Class warfare NYC 2012

Emile Durkheim was a pioneer as well as a founder in the field of sociology.  Durkheim was interested in studying social cohesion, crime, deviance, as well as how these issues affected societies for better or worse.

One issue that Durkheim focuses on that really fascinates me is the forced division of labor.  The forced division of labor, according to Durkheim has to do with how a persons social status and occupation contribute to a life path that either has a positive contribution or a negative contribution to the society.

There have been many individuals in the American society that have used their good fortune, social status, an occupation to make positive and meaningful contributions to society.  Celebrities and politicians are frequently in the spotlight for their contributions to society; actor George Clooney, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have donated their celebrity and resources to various charities that have made positive impacts on many citizens in many states both foreign and domestic.

While there are many people like George Clooney and Michael Bloomberg that have made choices in life that have benefited themselves as well as other members of society, there are others that have not been in a situation of having good, fortune, a good occupation, and high social status.  These members of society have greater pressures on themselves as well as less freedom of occupational choice, these individuals mostly have low occupational prestige and a low social status.  People like these are at greater risk for making choices that negatively affect themselves as well as other members of society.  Usually criminal deviant behavior is associated with people in this less fortunate category.

There are many examples in our society of people who make poor choices in life that have been harmful to themselves as well as others.  there have been a couple of instances in the past year where nanny’s for affluent families have broken down and committed deviant acts of murder, against their employer’s children.  The New York Times article from november 28th 2012 by William K. Rashbaum highlights the issues forced division of labor can have.  The title of the article is Nanny Charged in Fatal Stabbing Resented Her Employers, Law Enforcement Official Says.  This article discusses the point of view of Yoselyn Ortega (the nanny) during her interrogation by detectives of the New York Police Department.  Yoselyn Ortega said that she was treated very well by her employers, yet she still resented them. An excerpt from the article that I found interesting was, “Relatives of the Krims said they had treated Ms. Ortega as a member of their own family and would even pay for her to travel to the Dominican Republic so Ms. Ortega could visit her family while the Krims went on vacation….Still, Ms. Ortega had had some financial difficulties recently, and she had been forced to move out of an apartment in the Bronx and back in with her sister in Harlem. She had appeared harried and under stress, those who know her said.”

I found this excerpt interesting because it shows that the nanny’s employers were very generous, but the financial stresses that Yoselyn had were enough to resent the lifestyle and status the Krim’s had that she didn’t.  I belive that this position of low social status, low occupational prestige, and financial strain is a great current example of how there is a forced division of labor in our society which can cause people to act in deviant ways.  These decisions negatively impact their own lives as well as other members of our society.  Emile Durkheim would most likely find this an example of class-warfare resulting from a forced division of labor.

The link to the NYT article is:


One response to “Class warfare NYC 2012

  1. Bravo, Will. Your wide-ranging post contains many interesting insights and makes lots of important connections. I agree, it’s hard not to consider the *status* dimensions of that tragic “nanny” case. And I would be surprised if this episode didn’t heighten fears of “class warfare” among other wealthy parents on the Upper West Side who rely on nannies for child care. Of course, this was a case of murder and *attempted* suicide; from what we can tell, the alleged perpetrator basically “lost it” in a workplace context, so I wonder if it doesn’t make sense to categorize this with other workplace massacres, in the way that the writer Mark Ames described (which is how he characterized Chris Dorner’s violent rampage).

    Your remarks about the philanthropic work of individuals like Mayor Bloomberg and George Clooney reminded me of this video of a talk by Slavoj Zizek on “ethical” or “cultural” capitalism. Here’s a link to a 10-minute animated version:

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