Tag Archives: economics

Racial Stereotypes, Scapegoating, and the Economic Crisis

Office Hours sat down with  Catherine Squires to discuss her September 2012 article in American QuarterlyColoring in the Bubble: Perspectives from Black-Oriented Media on the (Latest) Economic Disaster. This is a great podcast to keep on hand for use in any class on race relations or any discussion on the recent economic crisis.

Letters
In this podcast, Squires explains how people of color were scapegoated by the mainstream media in responding to the sub prime mortgage crisis. Squires then explores how three publications that are targeted to African Americans or people of color more generally responded to this crisis. The podcast is a great discussion of  how neoliberalism and notions of “post-racialism” allow for stereotypes of people of color to remain unexamined and allow people of color to be scapegoated for social problems, even in this case of obvious fraud by lending companies.

We recommend the following discussion questions and activity to get students engaged with this topic:

1. How does Squires define “neoliberalism”? Were you familiar with this political philosophy before listening to this interview? Have you recognized the elements of neoliberalism in political discussions recently?

2. How does Squires define “post-racialism”? Were you familiar with this ideology before listening to this interview? Have you seen this ideology expressed by politicians? by your family and friends?

3. In what ways did Squires find that people of color were blamed for the sub prime crisis?

4. According to Squires, how did the ideologies of neoliberalism and post-racialism lend support to the blaming of people of color (instead of focusing on racist practices by the lending companies)?

5. Take a look at the three news outlets that Squires examines in this paper: Black EnterpriseThe Root, and Colorlines.  Take a few minutes to look over each site. How do they seem similar and different? According to Squires, how did each of the news sources respond differently to the economic crisis?

6. Is Squires optimistic that these news sources created by and for people of color have the ability to challenge dominant narratives about people of color? Why or why not?

The Great Recession

20111009-OWS-Azcuy-10

In one of the latest episodes of Office Hours, TSP’s Sarah Shannon speaks with Stanford University Sociology Professor David Grusky about the social and economic effects of the recession.  This entire podcast could be assigned to students, though you could also considering assigning part of it (the first 20 minutes, for example).

Grusky and Shannon cover many topics in this 50-minute conversation, so there are many avenues for discussion.  Here are a few basic questions that cover some of the main points.

1)   How does the most recent recession differ from past recessions?  In other words, what makes it a “great” recession?

2)   How does the recession affect inequality in the United States?

3)   What are some of the responses to the recession, and how do they differ from responses to the Great Depression?

4)   Why does Grusky see a danger in the focus on tax-based solutions to the current economic problems?

5)   Grusky and Shannon speak specifically about college students several times throughout the podcast?  How is the recession impacting students?  Why is education an important part of this discussion?

Near the end of the podcast, Grusky mentions a website on recession trends that will be launching soon.  Stay tuned to learn more about that website and how it can be used in the classroom!

Economic Woes

Money!

Connecting students’ lives and previous experiences to lessons is always a great way to capture attention.  “The Sociology of Bubbles” by Bruce G. Carruthers (Contexts, Summer 2009) explains the sociology of the economic meltdown, a topic that will surely be of interest to many students.

Here are some potential questions that you could use with article:

1)    Do you have any experience with the finance system in the U.S. (e.g., the stock market, school loans)? Has your experience been positive or negative?  If you have no experience, how do you think you will in the future?

2)    Has the economic recession changed your views of the financial system in this country? What consequences of the recession have you seen in your own life?

3)    Why do you think so many people invest in the stock market or borrow from banks when the risks are so high? What do you think this says about our culture?

4)    The author writes that economic inequality in this country is at levels not seen since the Great Depression. Based on what you learned from this article and your own knowledge, what are the social repercussions of such high economic inequality?

 

 

 

Soda Cola

Here is a case study that you can use before reading “Consumers with a Conscience: Will They Pay More?”  by Howard Kimeldorf, Rachel Meyer, Monica Prasad, and Ian Robinson (Contexts,  Winter 2006). 

As a University of Pleasantville Board Member, Mike has a large decision ahead of him.  Two years ago, his university signed a 5-year contract with Soda Cola.  The university only sells and serves Soda Cola brand beverages on campus, and in return the university receives financial support from Soda Cola for research, new buildings, and student activities.

However, a group of several hundred students on campus have prepared a petition that asks the university to switch soda venders on the basis of alleged human rights violations by Soda Cola in other countries.  In some countries, Soda Cola companies have been accused of having unsafe working conditions.  In other countries, Soda Cola has also been accused of damaging the environment and contributing to pollution in rivers that people rely on for drinking water. 

While Mike understands these students’ concerns, he also has to consider his obligations to the university.  Times are tough, and the money the university receives from Soda Cola goes toward education and research.  Furthermore, he wonders if other soda vendors have better human rights records. 

Either way, the Board of Directors of the university will be reviewing the petition; and Mike will have to express his opinion on whether or not the university should continue business with Soda Cola. 

 Discussion Questions:

  1. If you were Mike, what would you suggest that the Board do?
  2. If the university ends their contract with Soda Cola, they will lose a substantial amount of research and education funding from the company. Is it worth it?
  3. Do Soda Cola consumers have the right to ask the company to investigate their practices?

TED Talks

We’ve been big on videos lately, but what can we say: online video is booming.

You may be familiar with TED: a conference about Technology, Entertainment and Design, though really there are talks on just about every topic. The best part: the talks are all online for free.

Most of the videos are around 20 minutes, so they’re perfect for watching in class or as assignments. Here are just two that I’ve watched recently as examples:

First, here’s Barry Schwartz on the decline of “wisdom.” It’s a bit of a rant near the end (in my opinion), but the first half provides an interesting critique of our modern faith in rationality and incentives and is great to compliment lectures on either bureaucracy or on rational choice:

Second, here’s a talk by Hans Rosling on “Third-world myths,” which is worth watching just for the captivating display of data alone. It’s great for a discussion of globalization but also, because the graphics are so good, for courses on research methods and data presentation. You can also see more of these graphics at gapminder.org: