Saturday, February 15, 2014

How America Is Falling Behind in High Speed Internet Access

The Internet was born in America. It was given to the world for free, but now, a handful of giant companies, together with ineffective government policy, have managed to place the US far down on the list of internet accessibility and affordability. We are in 16th place, behind countries like Sweden (in first place), Holland and Japan. Even Portugal has faster and cheaper internet connection than we do.

In her book 'Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the Gilded Age', Susan Crawford describes how the American Internet service is falling behind other nations due to an abundance of greed, but especially due to a lack of vision. Read more...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Winners and Losers

We have been talking about success and failure, why there are haves and  have-nots. I wrote a piece about billionaires where I summarized  the standard sociological explanation of success and failure: Individual success and failure are much more the result of advantage, luck and social circumstances than of individual  effort and aptitudes. This is the correct explanation, even though most people still reject it.

For over a century, the social sciences have been making progress in answering this question. But most lay people continue to reject what psychology, sociology, political science, economics and  the other social sciences have discovered. Lay people continue to be guided by beliefs based on their  own experiences, wrong as those beliefs are. It is as if we continued to believe that the earth is flat because it clearly appears to be so. Read more...

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Are there no Social Classes in America?

Photo: Dorothea Lange

Until the 1930s, the prevailing myth was that unlike Europe -  from which America descended -  this country had no social classes. We were the land of opportunity, of the American Dream,  of Horatio Alger, of American exceptionalism.

Then, shortly before World War Two,  sociologists such as W. Lloyd Warner “discovered” social class in America. This was a first. Perhaps the sociological study of social class was one manifestation  of America’s  increased   social consciousness resulting from the Great Depression.

For the following half century, common sense prevailed:  The scholarly literature,  the  mainstream media, politicians  and public opinion all felt comfortable discussing social class.

The study of social stratification and social inequality  became  one of Sociology’s core areas. Read more...