To think like a sociologist, one must first want to see the behind the scenes look of the social environment of the world. Peter Berger describes sociology as entering a new and unfamiliar society, one in which a form of culture shock is introduced (Berger, 6). I would venture off to say that what Peter Berger means by “things are not what they seem’ (Berger, 6) is that, sociology trains you to not settle for the outer surface of things, but to dig deeper into a particular cause, establishment, corporation or entry and uncover the inner layers of its true meaning, debunking propaganda.
Recently I took to exploring the world of how smartness, particularly the phone is manufactured and to what lengths western societies will go to get one when it is unveiled as the ‘new and improved’ version from six-months ago. While I do own an phone among other Apple devices such as the pad, I did not put much thought into the ‘behind the scenes’ (Berger, 7) of how these coveted devices became manufactured and ultimately arrive on our shores. Typically on the day the phone is announced for pre-ordering, websites become bogged down due to the rapid influx of pre-orders.
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I have been one of those individuals ordering a phone by website, sometimes becoming frustrated that I get timed out repeatedly, that, or the worst- case scenario, I am told that my phone will not ship for 4 weeks, the outrage. Companies such as Apple are one of the most successful and valuable publicly traded companies of all time (Resigned). In the Americas among other countries, their stores are extremely well designed and usually on par with the latest trends, glass everywhere, stylish kiosks, etc.
Their employees are for the most part always smiling and eager to assist you in any way, if you need an item they can Just run to the stock room and usually fetch it for you. This paints a picture of the forefront of a corporate machine that has completely grasped global manufacturing. However here is where sociological inquiries has led me to view the phone and the Apple machine as well as other electronic manufacturing companies differently. Devices such as the phone produced by Apple among other electronic products made by Samsung and ETC to amen a few are manufactured in China.
For the most part, at present times, society is aware why these corporate giants manufacture in China rather than America, the simplest of all reasons is, cost. The average minimum wage in the United States is $7. 25 per hour (OSDL), this translates into approximately $1160. 00 a month with a forty-hour work week. In China however, the same workers at Foxing, one of the largest manufacturing plants for phones and other electronic devices take in about $283. 00 monthly (Greene). The plants employ more than 190,000 workers (Greene), but it comes at a cost. Employees are not treated with the same respect and rights as our western brethren.
For the most part employees leave their homes, children, and spouses behind all to find employment because Foxing among others who manufacture these devices pay a bit more than what they would get near their home. Their thought process is to send money back home to help out their families or sustain their children, however this usually is not the case. Many workers find themselves living in small apartments near the facilities where they bunk up with cover the rent for the apartment and food. However, not all of these plant workers are fortunate enough to live near the facilities, some need to live further away, spending around $25. 0 Just to get to work by means of busses or other transportation avenues. This is where most workers fight for overtime hours Just to have extras to send home. The day-to-day working conditions are not what typical westerners are accustomed to either. Whether it is having to acquire an “off-duty permit” (Greene) Just to use the restroom, which can be approved or in some cases, denied. To being ridiculed for simple human mistakes as well as posted on bulletin roads for others to see (Greene). One might ask oneself, why do they put up with that?
The answer is simple, for every one disgruntled employee, there are three others outside waiting to take their place (Greene). They are victims to their social environment. Paul Farmer, a physician and sociologist, emphasizes that social location matters. Individuals whom are born into societal conditions not of their choosing, must have some form of luck. A person born in the United States may be poor by economic standards, but poverty in the United States is vastly different from poverty in counties such as China, where it doesn’t mean one is more gifted than the other, it only means one was born there, the other somewhere else.
While I am not advocating for individuals to stop buying phones or other smart devices, I am merely exploring and attempting to convey a sociological view on what it takes to manufacture them. References Berger, Peter, L. Invitation to Sociology. Dell Publishing Group, Inc. , 1963. 6-9. Print. Greene, Jay. “Riots, Suicides, and other issues in Foxhound’s phone factories. ” CENT, 25 09 2012. Web. Web. 23 Jan. 2013.