Society shapes most aspects of my life due to the social interactions with various systems, including my family, the church, school, and even the government (at the local and national levels). The interactions have shaped and influenced the person I have become today. Growing up, I have to make critical connections with others and my social environment. I realized that society is, to a great extent, responsible for the person that I have grown to become. I have to read and understand social cues and apply them to my life since it is impossible to live in isolation when I am human and a social being. I have noted a vital connection between my daily life and broad sociocultural structures. Consequently, what I have grown to become is a product of what society has instilled into my life. The purpose of the current assignment is to provide a chance to explore and apply sociological imagination to my daily life. Although I can use various other concepts from Terminal Course Objectives (TCOs) to analyze my life, the most important are workplace alienation, panopticism, and conspicuous consumption.
Concept One: Modernity – Workplace Alienation
Alienation is common in various workplaces and occurs consciously and unconsciously, which means that while some employers and other members of the organization are aware of it, others might not know it is present. Shantz, Alfes, and Truss (2014) define workplace alienation as happening when an employee can only express individuality only during the production of work. The employee is a piece of the whole organizational system, but they could begin to lose their voice due to workplace alienation. I have discovered that many people at work have great ideas, but they cannot express them due to workplace alienation. For example, a colleague might share about an innovative idea that could change the organization, but fail to inform the management. The alienation has occurred to me. As an employee in an organization, I am not in control of the factors of production since I am not the company’s owner. Therefore, it is impossible to determine or control the conditions of my work. The company expects us to follow the rules and procedures always, which makes it impossible to change the recipes for goods produced. After studying the course, I have realized that the situation is an example of Marx’s theory “Alienation from the process of one’s labour” (Healy & Wilkowska, 2017). It is a reality that workers lack control over and common in the workplace.
How I wish that I could change some aspects of the workplace to make it better for myself and other employees. We desire as an organization that we could make critical decisions, such as about production, but someone else is responsible for the same. Like Marx’s theory implies, the bourgeoisie makes the rules for the labourers to follow (Healy & Wilkowska, 2017). They also have the power and authority to control processes and procedures in the workplace. My organization has many rules that affect all employees and can cause one to be fired immediately for violating them. As a production company, the management focuses on mothering but perfection, thus employees are not allowed to speak out of change the way things are done. Although people wish to resign and look for opportunities elsewhere, they remain since the company pays us well, and the finances are the motivating factor for us to live in an alienated workplace. Besides, we realize that it is the nature of most workplaces across the country, and one might leave the organization, only to find things are worse elsewhere. As Marx concludes, it is the nature of the society for those who control the factors of production to make critical decisions.
Concept Two: Power – Panopticism
“Big Brother is watching” is at the core of panopticism in modern society. It is the extensive external surveillance as well as the panopticism encouraged by the network economy (Manokha, 2018). When I go anywhere in this country, I feel like a strong eye follows all my steps and watches all my actions. For example, during the current COVID-19 pandemic, we all crave normality, but I have realized that it is impossible. While many people are required to work from home, some cannot do so due to the nature of their work, such as those providing essential services. As a result, CCTV monitoring is emphasized by employers to ensure that employees follow safety procedures while at work, for those who are unable to work from home. The situation combines hierarchical observation with normalizing judgment from Foucault’s “Discipline and Punish” through authorized surveillance (Brunon-Ernst, 2016). Everywhere I go, a strong eye follows me, and it is something I have to learn to embrace since the surveillance society will never change. It might become worse due to changes taking place in modern society.
Although I have always known the reality of surveillance in society, I was not as conscious as I have become since I studied this course. I feel like I have to be cautious in everything I do since someone is watching me. I work in an organization that is under 24-hour surveillance. The CCTV cameras at the workplace are always on and showing all actions on the monitor at the security station. While I understand that it is necessary to have such tools to protect the premise and ensure the security of the company and employees, I also feel like the surveillance is too much. It controls the way we act and interact with other colleagues since all actions are recorded and transmitted to the monitor. For example, while someone could have a loved one in the company, he or she has to remain discrete about it since Big Brother” is watching. Therefore, since we cannot have control over reality, we have learned to live with it. I have discovered that I might have to remain cautious about the way I conduct myself in the public since someone is always watching.
Concept Three: Religion – Conspicuous Consumption
We live in an age of increasing conspicuous consumption, and it is hard to control it since it is part of whom we are as social beings. The process involves the tendency to spend money on luxuries as a display of economic power or prestige (Velov, Gojković, & Đurić, (2014). From the time when I was young, I saw the way, and on the things, my parents spent their money, mostly as part of advancing their status in the society. I have unconsciously practiced this aspect of society without really knowing what I was doing until I studied the course. Since my childhood, I was taught dressing well is good manners. We would always go shopping and my parents would select classy clothes for us since it was good to be smart. Since then, I know clothes are powerful and good presentation speaks a lot about myself as a person. As a result, social identity is promoted through presentable clothing. I had always tried to dress well so as to maintain the status and the level of prestige that my parents instilled in me when I was growing up. As a result, I spend a considerable amount of money every payday to shop for clothes.
Although I know some other aspects of my presentation, such as the way I walk and talk could have a similar impact on my identity as a person, my socialization has made me to focus more on dressing than on any other element of my personality as Vohra (2016) affirms. I appear to have taken in the message that my parents, especially my mother, delivered since I was a young child that I should always focus on the way I am dressed to send the right message to others. For example, I spend time online viewing and reviewing clothes to find those that could make a statement when I wear them. It is an unconscious reality that emanates from the way I was socialized as I grew up. After studying the course, I have realized that a great deal of my identity relates to the way I dress, and it affects a great deal of my life, including my self-confidence. Dressing sends a powerful message in society relating to conspicuous consumption. I know it makes a statement about me since it is what others see immediately you meet. They look at the way one is dressed and even pronounce words, such as “you are smartly dressed” or “you look good.” The statements motivates me to continue dressing well and look even better.
The society is responsible for the person I have grown to become. My family and society have influenced me in considerable ways as I grew up and saw what others were doing. As a social being, I have been learning and even imitating what others are doing in my immediate and extended social connections. After taking the course, I have realized that many of the concepts in it are applicable to my life. In my workplace, social alienation is common and relates to the way the managers relate with other employees. They are always making rules and regulations and want us to follow without questioning and even try to convince us that they are beneficial to us. Panopticism is common at the workplace and the general public places, through the CCTV. I have developed conscious feelings when walking around due to the feeling of the strong eye that follows me wherever I go. Nonetheless, since we cannot change anything, we should learn to live with it. Finally, I have mastered the art of conspicuous consumption, which has been part of me as I grew up in a family that considered dressing as a way to make a statement in public. The dressing has become part of my identity. After taking the course, I have realized that I cannot do much to change the nature of society and its influence on me.
Brunon-Ernst, A. (2016). Deconstructing panopticism into the plural panopticons. In Beyond Foucault (pp. 33-58). Routledge.
Healy, M., & Wilkowska, I. (2017). Marx, alienation and the denial of dignity of work. In Dignity and the organization (pp. 99-124). Palgrave Macmillan, London.
Manokha, I. (2018). Surveillance, panopticism, and self-discipline in the digital age. Surveillance & Society, 16(2), 219-237. DOI:10.24908/ss.v16i2.8346 .
Shantz, A., Alfes, K., & Truss, C. (2014). Alienation from work: Marxist ideologies and twenty-first-century practice. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 25(18), 2529-2550. DOI:10.1080/09585192.2012.667431
Velov, B., Gojković, V., & Đurić, V. (2014). Materialism, narcissism and the attitude towards conspicuous consumption. Psihologija, 47(1), 113-129. DOI:10.1080/00223980.2016.1252707
Vohra, A. V. (2016). Materialism, impulse buying and conspicuous consumption: A qualitative research. Global Business Review, 17(1), 51-67. DOI:10.1177/0972150915610682