Chapter 1 The Sociological Imagination Study Questions

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Applied Research
Find a newspaper or magazine article in which the reporter highlights a seemingly personal problem. Briefly describe the problem. Does the article suggest a cause of the problem? Does the article connect the individual trouble to a larger issue or to flaws or breakdowns in institutional arrangements? If yes, explain. If no, can the problem be explained in terms of a larger issue? How so?

Background Notes: The World

Population: (2007) 6.6 billion

Infant mortality rate: 43.52 deaths/1,000 live births

Religions: Christians 33.03% (of which Roman Catholics 17.33%, Protestants 5.8%, Orthodox 3.42%, Anglicans 1.23%), Muslims 20.12%, Hindus 13.34%, Buddhists 5.89%, Sikhs 0.39%, Jews 0.23%, other religions 12.61%, non-religious 12.03%, atheists 2.36% (2004 est.)

First Languages: Mandarin Chinese 13.69%, Spanish 5.05%, English 4.84%, Hindi 2.82%, Portuguese 2.77%, Bengali 2.68%, Russian 2.27%, Japanese 1.99%, Standard German 1.49%, Wu Chinese 1.21% (2004 est.)
Globally, the 20th century was marked by: (a) two devastating world wars; (b) the Great Depression of the 1930s; (c) the end of vast colonial empires; (d) rapid advances in science and technology, from the first airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina (US), to the landing on the moon; (e) the Cold War between the Western alliance and the Warsaw Pact nations; (f) a sharp rise in living standards in North America, Europe, and Japan; (g) increased concerns about the environment, including loss of forests, shortages of energy and water, the decline in biological diversity, and air pollution; (h) the onset of the AIDS epidemic; and (i) the ultimate emergence of the US as the only world superpower. The planet's population continues to explode (from 1 billion in 1820 to 2 billion in 1930 to 3 billion in 1960 to 4 billion in 1974 to 5 billion in 1988 to 6 billion in 2000). For the 21st century, the continued exponential growth in science and technology raises both hopes (e.g., advances in medicine) and fears (e.g., development of even more lethal weapons of war).

Stretching over 250,000 kilometers, the world's 319 international land boundaries separate 193 independent states and 70 dependencies, areas of special sovereignty, and other miscellaneous entities. Ethnicity, culture, race, religion, and language have divided states into separate political entities as much as history, physical terrain, political fiat, or conquest have, resulting in sometimes arbitrary and imposed boundaries. Most maritime states have claimed limits that include territorial seas and exclusive economic zones; overlapping limits due to adjacent or opposite coasts create the potential for 430 bilateral maritime boundaries of which 209 have agreements that include contiguous and non-contiguous segments. Boundary, borderland/resource, and territorial disputes vary in intensity from managed or dormant to violent or militarized; undemarcated, indefinite, porous, and unmanaged boundaries tend to encourage illegal cross-border activities, uncontrolled migration, and confrontation. Territorial disputes may evolve from historical and/or cultural claims, or they may be brought on by resource competition. Ethnic and cultural clashes continue to be responsible for much of the territorial fragmentation and internal displacement of an estimated 6.6 million people and cross-border displacement of 8.6 million refugees around the world as of early 2006; just over one million refugees were repatriated in the same period. Other sources of contention include access to water and mineral (especially hydrocarbon) resources, fisheries, and arable land. Armed conflict prevails not so much between the uniformed armed forces of independent states as between stateless armed entities that detract from the sustenance and welfare of local populations, leaving the community of nations to cope with resultant refugees, hunger, disease, impoverishment, and environmental degradation

Global output rose by 5% in 2006 and was led by China (10.5%), India (8.5%), and Russia (6.6%). The 14 other successor nations of the USSR and the other old Warsaw Pact nations again experienced widely divergent growth rates; the three Baltic nations continued as strong performers, in the seven to ten percent range of growth. Growth results posted by the major industrial countries varied from no gain for Italy to a strong gain by the United States (3.4%). The developing nations also varied in their growth results, with many countries facing population increases that eroded gains in output. Externally, the nation-state, as a bedrock economic-political institution, is steadily losing control over international flows of people, goods, funds, and technology. Internally, the central government often finds its control over resources slipping as separatist regional movements—typically based on ethnicity—gain momentum (e.g., in many of the successor states of the former Soviet Union, in former Yugoslavia, in India, in Iraq, in Indonesia, and in Canada). Externally, the central government is losing decision making powers to international bodies, notably the EU. In Western Europe, governments face the difficult political problem of channeling resources away from welfare programs in order to increase investment and strengthen incentives for individuals to seek employment. The addition of 80 million people each year to an already overcrowded globe is exacerbating the problems of pollution, desertification, underemployment, epidemics, and famine. Because of their own internal problems and priorities, the industrialized countries devote insufficient resources to deal effectively with the poorer areas of the world, which are becoming further marginalized, at least from an economic point of view. The introduction of the euro as the common currency of much of Western Europe in January 1999, while paving the way for an integrated economic powerhouse, posed economic risks because of varying levels of income and cultural and political differences among the participating nations. The terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 2001, accentuated a further growing risk to global prosperity, as is illustrated by the example of the reallocation of resources away from investment programs and toward anti-terrorist programs. In March 2003, the opening of war between a US-led coalition and Iraq added new uncertainties to global economic prospects. After the coalition victory, the complex political difficulties and the high economic costs of establishing domestic order in Iraq became major global problems that continued through 2006.
Source: Excerpted from U.S. Central Intelligence, 2007 World Factbook

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