Data on Gender Segregation in Occupations (2012)

Teaching Arlie Hochschild’s The Managed Heart in my sociological theory class recently, I was looking for data on the percentage of flight attendants today who are male. I found a nice post on the issue by Mona Chalabi (“Dear Mona”) on the FiveThirtyEight blog. Answer: In 1980, 14.3 percent of flight attendants were male; in 2012, 24.2 percent.

Chalabi also provided this really helpful graphic showing the percentage of U.S. workers who are male in a huge number of job sectors, from least male (kindergarten and earlier school teachers – 2.3%) to most male (boilermakers – 99.8%).

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William Butler Yeats on the Experience of Modernity

I have always invoked Marshall Berman invoking Karl Marx invoking Shakespeare (Prospero in “The Temptest”) to describe the experience of modernity:

“All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned.”

All That is SolidBut I could equally well use Irish poet William Butler Yeats from “The Second Coming” (1919) via African novelist Chinua Achebe:

Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…

 

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William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) by Charles Beresford Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Chris Rock’s Neo-Marxist View of Minimum Wage

facebook_1423479685331_resizedIn my classical theory class we just finished reading excerpts from three of Karl Marx’s most (in)famous works: the Paris Manuscripts, Capital, and the Communist Manifesto.

Marx confidently predicted that the contradictions inherent in the capitalist system would lead to its downfall, as economic crises would get progressively worse over time, making clear to workers their real conditions and leading them to revolt against their oppressors.

For Marx, because the state always acted in the narrow interests of the capitalist class, workers would not see the state as looking out for their interests. One thing Marx did not foresee, however, is various more aggressive interventions by the government to keep economic crises from happening and to mitigate their negative effects when they do. Or the entire system of social provision in which the state redistributes by law resources from the capitalist class to the working class. A.k.a., the social welfare state.

Whether this just amounts to the state having the long-term interests of the capitalist class in mind — saving the capitalist class from its own short-sightedness — is a question for another time. But I thought of this issue when the graphic above appeared on my Facebook timeline.

Like Chris Rock, Marx held that it was in the interest of the capitalist class to keep wages as low as possible, since wages paid are negatively related to profits. But the state intervened to mandate a legal minimum wage, to the short-term detriment but the long term profit of business.

Teaching the Frankfurt School on the Culture Industry and Standardization of Cultural Products

In my sociological theory class recently, I was teaching about critical theory (i.e., “the Frankfurt School”). Specifically, students were reading excerpts from Theodor Adorno’s and Max Horkheimer’s work on “The Culture Industry,” excerpted from their 1944 book The Dialectic of Enlightenment.

Dialectic of EnlightenmentWe talked about how the production of mass cultural commodities (books, films, TV, music) is the same as all mass production. It is geared toward making a profit by minimizing the costs of production and maximizing consumption (i.e., “audience”). The result is homogeneity and predictability.

As Adorno and Horkheimer observed back in the 1940s, “As soon as the film begins, it is quite clear how it will end, and who will be rewarded punished or forgotten. In light music [popular music], once the trained ear heard the first note of the hit song, it can guess what is coming and feel flattered when it does come…The result is a constant reproduction of the same.”

In his essay “On Popular Music,” Adorno refers to the rules of standardization in popular music, the best know of which is that “the chorus consists of thirty two bars and that the range is limited to one octave and one note.” Mind-numbing.

To make this point, I usually just refer to Katy Perry and Jessie J. and whoever the latest pop star is, but this year one of my students pointed me to a song by the group, “Axis of Awesome” which makes this point much better than I could with my limited understanding of music. Check out the video for their song “4 Chords” below:

Q&A With My Friend Black Hawk Hancock on His New Theory Book

My friend and I did an on-line Q&A about his new theory text, Social Theory: Continuity and Confrontation.

The University of Toronto Press put it on their blog last week. Check it out HERE.

I’m looking forward to using the text next spring in my theory classes.

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