War and Militarism: A Sociological Perspective

As the sole remaining superpower, the United States has based a foundation off of the necessity to act on any strategy or tactic that will keep it at the top.  War is a conflict between nations often aimed at pursuing a political message; despite its massive costs on individuals, property and society, war remains a common way to execute political objectives. The act of war and militarism is an extremely controversial subject, often subject to bias and strict opinion by differing social groups. While an order theorist would claim that war provides jobs, enhances the economy, and protects our country, a conflict theorist would argue that war does nothing but reinforces inequalities, both domestic and international, and promote the power elite.

            War can have grave effects on both human society and the environment, and the consequences of such militarism could be catastrophic. The United States maintains the worlds top superpower position, unparalleled in human history; this power makes us a momentous threat to smaller and less developed countries. Wartime efforts could ultimately affect the individual by segregating minority classes internally, while blatantly and unnecessarily overpowering the less prepared countries internationally. Conflict theorists posit that war is nothing more than a way of reinforcing inequalities and stereotypes among the class system; they believe that war is an effort made by the rich to control and dominate groups of minorities while maintaining their power both nationally and internationally. In concurrence with this view, a feminist theory would allege the inequalities women face through war and militarism. Women are often looked down upon and reviled by their male peers in the military; male soldiers ordinarily abuse and assault their fellow female soldiers, reinforcing male dominance in war and the military. War and militarism also trigger environmental consequences; small towns, cities, and entire countries are being demolished through the devastating effects of war. The military is the largest institutional source of pollution in the world; war will often destroy eco-systems and terminate entire species in times of war. While the reinforcement of inequalities and endangerment of the natural environment may only be two examples of consequences brought upon by war and militarism, many more devastating effects take place all around the world as the United States, and other powerful nations, continue to fortify their ultimate power.

            The substructure of war spurs from economics and politics. Terrorism by war and international acts of violence are both expedients of attempting to accomplish political objectives. Order theorists contend that the economy increases during periods of war; this theory is supported by the evidence that has shown an increase in the economy prompting advancements in technology, consequently resulting in more government money spent and more lives lost. Summarized by order theorists, sustaining war means an increase in the economy. Politics are also executed in times of war. Politicians benefit from war and militarism because society perceives them as tough on nationalism and serious against our conflict with the “enemy.” This is an example of class inequalities in terms of who benefits from war and who does not; those with more money attain higher positions in the military where they are more likely to see benefits, while those in lower classes of society are placed on the battle front and will seldom see any benefits. Politics are the most crucial catalyst to war. While the economy stimulates the level of progression and success of war, such war would not be eminent in the first place without the effects of international political conflict.

            Not much can be done on the individual level to aid the process of war moderation. However, on the global scale, by forming alliances and treaties among neighboring and friendly countries, peace is not completely unimaginable. In 2002, the G-8, a group of allied countries that coordinate their actions so they are able to preserve their global dominance, was formed. The G-8 is currently our strongest force for peace – if allied countries were able to agree on world markets and trade barriers, it would provide a deterrence from going to war in the first place. Alliances like these show the many societies that span our globe working together to become a functioning society. The functionalist perspective of peace efforts and alliances extends the importance of cooperation and group effort in achieving world peace.

            Trends representing our future exemplify the deterioration of national borders – they are becoming less and less significant. Allied groups such as the North American Free-Trade-Association (NAFTA), and the European Union (EU), among many others have bestowed hope for international relief through allied forces, eliminating the need for war and militarism. Regardless of the obstacles we might face on the path to obtaining worldwide unity, the overall trend shows unity through the elimination of national boarders and increasing cross-national confederate groups. If this effort for peaceful globalization were to become a reality, the modernization view of order theory, in which counties pass through different stages and ultimately become integrated into the top tier global capitalist society, would be irrelevant – while there would still be more powerful and more developed countries, we would not have to focus on the dangers or conflicts regarding the hierarchy of global power.

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Healthcare: A Sociological Perspective

A society is able to work at its best capacity when all of its members and groups are functioning adequately and are beneficial to society.  In order for these groups to function and benefit society, they must be equipped with the resources necessary for overall health and wellness. Healthcare has become one of the most controversial public matters over the last few decades – we constantly argue over whether medical care should be a right or a commodity. Currently, medical care is an obvious commodity, benefitting those who can afford it and neglecting those who cannot. While it may be tough to hope that healthcare will ever be a considered a “universal right”, there are discernable progressions in the field of medical care that don the possibility of expanding aid to those currently underinsured or uninsured. Sociologists examine the effects of healthcare and healthcare reform in terms of the costs and benefits and how different theorists interpret this controversial subject.

When we hypothesize that society is only able to function well when all of its members are provided the means necessary to obtain proper health care, we are theoretically taking a functionalist perspective. A functional order theorist would argue that we need all members of society to be as healthy as possible in order for them to contribute to society through their normal roles. On the contrary, a conflict theorist would argue that, in providing everyone with health care, we are encouraging an inevitable struggle over scarce resources. Ultimately, one side is arguing that universal healthcare is mandatory for a functioning society, while the other rebuttals that it is not a crucial necessity for every person, and that we need to consider how we can best utilize our resources. It is conflicts like these that make healthcare such a controversial subject, and that have subsequently delayed any kind of progress.

Minorities are habitually segregated in healthcare. Feminist theorists focus on the domination of Caucasian men in medical societies and the lack of attention minorities, especially women, receive with America’s current healthcare plan. Since healthcare is currently hard to obtain due to strict regulations and boundaries, many people have considered alternative solutions to standard medical care. One popular alternative is to focus ones attention more so on the prevention of the disease, rather than the treatment itself. Many threats to ones health are preventable—such as suicide, heart attacks, or broken bones—and many physicians and companies are starting wellness programs to prevent such health issues from occurring, and ultimately lower medical costs. Another common alternative to our current system of health care is alternative medicine. With focus on acupuncture, yoga, meditation, herbal remedies, and other possible substitutes, both standard and alternative doctors are able to avoid high medical costs and scathing insurance rates while focusing on cheaper and easier antidotes for their patients. Many conflict theorists, in concurrence with many Western traditional physicians, claim that these alternative solutions do not make sense, that they are based on the ignorance of superstition, that they leave room for bias, and that they encourage physicians focus all of their attention on these alternative and consequently pay too little attention to those who are actually injured or unwell.

The United States’ current healthcare program has been under intense scrutiny for the last decade. Our society has been hounding the government to figure out what exactly they plan to do about the high numbers of uninsured or under-insured people, and the high costs they require for decent health insurance. While this issue has long remained stagnant, on March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which will provide low-cost insurance to the 44 million Americans who are currently uninsured; signing this act is the first step in President Obama’s plan to lower healthcare costs and expand healthcare to make it more readily available. Order theorists, along with many liberals and Democrats, strongly support the idea of providing universal healthcare. Order theorists reason that Obamacare is beneficial to a functioning society because it provides all groups and individuals with the means necessary to maintain good health and wellness, thus promoting their everyday contributions to society. Conflict theorists, however, reason that providing universal healthcare would be a waste of a precious resource, and that benefits that universal healthcare would produce are not worth the costs of abusing our dwindling resources.

If we were to ask ourselves the question, ‘what should the U.S. do about these healthcare issues?’ we are ultimately triggering our inevitable political bias. There is no infallible solution to social healthcare problems. Much like many other political controversies, it is based on an opinion that will diverge greatly among different societies, social groups, and political parties. However in pursuing Obamacare, our government is promising affordable healthcare to every American citizen through the expansion of Medicare and Medicaid. While this act would theoretically solve our current issues with healthcare, arguments will continue to be made in regards to depletion of resources and abuse of certain social groups. If we, as individuals, were able to do anything to support healthcare, it would be to spread awareness of alternative solutions and eliminate political ignorance in terms of healthcare’s costs and benefits.