(1) The concept of collective consciousness can be divided into two parts: consciousness can be defined as what people perceive to be right or wrong, and the collective as something shared by all memb
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The concept of collective consciousness can be divided into two parts: consciousness can be defined as what people perceive to be right or wrong, and the collective as something shared by all members of a community. It fosters social solidarity and brings people together. This term was coined by sociologist Emile Durkheim, who believed that educated individuals would consciously act in accordance with society’s standards, even if these standards contradicted their best moral judgments (Abbot 2019).
The collective conscience of the United States is shaped by a number of elements, some of which welcome relative agreement and others which do not. Most members of the nation agree on the following: the importance of the family structure, the sense of community and identity, the value of having a formal education, the importance of jobs and social institutions, the celebration of holidays and how people act at certain sporting events, the importance of having good health and staying off drugs, the idea that crime should be punished, the need for laws and democracy, the importance of attaining equality, etc.
In contrast, individuals differ about the government, believing it is divided and involved in a never-ending conflict between republicans accusing Democrats of being socialists and Democrats accusing Republicans of destroying American ideals. Religion and race are two more points of contention, as both can lead to discrimination. In fact, modern Western democracies are seen as entities that regulate majority religions while discriminating against minorities (Saeed 2020). One example of how residents of my city (Houston) disagree on how to act is whether or not to enforce students to wear masks at schools.
When it comes to collective conscience, Americans place a high priority on individual freedom, but I believe we have internalized the concept of collective consciousness to the point that we act as we have been socialized to act. If we comply to what the group consciousness prescribes, we do not have much freedom. On the other hand, the system in place allows society to maintain its stability.
Durkheim defines collective conscience as structured beliefs that average citizens in a society commonly hold (Edles and Appelrouth 2015). The collective conscience permeates a specific society, so it is the same in every region and holds true from generation to generation (Edles and Appelrouth 2015).
It may be difficult to visualize the collective conscience of the United States (US) because it is a very large country with a large population. There are even many cultural and regional differences within the US. The population also has a lot of areas of disagreement. For example, many people in the US are divided on topics like abortion, and there is a strong political party divide. By definition, these disagreements may be left out of the collective conscience. Despite the large population and some strong disagreements, the US does have unifying beliefs that may be deemed the collective conscience. A great example of this are criminal acts that all citizens detest. For instance, it is a universal belief that murder, rape, and child abuse are wrong, and these things are against the law throughout the entire country.
Klika, Haboush-Deloye, and Linkenbach (2019) sought to help define the beliefs and norms around child abuse in the US. Looking at this data could help us better understand the collective conscience attitude towards child abuse. Klika et al. (2019) reviewed data from national surveys completed by a variety of participants of different race/ethnicities and age groups to find the vast, overwhelming majority of adults believed child abuse is a serious, preventable problem, and that a person should take action if they suspect abuse. This seems to constitute a collective conscience belief in the United States.
One interesting thing to consider is if or when the collective conscience might change. Ciuk (2016) was able to explore this question in relation to 9/11, evaluating how the attacks changed people’s beliefs and values over time by analyzing surveys on value preferences before, during, and after the event. Ciuk (2016) found that people’s values changed in the short term, but eventually rebounded back to normal. For example, while citizens generally prefer liberty to social order, for a short time after the attacks, they were willing to give up some liberties to restore and maintain social order (Ciuk 2016).
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