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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Sociology of Coffee



The Sociology of Coffee


Christine has done a really great job trying to spell out the sociological perspective for us. I am going to continue this by adding a few additional insights here that may give us a fruitful understanding of sociology using the example of coffee. One of the earliest obstacles we always face is getting students to think sociologically about very simply things.

Here I am going to offer three theoretical explanations and apply it towards the sociology of coffee:

  • What sort of social purpose and function does coffee have in our society?
Coffee is basic drink many of us require almost on a regular basis. It may provide us with some necessary caffeine boost or even help us fight off drowsiness before heading to work or to school. Thus, we can say that coffee has some sort of social function in our society. For starters, lets argue that the 'manifest function' of coffee is connected to the daily consumption to fuel our bodies. However, another distinct function of coffee may also be somewhat tied to western culture. So we cannot just claim that Coffee is just a drink. Coffee is a reflection of our society and its connection to other hidden social features.Interestingly, one could say the reason why you drink coffee is because its available for you as soon as you enter grocery store or a Star-bucks. Nowadays, one of the current primary functions of coffee is commercial.. Coffee carries a major economic function for many companies who market and sell it to you. Moreover, the function of coffee from someone in Latin America or producer nation may carry a very different point of view. Imagine the life of a coffee farmer making your daily living on a product sold to other parts of the world. A coffee farmer may actually never have enough time to drink coffee because of the work . And if you wanted to drink some coffee you would need to have a coffee machine, coffee beans, and or have the free time too drink it . This is a Functionalist Perspective

  • What sort of ramifications does unfair-traded coffee mean for poor Colombian coffee-farmers?
Coffee also carries negative consequences for others. In Columbia it is very common for union activists to just disappear and for workers to be mistreated. Human rights organizations frequently document that many workers are not being fairly compensated for the work that they do and often work in conditions that are close to slave labor.It is very common to see any union organizing or strikes face brutal repression or even death.Nearly all coffee is imported from South America and Latin American countries where absolute poverty is still widespread. Historically, there were many reasons why European countries wanted to colonize part of Latin America mostly because of its huge abundance of natural resources, including coffee. The primary goal for cultivating and producing coffee is mostly for profit .While in the United States and Canada, Star-bucks has been under a constant market pressure to keep coffee prices and wages extremely low. Consumers are no longer drinking s much coffee as they used to. Several months ago Star-bucks said it was closing down a number of stores because of declining sales. Several thousand Starbucks workers will be unemployed .This is a Marxist perspective.
  • How do we learn to consume and taste coffee with others?
Holding a coffee cup is easy but also a form of social communication with other crazy individuals. Last time I checked there are a variety of coffee cups and different ways in which people learn to drink coffee. If you are going to go out to drink coffee you are usually going for the purpose of social interaction. This means you are really drinking coffee because it offers a chance of social communiction with others. Coffee and cake makes a wonderful romantic date.Coffee also carries distinction and shapes our taste. Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu took early notice that symbolic forms of powers interplay together with someone who carries a certain class position in our society.Germans like to drink dark coffee while Italians like to see whip cream swim in theirs. I hear in Eastern European countries like Poland it is very normal to dip your cake and drop cakecrumbs in your coffee . Some Americans might have a difficult time seeing coffee mixed with their cake.So it is fair to say that not all coffee is consumed the same way . There is also high priced and high label coffee .Some coffee can cost you over $4.00 for a cup .So some coffee is way too expensive for some people so they go for the cheap brands that have some bad beans in them. This is a Symbolic Interactionist perspective.

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