SOC. 4th Edition. Benokraitis. Cengage Learning, 2014. ISBN: 9781133592129
Chapter 10 Race and Ethnicity
Chapter 11 The Economy and Politics
Welcome to week four of SOC 250, Introduction to Sociology. The content for this week focuses on relating to the needs and challenges of race and ethnicity and as well as the sociological explanations of racial-ethnic inequality. We will then look at the economy and politics and the impact they have on society. We will identify the statistics that show who votes, who doesn’t and attempt to determine why. The content for the week focuses on understanding work and its relationship with the economy and what the social significance of work means to society. As part of that focus we review the sociological explanations of work and the economy and the relationship between corporations and capitalism.
Racial and Ethnic Diversity in America
Some people in America enjoy more opportunities than others simply because of the color of their skin. The situation has improved during the last 50 years or so, but not as much as most people think. Many people stereotype the United States as a single-language and single-culture society. In fact, it’s the most multicultural country in the world, a magnet that draws people from hundreds of nations and that is home to millions of Americans who are bilingual or multilingual.
Our Changing Immigration Mosaic
Since the turn of the twentieth century there has been a significant shift in immigrants’ country of origin and skills. In 1900, almost 85 percent of immigrants came from Europe and with predominately low-level skills; now immigrants come primarily from Asia (mainly China and the Philippines) and Latin America (mainly Mexico), and have varied skills and educational levels. The United States admits more than 1 million immigrants every year---more than any other nation. About 62 percent of undocumented immigrants are from Mexico, 15 percent are from Central Latin America, 7 percent are from Asia, and 16 percent are from other countries.
Government is a formal organization that has the authority to make and enforce laws. Governments can maintain order, provide social services, regulate the economy, and establish educational systems. Besides maintaining armed forces to discourage attacks by other countries, governments also try to protect their citizens from internal assaults that range from individual crimes to organized paramilitary groups. Most governments are huge bureaucracies. The U.S. government, for example, consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, with numerous departments in the executive branch alone. Among other powers, the president proposes laws, the congress writes laws, and the judicial system interprets laws and legitimates their enforcement.
Politics, Power, and Authority
Whether based on persuasion or coercion, power---especially political power---is about controlling others. Because people may revolt against sheer force, many governments depend on authority to establish order, shape people’s attitudes, and control their behavior. Authority is the legitimate use of power, and has three characteristics. First, people consent to authority because they believe that their obedience is for the greater good. Second, people see the authority as legitimate. Third, people accept authority because it is institutionalized in organizations such as police departments.
Types of Political Systems
There are a variety of political systems that exist around the world. In some countries their political system has been overthrown and replaced by another political system. The three major types of political systems that exist around the world are democracies (as in the United States), totalitarianism and dictatorships ( as in China), and authoritarianism and monarchies (as in the Middle East).
Democracy: A democracy is a political system in which, ideally, citizens have control over the state and its actions. Democracies are based on several principles such as individuals are the best judges of their own interests and participate in government decisions. Citizens select leaders who are responsive to the wishes of the majority of the people. The right to vote is universal, and elections are free, fair, secret, and occur frequently.
Totalitarianism and Dictatorships: At the opposite end of the continuum from democracy is totalitarianism, a political system in which the government controls every aspect of people’s lives. Totalitarianism includes a pervasive ideology that legitimizes state control and instructs people how to act in their public and private lives. There is a single political party controlled by one person, a dictator who is a supreme leader who stays in office indefinitely.
Authoritarianism and Monarchies: Most nations have some version of democracy or totalitarianism. However, a number of countries are characterized by authoritarianism, a political system in which the state controls the lives of citizens but permits some degree of individual freedom. In the Middle East, for example, the ruler of Qatar has absolute power and discourages public criticism of his policies, but he has implemented a constitution that specifies that two-thirds of the officeholders must be elected rather than appointed and has supported numerous progressive reforms, such as women’s active participation in politics.
A formal organization is a complex and structured secondary group that has been deliberately created to achieve specific goals in an efficient manner. We depend on a variety of formal organizations to provide goods and services in a stable and predictable way, including companies that supply clean water for brushing our teeth, numerous food producers who stock our favorite breakfast items, and garment industries and retailers that produce and sell the clothes we wear.
The United States is the most multicultural country in the world, a magnet that draws people from hundreds of nations and that is home to millions of Americans who are bilingual or multilingual. Government is often affected by a civic society, the non-government group of citizens that includes community-based organizations, the media, lobbyists, and voters. If a government seems unjust, a country’s civic society can exert considerable power by replacing elected officials or rebelling against appointed leaders.
Social Significance of Work
Work is physical or mental activity that accomplishes or produces something, either goods or services. Work has many forms: It can be legal or illegal, paid or unpaid (such as raising children and volunteering), and essential for a society’s survival (such as producing food) or peripheral (such as creating entertainment). Some work is routine and mechanical, but some involves considerable stress and anxiety. For most of us, money is a major motivator, but work provides other benefits. Generally, employment leads to better health and a sense of accomplishment and usefulness, and is a major source of social identity.
Global Economic Systems
As with politics, societies differ in the kinds of economic systems they develop. Societies worldwide are also experiencing profound changes, as some nations gain unprecedented economic power because of globalization, political transitions, and a revolution in communications technology. The two major economic systems around the world are capitalism and socialism.
Capitalism: Capitalism is an economic system in which wealth is in private hands, and is invested and reinvested to produce profits. Ideally, capitalism has four essential characteristics which include private ownership of property, competition, profit, and investment. One of the key components of capitalism is profits, which is selling something for more than it costs to produce profits and an accumulation of wealth for individuals and companies. Profits can invigorate completion because producers create goods and services that consumers want.
Socialism: Socialism is an economic and political system based on the principle of the public ownership of the production of goods and services. Socialism is the opposite of capitalism and has the following characteristics which include collective ownership of property which is usually owned by the government, no profit motive as the government owns and controls the financial resources, and the government is responsible for all economic planning and programs. Communism is an ideal example of socialism.
It is important to understand the impact of race and ethnicity on our lives and why racial-ethnic inequality is still widespread, along with the growth of interracial and interethnic relationships. Since the United States is the most multicultural country in the world, and it draws people from hundreds of nations, we need to understand the implications of such diversity. It is also important to note that the multiracial population is also increasing. All of us identify with some groups and not others in terms of sex, age, social class, and other factors. Two of the most common and important sources of self-identification, as well as labeling by others, are race and ethnicity. Most of us are aware that the economy determines how a society produces, distributes, and consumes goods and services. In politics individuals and groups acquire and exercise power and authority and make decisions. Societies worldwide differ in the kinds of economic and political systems they develop because of many factors such as globalization and technology.
View the following video to review a simple explanation of global economic systems. Then view a very short video on political systems.
Global Economic Systems
What are political systems?
SOC. 4th Edition. Benokraitis. Cengage Learning, 2014. ISBN: 9781133592129
Schaefer, Richard T. (2013). Sociology: A Brief Introduction (10th ed.), New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Alvord, Mary. (2014). Stress in America, American Psychological Association
Henninger, M.L. (2009). Family Life Today, Teaching Young Children: An Introduction, Pearson Education Inc., pp. 182-187.