WKONE – SOC – Va and De

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Please answer the bolded questions at the bottom. Before reading through the entire text, please review the questions at the bottom to see if you are able to answer them with or without the “Commentary Section – Information” then bid. It is best if you can use the sourced material below as well as pull from your own resources to answers the questions fully and completely with a great comprehension of the subject matter.


I. Historical context: The historical underpinnings to Social values in the U.S. –Individualism and Communitarianism

Two philosophical paradigms — individualism and communitarianism – distinguish American values and culture.

I. According to sociologists, Bellah et al. in Habits of the Heart, (2007) and social commentator E.J. Dionne in Our Divided Political Heart, (2012) there are two strains in U.S. history and the underlying set of values that are important to us as member of that society, individualism and communitarianism. Both have shaped our values and sense of who we are as Americans.

On the one hand, we are individualistic – intent in meeting our individual needs and pursuing our individual instrumental (material success) and expressive (personal non-material happiness) needs and goals.

On the other hand, we seek community – the sense of belonging to and active in a larger group and fulfilling the needs of the community and its members.

While individualism (particularly instrumental individualism ) is more concrete and easier to identify, communitarianism is more abstract and difficult to identity.

Social Institutions fulfill social needs that drive both individualistic and communitarian tendencies in American Society

Sociologists view social institutions (family, government, economic, education, religion, media) as socially created structures or organizational systems that function to satisfy basic social needs by linking the individual to the larger culture.

This is our history. That balance has been replaced. Some might argue that extreme individualism has become dominant. Another position is that our society is currently dominated by in- group identities (those like “us”) and tribalism.

II. Current Context – Tribalism/ Nationalism and “the end of fact”

The definitions that follow indicate the close relationship between tribalism and nationalism.

Definition of tribalism

tribal consciousness and loyalty; especially : exaltation of the tribe above other groups

strong in-group loyalty


Definition of Nationalism (Merriam Webster)

loyalty and devotion to a nation especially : a sense of national consciousness (see CONSCIOUSNESS sense 1c) exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.

Journalists, not unlike social scientists, are ethically bound to attempt objectivity. This includes distinguishing empirically based fact from propaganda.

Definition of Propaganda

Information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view:

disinformation · counter-information · agitprop · info · hype · plugging · puff piece · the big lie

— the dissemination of propaganda as a political strategy: Example…

“The party’s leaders believed that a long period of education and propaganda would be necessary”

(Powered by Oxford Dictionaries · © Oxford University Press)

In his book Bowling Alone (2000) political scientist Robert Putnam concluded that Americans’ participation in civic groups and organizations of all kinds declined in the last decades of the 20th century. This trend accelerated since then. From 1994 to 2005 membership in civic groups, including voluntary community organizations, fell by 21%. In a 2010 census survey, 11% of respondents said that they had served as an officer or been on a committee of any group or organization in the previous year.

“Putnam was concerned about the effects of this decline on “social capital” which he defined as the norms of reciprocity and networks of civic engagement. ..” (For more on Robert Putnam and social capital see Robert Putnam: Social Capital and Civic Community in the Webliography section of the classroom).

In 2011 about one-quarter of American millennials said that democracy was a ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ way to run the country and that it was unimportant to choose leaders in free and fair elections. It appears that the erosion of the democratic impulse is most pronounced among millennials.

A review of evidence conducted in 2016 indicates that habits form when people vote. Convincing voters to vote in one election raises the odds of their voting in the next one.

“Democratic governance is never the most efficient means of running an organization. Its value lies instead in harmonizing discordant interests and empowering constituents. A nation of passive observers watching others make decisions is a nation that will succumb to anger and resentment- witness the U.S.. The American system of government functions properly only when embedded in a culture deeply committed to democracy; that culture sustains the constitution, not the other way around”

(Excerpts taken from “Losing the Democratic Habit”, by Yoni Applebaum, The Atlantic, October 2018 Pages 44-77)

There is a positive relationship between civic involvement and voting. When compared to other western societies U.S. voter turn-out is low.

The Pew Research Center compiled voter turnout data from the The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IIDEA) for developed countries. It found that the United States clearly lagged behind most of its peers when it came to turnout: It ranked 31st among the 35 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The IIDEA data found that 53.6 percent of the U.S. population voted in 2012. Meanwhile, Belgium had an 87.2 percent turnout rate in 2014, Turkey’s was 84.3 percent in 2015, and Sweden’s was 82.5 percent in 2014.

  1. Why are the values of individualism and communitarianism , although seemingly in opposition, both critical to a liberal democracy?
  2. How important is a democratic form of government and free elections?
  3. Did the 2018 election prove that a majority of millennials (those 18-35) think that democracy and free elections are not important?
  4. In your opinion why did citizens vote in the latest 2018 elections in higher numbers than past mid-term elections?
  5. Why do other western societies view their responsibility to vote as more important than citizens in the U.S.?

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