University of Phoenix Contemporary American Society Discussion

University of Phoenix

Question Description

I’m studying and need help with a Social Science question to help me learn.

Assignment Content

  1. The purpose of this assignment is for you to apply what you learned through the activities and chapter readings. You can reflect on the results from the reading and activities this week to inform your answers.
    Review the Sociology Matters prompt at the end of Ch. 11.
    Write a 700-word response to one bullet at the end of the chapter.

    Social Movements, Social Change, and Technology

    Social Movements, Social Change, and Technology
    Social MovementsTheories of Social ChangeResistance to Social ChangeTechnology and the FutureWho runs the United States now, and who will run it in the future? Is it the elite—the top 1 percent of the population—or everyone else, the so-called 99 percent?In 2011–2012, during a deep and lengthy recession, this question became the central issue of Occupy Wall Street. The movement began in Vancouver, Canada, after the editors of Adbusters magazine suggested a protest against “corporate rule” in lower Manhattan. Their call to action, reflecting the latest technology, went out in a tweet ending with the link “#occupywallstreet.”On September 17, 2011, the first day of the movement, 2,000 protesters gathered in New York City. Claiming to speak for the vast majority of Americans, they said they had come to represent “the 99 percent”: those Americans who had lost their jobs, their homes, or their retirement savings when the stock market collapsed. In the next few weeks, the movement would spread across the United States to Honolulu and throughout the world, where millions more were suffering from the global financial crisis (Peralta 2011; M. Scherer 2011).What did Americans make of this new movement? Opinions ran the gamut, from former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani’s sarcastic “How about you occupy a job?” to sociologist Craig Calhoun’s comparison to student protests in China. The New York City Police response to Occupy297
    Declining Drive-Ins, 1954–2012
    Figure 11–1
    Declining Drive-Ins, 1954–2012SOURCE: Bureau of the Census 2015i.
    Wall Street, Calhoun wrote, was “reminiscent of the Chinese government ousting protesters from Tiananmen.” Native Americans observed that their land had been occupied for over five centuries without much notice from White protesters. And homeless people marveled at the sudden concern over people (protesters) sleeping in city parks (Calhoun 2011; Lawler 2011).More than anything, Occupy Wall Street protesters were seeking change. To get their message out, they relied on social networking sites. As we have seen before, when new technologies are introduced, society experiences social change.Social change may be defined as significant alteration over time in behavior patterns and culture (Moore 1967). Eventually, the existence of social networking sites may greatly influence the way people behave, but this is not the only way in which social change happens.Consider two changes to which you probably have not given much thought. First is the decline of drive-in movie theaters in the United States (Figure 11–1). You may have never been to a drive-in, but half a century ago they were a major entertainment destination. Now we go to a multiplex or stream movies rather than go to a drive-in. A second example of social change is walking to work (Figure 11–2). Who does that anymore in the United States? Not many. In certain urban areas it is a bit more common—10 percent of people in New York City walk to work, 12 percent in Washington, D.C., and 15 percent in Boston, but almost anywhere else, it just does not happen (McKenzie 2014).298
    Walking to Work, 1980 To 2012
    Figure 11–2
    Walking to Work, 1980 To 2012SOURCE: Bureau of the Census 2014d.
    In this chapter, we will examine the process of social change, with special emphasis on the impact of technological advances. We will begin with social movements, which often spearhead social change. Then we will consider different sociological perspectives on change and note how vested interests attempt to block it. Finally, we will look at the role of technology in spurring social change, from Web surfing and the offshoring of service jobs to censorship and genetic engineering.

    Social Movements

    Social movements are the most powerful source of social change. Although such factors as the physical environment, population, technology, and social inequality also serve as sources of change, it is the collective effort of individuals organized into social movements that ultimately leads to change.Sociologists use the term social movement to refer to an organized collective activity to bring about or resist fundamental change in an existing group or society (Benford 1992). Herbert Blumer (1955:19) recognized the special importance of social movements when he defined them as “collective enterprises to establish a new order of life.”In many nations, including the United States, social movements have had a dramatic impact on the course of history and the evolution of social structure. Consider the actions of abolitionists, suffragists, civil rights workers, and activists opposed to the war in Vietnam. Members of each social movement stepped outside traditional channels for bringing about social change and yet had a noticeable influence on public policy. In Eastern Europe, equally dramatic collective efforts helped to topple299Communist regimes in a largely peaceful manner, in nations that many observers had felt were “immune” to such change (Ramet 1991).Though social movements imply the existence of conflict, we can also analyze their activities from a functionalist perspective. Even when unsuccessful, social movements contribute to the formation of public opinion. Initially, the ideas of Margaret Sanger and other early advocates of birth control were viewed as “radical,” yet contraceptives are now widely available in the United States.use yourWhat social movements are most visible on your campus? In the community where you live? What do you think these groups need to do to be effective?Because social movements know no borders, even nationalistic movements are deeply influenced by global events. Increasingly, social movements are taking on an international dimension from the start. Global enterprises, in particular, lend themselves to targeting through international mobilization, whether they are corporations like McDonald’s or governmental bodies like the World Trade Organization. Global activism is not new, however; it began with the writing of Karl Marx, who sought to mobilize oppressed peoples in other industrialized countries. Today, activist networking is facilitated by the Internet. Participation in transnational activism is much more widespread now than in the past, and passions are quicker to ignite.How and why do social movements emerge? Obviously, people are often discontented with current conditions. But what causes them to organize at a particular moment in a collective effort to work for change? In this section we will examine two different explanations for why people mobilize: the relative deprivation approach and the resource mobilization approach. We will also acknowledge the often underestimated role of gender in social movements and study recent changes in the character of social movements.


    Those members of a society who feel most frustrated and disgruntled by the social and economic conditions of their lives are not necessarily “worst off” in an objective sense. Social scientists have long recognized that what is most significant is how people perceive their situation. Karl Marx pointed out that although the misery of the workers was important to their perception of their oppressed state, so was their position relative to the capitalist ruling class (Marx and Engels [1847] 1955).The term relative deprivation is defined as the conscious feeling of a negative discrepancy between legitimate expectations and present actualities (J. Wilson 1973). In other words, life isn’t as good as you hoped it would be. Such a state may be characterized by scarcity rather than complete lack of necessities (as we saw in the distinction between absolute and relative poverty in Chapter 5). A relatively deprived person is dissatisfied because he or she feels downtrodden relative to some appropriate reference group. Thus, blue-collar workers who live in two-family houses with little lawn space—though they are hardly at the bottom of300the economic ladder—may nevertheless feel deprived in comparison with corporate managers and professionals who live in lavish and exclusive suburbs.In addition to the feeling of relative deprivation, two other elements must be present before discontent will be channeled into a social movement. First, people must feel that they have a right to their goals, that they deserve better than what they have. Sociologists at Oxford University gathered data on 404 militant extremists from 31 nations. Among them the researchers found many highly educated individuals, including engineers and other high-level achievers. Yet these relatively fortunate people still felt disadvantaged by what they perceived as corrupt or misguided governments. Second, the disadvantaged people must perceive that they cannot attain their goals through conventional means. This belief may or may not be correct. Whichever is the case, the group will not mobilize into a social movement unless members share the perception that they can end their relative deprivation only through collective action (The Atlantic 2008; Gambetta and Hertog 2007).Critics of this approach have noted that an increase in feelings of deprivation is not always necessary before people are moved to act. In addition, this approach fails to explain why certain feelings of deprivation are transformed into social movements, whereas in other similar situations, no collective effort is made to reshape society. Consequently, in recent years, sociologists have given increasing attention to the forces needed to bring about the emergence of social movements (G. Martin 2015).use yourWhy might well-off people feel deprived?


    It takes more than desire to start a social movement. Money, political influence, access to the media, and personnel all help. The term resource mobilization refers to the ways in which a social movement utilizes such resources. The success of a movement for change will depend in good part on what resources it has and how effectively it mobilizes them. In other words, recruiting adherents and marshaling resources is critical to the growth and success of social movements (D. Miller 2014).Leadership is a central factor in the mobilization of the discontented into social movements. Often, a movement will be led by a charismatic figure, such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As Max Weber described it in 1904, charisma is that quality of an individual that sets him or her apart from ordinary people. Of course, charisma can fade abruptly, which accounts for the fragility of certain social movements (Morris 2000).Many social movements are mobilized by institutional insiders. During the nationwide debate of the Obama administration’s plan for health care reform in 2009, for example, health insurance companies encouraged their employees to attend the forums arranged by the White House. Managers distributed “Town Hall Tips” that included a list of concerns employees could raise and suggestions on how to make their301comments as personal as possible, by talking about their own health issues (Walker 2010).Why do certain individuals join a social movement, whereas others in similar situations do not? Some people are recruited to join. Karl Marx recognized the importance of recruitment when he called on workers to become aware of their oppressed status and develop a shared class consciousness. Marx held that the development of a social movement (specifically, the revolt of the proletariat) would require leaders to sharpen the awareness of the oppressed. They would need to help workers to overcome false consciousness, or attitudes that did not reflect workers’ objective position, in order to organize a revolutionary movement. Similarly, sociologists who take the resource mobilization approach point out that one of the challenges women’s liberation activists of the late 1960s and early 1970s faced was to convince women that they were being deprived of their rights and of socially valued resources.


    Sociologists point out that gender and sexual identities are important elements in understanding social movements. Our society has traditionally been dominated by male leaders and policy makers, and day-to-day life tends to assume that relationships are heterosexual. Further, traditional examination of the sociopolitical system tends to focus on such male-dominated corridors of power as legislatures and corporate boardrooms, to the neglect of more female-dominated domains such as households, community-based groups, and faith-based networks. While the feminist approach is changing that bias, many scholars still consider social movements only through a framing that entirely overlooks same-sex relationships.Scholars of social movements now realize that gender can affect even the way we view organized efforts to bring about or resist change. For example, an emphasis on using rationality and cold logic to achieve goals helps to obscure the importance of passion and emotion in successful social movements. Calls for a more serious study of the role of emotion are frequently seen as applying only to the women’s movement, because emotion is traditionally thought of as feminine. It would be difficult to find any movement, from labor battles to voting rights to animal rights, in which passion was not part of the consensus-building force. Yet calls for a more serious study of the role of emotion are frequently seen as applying only to the women’s movement, because emotion is traditionally thought of as being feminine (Hurwitz and Taylor 2012).use yourWhat aspects of traditional gender roles explain the roles that women and men typically play in social movements?


    Beginning in the late 1960s, European social scientists observed a change in both the composition and the targets of emerging social movements. In the past, traditional social movements had focused on economic issues, often302led by labor unions or by people who shared the same occupation. However, many social movements that have become active in recent decades—including the contemporary women’s movement, the peace movement, and the environmental movement—do not have the social class roots typical of the labor protests in the United States and Europe over the past century (Tilly 1993, 2004).The term new social movement refers to an organized collective activity that addresses values and social identities as well as improvements in the quality of life. These movements may be involved in developing collective identities. Many have complex agendas that go beyond a single issue and even cross national boundaries. Educated, middle-class people are significantly represented in some of these new social movements, such as the women’s movement and the movement for lesbian and gay rights.New social movements generally do not view government as their ally in the struggle for a better society. While they typically do not seek to overthrow the government, they may criticize, protest, or harass public officials. Researchers have found that members of new social movements show little inclination to accept established authority, even scientific or technical authority. This characteristic is especially evident in the environmental and anti–nuclear power movements, whose activists present their own experts to counter those of government or big business (Garner 1996; Polletta and Jasper 2001; A. Scott 1990).The environmental movement is one of many new movements that have adopted a worldwide focus. In their efforts to reduce air and water pollution, curtail global warming, and protect endangered animal species, environmental activists have realized that establishing strong regulatory measures within a single country is not sufficient. Similarly, labor union leaders and human rights advocates cannot adequately address exploitative sweatshop conditions in a developing country if a multinational corporation can simply move the factory to another country where workers are paid even less. Whereas traditional social movements tend to emphasize resource mobilization on a local level, new social movements take a broader, global perspective on social and political activism.Table 11–1 summarizes the three sociological approaches that have contributed to social movement theory. Each approach has added to oursumming UPTable 11–1 Contributions to Social Movement Theory
    Relative deprivation approachSocial movements are especially likely to arise when rising expectations are frustrated.
    Resource mobilization approachThe success of social movements depends on which resources are available and how effectively they are used.
    New social movement theorySocial movements arise when people are motivated by value issues and social identity questions.
    use yourTry to imagine a society without any social movements. Under what conditions could such a society exist? Would you want to live in it?303understanding of the development of social movements. But in a larger sense, what causes social change? In the next section we will see how sociologists have used some of the major theoretical perspectives to analyze and interpret the process of social change.

    Theories of Social Change

    We have defined social change as a significant alteration over time in behavior patterns and culture. Social change can occur so slowly as to be almost undetectable to those it affects, but it can also happen with breathtaking rapidity. As Figure 11–3 shows, the U.S. economy has grown through rapid change in just the beginning of the 21st century. For example, we can see the rapid growth in health and social assistance jobs to the point where these are now the leading sector of employment. Meanwhile, manufacturing continues the decline it began in the last century.Explanations of social change are clearly a challenge in the diverse and complex world we inhabit today. Nevertheless, theorists from several disciplines have sought to analyze social change. In some instances, they have examined historical events to arrive at a better understanding of contemporary changes. We will review three theoretical approaches to change—evolutionary, functionalist, and conflict theory—and then take a look at global social change.


    The pioneering work of Charles Darwin (1809–1882) in biological evolution contributed to 19th-century theories of social change. Darwin’s approach stresses a continuing progression of successive life forms. For example, human beings came at a later stage of evolution than reptiles and represent a more complex form of life. Social theorists seeking an analogy to this biological model originated evolutionary theory, in which society is viewed as moving in a definite direction. Early evolutionary theorists generally agreed that society was progressing inevitably to a higher state. As might be expected, they concluded in ethnocentric fashion that their own behavior and culture were more advanced than those of earlier civilizations.Auguste Comte (1798–1857), a founder of sociology, was an evolutionary theorist of social change. He saw human societies as moving forward in their thinking from mythology to the scientific method. Similarly, Émile Durkheim ([1893] 1933) maintained that society progressed from simple to more complex forms of social organization.Today, evolutionary theory influences sociologists in a variety of ways. For example, it has encouraged sociobiologists to investigate the behavioral links between humans and other animals. It has also influenced human ecology, the study of the interaction between communities and their environment (Maryanski 2004).304
    The Changing U.S. Economy, 1997–2012
    Figure 11–3
    The Changing U.S. Economy, 1997–2012SOURCE: Bureau of the Census 2014e.


    Functionalist sociologists focus on what maintains a system, not on what changes it. This statement might seem to suggest that functionalists can offer little of value to the study of social change. Yet as the work of sociologist Talcott Parsons demonstrates, functionalists have made a distinctive contribution to this area of sociological investigation.305Parsons (1902–1979), a leading proponent of functionalist theory, viewed society as being in a natural state of equilibrium. By “equilibrium,” he meant that society tends toward a state of stability or balance. Parsons would view even prolonged labor strikes or civilian riots as temporary disruptions in the status quo rather than as significant alterations in social structure. Therefore, according to his equilibrium model, as changes occur in one part of society, adjustments must be made in other parts. If adjustments are not made, society’s equilibrium will be threatened.Taking an evolutionary approach, Parsons (1966) maintained that four processes of social change are inevitable. The first, differentiation, refers to the increasing complexity of social organization. The change from “medicine man” to physician, nurse, and pharmacist is an illustration of differentiation in the field of health care. This process is accompanied by adaptive upgrading, through which social institutions become more specialized. The division of physicians into obstetricians, internists, surgeons, and so forth is an example of adaptive upgrading.The third process identified by Parsons is the inclusion into society of groups that were once excluded because of such factors as gender, race, and social class background. Medical schools have practiced inclusion by admitting increasing numbers of women and African Americans. Finally, Parsons suggested that societies experience value generalization, the development of new values that tolerate and legitimate a greater range of activities. The acceptance of preventive and alternative medicine is an example of value generalization: our society has broadened its view of health care. All four processes identified by Parsons stress consensus—societal agreement on the nature of social organization and values (B. Johnson 1975; Wallace and Wolf 1980).Though Parsons’s approach explicitly incorporates the evolutionary notion of continuing progress, the dominant theme in his model is balance and stability. Society may change, but it remains stable through new forms of integration. For example, in place of the kinship ties that provided social cohesion in the past, society develops laws, judicial processes, and new values and belief systems.


    The functionalist perspective minimizes the significance of change. It emphasizes the persistence of social life and sees change as a means of maintaining social equilibrium (or balance). In contrast, conflict theorists contend that social institutions and practices persist because powerful groups have the ability to maintain the status quo. Change has crucial significance, since it is needed to correct social injustices and inequalities.Karl Marx accepted the evolutionary argument that societies develop along a particular path. However, unlike Comte and Spencer, he did not view each successive stage as an inevitable improvement over the previous one. Society, according to Marx, proceeds through a series of stages,306Tracking PerspectivesTable 11–2 Sociological Perspectives on Social Change
    EvolutionarySocial change moves society in a definite direction, frequently from simple to more complex.
    FunctionalistSocial change must contribute to society’s stability.Modest adjustments must be made to accommodate social change.
    ConflictSocial change can correct social injustices and inequalities.
    each of which exploits a class of people. Ancient society exploited slaves; the estate system, or feudalism, exploited serfs; modern capitalist society exploits the working class. Ultimately, through a socialist revolution led by the proletariat, human society will move toward the final stage of development: a classless communist society, or “community of free individuals,” as Marx described it in Das Kapital in 1867 (see Bottomore and Rubel 1956:250).As we have seen, Marx had an important influence on the development of sociology. His thinking offered insights into such institutions as the economy, the family, religion, and government. The Marxist view of social change is appealing because it does not restrict people to a passive role in responding to inevitable cycles or changes in material culture. Rather, Marxist theory offers a tool to those who wish to seize control of the historical process and gain their freedom from injustice. In contrast to functionalists’ emphasis on stability, Marx argues that conflict is a normal and desirable aspect of social change. In fact, change must be encouraged as a means of eliminating social inequality.Table 11–2 summarizes the differences between the three major theories of social change.


    We are living at a truly dramatic time in history to consider global social change. Maureen Hallinan (1997), in her presidential address to the American Sociological Association, asked those present to consider just a few of the recent political events: the collapse of communism; terrorist attacks in various parts of the world, including the United States; the dismantling of the welfare system in the United States; revolution and famine in Africa and Eastern Europe; the spread of AIDS; and the computer revolution. Just a few months after her remarks came the first verification of the cloning of a complex animal, Dolly the sheep.In this era of massive social, political, and economic change, is it possible to predict change? Some technological changes seem obvious, but307the collapse of Communist governments in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the early 1990s took people by surprise. Prior to the Soviet collapse, however, sociologist Randall Collins (1986, 1995), a conflict theorist, had observed a crucial sequence of events that most observers had missed.use yourWhich theory of social change do you find most convincing? Why?In seminars as far back as 1980, and in a book published in 1986, Collins had argued that Soviet expansionism had resulted in an overextension of resources, including disproportionate spending on military forces. Such an overextension will strain a regime’s stability. Moreover, geopolitical theory suggests that nations in the middle of a geographic region, such as the Soviet Union, tend to fragment into smaller units over time. Collins predicted that the coincidence of social crises on several frontiers would precipitate the collapse of the Soviet Union.And that is just what happened. In 1979 the success of the Iranian revolution had led to an upsurge of Islamic fundamentalism in nearby Afghanistan, as well as in Soviet republics with substantial Muslim populations. At the same time, resistance to Communist rule was growing, both throughout Eastern Europe and within the Soviet Union itself. Collins had predicted that the rise of a dissident form of communism within the Soviet Union might facilitate the breakdown of the regime. Beginning in the late 1980s, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev chose not to use military power and other types of repression to crush dissidents in Eastern Europe. Gorbachev offered plans for democratization and social reform of Soviet society, and seemed willing to reshape the Soviet Union into a loose federation of somewhat autonomous states. But in 1991, six republics on the western periphery declared their independence, and within months the entire Soviet Union had formally disintegrated into Russia and a number of other independent nations.In her presidential address to the American Sociological Association, Maureen Hallinan (1997) cautioned that we need to move beyond restrictive models of social change—both the linear view of evolutionary theory and the assumptions about equilibrium within functionalist theory. She and other sociologists have looked to the “chaos theory” advanced by mathematicians to see erratic events as an integral part of change. Hallinan noted that upheavals and major chaotic shifts do occur, and that sociologists must learn to predict their occurrence, as Collins did with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Imagine, for instance, the dramatic nonlinear social change that will result from major innovations in communications and biotechnology, a topic we will discuss later in this chapter.

    Resistance to Social Change

    Efforts to promote social change are likely to meet with resistance. In the midst of rapid scientific and technological innovation, many people become frightened. Moreover, certain individuals and groups have a stake in maintaining the status quo. Social economist Thorstein Veblen (1857–1929)308coined the term vested interests to refer to those people or groups who will suffer in the event of social change. For example, efforts to regulate, restrict, or ban a product or service typically encounter stiff opposition from those who provide those goods and services. Recent history has witnessed major lobbying efforts to resist regulation by such industries as tobacco, alcohol, and firearms. More recently, policy makers and health professionals have advocated increased restriction if not an outright ban of tanning salons, to prevent unnecessary exposure to ultraviolet light, a proven cause of skin cancer. In 2003, Brazil became the first country to ban tanning beds for people under 18; in 2009 the ban was extended to cover all use for solely aesthetic purposes. Not surprisingly, a variety of organizations have sprung up in the United States to fight against similar restrictions and to discredit research that shows tanning devices to be carcinogenic to humans.


    Economic factors play an important role in resistance to social change. For example, meeting high standards for the safety of products and workers can be expensive for manufacturers. Conflict theorists argue that in a capitalist economic system, many firms are not willing to pay the price of meeting strict safety standards. They may resist social change by cutting corners or by pressuring the government to ease regulations.Communities, too, protect their vested interests, often in the name of “protecting property values.” The cry “not in my backyard” is often heard when people protest landfills, prisons, nuclear power facilities, and even bike trails and group homes for people with developmental disabilities. The targeted community may not challenge the need for the facility but may simply insist that it be located elsewhere. The “not in my backyard” attitude has become so common that it is almost impossible for policy makers to find acceptable locations for such facilities as hazardous waste dumps (Jasper 1997).On the world stage, what amounts to a “not on planet Earth” campaign has emerged. Members of this movement stress many issues, from profiteering to nuclear proliferation, from labor rights to the eradication of poverty and disease. Essentially an antiglobalization movement, it manifests itself at international summit meetings.Like economic factors, cultural factors frequently shape resistance to change. William F. Ogburn (1922) distinguished between material and nonmaterial aspects of culture. Material culture includes inventions, artifacts, and technology; nonmaterial culture encompasses ideas, norms, communications, and social organization. In music, for instance, the instruments musicians play and the music they record are aspects of material culture; their style of playing, such as rap, and the rules of pitch and rhythm they follow are aspects of nonmaterial culture. Ogburn309pointed out that one cannot devise methods for controlling and utilizing a new technology before its introduction. Thus, nonmaterial culture typically must respond to changes in material culture. Ogburn introduced the term culture lag to refer to the period of maladjustment when the nonmaterial culture is still struggling to adapt to new material conditions. One example of culture lag is the questions that have been raised by the rapid, uncontrolled growth of the Internet—whether to regulate it, and if so, to what degree.In certain cases, changes in material culture can strain the relationships between social institutions. For example, new means of birth control have been developed in recent decades. Large families are no longer economically necessary, nor are they commonly endorsed by social norms. But certain religious faiths, among them Roman Catholicism, continue to extol large families and to disapprove most methods of limiting family size, such as contraception and abortion. This gap in values represents a lag between aspects of material culture (technology) and nonmaterial culture (religious beliefs). Conflicts may emerge between religion and other social institutions, such as government and the educational system, over the dissemination of birth control and family-planning information (Riley et al. 1994a, 1994b).use yourWhat kind of change do you find the hardest to accept? The easiest?


    Technological innovations are examples of changes in material culture that have often provoked resistance. The Industrial Revolution, which took place largely in England during the period 1760 to 1830, was a scientific revolution focused on the application of nonanimal sources of power to labor tasks. As the revolution proceeded, societies relied more and more on new inventions that facilitated agricultural and industrial production, and on new sources of energy such as steam. In some industries, the introduction of power-driven machinery reduced the need for factory workers and made it easier for factory owners to cut wages.Strong resistance to the Industrial Revolution emerged in some countries. In England, beginning in 1811, masked craft workers took extreme measures: They raided factories and destroyed some of the new machinery. The government hunted these rebels, known as Luddites, and banished or hung them. In a similar effort in France, angry workers threw their wooden shoes (sabots) into factory machinery to destroy it, giving rise to the term sabotage. While the resistance of the Luddites and the French workers was short-lived and unsuccessful, they have come to symbolize resistance to technology over the last two centuries.Are we now in the midst of a second Industrial Revolution, with a contemporary group of Luddites resisting? Many sociologists believe that we are living in a postindustrial society. When this era began is difficult to pinpoint exactly. Generally, it is viewed as having begun in the 1950s, when for the first time the majority of workers in industrial310societies became involved in services rather than in the actual manufacturing of goods.Just as the Luddites resisted the Industrial Revolution, people in many countries have resisted postindustrial technological changes. The term neo-Luddites refers to those who are wary of technological innovations and who question the incessant expansion of industrialization, the increasing destruction of the natural and agrarian world, and the “throw-it-away” mentality of contemporary capitalism, with its resulting pollution of the environment (Volti 2010).A new slang term, urban amish, refers specifically to those who resist technological devices that have become part of our daily lives, such as cell phones. These people insist that whatever the presumed benefits of industrial and postindustrial technology, such technology has distinctive social costs and may represent a danger to the future of the human species.Other people will resist a new technology because they find it difficult to use or because they suspect that it will complicate their lives. Both these objections are especially true of new information and media technologies. Whether it is the iPhone or the latest digital camera, many consumers are leery of these so-called must-have items.Typically, younger people embrace technological change more than older people, who tend either to be indifferent toward new technologies or to find them annoying. Such concerns are worth remembering as we turn to our technological future and its possible impact on social change.

    Technology and the Future

    Technology is cultural information about the ways in which the material resources of the environment may be used to satisfy human needs and desires. Technological advances—the airplane, the automobile, the television, the atomic bomb, and more recently the computer, the fax machine, and the cellular phone—have brought striking changes in our cultures, our patterns of socialization, our social institutions, and our day-to-day social interactions. Technological innovations are, in fact, emerging and being accepted with remarkable speed.In the past generation alone, industrial countries have seen a major shift in consumer technologies. No longer do we buy electronic devices to last for even 10 years. Increasingly, we buy them with the expectation that within as little as 3 years, we will need to upgrade to an entirely new technology, whether it be a handheld device or a home computer.In the following sections we will examine various aspects of our technological future and consider their overall impact on social change, including the strains they will bring. We will focus in particular on recent developments in computer technology—especially their effects on global offshoring and censorship—and biotechnology.311


    The last decade witnessed an explosion of computer technology in the United States and around the world. Its effects were particularly noteworthy with regard to the Internet, the world’s largest computer network. In 2015 the Internet reached 3.3 billion users, compared to just 50 million in 1996 (Internet World Stats 2015).The Internet evolved from a computer system built in 1962 by the U.S. Defense Department to enable scholars and military researchers to continue their government work even if part of the nation’s communications system were destroyed by a nuclear attack. A generation ago, it was difficult to gain access to the Internet without holding a position at a university or a government research laboratory. Today, however, virtually anyone can reach the Internet with a cell phone. People buy and sell cars, trade stocks, auction off items, research new medical remedies, vote, and track down long-lost friends online—to mention just a few of the thousands of possibilities. Earlier in this book we discussed the impact of the Internet on social interaction (see Chapter 3).Unfortunately, not everyone can get onto the information highway, especially not the less affluent. Moreover, this pattern of inequality is global. The core nations that Immanuel Wallerstein described in his world systems analysis have a virtual monopoly on information technology; the peripheral nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America depend on the core nations both for technology and for the information it provides. For example, North America, Europe, and a few industrialized nations in other regions possess almost all the world’s Internet hosts—computers that are connected directly to the worldwide network.Recently, however, some developing nations have begun to benefit from the ease with which information—particularly business information—can be transferred around the world instantaneously, as we will see in the next section.Global Offshoring In semiperiphery countries like India, where a growing segment of the workforce speaks English and is computer literate, multinational corporations have been opening new offices, creating well-paid service and professional jobs that boost the local economy. This business approach is not new; U.S. firms have been outsourcing certain types of work for generations. For example, moderate-sized businesses such as furniture stores and commercial laundries have long relied on outside trucking firms to make deliveries to their customers. The new trend toward offshoring carries this practice one step further, by transferring other types of work to foreign contractors.Now, even large companies are turning to overseas firms, many of them located in developing countries. Offshoring has become the latest tactic in the time-worn business strategy of raising profits by reducing costs. Significantly, the transfer of work from one country to another312Table 11–3 Occupations Most Vulnerable to Offshoring
    1Computer programming
    2Data entry
    3Electrical and electronics drafting
    4Mechanical drafting
    5Computer and information science, research
    6Actuarial science
    9Mathematical science (all other)
    10Film and video editing
    SOURCES: Bureau of Labor Statistics data cited in Hira 2008; Moncarz et al. 2008.is no longer limited to manufacturing. Office and professional jobs are being exported, too, thanks to advanced telecommunications. Table 11–3 lists those occupations most likely to be offshored.In 2012, complaints about working conditions in Apple’s factories in China called attention to the fact that the company’s financial success had been built on outsourced labor. At one time, Apple manufactured its computers in the United States. Today the company still employs about 43,000 full-time workers in the United States, and another 20,000 full-time workers abroad. However, Apple contracts on a short-term basis with an additional 700,000 workers who both engineer and build its products overseas. As complaints grew about Apple’s offshoring, economists released estimates that in the next four years, another 375,000 well-paid jobs in information technology, human resources, and finance and merchandising would be lost to overseas competition (China Labor Watch 2015; Duhigg and Bradsher 2012; P. Davidson 2012).Because offshoring, like outsourcing in general, tends to improve the efficiency of business operations, it can be viewed as functional to society. Offshoring also increases economic interdependence in the production of goods and services, both in enterprises located just across town and in those located around the globe. Still, conflict theorists charge that this aspect of globalization furthers social inequality. Although moving high-tech work to developing countries does help to lower a company’s costs, the impact on technical and service workers at home is clearly devastating. Certainly middle-class workers are alarmed by the trend. Because offshoring increases efficiency, economists oppose efforts to block the practice, and instead recommend assistance to displaced workers.use yourDo you know anyone whose job has been transferred to a foreign country? If so, was the person able to find a comparable job in the same town, or did he or she have to relocate? How long was the person unemployed?There is a downside to offshoring for foreigners, as well. Although outsourcing is a significant source of employment for the upper-middle class313in developing countries, hundreds of millions of other foreign workers have seen little to no positive impact from the trend. Thus the long-term impact of offshoring on developing nations is difficult to predict.Privacy and Censorship in a Global Village Today, new technologies like robots, cars that can park themselves, and smartphones are bringing about sweeping social change. While much of that change is beneficial, there are some negative effects.Recent advances in computer technology have made it increasingly easy for business firms, government agencies, and even criminals to retrieve and store information about everything from our buying habits to our web-surfing patterns. In public places, at work, and on the Internet, surveillance devices now track our every move, be it a keystroke or an ATM withdrawal. The ever-present cell phone enables the most pervasive and sophisticated attacks on people’s privacy and anonymity. In response, some people are beginning to advocate for the creation of a new agency that would respond to electronic viruses the way the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) responds to biological threats. However, the trade-off for ensuring total privacy is to restrict the ability of law enforcement to search electronic communications for messages that reveal potential threats, whether those are theft or terrorism (Lucas 2015; Rosen 2015).From a sociological point of view, the complex issues of privacy and censorship can be considered illustrations of culture lag. As usual, the material culture (technology) is changing faster than the nonmaterial culture (norms for controlling the use of technology). Too often, the result is an anything-goes approach to the use of new technologies.Legislation regarding the surveillance of electronic communications has not always upheld citizens’ right to privacy. In 1986, the federal government passed the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which outlawed the surveillance of telephone calls except with the permission of both the U.S. attorney general and a federal judge. Telegrams, faxes, and e-mail did not receive the same degree of protection, however. Then in 2001, one month after the terrorist attacks of September 11, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act, which relaxed existing legal checks on surveillance by law enforcement officers. Federal agencies are now freer to gather data electronically, including credit card receipts and banking records. In 2005, Americans learned that the National Security Agency was covertly monitoring phone calls with the cooperation of major U.S. telecommunications companies. Four years later, a federal court ruled that wiretapping without warrants is legal (ACLU 2015b).Sociologists’ views on the use and abuse of new technologies differ depending on their theoretical perspective. Functionalists take a generally positive view of the Internet, pointing to its manifest function of facilitating communication. From their perspective, the Internet performs the latent function of empowering those with few resources—from314
    Though the USA PATRIOT Act
    Though the USA PATRIOT Act was intended to protect citizens from terrorism, in practice it has raised concerns about the potential violation of their privacy.©Harley Schwadron
    hate groups to special interest organizations—to communicate with the masses. Conflict theorists, in contrast, stress the danger that the most powerful groups in a society will use technology to violate the privacy of the less powerful. Indeed, officials in the People’s Republic of China have attempted to censor online discussion groups and Web postings that are critical of the government. The same abuses can occur in the United States, civil liberties advocates remind us, if citizens are not vigilant in protecting their right to privacy (Magnier 2004).If anything, people seem to be less vigilant today about maintaining their privacy than they were before the information age. Young people who have grown up browsing the Internet seem to accept the existence of the “cookies” and “spyware” they may pick up while surfing. They have become accustomed to adult surveillance of their conversation in electronic chat rooms. Many see no risk in providing personal information about themselves to the strangers they meet online. Little wonder that college professors find their students do not appreciate the political significance of their right to privacy (Turkle 2004).use yourDo you hold strong views regarding the privacy of your electronic communications? If your safety were in jeopardy, would you be willing to sacrifice your privacy?


    Another field in which technological advances have spurred global social change is biotechnology. Sex selection of fetuses, genetically engineered organisms, cloning of sheep and cows—these have been among the significant yet controversial scientific advances in the field of biotechnology in recent years. George Ritzer’s (2015) concept of McDonaldization315applies to the entire area of biotechnology. Just as the fast-food concept has permeated society, no phase of life now seems exempt from therapeutic or medical intervention. In fact, sociologists view many aspects of biotechnology as an extension of the recent trend toward the medicalization of society, discussed in Chapter 10. Through genetic manipulation, the medical profession is expanding its turf still further (Clarke et al. 2003; Human Genome Project 2015).One notable success of biotechnology—an unintended consequence of modern warfare—has been progress in the treatment of traumatic injuries. In response to the massive numbers of soldiers who survived serious injury in Iraq and Afghanistan, military doctors and therapists have come up with electronically controlled prosthetic devices. Their innovations include artificial limbs that respond to thought-generated nerve impulses, allowing amputees to move legs, arms, and even individual fingers. These applications of computer science to the rehabilitation of the injured will no doubt be extended to civilians.One startling biotechnological advance is the possibility of altering human behavior or physical traits through genetic engineering. Fish and plant genes have already been mixed to create frost-resistant potato and tomato crops. More recently, human genes have been implanted in pigs to provide humanlike kidneys for organ transplant. William F. Ogburn probably could not have anticipated such scientific developments when he wrote of culture lag over 80 years earlier. However, advances like these or even the successful cloning of sheep illustrate again how quickly material culture can change, and how nonmaterial culture moves more slowly in absorbing such changes.Although today’s biotechnology holds itself out as totally beneficial to human beings, it is in constant need of monitoring. Biotechnological advances have raised many difficult ethical and political questions, among them the desirability of tinkering with the gene pool, which could alter our environment in unexpected and unwanted ways. In particular, controversy has been growing concerning genetically modified (GM) food, an issue that arose in Europe but has since spread to other parts of the world, including the United States. The idea behind the technology is to increase food production and make agriculture more economical. But critics use the term Frankenfood (as in “Frankenstein”) to refer to everything from breakfast cereals made from genetically engineered grains to fresh GM tomatoes. Members of the antibiotech movement object to tampering with nature, and are concerned about the possible health effects of GM food. Supporters of genetically modified food include not just biotech companies, but those who see the technology as a way to help feed the burgeoning populations of Africa and Asia (Shuttleworth 2015).use yourTry to imagine the world 100 years from now. On balance, is it a world in which technology contributes to or threatens people’s well-being? In what ways?In contrast, less expensive and controversial technologies can further agriculture where it is needed more, in the developing world. Consider cell phones. Unlike most new technologies, the majority of the world’s cell phones are used in less developed countries. Relatively cheap and316not as dependent as computers on expensive communications infrastructure, cell phones are common in the world’s poorest areas. In Uganda, farmers use them to check weather forecasts and commodity prices. In South Africa, laborers use them to look for work. Researchers at the London Business School have found that in developing countries, a 10 percent increase in cell phone use is correlated with a 0.6 percent rise in GDP (Bures 2011).Sociology MattersSociology matters because it helps you to understand the social change you encounter.
    • Have you had any experience working in a social movement? If so, what kind of social change were you hoping to support? What resources did the movement try to mobilize? Who were the vested interests who opposed the movement?
    • Have you yourself experienced culture lag, or have you observed it in others? If so, what kind of change caused the lag—was it a new technology, or some other kind of change? Did you notice a generational difference in the way people responded to the change? Did you see any open resistance to it?
    • Have new technologies helped you in any significant way, and if so, how? On balance, do you see new technologies as a benefit or a threat to society? Explain.

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Final Answer

Hi! Here is your essay!

New technologies have definitely benefited me, but it is a double-edged sword. On the
one side, technological changes in transportation, food production, and innovative products
and services like the computer and internet are all things that add benefit to me and to society.
On the other hand, as technologies continue to advance we run the risk of losing connection
with each other.
Advances in transportation are seen all around us with the train, the car and the planes.
With these examples, we can also see that we are continually, as a society, pushing for better
modes of transportation and increases in efficiency. The train was first, and a game changer for
the nation in the 1800s, allowing people to easily travel across the country, and goods to be
transported easily. As technology continued to advance, and cars and airplanes were invented
and transportation with these vehicles made affordable, train travel has been significantly
reduced in fa...

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