1) What are the three sorts of questions that the best social analysts have consistently asked? How does this relate to C. Wright Mills’ “sociological imagination”?
The three types of questions consider society’s structure, standing, and stand-outs. The first of these questions asks about the particular structure of a society as a whole and its essential components. C. Wright Mills finds the structure in which an individual belongs to be essential to understanding how they both shape each other. Using marriage as an example, Mills offers an example of how the structure of some issue in society can be more to blame than the individual who experiences the personal troubles. Next, where society stands in human history and the mechanics by which it is changing are questioned. The intersection between history and biography can only be understood by asking these questions, which is essential to possessing quality of mind. Last, the best social analysts ask what types of men and women stand-out and prevail within that society and within that time period. This enables the individual a feeling, in Mills’ words, “that they can now provide themselves with adequate summations, cohesive assessments, comprehensive orientations.” Asking questions regarding these three topics is what typically makes up the classic social analyst. Having this socialogical imagination enables us to grasp our biography and history in relation to its intersections, providing a much greater quality of mind.
2) Trevino and Nelson say that the most serious ethical scandals result from multiple parties contributing in different ways to join together in the creation of the catastrophe. What are some of the different parties that came together in forming the financial crisis of 2008, and what pressures led to these actions? Lastly, were all of these actions unethical, or just a result of common practice?
The first factor that played a role was that borrowing money was cheap. However, Alan Greenspan’s decision to lower the Fed Funds rate was just a common act driven by the soaring stocks in high-technology companies. The rise of investing in real estate then became a major factor with such low borrowing rates. At this point, nobody had acted unethically, but the rating agencies might be the first to blame. They listed investments in the real estate industry as the highest “AAA” rating, which gave investors confidence that they would at least recover the initial value, if not more, from their investment. Of course this was a primary cause of the catastrophe, but many factors on Wall Street also contributed. Highly-paid CEOs and executives, a focus on short-term profits, and bonuses for employees taking great risks, also led to the problem. These pressures to get ahead and have short-term personal gain are possibly a result of the society in which we now live. Like Trevino and Nelson said is normally the case, many factors did come together to lead to the end result of the financial crisis. However, while some factors were clear of any wrong-doing, there were certainly others that could have their ethics called into question after seeing their personal benefit at the expense of many others.
3) Describe a situation in pop culture in which the ideas of the sociological imagination can help shed light on an issue involving business ethics and cynicism.
“I wish I had never touched steroids. It was foolish, and it was a mistake. I truly apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era.” – Mark McGwire, January 2010
These words from Mark McGwire, one of baseball’s greatest home run hitters of all-time, really exemplify the attitude many baseball players had during the 2000s in Major League Baseball, “the Steroid-Era”. He was sorry that he cheated, but then again, doesn’t it sound like he is trying to excuse himself on the grounds that nearly everyone else did too—like his guilt was simply a product of having played in the steroid-era? Well, his apology did not help him much, as he failed to be voted into the Hall of Fame again this year for the seventh time. Interestingly though, this year’s Hall of Fame voting was only the third time since 1965 that not even a single member of the ballot was inducted into the Hall of Fame. With the ballot consisting of many new names, nearly all from the steroid-era of baseball, perhaps the general cynicism of society played a role in voting down a number of player who would otherwise have statistically qualified when being compared to the Hall of Fame’s existing members. The best sports journalists and analysts of the sport have found themselves in a situation where C. Wright Mills’s idea of the sociological imagination comes into play.
“Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both.” This quote from C. Wright Mills gives depth to the steroid-era and the players who played during that time. Clearly there was an ethical issue involved with using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) to increase your performance, and consequently, your future salaries, but it was not all the fault of the players. The structure of the league was such that testing and enacting penalties for those caught using these PEDs was entirely misconfigured. It was everywhere in the clubhouses, but team personnel always seemed to turn a blind eye. The society in which this issue took place is also relevant. More home runs were being hit, attendance was up at games, TV contracts were going through the roof, and the game of professional baseball, more importantly the business of professional baseball, was stronger than ever. Finally, the main type of individuals who prevailed in this society of steroid-era professional baseball were those who chose to take part in the cheating. Not only did it go unpunished, but instead, the decision was often times rewarded. These three questions that C. Wright Mills says are essential to developing the quality of mind necessary for a strong sociological imagination, should probably be considered more closely by the journalists and baseball writers who will be voting in next year’s Hall of Fame ballot.
Yes, these players acted unethically by taking steroids, but enough with the cynicism. The game of baseball, now with a better structure, has proven to clean up its image greatly. However, the shadows cast by the giants of the steroid-era continue to loom large in the media. Just like the professors Trevino and Nelson talk about in their piece on Managing Business Ethics, there were many pieces that came together to cause the debacle of lost trust in the MLB that resulted from the steroid-era. Of course the players played a role in it, but when you consider the previously mentioned three questions for the society in which these players belonged to, while also considering the commissioner, salary-driven incentives, and other factors that played a role in creating the catastrophe, maybe some of these players should be elected in to the Hall of Fame. They were great for the game in the time in which they played. Their unethical actions, while not excusable, were not entirely a result of their personal character, and therefore, I believe they should be recognized in the Hall of Fame with the many players who came before them who also made similarly massive impacts on the game, and business, of professional baseball.