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Mapping the Social Landscape Readings Notes
1)Reading 1: “The Promise” by C. Wright Mills (p. 1-7)
•Men feel that their private lives are a series of traps.
•There are so many problems for them to face that often times they become overwhelmed.
•Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without
•Men do not usually see such correlation.
•They don’t see how the troubles they endure are related to the ups and downs of the
society they live in.
•They aren’t usually aware of the complex connection between the patterns of their own
lives and the course of world history.
•The history that now affects man is World History.
•The very shaping of history now outspaces the ability of men to orient themselves in
accordance with cherished values.
•Even when they don’t panic, men sense that the older ways of feeling and thinking have
collapsed and that newer beginnings are ambiguous to the point of moral stasis.
•Men need, and feel they need, a quality of mind that will aid them to use information and
to develop reason in order to achieve lucid summations of what is going on in the world
and what may be happening within themselves.
•The sociological imagination:
oEnables its possessor to understand the larger historical sense in terms of its
meaning for the inner life and the external career of a variety of individuals, in the
welter of their daily experience.
oIt enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two
•The person can now take into account how individuals often become falsely conscious of
their social positions.
•An individual can understand his own experience and gauge his own fate only by locating
himself within his own period.
•He can only know the chances in life only by becoming aware of those of all individuals
in his situation.
•We do not know the limit of man’s capacity for supreme effort or willingness degradation,
for agony or glee, for pleasurable brutality or the sweetness of reason.
•Every individual creates a biography, a name for him or herself.
•The limits of “human nature” are broad.
•A social study that has not come back to the problems of biography, or history and of
their intersections within a society has completed its intellectual journey.
•When conducting a social analysis, classic types of questions that may be asked are:
oQuestions about the structure of the society.
oQuestions about the history period and the society’s stance in human history.
oQuestions about the type of people that reside there.
•Men hope to grasp what is going on in the world and to understand what is happening in
themselves as minute points of intersections of biography and history within society by
means of sociological imagination.
oOccur within the character of the individual and within the range of his immediate
relations with others
oThey have to do with his self and with those limited areas of social life of which
he is directly and personally aware.
oIt is a private matter.
oThey have to do with matters that transcend these local environments of the
individual and the range of his inner life.
oThey have to do with organization of many such places into institutions of a
historical society as a whole.
oIt is a public matter.
oOften involves a crisis in institutional arrangements, and often too involves what
Marxists call “contradictions” or “antagonisms”.
2)Reading 2: “Teenage Wasteland” by Donna Gaines (p. 7-19)
•The issue of suicide back in the early to mid 90s used to be almost non-existent.
•Between 1950 and 1980, the rates of suicides had nearly tripled.
•Accidents was the first leading cause of death among young people with suicide coming
to a close second.
•Rural and suburban white kids were found to have the most frequent number of suicides.
•Black kids in America’s teenage wasteland were more likely to kill each other.
•Drugs and alcohol were usually involved.
•Some kids often commit suicide violently (e.g., hanging, drowning, slashing, etc)
•Firearms are still the most common.
•Some prefer to commit it more peacefully (e.g., gas, drug overdose, etc)
•Boys have a higher tendency than girls; however, girls attempt it more often.
•Wealth status does not seem to be a factor.
•Cliques had something to do with suicide. Kids at the top were the “preps”, “jocks”, and
the “brains”, whereas, the “burnouts” were those at the bottom—academically,
economically, and socially.
•“Burnouts” were often proud of who they were and of their uniqueness. However,
outsiders may take things further and turn the stereotype into something hurtful and
violent—calling people names like “druggie” or “troubled loser”.
•When a young person commits suicide, there are many questions that need to be answered
as to why they committed the suicide? What reasons or motivations did they have? Were
they outcasts? Was this what they wanted or was it a last resort? What choices did they
have? And many other questions.
•Many youth turn to drugs and alcohol to provide immediate comfort, purpose, and
adventure. However, this can lead to addiction.
•The whole miserable process begins as a positive act of self-preservation.
•Some people would rather their life be joyful and fun till the end rather than work hard to
achieve success (those who worked 9 to 5 jobs).
•Kids understand that there are two choices: rise to the top or crash to the bottom.
•A lot of burden has been placed on you (e.g., economically, socially and spiritually).
oEconomically: Kids often work to contribute to the economy of the family.
oSocially: Be fruitful and multiply.
oSpiritually: Many parents expect their young to fulfill an incompleteness in
themselves and in the world. They have unfulfilled human dreams, aspirations,
etc, that they hope their children may fulfill.
•Reasons for possible suicide attempts: failure at school, death of family members from
drug or alcohol related problems, lack of money, bullying, feeling worthless, LABELS at
school or from the town that they live in, family divorce or estrangement, etc..
3)Reading 57: “The Atrophy of Social Life” by D. Stanley Eitzen (p. 641-648)
•Humans have slowly been disengaging from each other.
•We are less likely to belong to voluntary associations (e.g., Rotary Club, PTS, etc).
•Social life has changed dramatically over the past 50 years.
•People have often become more and more isolated.
•People move on average about every five years.
•This could be because jobs change or loss of jobs.
•The bond between workers and employers has become frayed; employees are no longer
loyal to their employers and vice versa.
•Many also move away due to divorce or separation from their marriages.
•Immigration also leads to distance between people and family members and friends.
•When people move out from relationships or to new geographical areas, old friends,
family, and neighbours are left behind.
•Often times people foresee themselves moving in a few years and therefore make no effort
to get to know new people, join organizations, etc.
•People now live longer and elderly, especially older women, are most likely to live alone.
•Divorce initiates living alone.
•Commuter marriage – an arrangement where wives and husbands maintain separate
households as a way of solving dilemmas of dual-career marriages.