Intro Sociology Eastlake High School Wealth in USA Questions


The distribution of wealth in the US is perceived as having skewed wealth for those at the top. Moreover, people believe that the distribution of wealth “should be” more equitable compared to what it is. When put to actual figures, this perception is greatly challenged. View this video to see a discussion of wealth inequality in the US:


What do you believe “should be” the normal curve for the distribution of wealth? What do you think it actually is?

How does your perception of wealth distribution compared to the video?

Why do you think most people’s perception is off?

Do you think the distribution of wealth is fair? Why or why not


Pick up an US, OK, or Star Magazine and make a list for what deviant behaviors are allowable for movie and rock stars that would be considered deviant if done by an average citizen. Also, find examples of stars’ non-deviant (conventional) behavior. You only need to look at pictures, captions and headlines to make lists. Use your grandparents’ beliefs about behavior and dress as criteria. Include your list and then answer the following questions:

Why do you think deviance is prevalent in gossip magazines

How does deviance relate to pop culture?


Justifications for Punishment

Retribution: an act of moral vengeance be which society inflicts on the offender suffering comparable to that caused by the offense (a moral balance/moral order is realigned) an eye for an eye

Deterrence: the use of punishment to discourage criminality, the pain of punishment outweighs the pleasure of the crime (less harsh than retribution justification) convinces potential criminal as well as the punished provides an example to society

Rehabilitation: a program for reforming the offender to prevent subsequent offenses, to reintegrate the offender back into society by re-conforming the individual into more acceptable behavior

Societal protection: means by which society renders an offender incapable of further offense, either temporarily through incarceration or permanently by execution, intended to protect society from crime. Not willing to reform or rehabilitate individuals. Currently 2 million people are incarcerate, 4.7 million are on parole and probation

Critical evaluation:

Problem of repeat offenders and the costs of providing various forms of punishment (overcrowded prisons leads to reduced sentences, expense of maximum security prisons, the psychological impact of prison life which socializes criminal behavior)

Debate over capital punishment vs. rehabilitation vs. life in prison.

Problem of overrepresentation of inmates (minorities, poor, and conservative values)


Choose one type of punishment that you think is the best alternative and explain why. Then choose one type of punishment that you think is the worst alternative and explain why.


Karl Marx

Opening Question: How did this particular society come about?

A materialist: The means of production determines social relations and determines the ideas that carry out these relations, and represses ideas that contradict these relations. (ideas are typically the ideas of the ruling class)

Begins from the point of alienation, a historical reality based on who owns the means of production. New historical periods emerge after the lower classes revolt against the owners of production.

Primitive Communism: (Natural social relations unable to produce a surplus. Pure subsistence living b/c no way of storing surplus)

Agriculture communities: (based on slavery, has the technology to preserve and therefore to produce a surplus. Allows for leisure. This community is controlled by power structures that require some to work harder than others. The surplus is appropriated. Production is maximized for minimum payment for that production. An incentive to produce technology to increase surplus, increase the force of production.)

Serfdom: (Slaves become serfs, not owned, and acquire access to some of the property and have more rights but in return they give a percentage of goods to the lords. Increased incentive and therefore will produce. Improved technology increases surplus. Labor power and means of production furthers progress.

Capitalism: (wage labor. Serfs earn more rights and acquire capital (a sense of ownership increases incentive) Now free from obligation to the Lord. Free from also the means of production. Social relations: owners of property/production and workers (labor). Increased incentive: wage for the worker and surplus for the owner. Encourages the reinvestment of surplus for the sake of increasing profit)Communism: Socialism would come about first where a new party would emerge out of worker’s reforms. The final stage would overcome scarcity through technology. Workers own the means of production. Surplus is used for needs instead of profit, and is shared equitably. Requires a revolution.

The transition from serfdom to capitalism was not smooth, but required changes in laws, ways of thinking about the economy (sets up a supply and demand around an equilibrium logic) and work (from peasant to wage labor; socially necessary: hard work, avarice and saving), using money (gold standard) as the means of exchange and determining value

It came about because of the wealth gained in colonization, the problem of scarcity was resolved, devised an international credit system and national debt

The development of the wage makes it more efficient to get work done over that of slave labor.

A dialectic process: Not linear, but forward-moving cycle. Within any particular ideological framework, there are inherent tendencies for negation and its overcoming of negation.

A progression of freedom and freedom from domination

Conditions are created to set this process into motion, which invariably leads to -an ultimate transformation

Domination has within it the conditions to overturn it

Gives structural explanations to change society.

Karl Marx (Part II)

People suffer from exploitation and commodification—work towards emancipation

Social situation: subsistent living, unstable employment, and horrific working conditions. Night shifts. Children working. Challenges to what constitutes a “working day”

Workers are not only alienated from their work, the system renders some powerless, and suppresses their human agency (to be political, social)

Shatters community

(The conditions of work result in loss of fundamental connection with other people)

Loss of meaning and purpose

Diagnosis: The problem is capitalism (the problem of exchange) and the fixation on work/wage

Profit/Surplus and Market logic

Labor theory of value: surplus does not come from making a profit per se, but in the wage. Therefore everything else is set by its use value, whereas labor is set by exchange value. Wool will always be a set price, the machines will all be a set price, but the wage is worth a set amount of hours (a day’s worth). Even if the production increases, the wage remains the same. The surplus comes in the exploitation of the worker.

The wage is not equivalent to what the work is worth because it is not based on what is a livable wage

Unemployment encouraged to keep wages low and the pressure to work for less (if there are less workers, their value will increase)

The surplus does not go back to the greater good, but back to the owners of production to make more profit

The market logic disables any one capitalist from changing the rate of exploitation. A single business owner would go out of business if he altered the rate of exploitation. Both the capitalist and the worker are kept in constraint by production and the regulating of capital.

Commodification: the worth of work is equivalent to the worth of the worker (a.k.a. the wage). A worker can be bought and sold

Solution: Revolution, a classless society where there is no private property and people work together collectively

From man the maker, to man the creator

Labor should be how you make something happen in the world, and find out who you are and your capacity is known by the act. This is an enjoyable process. The right kind of society would be one where there are many needs (dignifying rather than indignifying), which necessitates human interrelations, the needing of others. A kind of division of labor that would require total or more human interaction.

Creativity includes

Control processes of one’s own work

Control product (it is yours to give away)

Self-actualization through this process

Social cooperation

Production is positive, but the means of production can be usurped by the owners of production, a certain kind of division of labor that produces inequality. The surplus should be used to benefit the greater good of society (not necessarily each labor getting a piece, but rather meeting collective needs such as health care, education, retirees and those that cannot work.

Modernity: rationalism, capitalism, private property, individualism


Over-anticipated the common bond of the worker

Underestimated the power of capitalists and the power of competition

Welfare, consumption and warfare:

Government allows for a form of socialism to exist without eliminating capitalist structures. Consumers will remain to keep the system running

Thought there would be a limit to production and that at some point they would stop buying. The problem of overproduction solved. (Advertising increased the capacity/limit of production and people kept buying

Warfare increased need for consumption and kept capitalism going

The wage is not the only variant (according to subsistence living), but machinery also varies accordingly


How would you make Marx relevant for today?

If you could come up with a fair critique of Marx what would it be?


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