I came across these photos while I was on Tumblr (which is a blogging website with many photos). I found it very impressive and understood through many sociological concepts. Additionally, the illustrations in the images are related to many class discussions we have had regarding the education system and its true value. It gave me some food for thought and I wanted to share it!
Today’s lecture about the American dream, Veblen and the idea of hustling really piqued my interest and got me thinking about these topics in terms of sociology. The American dream is a very old-fashioned philosophy that does not hold the same value today as it did say 50 years ago. I admire the idea of the American dream. The idea of American’s working hard in the college career or career to give themselves and their families a better life is inspiring. However, I do not think that the American dream is something all Americans can achieve or earn throughout their lives. There are many hardworking American that struggle to meet ends meet, but have dreams they wish to fulfill one day. They want to inspire their children and/or their families and be able to one day say “I did it!” or “I made it”. After today’s lecture and thinking about these ideas, I wondered what constitutes as striving to achieve the American dream.
When I think of working toward the American dream I think of hardworking individuals. Perhaps individuals like us who are pursuing a college career while working full or part time jobs. Additionally, I think of Americans who work full time jobs while raising a family, getting married or beginning to establish their lives. Moreover, I see that many American’s still have a perception of the American dream as the “white-picket fence” lifestyle. Again, I believe that these ideas are a very old school way of thinking of the American dream. These ideas are the norms that have been created through social structures in society.
Does one have to work a “conventional” job in order to work toward the American dream? Does one have to have such a cookie cutter lifestyle to be perceived as a hardworking American? If these questions were to be asked 30-40 years ago, I think that most of the answers would have been yes. However, now we live in such a modern and diverse society, who is to say what the norm is anymore? I hope to think that most American’s work hard and strive to make their lives better. We all have dreams for our future and I think that is something that we continue to work for throughout our lives. Thus, rather and striving to be part or create our American dream, I think we are living the American dream, but I question if most are happy in doing so.
The Q & A interview that we read today in class discussed the lack of happiness American’s had today. She described American’s as having a lack of empathy for others and workaholics. Additionally, she stated that 2/3 American’s are on anti depressant medications. These 3 facts speak volumes about how our need to succeed is hurting us. How is it that the American Dream, a term first coined by James Adams in 1931, become such a complex concept? I believe that this relates back to the idea of status anxiety. We are all so driven to be successful and better than our neighbors, we are willing to sacrifice our happiness and well-being do create a better life. Doesn’t really make sense, does it?
Today’s lecture had me thinking all afternoon. I found it really interesting that Durkheim had such strong theories related to suicide. I have to say that I both agree and disagree with his ideas. Being that I am a psychology major, I think I have a strong bias against theories that argue a certain phenomena is not really a result of one’s mental health. However, after conceptualizing Durkheim’s theory I understand his sociological analysis of suicide, but I do not think that he was necessarily correct in almost shunning psychological aspects of suicide. Further, I had some thoughts regarding Durkheim’s interpretation of the anomie theory in relation to suicide.
Suicide is a very interpersonal action. I think that those who attempt or go through with suicide have an internal conflict which can be influenced by events or occurrences in society. I disagree in that social events can directly lead one to commit suicide. I believe there has to be underlying issues or conflicts that an individual deals with that contributes to their decision to attempt suicide. As Professor Hala mentioned in class, the economic crisis was almost the tip of the ice berg for many men’s emotional states which, in turn, increased the likelihood they would go through with suicide. Perhaps these men already felt a sense of pressure, depression or concern about making ends meet in order to support themselves or their families; then following the downfall of our economy, they may have felt completely defeated and that there was no other way out. Shifting gears and thinking about suicide internationally or cross culturally, I think that social facts and the way in which individuals relate to their society or culture play a role in suicide statistics. However, I do still contest to my belief that there is a psychological factor that plays a role in a carried out suicide attempts.
Robert Merton (1940) expanded on Durkheim’s theory of anomie by discussing five adaptations of strain. Durkheim’s theory of anomie discusses the break down of cultural norms due to rapid change. This is related back to suicide in that individuals are more likely to commit suicide in times of rapid or sudden economic decrease or prosperity. Merton proposed five modes or adaptations to strain that members of society fell into if they could not achieve goals, if you will. Conformity, innovation, rebellion, ritualism and retreatism are the modes of adaptation (I have provided a link below which describes each mode of adaptation in detail). Typically these modes of adaptation are used to understand deviance among societies, but sociologically thinking, I would consider suicide to be an act of deviance, because it essentially goes against social norms. While reading about Durkheim’s theories on suicide, I was surprised not to see any mention of Merton’s expansion as I believe they would support Durkheim’s ideology and supported his idea that social factors influence suicide.
Durkheim provides a very thought-provoking take on suicide. I would have never thought of suicide on a macro level in the way he did. I believe that suicide is very individualistic BUT individuals are easily influenced by social events which can reinforce their suicidal thoughts or tendencies.
Sometimes our perception of something may influence our ability to understand the reality of a situation. I think most Americans have been purposely blinded to the cruel reality of our economic system and inequality of wealth among the country. I have always understood that there was sever inequality when it came to money, but I never seen or actually understood the statistics. Additionally, I don’t really know how I feel about the inequality. Is it fair to penalize those who have worked for years for all they have? But, is it fair to those who struggle living paycheck to paycheck that never get a chance to financially prosper? I don’t know that I or anyone else can really answer these questions.
To me, capitalism represents the rich being rich, the poor being poor and everyone else just working or existing to support the two extremes. Socialism is the opposite in that all people have an equal amount of money. I was surprised when I watched the videos and really thought about the inequality, in fact it made rather upset. Firstly, to think of all those who are living at or below the poverty level compared to the 1% is something I cannot wrap my head around. We all live in the same nation, with the same presidents and the same opportunities; America, the land of opportunity. A place that I’m sure so many people would drop everything and leave their country if they were given the chance. Moreover, I was completely shocked to see that there was not a drastic difference between those considered low and middle class in terms of the percentages. I consider the middle class the hardest working of all the classes.
These videos and statistics have made me realize that we are not all equal and although we like to think equality exists among us, it does not. I do not think that the inequality is or can be controlled by anyone. However, I do think that there should be something done to decrease the wealth inequality gap in the United States. We must create a happy medium between capitalism and socialism to bring us a better change of economic equality among Americans.
Firstly, I would like to start by saying I have never thought of Karl Marx as a theorist. I have always thought of him as some socialist or communist from decades ago. After reading the German Ideology and researching Karl Marx, I have come to really enjoy his work and his ideologies.
Karl Marx was the first theorist to develop a social theory of a capitalist society. Marx’s ideas went against that of Hegel and Hegelian philosophers. Hegelian philosophers were interested in consciousness and abstract ideas. They were considered idealist philosophers because they also believed the ones independent existence shaped their social reality. This idea argued that a change in social reality can come about through a change in the manner reality is perceived. Hegel’s ideology focused on social change.
Marx had an materialist approach to the change in society. The German Ideology focuses on the perception that material existence influences social change. I tried to conceptualize this theory and apply it to modern time. I think that we are greatly influenced by our material existence today. Society is driven by money and the need to have it all. I agree with Marx’s theory. Our realities are shaped by the material items that we have or strive for. We work hard to have nice homes, cars and clothes. Additionally, we work hard to provide ourselves with a meaningful education in order to get a better paying job, to eventually provide ourselves with all we want.
Thinking in terms of capitalism, our nation has been deemed a consumer nation. We are almost bread to consume (literally and figuratively) and buy. At the top of our consumer nation is the “haves” and at the bottom the “have nots”. It is the goal of those on the top of the corporate pyramids to work their employees for the least amount of money while expecting them to make daily and monthly sales goals for their stores. Failures in making numbers could result in job termination for managers, cut hours for employees and lost wages. I worked as a manager in retail for a few years only to decide that it was not for me. Shortly after beginning working at a new store in Queens, I came to realize the corporate team was not interested in my success and growth in the company. They were concerned about me and my team making their numbers in a timely fashion. Corporations do not care about the consumer, they care about their sales and the money generated from their sales. This type of neglect from corporate offices, I’m sure has played a role in the heightening debts that Americans now experience. I do not like the idea of capitalism, but I agree with Marx in that our realities are shaped by what we have or what we strive to have.