QuestionQuestion

In class we talked about Durkheim's
a: the rules of sociological method (1895)
b: The division of labor in society (1893)
c: The elementary forms of religious life( 1912)
d; Suicide 897

Max Weber
a: Objectivity and social Science ( 1904)
b: The protestant ethic and spirit of capitalism (1904-1905)
c: the distribution of power within the political community
d: Bureaucracy
e: The types of legitimate Domination

Karl MArx:
a: Manifesto of the communist party
B:Wage Labour and capital (1847)
C: Classes (1867)
D: the german ideology

A concept should be pick from any of these readings, for example Durkheim's Suicide talked about anomie.

Reflect upon the various theorists and theoretical concepts we have read throughout the semester. Which theoretical concept and/or theory made the most sense to you? Which really sparked your attention? Which did you feel most strongly about? Write a paper that discusses that concept, set of concepts, or theory and why you feel it is useful (or the opposite, why it is useless) in making sense of some aspect of your life or of some aspect of contemporary society.

Present your reflection as an argument that should be logical, persuasive and substantiated by examples and/or evidence (no need for systematic data). In selecting this theoretical concept or theory, you should be clear on (a) what the theory seeks to explain (the social pattern or social problem); (b) what the logic of that theory or concept is (why this theory or concept is useful in explaining that social problem or pattern); (c) why this theory or concept is more useful than other explanations or concepts out there that have been used to explain that same social pattern or social problem; and (d) how this concept might be modified to make better sense today.

Regarding this element (c), you should be able to argue that this concept is more useful than those of another theorist (ex. Marx’s conceptualization of the structure of historical capitalism is more useful than Weber’s). Or you may want to argue that the concept is useful, but only to a certain degree (Weber’s idea that power is exercised in distinct spheres is better than Marx’s theory of power, though ultimately you would not go so far as to argue that these spheres can be totally unrelated to economic forms of power). Or that it is only useful in conjunction with another set of concepts (Durkheim’s theory of the functionality of a societal social structure is only useful at the micro-level of small-scale behavior; it is not useful at the macro-level where we can clearly see that society is created to benefit the interests of some at the expense of others).

Here are some examples:
1. Marx’s concept of ‘commodity fetishism’ really resonated with you because you regularly shop and never thought about the labor power extracted to make the products that you buy, nor did you think about the fact that you are effectively exchanging your labor power for someone else’s when you buy things. You feel like this is a useful concept because the reality of capitalism is that wealth and power are ultimately derived from the labor exploited from the workers themselves. To think about the origins of wealth and labor force you to rethink a number of things, such as current debates in the press over how to get the economy started again, which tend to argue that what is good for business is good for workers. This also gets you thinking that Marx was wrong to assume that workers would somehow become class conscious and mobilize around it.
2. You liked Durkheim’s concept of anomie because you feel like the younger generation is being taught to have certain expectations about what life will bring them that cannot be achieved in practice in modern life. This makes you wonder about what institutions in our society are doing to ‘re-integrate’ and properly socialize individuals so that their desires in life correspond to their capacity to achieve those desires.

Your paper should be 6-8 pages long, typed, double-spaced, and with absolutely no spelling or grammatical errors. All authors used must be properly cited, and you may feel free to utilize professional sources not used in the classroom as long as you “create a dialogue” between them and the authors we have read in class if they are talking about similar ideas.

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When times were good, when economy was booming and everyone seemed to make at least a basic decent living, there was very little public debate about the type of capitalism we live and work in. Here, in the United States, we are brought up to believe in making our own good fortune - in living our American dream, in self-made men - and their self-made fortunes. In working hard but getting rich fast.

Recently, however, these questions of distribution of wealth, of social order and economic power have come back into focus. We have recently witnessed a large number of protests, starting with the “Occupy” protests that were spurred on by the most recent economic crisis and the way it was handled by the wealthiest - and most responsible - “class”, the financial institutions. Even more recently, we have seen a number of protests among workers in the lowest-paid wage bracket, those working for fast-food restaurants, large discount retailers, drug stores and the like. Their wages, which once were perhaps enough to provide them with a basic existence, no longer do what they are supposed to do - allow them to support themselves and their families off an honest day’s work. There is a massive outcry to increase the minimum wage, or adopt a “living wage” and thus, at least a little, even out the massive differences between the wealthiest and the poorest classes....
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