Social Capital Essay

Why do some communities function well, while others do not? The concept of social capital recently flourished in political and social sciences, because it provides an explanation for prosperous and democratic social development.

The definition of social capital is somewhat ambiguous, but an accepted definition is that it is the connections among individuals, the social networks and norms of reciprocity and trust that arise from them. It is sometimes referred to as the glue that holds society together and related to social cohesion in general. We might ask: Why use the term capital? It is used frequently in social science to refer to properties that can be reproduced or augmented and represent an investment of some kind. Hence, social capital, like financial capital or human capital, represents a resource, in this case one held by social groups or within social networks. Social capital offers access to resources and valued collective outcomes that would be unattainable or too costly for individuals to access. An example would be that of blood donation, whereby individuals freely donate their blood, which then becomes a collective asset for the community.

The three main proponents of the term bring us slightly different definitions and functions of social capital. Pierre Bourdieu (1986) argued that social capital was a resource that people could draw on in their social networks. He identified a range of capitals (cultural, symbolic, economic) that formed part of an individual’s resources. However, he was concerned with how these resources were used to maintain systems of inequality and exclusion rather than to promote the public good.

James Coleman (1988), on the other hand, used social capital to explain why some children were less likely to drop out of school—the relationship between human and social capital. In his analysis, public participation and social networks reinforced social norms of achievement in families and communities.

Robert Putnam and colleagues (1993) carried out the most comprehensive survey of social capital, using the term to explain the differences in development between northern and southern Italy. He argued that it was the tradition of civic associations in northern Italy that had helped it become more democratic and prosperous than the south. Putnam (2000) went on to apply these ideas to the United States, arguing that social capital had declined in that country due to generational changes, increased labor force participation, passive entertainment such as watching TV, and urban sprawl.

Components

The components of social capital that emerge from these different perspectives include social resources provided through civic participation, social networks, and the social trust that is built up from these activities. Civic participation is measured often in terms of membership and participation in voluntary associations, although this does not entirely capture social capital. For example, public engagement can take place without joining associations. It is easy enough to simply subscribe to an association, but Putnam, for example, argues that social capital can only be built by face-to-face activity, so subscriptions are not enough.

Social networks are more difficult to measure, but Nan Lin (2001) assesses the role of social networks in building social capital. He argues that they are based on ongoing reciprocal relationships that can be used by individuals to promote their own goals and that they help to secure reputations. Like economic capital, they can form a basis of exchange and reciprocity. They also can form a source of economic capital in situations where people cannot turn to banks (for example, in migrant communities). However, this individualistic and instrumental view of social networks is contested by those who argue that the reason that social capital leads to good social relationships is because they are based on altruistic ties of friendship or contribution to the community, which is in itself a social resource.

Social networks operate in different ways, and some have argued that loose social networks are more useful than tight social networks for getting a job, for example. This has lead Putnam to identify two types of social capital: bridging social capital that links disparate social groups and bonding social capital based on dense and close ties among smaller groups. Woolcock (1998) has introduced the idea of linking social capital, which brings together social groups not normally in touch with each other, such as across religious divides. While bridging social capital can be good for creating social cohesion, bonding social capital helps to build up the dense networks of trust and reciprocity. However, it has the danger of becoming exclusionary and monopolizing resources, as in the example of mafia-type organizations based on strong internal loyalty. Too much bonding social capital also can be destructive for social development.

Trust is both an outcome and a component of social capital because without trust, social networks cannot operate. While trust may be seen in a purely personal dimension, social capital is measured often in terms of social trust with people responding to the question as to whether other people can generally be trusted. High trust societies tend to be high in social capital because economic and political institutions are based on shared norms.

The Future Of Social Capital

Has social capital recently declined? Putnam (2000) marshals impressive evidence that it has declined in the United States and that this poses a threat to the development of American society. In Europe it is possible that social capital may have declined due to the ongoing shrinkage in trade union and church membership as well as for similar reasons as in the United States. However, recent empirical analysis suggests that membership of civic associations has remained stable in Europe (even if it remains low in southern and eastern Europe) and that social trust has actually increased in recent decades. Social networks are thriving in some countries, especially those with strong welfare states, but take different forms in different regions. For example, in southern Europe family networks may be more important as a source of social cohesion than in the north.

Many have argued that in the era of electronic communications and the network society, people are less inclined to join organizations in the traditional way or to meet their friends face-to-face. Instead there has been an explosion of electronic networking activities as well as electronic mobilization, for example, through support of various causes, calls for participation, or petitions. Electronic communications have collapsed the space between the public and their leaders, as well as created new arenas for public debate. Therefore, the nature of social capital has changed also, but there is no agreement as to whether electronic communications have actually replaced the kinds of social capital described earlier.

Social capital is seen has having many benefits for the society, and various researchers have claimed that it is associated with economic growth, more democracy, less crime, better health, better educational performance, getting a job, and a better welfare state. For this reason it has been of great interest to policy makers, and the World Bank has been a champion of the promotion of social capital in international development. Other international organizations and national and local governments have applied these ideas in a variety of ways. Social capital is seen as a tool for building a well-functioning community.

Bibliography:

  1. Bourdieu, Pierce. “Forms of Capital.” In Handbook of Theory and Research in the Sociology of Education, edited by John G. Richardson, 241–258. New York, Greenwood, 1986.
  2. Coleman, James. “Social Capital and the Creation of Human Capital.” American Journal of Sociology 94, suppl. (1988): 94–120.
  3. Field, John. Social Capital. London: Routledge, 2003.
  4. Fukuyama, Francis. Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity. London: Penguin, 1995.
  5. Granovetter, Mark. Getting a Job: A Study of Contacts and Careers. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1974.
  6. Halpern, David. Social Capital. Cambridge, U.K.: Polity, 2005.
  7. Knack, Stephan, and Philip Keefer. “Does Social Capital Have an Economic Payoff? A Cross Country Investigation.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 112 (1997): 1251–1288.
  8. Lin, Nan. Social Capital. A Theory of Social Structure and Action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  9. Pahl, Ray E. On Friendship. Cambridge, U.K.: Polity, 2000.
  10. Pichler, Florian, and Claire Wallace. “Patterns of Formal and Informal Social Capital in Europe.” European Sociological Review 23, no. 4 (2007): 423–436.
  11. Portes, Alejandro. “Social Capital: Its Origins and Applications in Modern Sociology.” Annual Review of Sociology 22 (1998): 1–24.
  12. Putnam, Robert D. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000.
  13. Putnam, Robert D., Robert Leonardi, and Raffaella Y. Nanetti. Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton, N.J.: University of Princeton Press, 1993.
  14. Woolcock, Michael. “Social Capital and Economic Development:Towards a Theoretical Synthesis and Policy Framework.” Theory and Society 27, no. 2 (1998): 151–208.

Power Essay

Power is a concept that cuts across a variety of social science disciplines, including sociology, political science, and criminal justice. Power is located at all levels of social life, from personal interactions, to relationships in institutional settings such as schools and prisons, and to the highest levels of corporate and governmental decision making and action. The organization and exercise of power, moreover, raise crucial ethical questions both for those who exercise power and those subject to it.

Power and Social Action

Max Weber defined power as the capacity of an actor to realize his/her will in an action with other actors even against the resistance of other actors participating in the action. Actors may be individuals, groups, institutions, corporations, or nation-states. The essential features of power are the will of one actor meeting the resistance of one or more other actors. Power is the capacity to overcome that resistance.

There are a variety of resources that enable those seeking to exercise their will over others utilize for overcoming the resistance of other actors. The three major resources are force or the threat of force, financial or economic remuneration, and providing reasons for the action that persuade resisting actors to support and engage in the action.

The use or threat of force may overcome resistance. The efficacy of force depends upon the manner in which it is used or threatened and the degree to which resisting actors are willing to comply with it. At one extreme, a mere show of force may be sufficient to overcome resistance. At the other extreme, the exercise of force or coercion may not dissuade resistance. Actors may be more willing to sacrifice even their lives rather than comply with the will of those in power. Even in situations in which force is effective, it is the least efficient means of exercising power. Force requires personnel to threaten and utilize instruments of violence and coercion.

This demands both training and investment in material resources, such as arms and munitions and detention facilities. These human and material resources, moreover, must be continually maintained and renewed. Beyond these costs, those subject to force rarely identify with the will and interests of those exercising it. Subordinates are not motivated to perform their actions with devotion to detail and with maximum effort. Rather, they typically comply with low levels of enthusiasm and minimal involvement in tasks. The threat or use of force, then, combines high costs to those exercising power and low levels of motivation for those in subordinate positions. Finally, given the hostile relationships between those in power and those subject to it, there is always the possibility of violent resistance and all the costs associated with the disruption it entails.

Economic remuneration has advantages over the use or threatened use of force. Overcoming resistance by paying or providing a reward for engaging in a task or an action does not require investments in personnel and materials for forcing compliance. In addition, the motivation of the resisting individual or individuals is tied to the action by self-interest: Submitting to the will of another for rewards or payments makes the task or action meaningful and valuable. Typically, actions motivated by self-interest based on rewards are more efficient, more attuned to detail, and more engaged than actions motivated solely by fear of force.

While these are advantages, remuneration has some shortcomings. First, while less costly than force, it still requires expenditure of resources. This varies depending on the needs and conditions of those resisting. Also, while subordinates are engaged in the action based on self-interest, they do not have any intrinsic commitment to it. Depending on the action, the duration of effects desired by those overcoming resistance may be limited. For example, students who are paid to study who get good exam grades often do not retain what they have learned. Their rewards were extrinsic to the activity they were engaged in rather than realizing any intrinsic value or reward from the activity or the relationship with those providing the reward.

Domination is a third type of power that overcomes resistance of those engaged in action. In domination, resistance is overcome by providing reasons for engaging in the action that are meaningful to the actor and make the action intrinsically valuable. Whether resistance is overcome based on the personality and trust in those providing the reasons, or whether the reasons are based on traditionally shared religious or philosophical beliefs, or whether the reasons are based on law or science, the will of the actor becomes positively tied to the action. In its purest form, domination does not require investments in personnel or materials, nor does it require monetary payment or rewards for engaging in action. Domination effectively overcomes resistance and motivates actors based on shared beliefs between superordinates and subordinates.

Power as Normalization

In modern societies characterized by large populations, complex divisions of labor, centralized governments, corporations, technological innovation, and extensive market economies, power is increasingly located in institutions and legitimized through rational law and norms and empirical sciences. Power tends to become increasingly impersonal and exercised by officials who are in positions of authority based on knowledge validated by educational credentials. Power becomes systemic and defined in terms of individuals being productive members of society.

In this constellation of social organization and relationships, Michel Foucault argued that power is realized through processes and discourses of normalization. In these processes and discourses, individuals are located in specific spaces where they are subject to surveillance by those in positions of authority. In institutions such as schools, prisons, hospitals, mental institutions, and places of work, individuals are made distinct from one another by locating them in seating arrangements, cells, beds and wards, and desks and work stations. At these locations, they are judged on the basis of norms relative to the tasks that they are required and encouraged to perform and by the progress they are making in recovering from mental, physical, or moral ailments. Each individual in rendered into a case that is documented in a file replete with diagnostic testing, performance scores on varieties of tests, and anecdotal observations by those in positions of authority.

Discipline is a core feature of normalization. In a variety of institutional settings, individuals are subject to timetables of activity through which their day is defined. They are subject to routine, repetitive tasks. In this light, discipline is a form of power that affects not only the mental life of the individual but also her or his body. It combines both mental and physical control of the individual that renders the individual healthy, productive, and capable of performing in the social system. The individual, moreover, internalizes the expectations of these routines, the value of the rewards associated with them, and the sensibility that he or she is under surveillance.

As a form of power, normalization develops knowledge that expands its range and application. Individuals are categorized and judged on the basis of definitions of normality, both in terms of averages calculated from tests and in terms of considerations of what is optimal performance or recovery. Data is aggregated and combined, and comparisons are articulated. Based on the data developed through these practices and continued observations of individuals in institutional settings, concepts and theories of deviance, crime, education, mental illness, disease, and work performance are formulated. Focused on explaining and predicting behavior, these knowledges are located in institutional settings of universities, government agencies, think tanks, and nonprofit and for-profit corporations. Thus, social institutions, knowledge, and power are not fully separate and distinct from one another. Rather, they are aspects of a process of power formation that serves to constitute society.

Social Sources of Power

While power, considered in terms of both social action and normalization, is analyzed in terms of processes and discourses, power is also studied as emerging from patterns of organization and distribution of social resources. This general framework provides the grounds for alternative approaches to the social sources of power.

One broad view considers power to serve the integration of society as a whole and to provide the means for enabling society as a whole to maintain itself in existence, set goals, and realize them. This approach, associated with Emile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons, views society as an organism composed of a variety of specialized structures that perform the functions necessary to maintain the integrity of society as a whole, and to continue the existence of society by adapting to environmental contingencies, integrating individuals through processes of socialization, and developing and realizing goals. The underlying basis for social integration is social solidarity rooted both in shared values and beliefs and functional relationships. Power, in effect, is a result of the organization of society as a whole and is based on a consensus of values and beliefs. As society develops and grows in complexity, structures become more differentiated from one another. As a result, the shared beliefs and values that are sources of integration tend to become increasingly functional. Whatever the specific levels of complexity of any concrete society, power results from the unity of society, the integration of its structures and institutions, and the shared values and beliefs of its individual members.

While structural functionalism focuses on power as a result of integration and consensus, other approaches are more focused on the distribution of social positions and resources that enable the exercise of power. From this perspective, power is tools used by organized groups and individuals to realize their values and interests. The concern is more focused on differences in power and relations internal to society. Among the versions of power from this perspective are pluralism, class conflict, and corporate elite theories.

Pluralists, such as Robert Dahl and Lawrence Friedman, view power as an outcome of decentralized distribution of economic, social, and political resources and relationships. Consistent theories of free markets; rough equality in the distribution of such resources as capital, skills, and knowledge; and rough equality of civil liberties, including freedom of speech and political participation. Based on these principles of rough equality, people organize themselves into interest groups based on their economic locations and values. Power is always shifting and fluid, since interest groups may change and form different coalitions based on specific issues and concerns. At the level of public decision making, power is exercised by these shifting coalitions by affecting public opinion, through representations in cultural and media outlets, and through political parties and elections. In this light, power is fluid, exercised through democratic institutions, and an instrument of broad-based public opinion.

In contrast to the assumptions and vision of pluralism, Karl Marx’s class conflict theory views power as emerging from clashing social locations and interests of two major social classes, ruling classes that own the means of production and broadly defined working classes. Historically considered, ruling classes derive their incomes through the ownership of property, primarily in the means of production through which society satisfies its material needs. Based on property ownership, ruling-class individuals accumulate wealth and are free from the immediate needs to earn a livelihood. They not only have high levels of consumption, but also utilize their accumulated wealth to engage in politics, law, and developing ideas that are disseminated through the society by news organizations, cultural institutions, religious institutions, and schools.

While working classes also have their interests represented through trade unions, political parties, and cultural outlets, they are generally less able to exert their interests than ruling classes. In part, this is because capital is free to move around the globe seeking low wages and new opportunities for profit, while working people are more geographically limited. While ruling classes are generally dominant through their control of economic and political institutions, their power is not total. Rather, ruling-class power is limited because of differences among sectors in the ruling class, such as conflicts between those who derive their incomes from finance and those who derive their incomes from industry, and because of different values, such as religion or the importance of environmentalism. Also, working-class movements and political organizations challenge ruling classes politically. Based on these tensions and contradictions, it is best to characterize this approach to power in terms of class conflicts within a society generally dominated by the powers of ruling classes.

The corporate elite approach, developed by C. Wright Mills and G. William Domhoff, agrees with much of the class conflict approach regarding the power of ruling classes. While wealth is a very important source of power, it is crucial to analyze power in terms of elites, that is, people who are in positions at the top of hierarchies in corporations, the political and media arenas, the executive branch of government, and the military. To be sure, corporate elites are drawn largely from the ruling class; yet, there are also some people who come from humble origins and rise through the ranks of corporate, political, government, and military hierarchies to achieve elite status. Through marriage and elite social networks, these people may become wealthy members of the ruling class.

Corporate elites emerge from the development of a concentrated, industrial and postindustrial, and highly technological corporate economy that requires coordination with financial, governmental, educational, and scientific sectors of society. Coordination of this highly complex society requires managerial and technical expertise and decision making. The leaderships of the various sectors of society intermingle with one another, socialize together, go to the same schools and resorts, live in the same residential areas, and tend to intermarry. This provides the social basis and common knowledge and understandings that are the foundations for elite agenda setting and decision making. In particular, using their financial, intellectual, and social capital, elites form institutions to develop knowledge and social policies dealing with such issues as social insurance and welfare, taxation, crime and criminal justice, education, economic growth, and energy. These elite policy-making institutions provide forums for discussing policy issues among legislators and their staffers and are more broadly disseminated through news outlets. While there are alternative policy-making institutions rooted, for example, in the labor, civil rights, and environmental movements, elite policy-making institutions exercise power by their capacity to set agendas in lawmaking and in public discussion.

Power and Ethics

As power becomes more located in corporate, government, and institutions such as prisons, schools, and workplaces, both the structure of power and relationships among those people who exercise it and those subject to it raise important ethical issues. One broad question is the degree to which the concentration of wealth and elite decision making is consistent with the principles of democracy. What does equal citizenship and participation mean in a society where wealth and income are concentrated in a small number of families, where corporations are free to make decisions about plant closures and the movement of jobs in a global economy, and where the terms of policy debates and law creation are largely set by elite institutions?

Conflicts of interest in the exercise of power raise additional ethical questions. Broadly defined, a conflict of interest is the exercise of power by someone in an official capacity who uses that power to benefit her or himself rather than the institution or individual they are serving, or has the appearance of providing such benefit. For example, in the corporate finance sector of the economy, officers appointed by boards of directors are ethically bound to place the interests of the firm and shareholders above their personal interests.

Such officers are often in situations where they have information regarding the profits and performance of their companies that puts them at an advantage compared to average shareholders and the general public regarding when to buy or sell stock. This issue of insider trading is an important ethical and legal question that requires regulation. In government, both elected and appointed officials, as well as employees, may face situations in which the decisions they make pose ethical questions by raising conflicts of interest: Should officials participate in making a zoning decision that may either positively or negatively affect the value of property they own? Should officials accept gifts with a substantial value from entities subject to their decision making?

Issues involving conflicts of interest are often regulated by ethical codes that provide both rules on how to manage them and sanctions for when they are violated. Officials may be either required or recommended to recuse themselves from decision making in which they have a conflict or the appearance of a conflict of interest. They may also be required to provide information about their financial and property holdings as well as connections that family members may have to entities they regulate. They may be required to provide information about gifts they receive from entities they regulate. They may ask for guidance or advisory opinions with regard to their participation in decision making or actions in which they suspect there may be a conflict of interest.

A final ethical issue is how those exercising power, from corporate executives to prosecutors, judges, police officers, teachers, and social workers, balance their own values and beliefs against the actual consequences of their decisions. To be sure, people in positions of power over others are bound by ethical and legal constraints. Indeed, one of the main promises of the rule of law is to limit arbitrary decisions and actions by those in authority. Yet, those in authority generally exercise some measure of discretion in actions and decisions. In this light, the values and ethics of colleagues as well as personal ethics are extremely important in shaping the exercise of power.

One of the fundamental ways of thinking about this issue is in terms of the balance between realizing one’s own values or beliefs and taking responsibility for the actual consequences of exercising power in positions of authority. On the one hand, commitments to justice, equality, or for that matter, prejudice, may be used to justify decisions and actions. Indeed, the exercise of power may always be justified on the basis of the commitments it serves. As the saying goes, you have to break eggs to make an omelet.

On the other hand, there are real effects on the lives of people when plants are closed, when someone is charged with a higher or lower crime, or when a student is suspended for drug use. In each instance, there may be individual values and beliefs that shape the decision by the person or group of people in authority making the decision. Also in each instance there are profound consequences for those subject to the decision. The ethics of power requires awareness of values and beliefs, minimizing them, and placing greater emphasis on actual consequences.

Bibliography:

  1. Dahl, Robert. Who Governs? New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1961.
  2. Domhoff, G. William. Who Rules America? Challenges to Corporate and Class Dominance. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009.
  3. Egan, Daniel and Levon A. Chorgajian, eds. Power: A Critical Reader. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005.
  4. Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Alan Sheridan, trans. New York: Vintage, 1977.
  5. Friedman, Lawrence. Law and Society: An Introduction. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1977.
  6. Marx, Karl. “The Communist Manifesto.” In The Marx-Engels Reader, Robert C. Tucker, ed. New York: Norton, 1978.
  7. Mills, C. Wright. The Power Elite. New York: Oxford University Press, 1956.
  8. Parsons, Talcott. “The Hierarchy of Control.” In Talcott Parsons: On Institutions and Social Evolution, Leon Mayhew, ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.

Forgiveness Essay

Following an interpersonal wrongdoing, one possible option for the victim is to forgive the offender. Some scholars believe that the ability to forgive is natural and innate. That is, people are born with the capacity to forgive, which may vary depending on cultural and individual life experiences. Although forgiveness has long been part of human existence, there still remains some debate over the exact definition of forgiveness. Nonetheless, in the last 15 years there has been a surge of research that has examined predictors of situational and trait forgiveness. Researchers have learned that victims’ willingness to forgive depends, in part, on factors related to the offense, the relationship between the offender and the victim, as well as reactions and dispositions of the victim. Even though forgiveness is granted by the victim, the offender can also take meaningful steps to potentially foster forgiveness, such as by offering an apology. Forgiveness may have consequences beyond interpersonal processes, as indicated by its potential impact on physical and mental health. In general, forgiveness tends to have positive connotations, but evidence suggests that forgiveness may not always be associated with positive outcomes. Though forgiveness has mostly been studied in everyday interpersonal contexts, it is also relevant to criminal justice domains, as indicated by an emerging area of scholarship.

To explore the nature of forgiveness, it is useful to have a working definition. After an offense, forgiveness is the tendency for a victim to shift from having negative feelings toward a harm-doer to positive feelings. However, what may seem like a straightforward concept is actually still subject to debate among scholars. For example, some believe that forgiveness mostly involves the absence of unforgiving motivations (e.g., avoidance, revenge), whereas others contend that it involves the promotion of positive thoughts and feelings. Generally there is agreement that forgiveness does not necessarily mean trust or reconciliation has been reached, that the offense has been forgotten or excused, or that any legal recourse has been nullified.

In order to scientifically study forgiveness many researchers have sought to measure it empirically. There are, however, variations in how forgiveness is measured. For example, forgiveness for a transgression may be measured by asking respondents how forgiving they feel toward a transgressor, how much they have benevolent feelings and positive relationship motivations (e.g., a desire to move forward with the relationship), or how much there is a lack of revenge and avoidance motivations. Measures have also been created to assess trait forgiveness, the relatively stable tendency for individuals to forgive. Although different measures of forgiveness exist they often correlate with each other, and thus allow a reasonable level of comparability across research studies.

When predicting victims’ willingness to forgive, there are several factors related to the offense that have been found to be useful. For example, more severe wrongdoings tend to be associated with less forgiveness. In addition, the more that the offender is responsible for the harm, and the degree that the offender intended to harm, are both factors associated with less victim forgiveness. A victim’s feelings related to the offense can also affect the degree of forgiveness. For instance, a victim’s negative mood is associated with less forgiveness, whereas positive mood is associated with more forgiveness. Similarly, a victim’s situational feeling of anger is linked to less forgiveness, but the degree to which a victim feels empathy in the situation is related to more forgiveness.

Victims’ personality traits can also influence how the offenses and offenders are viewed and thus facilitate or hinder forgiveness. For example, victims who tend to be more agreeable, take the perspectives of others, and demonstrate greater empathy for others are more likely to be forgiving. In contrast, those who are more likely to be depressed, have neurotic tendencies, or tend to be higher on trait anger are less likely to be forgiving.

The relationship between victims and offenders is also an important factor in determining forgiveness. In general, close relationships (e.g., a romantic partner, good friend, sibling) are associated with more forgiveness following an interpersonal offense than distant relationships (e.g., an acquaintance, stranger).

Following a wrongdoing, transgressors have a limited set of options that can positively affect victims’ forgiveness. One key act is to offer an apology. Victims tend to respond positively to apologies with more forgiveness. Although the exact nature of an apology may vary across situations and individuals, what is important is whether it is perceived to be sincere by the victim. When combined with an apology, there is evidence that other actions can be helpful. For example, signaling a personal cost or gesture that lowers one’s standing (e.g., embarrassment), or providing some form of compensation to the victim, may also encourage forgiveness.

Some scholars suggest that forgiveness has implications beyond interpersonal functioning. A provocative finding is that a greater tendency to forgive is associated with better physical health. For example, those who are forgiving also tend to have better functioning cardiovascular, immune, and endocrine systems. Trait forgiveness is also associated with better mental health, including less anxiety and depression, as well as more personal control and happiness.

Although forgiveness has been associated with the positive psychology movement, and is often portrayed as beneficial, forgiveness does not always lead to positive outcomes. For example, women with higher tendencies to forgive and who are in domestic abuse shelters are more likely to return to their abusive situations. Moreover, married partners who are highly forgiving of partners who are chronically low on agreeableness report lower self-respect over time. Although high trait forgiveness is associated with marital satisfaction, this is only the case when there are few hostile behaviors (e.g., insults) in the relationship; if there are many, forgiveness is associated with marital dissatisfaction. In other research, people who are chronically more forgiving have been found to also live longer; however, it appears that the forgiveness-longevity link occurs only to the extent that individuals subscribe to conditional forgiveness (e.g., if the offender apologizes then they forgive), as opposed to unconditional forgiveness. Thus, whether forgiveness is associated with positive or negative outcomes can depend on the nature of forgiveness, situational factors, and personal qualities of who is being forgiven.

Forgiveness is relevant outside of everyday interpersonal contexts and has spread to domains such as criminal justice. Following an injustice, such as a criminal offense, victims may seek retributive justice, which typically focuses on punishing the offender. Some victims, however, desire a restorative justice route, which has been found to foster forgiveness toward offenders. Restorative justice is a victim-centered approach and broadly aims to repair the emotional and material harms of the crime to the victim and the broader community. In restorative justice programs, victims can meet with offenders and mediators to engage in dialogue, negotiation, and problem solving. In many cases, offenders apologize and offer some form of restitution for their criminal acts. These programs often lead to more healing, more satisfaction with the process, and more victim forgiveness than traditional justice outcomes. Both victims and offenders may benefit from this alternative system.

Although forgiveness is relevant to restorative justice, requiring or encouraging forgiveness in this setting may be problematic and perhaps inappropriate in some cases (e.g., if the offender did not apologize, or may reoffend), and promoting unconditional forgiveness may even lead to revictimization. Therefore, forgiveness is typically not an explicit goal of restorative justice, though it is clear that the nature of restorative justice programs can indirectly lead to forgiveness. Research on forgiveness in restorative justice and other legal domains is still in its beginning stages, and determining the fit of forgiveness in various applied justice settings is a direction of future research.

Bibliography:

  1. Armour, M. P. and M. S. Umbreit. “Victim Forgiveness in Restorative Justice Dialogue.” Victims and Offenders, v.1 (2006).
  2. Exline, J., E. L. Worthington, P. Hill, and M. E. McCullough. “Forgiveness and Justice: A Research Agenda for Social and Personality Psychology.” Personality and Social Psychology Review, v.7 (2003).
  3. R., M. J. Gelfand, and M. Nag. “The Road to Forgiveness: A Meta-Analytic Synthesis of Its Situational and Dispositional Correlates.” Psychological Bulletin, v.136 (2010).
  4. Fincham, F. D. “The Kiss of the Porcupines: From Attributing Responsibility to Forgiving.” Personal Relationships, v.7 (2000).
  5. McCullough, M. Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008.

Social And Political Cognition Essay

Social cognition is the study of how people make sense of other people and themselves. As an area of study, social cognition relates directly to the study of attitudes, persuasion, stereotyping, and small group behavior. Political cognition, a subset of social cognition, is the study of how people make sense of the political world.

Political cognition research arose out of discontent with attitudinal studies of political behavior in the 1970s. Early studies in political cognition made wide use of schema theory (a schema can be thought of as a mental structure that represents some aspect of the world). One widely adopted schematic model of political cognition argued that people made sense of the political world by using pyramidal classification systems in which “big picture” ideas, such as liberalism or conservatism, were most influential in the evaluation of a political object, while “smaller” ideas, such as general feelings toward a group, candidate, or policy, refined attitudes. Further, this research argued that one could operate with several schemas that were not tightly connected. The nature of the stimulus object could direct an individual to use one schema or another in order to make sense of the object.

As the body of research grew, scholars were forced to move beyond schema theory in order to make meaningful advances in our understanding of social and political cognition. Memory-based models and online models of political cognition grew to popularity because of their ability to account for irregularities in individuals’ expressed attitudes. Memory-based models posit that, when asked to express an opinion, individuals scan their memory banks for relevant information, then integrate the given information to form an opinion. Because people cannot possibly remember all relevant pieces of information, a theory developed that argued people sampled only relevant information. Opinions seem inconsistent to the extent that different pieces of information are salient, and sampled, at different times.

Online models, unlike memory-based models, argue that people do not remember each piece of information. Rather, people evaluate a given piece of information as it pertains to a political object, decide whether it supports or opposes their current opinions, and update their opinions accordingly. Upon updating their tally, people may then forget specifics regarding processed information. Online models allow for both opinion change and for meaningful opinions to exist even though it may be the case that people cannot explicate why they feel the way they do about a given topic.

It is not clear which type of model, online or memory based, provides the most accurate description of how people think about politics. On one hand, research suggests that political sophisticates tend to engage in online processing while those with less political sophistication tend to use memory based processing. Further, it may be the case that people use different methods of processing information to analyze different political objects. For example, studies indicate people use online processing for candidate evaluation and memory-based processing for survey response.

Recent research considers the impact of values, elite behavior, institutions, social identities, and social networks on political cognition. While it is clear that research has made considerable strides in understanding peoples’ thought processes, there is still much to be discovered.

Bibliography:

  1. Conover, Pamela Johnston, and Stanley Feldman. “How People Organize the Political World: A Schematic Model.” American Journal of Political Science 28 (1984): 95–126.
  2. Fiske, Susan T., and Shelley E.Taylor. Social Cognition, 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1991.
  3. Lewis-Beck, Michael S.,William G. Jacoby, Helmut Norpoth, and Herbert F.Weisberg. The American Voter Revisited. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008.
  4. Lodge, Milton, Marco R. Steenbergen, and Shawn Brau. “The Responsive Voter: Campaign Information and the Dynamics of Candidate Evaluation.” American Political Science Review 89 (1995): 309–326.
  5. Zaller, John R. The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinions. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Social Capital

Why do some communities function well, while others do not? The concept of social capital recently flourished in political and social sciences, because it provides an explanation for prosperous and democratic social development.

The definition of social capital is somewhat ambiguous, but an accepted definition is that it is the connections among individuals, the social networks and norms of reciprocity and trust that arise from them. It is sometimes referred to as the glue that holds society together and related to social cohesion in general. We might ask: Why use the term capital? It is used frequently in social science to refer to properties that can be reproduced or augmented and represent an investment of some kind. Hence, social capital, like financial capital or human capital, represents a resource, in this case one held by social groups or within social networks. Social capital offers access to resources and valued collective outcomes that would be unattainable or too costly for individuals to access. An example would be that of blood donation, whereby individuals freely donate their blood, which then becomes a collective asset for the community.

The three main proponents of the term bring us slightly different definitions and functions of social capital. Pierre Bourdieu (1986) argued that social capital was a resource that people could draw on in their social networks. He identified a range of capitals (cultural, symbolic, economic) that formed part of an individual’s resources. However, he was concerned with how these resources were used to maintain systems of inequality and exclusion rather than to promote the public good.

James Coleman (1988), on the other hand, used social capital to explain why some children were less likely to drop out of school—the relationship between human and social capital. In his analysis, public participation and social networks reinforced social norms of achievement in families and communities.

Robert Putnam and colleagues (1993) carried out the most comprehensive survey of social capital, using the term to explain the differences in development between northern and southern Italy. He argued that it was the tradition of civic associations in northern Italy that had helped it become more democratic and prosperous than the south. Putnam (2000) went on to apply these ideas to the United States, arguing that social capital had declined in that country due to generational changes, increased labor force participation, passive entertainment such as watching TV, and urban sprawl.

Components

The components of social capital that emerge from these different perspectives include social resources provided through civic participation, social networks, and the social trust that is built up from these activities. Civic participation is measured often in terms of membership and participation in voluntary associations, although this does not entirely capture social capital. For example, public engagement can take place without joining associations. It is easy enough to simply subscribe to an association, but Putnam, for example, argues that social capital can only be built by face-to-face activity, so subscriptions are not enough.

Social networks are more difficult to measure, but Nan Lin (2001) assesses the role of social networks in building social capital. He argues that they are based on ongoing reciprocal relationships that can be used by individuals to promote their own goals and that they help to secure reputations. Like economic capital, they can form a basis of exchange and reciprocity. They also can form a source of economic capital in situations where people cannot turn to banks (for example, in migrant communities). However, this individualistic and instrumental view of social networks is contested by those who argue that the reason that social capital leads to good social relationships is because they are based on altruistic ties of friendship or contribution to the community, which is in itself a social resource.

Social networks operate in different ways, and some have argued that loose social networks are more useful than tight social networks for getting a job, for example. This has lead Putnam to identify two types of social capital: bridging social capital that links disparate social groups and bonding social capital based on dense and close ties among smaller groups. Woolcock (1998) has introduced the idea of linking social capital, which brings together social groups not normally in touch with each other, such as across religious divides. While bridging social capital can be good for creating social cohesion, bonding social capital helps to build up the dense networks of trust and reciprocity. However, it has the danger of becoming exclusionary and monopolizing resources, as in the example of mafia-type organizations based on strong internal loyalty. Too much bonding social capital also can be destructive for social development.

Trust is both an outcome and a component of social capital because without trust, social networks cannot operate. While trust may be seen in a purely personal dimension, social capital is measured often in terms of social trust with people responding to the question as to whether other people can generally be trusted. High trust societies tend to be high in social capital because economic and political institutions are based on shared norms.

The Future Of Social Capital

Has social capital recently declined? Putnam (2000) marshals impressive evidence that it has declined in the United States and that this poses a threat to the development of American society. In Europe it is possible that social capital may have declined due to the ongoing shrinkage in trade union and church membership as well as for similar reasons as in the United States. However, recent empirical analysis suggests that membership of civic associations has remained stable in Europe (even if it remains low in southern and eastern Europe) and that social trust has actually increased in recent decades. Social networks are thriving in some countries, especially those with strong welfare states, but take different forms in different regions. For example, in southern Europe family networks may be more important as a source of social cohesion than in the north.

Many have argued that in the era of electronic communications and the network society, people are less inclined to join organizations in the traditional way or to meet their friends face-to-face. Instead there has been an explosion of electronic networking activities as well as electronic mobilization, for example, through support of various causes, calls for participation, or petitions. Electronic communications have collapsed the space between the public and their leaders, as well as created new arenas for public debate. Therefore, the nature of social capital has changed also, but there is no agreement as to whether electronic communications have actually replaced the kinds of social capital described earlier.

Social capital is seen has having many benefits for the society, and various researchers have claimed that it is associated with economic growth, more democracy, less crime, better health, better educational performance, getting a job, and a better welfare state. For this reason it has been of great interest to policy makers, and the World Bank has been a champion of the promotion of social capital in international development. Other international organizations and national and local governments have applied these ideas in a variety of ways. Social capital is seen as a tool for building a well-functioning community.

Bibliography:

  1. Bourdieu, Pierce. “Forms of Capital.” In Handbook of Theory and Research in the Sociology of Education, edited by John G. Richardson, 241–258. New York, Greenwood, 1986.
  2. Coleman, James. “Social Capital and the Creation of Human Capital.” American Journal of Sociology 94, suppl. (1988): 94–120.
  3. Field, John. Social Capital. London: Routledge, 2003.
  4. Fukuyama, Francis. Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity. London: Penguin, 1995.
  5. Granovetter, Mark. Getting a Job: A Study of Contacts and Careers. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1974.
  6. Halpern, David. Social Capital. Cambridge, U.K.: Polity, 2005.
  7. Knack, Stephan, and Philip Keefer. “Does Social Capital Have an Economic Payoff? A Cross Country Investigation.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 112 (1997): 1251–1288.
  8. Lin, Nan. Social Capital. A Theory of Social Structure and Action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  9. Pahl, Ray E. On Friendship. Cambridge, U.K.: Polity, 2000.
  10. Pichler, Florian, and Claire Wallace. “Patterns of Formal and Informal Social Capital in Europe.” European Sociological Review 23, no. 4 (2007): 423–436.
  11. Portes, Alejandro. “Social Capital: Its Origins and Applications in Modern Sociology.” Annual Review of Sociology 22 (1998): 1–24.
  12. Putnam, Robert D. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000.
  13. Putnam, Robert D., Robert Leonardi, and Raffaella Y. Nanetti. Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton, N.J.: University of Princeton Press, 1993.
  14. Woolcock, Michael. “Social Capital and Economic Development:Towards a Theoretical Synthesis and Policy Framework.” Theory and Society 27, no. 2 (1998): 151–208.

Forensic Science Essay

The examination of physical and behavioral evidence is integral to criminal investigations, to court proceedings, and ultimately to achieving justice. Where these are concerned, the examination assists with the determination of what happened, of whether or not a crime has actually taken place, and with suspect elimination. As more certain inclusionary evidence is developed, it can be used to facilitate the identification, arrest, assessment, defense, and prosecution of criminal defendants. Certainly there are other uses during the investigative and trial interval, but these are primary.

The examination of physical and behavioral evidence has tremendous value in postconviction work as well. New physical evidence, evidence of forensic fraud, and the lack of adequate access to forensic examinations can be used to set aside guilty verdicts and even exonerate criminal defendants entirely. Suffice it to say that the examination of physical and behavioral evidence by forensic scientists not only is integral to criminal prosecutions, but also is equally important with respect to identifying miscarriages of justice.

Consequently, forensic scientists have an obligation to be ethical stewards of the evidence that they are charged with appraising. This requires knowing their proper roles and responsibilities, understanding the mandates of scientific integrity, and maintaining an ethical character.

Forensic Scientists

Forensic scientists examine and interpret physical evidence using scientific principles and methods with the expectation of providing sworn courtroom testimony regarding their findings. It is this feature that distinguishes the forensic scientist from all other scientific examiners and investigators. Those scientists, who conduct examinations without this expectation, or without its potential, are generally not considered forensic by nature.

Forensic scientists exist across a broad spectrum of professions, including (but not limited to): laboratory criminalistics, forensic pathology, forensic toxicology, forensic biology, firearm and tool mark examination, forensic odontology, crime reconstruction, forensic criminology, forensic psychiatry, and forensic psychology. The majority of forensic scientists in the United States are employed by, or under the direction of, law enforcement agencies and the prosecution. The remaining number work for nonlaw enforcement government agencies, for educational institutions, and in the private sector.

Contrary to public perception, not all forensic examinations are conducted by trained scientists or in a crime laboratory; some (e.g., latent fingerprint analysis and footwear comparisons) are conducted on behalf of law enforcement agencies by police officers without a science education or even a forensic science background. A 2009 report by the National Academy of Sciences in the U.S. forensic science community has found that it is fragmented and deficient. The report also determined that there is a lack of scientific research and methodology to support the majority of forensic science findings and related “scientific” testimony, save DNA analysis, which it held up as a gold standard.

The Role of the Forensic Scientist

Whether employed by the prosecution or the defense, forensic scientists are intended to serve as an objective filter within the justice system. They employ physical or behavioral evidence as a tool to sift out case theories that can be either supported or refuted; these findings are meant to be faithfully reported to their clients. The first onus of the forensic scientist, then, is to dispassionately establish the objective facts of a case as determined by a scientific examination of the evidence. It is not to seek out evidence that supports the theories of a particular institution, employer, or side. A forensic scientist works to establish the scientific facts and their contextual meaning with no investment in the outcome. Their job is the education of investigators, attorneys, courts, and juries with these findings, not advocacy for or against the guilt of any particular suspect or defendant.

Scientific Integrity

Irrespective of specific disciplines, a consistent pattern of core scientific obligations associated with the establishment of scientific integrity is evident in the literature. Individual scientists in every area of practice have an obligation to do the following:

  • Maintain an ethical professional character
  • Embrace empiricism and the scientific method
  • Maintain a disposition toward critical thinking and skepticism
  • Maintain objectivity and disinterest toward predetermined outcomes
  • Show humility toward inherent limitations and uncertainty of findings
  • Use logical analysis and argumentation when interpreting findings
  • Maintain honesty and precision in reporting, attributions, and authorship
  • Maintain openness to peer review to enable independent validation
  • Maintain transparency regarding personal conflicts of interest
  • Demonstrate fairness in peer reviewing the work of others
  • Report the misconduct of others
  • Avoid reckless disregard for maintaining scientific integrity

Institutions that employ scientists have an equally important set of obligations with respect to establishing and maintaining an ethical scientific culture. These include the following:

  • Employ qualified individuals with ethical professional character
  • Provide mentorship and leadership promoting scientific literacy and integrity
  • Provide clearly stated practice standards and ethical guidelines
  • Provide opportunities for ongoing collaboration, education, and training
  • Encourage peer review and self-correcting enterprise
  • Quality control, that is, monitoring and evaluating the environment for scientific integrity
  • Maintain transparency regarding institutional conflicts of interest
  • Exert no pressure on employees to produce results favoring the institution
  • Award promotions and pay raises based on scientific competence, not outcomes favorable to the institution
  • Maintain zero tolerance for misconduct, investigating all allegations and applying appropriate sanctions
  • Provide protection for whistle-blowers
  • Avoid reckless disregard for maintaining scientific integrity

While these obligations are not the set limit of what ethical science requires, they are generally accepted as the basic starting point for building and preserving scientific integrity.

Traits of the Ethical Forensic Scientist

In order to carry out their scientific mission, ethical forensic scientists have a fundamental obligation to develop, maintain, and demonstrate impartiality; to acquire knowledge of scientific methodology; and to demonstrate the employment of scientific methodology in their work. Forensic scientists are ostensibly employed because of their oath to advocate for the evidence and its dispassionate scientific interpretation. They must be capable of demonstrating that they have no emotional, professional, or financial stake in the outcome of legal proceedings. In other words, they cannot be paid to guarantee findings or testimony favorable to their employer, nor can their advancement or pay be connected to the success of one party over another.

Additionally, there is the corresponding need for maintaining transparency so that others will be able to review and validate any findings that are offered—to ensure the integrity of any facts and evidence relied upon. These are the traits essential to any scientist. They are also those necessary for achieving and maintaining scientific integrity.

The ability to provide sworn expert testimony being integral to forensic examinations, a trustworthy character requirement is also presumptively invoked. Forensic scientists must achieve and maintain the trust of the court in order to be allowed the privilege of giving such evidence. This includes avoiding activities or affiliations suggestive of criminality, a propensity for dishonesty, or poor character—whether past or present. If it can be shown that a forensic scientist cannot be taken at his or her word, or that he or she has a propensity for criminal behavior or affiliations, then the court may exclude their testimony. Ultimately, a forensic scientist that cannot be trusted to testify in court has no value to the criminal justice system.

Cherry Picking

Even when a forensic scientist is capable of maintaining an aura of scientific impartiality, their lack of control over the evidence may cause them to contribute a biased result. Unless they attend the crime scene and observe which items of evidence are collected and which items are left behind, they will be limited to receiving and analyzing only that which has been provided to them. This evidence will have been cherry-picked from the scene by those in charge of collection efforts and laboratory submissions. In other words, the evidence provided to the forensic scientist is often selected from the crime scene by a police investigator in support of a particular theory or by a prosecutor looking for a conviction. Under these conditions, a forensic scientist employed by the state is given carefully chosen evidence with a specific request for a specific analysis; rarely is there full knowledge or disclosure of everything that was collected or left behind, let alone a comprehensive reconstruction effort.

The ethical forensic examiner understands this limitation, seeks to ameliorate it when possible, and works to explain its impact on subsequent findings.

Role Strain

The objective mandates of good science are frequently in direct conflict with the needs and expectations of those seeking to engage a forensic scientist. This conflict will create tension in the many roles that forensic scientists are expected to serve (e.g., evidence examiner, supervisor, mentor, police officer, and expert witness). Constantly shifting roles, and the collision of multiple role expectations, can cause what sociologists refer to as “role strain.” This may be defined as the tension that arises from difficulties and contradictions inherent in multiple personal and/or professional roles. Specifically, role strain theory provides that individual strain increases when the demands associated with one role interfere directly with the ability to satisfy the demands of another.

Role strain in the forensic sciences originates from the competing demands and expectations of law enforcement, attorneys, supervisors (sometimes more than one), coworkers, intimate partners (when they are also colleagues or coworkers), and the requirements of objective scientific practice. Even the rule of law as decided by various courts, and related instructions to expertness, can conflict directly with scientific mandates. When forensic scientists’ roles and any related expectations or directives are in conflict, forensic scientists must decide which duty is primary and which set of rules they are going to follow. Theoretically, science should win out, as this will be their source of credibility in any future sworn statements or testimony. In reality, however, acting objectively and skeptically can come at a cost. It can end friendships; it can earn one the derision of colleagues or supervisors; it can hamper promotions and pay raises; it can bring unwanted attention to co-worker errors and institutional failings; it can earn the derision of jurists; and in extreme cases it can even get one fired.

Ethical forensic scientists are aware of their shifting personal and professional roles, and the competing expectations of others. They are, consequently, fully knowledgeable of what scientific integrity demands. Moreover, they are unwilling to compromise their commitment to science despite external pressures, and make it clear to others when their integrity is at risk.

Ethical Issues in Reporting Findings

Forensic scientists are hired to analyze the evidence and objectively report findings, no matter the outcome. Regardless of the side that employs them, ethical forensic scientists will educate their clients as to the strengths, weaknesses, and relevance of the evidence examined. This may be done verbally, with a written report, in formal interviews and sworn depositions, and finally in the form of courtroom testimony. At each step, there are ethical issues and obligations that must be attended.

Brady v. Maryland

Scientists employed by the prosecution have a very specific burden with respect to their findings and what is referred to as due process. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution provide that the government may not deprive its citizens of “life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” This provision is essentially a fairness requirement. Ideally, citizens may only be tried and punished for crimes alleged by the state under the most impartial and unprejudiced conditions. Any condition or treatment that tends to bias a judge, jury, or the process as a whole in favor of the state is considered a violation of due process.

In accordance with due process, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Brady v. Maryland (1963) and its legal progeny mandate that forensic scientists must facilitate equal access to the evidence, subsequent forensic tests, and related results. Ultimately, anything found by the police, government-employed forensic examiners, or the prosecutor’s office must be turned over or made available to the defense if it might have an exculpatory value. This includes an array of evidence, such as information and reports related to each and every forensic examination requested or conducted by the state.

Forensic scientists have an ethical responsibility to ensure that all examinations and results are wholly and effectively communicated to the intended recipients, including investigators, attorneys, and the court. There is no better mechanism than writing it down, which is perhaps the most accepted form of professional communication. This requires the forensic scientist to be competent at the task of intelligible writing. After all, the goal of a forensic examination report is to relay findings in a clear and logical manner. This cannot be achieved with imprecise, sloppy, or poorly crafted writing.

A common Brady violation, often committed out of nothing more than ignorance, is related to the forensic practice of reporting, or failing to report, “inconclusive” results. There are forensic practitioners employed by the government, from fingerprint analysts to DNA technicians, who erroneously believe that inconclusive or indeterminate findings are not an actual result. Therefore, they feel justified in withholding the existence of such examinations or tests and any related outcomes. The consequence of such practices is that there is no mention of related examinations, testing, or findings in their reports, and nothing about it is disclosed to the defense.

In a forensic context, the practice of selecting which results to disclose is dishonest and may be referred to as another form of cherry-picking: selectively reporting (and thereby emphasizing) only desired results or information rather than the entirety of examinations performed and results achieved. Those employed by the state have an ethical obligation to refrain from such partisan practices.

Ethical Issues in Expert Testimony

The ethical forensic scientist will refrain from making any false or misleading statements, especially when giving sworn testimony. This includes testimony regarding education, training, experience, and credentials. It also includes testimony regarding the nature and extent of examinations and testing, the results of examinations and testing, and the contextual meaning of those results.

In comportment with the ethical requirement of honesty, forensic scientists will also refrain from statements or testimony that might be considered perjurious. Perjury is criminal charge. It is the act of lying or making verifiably false statements on a material matter under oath or affirmation in a court of law or in any sworn statements in writing. A violation of specific criminal statutes, it is not sufficient for a statement to be false to meet the threshold of perjury; it must be an intentionally false statement regarding a material fact—a fact relevant to the case at hand.

Forensic fraud occurs when forensic scientists provide sworn testimony, opinions, or documents (e.g., affidavits, reports, or professional resumes) bound for court that contain deceptive or misleading information, findings, opinions, or conclusions, deliberately offered in order to secure an unfair or unlawful gain. Separate from the concepts of incompetence and error, forensic fraud involves intentionally unethical behavior.

Forensic fraud is no small problem for the justice system. It can result in the conviction of innocents, destroy careers, and create immense financial liability for law enforcement agencies, individual examiners, and the municipalities that employ them. It also creates incalculable expense for the justice system in general.

Forensic scientists have been cross-categorized as having used one or more of three general approaches to committing fraud, and may be referred to as simulators, dissemblers, and pseudoexperts.

Simulators are those examiners who physically manipulate physical evidence or related forensic testing. This means that they physically fabricate, tamper with, or destroy evidence. As the name suggests, they are trying to create the appearance that something happened when it did not, or to create the appearance that nothing happened at all when in fact it did. This approach to fraud also describes those examiners engaging in evidence suppression by concealing its existence (e.g., hiding it in a desk drawer, hiding it on the evidence shelf, removing it from the evidence log).

Dissemblers are those examiners who exaggerate, embellish, lie about, or otherwise misrepresent findings. They are not tampering with the evidence; they are simply not telling the truth about it. Dissemblers exist on a continuum from those who lie outright about the significance of examination results to those who intentionally present a biased or incomplete view.

Pseudoexperts are those examiners who fabricate or misrepresent their credentials. They are also referred to as fakes, phonies, charlatans, and mountebanks. Pseudoexperts exist on a continuum of severity as well, from those with valid credentials who misrepresent a credential or an affiliation, to those with no valid credentials at all.

An Ethical Canon

Various organizations, institutions, and learned scholars have put forth proposed ethical canons for practicing forensic scientists. From those sources, the following general guidelines can be found with some level of consistency, which the forensic scientist is admonished to attend with the following few exceptions:

  • To understand and apply the principles of science and logic
  • To seek the truth, regardless of where it leads
  • To embrace a logical, impartial, and unbiased scientific attitude
  • To avoid giving anyone, whether it be a supervisor, a client, a judge, or jury, any false impressions regarding the nature and meaning of findings
  • To present findings in an impartial and unbiased manner
  • To commit to presenting findings that are correct and true, as a primary concern
  • To maintain an attitude of professionalism at all times, despite the emotional content, context, or politics of a given case
  • To identify unethical behavior and other forms of professional misconduct whenever it is observed, and to report it to

the appropriate authorities whenever possible

When these ethical responsibilities are not attended by individual forensic scientists, the forensic science community suffers—as does the criminal justice system and society as a whole.

Bibliography:

  1. Bowen, R. Ethics and the Practice of Forensic Science, Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2010.
  2. Crowder, S. and B. Turvey. Ethical Justice: Applied Issues for Criminal Justice Students and Professionals, San Diego: Elsevier Science, 2013.
  3. Giannelli, P. and K. McMunigal. “Prosecutors, Ethics, and Expert Witnesses.” Fordham Law Review, 76 (December 2007).
  4. Hagan, M. Whores of the Court: The Fraud of Psychiatric Testimony and the Rape of American Justice. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.
  5. Inman, K. and N. Rudin. Principle and Practice of Criminalistics: The Profession of Forensic Science. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1999.
  6. National Academy of Sciences. Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward. National Academy of Sciences Committee on Identifying the Needs of the Forensic Sciences Community. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2009.
  7. Peterson, J. and M. Hickman. “Census of Publicly Funded Forensic Crime Laboratories, 2002.” Washington DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, 2005.
  8. Saks, M. J., R. I. Lanyon, and M. Costanzo. Pitfalls and Ethics of Expert Testimony: Expert Psychological Testimony for the Courts. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2007.
  9. Thornton, J. I. “Crime Reconstruction: Ethos and Ethics.” In: Crime Reconstruction, W. J. Chisum and B. Turvey, eds. 2nd ed. San Diego, CA: Elsevier Science, 2011.
  10. Thornton, J. I. and J. Peterson. “The General Assumptions and Rationale of Forensic Identification.” In Modern Scientific Evidence: The Law and Science of Expert Testimony, D. Faigman, D. Kaye, M. Saks, and J. Sanders, eds. St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Group, 2007.
  11. Turvey, B. Forensic Fraud: Evaluating Law Enforcement and Forensic Science Cultures in the Context of Examiner Misconduct San Diego, CA: Elsevier Science, 2013.
  12. Upshaw-Downs, J. C. and A. Swienton. Ethics in Forensic Science. San Diego, CA: Elsevier Science, 2012.

Power and Control Wheel Essay

The power and control wheel is a way of visually representing the tactics typically used by men who batter (see Figure 1). Batter means the ongoing pattern of violence, coercion, and abuse in an intimate relationship.

Figure 1. Power and Control Wheel

The graphic was created in 1982 by Pence, McDonnell, and Paymar as part of a curriculum for a court-ordered program for batterers. It was developed out of the experiences of battered women attending support and educational groups in the working-class town of Duluth, Minnesota. These women were asked, “What do you want taught in court-ordered groups for men who batter?” Their answers spoke to the need to bring the complex reality of battering out into the open. That is, the lived experience of what actually goes on in a battering relationship needed to be recognized and exposed. As the designers probed, women began to talk about the tactics their partners used to control them. Violence was commonplace. Less recognized but equally significant were other tactics of power, including money, the children, emotional and psychological put-downs, undermining self-esteem and other social relationships, constant criticism of women’s mothering, intimidation, and various forms of expressing male privilege. Over the weeks, the designers revised and adjusted the graphic until the groups of women were satisfied that the wheel captured their experience of living with a violent abuser.

The wheel is not a theory. It is a conceptual tool. It helps people see the patterns in behavior and their significance. It is not intended to capture every tactic of control, just primary tactics. Nor will all empirical cases correspond exactly to the wheel. The wheel was based on women’s experience in heterosexual relationships. The battered women did not identify a desire for power or control as motivating their partners to engage in these behaviors. Rather, batterers gained power and control in the relationship as an outcome of those behaviors.

By 1984, Pence, Paymar, and McDonnell concluded that identifying positive and not just negative behaviors in their training program for batterers could help men to change. Following their earlier method, they then developed the equality wheel to describe behaviors that characterized intimate relationship based on equality. In 1995, Lakota users of the two wheels adapted the shape of the power and control wheel to that of a triangle rather than a wheel (Pine Ridge, Sacred Circle Project). The triangular shape better fits the originators’ understanding of how, in battering relationships, violence and its accompanying tactics of power are intended to establish and maintain dominance over a victim. The tactics do not in and of themselves constitute battering. Battering involves the patterned and intentional use of these tactics to control the victim’s autonomy and to deny her a life free of fear and intimidation.

The wheels have been translated into over 40 languages. It is sometimes culturally modified as, for example, in the Hawaiian modification where the notion of balance replaces that of equality. The graphic has struck a chord among women worldwide.

Bibliography:

  1. Pence, E., & Paymar, M. (1993). Education groups for men who batter. New York: Springer.
  2. The Duluth Model Wheel Gallery: https://www.theduluthmodel.org/

Small-N And Case Study Essay

Small-n and case studies are two methods of qualitative research used in political science and other social sciences. Small-n studies (with n referring to the number of subjects or cases in a study) are the opposite of large-N quantitative projects that involve significant amounts of data or observations.

Central to small-n studies is the idea that by only using a limited number of subjects or cases, a researcher can develop a much more detailed and nuanced set of information. Consequently, researchers may be better able to identify casual relationships, such as if A, then B. One major problem of small-n studies is their limited ability to account for all variables that led to a particular outcome.

A case study is a comprehensive analysis of an individual, group, model, or historical period (small-n studies can be case studies). Case studies do not necessarily seek to develop broad general theories, but instead present casual relationships that exist under a specific set of circumstances that may or may not be replicable elsewhere. Some case studies, generally known as deviant or extreme, seek to explain why some cases do not conform to expected norms, while others, known as paradigmatic do allow researchers to develop generalizations about cause and effect.

European State Formation Essay

Inheritor of the ancient Greek concept of politeia (polity), the state in Europe emerged gradually, to varying degrees and in response to various dynamics, from around the twelfth century until the end of the eighteenth century. More concretely, the period of 1485 to 1789 saw the building of most modern European nation-states. According to social scientist Stein Rokkan, the second phase of nation-building, the subsequent processes of mass politics, and the construction of the welfare state completed with early state formation the main four-phase process of political development in contemporary Europe.

The development of the modern state as a national state, or nation-state, gave rise to the idea that the territorial boundaries of the polity also represent the boundaries of a nation or a people. The concept of nation is implicit in many of the characteristics of the state, including its territorial boundedness and the status of citizenship conferred on its members. The emotional force of nationhood, and the solidarity and mutual belonging it engenders, also serve political purposes. The idea that the state represents a people sharing a common identity and a set of civic values enhances its legitimacy, fosters citizens’ participation in the democratic process, and underpins much of the discourse used to justify public policy-making and governmental action.

According to Max Weber, the modern state embodies the legal order of a given territory and exercises the monopoly of the legitimate use of force. As a political system (politischer Verband), the state has traditionally been regarded as an organization structured in a hierarchical manner aiming at maintaining civic order in a defined territorial context. Its rational-legal legitimacy is greatly dependent on the effective enforcement of the rule of the law to all inhabitants within a territorially delimited area. This was meant to be achieved by depersonalizing state authority from that of the rulers and by implementing abstract rights and duties not based on historical prerogatives and privileges.

As a result of diverse historical developments of state formation, two broad models can be identified: (1) unitary, in which (a) sovereign political power is undivided and rests on an organic core of governmental responsibilities and (b) executive, legislative, and judiciary operate on a state basis with some delegation of administrative functions to subnational agencies or bodies and (2) plural (or compound), in which (a) territorial power is distributed by consent among the different layers of government and (b) central, meso, and local government can implement policies according to their own jurisdictions. In general terms, the unitary-plural typology finds expression in two corresponding systems of government: centralized, where the loci of decision making are concentrated in one core, and decentralized, with a dispersion of power throughout distinct layers of government.

Among the various influential schools of social thought, functional diffusionism has persistently conveyed the idea that internal territorial differences within states would disappear with the extension of liberal democracy and industrial capitalism. Accordingly, the processes of periphery migrations into the urbanized core areas would eliminate the old local ascribing identities in favor of new associative links of a functional nature. The refutation of these theoretical assumptions by historical events has given way to new approaches, among which neoinstitutionalism underlines the role of state institutions in shaping the preferences and objectives of social actors in their decision-making processes. It is argued also that, as a consequence of state formation, institutions highly condition the outcomes of such political decisions with the establishment of the game rules of power and influence.

At the turn of the millennium, the modern state is challenged from above by the forces of globalization of the world economy, the mobility of people and capital, and the rise of many international institutions. Globalization has meant a transfer of authority and power from the nation-states to the markets. The very patterns of economic competition are to comply with the new rules of global markets and the strategies of transnational corporations. From below, the reassertion of territorial minorities demanding increased autonomy has put further stress on sovereign states, and in some cases they defy the state with the option of “exit” rather than that of “voice.” The state also is challenged internally by the advance of individualized social relations and by a declining confidence in and engagement with the formal political process. All things considered, the state continues to be a central concept in the study of politics and a major actor in the power relations at the international level.

Bibliography:

  1. Flora, Peter, ed. State Formation, Nation-building, and Mass Politics in Europe: The Theory of Stein Rokkan. With Stein Kuhnle and Derek Urwin. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
  2. Hirschman, Albert O. Exit,Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1970.
  3. Poggi, Gianfranco. The Development of the Modern State. London: Hutchinson, 1978.
  4. Tilly, Charles, ed. The Formation of National States in Western Europe. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1975.
  5. Weber, Max. The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1947.

Forensic Nursing Essay

Forensic nursing is the nursing care of crime victims and people who are accused or convicted of committing crimes. The term forensic nurse came into use in 1992 after a group of about 70 sexual assault nurses met in Minneapolis and started the International Association of Forensic Nursing. Forensic nursing is defined as the application of the medicolegal aspects of health care in the scientific investigation of trauma and/or death related issues. Forensic nursing practice is as old as the interface between the legal and health care systems and has been considered a subspecialty of nursing since 1995.

Forensic Nursing Practice

Clinical forensic nurses do many of the same things other nurses do: conduct health interviews, perform physical assessments, conduct medical tests, collect specimens, help people manage crises, document information, and prevent problems. Unlike other nurses, however, forensic nurses are involved with the patient specifically because there is an interface between the health care and legal systems, and that influences what the nurses do. For instance, a forensic nurse may collect specimens, an ordinary nursing function. Specimen collection becomes a forensic function when the specimens come from a suspect in a reported sexual assault. In the same way, forensic psychiatric nurses may use the familiar tools to evaluate mental status, but the information may be used in court rather than in a discharge planning conference.

Forensic nurse researchers add to the body of scientific knowledge that supports forensic nursing practice, education, and administration. The National Institute of Nursing Research has funded over 40 violence-related research studies since 2001, most focusing on sexual violence or interpersonal violence. Forensic nurse education is provided in 32 master’s and post-master’s certificate programs nationwide, 13 of which are offered exclusively online. Forensic nurse administrators manage Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner programs in every state in the United States, some of which also incorporate services to victims of domestic violence.

The Forensic Nursing Workplace

Forensic nurses work in hospitals and clinics, just like other nurses do. The difference is that the hospital might be in a prison, or the clinic might be in a jail. Forensic nurses who are death investigators go to crime scenes. Forensic psychiatric nurses work in mental health facilities and advocacy organizations. Sexual assault nurse examiners work in hospital emergency departments and freestanding clinics.

Forensic nursing is a role rather than a job description, so forensic nursing principles are useful in any setting. If, for example, a nurse is focused on intimate partner violence and its effect on women and children, he or she might work in a prenatal or pediatric clinic. Legal nurse consultants help both the prosecution and defense in their search for truth and justice; they often own their own businesses and may have additional training as attorneys or paralegals.

Bibliography:

  1. Benak, L. (2006). Forensic nursing: A global response to crime, violence and trauma. On the Edge, 12(4), 9–10.
  2. Lynch, V. A. (1993). Forensic aspects of health care: New roles, new responsibilities. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing, 31, 5–6.

Foster Care

Foster care is a social service providing temporary care to children whose homes are unsafe because of child maltreatment or parent or caregiver incapacity. When the substitute caregiver is related to the child, foster care may be referred to as kinship care. Typically, the term foster care includes only children in the legal custody of the state or county child welfare agency, while kinship care may refer to any child in a relative’s care, whether or not the state or the relative has legal custody.

If a child welfare agency has placed a child in foster care, it must justify to the dependency court that the child would be at imminent risk of harm in the home from which he or she was removed. The state is required to make “reasonable efforts” to prevent the need for foster care, to reunify the family, and to find permanent family alternatives for children who cannot return home. Rules about circumstances that make foster care placement justifiable, as well as criteria for licensing and monitoring foster homes, are established through state laws and regulations. In most states, a parent may also place a child in foster care voluntarily. Federal law provides a national framework regarding the care of dependent children in foster care.

The foster care system has its roots in colonial period practices in which impoverished or orphaned children were indentured to families who could care for them and teach them a trade. Systems of indenture were later replaced by orphan asylums and then succeeded in the late 1800s by systems of “placing out” impoverished children from urban slums to host families in the countryside. These systems evolved with changing societal standards regarding appropriate living conditions for children and accepted practices related to child labor, as well as with the professionalization of the social work field. Over time, the focus of foster care shifted from orphans and destitute children to maltreatment of children by parents and caregivers.

Foster Care Settings and Foster Parents

Nearly half of children in foster care in the United States live in nonrelative family foster homes and another quarter live in foster care with relatives. The use of relatives as foster parents varies widely by state. About one in ten foster children live in institutions and a similar proportion live in group homes.

Foster parents are usually recruited, licensed, and trained by state or county child welfare agencies. They are paid a stipend as reimbursement for the child’s room and board, but are not salaried employees. Foster care payment rates vary with the child’s age and needs for specialized care. Foster parents tend to be older than biological parents and about 40% are employed full time outside the home. While the median level of experience of foster parents is about 3 years, there is a great deal of turnover in the population of foster parents, and state and local agencies face difficulties recruiting and retaining them.

Children in Foster Care

At the end of 2004, there were 518,000 children in foster care in the United States and 800,000 had spent some time that year in foster care. The number of children in foster care in the United States has risen nearly every year since national data collection began in the 1960s. Foster care is intended as a short-term service for families in crisis, although some children experience extended foster care stays. The median length of stay of children in foster care during 2004 was 18 months, and the median age at the time of entry to foster care was 8.3 years. Approximately half of children in foster care have a case goal of reunification with the parent or principal caretaker. Another fifth have adoption as their case goal, with the remaining children having case goals such as guardianship, long-term foster care, or emancipation.

Most children who enter foster care do so after a state child protection agency verifies or “substantiates” a report of child abuse or neglect, although relatively few substantiated maltreatment reports result in children’s placement in foster care. The National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-being (NSCAW), a nationally representative, longitudinal study of children in foster care and children investigated by child protective services, reveals that of children in foster care for 1 year, 60% had entered foster care primarily as a result of child neglect. Ten percent of children in foster care had experienced physical abuse as their most serious type of maltreatment, and 8% were victims of sexual abuse. Approximately 8% of children in foster care had not experienced abuse or neglect, but had been referred for reasons such as their own mental health needs or domestic violence in their families. Parental mental illness, substance abuse, and other serious impairments are associated with many children’s foster care placements.

Rates of entry into foster care are highest for infants. The rates drop dramatically for 1-year-old children, and the risk of entry continues to decrease until children reach adolescence, at which point the risk rises again. Entry rates are higher for African American children than for White or Hispanic children. Children living in poor and urban communities are also much more likely to enter foster care than children living in other environments.

Many children in foster care have physical, emotional, and behavioral issues that warrant specialized treatment. The NSCAW study found that, on average, children in foster care scored somewhat below national norms on a variety of developmental measures. Of particular concern was that one third of children in foster care for a year demonstrated significant cognitive and/or behavioral problems.

Bibliography:

  1. Mallon, G. P., ; Hess, P. M. (Eds.). (2005). Child welfare for the 21st century. New York: Columbia University Press.
  2. NSCAW Research Group. (2005). National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being research brief no. 1: Who are the children in foster care? Retrieved July 7, 2006, from http://www.ndacan.cornell.edu/NDACAN/Publications/ NSCAW_Research_Brief_1.pdf
  3. NSCAW Research Group. (2005). National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being research brief no. 2: Foster children’s caregivers and caregiving environments. Retrieved May 27, 2017, from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/caregivers.pdf

Poverty Essay

Poverty is a universal problem known to human beings since time immemorial. The concept of poverty has been defined in different ways ranging from the social structural to a social psychological level. For example, Lewis developed the notion of the culture of poverty, implying that the poor people have a distinct way of life plagued by inadequate access to quality as well as quantity of resources. In either case, there seems to be a tendency to blame the victims of poverty as if they voluntarily chose to be deprived of life’s amenities. Marx, on the other hand, blamed the structure of society for creating inequities for and exploitation of the have-nots by those in power and control.

Overall, a universal definition of poverty may neither be meaningful nor always useful. For example, the average income of African Americans and Mexican Americans in U.S. dollars may be several times higher than that of slum dwellers of Cairo, Dhaka, Calcutta, or Saigon. That, however, does not mean that poverty-stricken families of color in the United States experience any less deprivation than those others. Although international comparisons of poverty are important, the problem should basically look at relatively localized perceptions and impact.

The term poverty is used here in a demographic or economic sense. The U.S. government, for example, determines a poverty line or threshold for a given year based on a low economic status of a person and/or family in terms of annual income, including earnings, unemployment or workers’ compensation, Social Security, Supplementary Security Income, public assistance, veterans’ payments, survivor benefits, pension or retirement income, interest, dividends, rents, royalties, income from estates, trusts, educational assistance, alimony, child support, assistance from outside the household, and other miscellaneous sources. Consideration is given in poverty threshold calculations to the size of the family and ages of its members.

Increasing Rates Of Poverty

The official rates and extent of poverty in the United States started declining in the 1960s (dropping about 50% from the rate in the early 1950s) after gains in the economy and several civil rights reforms were implemented. The downward trend in poverty rates continued somewhat through the 1970s. However, poverty rates started going up in the 1980s due to multiple economic and political factors, and they have continued to climb through the 1990s and beyond (in 2005, about 13% of the U.S. population or 38 million people were poor by the official measure). Studies in sociology have been particularly concerned about dramatic increases of poverty among African Americans and Hispanics (including Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and Mexican Americans) in both rural and urban areas. The poverty rate for African American and Hispanic families, for example, climbed to about 36% by the 1990s and thus was more than 3 times higher than the rate among Whites during that period.

Relationship Between Poverty And Interpersonal Violence

It appears that the rates of interpersonal violence (e.g., homicide, robbery, rape, stalking, and family abuse), based on Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics, have also been generally increasing along with poverty rates during the past few decades. Criminologists have identified a direct correlation between poverty and most criminal conduct.

Studies indicate that reported acts of violence against impoverished women in interpersonal relationships are generally higher than those in middle and upper classes. Research reports have consistently demonstrated that women in low income families, including single mothers and women of color, are at a higher risk of being physically, sexually, and emotionally abused by men in relationships and social encounters.

Explanations for the relationship between violence against women and poverty are numerous. Poverty-stricken women do not have access to many of the resources available to other women, thereby becoming readily accessible to control or dominance by an abuser. These women are likely to stay as victims in violent relationships longer than those in other social classes due to lack of resources.

Bibliography:

  1. Balkin, K. (Ed.). (2005). Poverty: Opposing viewpoints. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press.
  2. Kerbo, H. R. (2003). Social stratification and inequality. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  3. Lewis, O. (1959). Five families: Mexican case studies in the culture of poverty. New York: Basic Books.
  4. S. Bureau of the Census. (2006). Statistical abstracts of the United States. Washington, DC: Government Printing Press.