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ukraine, finland, and russia

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It has recently been revealed that Russian/separatist forces are taking more territory in the Ukraine. What to do? There are few good options. Russia is so massive compared to neighbors. But history does have one example of semi-successful defense from Russian/Soviet incursion – the Winter War of 1940, when Finland resisted (sort of) a Soviet invasion.

Organizationally, the issue is that the Finns were simply outnumbered and had to build a new strategy to deal with that fact. The solution was to (a) exploit the geography, (b) come up with innovative tactics, and (c) preserve your own while maximizing enemy casualties. For example, the Finnish air force developed the novel tactics where they would refuse to defend and focus on attack; novel mining techniques (Finns learned how to put mines in frozen lakes); hijacking radio frequencies and misdirecting Soviet planes; and exploiting the Finnish geography with well placed garrisons and snipers.

The legacy of the Finnish war is ambiguous. According to the wiki, they inflicted massive casualties on the Soviets, forcing a settlement. But still, the Finns suffered enormous losses. Helsinki was bombed. Almost a thousand civilians died, nearly 26,000 soldiers perished in a short three month war. The Finns also saw, as the Ukrainians do today, that there is limited help from the rest of the world.

The lesson is hard to extract. Finnland’s Winter War is the best outcome among many wars of aggression on the Russian border. Perhaps it would be better to do as the Georgians did and try to minimize the conflict. Regardless, the Ukraine is in for some very difficult times.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power 

Written by fabiorojas

September 5, 2014 at 12:01 am

urban police puzzle and ethnographic method

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A few days ago, we discussed an empirical issue around Goffman’s On the Run ethnography. That work focuses on how police intervention cripples poor Black men. The issue is that other ethnography reports an under policing of poor Black neighborhoods. Earlier, I suggested a voter driven explanation – voters like to see young Black men arrested on drug charges and reward police for it.

Here, I’d like to raise a methodological issue. Goffman’s ethnography is not typical in the sense of studying a field site like a firm or a neighborhood. Rather, the ethnography is a study of a cohort of people. You follow them around. That is different than field site ethnography where you choose a location and focus on the action happening in a space. People come in and out. So it is not surprising that if you stand on a modal street corner in Philly, you won’t see many cops walk by. In contrast, if you follow people who are the target of police, then you will, not surprisingly, see a lot of police.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power 

Written by fabiorojas

September 4, 2014 at 12:01 am

seth stephens-davidowitz is a pretty good sociologist!

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Seth probably just felt some nausea. For an economist, being called a good sociologist is like being called a Yankees fan at Fenway. But still, I have very much enjoyed Stephens-Davidowitz’ work and I think it can be emulated by more sociologists. Roughly speaking, Stephens-Davidowitz uses “big data” to track and measure otherwise illegitimate or stigmatized behavior, and link it to measurable outcomes. So far, his work is reported in NY Times op-eds (!), but you should definitely check it out if you haven’t done so already:

I call this sociology because … it is! It isn’t economics in the sense of being about rational choice theory, except in the most bland sense of the word. It clearly is not about commerce or trade. Rather, it is about measuring specific racial and sexual identities in novel ways and seeing if it links with behavior. Bravo!

In his recent post on white nationalists, he says that he can’t go further on the question of motivation. I say he should embrace his inner sociologist and start reading social psychology and critical race theory, which has lots of testable hypotheses about when people feel heightened racial anxiety. Let the sociologist come out and I’ll welcome you with open arms!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power

Written by fabiorojas

September 3, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in economics, fabio, sociology

the dilemmas of funding: a commentary on the united negro college fund by melissa wooten

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Melissa Wooten is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her forthcoming book In the Face of Inequality: How Black Colleges Adapt (SUNY Press 2015) documents how the social structure of race and racism affect an organization’s ability to acquire the financial and political resources it needs to survive.

“Look…Come on…It’s $10 million dollars” is how the Saturday Night Live parody explains the Los Angeles chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) decision to accept donations from now disgraced, soon-to-be former, NBA franchise owner, Donald Sterling. This parody encapsulates the dilemma that many organizations working for black advancement face. Fighting for civil rights takes money. But this money often comes from strange quarters. While Sterling’s personal animus toward African Americans captivated the public this spring, his organizational strategy of discriminating against African Americans and Hispanic Americans had already made him infamous among those involved in civil rights years earlier. So why would the NAACP accept money from a man known to actively discriminate against the very people it seeks to help?

A similar question arose when news of the Koch brothers $25 million donation to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) emerged in June. Not only did the UNCF’s willingness to accept this donation raise eyebrows, it also cost the organization the support of AFSCME, a union with which the UNCF had a long-standing relationship. The Koch brothers support of policies that would limit early voting along with their opposition to minimum wage legislation are but a few of the reasons that have made some skeptical of a UNCF-Koch partnership. So why would the UNCF accept a large donation from two philanthropists known to support policies that would have a disproportionately negative affect on African American communities?

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Written by fabiorojas

September 2, 2014 at 12:01 am

urban sociology puzzle and the public choice theory of police

A major theme of Goffman’s On the Run book/article is that the criminal justice system incapacitates Black men by entangling them with surveillance, leading many to become outlaws. This is in contrast to earlier work that claimed that police had abandoned, or had minimal involvement with, poor urban neighborhoods. So what’s the deal?

Here’s one suggested solution based on public choice theory and McCubbin’s old theory of public agencies, which claims that public agencies respond to financial and political incentives. Roughly speaking, police have choices and these choices come with very different pay offs. Call one option “beat policing.” The police pick up beats, they get involved, and have lots of contact with the population. The other option is called “fire alarm” policing. The police respond to complaints.

Add one additional assumption to the model – the voters who pay/support the police think that drugs and young Black men are the biggest “fires” that need to be put out. Voters don’t reward as much the police that do routine policing.There’s a lot of evidence for this. Police displays of drug caches after busts, forfeited assets going to police budgets, and the general demonization of young black men in the media.

Then, the conclusion of the model is fairly simple. Resources will be shifted to the drug trade and away from beats. The random citizen will wait for police help with, say, a car theft while police rush to conduct an endless string of busts and arrest, and thus create a pool of stigmatized men with arrest records.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power

Written by fabiorojas

September 1, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, sociology

open culture – a great web site

Open Culture is a great web site that archives all manner of free and out of copy right film, books, and television. The film section is itself a treasure of classic and modern film. For example, you can see every Tarkovsky film online. Netflix is cheap but Open Culture is free – and good for you!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power

Written by fabiorojas

August 31, 2014 at 12:01 am

dial F for fabio

Need a workshop speaker? I’m here to help out! I work for free if it’s local, and I work cheap if you pitch in for travel costs. Topics:

  • Black Power/Black Studies – Student protest and the rise of ethnic studies
  • The Antiwar movement after 9/11 – How did the peace movement fight war in the Bush and Obama eras?
  • More Tweets/More Votes – how to use social media to study politics!
  • Organizational behavior and infection control – new research on how organizational behavior plays a role in patient safety
  • Grad Skool pep talk!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power

Written by fabiorojas

August 30, 2014 at 12:01 am

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