Tag Archives | Sociology

Science Overturns View Of Humans As Naturally Barbaric

herzog-boys-wrestling-1969-timeAFP on the mounting body of evidence that people and other advanced animals are, on a biological level, driven largely by empathy and caring — undermining the classic view of man possessing a nasty, violent nature tenuously kept in check by the thin veneer of civilization:

Biological research increasingly debunks the view of humanity as competitive, aggressive and brutish, a leading specialist in primate behavior told a major science conference.

“Humans have a lot of pro-social tendencies,” Frans de Waal, a biologist at Emory University in Atlanta, told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. New research on higher animals from primates and elephants to mice shows there is a biological basis for behavior such as cooperation, said de Waal.

Until just 12 years ago, the common view among scientists was that humans were “nasty” at the core but had developed a veneer of morality — albeit a thin one, de Waal told scientists and journalists from some 50 countries.

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Bastoy: Norway’s Island Of Freedom For Prisoners

bastoey-prision_noruegaDer Spiegel takes a look at the resort-like island that houses some of Norway’s most hardened convicts — they are given a wide berth to do as they please, but must complete their work and behave civilly, or risk being shipped back to regular prison. Is this how criminal rehabilitation could be done here?

No bars. No walls. No armed guards. The prison island of Bastøy in Norway is filled with some of the country’s most hardened criminals. Yet it emphasizes self-control instead of the strictly regulated regimens common in most prisons. For some inmates, it is more than they can handle.

The warden is a man who deals in freedom. He is also a visionary. He wants the men here to live as if they were living in a village, to grow potatoes and compost their garbage, and he wants the guards and the prisoners to respect each other. What he doesn’t want is a camera in the supermarket.

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Is Less Reading Fiction Making Us Less Empathetic?

Stephenie-Meyer-fans-007The Guardian discusses research on the powerful link between empathy and reading fiction — a novel is a singular experience in terms of being immersed in the interior life of another person, forcing us to undergo events through the protagonist’s eyes and placing us amongst their thoughts. Studies have pointed to a stunting of empathy in young adults over the past few decades — could one reason be the decline of reading of novels for pleasure?

Burying your head in a novel isn’t just a way to escape the world: psychologists are increasingly finding that reading can affect our personalities.

Researchers from the University at Buffalo gave 140 undergraduates passages from either Meyer’s Twilight or JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to read. The study’s authors, Dr. Shira Gabriel and Ariana Young, then applied what they dubbed the Twilight/Harry Potter Narrative Collective Assimilation Scale, which saw the students asked questions designed to measure their identification with the worlds they had been reading about.

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In Defense of the Hipster: Part 2

HipsterShark2PART 2: AUTHENTICITY IS BULLSHIT, or: POP IS THE NEW PUNK

(Part 1, titled “What Is A Hipster, And Why Does Everyone Hate Them? or: You’re So Fake (And So Am I), can be found here.)

As noted in Part 1, the main thrust of the criticisms against hipsters have roots in a notion of authenticity.  Lorentz mentions the words “authentic” and “inauthentic” a dozen times in his article, and the Adbusters piece is just as bad. It’s a fair charge to say that hipsters fetishize the authentic, as Lorentz does. This is hardly unique to hipsters, though; one can find it in practically any sub-culture. It’s so common that I find it disingenuous to use it as a criticism of hipsters and Hipsterism. The problem, as I see it, is that notion of authenticity being used is utter bullshit.

Some years ago, before I became a hipster or had even heard of hipsters, I was confirmed as “real” at a party by a group of counter-culture kids.… Read the rest

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In Defense of the Hipster

Hipster SharkPART ONE: WHAT IS A HIPSTER, AND WHY DOES EVERYONE HATE THEM? or: YOU’RE SO FAKE (AND SO AM I)

My name is Tuna Ghost and I have a confession: I’m a hipster.

One may think this is a self-defeating statement, like “this sentence is false” or “all Cretans are liars, says so-and-so of Crete”, as one of the commonly accepted hallmarks of a hipster is that he or she will vehemently deny that they are a hipster.  This bit of conventional wisdom is easily verified, all one has to do is ask the hipsters around one if they self-identify as a “hipster”.  Personally, I have to look no further than my own friends to see evidence of it.  By the traditional definition of “hipster” they are obviously hipsters, but thus far I am the only one who will gladly self-identify as such. One may wonder why anyone in their right mind would identity with a subculture that has become synonymous with shallowness, lack of authenticity and sneering douche-baggery (my friends certainly do), but in this article I will demonstrate that this is not a fair assessment of Hipsterism.… Read the rest

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Social Class as Culture

Alice In WonderlandVia ScienceDaily:

Social class is more than just how much money you have. It’s also the clothes you wear, the music you like, the school you go to — and has a strong influence on how you interact with others, according to the authors of a new article in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

People from lower classes have fundamentally different ways of thinking about the world than people in upper classes — a fact that should figure into debates on public policy, according to the authors.”Americans, although this is shifting a bit, kind of think class is irrelevant,” says Dacher Keltner of the University of California-Berkeley, who cowrote the article with Michael W. Kraus of UC-San Francisco and Paul K. Piff of UC-Berkeley. “I think our studies are saying the opposite: This is a profound part of who we are.”

People who come from a lower-class background have to depend more on other people.

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Most Beneficiaries Of Government Programs Don’t Know They Use Government Programs

Via Sociological Images, an excerpt from research by Cornell professor Suzanne Mettler in which Americans were asked whether they had ever benefited from or participated in specific federal programs. As it turns out, a large number of people who have benefited from various federal programs or policies do not recognize themselves as having done so. This reveals something about people’s attitudes and framing, perhaps about whom they think government social programs “help”:

programbeneficiaries-500x297

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Sweden Debuts Gender-Neutral Preschool

3596182798_fdf38a900eAt best, a school model for the more-enlightened future, and at worst, an intriguing social experiment. Via Yahoo News:

At the “Egalia” preschool, staff avoid using words like “him” or “her” and address the 33 kids as “friends” rather than girls and boys.

From the color and placement of toys to the choice of books, every detail has been carefully planned to make sure the children don’t fall into gender stereotypes.

Egalia doesn’t deny the biological differences between boys and girls — the dolls the children play with are anatomically correct. What matters is that children understand that their biological differences “don’t mean boys and girls have different interests and abilities.”

The taxpayer-funded preschool which opened last year in the liberal Sodermalm district of Stockholm for kids aged 1 to 6 is among the most radical examples of Sweden’s efforts to engineer equality between the sexes from childhood onward. Breaking down gender roles is a core mission in the national curriculum for preschools, underpinned by the theory that even in highly egalitarian-minded Sweden, society gives boys an unfair edge.

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Chris Hedges’s Endgame Strategy: Why The Revolution Must Start In America

Synopsis via The Raw Story:
Pulitzer-winning author and former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges has a revolutionary worldview. In the video below, his recent “Endgame Strategy” piece for AdBusters is read aloud by George Atherton. His conclusions are chilling, but not entirely hopeless. “We will have to take care of ourselves,” he wrote. “We will have to rapidly create small, monastic communities where we can sustain and feed ourselves. It will be up to us to keep alive the intellectual, moral and cultural values the corporate state has attempted to snuff out. It is either that or become drones and serfs in a global corporate dystopia. It is not much of a choice. But at least we still have one.
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Are The Smurfs Racist, Sexist Fascists?

SmurfsMeaghan Murphy writes on Fox News:

Sacre bleu! The Smurfs may not be as innocent as they look.

The tribe of little blue creatures who live peacefully among the mushrooms are “steeped in Stalinism and Nazism,” according to a French sociologist.

“Collective work always focuses on self-sufficiency for food and energy,” Antoine Buéno states in Le Petit Livre Bleu (The Little Blue Book). “The Smurfs do not have private property; their leader is Papa Smurf who shows very authoritarian and paternalistic characteristics.”

Buéno also makes the connection that the little blue men’s biggest enemy, the magician Gargamel, seems to have a Jewish background — citing similarities to the anti-Semitic images of the World War II era.

The French writer also claims that the Smurfs do not just resemble Nazis, but sexist Nazis to boot! Smurfette—traditionally the only woman living in the Smurf’s village — allegedly meets the Aryan ideal of beauty with her blonde hair and refined features.

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