Sociology Today: June 05, 2008

My recent talk to students gave me a new idea for my website ‘Curving Normality’. During that talk, I used a recent newspaper to show how the three main three questions of sociology are easily found in the news.

I write a lot for this website, often about peer-reviewed research, methodology, and other aspects of science. The sociology, my core discipline, perhaps does not receive enough attention. Thus, I’ll start a new topic for this site today: Sociology Today. In it, I will regularly select a specific and single news-source, such as a newspaper and a and will try to find articles related to the three main questions of sociology: rationalization, inequality, and cohesion. I will very shortly comment all articles and obviously link to them wherever publicly available.

See it as a little game (does he manage realistically), see it as an interesting source of information, but mostly enjoy it. All of you are invited to request a specific newspaper for me to read and `sociologize’. As long as I can get my hands on it (on paper or digitally) I’m up for the challenge. Sociology indeed is everywhere around you!

Today’s source: NRC Handelsblad (Dutch quality newspaper)

Rationalization: Embryo-selection ((Geen keuzes in venijnig embryodebat, NRC-Handelsblad, 05-06-2008, pag. 1))

Dutch politics is presently captivated by a debate on whether or not embryo’s may be selected during In-Vitro-Fertility procedures. The purpose of this selection would be to prevent the occurrence and transfer of severe genetical defects. An exemplary genetically transferred disease in this discussion is the BRCA-1 gene, which in 80% of the women carrying it leads to a severe form of breast cancer at early ages.
People in favor and against the possibility to select embryo’s (and thus to exclude the ones with similar kind of genetic make-up) are easily distinguished by religious dividing lines.

This raises interesting sociological questions regarding the interrelationship between secularization, technological advances and attitudes and practices regarding fertility issues. Currently, as an assistant researcher, I’m participating on exactly such a project at the Radboud University (in Dutch).

Inequality: SES-health gap ((De gezondheidskloof wordt groter, NRC Handelsblad, 05-06-2008, pag. 9))

One of the most consistent findings in social epidemiology is the one that people with a higher social economic status (i.e. educational level, income, professional level) are in better health. Today, it was published that professor Mackenbach and his team found that this ‘health gradient’ increased in general. This holds for all European countries and additionally differs per country. Differences are smallest in southern Europe, the largest in eastern Europe, where additionally the differences increased enormously.

Cohesion: Inclusion and exclusion ((Eén taal betekent nog niet één cultuur, NRC Handelsblad, 05-06-2008, pag. 7))

In a column Heldring argues that the recent suggestion to combine the Netherlands with Flanders is not a feasible one. Both countries might speak the same language, but that does not yet mean that there is one culture. He discusses what it makes for one culture to exist, and subsequently broadens his perspective to discuss the consequences of the convergence of European countries in one supra-national European union. A nice contribution on how inclusion leads to exclusion and an increased emphasis on national identity.

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