Realsociology

For committed sociology, agains neoliberalism

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Information is power (and money and freedom)…

Posted by Realsociology on 21st October 2013

another cartoon that just has to be shared…

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Single parents and poverty

Posted by Realsociology on 28th June 2013

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I was particularly interested in the middle section of this infographic which compares the life chances of children of dual-parent households with those of children from single parent households – while controlling for household income. It suggests that there is a rather strong correlation between single-parent households and an increased likelihood of their children falling into low income jobs in the future…

For the top income bracket, for example, children whose parents are in the top third of income earners are almost twice as likely as children from dual-parent households in the same parental income bracket to end up in lower-tier income jobs themselves.

As with many infographs, this doesn’t seek to explain these statistics….

One thing to think about is the difference between day to day life in those two types of upper income household – Many of those upper income tier households would be able to afford to have one parent stay at home at least part-time, but for the single parent earning nearly 80k a year, which must mean a long-hours professional career in most cases and I can imagine the the child won’t be getting that much quality parenting in such cases.

Secondly, this might not be measuring the effects of single parents but the effects on a child of relationship breakdown (obviously the two tend to go hand in hand).

Finally, I’m uncomfortably aware of the patriarchal norms lurking behind these data – if having one stay at home parent is what’s behind the relative success of dual parent households, let’s face it, we all know it’s going to be the woman staying at home in 90% of cases, and in those single person households it will be the woman being the single parent in those cases and no doubt these stats will be uncritically wheeled out by the new right to support traditional ideas on the family

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China and Russia – Among the world’s worst human rights abusers

Posted by Realsociology on 22nd June 2013

China and Russia have both been moved to the bottom tier of the U.S. human trafficking rank, joining the likes of North Korea, Sudan, and Zimbabwe, according to a recent U.S. State department report.

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In China, the one-child policy and a cultural preference for male children perpetuates the trafficking of brides and prostitutes. Chinese sex trafficking victims have been reported on all of the inhabited continents. Traffickers recruit girls and young women, often from rural areas of China, using a combination of fraudulent job offers, imposition of large travel fees, and threats of physical or financial harm, to obtain and maintain their service in prostitution.

Forced labour is also widely practised in China, in which both internal and external migrants are conscripted to work in coal mines or factories without pay, as well as its continued use of re-education hard labor camps for political dissidents.

In Russia, there are estimates that 50,000 children are involved in involuntary prostitution and about one million people are thought to be exposed to exploitive labor conditions, including extremely poor living conditions, the withholding for documents, and nonpayment for services.

Human Rights Watch has pointed out that some of Russia’s labour abuses have occurred during the preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, with some workers enduring “12-hour shifts with one day off per month, having their passports confiscated, being denied employment contracts, and facing unsanitary and overcrowded employer-provided accommodations, with up to 200 migrant workers living in a one single-family home.”

While the nature and scale of such absuses isn’t on a scale with what’s going in Syria, these two nations are not ‘rogue states’, they make up half of the BRIC nations. Given their status as rapidly growing and globoalising economic superpowers, combined with the size of their populations, the potential for further human rights abuses in these two nations profound.

It would be nice to think that this lower designation results in the U.S. imposing sanctions on these contries countries, such as voting against any IMF or World Bank loans. However, given the historical record of the U.S. tolerating and even supporting governments who champion capital over human rights, I don’t think sanctions are likely anytime soon.

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Rapidly Developing Countries – Set to become rich countries full of poor people?

Posted by Realsociology on 23rd May 2013

Nice article here outlining some arguments for the continued relevance of dependency theory – ending on a particular pertinent prophecy by Joseph Stiglitz – that our world is set to become one of more rich countries full of poor people – but is this true?

Looking at the world’s 10 fastest growing economies there seems to be mixed evidence-

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If we consider the GINI inequality rankings for each of these countries, which are as follows – there is mixed evidence

Brazil scores 54 – is no. 13 in the inequality league table, and by far the largest population country up that high – so Stiglitz theory seems correct here…

China scores 47 and so has relatively high inequality, possibly reflecting the differences between the huge wealth in the East and rural poverty in the West. Then again, does this matter for development because China has a very similar level of inequality to the USA ( not that that’s a good thing of course!)

Russia scoring 40 is in mid table obscurity – so no comment for now

India scoring 33 – has low inequality, making it more equal than Britain, then again it is the poorest in terms of current GNP per capita so these levels of inequality might just reflect the fact that there are masses of poor people. Given the rapid increase in billionaires recently i don’t hold out much hope for india staying low in the inequality stakes!

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Theories of Globalisation

Posted by Realsociology on 9th February 2013

This summary is designed for A level students studying the SCLY3 module in Global Development and outlines four persepectives on globalisation.

Optimist Globalism – Globalisation is mostly positive

1. More international trade, especially since the 1950s = Increasing wealth, health, education for most countries. Evidence below

  • This Hans Rosling Video illustrates the relationship between increasing wealth (brought about by trade) and health
  • The case of China’s economic growth – Use this ‘trading ecnomics’ web site to check out how China’s GDP growth over the last ten years (from 2001) appears to be directly correlated with its growth in exports (use the links to the right to change between graphs – you might need to change the years selection around too).
  • China is not the only country benefitting from increasing trade (imports and exports) – China is just one of four nations known as the BRIC Nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) – 4 up and coming economies that are predicted to be wealthier than Britain by 2050. More recently, the CIVET nations are also benefitting from increasing trade. As an illustration of how these countries are increasingly integrated you might want to find out more about Brazil’s ‘Highway to China’ – which is talked about in this video- ‘The Chinese are Coming.’

 

2. Optimists argue that Tansnational Corporations are a force for good. Companies such as Apple, Sony, etc bring investment and jobs to developing countries.

3.    Patterns of consumption are becoming globalised – More people around the world are consumers rather than living subsistence lifestyles. Also people increasingly consume similar foods and brands (and shop for them in similar ways). Increasing global tourism is another feature of this. Evidence below…

4.  Sporting events such as the world cup and the Olympics have become more popular.

5. The spread of Democracy and respect for human rights since the end of WW2 – E.G. The end of colonial rule in Africa, the collapse of communism and the Arab Spring. This is also evidenced in the establishment of the United Nations and the growth of global social movements such as green peace.

6. The growth of social media (Facebook and Twitter) have lead more freedom around the world.

7. Globalistion increasingly means global cities urban centres which have highly educated, politically engaged middle classes.

 

Global Pessimism – Globalisation is mostly negative

1. Increased trade has had unequal benefits. Mainly Europe and America, lately Asia have benefitted, but most of Sub Saharan Africa is largely left behind.

  • The graph otlining economic growth since 1800 in different continents on page 1 of the intro to GD document illustrates this point very well..
  • For a good example of the pessimist view of globalisation read KT’s summary of ‘liquid times’ by Zygmunt Bauman – You only need read the sections entitled ‘surplus people’ and ‘the experience of inequality’. I suggest you read selectively and look for three examples that illustrate Bauman’s point: ‘when the rich pursue their goals, the poor pay the price’.   

2. TNCs pollute, extract resources from and exploit cheap labour in the developing world. E.G.s include Shell in Nigeria, Coke in India and of course the Bhopal incident in India.

Also see the following video sources (you can search for both on estream)

  • The Age of Stupid (section on Shell in Nigeria)
  • Crude – The Real Cost of Oil (outlines Chevron’s pollution of the Amazon

3. Culture may be increasing global, but this mainly means Americanisation according to Pessimists. This takes the form of Cocacolonisation, and Dysnification – where American forms of popular culture and the shallow materialism this promotes erode local traditions. Another aspect of this is Mcdonaldisation

  • this and this suggest possibly suggest one of the downsides of the spread of consumer culture…
  • This illustrates the threat of Americanisation and Cocacolonisation very well – how some French people view Coca Cola as undermining their national identity. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxjMqrZ6psw
  • This site does a very good job of explaning what Mcdonaldisation is – http://www.mcdonaldization.com/

4.    Sport may be increasingly globalised, but just as with trade there are winners and losers, especially where the Olympics are concerned… 

5. Rather than the spread of democracy, it is more accurate to talk of the spread of U.S Military power, as outline by John Pilger in the War on Democracy, and the fact that the U.S. spends almost $700 billion on its military every year.

  • The second half of this video – The War on Democracy outlines America’s military invovlement in more than 50 countries since World War 2 – Evidence suggests that the USA uses military force to get rid of democratically elected leaders that are not pro-U.S. – http://estream.reigate.ac.uk/View.aspx?ID=4068~4s~tdt8zCqn  

6. The spread of global media really means the spread of massive media firms such as Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, with programmes such as Fox News presenting a pro-American view of the world. Also think of popular culture – X factor, and Hollywood and global advertising. The pessimist view on such aspects of the global media is that they lead to increasing cultural homogenisation.

7. Zygmunt Bauman argues that global cities are best described as ‘fortress cities’ – especially in the developing world cities are places of huge inequalities where the rich hide themselves away in exclusive gated communities and the poor are left to the slums.

 

The Transformationalist View of Globalisation

1. ‘Trade’ has many complex formations. So it is difficult to say that it is either good or bad. Besides Free Trade, Fair Trade is expanding, and there is also illegal trade – in drugs for example.

  • The Fairtrade Foundation has many examples of how trade can benefit people the world over in all sorts of different ways (NB you may think this works better as an example of global optimism) – http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/
  • The Global Trade in drugs is quite a good example of Transformationalism - It certainly can’t be regarded as something that benefits people, and it certainly isn’t something that benefits the West at the expense of the developing world. The global trade in drugs is not controlled by Corprations or Western governments – it’s controlled by international criminal organisations, and arguable this is a case of poor farmers in the developing world benefitting (relatively) at the expense of people in the West –   http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/drug-trafficking/index.html  

2. TNCs operate in dozens of countris. Clearly there are going to be winners and losers in different cases. Also governments the world over regulate international companies in different ways – Pollution laws, tax law, minimum wages, health and safety.

3. Increasing consumerism isn’t just good or bad – cultural globalisation is characterised by hybridity – new brands come into contact with local cultures and they are modified by those cultures, creating new products – Bollywood, Chiken Tikha Massala. A related concept here is glocalism…

  • There are plenty of examples of cultural hybridity in music – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3JDH-hUJj0 (the guy from Brazil in the second half of this!) – All in all a very ‘global experience’ and a great example of ‘ground up globalisation’ – Hip Hop being transformed into something new and different as it mixes with different local traditions…

4. New sporting formations the world over are good examples of cultural hybridity

5. Globalisaion is characterised by new political formations, not just the spread of democracy or the spread of American dominance. E.G China is a Communist country that doesn’t allow voting but supports Capitalism, while many African ‘democracies’ are so corrupt they can’t really be called democracies. Also, many countries have proved more than capable of resisting American force – mostly in the Middle East.

6. The spread of global media has lead to diverse uses – e.g. crowdsourcing, microfinance, and mobile phone use in Africa.

7. Anthony GIddens argues that ‘detraditionalisation’ is part of Globalisation – People increasingly challenge traditions as they come into contact with new ideas.

  • Read KT’s blog post on ‘detraditionalisation’ and summarise Gidden’s view of what effect globalisation has on culture – Is this closer to the optimist or transformationalist view of globalisation?

Traditionalism – Globalisation is exaggerated

1. Trade is not truly global, it is regional. For example, about 60% of EU trade is within the EU. And Sub Saharan Africa is largely left out of global trade flows

2. Transnational Corporations do not operate in all countries, only secure ones.

3. Billions of people still live mostly subsistence lifestyles and simply cannot afford to take part in globalised western style consumption.

4. –

5. Some countries remain cut off from ‘global democractic and military force’ – e.g. North Korea and Iran. Also some traditional cultures still practise abuses that go against the UNDHR – see 7 below.

6. Governments still have the power to censor social media – e.g. the great firewall of China

7. Local traditions still remain in many cultures – For example it is estimated that 90% of women in Somalia have been circumcised. See the following video links for examples of traditional cultures. You should watch these and consider the extent to which these cultures are really cut off from Globalisation..

 

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Video Sources for teaching Research Methods

Posted by Realsociology on 20th January 2013

This post is simply a list of good videos for teaching and revising research methods

Social Surveys

Doing Sociological Research - If you can get over the desperate attempt to be ‘down with the kids’, then the section on survey research in education offers a very useful explanation of sampling and operationalising concepts such as social class.

Experiments

Milgram’s obedience experiments (youtube) – Link takes you to a contemporary version of Milgram’s experiment, which reveals depressingly similar results to the original.

The Stanford Prison Experiment (youtube)

A good example of a field experiment measuring how the public respond differently to differnt ethnicities engaged in stealing a bike.

This is a second field experiment measuring how the public respond differently to differnt ethnicities engaged in vandalising a car from the everyday sociology blog (videos removed but a good explanation on the blog)

Unstructured and Semi-Structured Interviews

Many episodes of Louis Theroux are good for unstructured interviews – I especially recommend the following -

America’s Medicated Kids (Youtube) – Louis even talks about ‘being a T.V. interviewer in the introduction. Also it should be fairly obvious why ‘unstructured interviews’ are suitable for researching these children.

Louis Theroux Behind Bars (Youtube) In which Louis interviews a man sentenced to over 500 years in jail

This is an interview with Louis Theroux (Youtube) talking about why he likes ‘unstructured interviews’ – about 1.13 in

OK – It’s not a video, it’s a podcast - but from about 5 minutes in there are some interesting results from research based on interviews with 18-25 year olds on the question of ‘why they drink to excess’. Their insights tell you much more than stats ever can about youth binge drinking today.

Participant Observation

Tribe with Bruce Parry is a good, basic introduction to the advantages and Limitations of using Overt PO to research traditional societies in remote rural settings. I especially recommend the episode on the Suri in Ethopia.

For Covert Participant Observation, the standard ‘classic video’ from the late 1990s is Donal Macintyre’s research with the Chelsea Headhunters (link is to college’s estream and requires password)

Another ‘covert classic’ is the Secret Policeman – College estream link (needs password)

Official Statistics

The Office for National Statistics has a huge array of videos on youtube. Some of the most interesting include – (1) Immigration Stats (2) Household Wealth (3) Cohabitation in the UK (4) The Latest on the Labour Market, including unemployment stats

Secondary Qualitative Data

The Freedom Writers - (link to college estream, requires pass word) A film based on a true life story of a teacher who gets her disinterested English literature students to tell their own stories using diaries

The BBC’s who do you think you are is an accessible way to introduce the usefulness of secondary qualitative data. This is a link to one episode on estream (password required)

TED Talk – what we learned from 5 million books - using google ngrams to quantify the content of books

Longitudinal Studies 

The Marshmallow Experiment (Youtube)  - Measures deferred gratification in children and then tracks the children through childhood to see the effects of deferred gratification on future test scores in education.

Another classic is 7 Up – This is the original 1964 documentary and the trailer for 56 up 

Other Videos

It’s a bit long winded, and it is a cartoon – but this is a good xtranormal video (link to youtube) that goes over the pros and cons of quantitative versus qualitative research – using the topic of researching children with ADD as an example.

 

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Snow Day work due to school closure…

Posted by Realsociology on 18th January 2013

Whatever work you set your students this snow day, this is probably how most of them will interpret it –  

Work is as follows -
  1. Lay in (as if you haven’t already done that)
  2. Buy sledge
  3. Go sledging
  4. Don’t break leg
  5. or anyone elses
  6. Have snowball fight with random people – must be random
  7. just make sure you pick people that look like they fancy a snowball fight (no ‘moany old bears)  
  8. Build snowman
  9. not a ’rude’ snowman -that’s way too crude
  10. Go home, eat cake
  11. Engage in audio visual entertainment of your choice
  12. Make sure you watch the news reports about all those poor people that had to go to work today.

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Podcast on The ‘New Criminology’

Posted by Realsociology on 17th January 2013

Bit rich calling it ‘New’ Criminology – since the term hails from the 1970s – but anyway, my enhanced podcast on the topic – You may also know it is as ‘The Neo-Marxist Perspective on Crime’ or ‘Radical Criminology’.

This is really for A2 Sociology students studying crime and deviance. Enjoy the enthusiasm in my voice…

 

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My Top Ten Fictional Films with Sociological Content

Posted by Realsociology on 28th December 2012

It annoyed me that I got to the end of term this year and struggled to think of relevant Sociology films I could show. Hence this end of year list – All packed full of Sociological relevance (well, mostly)…

In no particular order…. (And links to analysis to follow)

  1. Fight Club – The most obvious reading is of this as a classic critique of the false consciousness and alienation the working classes suffer under consumer capitalism, but no doubt there are other interpretations out there.  
  2. A Bug’s Life –  Useful for illustrating basic Marxist concepts.
  3. Black Mirror: The National Anthem – Charlie Brooker’s short film – The Prime Minister has to have sex with a pig live on T.V. to save the life of the nation’s princess whose been kidnapped. This is the best film, hands down, to convey the meaning of ‘hyperreality’.
  4. Catfish – About a guy that meets a girl on Facebook, and on taking a trip across the States to meets her realises she’s not as good looking as her photos suggested. Most people who’ve gone on a date can relate to this, just maybe not to this extreme. (P.S. I’m calling it fiction, I simply don’t believe it wasn’t set up, just don’t tell the kids before you show it them.)  
  5. Lord of War – A nice introduction to the module on Global Development – Set over a ten year period from the mid ‘80s to the mid ‘90s Nicholas Cage plays an arms dealer who comes into own selling ex-Soviet military hard-ware to African Dictators and rebels. Quite a nice introduction to the history of international conflict post Cold-War
  6. Hotel Rwanda – A bit slow, and a not so nice introduction to Global Development – set around the Rwandan Genocide – Especially useful if you are going to teach conflict as an aspect of development given the ongoing concerns in neighbouring DRC in 2012-13
  7. The Freedom Writers – Based on a true story a teacher encourages her marginalised, mostly ethnic minority students to get into literature by telling their stories in diaries. It may be based in ‘90’s America, but you find another film that’s about education and research methods and I’ll eat my diary.
  8. Visitor Q – O.K. It’s an 18, so I’m not recommending you show this to your teenage students in class – but let’s just say if you thought gay marriage was contentious or divorce-extended families somewhat unusual, by the standards of the family in this little gem, the rest of us are all pretty much singing from the same song sheet.
  9. Threads – Really not that much to do with anything I teach, but this is simply the most harrowing movie I’ve ever seen. The fact that it’s set in the in Sheffield in the 1980s is scary enough for starters, and it gets worse as it imagines what a real life nuclear holocaust would actually be like. Unlike most other films there is no happy ending, so if you have a burning hatred for a particular class or have just had a stressful year and want to end the term by putting the students on a downer – this is the video to choose.  
  10. Kung fu Panda – Simply the best film ever made period. Richly layered with many levels of meaning, and deeply, deeply moving.  

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Suicide Updates

Posted by Realsociology on 18th November 2012

One of the perennial joys of teaching sociology is returning to the study of suicide every November, a time of year when, with the nights drawing in against a backdrop of fog, barren trees, rain and sodden leaves, it seems a most appropriate time to do so. The season of depression, self-harm and suicide is almost upon us after all.
 
This year  I’ve been looking at popular suicide locations, and there are some interesting contrasts between the two most popular places in the world to commit suicide.
 
These two locations are -
 

A jumper on the golden gate bridge

1. The Golden Gate Bridge in California - Where more than 1500 people to date have jumped the equivalent of 25 stories and 49/50 succeed due to the massive internal injuries they typically receive on impact.

 
2. The Aokigahara Forest at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan – Known as Japan’s suicide forest, in which approximately 100 people kill themselves each year through primarily hanging or poisoning. More people may, in fact, have killed themselves in the forest than at the Golden Gate Bridge, but in recent years the local government has stopped publishing figures in an attempt to downplay the extent of the bleak activity, so we have no accurate overall total number.
 
 
These  two locations are obviously very different from each other they are and  I’m left wondering the extent to which the different methods and locations reflect different cultural attitudes to suicide….
 
The Golden Gate Bridge is a very public place and there is a high degree of spectacle about jumping. As John Bateson, former director of a crisis centre for the depressed and suicidal covering the Bay area, says  “There is kind of allure to the bridge…. a notoriety to be gained from jumping from the Golden Gate. For a brief period people receive an attention in death that may have been denied to them in life.”
  
Thus in addition to whatever reason these individuals may have for jumping it’s almost as if jumping from the bridge is an expressive act – a kind of ‘look at me and f**k you’ parting message to America. These people could, after all, just quietly overdose in their bedrooms. The fact that most people jump facing towards land offers further support for this notion.
 
Compare the high drama of the bridge-jump to the Forest – A much more secluded and isolated space where the Japanese choose to die by private methods – The woods in fact being notorious for the ease with which one can get lost because of the density of the trees and the lack of trails. Normally one would associate poisoning as a softer method more associated with a plea for help than the blunt force trauma of the bridge, but I’m inclined to think the opposite is the case here as the isolation of the forest makes it unlikely that one will be found.
 
It’s also quite likely that we are witnessing two very different types of suicide in these two locations with the jumpers more likely to be committing suicide out of a sense of anomie – given the fact that there is a correlation between mental illness and suicide amongst jumpers and secondly this is Califorinia, where the sense of relative underachievement must run high amongst those who don’t make it.
 
Meanwhile in the suicide forest we are probably witnessing egoistic suicides given the very strong correlation between unemployment and suicide in Japan. 
 
 
For further information try these links -  
 

A documentary film by Eric Steel - The Bridge

Schizophrenic people are more likely to jump from bridges

The Suicide Paradox in America 

Japan’s Suicide Forest

The Economist – Suicide in Japan

Suicide in Japan’s Forest

Top 10 suicide sites in the world

Top Ten Suicide Sites in the world 

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