Teaching Sociology 101 – Taking Reality Seriously

What I mean by that is that part of thinking sociologically is to look at the way things are, seriously and in detail, which mean with specific attention to certain factors, as Avedon does here:

"And, as I have noted before, every person busted for drugs in the city and carted off to another state is not just one less person who is likely to be able to vote in that city, but one more body to be added to the census in what is probably a "red" district or state, thus weakening the electoral strength of more liberal areas (because fewer people mean fewer members of Congress) to add to the strength of more conservative ones without having to add actual voters to them.

Because conservative economic policies in general create more economic hardship, they create more crime, but conservatives also like to eagerly add to the list of things that are crimes you can be busted for. At no time are they trying to make your streets and neighborhoods safer – they are just trying to find more ways to control people who might get uppity. And, to add injury to injury, they get to use your money to do it, diverting it from places it might really do some good."

In other words, one just has to look at who’s doing what to whom and who benefits from any specific social arrangements. Social phenomena do not fall from the sky in their specific current forms. They have a history, they are the product of social, political and economic processes. And they are shaped by the state of power arrangements and institutional realities. Which group or category of people is in a position to impose its interests upon other, less privileged group or category of people. And what cultural narrative is developed to account for obviously unfair social arrangements?And what institutional structure support any given social arrangements.

Social reality is thick with these layers. We just have to take it seriously.

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