In the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century, Charlotte Perkins Gilman focused on the lack of political and economic power of women. Through her work as a writer, Gilman utilized her publications to change those aspects of society she did not like. Her social actions to change society views on women can be identified as using weber’s ideal types of instrumental-rational actions. One of her literature that focused on gender inequality relied on a lot of Marx’s ideas. It states, “The labor of women in the house, certainly, enables men to produce more than they otherwise could; and in this way women are economic factors in society. But so are horses.” (Women and Economies, 1898).
Gender inequality is defined as “economic and political disparities due to gender.” Different expectations were based on gender. Inequalities in economics focused on wealth and/or income, and political differences focused on legal rights. One explanation for gender inequality could be the Nature or Nurture debate. Arguments for Nature would say that women are innate caregivers and it does not come natural to men. On the other hand, nurture arguments would say that causes of gender inequality could be shaped by the environment or society.
One example of economic disparities can be seen through the job market. People tend to view nurses as only a female job and feel different when a male is a nurse. Views on this type of jobs for men are not the norms of things. Men are seen as taken on more masculine jobs. In the movie, Meet the Fockers, Greg Focker (Ben Stiller)was laughed at and made fun of when he revealed that he is a nurse to his fiancé’s family. In the past, women were mostly nurses and caregivers. However, in today’s society, more men are becoming healthcare providers and cooks than women.
In regards to women and economics, Gilman states that “to show how some of the worst evils under which we suffer, evils long supposed to be inherent and ineradicable in our natures, are but the result of certain arbitrary conditions of our own adoption, and how, by removing those conditions, we may remove the evil resultant.” (p. 245). In other words, Gilman was saying that society tends to view women as mothers, wives, and caregivers and this view of women hinders their abilities to succeed independently in social and financial situations. The job of being the home-maker prevents women from entering the workforce, leading women to become financial dependent on their husbands. A woman’s freedom only comes when they are no longer dependent on their husbands. In other words, money is what makes the real difference.
Weber defined sociology as a “science which attempts the interpretive understanding of social action in order thereby to arrive at a causal explanation of its course and effect.” Social actions are shaped by society. Different motivations guide an individual’s actions. Weber’s ideal types provide social researchers the tool to description and explanation in research. He created two non-rational and two rational types of social actions. The first ideal type is traditional which is defined as “actions controlled by tradition or deeply rooted habits.” This type of social action is better understood as “the way it has always been done” and is known to be non-rational actions. In other words, people act on things based on what they have always recognized. In the movie, House of Sand and Fog, Mr. B based his social actions on traditions. He provided for his family the same way husbands have done for their wives in their birth country. He worked two jobs to maintain the luxury that they were used to.
The second type of non-rational ideal type is Affective social action. This type of action is identified as “actions determined by the actor’s specific affections and emotional state.” In other words, individuals are guided by their emotions despite of its consequences. For example, in the movie, the officer was guided by affective social actions. He tried to keep Kathy by visiting the new homeowners with his uniform without acknowledging the consequences of losing his job.
The first type of rational social action is Value. It is defined as “actions that are determined by a conscious belief in the inherent-ethnical esthetic, religious, etc. value of a type of behavior, regardless of its effects. In other words, individuals act upon what seems right to them and disregards the consequences. For example, the officer acted on what he believed was the right thing to do. He planted drugs on someone who was on parole because he believed that person was bad to his family. The officer also took matters in his own hands when he visited Mr. B’s house in his uniform with the determination to remove the new homeowners. He acted on his beliefs on what was right and wrong. The officer viewed that Kathy was the rightfully owner.
The last ideal type is instrumental. It is known as the second rational type and defined as “actions that are carried out to achieve a certain goal; the actor calculates which actions will lead in the best and most effect manner to the goal that’s been set.” For example, in the movie, Mr. B. bought the house as an investment. He wanted to make more money to provide the lifestyle of luxury for his family.
Karl Marx wanted to reunite theory and practice. His theories are shaped by the world around him. Marx would also refer capitalism as a mode of production which involves commodities for the means of exchange in the market place. Marx used a “materialist” approach in formulating his theory on commodity. He defined commodities as “an object outside of us, a thing by its properties satisfies human wants of some sort or another” (P. 69). He would describe this phenomenal as companies producing goods and pressured to stay competitive in the business world. All commodities are characterized as having a use-value and an exchange-value. Marx would say use-value is reflective on the workers’ labor, whereas, goods that are exchanged for profit becomes an exchange-value.
Modern day Marx would say that the company, Michael Kors, is not producing appealing handbags to its consumers but driven by intentions to make profits. Marx would argue that capitalists turned commodities into ‘Fetishism’ because he said they believe that value can be inherent to a commodity. Fetishism is defined as ‘the belief that natural objects have supernatural powers, or that something created by people has power over people’.
The term ‘Fetishism’ can be applied to material goods such as Michael Kors. One way to convey if commodity fetishism applies to this company or any other materialistic object is if the product affects the normal routine of society. Mostly women are driven to have the latest Michael Kors bag or watch. These two items have become fashionable in today’s society. Modern day Marx would say that people are consumed by materialistic things. Such fetishism may not be healthy to individuals and they continue down this path with the intentions to make themselves look and feel better. However, individual who may not afford such luxury of being fashionable or following the latest trend in society. Such individuals may be looked down upon or not accepted. Marx would say that conflicts may arise resulting in a division in society.
I still question why most people are so bewitched into fetishism in today’s society. If only such strong beliefs can be transferred to important matters in society such poverty or abuse.
According to Emilie Durkheim, religion is the functional theory of society. Durkheim defines religion as a ‘unified (Solitaire) system of beliefs and practices related to sacred things, that to say, things set apart and are forbidden beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a ‘church’. This theory serves the purpose in society of social solidary which, is focused on “what holds us together” as a society. Durkheim does not argue that religion creates society. He would say religion is the basis for uniting people. Under his theory, individuals are encouraged to gather together and permits reinforcement of our beliefs. It also serves the purpose of authority figures such as Doctors or law enforcements. In order words, it allows people to socialize.
Durkheim would say that it is critical if all religions divide the world into two classes or to distinct kinds known as Sacred and Profane. Durkheim wants to understand what is common in religion throughout time and in different places. One way to help him understand this phenomenal is by studying the simplest religion called Australian Totemism. It is his belief system that the fundamental separation between the sacred and the profane is most clear. Australian Totemism is recognized as supernatural divinities that are not essential to religion. He made the following statement to better understand his idea:
“If all history of human thoughts exists, there are no examples of two categories of things so profoundly differentiated or so radically opposed to one another. The traditional of good and bad is nothing beside this…while the sacred and profane have always and everywhere have been conceived by the human mind as two distinct classes, as two worlds between which, there is nothing in common…” (P. 138).
To Durkheim, sacred class consists of something that “separate and protect things”. In other words, things that has a meaning with rules and instructions on how one should utilize something. For example, children are the core of a family. They grow up to be the next generation. In today’s society, few people do not consider children to be sacred. A lot of crimes involving children are committed daily such as kidnapping and sexual abuse and neglect. In reference to Durkheim’s second distinct class, Profane, he would say that this category is all that is not sacred such as the everyday matters.
“Land of the Free, Home of the Poor”
My first thought on just reading the title “Land of the Free, Home of the Poor” is that it is right on the money. Many people from other countries come to America for a better life, future, and to one day attain the American dream of owning a house and raising their family. Many sought out for opportunities that were never ideal in their birth countries. But even with the freedom that this country provides for its people, majority of the population is still living in poverty and even with working hard, many barely make it.
After listening to the video “Land of the Free, Home of the Poor”, I was not surprised by the findings. It is obvious that the rich keeps getting richer and the poor keeps getting poorer, unless by a miracle someone wins the lottery. But in most cases those lucky ones ends up declaring bankruptcy. In the video, over 90% of the people interviewed underestimated the extent of wealth inequality by picking the Swedish wealth profile as the category they thought represented America. In a sense, everyone desires for something more than what they currently have. Modern day Marx would say we are either categorized as the ‘haves’ and the ‘have not’s’ .
“Wealth Inequality in America”
Yes, it was surprising. Knowing that one can’t distinguish a lower class from the middle class in today’s society, is quite shocking. The poorest Americans don’t even register on the chart, whereas only the top one percent is a billionaire. This is outrageous. A CEO does not work 380 times harder than its employees. The average worker needs to work more than a month to make what a CEO would make in an hour. Not all people are aware of its reality but this is capitalism and the truth behind it. The ones that profits off of capitalism are the ones that control it. Some may prefer to listen and make themselves aware of these issues while the majority is only interested in Justin Bieber’s daily adventures.