Consider how the sexual revolution was made possible by the invention of the automobile and the “pill.”

Discussion 2. Culture
Read Ritzer, Chapter 4. Culture
President Trump’s election in 2016, eventual defeat in 2020, and recent comeback as the most popular leader in the Republican party may have been a surprise to many. Still, the trends that led to his career have been known and studied for many years. In his inaugural address, President Biden asked for unity in the faces of these growing differences. The following links to both the video and the text of this important and timely speech.
The United States, as in most nations, has a culture that is continuously changing. Political parties reflect these changes rather than lead them. However, our elections serve to pinpoint milestones in the cultural shift. (Read the full text of Biden’s inaugural address – CBS News) (Links to an external site.)
We are more willing to change fashions and styles than transform ideas and values. Even those who consider themselves change agents cannot avoid the unanticipated consequences of change.
Consider how the sexual revolution was made possible by the invention of the automobile and the “pill.”
Consider also how the internet and social media were intended to foster liberty and return power to the people.
Today, China’s internet is now used to create a social rating system that governs every aspect of life. In the United States, the internet makes a cancel culture possible in which a person may lose friends, reputation, family, and employment because of an email written twenty years ago.
The technology of George Orwell’s 1984 is now obsolete. The internet today threatens to enable an even bigger Brother.
Three excellent books that describe current cultural changes are:
Murray, Charles. Coming Apart. (New York: Crown Forum), 2012
Dr. Murray is a controversial political scientist and sociologist who has a habit of following the data, with the result that his books contain facts and figures. He is also a very entertaining writer, and many ignore the data and enjoy his prose. As his conclusions frequently challenge the status quo, he has many distractors, many of whom have never read his writing. Student sociologists are encouraged to read the first and last chapter of his books, decide what they disagree with, and see how Dr. Murray arrived at his conclusions. Whether you agree with his conclusions or not, and few will reject or accept all of them, his methodology is worthy of imitation.
Wilkerson, Isabel. Caste (New York: Random House) 2020
Professor Wilkerson was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for The Warmth of Other Suns, the Black migration story from the South to the North. “*As we go about our daily lives, caste is the wordless usher in a darkened theater, flashlight cast down in the aisles, guiding us to our assigned seats for a performance. The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power—which groups have it, and which do not.”*(p.17).
Vance, J. D. Hillbilly Elegy (New York: Harper), 2016. Now a Netflix movie.
*”Hillbilly Elegy* is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. This group’s disintegration, a process that has been slowly occurring for more than forty years, has been reported with growing frequency and alarm but has never been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck”. (Amazon review).
Each of these books presents a different point of view. Each point of view has its validity. These three books will give you an excellent starting point if you are interested in modern culture study.
Discussion Assignment
In the text, Professor Ritzer gives the following schema.
Values -> norms -> sanctions
-> Laws -> Folkways
In his book “Coming Apart,” Charles Murray lists four values that he believes define the American character: industriousness, honesty, marriage, and religion.
To Murray’s four values, add one value that you consider fundamental to American culture. The first person to select a value has the “copyright” to that value. Before you post, check the previous postings to ensure that you have chosen a different value than previous posts.
(Your addition)
Charles Murray believes that fundamental changes in each of these values occurred from 1963 to 2010. Each of the five values above (Murray’s values plus your value)
Briefly discuss how each has changed in the last 50 years.
Definition of Value:
Folkways related to value:
Norms related to value:
Sanctions related to value:
Laws related to value:
Change in value:
Definition of Value:
Folkways related to value:
Norms related to value:
Sanctions related to value:
Laws related to value:
Change in value:
Definition of Value:
Folkways related to value:
Norms related to value:
Sanctions related to value:
Laws related to value:
Change in value:
Definition of Value:
Folkways related to value:
Norms related to value:
Sanctions related to value:
Laws related to value:
Change in value:
Your value:
Definition of Value:
Folkways related to value:
Norms related to value:
Sanctions related to value:
Laws related to value.
Change in value:
Briefly discuss:
One way President Biden and President Trump reflect changes in American culture and institutions.
One way in which they reflect continuity in American culture and institutions.
Physics, biology, and chemistry are called “hard” sciences because their laws are independent of our beliefs, feelings, and values. 2+2=4 is true in every society and culture that uses a base 10 number system. It is more difficult to define, describe, and evaluate the social sciences. Scientists are currently talking about marching to support the idea of climate change. No one is marching to support the periodical table.
They are both essential and “soft” those social facts and theories are defended emotionally as much as, if not more than, they are defended rationally. A person who disagrees with the laws of physics is pitied. A person who disagrees with our view of climate change is “evil.”
These emotionally fueled differences are called the “culture war.”
Pick one area of emotional disagreement over public policy from any news source of your choice. Using a “He said,” “She said” format presents both sides of an issue. Then show the “I say” conclusion. Be sure to provide appropriate citations:
Cultural Relativism/ethnocentrism
Cultural Imperialism/Creative Destruction (see supplementary materials for a definition)
What did you learn from this lesson?
How could this lesson be improved?
Discussion questions are not essays. Discussions are a series of short answers. Remember to respond to **each** part of the assignment.
The discussion gives you more freedom in answering them than a short answer quiz would. You can agree, disagree, present your point of view. The rubric measures your ability to apply what you have learned to current issues.
The rubric gives you points for citing required readings, supplementary materials, and original research. You do not gain or lose credit by being “right” or “wrong.”
As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like to discuss the assignment. My office hours are 24/7.
The textbook we are using is Sociology 5 by Ritzer. You may use outside sources as well but please cite them.

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