Introduction to Sociological Theory
Maximum 800 words.
Readings for this assignment:
Katherine Beckett and Theodore Sasson “The War on Crime as Hegemonic Strategy: A Neo-Marxian Theory of the New Punitiveness in U.S. Criminal Justice Policy.” Of Crime and Criminality edited by Sally Simpson and Robert Agnew. Sage Publications, 2000, pp. 61-84.
Durkheim, Émile.. The Rules of the Sociological Method, edited by Steven Lukes, translated by W.D. Halls. New York: Free Press, 1982, pp. 31-32.
Dillon, Michele. Introduction to Sociological Theory : Theorists, Concepts, and Their Applicability to the Twenty-first Century. Second ed. 2014. Pp. 79-89
Trudeau “takes a knee”
Trump with a bible
The goal of this assignment is to have you think about the application of a sociological perspective to a contemporary phenomenon: the protests against policing in Canada and the United States. After completing the assigned readings listed above, you need to take a look at the links provided that show (or seem to show, depending on your view) two very different public responses by the democratically (more or less) elected representatives of the federal governments of Canada and the United States. The contrast at least seems to be as clear as possible: on the one hand, the Canadian Prime Minister joined in with demonstrators protesting racist police brutality and kneels for nearly nine minutes in a gesture of solidarity, and on the other hand, the U.S. President orders soldiers to tear gas protesters and stands in front of a church holding a bible.
- Why do you think Trudeau joined the demonstrators? What do you think it means to the rest of Canadian society? [Please note: it’s obvious that, in a way, everyone who thinks about this will think about it in slightly different ways. Everyone knows that; don’t include it in your answer.] Are there patterns of response to Trudeau’s actions at that demonstration? In answering this question you are expected to make connections between this current event and the assigned readings for this assignment.
- Why do you think Trump joined the demonstrators? What do you think it means to the rest of U.S. society? [Please note: it’s obvious that in a way, everyone who thinks about this will think about it in slightly different ways. Everyone knows that; don’t include it in your answer.] Are there patterns of response to Trump’s actions at that demonstration? In answering this question you are expected to make connections between this current event and the assigned readings for this assignment.
- Both structural functionalism and conflict theory agree that socialization is the process through which formal and informal rules that mediate interpersonal relations are created and sustained (as the textbook describes them, Beckett and Sasson label them neo-Marxian and neo-Durkheimian). Beckett and Sasson claim that “For Durkheim, the collective conscience emerged naturally; society was characterized by this deep shared understanding rather than by group conflict or attempts to create and enforce a dominant morality.53 Anger and punishment, in this view, are natural reactions to the violation of these shared norms and are functional in the sense that they reinforce shared morals and enhance group solidarity.” P. 71 Briefly describe the main argument defended by Sasson and Beckett, and the neo-Durkheimian position they are disagreeing with.
- Based on all of the assigned readings give a neo-Durkheimian and a neo-Gramsican explanation for Trudeau’s and Trump’s decision to respond to the demonstrations caused by the killing of George Floyd. Be sure to explicitly connect the elements of your interpretation to the sources you are drawing from.