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Social Formations

Take-home exam #2



Please answer each of the following three questions. Each essay question should be 2-3 double spaced pages. Completed exams must be posted as one single document to TurnItIn. Each answer is worth 10 points.



1) Answer 1a OR 1b:

1a. Livingstone proposes rethinking binary understandings of “publics” and “audiences” in understanding the significance of the in media in democracies.  Define three pairs of these binaries (see the article and/or the lecture slide, e.g. collective/individual, rational/emotional, etc). She proposes civic culture as a concept that breaks down these binaries. What is civic culture? How does civic culture loosen the three pairs of binaries you have chosen? Choose a media example not shown in lecture or section to illustrate civic culture and how it breaks down one public/audience binary.


1b. Drawing from Ouellette/Hay and lecture, define governmentality and how it applies to neoliberalism. Include in your definition the role of the state and markets under neoliberal ideologies, the proposed solutions to social problems under neoliberalism, and the types of responsibilities and obligations of citizens under neoliberalism. Choose a media example (not discussed in the readings, lecture or section) to examine the ways in which it promotes and/or challenges neoliberalism.


2) Answer 2a OR 2b:

2a. How did the Jackson Mississippi television station WLBT fail to represent the political perspectives of African Americans (see Classen). How did “legal liberalism” inform the FCC’s decisions not to take action against the station until 1969? How would critical race theory critique the FCC’s reasoning?


2b. According to Boyle, how has copyright law constricted creativity in music? How have these laws impacted African American musicians? Analyze the creative value of sampling in an example of your choice OR from one of the following (The Black Lantern Video, Franklin Lopez Video, Mixtape, Inc. Documentary (available on ereserve.)) Boyle offers specific changes to copyright. Which change do you think is most significant and why?


3) Andrew Ross argues for the importance of uniting labor and consumer activism to more effectively exploit the power of global consumer brands to address issues of labor exploitation and environmental destruction. Identify the priorities of anti-consumer activists and what they could learn from anti-sweatshop activists, according to Ross. Identify the priorities of anti-sweatshop activists and what they could learn from consumer activists, according to Ross. Use the documentary No Logo, Brands, Globalization, Resistance and one other example not shown or discussed in lecture or section to illustrate your points.



Subject Sociology Pages 8 Style APA


Social Formations

Question 1A

According to Ouellette/Hay, governmentality refers to the way individuals and societies govern their lives, their daily decisions and the overall direction of their lives. Governmentality may also refer to the way in which governments exert power over their subjects by encouraging freedom along with responsible behavior. Governmentality is what enables governments to oversee large communities without intervening in the daily activities of the communities, but by watching from a distance as their subjects go about their daily activities. Governmentality based on liberalism is the exercise of power by the government within social structures that allow the government to govern from a distance. It is based on the belief that the government is a neutral entity that acts as a guardian of ‘fair play’ within societies by acting to protect and further the best interests of society (Oullette and Hay 34). The government exercises control by interacting with civil society through social institutions and other forms of association that create strong networks, which enable the government to govern societies from a distance.

On a deeper level, governmentality refers to the way other entities such as the media influence the actions of their audiences, while society influences the lives of its members. Programs on televisions are able to influence their viewers to act in different ways such as programs on individual financial management that encourage viewers to save and invest for their futures wisely. Such a program influences the actions of its viewers in a positive manner as the viewers are related of the dangers of investing in certain types of companies and the overall dangers of investing in the stock market. The Reality TV programs examined by the two authors focus on the concept of personal governance as demonstrated in programs such as “Todd TV” that focus on the makeover of the lives of socially dependent individuals into socially adept, functional and enterprising individuals.

Neoliberalism is a concept that urges the reinvention of the government to transform the way government serves society by reducing government bureaucracy and increasing the efficiency of government services through the privatization of specific government services. Neoliberalism focuses on the welfare services offered by government as neoliberals urge members of society to be more independent instead of relying on government welfare services that are ineffective. Neoliberalsim is an advanced form of liberalism that advocates for the empowerment of individuals in order to become more self-reliant by transforming areas of their lives, which would enable them to increase their levels of independence (Oullette and Hay 31). The transformation of governments that is advocated for by neoliberals’ support the implementation of a smaller government by reducing government involvement in many social services, which might create malaise similar to what is happening countries such as Russia. Neoliberals are against the expansion of federal government services because they prefer the privatization of most social services offered by the government in order to increase the effectiveness and impact of such government programs.

Responsibilities of citizens under neoliberalism

The main responsibility of citizens under neoliberalism is to become enterprising individuals who do not rely on government welfare and are determined to improve the state of their lives independently. The role of citizens who are in a better financial and social position is to assist the less-fortunate by sponsoring the makeover transformations for the struggling enterprising citizens. Programs such as the Home Makeover emphasize the distinct role of the individual as a do-gooder and an enterprising person (Oullette and Hay 33). Neoliberalism also encourages citizens to be suspicious of government actions and to trust their own judgment regarding information communicated by the government and media entities. Citizens are also encouraged to be vigilant against the rampant deception within society and to protect themselves against the interests of private entities keen on profiting from the suffering of other citizens.

Social media as a tool that promotes neoliberalism

The emergence of social media as a tool use by most citizens to stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues has created a new avenue that can be used by governments and other parties to advance neoliberalism in many forms. Through social media individual cans share ideas and moments with each other as well as to communicate at cheap rates over long distances. However, the emergence of evidence suggesting that governments are spying on private conversations between individual and infringing on people’s privacy have revealed the negative aspects of social media. Despite the government’s spying and the collection of data by private entities for the purposes of tracking consumer behaviors, social media remains a powerful tool to affect changes within societies. Examples of the impact of social media in transforming societies include the recent uprising in countries such as Egypt and Libya that were organized through social media platforms (Roberts 23). Such countries were suffering from significant government-imposed restrictions on the usage of social media and other social freedom, but the citizens were able to rise against the government and affect a change in leadership through social media.

The citizens in each of the affected countries used social media to fight for a more liberal and democratic form of governments in countries that were being ruled by dictators. The uprisings were effective in removing the dictators from power although it is not yet clear whether the country’s got better leaders. Social media has been used in many countries to mobilize public support during periods of crisis or disasters such as the terror attacks in Kenya or the hurricanes in many parts of the world. It is clear that social media has been underestimated as powerful tool for advancing neoliberalist ideas and agendas in the current society.

Question 2B

According to Boyle, current copyright laws have hindered creativity in music as evidenced by the narrative of the origin of ‘I got a woman,’ which would not have been possible under current copyrights laws. Boyle points out that some of the seminal works in many music genres were created out of what would be regarded as copyright infringement under current copyright laws. He asserts that if current copyright laws were to be followed to the letter without consideration of the different forms of borrowing in music, the creativity in the music industry would be greatly limited.

Impact of copyright laws on African American musicians

Since the creation of the first copyright laws in the 19th century where African Americans did not enjoy equal rights with their white counterparts, African American musicians have been discriminated against through the use of copyright laws. The first form of discrimination against African American musicians through the use of copyright laws was that in the beginning music had to be copyrighted immediately after being created or it fell into the public domain. Given that acquiring copyrights for music was quite expensive, most black artists could not afford to acquire the copyrights on their own and the music studios and managers took advantage of this to steal their music (Boyle 128). At the time, the music industry was largely skewed to favor white musicians and copyright protection was one of the few tools that a musician could use to protect their creativity, while earning money when other musicians copied their music. Given the discrimination perpetuated against black musicians at the time, the likelihood of winning a case of copyright infringement in the early days of copyright law were quite minimal. The huge injustice meted against black musicians would have discouraged most of them from pursuing careers in music and the few who pursued the music did not get wealthy from their music because of the copyrights they lost.

An analysis of the creative value of sampling in Franklin Lopez’s video

Franklin uses the soundtrack of the Legendary K.O.’s song to create a satirical movie that criticizes the government’s slow response to the disaster created by Hurricane Katrina and the suffering of the African Americans who lived in the area. The video tries to communicate the message of public outrage at how the government and the media were oblivious to the real suffering of the affected population. Franklin Lopez’s video utilizes clips from different sources, mostly broadcasts, ranging for the 1920s the present to demonstrate the suffering of black Americans and the government’s disregard for such suffering. The creativity portrayed within the video is evidenced by the effort that Lopez took to collect clips from decades in the past and synced the clips in a meaningful manner to create a video that his audience could relate to and understand (Boyle 131). The clips used by Lopez in his video created a beautiful composition that could not have been possible using any other method. Although the sampling might have infringed on the copyrights of videos owned by other media, the sampling resulted in a video that conveyed a message about a tragic event that had adversely affected a significant portion of the population. The effectiveness of the message conveyed by the Lopez video is the true value of the creativity employed by Lopez in sampling the videos.

Significant changes to copyright law suggested by Boyle

Some of the significant changes proposed to copyright law by Boyle were that copyrights laws should not cover a music genre or the form of music, which would allow musicians to copy the genre and apply their creativity to create new forms of music. Allowing musicians to copy the basic notes that make up a genre contributes to the advancement of the music genre, promotes creativity and expands the genre. Boyle also suggests that copyright laws should be expanded to cover mashups, mixtapes and remixes at different levels. The sampling applied in such types of music should be allowed a significant degree of fair use policy if the artists distribute such music through mediums that are non-profit (Boyle 158). However, if artists start selling such music through commercial channels, they should be required to pay a flat licensing fee for the sampled music. Samples that are less than five seconds should be accorded the fair use policy. The implementation of these measures would allow the creation of seminal music that would create new genres and advance existing genres in different ways. These changes would create the right circumstances that allowed the creation of some of the seminal songs that launched genres such as jazz and soul.

Question 3

Priorities of anti-consumer activists and lessons from anti-sweatshops activists

The priorities of anti-consumer activists are centered around the dehumanizing of consumers into buying machines by global corporations that only care about profit with little regard to the consequences of their activities on the society. Anti-consumer activists try to educate consumers on what the multinational corporations are doing in getting people to buy things that they do not need in order to make profits. Anti-consumers have the main objective of educating consumers so that consumers can demand greater responsibility from the large corporations that have established a significant customer base globally. Consumers are urged to resist the temptation to buy products that they do not need based on the significant advertising conducted by global corporations and to buy products that are produced by responsible companies. Anti-consumers can learn a few lessons from anti-sweatshop activists who have addressed the issue of company responsibility by directly exposing the production methods used by multinational brands. The revelations of how such companies manufacture their products and treat the workers in their factories have led to increased consumer demands for better wages and working conditions for the sweatshop workers. Anti-consumer activists should find ways of exposing the damaging effects of consumerism within society by recording real-life situations where consumerism has directly impacted society or consumers in a negative manner.

Priorities of anti-sweatshop activists and lessons from consumer activists

The priorities of anti-sweatshop activists is to fight for better working conditions for workers in factories located in third-world countries by forcing multinational corporations to improve the working conditions of such workers and provide better wages. Anti-sweatshop activists bring the plight of the affected workers into the public, which tarnishes the image cultivated by multinational corporations and shocks consumers to see the wrong actions of such corporations. Once consumers are aware of what’s happening in factories they are likely to boycott the purchase of products manufactured by the corporations as a show of solidarity with the suffering workers. This show of solidarity and the real life testimonies of the sweatshop worker as illustrated in the documentary serve to raise public outcry at the inhuman treatment of sweatshop workers and increases the public pressure on such companies to transform their operations. However, the anti-sweatshop activities could learn a lesson from the consumer activists who direct their activism towards the consumers and educate the consumers not to succumb to the tricks employed by multinational corporations to convince them to buy. The anti-sweatshop activist should marshal the support of consumers in their push to force the companies to offer better environment and wages for sweatshop workers. Consumers are the real force behind any changes made by multinational corporations.

The use of social media as a tool for anti-consumer and anti-sweatshop activism

Social media has emerged as a tool for social activism where consumer groups mobilize international support against the activities of major corporations in efforts to create awareness of the irresponsible nature of the activities of most corporations. These pages have created global social movements against multinational corporations whose activities are promoting consumerism and sweatshop labor in third world countries. A study conducted on such pages within facebook, the social networking site, has indicated the effectiveness of campaigns launched by activists in influencing the opinions of consumers across the globe on the activities of such corporations (Biekart and Alan 535). The activists use such pages to allow consumers from across the world to voice their opinions and frustrations at the activities of the global corporations while sharing information with other consumers. The sharing of information and opinions has created localized social movements of activists and consumer groups in different parts of the world who are demanding that the corporations embrace corporate social responsibility, while reforming their manufacturing operations. The corporations have been forced to address the issues raised by such groups as they have a significant negative impact on the global and local image of the corporation. Most of the social media pages are created by consumer activists, which mean that anti-sweatshop activities should learn from the anti-consumers and create similar pages.



Biekart, Kees, and Alan Fowler. “Transforming Activisms 2010+: Exploring Ways And Waves.” Development & Change 44.3 (2013): 527-546.

Boyle, James. The public domain: enclosing the commons of the mind. London: Yale University Press, 2008.

Oullette, Laurie and Hay James. Better Living Through Reality TV. New Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2008.

 Roberts, John Michael. New Media And Public Activism : Neoliberalism, The State And Radical Protest In The Public Sphere. Bristol: The Policy Press, 2014. Discovery eBooks. Web. 16 May 2015.







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