Soc. 301: Part I of Final Exam
20% of your Final Course Grade
Take Home Essay: Choose one of the two. Organize and focus your response before you write the essay! Be sure to indicate which question you are answering at the beginning of your paper. Do not exceed three pages (12-point font, double-spaced).
1) Consider Coontz’ argument about why scrutinizing the poor and minorities (the so-called underclass) for their “family morals” let’s the overclass and their “family morals” off the hook. Answer the following questions in light of this issue. Be sure to summarize Coontz’s argument too.
a) What are some consequences for our public dialogue about poverty and other social problems when we focus exclusively on the families of the poor? How does this relate to the phenomena of labeling and scapegoating?
b) What social problems are neglected as a result of this focus on the “morals” of the poor? Whose “moral” problems are ignored?
c) What about an honest investigation of “the system”? Be sure to discuss why trends, such as income, wealth, work-time, different “kinds” of welfare to the poor and rich, etc. are not investigated more critically and openly.
d) Briefly conclude with some personal comments on this topic.
The following course materials, in addition to the book The Way We Never Were, may be particularly useful: articles on Who Rules America, crime rates and perception, culture of poverty, race bias in judicial process and rates of execution, Corporate Crime, Chambliss (Saints and Roughnecks), Rosenhan (Sane in Insane Places).
2) Consider the mass media and consumerism. Given your understanding of the Schor book, the Kellner reading, various films, lectures and other readings, discuss why the “monopoly over our cultural horizon” makes it difficult to construct alternative visions of society and self. Be sure to highlight media concentration and the problems of consumerism.
a) First, be sure to explain what a “monopoly over our cultural horizon” means. Give an example.
b) Second, consider the relationship between media-mergers and the “centralization of communications within the corporate power structure” (Kellner) and our ability to engage in public dialogue independent of corporate power and consumerism.
c) Next, explain what Schor means by the “overspent American.” Also, what are some of the personal, social, environmental and emotional consequences of being overspent?
d) Given all of this, are there ways, besides individual downscaling, to exit the neon pleasure dome?