The Importance of Ethics and the Relevance of Cold War Thinkings

1. Is C. Wright Mills’ take on values and threats still relevant in today’s world?

C. Wright Mills’ wrote his book The Sociological Imagination during the heat of the Cold War, and I feel that his take on values and threats is especially relevant to that time period. During the Cold War the media had a large role of stressing how much of a threat the USSR is to the American set of values. The way Mills goes on about the way threats and values work is reminiscent of this particular zeitgeist. In my opinion this system of societal and personal shared threats upon societal and personal connected values is a bit antiquated. In modern times our culture has become increasingly self-centered; our society is almost a Frankenstein version of what Mills’ envisioned. Our personal milieu has indeed been broadened by the introduction of the Internet and other technologies but our ability to leave behind indifference has been dulled. Values exist solely on self, and threats to self are few and far between given the progressive nature of the world today. Technology allows the media to hurl threats at us faster than we can receive them. We’re told we need to save the whales at the same time we’re being told U.S. diplomats are being murdered in North Africa. There’s no longer a singular Cold War to unite a society behind certain values and indifference has begun to reign supreme.

The new Cold War Mentality has apparently appeared in China. Chinese officials are accusing the United States of “Cold War Mentality” after the United States accused China of “cyber-espionage”. Personally I do not feel threatened by the Chinese, nor do I particularly feel threatened by the faceless “cyber-espionage”. There is no longer an animosity or a threat of another country helping a person or society discover their values. I suppose the new threat of our time is terrorism. I’m not entirely sure how this terrorism is productive sociological imagination, however. Yes, Mill’s does touch on the topic of the “threat of war” being able to help one discover or rediscover one’s values but I don’t see how terrorism achieves this. The “rally ‘round the flag” effect, seen before war and after terrorist attacks, could possibly be used to show how individuals and society begin to reassess their values yet this effect is, by definition, very short term. If terrorists value threatening our values then how can either side live in a state of “well-being”?

2. Explain the concept of cynicism in the business world; Go on to explain the benefits and detriments of cynicism.

Cynicism is described as, “a general distrust”, and is ever present in the modern day; the authors of Managing Business Ethics, Linda K. Trevino and Katherine A. Nelson, go as far to call cynicism an “epidemic” within the business world.  The authors point to different recent finance scandals, like the market crash of 2007 and Bernie Madoff, as reason for the spread of this epidemic.  I’d like to add that business’ ever increasing amount ability to become more and more transparent with new technology is perhaps another more abstract reason why such cynicism now exists. The main detriment of cynicism is its ability to stagnate the economy if levels of cynicism become too high. The only way the economy is able to grow is if people are able to trade freely, if levels of skepticism are too high then no one will be incentivized to trade with one another for fear of being duped. The benefits of cynicism though may out weigh the detriments. Without a healthy dose of cynicism, there would be even further incentive for people within the market to cheat. I feel this “epidemic” of cynicism is only a natural reaction to the lack of ethics recently seen. With this “epidemic” of cynicism, one would like to think that the businesses would work hard to attain a better level of trust from the marketplace.

3.  How does C. Wright Mills define the objective of his writings in The Sociological Imagination?

In the conclusion of his introductory chapter, C. Wright Mills clarifies his own personal goals for the chapters to follow. Mills explains that he is interested in discovering social sciences that could aptly be applied for dealing with, then modern, cultural tasks. He goes on to talk of how his theory of sociological imagination has both political and cultural connotations and how he strives to help others possess both political and cultural thoughts. In that, Mills hoped to open up a new dialogue on the social sciences, which was somewhat of a taboo topic in the United States at the time given the confusion the general public and congress had between the social sciences and socialism.


3 thoughts on “The Importance of Ethics and the Relevance of Cold War Thinkings

  1. I am puzzled by your answer in #2. You say cynicism helps markets as it promotes skepticism of the motives of others. I suppose you mean that if everyone is “cynical,” then prices would reflect actual economic values. The converse would be that if people are too trusting (i.e. not cynical) than they could fall victim to inflated prices today, and hence would withdraw trust from markets in general tomorrow leading to economic contraction.

    However, you _also_ say that there is an epidemic of cynicism because business ethics are bad or weak.

    So, is cynicism good or bad for markets? For business?


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