Simmel, Marx, and Mead
After reading the specified passage #8, pages 101-108, I sat back and thought about who and what we have studied this semester. The information in the passage connected with three of the five major sociological minds that we have studied: Simmel, Marx, and Mead. The beginning of the passage talks about immigrants starting a new life in a new place, and what we a Americans think about it, which reminds me of Georg Simmel. A lot of the passage talks about how class and jobs relate to one another, which made me think of Karl Marx.
One part of the passage discusses what Barbie is for little girls, which reminds of George Herbert Mead. I think that it is clear that these three sociological minds influenced parts of this section of Barbie Culture. Rogers gives the Statue of Liberty as an example of an icon. She talks about what it represents for Americans. To us it represents “political freedom and mass democracy (independence), this same icon has become a harbinger of a society supposedly open to “teeming masses” of needy, if not desperate, immigrants (dependence).
Rogers goes on to say that Americans “see foreign-born newcomers as threats to their society. Fearful of the alien lifeways and multiple tongues of these international migrants, such Americans commonly invoke sentiments seemingly incompatible with this cherished icon” (Rogers: 101-102). Pampel talks a lot about how Simmel felt about the way he and other Jewish people were treated when they moved to Germany and into its big cities, and how most Germans tried to keep them from gaining any power or status.
One example that Pampel gives is “universities placed limits on the number of Jewish professors they would promote: although about 12 percent of lecturers came from Jewish backgrounds, only about three percent reached he position of tenured professor” (Pampel: 131). Simmel was held back at almost everywhere he taught. Nearly everyone that heard his lectures like him and what he thought about things and how he broke things up and made sense out of them. He should have been tenured way before he finally was, but because of racist views of him he was not, no matter how brilliant he was.
Pampel writes a lot about Marx and what he thought about the inhumane working conditions. Pampel tells us how Marx’s view on why things were the way they were. “Mattel’s hierarchy grows wider as one descends the ladder” (Rogers: 102). Marx knew that there were a lot more proletariat (workers) than there were bourgeoisie (owners of the capital). Everyone wanted as much money as they could get. Nobody really cared how the workers that were actually making the products lived or even felt. Marx felt that the key concept to all of that is social class.
Society is both enabling and constraining. It enables few people to make a lot of money and the major decisions that affect everyone and constrains most people to just do as they are told. The workers had to work with low pay and in bad working conditions just to make enough money to survive. They really had no choice. Marx’s perspective is called conflict theory, and classes are always going to be in conflict with one another. Last but not least, Rogers talks about how or why Barbie came to be.
Ruth and Elliot Handler were on vacation in Switzerland with their son, Ken, and their daughter, Barbara. They were out shopping when they came across the Lilli doll, which was a German doll that came from a cartoon strip and that was mostly marketed to men as a sex symbol. “Barbara Handler was fascinated with the doll, and Ruth Handler claims to have seen it as a perspective plaything for girls past the baby-doll stage” (Rogers: 103). Ruth must have thought that girls still needed a doll to play with so that they still had a sort of learning tool, even though they had out grown baby-dolls.
Mead thought that toys/dolls could be used for role-playing, which really helped in the process of becoming one’s social self. Children could adopt the roles and attitudes of the doll. They act out and assume the roles of others in their imaginations. This role-playing helps “children develop a better sense of the meanings and attitudes held by other people” (Pampel: 194). Once children learn these things they can start forming their own opinions about things and really become and individual. Simmel taught us that the world is not fair.
Even though he was a brilliant man and had a lot to offer the world, he was not able to because of racism and stupid people. Marx thought that society could be a great thing, but at the same time it could hold people back and make a lot of people miserable. Mead said that dolls play an important part in becoming a functioning member of society by helping children learn to develop their own attitudes and opinions as well as respect the attitudes and opinions of others. These three men contributed a lot to form the great sociological world that we have today.