more detail in his book Gang Leader for a Day.  He discusses urban poverty and his methods for research and how these changed as his study went on.

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Bryan Hogeveen on Youth (and) Violence

 

James F. Short Jr and John Moland Jr on Politics and Youth Gangs

Hyperreality and the Cocoon

by theoryforthemasses

An international design collective, NAU, is developing an Immersive Cocoon that would allow users to step into 3D virtual worlds. Within the Immersive Cocoon, users would be able to visit virtual cities, museums, and stores, experiencing the environments as if they were actually there, walking, looking, and shopping. French sociologist Jean Baudrillard suggested that postindustrialized societies enter states of hyperreality marked by the dominance of simulacra, wherein simulations of experiences become more meaningful and important than actual experiences. The Immersive Cocoon may become the most advanced simulacrum developed yet.

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Gane on Baudrillard in Blackwell Reference Online

The instrumentalization of sexism

by nmccoy1

Discussions surrounding Sarah Palin and Hilary Clinton have brought sexism to mainstream media attention. (see BBC article below)  Beyond the superficial discussions of who women will vote for and who is a feminist, we are losing site of a fundamental and very dangerous problem.  In the tradition of the Frankfurt School, in particular, Max Horkheimer, we are looking at the instrumentalization of ideas and theories for propaganda.  As a system of oppression, sexism pervades social relations and the structures in which we live.   Not only is sexism alive and well as can clearly be seen in the discussions surrounding Palin and Clinton but sexism has also been manipulated and therefore undermined.  The use of sexism to invalidate a candidate’s credentials or to protect a candidate from scrutiny, results in the instrumentalization of sexism.  This kind instrumentalization occurs when theories and  ideas are used as a tool for domination.   There are two effects to this: one is that sexism loses it meaning and power, it becomes a joke, a catchall if you will.  Secondly, there is no possibility for critique.  If we cannot critique Palin’s policy positions or qualifications without being sexist then we are no longer free and rational individuals (if we ever were).

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Blackwell Reference Online entry on Sexism

Soldiers and Suicide

by delawaregrad

More than a century ago, French sociologist Emile Durkheim found that suicides were not simply the result of selfish individual action but were influenced by social forces such as age, gender and religion, and developed categories of suicide.  One of these categories is egoistic suicide, where individuals take their life because they are not well integrated into society due to a breakdown of social ties.  A recent article in the Washington Post found that suicide is on the rise among active duty soldiers at an almost unprecedented level:

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A. Corvisham on Soldiers and Society