Merton defines anomie as the social strain and mismatch between culturally prescribed goals and our socially constructed means to achieve those goals. Because not everyone is equally able to achieve the goals, some adapt in deviant ways. Merton explains that there are five ways in which people adapt. Some people conform and accept the goals of society without any deviant behavior. Most people fall into this category. Another way people adapt is through retreatism; rejecting the goals and pressures of society. This type of person would be like a drug addict or outcast. Ritualists are overconformists who follow the patterns of society but do not expect to achieve the goals. Ritualism is not deviant. Innovation accepts the prescribed goals but through illegitimate ways. Merton says that innovation is a deviant characteristic of the lower class. Lastly, rebellion rejects the goals of society as well as the means. Their goal instead is to transform the existing structure of society, this is political deviance. People that rebel are usually members of a rising class wanting to change society for the better.
Georg Simmel studied the differences in the mental life between city dwellers and people in rural areas. He noted that in cities people had more freedom to express individuality but at the same time more challenged to find out their true selves among the metropolitan life. Simmel observed that in rural areas people formed impressions of people gradually, whereas in the city impressions were made with a single glance. Simmel contributed the harsh and sometimes rude demeanor of city dwellers as a blasé attitude. This attitude is more of a defense mechanism rather than an intentional rude attitude. He explained that the metropolitan life is constantly throwing stimuli at its inhabitants and can be too overwhelming to take in. Therefore people learn to block out things, which may come across as rude or unfriendly to outsiders. Simmel also developed theories on fashion and sociability in relation to cities. Simmel’s work is especially interesting to me because I grew up in the south and attended my first year of college in a small rural town. I know firsthand the observations and differences that Simmel proposes in his work and can confirm them to be very true. Growing up in Kentucky, I felt the pressure to conform to certain fashion trends and fit in with whatever was “mainstream” at the time. One of the biggest appeals to me about living in NYC is that here you are encouraged to find your own identity whereas in the south you are forced to conform to one group or style. Fashion develops in cities for that very reason. The city intensifies a multiplicity of social relations and at such a fast pace. The vast diversity in a city breeds the innovation and recycling of the past as Simmel would say. Another area Georg Simmel studied was sociability which he defines as the play-form of association driven by amicability, breeding cordiality and attractiveness of all kinds. In other words, sociability is interaction with others simply for the pleasure of interacting itself. There are no ulterior or underlying motives in the connection. From my own observation, pure sociability happens a lot less in cities than in rural areas. It seems that people in cities are used to everyone having some sort of hidden selfish motive so they are much more guarded and defensive in their sociability. This guarded attitude could contribute to the blasé attitude. The lack of pure sociability may also be because the fast pace of the city doesn’t allot much time for it, whereas the slower pace of rural life does. Simmel’s ideas about the mental life of city and rural people are very relatable and interesting to me.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman had some very thought provoking ideas and perspectives on gender inequality for her era that are still relevant today. I found her ideas on the division of labor interesting. She stated that women’s economic status is based on the men in their life and that their labor does not equate to their wages. The higher the status of a woman, the less she works. The lower the status of a woman, she more she works. The traditional patriarchal family structure ultimately exploits women. Our class discussion on how men and women are socialized differently on how we take up space led me to notice over the past week examples of this in my daily life. A few days ago when I was at a coffee shop, I noticed three men taking up a whole table that could seat six. They were all spread out, having a seat in between each of them. I immediately thought about our class discussion and how if it were girls, they would all be sitting close together. In addition, my roommate sent me this video the other day of switched gender roles, where women publicly made sexist comments to men in London. It admittedly is humorous, but has a deeper meaning, showing how women are over sexualized and disrespected on a daily basis. All the comments made by the woman in the video are real life examples taken from The Everyday Sexism Project. Another relevant article I found was on a matriarchal society known as the “Kingdom of Women” in China. In this society, they have no words for “husband” or “father” and the women are in charge, making every big financial decision, having ownership of the land, and choose as many or as few sexual partners as they want throughout their life.
MATRIARCHY ARTICLE: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/dec/19/china-mosuo-tribe-matriarchy
I know we have moved on to Durkheim; however I recently found this article and interactive map that is too relevant not to share regarding inequality. The distribution of wealth in the United States is extremely polarized however the idea of achieving the “American Dream” is presented to everyone alike, regardless of your current position on the socioeconomic “ladder”. We are all fed the lie that social mobility is achievable. Many people on this endeavor move to places where they think opportunity is greater, such as New York City. The two videos we watched for class represented the inequality in the United States, but the study I found brings this truth a little closer to home for us. It takes a look at the distribution of wealth in New York City based on the different subway lines, showing the median income for every single stop along the way. All of us know the extremes in this city, but the “interactive graphics” link provides a visual picture for us. The movie clip from “Brother From Another Planet” attached is also thought provoking. I encourage everyone to take a look at this article because it is pretty interesting and pertinent to all of us.
Karl Marx writes that money, in essence, defies the natural limits of human capabilities. One’s power is indefinite based on the amount of money they possess. There is nothing that, if offered the right price, one cannot attain. In today’s society, we see this played out in several different ways, large and small. One can achieve their constructed idea of beauty through paying for plastic surgery, implants, lifts, hair removal, etc. If someone wants talent, they can pay for the best couches. If someone wants love, they can buy that too. Marx writes that, “what I am and am capable of is by no means determined by my individuality…I am bad, dishonest, unscrupulous, stupid; but money is honored, and therefore so is its possessor.” (p. 49, col. 2) I think this is why so many people equate money to happiness. Through money, people can become what they are innately not. Or at least that is the illusion that many people “buy” into. Living in a consumer society, it is hard to resist believing the lie myself. We are constantly bombarded with things that will supposedly make us happier, whether it is owning the latest technology or stylish clothing. Money is the most powerful object one can have and that binds society together, encompassing all relationships.