1) Why do people feel that modern society is so different from the past? The author stresses that the sociological imagination is necessary to provide perspective and context for the modern man, but great leaders of the past well versed in history, politics, and the humanities were able to know and traverse the world around them. Why is the sociological imagination needed now?

Ans: We discussed at length in class how the sheer amount and rate of change seem to overwhelm people, let alone the monumental changes we have seen in our short lives. The author also points out the growing polarization in society between different thought groups, and the overload of information available to society at large. The sociological imagination is introduced as a tool to allow those feeling uneasy to identify the roots of their unease. A sense of calmness arises when one is no longer ignorant of the cause of their discomfort, whether they realize this as a personal trouble or a society-wide issue, and provides them the path to fix these problems. Therefore, the sociological imagination is a critical aspect to understanding the current state of affairs that traditional historical or philosophical studies cannot identify, and serves to provide much-needed context in an ever-changing world.

2) As the author mentions, many students wish to go into business, but assume that they must abandon their own moral code to succeed. Given that most people are also wary of media biases, why do they still buy into the societal belief that business is evil?

Ans: It seems highly unlikely that most people would willingly enter a career path where they know they must act selfishly, irresponsibly, even maliciously in order to be successful. Media coverage constantly ignores the good that businesses do on a day to day business while the cover stories of scandal to the point of beating a dead horse. While it is true that if you hear a message enough times you are inclined to believe it, students flock to business schools. I believe the heart of the problem is a lack of self-promotion from the business community. Of course, many businesses have thriving marketing and PR divisions, but your Average Joe of an employee needs to express more pride, more profiles of good workers need to be shown to the world, more philanthropy needs to be advertised. As the author states, all of us know employees of business who are hard-working, good, honest people. Businesses should focus more on building a culture where employees take a stake in the company’s image, which would involve promoting its ethical practices. If business focused on promotion at the individual level and even within itself, I think the problem would solve itself.

3) When, why and how did we become a short-term gain minded society? At the local level, leaders are still chosen based on their ability to make the tough decisions that ensure long-term  success. So why is it acceptable in business and politics to make irresponsible decisions to accelerate current benefit for future disaster?

Ans: In the late 1970’s stockbrokers and executives began receiving large bonuses based on performance, or in other words, stock prices. The benefit of maximizing short-term profits for these people became blatantly superior to planning for long-term growth and sustainability, given the short life-time of company leadership, and so this mentality took a firm hold on the leaders of the business community. This eventually spread to Congress, who works closely with the business community, and so several decades of irresponsible behavior has occurred (in general, but there are also plenty of responsible business leaders and politicians). While nowadays we are seeing a shift to the other approach, there is still a significant lingering constituency from this school of though, perpetuated by the media. While many young professionals and recent business school grads are taught in ethics and sustainability, they are not the ones in charge right now, and there will not be a shift anytime soon.

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/lets-stop-maximizing-profit-and-start-maximizing-value-2012-12 

5 responses »

  1. laf024 says:

    In response to question 2, I completely agree with you but my next question is really how do businesses do this? I think that promoting philanthropy and good deeds is common right now. Through experience in marketing departments, I have seen first-hand that companies are trying to market the good things they are doing but obviously it is not working or is not reaching the right people. There is definitely a fad of healthy living and philanthropic acts in our society right now, but are people really practicing what they are preaching? If the big level marketing campaigns aren’t working, how do you get the “Average Joe” employee’s voice heard? Just a thought because I do agree with what you’re saying- it just seems that the message isn’t coming off clearly in the business world right now.

  2. wmw014 says:

    Also in response to your second question, I think that you make a great argument that is cited in Mills’ article that the sociological imagination allows us to discover the roots of our unease in a constantly changing society. As someone once said, change is the only constant in our lives and the only thing that affects change is the rate at which it occurs. I think that people nowadays have a common perception that change is occurring at a rate never before witnessed in modern history. However, Mills, who wrote his article several decades ago, also expresses a similar sentiment that many felt during the time period he was writing in. Consequently, in reference to your answer, I think that the connection that Mills stresses between biography and history is meant for people to look back through history to let them know that they are in a sense not alone in their struggles with change.

  3. mbc014 says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t have much of an answer to how to start a grassroots PR campaign. If I did, I probably would have sold out years ago and would be a very wealthy man right now. The basic idea I had was to restructure corporations in an attempt to reach out to your own employees. We have all seen the power of a company where its employees are happy and believe in the mission and values they emulate (take Google). I think if you strive for this, Average Joe would go home and tell his friends and family how awesome his company is. At networking events they would defend and take pride in their company, and in so doing, people would hear more and more of all the good Average Joe’s company does. And then all their employees do this. And other businesses too. And soon the American public know that businesses provide jobs, stimulate the economy, donate millions to charity, give back to the local community, etc. Idealistic? Definitely. Naive? Quite possibly. But naive idealism tends to be the start of real change, so I’ll stick to my guns.

  4. Jordi says:

    More than calmness, I think having SI gives one a sense of urgency to try and change both the self AND the structural features that threaten that which is cherished. Mills is not really projecting a vision of a sociology where all the pieces fit and everyone is content.

  5. Jordi says:

    I think part of the reason people are inclined to think that business is ethically problematic in #2 is the answer you give in #3. There is a sense that what business and managers value has shifted, and shifted in ways that increase inequality by holding back what workers earn and increasing job insecurity.

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