Tags: capitalism, class, globalization, historical sociology, inequality, methodology/statistics, political/economy, absolute poverty, antônio conselheiro, charity, colonialism, comparative historical analysis, industrial revolution, poorhouse, relative poverty, social history, welfare state, workhouse, 21 to 60 mins
Summary: This exquisitely animated documentary tells a sweeping social history of world poverty. You, the viewer, are the protagonist in this film floating through the meandering jet stream of world history. "If we want to make poverty history," the narrator explains, "then first, we need to understand the history of poverty." ● The documentary appropriately begins in prehistory (2:35), and in a more or less linear fashion, moves through humanity's early large scale civilizations, including ancient Egypt (4:40) and ancient Greece (5:40). Zipping forward to the Middle Ages, the story unfolds again in Cairo (8:20), and then lingers in Paris of the same period (10:50). The history of colonialism is woven into the story with a look at the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire (14:20), the Portuguese conquest of West Africa (16:20 and 34:40), and British colonial rule in India (36:00). Poverty in a neocolonial context is later examined in Ghana (38:50 and 43:55), and China makes appearances as the site of both model relief efforts and tragic famine (18:30 and 43:20). At the 20:30 mark the story returns to Western Europe in order to consider the impact of the Industrial Revolution on poverty, and then moves toward a conclusion which contemplates the changes wrought by globalization. ● While this 58-minute film understandably fails to deliver a truly exhaustive account of the the world-historical processes associated with poverty, the film would be an excellent tool for illustrating comparative historical analysis in sociology. Systematic comparison is of course central to comparative historical work, and this film succeeds in illustrating the importance of comparison by briefly drawing on eighteenth century China as a rare instance where prosperity for some didn't necessarily come at the cost of desperate poverty for others. What does the film's analysis of poverty gain by including this "negative" case in the story? One answer is that the case of China complicates the viewer's understanding of poverty by exposing its causes as far less determined and far more contingent.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
Tags: capitalism, class, economic sociology, inequality, marx/marxism, organizations/occupations/work, political economy, contingent work, cooperatives, flexible labor, temp work, 21 to 60 mins
Summary: Contingent workers include part-time work, independent contractors, self-employed, agency temps, and on-call workers. In this segment of MSNBC's Up with Chris Hayes, Hayes discusses contingent work with his four guests from academia and worker advocate groups. After a brief introduction, the video focuses on contingent labor in the economy today (2:16-10:59) and moves to a more critical conversation of possible alternative worker organizations (11:00-25:24). It notes that contingent workers comprise 30% of the American workforce, which has increased dramatically in the last 10-20 years. It includes both low-skilled labor (e.g. janitors) and high-skilled labor (professors, computer engineers), who usually do not receive overtime pay, unemployment benefits, health care, etc. While some workers might prefer this relationship, it is mostly capitalists that benefit from this arrangement and the guests discuss the role of power in shaping contingent labor. They argue that business owners strive to maintain a flexible workforce, avoid providing benefits, and workers have much less bargaining power (through unions) today and have little control over this relationship. In the second portion of the segment, the guests discuss the desirability of this model and possible alternatives, especially worker cooperatives. The guests differ on if they see an inherent tension between employers and contingent labor, and viewers may reflect on how they believe work should be organized. If you prefer alternative arrangements, how would we get there? How does contingent labor fit into Marx's theory of capitalism and worker resistance?
Submitted By: Paul Dean
Tags: capitalism, class, economic sociology, inequality, marx/marxism, political economy, social mvmts/social change/resistance, theory, class consciousness, exploitation, hegemony, ideology, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: Disney's Pixar film, A Bug’s Life, follows the life of a young ant, Flik, who leads a rebellion against greedy grasshoppers that feed on food harvested by the ants. In this clip, Hopper, the head Grasshopper, berates one of his minions for suggesting that the grasshoppers give in to the demands of one ant. Hopper points out that one ant's actions may be miniscule in effect, but several ants acting in unified collective action can overthrow the entire system that allows the grasshoppers to live such a comfortable life of abundance. This clip can be used to stimulate discussion on several Marxian theories and concepts. For example, given that the grasshoppers rely on the surplus of the ants' labor to maintain their own way of life, it illustrates Marx's theory of exploitation. But as Hopper notes here, "those puny little ants outnumber us 100-to-1, and if they figure that out, there goes our way of life." So if the ants were to recognize their class interests in this system, thereby attaining class consciousness, they would be likely to organize and fight back against the exploitative grasshoppers. He further notes "it's not about food, it's about keeping those ants in line." Viewers may reflect on what Hopper means by this. Specifically, the grasshoppers cannot give in to one ant's demands and believe they are entitled to the food they harvested. They have to keep the ants from recognizing their right to the food, and therefore must maintain ideological control (i.e. belief in ideas that support the ruling class) over the oppressed ants. The film clip can also be used in illustrating social movements and inequalities in general because it provides a cogent example of collective agency and its possible relationship to individual resistance.
Submitted By: Chris Hardnack
Tags: capitalism, commodification, consumption/consumerism, corporations, economic sociology, marketing/brands, marx/marxism, political economy, theory, culture industry, false needs, max horkheimer, theodor adorno, wal-mart, 00 to 05 mins
Access: South Park Studios
Summary: In this South Park clip, Kyle and Stan enter the local Wall-Mart in an attempt to ruin the business because the people of South Park have been negatively affected by its recent opening in their town. Having been led to believe that destroying the “heart” will destroy the business, the boys search the store for the “heart” of Wal-Mart . While Randy (Stan's father) is walking through the store with the boys, he is distracted by the fact that Wal-Mart continues to lower their prices. Everywhere he looks there are items that he does not need, but he continues to buy them because of the low prices. In this way, Wal-Mart is creating “false-needs,” which are created and fulfilled by capitalism, and exert power over Randy. When the boys meet the man that calls himself “Wal-Mart,” he claims that he can take any “form” that he chooses. He then switches clothes, thereby acquiring different forms through consumer goods, and asks the boys which “form” they prefer. When the boys find the “heart,” they are surprised to see that it is a mirror; i.e. the “heart” of Wal-Mart is the consumer. The man adds that his “forms” can be Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and Target, but that he represents one single entity, “desire.” This desire is the power that is exerted over people by major corporations. While the clip seems to suggest that Wal-Mart is simply fulfilling the desires of the consumer, viewers may consider how such desire and the low prices of Wal-Mart are produced more broadly. Through advertising and Wal-Mart's artificially low prices (e.g. by exploiting cheap labor), these desires are produced like a commodity in a factory and are a fundamental mechanism for capitalist control over people. By suggesting that the "heart of Wal-Mart" is the consumer, does it offer hope in us being able to change the corporate giant or does it unfairly place blame on individuals for a bigger structural issue?
Submitted By: Sean Kelley and Ian Hammer
Tags: capitalism, children/youth, commodification, consumption/consumerism, crime/law/deviance, gender, globalization, sex/sexuality, human trafficking, prostitution, sex trafficking, slavery, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This short clip is a PSA from Stop The Traffik (STT), an international charity focused on ending human trafficking. The clip was shot in the famous De Wallen red-light district in Amsterdam and features six women dancing in a typical brothel. Their performance captivates, and a crowd of men soon gathers in the street to watch. The performance abruptly ends and an electronic billboard overhead reads, "Every year, thousands of women are promised a dance career in Western Europe. Sadly, they end up here." Many people are aware of the connection between human trafficking and sexual exploitation, and indeed the Netherlands is listed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as a primary country of destination for victims of human trafficking. The reality is people are trafficked for a number of reasons, not all having to do with sexual slavery. STT defines human trafficking as the act of deceiving or taking people against their will, to be bought, sold and transported into slavery for sexual exploitation, to be used in sweat shops, circuses, in sacrificial worship, forced begging, or to be used as child brides, farm laborers, unwilling human organ donors, and as domestic servants. Human trafficking appears to be growing, and according to STT, 2 to 4 million men, women and children are trafficked across borders and within their own country every year. More than one person is trafficked across borders every minute, which is equivalent to ten jumbo jets every day. The clip does well to capture viewers' attention and might be an effective foray into what must be a much deeper discussion about trafficking. One can approach the issue in terms of globalization by considering the global flows of trafficked humans from less developed countries to more developed countries. To what extent is human trafficking explained by the conditions of the global economy, where a steady supply of children are sold by people in the global south, who face extreme poverty, in order to meet the demands of those in the global north, who have more than enough? This video would work well in tandem with another clip on The Sociological Cinema, which explores the biography of a young woman who was forced into prostitution in the United States.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
Tags: class, inequality, marx/marxism, political economy, theory, weber, charasmatic authority, class conflict, class consciousness, exploitation, ideology, labor, rational-legal authority, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This hilarious clip from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, illustrates several key concepts from Marx. After Dennis (a peasant) gets a presumptuous greeting from a visitor, he states "what I object to is you automatically treating me like an inferior." The visitor responds with "well, I am King." Dennis challenges him by arguing: "How'd you get that? By exploiting the workers. By hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society." Marx's concept of exploitation refers to the value that comes from workers' labor, but which gets taken by the ruling class (whether it be feudal lords, kings, or capitalists) because they own the means of production. The peasant describes this process as an unfair dimension of the class system. This awareness reflects his own class consciousness, or understanding of the class system, how it affects him, and how to act in his own class interest. Another peasant notes they are part of autonomous collective, which Dennis describes as their own self-rule based on equality. When they challenge the King's authority because they didn't vote for him, the king argues he obtains his authority from "the Lady of the Lake" that gave him Excalibur and right to rule by divine providence. Dennis comically responds that "Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is not basis for government; supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony." Their competing interests reflect the class struggle in which the workers' interest (self-rule that allows them collective ownership of the means of production) are inherently in conflict with those of the ruling class (who seek to control the workers and keep the value of their labor for themselves). Finally, the notion of divine right to rule is an example of ideology, or ideas supported by the ruling class, and which legitimate the current order and obscure the oppressive class system.
I would like to thank Camilla Hayes and Andrew Hanko for recommending this clip.
Submitted By: Paul Dean
Tags: capitalism, class, inequality, marx/marxism, organizations/occupations/work, political economy, social mvmts/social change/resistance, theory, astroturf organizations, false consciousness, ideology, labor, unions, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This commercial, which aired during half time of the 2012 Super Bowl, represents a direct attack against unions and is an excellent demonstration of the use of ideology to promote false consciousness. The supposed union workers in the ad complain about unions taking such high union dues and state that they did not vote for the union (suggesting that they don't want the union and that it does not represent their interests). The commercial's narrator explains "only 10% of people in unions today actually voted to join the union" and encourages people to support the Employee Rights Act, a bill that wouldmake it much harder for workers to join unions, and easier to de-certify existing unions. The commercial was created by the anti-union Center for Union Facts, an astroturf organization founded by DC lobbyist Richard Berman and supported by big business interests (astroturf organizations are advocacy groups promoting a political or corporate agenda but designed to make it appear like a grassroots movement). Its statistics may be accurate, but they are misleading in the sense that federal law requires that at least 50% of a company’s workforce vote in favor of the formation of a union, and that most current union members have joined unions formed years before. Furthermore, according to independent analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, laws like the Employee Rights Act hurt workers by leading to lower pensions; workers in unions actually have higher wages and health benefits because they can use their collective bargaining power to improve their working conditions (note that one of the union "actors" in the video is also played by Berman himself). This demonstrates the use of ideology, or the dominant ideas that help to perpetuate the oppressive class system. Marx argued that “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas … The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production.” In this case, we see that the advertisement (which cost about $3.5 million to air during the Super Bowl) produced by large corporate-funded organizations is meant to shape workers' perception of unions in a negative light. With greater wealth ("the means of production") and access to media ("the means of mental production"), they seek to discourage workers from joining unions in hopes of making them easier to control. When workers accept such ideas as truth, it promotes false consciousness. False consciousness occurs when a class does not have an accurate assessment of capitalism and their role within it, but instead adopts the ideology of the ruling class, and acts against their own class interests.
Submitted By: Paul Dean
Wall Street Government
_Tags: capitalism, economic sociology, globalization, marx/marxism, political economy, theory, financial collapse, global recession, power elite, wall street, 00 to 05 mins
Length: 0:55 (entire film is 120 mins; trailer here)
Summary: This is a brief excerpt from Inside Job, an excellent documentary that explores the 2008 global financial collapse. The films draws upon in-depth research and interviews with major financial insiders, politicians, and journalists. By breaking down complex financial transactions in understandable terms, it traces the rise of the "rogue" financial industry and "unveils the corrosive relationships which have corrupted politics, regulation, and academia." This brief clip focuses on Obama's lack of action on regulating Wall Street because of the relationship between Washington and Wall Street. It notes that Obama, who was elected President the year of the financial collapse, was quoted as saying that "a lack of oversight in Washington and on Wall Street is exactly what got us into this mess," arguing for the need to reform the industry. But after years in the presidency, Obama's administration had not enacted a single major financial reform. When Robert Gnaizda (former director of the Greenlining Institute) is asked why, the clip ends provocatively with his quote "It's a Wall Street Government." Viewers can be encouraged to reflect on what Gnaizda means by the quote? This might be useful for illustrating Mills' concept of the power elite or Marx's concept of a ruling class. If using the entire film, you can have students complete exercise #4 (in the film's Study Guide) to examine the revolving door between government regulators and corporate executives. It can also be a good discussion starter about the cause of the financial collapse, the social construction of markets, the role of improper incentives, and economic ideologies.
Submitted By: Paul Dean
George Carlin: The American Dream
Tags: capitalism, class, education, inequality, marx/marxism, political economy, theory, american dream, comedy, false consciousness, ideology, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: Trigger warning: In typical George Carlin style, this clip is full of expletives and vulgar sexual metaphors (although the language in the first 1:20 is OK). Here, Carlin emphasizes the gap between "the owners of this country" and the rest of us. Carlin states that the owners control the politicians by lobbying to get what they want, but they also control people through education and media. They keep the educational system just good enough to educate people to be obedient workers but keep it poor enough so that it does not teach people enough to be able to think for themselves. They use the media to tell people what to believe, what to buy, and what to think. Because people can vote, they suffer the illusion that they have "freedom of choice." Suffering from false consciousness, they support ideas that are against their own self interests; for example they accept the reduced pay, fewer benefits, and less social programs that the owners claim are in their interests. All the while, they remain powerless to the owners. This illustrates Marx's concept of ideology; Marx stated “the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas." These ruling ideas, or ideologies, obscure the structural violence and exploitation used to keep oppressed groups in their place. The clip ends with the statement "it's called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it," emphasizing a fundamental ideology that legitimates social inequality and oppression.
Submitted: Jack Pold and Delano Scott
Tags: gender, goffman, marriage/family, theory, motherhood, role expectations, role conflict, social status, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: Anita Renfroe uses music and comedy to present a day in the life of a mom. “Momsense” (also called “Momisms”), set to the William Tell Overture, is her rendition of the many conversations between mothers and their children. This short clip works well as an introduction to social status, social roles, and role expectations. It also illustrates the scripts of mothers (Goffman’s dramaturgy). Before the clip is shown, ask students to identify the role expectations of mothers. After the clip, discuss which phrases (or scripts) were familiar to them and illustrated various role expectations. Here, instructors can move to a discussion about such things as: 1) role strain, or the difficulty of competing demands of motherhood; 2) role conflict, or the difficulty that mothers face in balancing work and family; and 3) status, including privileges extended to mothers because of their position in society. Another interesting discussion could focus on gender role expectations of fathers (Renfroe created a similar rendition called “Dadsense”, with the only words being “go ask your mom”). Students can explore Kimmel’s idea of multiple masculinities and a broadening idea of gender roles. An instructor might even pose the question, do students think that their generation will become more accepting of the nurturing and caregiving role of fathers?
Submitted By: Cindy Wasberg
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