14 August 2010
Contemporary Social Problems
A sociological evaluation of Nickel and Dimed.
“To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else”.(221) Barbara Ehrenreich in her book Nickel and Dimed explored life as a low wage earner by working several “unskilled” jobs in different areas of the country and attempted to live off the wages she earned. I will evaluate some assertions she made and make some assertions of my own based on my knowledge of sociology. Social Conflict Theory is useful in evaluating how Ehrenreich acted as an “unskilled” member of society and sold her labor in a system she realized not designed to benefit her and her fellow “associates”. Theories of Symbolic Interaction explain how society views the poor and in effect explain how at times the poor view themselves. Also, I will discuss mainstream ideals and the effect the media has on the issue of low wage workers. Finally, I will discuss how being a woman affected Ehrenreich’s experience by applying feminist theory to her experience.
“Maybe I want to be somebody generous, competent, brave and perhaps above all, noticeable” (99). Conflict theory suggests that individuals are the creative agents in a system where society forms as people come together to make a living from the natural material universe. As part of Ehrenreich’s experience she felt limited by rules and regulations not only set by company policies but also between employee policies in places she worked. Some policies included pre-employment drug testing and what is referred to as “personality testing” which is actually a tool that companies use to test for willingness to pledge allegiance to the company. After being employed there would be no talking while working, limiting bathroom breaks and drinking water(these are considered “time theft”) limiting interaction with customers and being subjected to random bag checks. She was also told in several places of...