Social Problems Minnesota State University at Moorhead

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Social Problems

Minnesota State University at Moorhead


Summer Session I: June 2nd – July 3rd

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The World is a Beautiful Place

Oh the world is a beautiful place to be born into if you don’t mind a few dead minds in the higher places or a bomb or two now and then in your upturn faces or other such improprieties as our Name Brand society is prey to with its men of distinction and its men of extinction and its priests and other patrolmen and its various segregations and congressional investigations and other constipations that our fool flesh is heir to.

Yes the world is the best place of all for a lot of such things as making the fun scene and making the love scene and making the sad scene and singing low songs and having inspirations and walking around looking at everything and smelling flowers and goosing statues and even thinking and kissing people and making babies and wearing pants and waving hats and dancing and going swimming in rivers on picnics in the middle of the summer and just generally ‘living it up’

Yes but right in the middle of it comes the smiling mortician.

(Lawrence Ferlinghetti. 1955. Pictures of a Gone World. San Francisco: City Lights Book


“Perhaps the most fruitful distinction with which the sociological imagination works is between ‘the personal troubles milieu’ and ‘the public issues of social structure’. This distinction is an essential tool of the sociological imagination and a feature of all classical work in social science. Troubles occur within the character of the individual and within the range of his immediate relations with others; they have to do with those limited areas of social life of which he is directly and personally aware. Accordingly, the statement and the resolution of his immediate milieu –the social setting that is directly open to personal experience and to some extent his willful activity. A trouble is a private matter: values cherished by an individual are felt by him to be threatened. Issues have to do with matters that transcend those of local environments of the individual and the range of his inner life. They have to do with the organization of many such milieux into the institutions of an historical society as a whole, with the ways in which various milieux overlap and interpenetrate to form that larger structure of social and historical life. An issue is a public matter: some value cherished by publics is felt to be threatened. C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination, London: Oxford University Press, 1959, pg. 5.

“One sociologist has argued that there exists a symbiotic (mutually interdependent) relationship between deviance by élites and deviance by non-élites because elite deviance is aimed at maintaining or increasing the proportion of wealth and power that rests in elite hands. Given the inequitable distribution of such resources, the most powerless and economically deprived members of society suffer from social conditions that tend to provoke powerless individuals into criminality.” David R. Simon & D. Stanley Eitzen, Elite Deviance, Allyn and Bacon, Forth Edition.

“Within the interdependence of mutual (non-dominant) differences lies that security which enables us to descend into the chaos of knowledge and return with true visions of our future, along with the concomitant power to effect those changes which can bring the future into being.” Audre Lorde, ‘The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House, in Sister Outside, NY: Crossing Press, 1984.
“Truth isn’t outside power, or lacking in power…Each society has its regime of truth, its ‘general politics’ of truths: that is, the types of discourse which it accepts and makes function as true; the mechanism and instances which enable one to distinguish ‘true’ and ‘false’ statements; the means by which each is sanctioned; and the techniques and procedures accorded value in the acquisition of truth, the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true.” Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Others Writings, 1972-1977, NY: Pantheon, 1980.
Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.” Anonymous (Graffiti scrawled on the wall of a women’s restroom)
Texts:

Charles Derber. 2002. The Wilding of America: Greed, Violence, and the New American Dream. NY: Worth.


Joel M. Charon. 2002. Social Problems: Readings with Four Questions. CA: Wadsworth.



Scholarly Supplements

De Beauvior, Simone. 1952. “Woman as Other” in The Second Sex. NY: Vintage Press.

Foster, John B. [1998] “Let Them Eat Pollution: Capitalism and the World Environment.” In Reading Between


the Lines: Toward an Understanding of Current Social Problems. Boston: Mayfield.

Glickstein, Howard. 1995. “Inequalities in Educational Financing.” Teachers College Board, Vol. 96, No. 4.

Harris, William. 1995. “The General Treatment Strategy.” Social Science Abroad, [China] Vol. 10: 25-28.

Kain, Edward. 1990. The Myth of Family Decline. Jossey-Bass Inc., Publishers.

McIntosh, Peggy 1989. “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Peace & Freedom (July/August).

McLanahan, Sara and Irwin Garfinkel. 1989. ‘”ingle Mothers, the Underclass, and Social Policy.” In AAPSS,

Vol. 501, pg. 92.

Minh-ha, Trinh T. 1989. “Infinite Layers/Third World?’” In Woman, Native, Other: Writing, Postcoloniality, and



Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Pfohl, Stephen. 1992. “Toward a (Dis)Autobiographical Method.” In Death at Parasite Café: Social Science


(Fictions) & the Postmodern. NY: St. Martin.

Seigel, Karolynn and Beatrice J. Krauss. 1991. “Living with HIV Infection: Adaptive Tasks of Seropositive Gay

Men.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Vol. 32 (March): 17-32.

Stacey, Judith. 1996. “Gay & Lesbian Families are Here.” In the Name of the Family. Pg. 105. Boston: Beacon.

Vigilant, Lee G. 1999. “Poly-Ethnic Bacchanal: Ethnogenesis in a West Indian Context (The Case of Trinidad).”


Gyro Colloquium Papers, Vol. 5, pg. 93-119.

Vigilant, Lee G. and John B. Williamson. 2003. “On the Role and Meaning of Death in Terrorism.” In The



Handbook of Thanatology: Essays on the Social Study of Death. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Wieder, Alan. 1994. ‘Race & Education: A Review Essay’. Equity & Excellence in Education, Vol. 27, No. 3.




Introduction:

This course offers a sweeping introduction to an array of social problems (both chronological and topical) that have shaped the contemporary social landscape: problems of “race”, class, gender, sexual orientation, population, family life, crime and drugs, education, and health care (to mention a few topics).

Course Content:

There is a downward trend in contemporary sociological analyses of social problems! A critical deconstruction of the course description would bear this thesis out. Here, the description mentions a plethora of non-elite social problems such as family violence, poverty, drug addiction, discrimination, and so on, so forth. Consciously or not, the latent supposition is this: the most pressing (and visible) social problems are unyoked from the ‘hidden’ world of elite deviance. Stated otherwise: The illegal financial transactions of the infamous Michael Milken, who stole billions of dollars from investors and was paid $550 million for his illegal commerce (Eitzen & Zinn, 1997: 29-30), or the shady investments and accounting schemes of the Boards of Enron and World Com, are not linked to the urban crisis of the truly disadvantaged underclass, deindustrialization, family violence, gang proliferation, and other non-elite quandaries. This seminar argues that there is a manifest and an indubitable link between elite (Wall Street) deviance and non-elite (“ghetto”) social problems. A FOREWARING: THIS IS NOT A PLESANT STORY TO TELL. IT WILL BE A DISTURBING AND A (DE)CENTERING EVENT FOR MANY OF YOU!

Course Structure & Policies:

Class attendance and classroom participation are required. Assigned readings should be read before each class session. The expectation is that students will be fully prepared to answer questions and participate in informed discussions on assigned readings. At each session, the instructor will present a lecture that cogitates the broader analytical framework of the particular problem under study. These lectures and readings will form the basis of our class discussions.

Grades & Course Requirements:

Students enrolled for credit are required to complete three (3) analytic reaction papers (4-7 pages in length) on Charon’s Social Problems: Readings with Four Questions. These papers might be interpreted as either (1) a critical response to the lecture topic, or (2) a reflexive meditation on your (or family’s) experience(s) with a particular social problem under discussion. A.R.Ps (analytic reaction papers) for a particular theme are due on the day that social problem is discussed: One (1) A.R.P per topic. Analytic reaction papers should be typed, double-spaced. The analytic reaction portion of the class will constitute 40% of your final grade. LATE ANALYTIC REACTION PAPERS ARE NOT ACCEPTED.

Next, students enrolled for credit must have consistent class attendance and participation. By way of class participation, I will assign readings for students to comment on and summate at each class period. I will take attendance daily, and together, your attendance & participation will count for 20% of your final grade.

Finally, you will write a short paper (5-7 pages) and make a brief presentation on a social problem and its treatment tactic using the General Treatment Strategy as your guide. The paper and presentation will constitute 40% of your final grade.


Grades:

Three (3) Analytic Reaction papers (3 – 5 pages in length) 40%


Social Problem & Treatment Presentation 40%

Class Attendance & Essay Summaries 20%

1. (June 2nd & 3) “I am DMX” (or, How does it feel to be a social problem?)

“A social problem is a socially patterned condition involving widespread physical, financial, and/or moral harm that is caused by contradictions (permanent conflicts) stemming from the institutional arrangement of a given society. Such harm exist whether or not they have gained the attention of the mass media and politicians.” David R. Simon. 1997. Private Troubles and Public Issues: Social Problems in the Postmodern Era. Harcourt Brace & Co.

“…We consider social problems to be (1) societal induced conditions that cause psychic and material suffering for any segment of the population, and (2) acts and conditions that violate the norms and values of society.” D. Stanley Eitzen and Maxine Baca Zinn. 1997. Social Problems. Ally and Bacon.

1. Joseph R. Gusfield’s “How Do We Decide What Are Social Problems?” (pg. 11) In Charon’s Social Problems: Reading w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

2. Joel Best’s “What’s wrong with Declaring War on Social Problems?” (pg. 19) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

3. Joel Charon’s “An Introduction to the Study of Social Problems.” (pg. 3) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

4. Charles Derber, The Wilding of America, Chapter 1.

5. William Harris. 1995. “The General Treatment Strategy.” Social Science Abroad, Vol.10: 25-28.


3. (June 4th & 5th) “Us vs. Them:” The “American Dream” and its Problematics

“I would like to love my country and justice too.” –Albert Camus

“The Republican majority in congress in 1994-95 worked to increase this upper-class feast by such plans as reducing capital gains taxes (taxes on the profits from sale of property), reducing taxes to the “middle-class”, which they defined as families making up to $200,000 annually, and replacing the graduated income tax with either a flat tax or a tax on consumption.” Eitzen & Zinn, 1997: 35.


  1. Jennifer L. Hochchild’s “What’s wrong with the American Dream?” (pg. 33) In Charon’s Social Problems: Reading w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

  2. Katherine S. Newman’s “The Invisible Poor.” (pg. 53) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

  3. Charles Derber, The Wilding of America, Chapter 2.

4. (June 9th & 10) Eating the Environment/Consuming Nature

“Perhaps no single idea is more deeply embedded in modern political culture than the belief that economic growth is the key to meeting most important human needs, including alleviating poverty and protecting the environment. Anyone who dares speak of environmental limits to growth risks being dismissed out of hand as an anti-poor doomsayer.” –David Korten

  1. Michael Prenti’s “Ecology for Money.” (pg. 450) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

  2. Jeremy Brecher & Tim Costello’s “Globalization and the Race to the Bottom.” (pg. 452) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.


  3. Charles Derber, The Wilding of America, Chapter 3 & 4.

Supplementary Reading


John Belemy Foster. [1998] ‘Let Them Eat Pollution: Capitalism and the World Environment’ in Reading Between the Lines: Toward an Understanding of Current Social Problems. CA: Mayfield Publishing Company.

5. (June 11th & 12th) Neocolonialism (or, The Sublime Beauty of Corporate Domination)

“Extreme poverty and near starvation have produced a war or revolution in the Third World on a once-a-month average since 1945. It is not unusual for three or four civil and/or international conflicts to be taking place in the Third World at once. These conflicts, along with natural disasters, have produced a massive refugee problem, consisting of people who have lost their homes and homelands, and become international wanderers. There were 17 million refugees in 1990, compared to 8 million in 1980.” –David R. Simon & Joel H. Henderson. 1997. Pg. 222.

1. Charles A. Reich, “The Corporation as Invisible Government.” (pg. 169) In Charon’s Social Problems:

Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

2. Kofi K. Apraku, “Voter Apathy and Media Politics.” (pg. 177) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.


  1. Zweignhaft and Domhoff. “Diversity in the Power Elite.” (pg. 192) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.


5. Documentary: Life & Debt

6. (June 16tth & 17th) “Take Me To The City:” Ghetto/Barrio/Hood, and Other Lovely Places

“Middle-class whites move to the suburbs for a better place to raise their children, better schools, and less crime. Race plays a part in these motives. ‘A better place to raise children’ often meant a neighborhood with few or no African Americans or Latinos. ‘Better schools’ often meant virtually all-white schools not under court order to desegregate. And ‘crime’ was synonymous with inner-city Blacks for many suburbanites.” Eitzen & Zinn, 1997: 148.



  1. Elliot Liebow’s “Some Thoughts on Homelessness.”(pg. 68) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions.

  2. William Julius Wilson’s “From Institutional to Jobless Ghettos.” (pg. 99) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/ Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

  3. Elijah Anderson’s “Violence and Inner-City Code.” (pg. 329) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

7. (June 18th & 19th) Tele-genetically Con(sum)ing the “Racialized” Other

“The ethnic revolt against the melting pot has reached the point, in rhetoric at least, though not I think in reality, of denial of the idea of a common culture and a single society. If large numbers of people really accept this, the republic would be in serious trouble. The question poses itself: ‘how to restore the balance between unum and pluribus?” (Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. 1991. E Pluribus Unum?

“Most of the violence in the black ghetto is either a historical consequence of slavery and poverty –infant mortality, preventable disease- or the direct result of young black men killing other young black men in the course of criminal activity. The desperate economic condition of the inner-cities, exacerbated by the drug trade, bears the stamp of racial oppression, though if were not blacks bearing the burden of unemployment, it would soon be some other Americans.” (Todd Gitlin. 1995. The Twilight of Common Dreams: Why America is Wracked by Culture Wars.)


  1. Lawrence D. Bobo and Ryan A. Smith’s “Laissez-Faire Racism.” (pg. 77)
    In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

  2. Roberto Suro’s “Latino Lives in a Changing America.” (pg. 91) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

  3. Nathan McCall. “The Revolution Is about Basketball.” (pg. 109) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

  4. Feagin & Vera. “The Waste of Racism.” (pg. 113) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions.
Supplementary Readings

Peggy McIntosh. 1989. ‘White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack’ in Peace & Freedom (July/August).

Film: Matthieu Kassovitz’s La Haine

8. (June 23rd & 24th) (De)constructing Patriarchy / (Re)conceptualizing Womyn

&

Compulsory Het(eros)exism: From Desire to Hate (Remembering [or, Dismember(ing)?] Mathew Shepard)

“Advanced capitalism is inadequate to convey the structure of this historical moment. In the ‘Western’ sense, the end of man is at stake. It is no accident that woman disintegrates into women in our time.” Donna Harraway. 1995. The Cyborg Manifesto and Fractured Indentities.

“Girl Power!” –The Spice Girls

“Sexuality is the name that may be given to a set of interlocking historical mechanisms; not some reality below surface on which the simulation of bodies, the intensification of pleasures, the incitement to discourse, the formation of sciences, the strengthening of controls and resistances are linked together in accordance with a few great strategies of knowledge and power.” Michel Foucault. 1979. The History of Sexuality. NY: Pantheon.



  1. Michael Bronski’s “Homosexuality and American Citizenship.”(pg. 391) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

  2. Barbara Risman’s “Socialization into Gender.” (pg. 138) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

  3. Susan Faludi’s “The Betrayal of the American Man.” (pg. 160) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

Supplementary Readings


Leslea Newman ‘A Letter to Harvey Milk’: for Harvey Milk 1930-1978.

9. (June 25th) “Girls on Film”: Sex and Sexing Bodies as Social Problems

“When sexual liberation was the order of the day, the watchword was ‘Maximize sexuality, minimize reproduction’. The dream of our present clone-loving society is just the opposite: as much reproduction and as little sex as possible. At one time the body was a metaphor for the soul, then it became a metaphor for sex. Today it is no longer a metaphor for anything at all, merely the locus of metastasis, of the machine-like connections between all its processes, of an endless programming devoid of any symbolic organization or overarching purpose: the body is thus given over to the pure promiscuity of its relationship to itself –the same promiscuity that characterizes networks and integrated circuits.” –Jean Baudrillard’s “After the Orgy” in The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena, pg. 7.

“I want to defy the logic of your sex laws.” –Beck


  1. Elijah’s Anderson’s “Sex Codes and Family Life among Poor Inner-City Youths.” (pg. 210) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

  2. Elizabeth Monk-Turner and H. Christine Purcell. 1999. “Sexual Violence in Pornography: How Prevalent Is It?” Gender Issues, Vol. 17, No. 2 (Spring): 58-67.

  3. Frontline Documentary: American Porn

Supplementary Reading

Ruth Barcan. 2002. “In The Raw: Home-Made Porn and Reality Genres.” Mundane Bahavior, Vol. 3, No. 1: 1-20.



10. (June 26th) Command/Control/Communication: The Cybernetics of Class (Re)production

“The schools are structured to aid in the perpetuation of social and economic differences in several ways: (a) by being financed principally through property taxes, (b) by providing curricula that are irrelevant to the poor, and (c) by tracking according to presumed level of ability.” Eitzen and Zinn, 1997: 421.



  1. Jonathan Kozol’s “American Education: Savage Inequalities.” (pg. Pg. 243) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

  2. James Traub’s “What No School Can Do.” (pg. 237) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.
  3. Barry Schwartz’s “The Debasing of Education.” (pg. 251) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.


11. (June 30) “$$$ = Health”: The Iatrogenic Politics of Wellness

“The uninsured, of course, cannot afford the costs for physicians, dentists (130 million Americans do not have dental insurance), and hospitals, so they often do without. Poor pregnant women (26% of women of childbearing age have no maternal coverage), as a result, often do not receive prenatal and postnatal health care.” Eitzen and Zinn, 1997: 426.



  1. Ronald W. Dworkin’s “The Cultural Revolution in Health Care.” (pg. 271) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

  2. Charles J. Dougherty’s “Protection of the Least Well-Off.” (pg. 278) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

  3. Jeffrey Bartholet’s “AIDS in Africa.” (pg. 448) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

Supplementary Reading:

John A. Rich and David Stone. 1996. “The Experience of Violent Injury for Young African American Men: the Meaning of Being a “Sucker.” Journal of General Internal Medicine, Vol. 11: 77-82.



Documentary: ‘The High Price of Health’

12. (July 1st) Smooth Criminals: In “White Collars”/“Black Ties”

“ Loses resulting from individual white-collar crime amount to ten times the monetary loss from street crimes. Yet official agencies do not devote as much attention to white-collar crimes, and few criminals that are apprehended receive relatively light sentences.” Eitzen and Zinn, 1997: 514.

“Criminal laws create crime and criminals. If there were no law regulating a behavior, then there would be no criminals. So it is drug laws. Prior to 1914, heroine users were not criminals, nor were marijuana users before 1937. The drug laws, then, have created large numbers of criminals.” Eitzen and Zinn, 1997: 543.


  1. Eva Bertram et al’s “Three Fatal Flaws in the War on Drugs.” (pg. 361) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

  2. Elliot Currie’s “Crime and Punishment in America.” (pg. 357) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

  3. Stephen M. Rosoff el al’s “White Collar Crime.” (pg. 339) In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

Documentary: ‘The Farm’

13. (July 2nd) Sisyphus’s Lament: The End of Work and The Mainstreaming of Dis/alienation.

1. Barry Schwartz’s “The Demeaning of Work.” (Pg. 289). In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four



Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

2. Eric Schlosser’s “Work in the Strawberry Fields.” (Pg. 302). In Charon’s Social Problems: Readings w/Four



Questions. 2002. Wadsworth.

Scholarly Supplement:

1. Jeremy Rifkin’s “Technology and the African-American Experience.” In The End of Work: Technology, Jobs



and Your Future (The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era.” New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam Book.

14. (July 3rd) Presentations : A Social Problem & its Treatment

Thought Leader: Lee Garth Vigilant BA, California State University at Bakersfield; A.M., Boston

College; Ph.D., Boston College.


Electronic Mail: vigilant@mnstate.edu

Web Site: web.mnstate.edu/vigilant

Telephones: 218/236-2034 (Office)

218/790-5561 (Cellular)



Office Hours: LO 102-I: Monday 11-12 (or by special arrangement)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Without lifting your pen from your paper, connect these nine dots with four contiguous straight lines.



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