Small Enough to Jail

Our second video is Abacus: Small Enough to Jail New York: PBS, 2017 (1 hr. 30 min.). It tells the incredible saga of the Chinese immigrant Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, New York.  Accused of mortgage fraud by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., Abacus becomes the only U.S. bank to face criminal charges in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The indictment and subsequent trial forces the Sung family to defend themselves – and their bank’s legacy in the Chinatown community – over the course of a five-year legal battle.

In addition to being a compelling story, this video provides a good basis for applying the insights of various sociological traditions and theories. With regard to the government’s actions, you can think about how this might be explained from a conflict sociological perspective (does the state serve to uphold the interests of the dominant class, or its own power interests), from the Durkheimian/social order tradition (from a functionalist perspective, is the state addressing the strains of the economic crisis to uphold the integrative values of the economy and legal system?), and from the rational utilitarian perspective (is the state acting to minimally to regulate a rational market,  or is it extracting “protection rents”?). As in the first discussion, the point is not that one theory or perspective is right or wrong for conducting an analysis, but rather that different theories are going to frame different kinds of questions and pose different kinds of answers in attempting to explain what was happening.

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Another good sociological topic for theoretical analysis in the video concerns the identity and structure of an ethnic community (Chinese immigrants) within a larger societal context. Using the same three theoretical traditions, you might emphasize conflict and inequality, ritual and social solidarity, or rational action in sociological markets, such as education, business, and marriage.

For your first post, give your general reaction to the film followed by a brief theoretical analysis of one of the two topics above, or another one where you see the relevance of sociological theories

the Link to the video is below. If you can’t find it you can google Abacus: Small enough to jail


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