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Contemporary Society 1

Essay Questions

1.  Compare and contrast religion with science from a sociological viewpoint. Is science just another form of religion, with people like physicist Stephen Hawking among its high priests or mullahs? Are science and religions simply both similar social constructions? In your response to this question, specifically consider both how irrational social factors influence everything, and the relationship between faith and proof.

2. What are the issues and challenges of studying society? Compare and contrast the qualitative and quantitative research methods used in sociology. One aspect to consider more closely in your analysis is the concept of the sociological imagination.

3. Despite criticism, Lukes’ third dimension of power is useful because it aids in our understanding of power in contemporary society. Compare and contrast Lukes’ third dimension of power from a religious context with those from a class context. In other words, is this an understanding of power that can be used for the control of subjects within an ideological structure? Answer this question using specific religious and class-based examples from contemporary society.

4. How does the myth of Australia being a classless society continue to circulate? Compare and contrast Karl Marx’s theory with that of Erik Olin Wright’s theory, exploring how this myth may allow a wealthy and privileged minority of Australians to reinforce ongoing inequality while making their exercise of power all but invisible? Some aspects to consider more closely in your analysis should include means of production, middle class, and alienation. 

5. In the first chapter of the book On Television, which was first published in France in 1996, the author Pierre Bourdieu said: “The function of sociology, as of every science, is to reveal that which is hidden. In so doing, it can help minimize the symbolic violence within social relations and, in particular, within the relations of communication”.

Compare and contrast this statement with James Arvanitakis’s understanding of sociology explained in Chapters 1 & 2 of the textbook Sociologic.

6. Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education. Nigeria’s militant Islamist group Boko Haram opposes female education.   

Compare and contrast the religious and political aspects of Boko Haram with those of Malala Yousafzai in relation to the quotation on page 141 of Sociologic: “But what is power? According to [Robert] Dahl, the simplest way to understand the concept is to think of power as enabling the possibility of imposing one’s will upon the behaviour of another (or others)”.

7. Paintball has frequently been considered an ‘alternative’ sport, but ‘alternative’ to what? Compare and contrast paintball with the sport of polo, exploring what this comparison tells us about ideas of class and class relations in Australia.

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