Shift From Agrarian to Industrial Term Paper

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[. . .] But in addition to these trans-social fractures that the workplace reflects, Durkheim believed that there were particular forces in the workplace that caused particularly high levels of anomie. One of these was the fact that humans at work (at least at the historical moment that he was writing) tended to interact more with machines than with other humans, and this fact led to a process of dehumanization and further social fragmentation.

Both Durkheim and the German scholar Max Weber argued that managerial authority and power arise at least in part from the anomie that workers felt in factories. (It would be illuminative to apply their original arguments to today's high-tech workers who spend their time with "smart," anthropomorphic machines.) Managers derive their power because they use their authority as well as personal attributes like charisma to bring people together enough to get the needed work done.

Workers thus come to recognize the fact that without the contributions of managers they would be unable to accomplish their tasks and their jobs and livelihoods would be in danger. (Although it should be noted that such recognition may well take place on a subconscious level.)

Weber also argued that at least some of the power of managers derives from the fact that they are the only workers who understand how the entire system functions and so they act as interpreters - as codebreakers even - for the rest of the workers, who once again come to depend upon them.

Alienated workers

Worker worker managerial charisma & knowledge - Organized

Worker worker workforce

Worker worker

Institutionalized Discrimination

Although we at least should all know that discrimination is always bad, in fact there are different kinds of discrimination - and these have very different repercussions for society. The first of these we may call personal discrimination: This applies to how an individual feels and how he or she acts as an individual.

The second we may call institutional discrimination: This refers to structural aspects of society that affect individuals based not on individual merit (or lack thereof) but rather on race.

The former is dangerous, but the latter is more pernicious because it allows for far fewer effective ways of battling against it. Some hypothetical examples should make clear how these different forms of racism can manifest themselves in a society - and in the lives of individuals.

Let us take a landlord in Los Angeles in the 1920s. This person is a racist: He is white and he doesn't like blacks. He refuses to rent apartments to blacks. These people who are turned away from possible housing have no legal recourse: No laws yet exist to prohibit racial discrimination in housing, and indeed various parts of California have "racial covenants" that require landlords to practice racial discrimination. This is an example of institutional discrimination blended with personal discrimination: A person acts out of individual bias, and this bias is upheld formally by the institutions of the society at large.

Let us skip forward to the present day. Once again we have a Los Angeles landlord who is racist. He doesn't like blacks. He refuses to rent to blacks. Now what course is open to those people turned away from housing? Quite a bit - assuming that they can prove that they were in fact turned away because of their race rather than because of the fact (for example) that they have eight pet pot-bellied pigs. A landlord with a history of racist practices is in violation of fair housing standards developed during the Civil Rights era and can be fined and even jailed in some jurisdictions.

In this case, we have personal discrimination hard at work still, but it is in large measure combated by institutional anti-discrimination policies.

In some cases, institutional constraints not only provide remedies for wrongs done by discriminatory practices but prevent those wrongs from being done at all. It is inconceivable to us today that we should ever see a black person bleed to death in an emergency room because it is for whites only: The medical staff (even if they all have to be members of the KKK) know that they could be charged with murder if they were to refuse to treat someone on the grounds of race, and so they rush to treat the person, remembering that the only color that counts in an ER is how much red there is.

These are examples of how institutional structures can lessen or even negate the discriminatory beliefs of individuals. However, the opposite case is also true, as Hughes and Thomas demonstrate. An example from my own family will help to illustrate this.

My grandmother, as a girl, was blond and fair skinned. Her full sister is black-haired and dark-skinned. My grandmother takes after their Irish-American father; my great-aunt after their Cherokee mother. They grew up in a small town in the South, and by the conventions of that time and place my grandmother was white (because she looked white) and my great-aunt was "colored" because she didn't look white.

The result of this distinction (despite the fact that everyone knew that they were sisters - in a town of 600 everyone knows everyone else) was that my grandmother and her sister couldn't sit at the drugstore counter together or drink from the same water fountain at school. From their stories, nearly everyone in the town realized that this was a pretty stupid way to go about treating two sisters (it was the logic that seemed to bother them, not the moral problems of racism). But that was just the way things were: The law was the law and that was that.

Institutional discrimination sets up rules that allow bigots to practice their bigotry without being challenged and prevents those with more open minds from trying to change the status quo. It is much more difficult to change institutional discrimination than personal discrimination because to change the former requires changing both attitudes as well as the structure of institutions - and changing them at more or less the same time.

Changing personal inclinations toward discrimination requires only changing the opinion of individuals one at a time, which is much easier to do than trying to shift the inertia generated by an institution and all of its members. The fact that so much racism and sexism still exists in our society is in no small part the result of the difficulty of changing institutions and the structural ways in which people - even good people - practice discrimination against one another.

References

Bensel, R. (2001). The political economy of American industrialization, 1877-1900.

Cambridge: Cambridge University.

Carter, G. (ed.). (2000). Empirical approaches to sociology: A collection of classic and contemporary readings (3rd ed.). New York: Allyn & Bacon.

Durkheim, E. (G. Simpson, trans.). (1971). "Social Order and Control Via Close Social Ties: The Example of Suicide" in Suicide: A study in sociology. New York: The Free Press.

Grint, K. (2001). The sociology of work. London: Polity Press.

Lukes, S. (1985). Emile Durkheim: His life and work. Chicago: University of Chicago.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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