The Queen’s 70th Jubilee – It feels like the last gasp for Modernity….

I can’t think of any individuals who represent Britishness, continuity and stability better than THE QUEEEN – she’s just always been there throughout my entire life, and through all my Dad’s adult life too.

And, unlike younger members of the royal family, The Queen it seems has never put a foot wrong – she’s just done her queen thing for 70 years – attended thousands of national events, given her speech at Christmas, opened Parliament nearly every year (until recently) – she is very possibly THE ONLY continuous symbol that’s just ‘carried on’ for that length of time.

When she was coronated in 1953 (that date’s from memory I think it’s right), Functionalism was in its heyday, at least American Functionalism exemplified by the work of Talcott Parsons – and and events such as the Jubilee and the way the majority of people come together around The Queen seem to be good examples of a shared collective conscience.

And even the way the Royal Estate seems to be managing the succession – giving Charles more of a central role and making him more visible (he opened Parliament this year) seems very ordered, very MODERN – orderly change within a centralised authority – there really is something very modern about the whole institution of royalty.

And it seems to me that there’s a general feeling that the 70th Jubilee is something good – there’s almost a sense of relief that there’s something positive to celebrate post-covid and amidst the Cost of Living Crisis – I doubt there will be many overt protests this year.

However I also get the feeling there’s a kind of ‘disbelief in relief’ at having The Jubilee to celebrate – it’s obvious the Royal family has faded in ‘glory’, it’s obvious that this will probably be The Queen’s last significant jubilee, there’s almost a tinge of sadness about the whole affair.

It’s as if we’re witnessing a celebration of a bye gone era – it’s like a flashback to Modernity when things were more certain – kind of similar to when you go to an 80s party – you dress up and make believe for an evening – and so here does the Nation for the Jubilee Weekend.

Because in truth the Royal Family is more post-modern than ever – with Meghan and Harry having ‘divorced themselves’ from the institution, and with their very own paedophile-prince (Andrew) showing that they don’t all have the same norms and values.

And once The Queen is gone we are left with Charles and Camilla – it’s just not the same rally-round is it? Much more chalk and cheese!

And when the Jubilee weekend is over, it’s back to postmodern/ late modern reality for us all – the grind, the uncertainty, the increasing cost of living, the fear of the next Pandemic.

This Jubilee celebration is just a pit stop to the past, pleasant to play modernity dress up for a weekend, but that’s all it is.

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From Modernity to Post Modernity

Marxism Applied to Topics in A-level Sociology

The easiest way for students to prepare for the Theory and Methods parts of the A-Level Sociology Paper 1 and Paper 3 exams is to revise how Marxism applies to the different topic areas usually taught as part of the specification – typically the Family, Education, Religion and Crime and Deviance.

For an overview of these two papers please see my ‘exams advice page’.

This post is a summary of how Marxism applies to these topic areas.

Research Methods Implications

  • Scientific Marxism – The purpose of research is to find out more about the laws of Capitalism to see when revolution is ripe
  • Requires a Cross National Macro-Approach to social research focusing on economics and how the economy affects society
  • Humanistic Marxism – Research can be more varied, focusing on highlighting social injustices in order to make people more critical of Capitalism (Not value free!)

Marxism applied to the family

  • Capitalism, Private Property and The Family
  • The family as a safe haven

More at the Marxist Perspective on the Family.

Marxism and Education

  • The ideological state apparatus
  • Reproduction/ Legitimation of class inequality
  • Correspondence Principle
  • Cultural Capital

More at the Marxist Perspective on Education.

Dependency Theory

  • Colonialism and Slavery
  • The Modern World System
  • Unfair trade rules
  • TNC exploitation

More at Dependency Theory .

Marxism applied to Crime and Deviance

  • Private Property and Crime
  • The costs of Corporate Crime
  • Selective Law Enforcement
  • Criminogenic Capitalism (‘Dog Eat Dog“ Society)

For more see The Marxist Perspective on Crime and Deviance.

Marxism – more advanced theory

Using what Marxists say about the above topic areas is just one way to approach a theory question on Marxism, another way is to use the work of specific Marxists such as Althusser and Gramsci, and of course Marx himself. These ideas are outlined in this revision post: Marxism A-level Sociology Revision Notes.

For more links to Marxist theory please see my Theory and Methods page for A2 Sociology.

Sociological Perspectives on the 2020 Downing Street Christmas Party

There seems to be increasing evidence that around three dozen people attended a party at Downing Street in December 2020, shortly after tier three lockdown restrictions were introduced.

These lockdown rules explicitly prohibited people from having social gatherings (like Christmas Parties) and even prevented people from visiting their relatives who were in care homes or hospitals, meaning, quite literally, that in some cases the government lockdown rules meant some people never saw their close family members again.

And during that time a few ministers and downing street officials were breaking these rules, partying, and laughing about it, as well as now denying it ever happened, despite mounting evidence that this incredible double standard took place.

This Sky News Report below offers a useful summary of the issue and is also particularly damning of those involved, it’s kind of hard not to be!

Clearly this is a deviant act on the part of a small minority of powerful people within government, but how can we apply sociological perspectives to this event?

Functionalism

Errrrr…. I’m struggling with this one.

According to Functionalists, crime is supposed to promote positive functions by increasing social integration and regulation, but that simply isn’t the case here – this just turns people against the supposed leaders of our country, creating a sense of division not only between the public and themselves, but also within the Conservative Party.

This event seems to challenge the relevance of Functionalism – it seems to suggest that for Downing Street there is one rule for the plebs and another for themselves, which isn’t anything to do with integration, won’t help with maintaining social order and just doesn’t sit well at all with the whole Functionalist framework.

Marxism

A key Marxist idea is that we have selective law enforcement. This is certainly the case here.

Some people were prosecuted for holding parties during lockdown 2020, the same time as this Downing Street Party took place, presumably the Home Secretary himself knew this was taking place and yet no one was prosecuted here.

Although now this is out in the open, where the Media are concerned, they are very damning of Downing Street, so there isn’t any Agenda Setting going on atm!

Postmodernism

There is something a bit surreal about this event – it’s taking place largely in the media – how else could it be?

There is also a level of uncertainty about who attended the party, and the government is being very evasive, but maybe that’s not so much postmodern it’s just the government lying like it does so much of the time.

This is also a great example of traditional power structures being challenged by the media.

Having said this one thing that isn’t postmodern is the public reaction – surely no one can support this, people being united against the government’s own deviance. (But this ISN’T support for Functionalism it’s very different to what they envisaged.)

And this also says to people ‘stuff the rules, just do what you want, we did!’

The party at number 10 – final thoughts

This really is just tragic. One rule for them, another for us plebs.

Sociology aside, how can anyone feel anything but repulsion over these double standards?

Please click here to return to the main ReviseSociology home page!

The Economic and Social Costs of Crime

AQA A level sociology revision resources | Revisesociology.com

This topic is an important part of the Victimology topic, which students of A-level sociology will study as part of the Crime and Deviance option in their second year of study.

The Economic and Social Costs of Crime in England and Wales

The Home Office produces an annual report on the Economic and Social Impacts of Crime, summarising the impacts of crime in England and Wales. The latest report was published in 2018, reflecting on the cost of crime in 2015-16.

The report notes the following costs:

  • The overall cost to individuals for 2015-16 was £50 billion.
  • The overall cost to businesses was £9 billion
  • Violent crime accounts for 75% of the total costs of crime to individuals, but only one third of crimes are violent crimes.
  • Homicide (murder) is the crime with the greatest overall cost, at just over £ 3 million per incident
  • Rape (to put it bluntly, but this is the words of the Home Office, has the highest ‘unit cost’ for non-fatal crimes – at just under £40 000 per incident.

TBH this is one of more bizarre tables I’ve seen…

How the Cost of Crime is Calculated

The Home Office includes all of the following when working out costs:

  • Value of property lost or damaged
  • Physical and emotional damage to the individual
  • Lost output as a result of being a victim
  • Health costs
  • Policing and Criminal Justice costs (which will include prison)
  • Costs of preventing crime (such as security measures).

So if we take into account all of the above, we can see why murder has such as high unit cost – all that lost output from the victim and the cost of keeping the murderer in jail for over a decade (most murders are caught).

Limitations with this data

There are limitations with measuring some of the costs of security – the Home Office uses the revenue of cyber security companies to calculate this for example, but I guess it doesn’t take into account specialists companies have to take on to install and maintain cyber security operations.

It might take into account emotional costs – but what about the costs of ‘fear of crime’ – which the media makes sure doesn’t correspond to the actual risks of crime, which could be creating more anxiety disorders which in turn is linked to a reduction in economic output?

Finally, some of this sounds a bit harsh, such as putting a financial figure on the cost of being a victim of rape, it somehow doesn’t quite get to the ‘real’ cost, maybe?!?

The problems of controlling global crime

Globalisation has resulted in more global crime in several ways:

  • Increased trafficking of goods across across international waters – illegal drugs is the most obvious, but there is also counterfeit clothes and electronics and the smuggling of alcohol and cigarettes to avoid taxes.
  • Increased human trafficking – for example women and girls being shipped into the sex-industry against their will, but also trafficking for forced-marriage, cheap ‘slave’ labour and the role of organised crime in helping to move migrants across borders to escape dismal situations in their home countries.
  • Various financial crimes – the use of tax havens by wealthy individuals and corporations to avoid tax.
  • Cybercrimes – these are very numerous and include everything from online frauds and scams to cyberwarfare between governments.
  • Environmental crimes – illegally dumping waste in one country can easily seep across borders, especially if toxic fumes become air born.

The above isn’t supposed to be an exhaustive list, it’s just to give you a reminder of the scale of global crimes.

Global Crimes: Very difficult to police!

Different countries have different norms and values and thus different legal systems – what is criminal in one country may not be criminal in another – for example dumping E waste is not illegal in Ghana, even when the toxins from that waste leach into the water and the sky (when people burn plastic to get the metal to sell for example). International Law isn’t well enough established to penalise countries for committing ‘environmental crimes’ and neither are individual nation states.

While there is an international court of justice at the Hague, but this only resides over those accused of the ‘worst crimes against humanity’ (for example genocide), it doesn’t deal with ‘lesser crimes’ such as ‘every day’ trafficking and cybercrime. There is no ‘international court’ for these crimes, it’s down to individual countries to put the criminals on trial, however governments may be unwilling to do this (See below).

Some people in those countries which supply illegal goods may actually see the activity of criminal networks as benefitting their country. A possible example of this is the Mafia in Bulgaria who ship a lot of heroine up into Europe – there will be tens of thousands of people in both Afghanistan and Bulgaria who see themselves as net winners out of the global drugs trades. There may well be a lot of victims (drug addicts) in the West but the British government has limited power to stop the supply of drugs coming from Afghanistan, all it can do is control the supply at its own borders, at customs.

In some cases the governments in those countries where global criminals are based will actually turn a blind eye to their criminal dealings because the net inflow of money benefits that country.

Cybercrimes are especially difficult to police because often the victims (of online fraud for example) don’t know who the criminals are – they remain hidden behind VPNs and so the origin of the fraud may not even be traceable.

Even if agreements can be reached between one or more countries, it takes a lot of resources to build a case against a criminal organisation operating in more than one country, so there are also practical barriers.

Finally, and possibly most simply, there is a lot space out there – both real and virtual, most governments don’t have the resources to put every inch of a border under 24/7 surveillance, let alone keep the huge areas of cyberspace under observation. There’s a lot of ‘dark space’ for crime to take place in our global real and virtual worlds!

The Exaggeration of Violent and Sexual Crimes in the Media

Content analysis shows that the media exaggerate the extent of violent and sexual crimes, with over-reporting of such crimes giving us the impression that there is 10 times more of it than is actually the case according to sources such as the Crime Survey of England and Wales.

This blog post summarises some recent evidence demonstrating how the media exaggerate the extent of violent crimes and the extent to which they do this.

This should be a useful update for students studying both the Crime and Deviance and Media options as part of A-level sociology.

Violent Crime is exaggerated 10 times

Harper & Hogue (2016) found that in the UK sex offenses made up 20% of all crime reported by the media, but only 2% of all crimes were sex offences. So that’s an exaggeration by the media of 10 times the actual rate of crime. (Source.)

Twitter exaggerates the extent of violent Crime just as much as the mainstream media

An analysis of 32 million tweets in 17 countries in Latin America over 70 days in 2017 revealed that 15 out of 1000 were crime related.

The number of tweets about crime were then compared to the murder rates in those countries and the fear of crime as measured by surveys.

There was no correlation between the number of tweets about crime and the underlying crime rate.

Moreover, just like the mainstream media, tweets showed a ‘strong bias’ towards sharing information about violent and sexual crimes.

The study also found that 62% of accounts were linked to mainstream media accounts, meaning that only 38% of tweets were from regular users, many of which linked articles from mainstream media.

This suggests that Twitter is just an echo chamber for the exaggeration of violent crime in the media.

Latin America – people tweet a lot about Violent Crime, they are doing it to themselves!

One BIG STORY makes it worse…

One ‘big story’ can trigger an increase in similar stories. For example, Harper (2018) found that there was 300% increase in reporting of sex crimes against children when the news about prolific paedophile (and friend of Prince Andrew) Jimmy Saville broke in YEAR. (Source.)

Related Posts

Please click here to return to the Media and crime Hub Post.

Only 18% of Senior Civil Servants are from ‘Working Class’ Backgrounds

A recent study from the Social Mobility Commission found that only 18% Senior Civil Servants are from lower social class backgrounds, what we might traditionally call ‘working class’ backgrounds’, and this is down from 19% in 1967!

The majority of senior civil servants are from privileged, higher social economic backgrounds, many having benefited from an independent (private school) education.

The proportion of employees from low social economic backgrounds varies a lot according to role, region and department.

For example, 40% of those those working in operational roles, delivering services are from lower SEBs compared to just 19% working in policy (policy jobs tend to be more prestigious).

And only 12% of people working in the Treasury are from low SEBs compared to 45% working in ‘work and pensions’.

And 22% of of London based civil servants come from low SEBs compared to 48% working in the North East.

The report is based on a survey of 300 00 civil servants so is very representative and 100 hour long interviews to explore why there is such a class divide in the senior ranks.

Why are the working classes underrepresented in the senior civil service?

The title of report points to an explanation – it is called ‘Navigating the labyrinth’ for a reason.

The authors put it down to a number of ‘hidden rules’ surrounding career progression in the civil service which create cumulative barriers that make it more difficult for those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to make it into the Civil Service.

For example, there are some roles within the civil service that act as career accelerators but getting into these roles depends on who you know, such as having access to already senior staff and ministers, and those from lower SEBs lack this kind of in-house social capital.

There are also dominant behavioural codes within the senior civil service, which those from higher SEBs are more familiar with, they come naturally to them, one aspect of this is ‘studied neutrality’

The report describes Studied neutrality as having three key dimensions:

  1. a received pronunciation (RP) accent and style of speech
  2. emotionally detachment and an understated self-presentation
  3. prizing the display of in-depth knowledge for its own sake (and not directly related to work).

On the later point, some of the lower SEB interviewees in the study mentioned that there is a lot of talking in Latin, which many senior staff would break into sometimes during meetings, far from necessary from doing the job!

A final factor is that those from SEB backgrounds are more likely to specialise in a particular career path, which isn’t necessary for career progression.

Does the class divide in the senior civil service matter?

According to those in the senior service, no it doesn’t, because they see themselves as ‘neutral advisors’.

However, from a more Marxist point of view clearly it does! Just from a social justice perspective we have here a classic example of cultural capital blocking those from lower social backgrounds progressing to more senior positions, and those with cultural capital (from higher economic backgrounds) having an advantage.

And, despite claims to neutrality it’s unlikely that those from privileged backgrounds are going to advise on policies which promote more social justice and greater social mobility as that would be undermining the advantage they and their children have with the status quo!

Why are birth rates higher in developing countries?

Even though we’ve looked at theories suggesting high birth rates may not be a problem, it remains a fact that birth rates are higher in the developing world. Here are some theories why this is the case…

The first set of theories below come from a Modernisation Theory perspective

Traditional religious values

Paul Harrison’s inside the third world (1990) points out the highest growth rates are in Muslim and Roman Catholic countries. He argues that strictly religious cultures fear that using contraception would encourage promiscuity. Both Islamic leaders and Catholic leaders counsel against the use of contraception in the developing world.

Traditional Masculinity

Many men in Latin America feel that using contraception would compromise their masculinity

Patriarchy

Patriarchy is the norm in many developing countries, which excludes women from decision making processes. In some traditional cultures women do not have a say in whether they have children and are effectively seen as the property of men. Introducing contraception would give women more control over their bodies and effectively undermine the patriarchal basis of power in those countries. Thus it is a combination of traditional religious beliefs and patriarchy that contribute to high population growth.

Dependency Theory

Adamson (1986) argues that poverty causes overpopulation rather than internal cultural values causing overpopulation and then overpopulation causing poverty. He argues that there are several reasons why it is rational for poor people to have lots of children.

  • In developing countries children are seen as economic assets because of the increased income they can generate. This is especially true where the government does not punish parents for not sending their children to school.
  • Children provide old age care to parents in developing countries where there is no social welfare/ pensions
  • In areas of high infant mortality, it makes sense to have 5 or more children as this increases the likelihood of at least one of them surviving to adulthood.

Conversely, in developed countries with higher standards of living it costs much more money to bring up children which discourages large families. This was the case in the UK in the 19th century.

SignPostin

Trade and Development – updates

I’ve been updating some trade and development resources this week. I’ve organised what I’ve found into ‘arguments for and against‘ trade promoting development.

For now, I mainly focus on Free Trade.

Evidence for Trade promoting development

The World Bank is historically in favour of Free Trade. To quote from its website (last updated in 2020):

“Recent research shows that trade liberalization increases economic growth by an average by 1.0 to 1.5 percentage points, resulting in 10 to 20 percent higher income after a decade. Trade has increased incomes by 24 percent globally since 1990, and 50 percent for the poorest 40 percent of the population. As a result, since 1990, over one billion people have moved out of poverty because of economic growth underpinned by better trade practices.”

One of the World Bank’s most recent reports (2020) is on ‘ Women and Trade – the role of Trade in promoting women’s equality‘ which focuses on how empowering work generated by trade has been for women globally.

This is very much in line with older reports published by the The World Bank such as The role of trade in ending poverty (2015). There is also an accessible video which accompanies this:

The World Trade Organisation -‘The Case for Free Trade‘ – it’s always worth having a look at some of the most recent articles from the WTO on trade. The WTO is a prominent global institution which encourages governments to adopt policies which promote free trade

The World Trade Organisation – The World Trade Report 2020 – Government Policies to Promote Innovation in the Digital Age – This report looks at how the digital knowledge economy has become an increasingly important sector of the Global Economy. It suggests that countries need to encourage firms to engage in research and development and make it easy for innovative knowledge to be shared across countries, and mentions GATS and TRIPS as two policies which foster this. It also mentions that governments can help by encouraging STEM education.

Evidence against Free Trade promoting development

The video below from DW documentaries is called ‘The Deceptive Promise of Free Trade, from 2018….

It looks at how there is a double standard in trade rules – countries in the EU impose tariffs on products imported from China to protect their economies while they make African countries sign free trade agreements with them that prevent them from imposing tariffs on EU exports, which harms farmers in African countries.

Also from DW documentaries, and also from 2018, the documentary below is more specific – focussing on how EU policies harm African countries:

The above documentary focuses on how subsidies to EU farmers allow them to export grain to African countries which ends up being cheaper than locally produced grain – this prevents aid working for development!

Why Europe needs to rethink its trade deals with Africa – some more academic research covering similar material to what’s in the above two documentaries.

This Amnesty International Report focuses on how Shell’s extraction of oil in Nigeria has not worked to promote development in that country.

A very toxic childhood

Ryan Kaji was the highest earning YouTube star in 2020.

Along with his parents he makes videos about toys – which includes reviewing various different products, but also promoting his own brand of toys.

In the video below Ryan and his parents are promoting his ‘vending machine’

A very toxic childhood

This seems to be a good example of a family promoting ‘toxic childhood‘.

Apparently Ryan and family churn out at least one video a day, meaning this kid, encouraged by his parents, is opening one new product a day, and being watched by millions of other children.

And in the above video, we see Ryan’s parents asking to buy junk food from Ryan, the vendor – so encouraging children to not only be consumers, but also to eat junk food.

According to this Guardian Article it’s not clear whether some of these videos count as ‘reviews’ (which the family claims) or ‘advertising’.

The family is paid by various sponsors and it’s possible that they are endorsing their products for a fee.

Winners and losers?

This is a good candidate for the most offensive YouTube channel I’ve ever seen – clearly the parents are winners as they are making an absolute fortune (with almost $30 million earned in 2020), I’m not sure how well Ryan is going to turn out – brought up with millions of viewers and a massive materialist streak, it’s difficult to see how he’s going to mature into a reasonable adult.

Certainly the companies are winning, with cheap adverts for their products.

But the child-viewers of these reviews are very much the losers – here’s an ‘ordinary kid’ just like them whose opening a new toy every single day and having a great time, but the average kid simply can’t afford that level of consumption, but is being taught that consumerism is fun, normal and good.

A great example of toxic childhood for students studying the family in A-level sociology!

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