The Culture Makers

It is said that you can tell a lot about the culture of a society by examining its tallest buildings. During the middle ages the church’s steeple could be seen from every corner of a town or city, casting its dominance over the cultural beliefs of the inhabitants. Today we all live in the shadows of the gleaming steel and glass towers that proclaim the victory of capitalism and consumption.

Playing the Political Slots

The sociological influence wielded by the Native American tribes in the United States is profound to say the least. From government programs and subsidies to political lobbying, these tribes create opportunities for themselves that are unavailable to almost every other minority group in America. Money affords a special few Native American tribes access to an elevated status in the American political system, allowing those tribes to succeed while others languish in poverty.

People Like Us

The PBS documentary People Like Us illuminates a lot of interesting points about class in America. It explains how we organize ourselves into “tribes” based on similar interests and levels of income. These tribes do not remain static over the course of our lives. As we grow and change, the members of our tribe also change. We join new tribes and leave old ones. More often than not these tribes are based on race and income level. Interestingly, Americans, while living in this dynamic class structure, refuse to acknowledge that it exists; clinging hopelessly instead to the false ideal of “American Equality” endlessly perpetuated by socialization.

Sociological Entropy

I’m currently reading The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene. The current section is all about the concept of time from the point of view of entropy, which is a way to measure the tendency of a physical system to move from an orderly to disorderly state. It is the second law of thermodynamics and was initially intended to be used in the analysis, design and management of large scale systems and processes where a measurement of the probabilities are needed to calculate the likely-hood of losing efficiency to heat. But it was later discovered by physicists that the equations could also be used to measure the probabilities of any complex system to always move from a state of order to disorder. It occurred to me that the ideas of entropy could just as easily be applied to sociology - since society, at its most basic, is just a large complex system made up of individual human beings (as opposed to individual machines or atoms and molecules). I think there is a kind of social entropy that is constantly at work, forever moving an orderly group of individuals to a state of chaos and disorder.

Societal Thoughts from a TV Writer

Chuck Lorre has been writing for television shows for almost 40 years. All of his shows end with what he calls a “vanity card.” They are short messages that are like blog posts that he’s been writing since before blogs existed. Sometimes they’re stories he makes up, other times it’s just a thought he had earlier that week. Some are funny and some are sad; but every so often there’s one that really makes you think. This weeks episode of The Big Bang Theory ended with a vanity card that I think speaks to everything I’ve been learning about in class: society, culture and how socialization affects who we are and how we see the world. I thought I’d share it with all of you…

Globalization Affects Dictators Too

Syria is just one of the Middle Eastern countries that’s been affected by the ongoing “Arab Spring” that began in that part of the world over a year ago. Atrocities committed by government forces in the city of Homs, as well as other cities across that country, have kept Syria at the top of most major news broadcasts for the past several weeks. Rebel forces recently intercepted and leaked several thousand emails sent by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Amongst other things, these emails clearly show just how far globalization has spread in our modern world.