Wednesday, August 28, 2002
Topic for tutorial 2
posted by Lipgloss assassin at 9:16 AM
Start with a very simple life form in a three dimensional world. Reverse engineering of Origins of Life Theory starting with simplest life form, bacterium in a non competitive environment. By non competitive I mean it does not compete with any other living organism including its own species.
Discuss what a theory of origins of life should contain:
1. First. Make a definition of life for your bacterium. You will need to list a minimum set of criteria for your microbe to satisfy in order to be considered alive in a non competitive world. Compare your definition with a virus. How are the two different?
2. Second. List the minimum vital functions or processes, your bacterium should have to be a life form according to your definition. It will help to list what the bacterium will not need in an ideal non competitive environment.
3. Now suppose we want to start life off in a three dimensional water world, for example an ocean, lake, pond or droplet. Starting with your soup, a dilute solution of small organic molecules in solution, construct your theory starting with small simple organic molecules. I suggest you define various stages that your system will have to traverse in order to be considered alive. Do not forget that you will need an energy source to overcome potential energy barriers as you build complex or ordered structures.
Topic for Tutorial 3
Tuesday, August 27, 2002
posted by Lipgloss assassin at 6:53 AM
Application to the Singapore case
Questions: Is there an absence of politics in Singapore? To what extent is Singapore a democracy? Who has power in Singapore? Discuss.
Some useful definitions
Power: The ability of individuals or groups to make their own interests or concerns count, even when others resist (Weber).
Authority: legitimate use of power; usually not necessary to back it up by coercive force.
Legitimacy: having the consent of those subject to authority; legitimate power is recognized as valid and justified.
Authority: 3 bases (Weber)
Traditional: beliefs and practices passed down from generation to generation; sometimes seen as sacred.
Charismatic: belief that leaders have exceptional qualities that deserve respect and devotion.
Legal-rational: explicit laws that define legitimate uses of power.
Are dictatorships necessarily illegitimate?
NOT ALWAYS, in some cases--as long as it can deliver peace & prosperity.
BUT it could also be that people are not able to resist; they then learn to adapt to and accept the status quo.
Power—a dimension in all relationships
state-citizen/people within a defined territory
Models of power
Power can expand/contract like credit creation.
Power used for collective benefits.
Zero-sum or Constant (Marx, Weber)
“like a pie”.
Measuring/ Expressing Power
Lukes’ 3 faces of power
1. Who makes decisions? Situational, tied to particular issues.
2. Who sets agenda?
Define key issues, decide what is to be included/excluded.
3. Who benefits? E.g., beautiful park vs crematorium, garbage dump, highway.
Theories of Power: Marxist
Capitalist class relations: the power structure serves the interest of the capitalist class, e.g., institution of private property; profit is acceptable.
The state =
“executive committee of the capitalist class” (Marx).
“instrument of ruling class (Miliband).
“supportive of capitalism” even though it is relatively autonomous (Poulantzas).
Theories of Power: Marxist
Ideological hegemony = dominant class seeks to maintain its position by persuading subordinate class(es) that its values are in the interest of all.
Subordinate class(es) accept/ consent to domination.
Role of intellectuals: could become ideologues or critics (providing alternative visions).
Theories of Power: Elitist (Michels)
Elitist: rule of many by the few.
“Iron law of oligarchy”.
Organizations grow in size and complexity.
Run by officials (experts).
Entrenched interests of officials.
Apathy and lack of involvement of members.
Started out democratic, ended up less than democratic.
The Power Elite: C.W. Mills
A well-integrated and partly self-perpetuating power elite linked by friendship and familial ties and share common backgrounds.
Top brass in military, economic, political organizations.
Theories of Power: Pluralist
Power is dispersed among a variety of competing interest groups: businesses, unions, environmental groups, women’s groups, senior citizens’ groups.
Decision-making is through a process of bargaining.
Complex institutions & organizations for exercising authority within a given territory: (parliament, civil service, police, military).
Nation: a people (sense of identity and community).
Nation-State: rule over a people/nation.
Monopoly over the legitimate use of power.
Sovereignty: clear-cut borders.
Citizenship: membership and rights.
The Welfare State
A major 20th century phenomenon..
Education, housing, healthcare.
Rights (entails responsibility) or entitlements?
Fine balance between taxation (hurt the middle class) and welfare (benefit the poor).
Singapore—use of CPF.
Demos = the people
Kratos = authority
Democracy = rule by the people
Who are “the people”?
What kind of participation are allowed? Major decisions? Which spheres?
What conditions apply?
Representative democracy (voting) vs direct democracy (referendum)
Political parties & interest groups
“realm between the family sphere and the state”.
“sphere of social life where individuals pursue their own self-interest within universally recognized bounds”.
“a realm of free activity and voluntary association that is neither organized by the state nor driven by market forces.”
Examples: churches, unions, professional associations.
Extent of civic engagement on the decline? Privatization of social life?
The Singapore Case: Chua BH
Political legitimacy achieved through ideological efficacy.
1960s-1970s: survivalism & pragmatism.
1980s: consultative style, feedback channels, representation.
1990s: Asian values, Confucianism, communitarianism.
(nation before community, society above self, resolving issues through consensus).
New millennium: new survivalism? National identity, welfarism?
The Singapore Case: Hill & Lian
Civil Society vs Civic Society
The Singapore Case: Tan & Chiew
Repoliticization: an increasing propensity for political participation among middle-class Singaporeans?
Tocqueville’s insights (1830s)
Private life is so busy in democratic periods, so excited, so full of wishes and of work, that hardly any energy or leisure remains to each individual for public life.
The majority of people do not clearly see what they have to gain by a revolution, but they continually and in a thousand ways feel that they might lose from one.
Tocqueville’s insights (1830s)
(The power of the state) is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent, …keep them in perpetual childhood…spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living.
The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided…till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.
Sunday, August 25, 2002
SC1101E MAKING SENSE OF SOCIETY (INTRODUCTION TO SOCIOLOGY)
posted by Lipgloss assassin at 10:03 PM
2. General Introduction: What is Sociology?
Aim of this Lecture
• To look at basic issues, i.e. what makes up sociology and what is the object of sociological study
• To examine the central concerns in sociology, i.e. the aims and objectives of sociological investigation
• To trace the origins of sociology as a social science, i.e. how sociology emerged as a modern form of knowledge. Note:
- sociology = socio + logos
- socio-: from Latin societas (society)
- -logy: from Greek logos (knowledge)
• To give a brief overview of approaches in sociology, i.e. their thematic concerns as set out by classical sociological theorists
• The sociological perspective (refer to Peter Berger ‘Invitation to Sociology’)
- The study of all aspects of society: everything in society is of interest and in principle can be studied by sociologists
- the different types and forms of social relations (organization, institutions — both formal and informal)
- the rules that guide these forms of social relations (norms, values, rules —explicitly stated and not explicitly stated) (Refer to Dr Todd Ames’ orientation lecture)
- the sociological perspective and ‘commonsense knowledge’
Some examples from local contexts:
Colonial perceptions of the ‘Chinaman’ in Singapore
Consumption behaviour of low-income people
- the importance of history
• But what kinds of society do sociologists study?
- Modern, urban, industrial, capitalist society, i.e. complex societies
- Contra simple, non-literate, so-called ‘primitive’ societies
- What does ‘modern’ mean?
Complex patterns of social relations
High degree of uncertainty
Technology and change
The Sociological Imagination
• Private (personal) troubles versus public (social) issues
• Sociology focuses on the public/social — not the individual
The Central Concerns
• Understanding — but what kind?
• Explanation — but what kind?
• Social structure
• Action or Agency
The Origins of Sociology
• Origins of sociology closely related to the emergence and rise of urban, industrial, capitalist society in Europe
• But what is urban, industrial, capitalist society?
- urbanization: emergence of large-scale cities with high population densities
- industrialization: result of Industrial Revolution, application of science, division of labour, factories, mass production, factory workers do not own the factories, tools etc. (the ‘means of production’)
- capitalism: emergence and development of banking system, intensification of borrowing and lending, availability of funds for industrialization
- related socio-economic and political changes
• Major structural changes: social, cultural, economic, political
Approaches in Sociology: Some Main Themes
• Dominant classical approaches in sociology may be traced back to social theorists attempting to understand and explain the profound changes that were occurring in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century.
• Here, we focus on Marx, Durkheim, and Weber, (See Calhoun for other theorists)
Reason: Main themes that they identified are still relevant today. (Just look at some of the topics that will be dealt with in this course.) Other theorists are also important but may be located within the main themes identified by Marx, Durkheim and Weber
• Marx: Capitalism, Class and Social Conflict
- Capitalist system divided into classes
- Capitalists (owners of capital)
- Proletariat (workers)
- Workers alienated from the work process and products of their labour
- Capitalists want to maximize profits
- Workers are unhappy and want to overthrow the system, but only if they have class consciousness
- Marx important for highlighting class (social stratification), power relations, ideology, social action (collective struggle)
• Durkheim: Social Solidarity (What integrates Society?)
- Explanation essentially based on functional integration
- Mechanical solidarity, i.e. shared beliefs, values and customs (religion) – in the case of premodern societies
- Organic solidarity, i.e. interdependency based on division of labour (in other words primarily economic but social relations are involved) in the case of modern industrial, capitalist societies
- Role of culture
- Durkheim important for highlighting the importance and mechanisms of social solidarity/integration
• Weber: the Rationalization of Society
- Emphasized the importance of understanding the subjective motivations of peoples’ actions, decisions, behaviour
- We can do this because we are ourselves human and social beings, hence: verstehen (empathetic understanding) as a method
- Industrial-capitalist development leads to increasing rationalization of society:
Increasing emphasis on efficiency
Increasing bureaucratization of society
Increasing emphasis on rational calculation
Increasing emphasis on the importance of science to acquire knowledge and apply it to society
- But Weber also drew attention to other factors that could affect the above trend: e.g., ‘race,’ religion, status groups versus socio-economic class
- Weber important for highlighting rationalization, secularization in modern society
• This is a broad introduction to some of the central issues in sociology — some (not all) of these issues will be covered in this module
• This is not intended to make you sociologists or theorists in sociology
• However, what you will discover is this: as you go along in this module, you will think and analyse social relations more sociologically