Sociology Today: June 9 2008

Today something different. Instead of the quality newspapers I used for the last few days, I selected a free one that I found in the train this morning. It’s De Pers. It was a little more difficult to find fitting news-items, but mostly because a lot of attention was given to football, for the Dutch are playing their first match in the European Championship tonight. Sure, sports can be sociologically interesting, but not directly when the newspaper is discussing mainly who will be playing and what formation the coach will select.

Nevertheless, it appeared that I was able to find implicit references to the seminal work of three classic sociologists: Weber, Marx, and Durkheim.

Today’s Source: De Pers

Rationalization: Activistic unemployment? ((Werklozen hebben meer aan hulp dan aan straf, De Pers, 09-06-2008, p.9))

Max Weber showed that regional differences in prosperity could be explained by the world view of people living in these regions, and whether or not these people had an activistic world view. According to him, Protestants had (at that time?) a more activistic world view than Catholics.

According to an investigation by ‘De Pers’, it it argued that the unemployed benefit more by assistance than by punishment. Based on the work of Weber it is not difficult to agree with that basic statement, since it would give people the real opportunities to develop the chances that people have in their lives. Instead of being morally and emotionally demotivated, they experience that real opportunities bread inspiration and motivation.

Inequality: Cynicism helps as well ((Argus, De Pers, 09-06-2008, p. 3))

Marx wasn’t cynical. To some extent, he was optimistic to the fact that the revolution would emerge at some moment in time. This revolution would bring equality to us all. Cynicism is found in an Argus-comic. We see two UN officers searching for hungry people in African village. Apparently, half the people has starved from famine, so at least one of the millennium goals has been met there.

I’m not saying that we should let people die to achieve goals. I hope that the comic makes clear that there are multiple means to achieve certain goals, but that not every good intended goal is as desirable as others.

Cohesion: Suicide ((Zelfgemaakt gifgas hype onder jeugd, De Pers, 09-06-2008, p. 7))

Suicide is one of the most (in)famous issues in sociology. Classic sociologist Durkheim wrote his seminal work ‘Suicide’ in 1897, showing that the deed of suicide, at that time thought of as being the most selfish and autonomous deeds of all, did not occur randomly. Instead, he showed that it has to do with prevalent social norms (not denying the influence of other, possibly personal, factors). People who are integrated in groups that object against suicide are less prone to commit suicide. Additionally, people are integrated in groups that set norms that a person does not feel he is able to obtain, commit suicide more often as well. He called this anomic suicide. Today, I read in the newspaper called ‘De Pers’ that Japanese youth have found a home-made poison-gas which is actually used. I’m wondering what type of Durkheimian suicide it is that these pressured Japanese youth is committing …

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