SOC 352 Chapter 4

SOC 352 Chapter 4 - HARPMC04_0131884980.QXD 12:07 AM Page 65 Chapter American Social Trends 4 A typical American shopping mall But where is it As

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65 American Social Trends Chapter 4 Another American social trend is the growing use of credit cards for everyday purchases. This consumer is using a debit card that takes money directly from a checking account. You can think about social change in three ways. First, change can be significant social events, such as World War II, the assassination of President Kennedy, the suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Iraq War, the end of the latest Palestinian Intafada, or the breakup of the Soviet empire. Each of these events has affected change in contemporary A typical American shopping mall. But where is it? As local stores give way to multinational chains, all the malls start to look alike. One prevasive social trend in America is the rise in education levels as a college education comes to define membership in the middle class. HARPMC04_0131884980.QXD 11/7/06 12:07 AM Page 65
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America. Second, change can be macroscopic, reflecting broad-scale social trends and cultural themes. These pervasive change processes enable you to see patterns and make more general sense out of particular historical events by revealing “underlying” patterns and directions. Third, change can occur in the spheres of social life that are closely connected to the lives of individuals, such as age groups, families, work settings, education, religion, and so on. This third perspective focuses on change in the population and social institutions. Each of these perspectives on change has strengths and weaknesses. A focus on particular events is important but may suggest that social change is only the accu- mulation of particular events with no patterns or broader processes. Understanding broad-scale social trends is important, but these trends by themselves tell you little about particular events or our everyday life encounters with social change. A focus on particular social institutions as settings for everyday life may do that, but in artificially separated “parts” that may not illuminate much about how you experi- ence change as a whole person. A better focus would try to show the interconnec- tions among events, broad social trends, and changing institutional settings for everyday life. In this and the next two chapters, we describe change in American society using all these vantage points (events, trends, institutional settings). We begin with broad American structural and cultural trends. The next chapter moves to three settings closer to our everyday lives—change in population, families, and jobs. Our purpose is descriptive, but we have also used these chapters to highlight some controversies—both academic and popular—about changing life in a modern or “postmodern” society—a term we will define later. And we apply the theories we’ve outlined in the first two chapters to better understand these trends. Chapter 6 continues by examining change in two large-scale institutional realms that together shape much of what goes on in society as well as the lives of individuals:
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This note was uploaded on 04/29/2009 for the course SOC SOC 352 taught by Professor Whitaker during the Spring '09 term at ASU.

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SOC 352 Chapter 4 - HARPMC04_0131884980.QXD 12:07 AM Page 65 Chapter American Social Trends 4 A typical American shopping mall But where is it As

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