Sociology Today: June 10, 2008

The tuesday edition of the NRC-Handelsblad, my favorite newspaper, has a science page. So, it wasn’t difficult at all to find articles relating to the three main questions of sociology. But then again, it hasn’t been that difficult the last few days as well. Any suggestions for a more difficult source of news from one of my readers?

Today’s Source: NRC Handelsblad

Rationalization: Do safer cars alter our behavior? ((De automobiel rijdt straks op eigen houtje, NRC Handelsblad, 10-06-08, p. 8))

Today on the science-page of my newspaper an article on automobiles who start to think for themselves. Using lasers and cameras they are able to detect, and save, pedestrians. Isn’t that lovely, isn’t that safe. Of course they are, but wouldn’t they benefit only hold with unaltered human behavior? It reminded me of an investigation (I think it was in London) which showed that drivers of bigger cars drive more recklessly. So, the perception of safety of the driver might indirectly endanger the fragile people on the curbstones.
Just another example of how modernity might change our thinking, and how simple interventions might lead to unexpected results.

Inequality which imposes inequality ((Senioren en scholieren de dupe van staking, NRC Handelsblad, 10-06-2008, p. 3))

For ten days, Dutch bus drivers have been on a strike. Despite legitimate reasons (being the victims of liberalization of transportation market), by court rule bus drivers are no longer allowed to continue their strike. The newspaper today pays attention to those who suffered most by the strike: the youth and the elderly. Clearly, this is because these people have the least resources available to compensate for the loss of public transportation. It would be interesting to investigate in a detailed manner how one inequality results in an unequal position for other people.

Cohesion: Imposing social pressure? ((Gewelddadig gedrag is te voorspellen, NRC Handelsblad, 10-06-08, p. 8))

Criminal behavior can be predicted. That is the central statement made by Henny Lodewijks, a psychologist, who investigated a method of assessing the risk of criminal behavior of youth delinquents. He compared a standardized method to experts’ opinions. Presently, this is used to receive an indication of whether or not a detained youth can be released, or not. To me, this seems to be a noble cause. However, it reminds me of a discussion we had during a course on individuality (In Dutch) I co-initiated: how far can society go to impose norms on people. To what extent can we decide that a youth is ready or not ready to return to society?

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