Academic journal article Michigan Sociological Review

"Time Has Come Today": Why Sociology Matters Now

Academic journal article Michigan Sociological Review

"Time Has Come Today": Why Sociology Matters Now

Article excerpt

In the midst of tumult and turmoil in 1967, in a society that seemed to be falling apart at the seams, the Chambers Brothers wrote, recorded and released a song titled "Time Has Come Today." Its lyrics gestured toward the chaotic but profound transformations in social life emanating from mass mobilizations by people of color, a counter culture created by disaffected but idealistic young people, and the collateral consequences of the war in Vietnam, urban insurrections and assassinations of beloved leaders. "Time has come today" marked the moment of its production, distribution and circulation as a time of transformative change, a crossroads where the old ways seemed obsolete but unwilling to die while the new appeared promising but not yet able to be born. The composition and performance of the song marked social crisis as a temporal crisis in several ways. In an era when popular songs usually lasted only three minutes, "Time Has Come Today" went on for eleven. The drummer for the group marked the passing of seconds by imitating out the tick tock of a clock with sticks striking cow bells and wood blocks. The song changed rhythms frequently but the vocal arrangement featured voices consistently shouting "time" on the down beat. With its urgent call for recognition of the present as a time of action and invention, "Time Has Come Today" endures as a material register of the shakeup in social relations and generation of new social imaginaries in the wake of the crises of the 1960s.

Nearly a half century after the creation of "Time Has Come Today," we find ourselves once again facing a moment of transformation and turmoil, an era marked by systemic breakdown of major social institutions. To explore, analyze and assess the nature of social practices, processes, networks and institutions today is no easy task. We live in a society that seems to be unraveling at the seams. The economy, the environment and the educational system are all enmeshed in seemingly irresolvable crises. The most elaborate and expensive technologies of our era are summoned for use in wars all around the world that our leaders tell us will never end, yet basic human needs remain unmet at home and abroad. Centuries-old commitments to legal due process have been jettisoned virtually without notice or debate while torture has been openly accepted and even embraced as a routine practice of policing, soldiering and statecraft. Looting and plunder are no longer the illicit tools of the impoverished and the oppressed but have become the primary practices of owners and investors who privatize public goods and accumulate assets for themselves by displacing, dispossessing, deporting and incarcerating others. In this society, consumer choice masquerades as agency, revenge pretends to be justice, and freedom comes to mean the abdication of collective social responsibility or accountability. Hate speech, hate crimes and hate-filled public policies routinely and relentlessly target immigrants, religious minorities, the poor, and people perceived to have non-normative gender or sexual identities in order to divert attention away from the ever widening wealth gaps, health gaps and opportunity gaps.

The educational institutions where we work, learn and teach are not innocent victims of these external social transformations. They are key crucibles where these logics, practices and policies have been created and are learned and legitimated. The free market fundamentalism that reduces wages and shreds the social safety net dominates discourse in economics departments. The "broken windows" policing strategies that criminalize poverty, disrupt daily rounds, and fill the jails draw their legitimacy from the work of political scientists and criminologists. The public policies that confuse cause and effect by blaming poverty on single mothers, absent fathers and allegedly non-normative sex and gender roles rather than on class exploitation and racial discrimination perpetuate the intellectually feeble but political powerful perspective of 1960s mainstream sociology and political science. …

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