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Sociology

What are we doing to promote family and prevent its extinction in development?

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

Family from Anmu village, Zanskar, IndiaMost sociologists consider the family unit to be a fundamental building block of society. However, it is largely absent as a topic in international development goals. Should this be the case?

"The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish." - Pope John Paul II
 
A recent report led by Stanford, Princeton, and Berkeley universities said vertebrates are disappearing at a rate 114 times faster than normal. These findings echo those of a similar report published by Duke University last year. One of the new study’s authors said: “We are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event.” The last such event was 65 million years ago, when dinosaurs were wiped out, in all likelihood by a large meteor hitting Earth.
 
In light of this apocalypse-like news, I would like to take a closer look at yet another endangered, but a bit more tangible element of life on planet Earth, namely, the family. As humankind, along with plants and animals approach what is being called the sixth great mass extinction, I wonder if it will be an event that humans go through en masse as loners, (the atomistic man as the only unit in society), or as people knit together by ties to a nuclear and extended family. I often think that the role of the family is too-often neglected and has been taken for granted in our day. The all-consuming drive and ambitious personal priority of the individual in today’s world makes me worry that families may one day go, and, as the family goes, so will go civilization.

The Things We Do: Would You Steal for Me?

Roxanne Bauer's picture

When people talk about saying “no” the discussion usually revolves around why we find it so difficult. We want to help, we don’t want to make the other person feel bad, we are afraid of confrontation, we might feel guilty... the list goes on.  There is usually a chapter on ‘saying no’ in self-help books, and it’s a popular topic for religious leaders and psychologists. They claim that we must be assertive, value ourselves, defend our rights, and seek relationships with healthy foundations.

But there might be a more intrinsic reason why saying no is so difficult: humans are social creatures and are inherently vulnerable to the suggestions of others.

Many of us assume that the favors we ask of others will only be granted if the other person feels comfortable with them, but we fail to realize that simply by asking we are influencing the other’s actions and willingness to oblige.  We don’t consciously think about the degree to which we take cues from other people.

This leads us to underestimate how much power our neighbor who asks us for favors has or the amount of influence we, ourselves, have when we give advice to a relative.  We ask favors and give advice without realizing that the person listening will, more often than not, take what we say on board. We agree to things and we say yes because we are unaware of how easily influenced we are.

So what happens when someone asks a favor that is unethical? Do we realize how easy it is to convince someone, and does this influence our decision to ask for unethical things? Do we recognize our tendency to say yes and do we allow our own sense of morality and ethics triumph?

Strategic Communication vs. Communication

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

As we reported on this blog, CommGAP organized an Executive Course in Communication for Governance earlier this month. The communication part of the course was characterized as "strategic communication" - which made me wonder what, exactly, strategic communication is, how it is relevant for our work, and whether it's different from "communication" per se. A faculty member from the course pointed us to an article by Hallahan et al., titled "Defining Strategic Communication," which states that "strategic communication" is "the purposeful use of communication by an organization to fulfill its mission." The purposeful use of communication makes it "strategic." The authors elaborate that : "Six relevant disciplines are involved in the development, implementation, and assessment of communications by organizations: management, marketing, public relations, technical communication, political communication, and information/social marketing campaigns." Although the authors see strategic communication as "an emerging paradigm," this clarification defines strategic communication as a set of tools, not as a discipline. Marketing, public relations etc. themselves are no disciplines, but approaches drawn from broader fields, such as economics and communication.

The Age of Communication Research

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Communication is something of an ugly duckling in the social sciences – not many people take it seriously and not many people see the immediate relevance of the research. However, the study of public opinion is a good example to outline the immediate relevance of the field – and its future relevance.