Short Sociological Analysis of Black Lives Matter.

Lewis A Coser’s version of Conflict theory provides a suitable and appropriate framework for understanding the development of the Black Lives Matter movement that have gain prominence in recent years. Lewis A Crosser was a German Sociologist that sought to bring balance to what he viewed as the short comings of Conflict theory and of functionalism. He felt that Conflict theory did not speak much to the “integrative” aspects of conflict nor did functionalism highlight the “disintegrative” side of conflict.

            Coser’s version of Conflict theory hinges on certain assumptions: 1) There are super ordinates and subordinates in a system of inequality. 2) Conflict happens when the legitimacy of the super ordinates is withdrawn by the subordinates. 3) Chances of Conflict increases when there are few are no avenues of redress (and no upward mobility for subordinates). And 4) the chance of conflict increases when the sense of the degree of deprivation increases. Coser’s goes on to explain that the violence levels of conflict increase over “nonrealistic” issues involving culture and values and is is likely to be mitigated over issues that allow for common ground and compromise.

            Viewed in this manner, the social phenomenon of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement shares several parallels to Coser’s framing. The First parallel is the fact BLM was instituted to address the problem of police officers disproportionate use of violence against Black people. In this scenario, the police officers are the super ordinates and the Black civilians they interact with of the subordinates. This is by virtue of the authority, deference and respect that is almost unilaterally afforded law enforcement personnel. This satisfies the first point.

            The second point lies in the fact that given the longstanding racist history of law enforcement particularly in the United States and the inherent contradiction in the precept of equal treatment under the law for all citizens regardless of race and the application thereof, the legitimacy of police departments is questioned by those that are oppressed and mistreated by them.

Third, due to advantages such as qualified immunity and a close, biased relation with prosecutors’ offices there is often little to no accountability of police officers when they do violate the rights and lives of Black people. This increases the chance of conflict.

Fourth and finally, because of the prevalence of cell phone cameras in the general population, the heinousness and vile nature of these interaction are capture and shared widely, thus increasing the sense of deprivation contributing to the likelihood of conflict.

Black Lives Matter has, in my opinion, largely been successful in its efforts because compromise can be found between civilians and police (according to the stated ideals of equal treatment) and is evidenced by the increased accountability of the police. The conviction and sentencing of Derek Chauvin is a prime example of this small but important progress.

Juneteenth Quick Macro Level Analysis

​The article I chose for this news item is from the New York Times and is entitled Biden Signs law Making Juneteenth a Federal Holiday by Annie Karin and Luke Broadwater.(https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/17/us/politics/juneteenth-holiday-biden.html?searchResultPosition=6). The article talks about the fact that on Thursday June 17th ,2021, U.S President Joseph R Biden sign into law a bill designating Juneteenth as a federal holiday. Of particular note is that 14 House of Representatives members objected to the law while in the Senate the measure passed with unanimous support. 

​Juneteenth celebrates June 19,1865 when “Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger in Galveston,Texas issued General Order No.3,which announced that in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation, ‘all slaves are free’.”(insert reference). The President recognized Opal Lee, an 89 year for her role in supporting Juneteenth as a federal holiday. The President, while discussing the significance of the new holiday is quoted as saying “ The promise of equality is not going to be fulfilled until we become real, it becomes real in our schools and on our Main Streets and in our neighborhoods.”

​A couple of concepts that I think applies to this article is Pierre Bourdieu’s Constructivist Structuralism and Emile Durkheim’s Theory of Differentiation-Integration. I believe these two frameworks captures the zeitgeist of the moment. 

​In applying Bourdieu’s Constructivist Structuralism, it is important to understand that he essentially believes that “structures constrain action, but this constraint is not absolute”He discusses this from the context of social phenomenon. The United States is comprised of many differentiated groups and institutions that have competing interest and different levels of power and influence that create inequalities within the society. The social glue that keeps these disparate groups together in an integrated fashion is culture. One manifestation of American culture is the celebration of holidays. Given that the most import cultural holidays celebrated in the United States derives from the normative, hegemonic ideals of White Male European influence . Part of changing the lived outcomes of marginalized people, aside from policy and legislation , involves changing societal messaging and narratives. Working within established institutions(institutions that constrains actions, though not absolutely) such as the United States Congress, and the Office of the President has allowed the Juneteenth celebration to become a federal holiday. This acknowledgment goes a small way into changing the narrative of the U.S( a White focus accounting of history) and thus promotes a level of change in the very institutions that systematically perpetuates inequality. 

Success at the previous discussed mechanism leads to an application of Durkheim’s Theory of Differentiation-Integration. Durkheim postulates about social pathologies that would “disappear as the new bases of integration began to evolve.” As suggested before, those pathologies are the structural mediated social injustices and resulting social ills. Establishing a Juneteenth Holiday could have a manifest effect of unifying the cultural commonality of different groups in the U.S. This theoretically could change the fight for social justice into a moral argument shared among the populist that just might move the moral arc of justice towards all Americans regardless of race.

America’s Endgame?

On the whole, I am not given to the belief that societies are on some inevitable and purposeful march towards an end game. I tend to think that the changes we see in societies over time are emergent properties mediated by certain technologies within those societies. One of the most important technologies (of a sort) is the development of written words and languages. The ability to abstract ideas and distribute those ideas across time and geographical space, to store and pass down information and knowledge to succeeding generations is in my opinion the most important catalyst pushing societies to further complexity. Talcott Parson’s Stage Model of Evolution notes that a written language system is absent in Primitive Societies and that the expansion of written languages moves societies from Intermediate Archaic societies to Advanced Intermediate societies. Parson’s theories resonates the most with me.

I believe that ultimately a society’s ability to persist is going to be limited to its population. As populations grow, differentiate, and specializes into different social institutions it becomes increasingly difficult to find a cohesive glue to keep all the disparate groups together(culturally, socially). This is especially true in the presence of competing interests and social inequalities. I believe there is always a danger of any society of getting too big but as our technology grows more advanced, enabling us to better and more cheaply provide for more people’s needs…maybe we won’t have to suffer a societal collapse.