Category Archives: Things I like

What would Jesus buy?

Hi and welcome to a seasonal series of blog posts – ‘Subverting Christmas…’ To get you thinking about how utterly co-opted this fesitival has become by the dictates of Capitalist Consumer Culture.

To start off with, this looks like a good documentary – from the ‘Church of stop shopping’ – called ‘What would Jesus Buy’ ?

A quote from the Church’s leader Reverend Billy ”We’re trying to get people to slow down their consumption.. we’re addicted. we’re conflited, hypnotised, consumerised”

Shirt of Social Order

Shirt-of-social-order

Not quite as aethsetically pleasing as ‘the coat of many colours’ but I think this has more analytical value.

This  shirt demonstrates the class structure in modern Britain! This is taken from It is the first ever
exhibition that examines how British artists – and many others – have represented the shape of their society from the Renaissance to the present.

I found this at my latest ‘web site of the week’ – FlowingData

From the web site -‘Flowing data explores how designers, statisticians, and computer scientists are using data to understand ourselves better – mainly through data visualization. Money spent, reps at the gym, time you waste, and personal information you enter online are all forms of data. How can we understand these data flows? Data visualization lets non-experts make sense of it all.’

Ed Miliband – Influenced by Zygmunt Bauman?

Much to my delight I just stumbled across this article in the Guardian. Turns out that the new labour leader Ed Miliband is good friends with Bauman! I feel like I should have known this before somehow… Some good news on which to end the week!

All I’ve done below is cut and paste a few highlights – it’s late sorry!

Bauman and Milliband – the relationship

Bauman says he was “encouraged by Miliband’s first speech as leader to the Labour party conference, saying that it offered a chance to “resurrect” the left on a moral basis.

“Particularly promising for me was Ed’s vision of community. His sensitivity to the plight of the underdog, his awareness that the quality of society and the cohesion of community need to be measured not by totals and averages but by the wellbeing of the weakest sections,” says Bauman. “There seems to be a chance that under his leadership Labour will rediscover its own ground and recover its own feet.”

Bauman and the Milibands have history. Ed’s father, Ralph, and Bauman became close friends in the 1950s when both spent time at the London School of Economics (LSE). Both were leftwing sociologists of Polish-Jewish descent.

Ralph Miliband’s decision in 1972 to join the politics department at Leeds university, where Bauman taught sociology, that proved pivotal to their relationship. Bauman’s house in Leeds became a regular stop for the Miliband boys. Ed and David grew up watching the two academics discuss the future of the left.

A useful, very brief summary of Bauman’s basic world view –

Underlying his theory is the idea that systems make individuals, not the other way round. He says it does not matter whether one is dealing with Communism or consumerism, states want to control their public and reproduce their elites. But in place of totalitarian rule, western society looks to scare and entice by manufacturing public panics and seducing people with shopping. Bauman’s work today focuses on this transition to a nation of consumers, unconsciously disciplined to work endlessly. Those who do not conform, says Bauman, become labelled “human waste” and written off as flawed members of society.

And what is Sociology according to Bauman?

“The task for sociology is to come to the help of the individual. We have to be in service of freedom. It is something we have lost sight of,” he says.

While I’m on the Bauman theme – here a couple of good posts from the Global Sociology Blog on Bauman – one on the economic crisis – a nice short summary, and the other on ‘liquid fear’

Buy Nothing Day

It’s Buy Nothing Day on Saturday 27th Novermber. The idea was originally conceived by adbusters in the 1990s – and offers an opporutunity to pause the usual habits of overconsumption and reflect on alternative ways of life.

bnduk-posters

It is worth looking at the above web sites as they offer a valuable critique of western consumerist culture, and while most people who subscribe to these beliefs probably wouldn’t call themselves Marxists – they do share something in common with Marxism – the idea that accepting and constructing an identity that relies on high levels of consumption of material goods ultimately ends up beneffting the Corporations that produce and sell the goods they are buying.

From the web site –

What is so bad about shopping? It’s not shopping in itself that’s so harmful, it’s what we buy. The rich western countries – only 20% of the world population are consuming over 80% of the earth’s natural resources, causing a disproportionate level of environmental damage and unfair distribution of wealth. As consumers, we should question the products we buy and the companies who produce them.

The idea is to make people stop and think about what and how much they buy effects the environment and developing countries. Increasingly large companies use labour in developing countries to produce goods because its cheap and there aren’t the systems to protect workers like there are in the west.

Web site of the Week – RSA videos

 

I just wanted to flag up these RSA videos as an excellent way of introducing some very complex ideas – the ideas covered in these videos go beyond sociology – there are typically about theories that draw on many different academic disciplines, but for those of you that like thinking about sociology/ politics/ philosophy and want to push your understanding beyond the A level syllabus these are excellent. The link below is to many of the videos they’ve done and they’re also on youtube – http://comment.rsablogs.org.uk/videos/

As to the The RSA web sit e it says  “For over 250 years the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) has been a cradle of enlightenment thinking and a force for social progress.  Our approach is multi-disciplinary, politically independent and combines cutting edge research and policy development with practical action.”

The RSA offer a number of pamphlets and a good events (mainly lectures) series that focus on a wide range of political issues – althogether very interesting stuff – OK this is way beyond A level stuff but this is a good example of how Sociology can be relevant to real life.

So here we have it – 300 years after the Enlightenment spawned Sociology – so the Enlightenment tradition continues – Note that all decent sociologists and all decent academics draw on material from many disciplines and this is something I would encourage you do do as you develope – BUT – when it comes to the exam, narrow you foucs and try not to be too clever – or you may fail! When you finish the exams you can get back to being properly clever again!