This past week we focused on choice and constraint. As stated during
lecture, thinking in terms of “choices” and “constraints” is one of the
most fundamental ways we can see how social forces shape
individual behaviors. By thinking about behavior in terms of choices and
constraints, we can begin developing solid sociological explanations for
almost any human behavior that catches our eye.
I want you to read “Men and Jobs,” which is a chapter from a 1960s
social study about unemployed men in Washington, DC. (Yes, I am
assigning you reading that is more than 50 years old. It’s not a painful
read. I promise. It is located on our course website).
The chapter “Men and Jobs” begins compellingly. A truck drives up and
down the streets of a Washington, DC neighborhood. The driver of the
truck calls out the window toward a group of men, trying to recruit any
one of them for “day labor,” where the men would exchange several hours
of work for some cash. But many of these men, who are routinely
unemployed, turn down the truck driver’s job offer. This is puzzling.
Why would an unemployed man turn down any job/opportunity to make money?
How can we explain this seemingly irrational behavior?
After reading “Men and Jobs” in its entirety, I want you to return to
the chapter’s opening scene — where the unemployed men refuse the
truck driver’s job offer — and then examine that behavior (to turn
down the job offer) in terms of choices and constraints. In doing so,
please address the following questions: Why do the unemployed men
featured in this chapter choose not to hop on the truck and go to work?
What are the things operating in their lives that constrain them from
accepting the job offer? All things considered, does turning down the
job seem like an irrational choice for the unemployed man to make? Why
or why not?
This essay must be between 500-600 words.
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