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August 12, 2000

American Sociological Association President Addresses "Social Justice and Sociology"

WASHINGTON, D.C. – August 12, 2000 - Focusing on themes of globalization and inequality, ASA President Joe R. Feagin, offered a strong critique of the cost and consequences of an ever-expanding system of capitalism as part of his Presidential Address, "Social Justice and Sociology: Agendas for the 21st Century" on August 13th at 4:30 p.m.

Observing that "while initially a Western phenomenon, capitalism now girdles the globe generating profits at a huge cost," Feagin argued that many of today's most troubling social and economic conditions are often created or aggravated by modern capitalism. Some of the problems he cited included:

1. A growing gap between those at the top of the economic ladder and those at the very bottom. Feagin pointed out that income and wealth inequality in the U.S. has reached record levels, where the top one percent of households hold more wealth than the bottom 95 percent combined. He also looked more globally, noting that about 80 percent of the world's 6 billion people live at or near poverty.

2. The ongoing exploitation or marginalization of many of the world's peoples. Citing problems such as job restructuring, dangerous working conditions, low wages, underemployment, unemployment, loss of land, and/or forced migration, Feagin argued that the costs of globalized capitalism extend far beyond simple economics.

3. The worsening environmental crisis. Noting environmental concerns such as global warming and melting ice packs, depletion of the earth's ozone layer, destruction of half the world's wetlands, extensive deforestation, and the widespread extinction of many of the earth's species, Feagin stated that "The well-off may be able to buy their way out of some of the planet's growing environmental problems, but this is not the case for most of humanity."

Feagin argued that "sociology must vigorously engage in issues of social justice or be irrelevant to the present and future course of human history." He called for "a deeper social science analysis of social justice, which includes not only resource equity, social fairness, and respect for diversity but also an abolition of social oppression and a restructuring of inegalitarian power relations."

In his call for a re-emphasis on the "countersystem approach" to sociology, Feagin argued, "Much of humanity might agree on a new global social system that is democratically accountable to all people and offers a decent standard of living for all." Feagin went on to suggest that "Determining whether this is the case and how such a just society might be developed are among the big questions social scientists should be tackling."

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About the American Sociological Association
The American Sociological Association (www.asanet.org), founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.