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the shifting landscape of elite american sociology

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I was having dinner with a Team Fabio affiliate who was making the choice between two really excellent sociology programs. In discussing his choice, we got into the issue of who is now on top in terms of status. In Ye Olden Days, elite sociology meant the following: the Chicago/Columbia/Berkeley axis + massive public flagship schools (UNC, Wisconsin, UCLA, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana). Now, the landscape has changed a bit. The major change seems to be the rise of smaller private schools. While these schools have always been the home of good scholars, it is only recently that they’ve boosted their status by gathering critical masses of elite scholars, consistent publication in top presses and journals, and consistent placement of PhD students in competitive programs. Here the examples are well known – Princeton, Harvard, and Duke in the top ten. Slightly lower down the ranking would be Northwestern, NYU, and Cornell. Certainly well known, but not considered powerhouses of sociology 20 or 3o years ago. Similarly, there’s been sliding among the elites with Chicago and Columbia no longer at the top. The (flawed) 2011 NRC ranks also bumped some prominent flagships (Madison, Bloomington).

Why the change? There are many factors. There’s always complacency and in-fighting. But I think the change is more profound. First, the big flagships had the comparative advantage because 20th century American sociology was built on big surveys. No longer the case. Second, some programs “woke up.” My impression in reading history books is that elite private schools weren’t terribly interested in sociology. Deans were content to let a sociology program be dominated by one or two “big names,” but not invest in the infrastructure needed for high visibility sociology. For some reason, things just changed. Supporting sociology was on the agenda at these schools. Third, along the same line, my sense is that there’s been a real change in training. Princeton for example seems to fit the model. No graduate has ever described it as a fun, cuddly place, but almost every grad has reported that they have enough financial support, almost all students have an adviser, and there is *lots* of prof/student co-authorship. Not much falling through the cracks. That translates into jobs and high visibility.

I encourage older faculty to comment. Does this match your perception? Counter evidence? Alternative explanations?

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

Written by fabiorojas

April 17, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in academia, fabio, sociology

high risk, high reward? kunda’s reflections on ethnography and organizational studies

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While catching up on some reading during spring break, I ran across an Journal of Organizational Ethnography article by organizational ethnographer Gideon Kunda.  In this article, Kunda’s reflections about his development as an organizational ethnographer seem pertinent to the on-going orgtheory discussion of ethnography.  Kunda not only describes how he became drawn to organizational studies (hint: questioning a figure of authority about the differential treatment of patients based on class), but also how he arrived at his topic and research site, generating the now iconic study Engineering Culture.

During his training, Kunda worked on several projects using other data collection methods (i.e., surveys), during which Goffman’s work on Asylums was instructive:

Here once again was a science that starts with ready-made theories, selectively uses them in accordance with interests unrelated to (or even opposed to) the logic and spirit of scientific inquiry, collects data using a method that assumes it knows what and how to ask before encountering the world of its subjects, and disrespects or ignores their complex realities, or for that matter, their feelings about who is studying them and why. What factors effect quality is a legitimate question, if one takes the managerial perspective (although this is not the only perspective that could and should be taken). But in order to answer it, in fact in order to even know how to go about studying it, I began to realize, one has to find ways to collect valid data. And the data, if that was what the facts of life should be called, were found in the richness of the stories I heard and the complexity of the interactions I observed, in people’s sense of who they were and what they were up to, and in their willingness to convey it to an interested outsider. Whether or not all this could or should be ultimately reduced to numbers and statistically analyzed seemed much less important than finding ways to collect, understand and interpret evidence that was respectful of its complex nature. If this was the case, it seemed to me, then the scientific system I was enmeshed in, even by its own standards – the norms of science that demand respect for the empirical world – was woefully inadequate. And worse – its procedures and output were embarrassingly boring, to me at least, when compared to the richness of the world it set out to comprehend.

In conclusion, Kunda states:

Over the years I have continuously noted and wondered about the extent researchers in the early stages of their careers, and graduate students in particular, feel, or are made to feel, that while they are granted the methodological license, and sometimes looseness, of “qualitative methods” (a phrase that often replaces or refers to a watered down version of ethnography), the academic authority system (in terms of funding, supervision, publication requirements and career options) compels them to limit their questions, choice of theory and writing style to those that enhance the chances of approval, funding and quick publication. I encounter again and again the ways that this commitment comes at the expense of a willingness to let fly their own sociological imagination, to cultivate and trust their own interpretive resources and analytic instincts, to respect and develop their innate language and authorial voice, or, for that matter, to risk long-term ethnographic fieldwork.

The issue then is not, or not only, one of competing methods, and to overstate such distinctions is, I believe, to miss my point.  Rather, I see my story as an invitation to acknowledge and explore the shared conditions of all scientific claims to knowing and depicting social reality, organizational and otherwise, under whatever theoretical and methodological guise, that together place limits on the depth, insightfulness and indeed the validity of interpretation: the endless complexity of data, the incurable subjectivity of the observer, the fundamental flimsiness of formal method and the prevalence of unsubtle yet often disguised institutional pressures to confirm to standards and ways of thinking outside and often against the pure logic of scientific inquiry.

If I am to formulate a conclusion, then, it is this: the continuing need to devise personal and collective ways – and I have suggested and illustrated some of mine – to release “discipline” from its misguided equation with an institutionally enforced a priori commitment to hegemonic theoretical discourse and methodological frameworks, and to apply it instead to its legitimate targets, the questions for which there can never be a final, authoritative answer, only continuing exploration and debate: What is data, what is a valid and worthwhile interpretation, how does it come about, what are and how to cultivate the personal sources of imagination that make it possible, how to report it and, not least, to what end.

Another major take-away for budding researchers is that peers can offer support.  That is, scholarly development is not necessarily a hierarchical transmission of information from mentors to mentees, but the co-production of knowledge with peers.

Written by katherinechen

April 16, 2014 at 9:14 pm

visualizing migration

with one comment

immigr

From Fast Coexist.

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

 

Written by fabiorojas

April 12, 2014 at 12:18 am

Posted in fabio, sociology

standardizing ethnography

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On the Soc Job Rumor Board, there was a discussion of the non-replicability of ethnography. I think this is mistaken. Ethnography is easily replicable, it’s just that ethnographers don’t want to do it. For example, ethnographers could:

  • Stop making everything anonymous so others can verify and check. Mitch Duinier is right about this.
  • Group ethnography. Have multiple observers and do inter-coder reliability.
  • Standardize data collection – how field codes are done and recorded.
  • Encourage others to revisit the same population (which is actually done in anthropological ethnography)

Of course, no single study can strive for replication in the same way and some folks do a good job addressing these issues. But still, the anti-positivist framing of much ethnography probably prevents ethnographers from developing intuitive and sensible things to create standards that would move the field away from the solo practitioner model of unique and non-replicable studies.

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

Written by fabiorojas

April 10, 2014 at 12:01 am

upcoming asa oow session: does organizational sociology have a future?

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This semester, I agreed to teach a PhD-level course on organizational theory when I realized that fewer and fewer colleagues who are trained in organizational research remain in sociology departments.  Apparently, I am not the only organizational researcher who is wondering about the implications of the de-centralization of organizational sociology.

Mark your calendars for Aug.!  Liz Gorman has planned the following Organizations, Occupations, and Work (OOW) session for the ASA annual meeting this Aug. in San Francisco.  The line-up includes some of our regular commenters and readers:

Title: Section on Organizations, Occupation and Work Invited Session. Does Organizational Sociology Have a Future?
 
Description:  Few sociologists today consider themselves primarily scholars of organizations.  Sociologists who study different types of organizations within their primary fields–such as economic sociology, science, social movements, political sociology, and urban sociology–are often not in conversation with each other.  Many sociologically-trained scholars have migrated to business schools and become absorbed by the large interdisciplinary field of organization studies, which tends to have a managerial orientation.  Little attention is directed to the broader impact of organizations on society.  This invited session will consider these and other trends in the study of organizations within the discipline of sociology.  It will ask whether “organizations” still constitutes a coherent subfield, whether it can or should be revitalized, and what its future direction might look like. 
 
Participants: 
Organizer:  Elizabeth Gorman, University of Virginia
Panelists:  
Howard Aldrich, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
Elisabeth Clemens, University of Chicago
Harland Prechel, Texas A&M University
Martin Ruef, Duke University
Ezra Zuckerman, MIT Sloan School

Topics: Organizations, Formal and Complex

Written by katherinechen

April 4, 2014 at 4:14 pm

homeland security does not think sociology is a science

This guest post on Federal government’s classification of sociology is written by Bogdan State, a doctoral student in sociology at Stanford University.

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Sociology is not a true science.  Among its many attributions, the Department of Homeland Security is in charge of separating, for immigration purposes, the imposter from the “real” sciences. Seemingly, our discipline does not pass muster.

The story is – by now – a familiar one. The DHS divides academic disciplines into two categories: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and non-STEM. The former get a lot of attention and dominate the immigration debate while the latter are relegated to marginality. The official list is available here [http://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/stem-list.pdf]. Needless to say, the very idea of such a blunt distinction between science and non-science is problematic and misguided. Nonetheless, it’s a distinction that has very important consequences, which I am currently sorting through myself.

I am a doctoral student in a Sociology PhD program. About a year ago I decided to give industry a try and I was lucky enough to be offered a job at a major tech company, headquartered in the US. For someone who thrives on data and short publication cycles the job is a dream come true. And even though my title says I do “data science” (already derided by some naysayers as “not a science”), even though my days are spent defending the idea that Sociology can and should be a science at least as rigorous as Biology, Homeland Security seems to have a clear message: no way.

My problem is a common one for international students. I need permission to work outside of my University while in the US. Since my landing here for the first time in 2005 I have become ever more painfully aware of the difficulties involved in staying in the country post-graduation.

International students have twelve months during which they can work in the US in a job related to their specialty under what is called Optional Practical Training. Past those twelve months their options for continued employment in the US usually revolve around the H1B visa, which allows them to work for a US company while seeking a green card through a lengthy and costly process of “labor certification” (which is supposed to ascertain the wholly-undecidable claim that the “alien” is not taking an American’s job). H1B visas are hugely controversial and their issuance has been capped at 85000 per year for most of recent memory (20000 of which are reserved for people holding graduate degrees). Last year the cap translated into the DHS refusing to process (and thus practically denying) about a third of H1B applications filed. This year the ratio may be closer to one in two.

Compared to what comes after, Optional Practical Training is a relatively benign period during which the “alien” can focus on doing their job rather than on learning the regulatory alphabet soup inflicted on them by contradictory and sometimes outright hostile acts of Congress. The Government itself recognized the self-defeating nature of forcing international students – otherwise content to stay and contribute to the US economy – out of the US after American entities had invested huge amounts in their education. As a stopgap measure, foreign STEM graduates of American higher education institutions were granted a one-time, 17-month extension to their Optional Practical Training.

Sociology falls on the wrong side of the arbitrary divide imposed by the DHS (examples of some disciplines considered to be sciences by DHS: Archeology, Social Psychology, Management Science). Interestingly, the NSF does consider Sociology to be STEM. This would be funny were it not the source of a lot headaches, dislocation, uncertainty and plain misery.

In my own case, this policy has meant that I have not been able to access these extra 17 months of headache-free OPT extension that typically serve as a bridge to the much-desired (and irredeemably broken) H1B visa. It is part of why I have to leave the US and go pay taxes somewhere else. But our discipline’s location outside the STEM divide may have far more important consequences in the future.

Specifically, there has been a lot of talk about “stapling” green cards to STEM degrees, or of other important facilities afforded to the immigration of STEM graduates. Presumably, Congress will eventually pass an immigration law, and Sociology will be left on the outside of an admittedly artificial divide.

Let me emphasize that I do not believe for a moment in the validity of a division of the academic world made by government bureaucrats. But while fighting the idea of this division would be quixotic (given the current fixation on STEM), I believe that there is a sufficient number of Sociologists who do not have US citizenship or permanent residency and who would be affected by this omission in the future.

The ASA has come up against this issue before (http://www.asanet.org/footnotes/feb13/vp_0213.html), but it does not look like they have ever addressed it on the immigration front. This is of course more than a matter of immigration policy: it also concerns our discipline’s being recognized as a bona fide science. As Sociologists we often deride the shortcomings of our methods, and that is certainly a healthy attitude. But we cannot let cocktail-party observations about “true” and “fake” sciences be enshrined into government policy.

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

Written by fabiorojas

March 26, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in academia, fabio, sociology

meet me in kentucky!!!!

PAN African

This Wednesday, I will be a guest of the Department of Pan-African Studies at the University of Louisville. Along with Ibram  X. Kendi, we will discuss the struggle for legitimacy in Africana Studies. The talk will be this coming Wednesday, March 26 at the Chao Auditorium at the University of Louisville at 5:30pm. I will be hanging out all day at Pan-African Studies, so if you want to meet, just email me.

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

Written by fabiorojas

March 24, 2014 at 12:52 am

twitter publics

The first “tweets/votes” paper established the basic correlation between tweet share and vote share in a a large sample of elections. Now, we’re working on papers that try to get a sense of who is driving the correlation. A new paper in Information, Communication, and Society reports on some progress. Authored by Karissa McKelvey, Joe DiGrazia and myself, “Twitter publics: how online political communities signaled electoral outcomes in the 2010 US house election” argues that the tweet-votes correlation is strongest when people compose syntactically simple messages. In other words, the people online who use social media in a very quotidian way are a sort of “issue public,” to use a political science term. They tend to follow politics and the talk correlates with the voting, especially if it is simple talk. We call this online audience for politics a “twitter public.” Thus, one goals of sociological research on social media is to assess when online “publics” act as a barometer or leading indicator of collective behavior.

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

Written by fabiorojas

March 18, 2014 at 12:01 am

new labor in new york book now out

GC colleague Ruth Milkman and Murphy Institute colleague Ed Ott have co-edited a new book, New Labor in New York: Precarious Workers and the Future of the Labor Movement (2014, ILR Press), that should interest readers who are looking for content on recent organizing efforts in the labor movement.

Milkman-Cover, 2Final

In the preface, authors Ruth Milkman and Ed Ott write about the genesis of the book, with case studies researched and written by grad students enrolled in a year-long course:

This book is the culmination of a long process of collective effort.  It began in early 2011, when we decided to co-teach a seminar in the Sociology program at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center entitled, “Toward a New Labor Movement:  Community-Based Organizations, Unions and Worker Centers in New York City.”  To enroll in the course, interested students were required to make a commitment to conduct in-depth fieldwork and to write a case study of an organizing campaign or group, with the understanding that we would eventually try to publish an edited volume like this one.  We were extremely fortunate to attract an extraordinary group of Ph.D. students from various departments at the Graduate Center, as well as a few from the Labor Studies Masters’ program at CUNY’s Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies, where both of us are on the faculty.

Check it out.

Written by katherinechen

March 13, 2014 at 1:52 am

slacktivism

A provocative study in the inaugural release of Sociological Science shows that online activists may be less active/less engaged than the activist community would hope. The vast majority of people who joined the Save Darfur Facebook campaign “recruited no one else into the Cause and contributed no money to it.” The authors of the study concluded that “Facebook conjured an illusion of activism rather than facilitating the real thing.”

One possibility is that this pattern reflects activism of all kinds. In any cause, whether it be online or offline, there are many joiners but few participators. The authors hint at this potential when noting that the Facebook campaign reflects the traditional collective action problem. Once people join a movement, they have little incentive to exert energy, resources, or time if they think others will do it instead.

But the other possibility is that there is something unique about social media activism that is demotivating. A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, “The Nature of Slacktivism” investigates this possibility at the social psychological level. In a laboratory experiment, the authors of this study show that people who are assigned to join a public Facebook activist group are less likely to participate in the movement subsequently (stuffing envelopes) than are people who are assigned to a private Facebook activist group. The key difference between a public and a private group is that in the public group your friends can see that you joined. The authors claim that there are two functions that activism often serves for individuals: impression management (i.e., looking good in front of others) and value consistency (i.e., a desire to align your actions with your values). Social media activism satisfies individuals’ need for impression management; hence, the reason a number of people dropped out once they felt their friends noticed their efforts. Only people who are reminded about their pre-existing values will likely follow through with a deeper level of engagement.

The two studies together suggest that there may be a reality behind this idea that social media facilitates slacktivism. Of course, this isn’t to say that movements would be better off without social media. There are many positive informational benefits that social media create for movements. And other scholars have suggested that online activism is simply a different form of social movement altogether – one that deserves being studied on its own terms. But these studies should also make us skeptical when Internet evangelists declare that social media have released traditional movements from past constraints.

Written by brayden king

March 3, 2014 at 11:19 pm

more pre-conferences!!!

This year, there are many great pre-conferences. In addition to the New Computational Sociology conference on August 15, there is also:

Please put links to more ASA pre-conferences in the comments.

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

Written by fabiorojas

February 22, 2014 at 12:05 am

sociological science is here!

The new open access journal, Sociological Science, is now here. The goal is fast publication and open access. Review is “up or out.” On Monday, they published their first batch of articles. Among them:

Check it out, use the comments section, and submit your work. Let’s move sociological journals into the present.

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

Written by fabiorojas

February 20, 2014 at 12:04 am

a note from Alan Sica about archive preservation

Alan Sica sent out the following request to a few ASA listservs. With his permission, I’m reposting it here. As you’ll see below, I think the note raises a number of interesting questions/issues that I’d never before considered.

Historians of sociology, social theorists, and other scholars,

Please take five minutes to read what follows, as it affects our discipline’s future historiography.

Two weeks from now the ruling body of the ASA, the Council, will meet at the Association’s headquarters in Washington, DC and, in addition to other things, will decide the fate of 588 boxes of archived journal-related material: whether to preserve them or destroy them.  I am writing to ask that you contact Council members (their email addresses follow this note) with your opinion one way or the other.  Obviously, I hope you “vote” to preserve the materials, but if you believe they are not worth preserving, you could register that opinion as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by brayden king

February 17, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Posted in academia, brayden, sociology

taking on big ideas

For the past year I’ve slowly been working my way through Stanley Aronowitz’s Taking it Big: C. Wright Mills and the Making of Political Intellectuals. My slowness in finishing the book isn’t an indicator of how enjoyable or interesting the book really is. This book is fascinating, especially if you’re interested in the intellectual history of sociology. Aronowitz makes the case that Mills’s sociological impact was a direct result of his engagement with the broader intellectual public in an effort to push social change and present ideas that challenged the capitalist status quo. Mills wasn’t a socialist or any of the things typically associated with the Old Left. Rather, Mills was the forerunner of the New Left – a group that believed in the power of ideas to shape equality and freedom in society. He saw himself as a producer of those ideas.

Not long before I began reading this book I had a conversation with a former student at Columbia University when Mills was still a professor there. (Mills died in 1962.) The former student, now an emeritus professor himself, described Mills as a recluse. He had no involvement with the graduate program and showed no interest in training future PhDs. His main involvement with the department was to teach the undergraduate political sociology class. He was rarely, if ever, in his office, and so running into him in the halls was unlikely. At the time of his death, Mills’s impact on the discipline  was fairly minimal, largely because he didn’t have an ongoing research agenda that involved PhD training or publishing articles in the top journals (although he had published those types of articles in the past). Merton, Lazarsfeld, and Bell were the stars of the department in the eyes of the students.

But arguably, Mills’s reputation has outlasted those other scholars.  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by brayden king

February 4, 2014 at 8:05 pm

why intro is the most important course you may ever teach

Scatter has a great post on why we need to treat the Introduction to Sociology course with great importance by Nathan Palmer:

The 101 class is the public face of our discipline. Every year there are roughly a million students in the United States who take Soc 101, that is, if my publisher friends’ estimates are to be believed. For the overwhelming majority of Americans, 101 will be their only exposure to our discipline. Sure, they might hear about our research findings in the media, but chances are they’ll have no idea that it was a sociologist who produced the research.

…How do the faculty in your department think about 101? Is it something to be avoided like the plague? Is it a hazing ritual that you put newbs through so that senior faculty can get to teach their “real classes” (i.e. their upper division classes within their area of interest)?

And:

First, it matters because the introductory classes serve as the on ramp to the major. As reported by InsideHigherEd.com in their forth coming book How College Works, Chambliss and Takacs find that,

Undergraduates are significantly more likely to major in a field if they have an inspiring and caring faculty member in their introduction to the field. And they are equally likely to write off a field based on a single negative experience with a professor.

Second, it matters because of Krulak’s law which posits, “The closer you get to the front, the more power you have over the brand.”[2] Put simply, if the 101 class is the frontline of sociology, then the 101 teacher is the ambassador for us all.

Read the whole thing.

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

Written by fabiorojas

January 30, 2014 at 12:09 am

three visiting fellowships on innovation at the Technische Universitat in Berlin – due Feb. 15, 2014

One of our orgtheory readers, Jan-Peter Ferdinand, forwarded a flier about a fellowship opportunity at the Technische Universität in Berlin, Germany.   This sounds like a great opportunity for grad students and prospective post-docs who are studying innovation.

Here’s an overview:

The DFG graduate school “Innovation society today” at the Technische Universität Berlin, Germany, is pleased to advertise 3 visiting fellowships. The fellowships are available for a period of three months, either from April to June 2014 or October to December 2014.
The graduate school addresses the following key questions: How is novelty created reflexively; in which areas do we find reflexive innovation; and which actors are involved? Practices, orientations, and processes of innovations are studied in and between various fields, such as (a) science and technology, (b) the industrial and service sectors, (c) arts and culture, and (d) political governance, social planning of urban and regional spaces. More information about the graduate school can be found on our website: http://www.innovation.tu-berlin.de (click on the flag at the top of the page for an English version).

By following an extended notion of innovation, the graduate school strives to develop a sophisticated sociological view on innovation, which is more encompassing than conventional economic perspectives. Our doctoral students are currently undertaking a first series of case studies to promote a deeper and empirically founded understanding of the meaning of innovation in contemporary society and of the social processes it involves.

See this PDF (GW_Ausschreibung-2014) for more info, including deadline (Feb. 15, 2014) and application materials needed.

Written by katherinechen

January 21, 2014 at 8:50 pm

network analysis vs. public choice

I just wrapped up my undergrad course in networks for seniors. Near the end, in the week on networks and crime, we discussed Papachristos’ work on homicide in Chicago. If you haven’t read it, he has a very rich data set on gangs and traces the back and forth of gang revenge homicides. Great stuff. So I asked my students: “You are the police and now you have read this research, what did you learn?”

Student 1: You should target the most central gangs. They seem to generate a lot of violence.

Me: Good, what else?

Student 1: Since a lot seems to focus on revenge, maybe police should focus on friends of homicide victims. Maybe counsel them so they won’t get revenge and keep the cycle going.

Student 2: That would never work.

Me: Why?

Student 2: The cops gets no credit for counseling. Only for arrests.

Bingo. Great insight. In other words, we have a lot of good data on homicides and we know that a lot of it has to do with gang/revenge cycles. And that implies a solution – go after survivors and do what you can to keep them from acting out. But it is very hard to see how anyone could ever be rewarded in the system where people get promoted for arrests rather than crime prevention. It’s sad that you need have someone murdered first before you can be praised for being a good cop.

If people buy $500 of my books by Christmas, I will leave David Graeber alone: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

December 17, 2013 at 12:10 am

Posted in fabio, networks, sociology

a general theory of chest-bursting sociology

To me, learning about a scholar’s intellectual trajectory and philosophy is helpful for understanding the impetus for particular schools of thought.  One of the pivotal moments for me during my grad school days was hearing Neil Fligstein‘s candid perspective about having to advocate for one’s research question, methods, and claims.  In fact, he compared being an academic with being the creature from Alien(s).  That’s right, we’re not the flame-toting Lt. Ripley and the heroic but ill-fated Nostromo crew; we’re more like the chest-bursters who have to keep coming back, no matter how many times we get (spoilers ahead! cover your eyes, young’uns) burnt, ejected from the airlock into outer space, frozen, etc.

Not you.

Not you.

With that imagery in mind, have a look at Fligstein’s discussion of his most recent works. Fligstein talks in an interview with McGill student Nicole Denier about how he decided upon a PhD in sociology (hint: a foray with social movements), where he sees the field headed, and his agenda for grand general theory.

ND: …what do you think are the challenges for sociology to overcome in the next few years?

NF: What I have found most frustrating about sociology is that it is so Balkanized. One of the most depressing things about sociology is when I look at the American Sociological Association and see that there are forty-four sections, which could be reduced to about six. It tends to create these Balkanized theory groups (for lack of a better term) that are engaged in a discourse with ten other people. From a graduate student’s point of view, that’s the hardest thing to face in the field—how fragmented it is. The problem is that there just aren’t that many people. There are only about 15,000 sociologists in North America, I think. It was bad when I was a graduate student twenty-five years ago, it’s much worse now. It’s very frustrating for people and it’s hard to overcome. One of the things I like about the construction of something called economic sociology is that for the first time in 30 years there is a synthetic field – not a field which wants to break the field into smaller and smaller parts—but a field that wants to say that politics and law and economic processes and organizations and social movements are all part of the same thing. So to me, this is what this economic sociology thing is all about. It is more synthetic than breaking it into a smaller piece.

ND: Similarly, your field theory has the possibility to span a number of areas. You’re not so optimistic about it overcoming the differences between the institutionalisms in economics, political science, and sociology. But do you think it can bridge the gaps within sociology?

NF: I’m an optimistic person. I hope that it becomes more synthetic. People have moved so far from (I’ll use a dirty word) a general theory of society or a theory of society that it’s not in their vocabulary any more. It was so discredited so long ago that you’re a bad person if you even have that thought. It’s a big taboo in sociology to say that, you know, there really is a general theory of society. Again, you get off stage with people and you talk to them and a lot of people think there is a general theory of society….[snip!!!]…. Sociologists tend toward understanding action in groups, yet we don’t even think about it most of the time. Field theory is about that: how groups of people and groups of groups do these kinds of interactions and watch other people and reference other people and take positions, a very generic level of social process. I figure a lot of people are ready to hear that message in sociology. Hopefully, it will go a little further beyond where it is right now.

(See Fligstein’s past orgtheory posts here and here on his work with Doug McAdam on strategic action fields, as well as other colleagues’ reactions here, here, and here.)

You when you finally get a love note.

When you find a like-minded colleague.

Written by katherinechen

December 11, 2013 at 12:08 am

comments on pettit’s discussion of social problems’ editorial trends

The editor of Social Problems, Becky Pettit, recently posted a review of submission practices and trends, with a focus on gender. Comments,* in no particular order:

  • 8% accept? Holy canoli! I knew it was competitive, but that’s in the realm of ASR/AJS.  ASR accept rate was 6%. AJS accepts 10%.
  • Thankfully, SP does a lot of desk rejection.** About 30%.
  • Even with desk rejection, it does seem to take a while – a mean time of 135 days. That’s about 4.5 months. So many papers take 5, 6 or 7 months. After dealing with the lightning fast world of biomedical journals, this is snail like.
  • Senior profs review less than juniors. Female assistants review the most.
  • Men are *way* more likely to appeal. As Phil Cohen notes, it would be good to know if it’s just that women have more accepts or if men just whine more. Ie, we want the appeal/reject ratio.

Bottom line: Social Problems is a de-facto top general journal in soc, it behaves like a typical social science journal in terms of turn around and some other factors, and there is definitely gender inequality in reviewer and author behavior.

What the Cool Kids are Reading: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

* Disclosure: I have a soon to be rejected paper under review at Social Problems.

** Yes, I know – “deflection!”

Written by fabiorojas

November 19, 2013 at 12:25 am

Posted in academia, fabio, sociology

the “caren” ranking of sociology programs

A few months ago, Neal Caren posted a citation analysis of sociology journals. The idea is simple – you can map sociology by looking at clusters of citations. Pretty cool, right? You know what’s cooler – using the same technique you can come up with a new ranking of soc programs. The method is simple:

  1. Start with a cluster analysis of journal cites. Stick to the last five years or so.
  2. Within each cluster, award a department credit for each article that makes, say, the top 20 in that cluster. Exclude dead or retired authors. Exclude authors who have moved to a new campus.
  3. Weight the credit by co-authorship – but keep track of where they teach. E.g., Princeton sociology gets 1/2 for DiMaggio and Powell (1983). Stanford soc does NOT get credit because Woody Powell teaches in the education school. Courtesy appointments do not count.
  4. You can then rank within a cluster (e.g., top 5 institutions/movements depts) or create an overall ranking based on adding up scores in all clusters.

Disadvantages: This method excludes cites in books. For example, most of the cites to my Black power book are by historians, who mainly write books. This also points to another problem. It emphasizes in-discipline cites. So, if you do education research, and they love you in the AERJ, this won’t pick you up. Another issue is that if you are spread around clusters, your count is ignored.

Advantages: Based on behavior and not susceptible to halo effects because it is not a reputation survey. Also, it’s a measure of what people think is important, not what gets into specific journals. However, we would expect the typical highly central person in the cluster to appear because of a well cited article in a top journal. Another advantage is the transparency. No bizarre formulas, aside from standard network measures. Finally, it is easy to measure robustness. For example, if you think that fractional weighting for co-authors is misleading, it’s easy to drop and redo the analysis in a way that you think is correct.

Next step: Neal Caren should set up a wiki where we can quickly execute this and replace the misguided NRC/US News rankings.

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Written by fabiorojas

October 24, 2013 at 12:01 am

storytelling in organizations, the state of the field of organizations and values, and a freebie article

I’ve recently published two articles* that might be of interest to orgheads, and Emerald publisher has ungated one of my articles:

1. Chen, Katherine K. 2013. “Storytelling: An Informal Mechanism of Accountability for Voluntary Organizations.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 42(5): 902-922.**

Abstract

Using observations, interviews, and archival research of an organization that coordinates the annual Burning Man event, I argue that storytelling is a mechanism by which stakeholders can demand accountability to their needs for recognition and voice. I identify particular frames, or perspectives and guides to action, articulated in members’ stories. Deploying a personalistic frame, storytellers recounted individuals’ contributions toward a collective endeavor. Such storytelling commemorated efforts overlooked by official accounts and fostered bonds among members. Other storytellers identified problems and organizing possibilities for consideration under the civic society or anarchist frames. By familiarizing organizations with members’ perspectives and interests, stories facilitate organizational learning that can better serve stakeholders’ interests. Additional research could explore whether (1) consistent face-to-face relations (2) within a bounded setting, such as an organization, and (3) practices that encourage participation in organizing decisions and activities are necessary conditions under which storytelling can enable accountability to members’ interests.

2. Chen, Katherine K., Howard Lune, and Edward L. Queen, II. 2013. “‘How Values Shape and are Shaped by Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations:’ The Current State of the Field.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 42(5): 856-885.

Abstract

To advance understanding of the relationship between values and organizations, this review synthesizes classic and recent organizational and sociological research, including this symposium’s articles on voluntary associations. We argue that all organizations reflect, enact, and propagate values. Organizations draw on culture, which offers a tool kit of possible actions supported by institutional logics that delineate appropriate activities and goals. Through institutional work, organizations can secure acceptance for unfamiliar practices and their associated values, often under the logic of democracy. Values may be discerned in any organization’s goals, practices, and forms, including “value-free” bureaucracies and collectivist organizations with participatory practices. We offer suggestions for enhancing understanding of how collectivities advance particular values within their groups or society.

3.  In addition, one of my previously published articles received the “Outstanding Author Contribution Award Winner at the Literati Network Awards for Excellence 2013.”  Because of the award, Emerald publisher has ungated this article (or, as Burners like to say, contributed a gift to the gift economy :) ) to download here (click on the HTML or PDF button to initiate the download):

Chen, Katherine K. 2012. “Laboring for the Man: Augmenting Authority in a Voluntary Association.” Research in the Sociology of Organizations 34: 135-164.

Abstract:

Drawing on Bourdieu’s field, habitus, and capital, I show how disparate experiences and “dispositions” shaped several departments’ development in the organization behind the annual Burning Man event. Observations and interviews with organizers and members indicated that in departments with hierarchical professional norms or total institution-like conditions, members privileged their capital over others’ capital to enhance their authority and departmental solidarity. For another department, the availability of multiple practices in their field fostered disagreement, forcing members to articulate stances. These comparisons uncover conditions that exacerbate conflicts over authority and show how members use different types of capital to augment their authority.

* If you don’t have access to these articles at your institution, please contact me for a PDF.

** Looking for more storytelling articles?  Check out another one here.

Written by katherinechen

October 15, 2013 at 3:15 pm

new book on work and family: Unfinished Business: Paid Family Leave in California and the Future of U.S. Work-Family Policy

When I visiting another university to give a talk a few years back, I met two faculty members for lunch.  One was wincing visibly in pain.  When I asked what was wrong, my colleague explained that he was suffering a migraine but that he would still teach class.  When I suggested cancelling class that day to recuperate, he felt he couldn’t.  He explained that he needed to save his vacation days for helping his ailing father, who was aging in place in another state.  Moments like these made me realize that for workers of all ages, attending to family matters is not easy or well-supported in the US.

Such policy issues are addressed in a new book by sociologist Ruth Milkman and economist Eileen Appelbaum: Unfinished Business: Paid Family Leave in California and the Future of U.S. Work-Family Policy (2013, ILR/Cornell University Press).

Here is a description of Unfinished Business: Paid Family Leave in California and the Future of U.S. Work-Family Policy provided by the authors:

This book documents the history of California’s decade-old paid family leave program, the first of its kind in the United States, which offers wage replacement for up to six weeks for all private-sector workers when they need time off from their jobs to bond with a new child or to care for a seriously ill family member. Based on original fieldwork and surveys of employers, workers, and the larger California adult population, it analyzes the impact of paid family leave on employers and workers in the state, and explores the implications for crafting future work-family policy for the nation.

The book makes three key arguments. The first concerns the politics of paid leave. In contrast to most government-sponsored social programs, which are under attack and often have little popular support, paid family leave (and indeed work-family policy more generally) is a crossover issue politically. Conservatives see it as an expression of “family values,” whereas for progressives it is a much-needed element of the safety net for working families. As a result it has strong support across the political spectrum. Business routinely opposes any and all legislative initiatives in this area, which is a major obstacle to passing laws like the one that created the California program. But because the population generally is so highly supportive of paid leave, that opposition can be overcome by means of coalition organizing, as the passage of California’s landmark 2002 law – documented here in detail – illustrates.

The second argument is that contrary to the claims of the Chamber of Commerce and other business lobbyists, paid family leave and other programs like it do not impose any major burdens on employers. This book presents survey data that show that in California, employers themselves concluded that the impact of the new state program on their productivity, profitability and performance was minimal and often positive. In addition, paid leave often reduced turnover and improved workers morale, at little or no cost to employers. The tax supporting the program is paid for entirely by workers, and many employers enjoyed cost savings as a result of the program’s creation, because they could coordinate their own wage replacement benefits with now offered by the state.

The third argument is more disturbing. This book shows that although workers who use California’s paid leave program and their family members have benefitted greatly, and although the program is well-managed and easy to access, awareness of its existence remains low. Moreover, those who are in most need of the program’s benefits – low wage workers, young workers, immigrants and disadvantaged minorities – all of whom have little or no access to employer-provided wage replacement benefits when they need to take time off to care for a new baby or a seriously ill relative – are least likely to know about it. As a result, the program’s potential to act as a social leveler, making paid leave available not only to managers and professionals, who are much more likely than lower-level workers to have access to paid time off in any form, but to all private-sector workers, has not yet been achieved. Instead the longstanding pattern of inequality in access to paid leave has remained largely intact. And even workers who are aware of the new state program are often reluctant to take advantage of it because they fear repercussions on the job.

Here’s the front and back of the book cover:

Milkman-Pprbk, Proof#1 copy

Check out the book – the 2014 ESS annual meeting in Baltimore will feature this book (and others) as an author-meets-critics session.

Written by katherinechen

October 11, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Reactivity of Rankings: a Pure Case within Reach

MIT Soc is #1

The Chronicle reports on a new ranking of “Faculty Media Impact” conducted by the Center for a Public Anthropology. The ranking “seeks to quantify how often professors engage with the public through the news media” and was done by trawling Google News to see which faculty were mentioned in the media most often. The numbers were averaged and “and then ranked relative to the federal funds their programs had received” to get the rankings. As you can see from the screenshot above, the ranking found that the top unit at MIT was the Sociology Department. This is fantastic news in terms of impact, because MIT doesn’t actually have a Sociology Department. While we’ve known for a while that quantitative rankings can have interesting reactive effects on the entities they rank, we are clearly in new territory here.

Of course, there are many excellent and high-profile sociologists working at MIT in various units, from the Economic Sociology group at Sloan to sociologists of technology and law housed elsewhere in the university. So you can see how this might have happened. We might draw a small but significant lesson about what’s involved in cleaning, coding, and aggregating data. But I see no reason to stop there. The clear implication, it seems to me, is that this might well become the purest case of the reactivity of rankings yet observed. If MIT’s Sociology Department has the highest public profile of any unit within the university, then it stands to reason that it must exist. While it may seem locally less tangible than the departments of Brain & Congitive Sciences, Economics, and Anthropology on the actual campus, this is obviously some sort of temporary anomaly given that it comfortably outranks these units in a widely-used report on the public impact of academic departments. The only conclusion, then, is that the Sociology Department does in fact exist and the MIT administration needs to backfill any apparent ontic absence immediately and bring conditions in the merely physically present university into line with the platonic and universal realm of being that numbers and rankings capture. I look forward to giving a talk at MIT’s Sociology Department at the first opportunity.

Written by Kieran

October 8, 2013 at 5:43 pm

ideas for budding researchers: where research on labor, organizations, and work is headed

On Fri., Graduate Center faculty and affiliates got together to meet with sociology graduate students.   In my group, which included Paul Attewell, Pam Stone, Ruth Milkman, Sophia Catsambis, and myself, we discussed what we thought might be hot topics in the areas of labor, organizations, and work.  Not only was this an invigorating conversation, but also an opportunity to hear of research in the pipeline and upcoming and recent publications.  I’m sharing some of these ideas here.

  • Impact of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) – ideal for a pre- and post- study!: whether it liberates employees who only stay with a particular workplace for the health insurance, how organizations that would have attracted members for health insurance (i.e., freelancers union) will now adjust
  • How do people find jobs?  Universities now aggressively push career-building and networking for students.  Someone needs to update Granovetter’s research on networks.
  • Employment and health: how does chronic illness impact career trajectories and employment?
  • How do the so-called “Millenials” conceive of work – how do their parents’ experience with work (i.e., downsizing, long hours, minimal or no rewards for worker loyalty) and governance (weakened state protections) inform adult children’s conceptions of ideal workplaces?  For example, are some younger workers viewing workplaces as sites of self-actualization, manageable work hours, and contractual work?
  • Transnationalization of work: worker flows via the H1B visa
  • Inequality: How do organizations dampen, reinforce, or exacerbate inequalities?  Interesting contexts include organizations that deliver healthcare.
  • How to imagine alternatives to contemporary hierarchical organizations: the impact of Occupy and other contemporary democratic groups.

Of course, no discussion was complete without stories about dealing with the IRB.

If you’re working on one of the above ideas, or have other ideas for where the discipline can go, please do add them into the comments.

Written by katherinechen

October 8, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Posted in research, sociology

Tagged with ,

more cfp at ESS 2014 in Baltimore, MD

Didn’t see a fit for your work and the cfp in the previous post for mini-conferences for the 2014 annual meeting of Eastern Sociological Society (ESS)?  Here are many more listings for mini-conferences, sessions, and conversations:*

Update 10/15/13: ESS has a full listing of calls here.  Don’t forget to check out awards and travel grants for grad students.  Also, please note this update about due dates:

…we are extending the deadlines for all awards and general abstract submissions to 5 PM on October 31st. As is the case so often today, we must add some complexity to that statement:

· This does NOT change the due dates for undergraduates whose abstracts for posters must be in by December 15th….

· This does NOT change the due dates for those responding to individual calls for Miniconference or individually-organized sessions that have been distributed through the ANNOUNCELIST.

- Carework

- Working retired

-The Cost of Development: Work, Gender, Ethnicity and Environment

- Invisible Work in Visible Work

-  Invisible work at community colleges

- The Invisible Employee: Deviance and Work Mini Conference

- Occupy movement and economic austerity

- China

- Deafness and society

- Making the Sociology of Maryland more visible

- Conversation:  Research with Children:  Managing IRBs and Other Institutional Gatekeepers

- Negotiating and Balancing Joint Appointments and Other Program Responsibilities (added 9/28/13)

- Gendered masculinities (added 9/28/13)

* I’ll keep updating this post as I get more announcements via the ESS listserv. 

Click here for more info Read the rest of this entry »

Written by katherinechen

September 26, 2013 at 1:00 am

Posted in sociology

Tagged with

The Golden Age of LISREL

Jim Moody and I are writing an article on data visualization in Sociology. Here’s a picture that won’t be in the final version, but I like it all the same.

The Golden Age

Written by Kieran

September 25, 2013 at 7:11 pm

tracking the employment of PhD graduates

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article on how sociologist Dean Savage and colleagues have kept track of what happens to those who graduate with a PhD in sociology from the Graduate Center.  Here’s how that database kicked off:

During a particularly tough academic job market in the early 1990s, Dean B. Savage started the work of tracking down every student who had earned a Ph.D. in sociology from the Graduate Center to find out where they went on to work. With the help of graduate students, he has created an ever-growing database of 471 people that dates back to graduates from 1971.

The data, which Mr. Savage updates periodically, provide a snapshot of where former students are employed and what positions they hold. They also provide a window into other placement-related trends, such as how far outside New York City people were willing to cast their nets while job hunting, how often Ph.D.’s opted to pursue nonacademic jobs, and how long it took for sociology students to earn Ph.D.’s.

The database shows that about 50% among those who earned PhDs between 1980-1984 and could be located were employed in academic and nonacademic positions:

The data he has collected document the bleak reality that many people already know about the academic market: A full-time job as a professor isn’t a given for those who want one. In fact, since 1980, fewer than half of the sociology graduates hold full-time tenured or tenure-track jobs. But the data, which were most recently updated last year, also reveal some good news: The program’s record of placing students in full-time jobs inside and outside academe has shown improvement over the years.

Just over half of the 59 graduates who earned Ph.D.’s between 1980 and 1984, for example, were full-time professors or in full-time administrative, research, or nonacademic positions when Mr. Savage last tracked them down (11 of those were retired). Two held part-time academic positions, four were independent scholars or self-employed, and 21 couldn’t be located.

As for more recent graduates, their employment percentage is slightly lower, reflecting the economic downturn and changes in university hiring practices:

The placement rate for graduates between 2010 and 2012 dipped to 53 percent.

Interestingly, graduates don’t stray far from the Big Apple tree, suggesting that the two-body issue or other constraints and preferences limit job-seekers’ options to a particular geographic area:

According to Mr. Savage’s data, nearly 60 percent of all students who graduated between 1971 and 2012 work or live in New York State. They’re diehard fans of the Big Apple who often have family ties there, so they skip doing a national job search.

Check out the article for more comments and snippets, including commentary by the current graduate director John Torpey and graduates.

Written by katherinechen

September 24, 2013 at 2:39 am

Posted in academia, sociology

Tagged with

recent research on orgs and urban studies

Long time Orgtheory friend Mario Small and Scott W. Allard have edited an issue of The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences dedicated orgs, institutions, and urban poverty. Very interesting reading overall and there is a lot of stuff. A very nice introduction to what a lot of sociologists are doing in this area, including guest blogger emerita Celeste Watkins-Hayes. A few that caught my attention:

The entire issue is recommended.

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Written by fabiorojas

September 24, 2013 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, sociology

new ebook by Howie Becker and Rob Faulkner: Thinking Together: An E-mail Exchange and All that Jazz

New ebook by Howie Becker and Rob Faulkner

New ebook by Howie Becker and Rob Faulkner

What does it take to pull together a collaborative research project?  Howie Becker and Rob Faulkner reveal all, via a reconstruction of their prolific email correspondence collected in a new ebook Thinking Together: An E-mail Exchange and All that Jazz.  Prompted by the puzzling observation that younger musicians didn’t know the same repertoire of songs shared among older musicians, Becker and Faulkner, who are both practicing musicians, muscle through hammering out a research design and theoretical explanation for how musicians, including ones who have never practiced together before, can collectively perform.*  Their exchanges evidence the gradual refinement of categories with plenty of links to songs, descriptions of illustrative experiences, and recounting of interviews with fellow musicians while practicing in the field.  Here’s a blurb penned by Becker:

Would you like to know how people really think their way through all the problems of doing research and writing a book? Watch two old pros in action as they do that in the e-mail correspondence between sociologists Rob Faulkner and Howie Becker as they wrote Do You Know? The Jazz Repertoire in Action.

The book Thinking Together: An E-mail Exchange and All that Jazz shows the authors exchanging ideas and modifying them as the conversation proceeds. It shows them extracting ideas from their experiences in the field: performing in public, collaborating with other musicians, interviewing, using their field notes to generate ideas and test them, to elaborate theories as they go, all the thinking that goes on when you actually do research. No review of the literature—it’s replaced by the two of them drawing in work that seems relevant, that gives them something they can use to explain what they’ve seen and heard: using a study of Mexican witchcraft, for instance, to develop a research strategy, and painfully realizing that they have some substantial musical prejudices that they have to turn into a kind of historical sociology.

This is the way research really gets done, what you do after you write the research proposal and start working and find out that none of your plans are going to work because things were more complicated than you thought they were.

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Written by katherinechen

September 19, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Smelser, the golden era of sociology, and what we forget

One of the highlights, okay THE highlight, of my trip to Berkeley this week is that I was able to sit down and have a long chat with Neil Smelser. Much of our meeting was research oriented, as I’ve been working for some time on a paper about the Berkeley administration’s reactions to the FSM, and Smelser was involved in both that and the subsequent restoration of the campus to a normal state of affairs. But I couldn’t help but wander off topic and talk some sociology with him. I felt like such a fanboy. What a deep well of knowledge and insight!

During our conversation, I learned that Neil’s oral history was released this year by Berkeley’s Bancroft Library. Anyone interested in the intellectual history of the discipline of sociology ought to read this. The oral history is quite long – nearly 800 pages of Smelser talking about his experiences and views about everything from working with Parsons to seeing a transformation in the sociology department during the 1960s student movements. Jeffrey Alexander wrote the foreword to the history, extolling Smelser’s accomplishments as both a scholar and a contributor to the academic community. From Alexander, I learned about Smelser’s stunning early career accomplishments:

During his first year of graduate school, Smelser coauthored Economy and Society (1956), a major work of theoretical innovation with Talcott Parsons, the  towering figure of mid-century sociology. Recounted here for the first time in detail, Smelser’s analytical contribution to that joint project triggered a fundamental advance in functionalist theorizing, an idea about societal interchanges that continues to be influential to this day. In the Ph.D. thesis that soon followed, Social Change in
the Industrial Revolution (1959), Smelser created a new approach to class conflict and historical change, anticipating future research on family and gender in a book that immediately became a contemporary, if controversial classic. Just three years later, Smelser’s Theory of Collective Behavior (1962) appeared, a gigantically  ambitious, systematic theory of social movements and cultural change that played a central role in defining the field for decades to come. One year after came his pioneering Sociology of Economic Life (1963), a subtle and precocious essay that adumbrated the future sub-discipline of economic sociology. In less than a decade, and still two years short of his 35th birthday, Smelser had already published a life’s work of radically new sociological theory.

So before the age of 35, Smelser had written major works in economic sociology, collective behavior and social movements, and industrial sociology. His first book with Parsons and his 1963 book laid the foundations for economic sociology.  Smelser was appointed as the editor of the American Sociological Review in 1961, just 3 years after coming to Berkeley as an assistant professor. He was the youngest editor ever of that journal at 31.  Just as remarkable, Smelser was given tenure just a year after arriving at Berkeley from graduate school. Here is his account of how that happened:

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Written by brayden king

September 18, 2013 at 7:14 pm

2013 OOW section membership drive for ASA

As some of our readers may know, the American Sociological Association (ASA) assigns section presentation slots for the annual meeting based on section membership numbers. As a result, sections may scramble at the year’s end to recruit section members to meet these targeted numbers.  In short, more members = more presentation slots.

ASA section Organizations, Occupations, and Work (OOW) is looking for more members to round out 2013′s roster.  Here’s the call:

“Dear OOW Members,

We are just 10 members short of 1000! If we can reach that threshold before September 30, we will be given an additional session at the 2014 ASA meetings. Please forward this to colleagues and friends who may be interested in OOW.

To add a section membership, just go to https://www.e-noah.net/asa/default.asp. Section membership is $12 ($10 for low income) for regular ASA members.

Please also note–free grad student memberships available: OOW members have generously donated funds to cover approximately 45 graduate student memberships.* Please note: OOW is offering to cover the grad student OOW membership fee for students who are current members of ASA and NOT current members of OOW. (This offer is not for the next year’s membership, only the remainder of 2013.)….Please pass this offer on to your friends who may be interested in OOW topics but are not members! Those students may sign up here and then we will pass that on to ASA to activate your OOW membership for 2013.

Thanks and regards,
Victoria Johnson

* Along with other colleagues at the OOW meeting at ASA, I was one of the OOWers who stuffed a crumpled bill into a paper bag to help sponsor a grad student OOW membership.  So, get on it, folks!  :)

Written by katherinechen

September 13, 2013 at 9:18 pm

Posted in academia, sociology

Tagged with

cfp for various mini-conferences at ESS 2014 in Baltimore

Here are several calls for papers for proposed mini-conferences at the 2014 Eastern Sociological Society (ESS) annual meeting in Baltimore for the following topics:

- Institutional ethnography

- Everyday interactions

- Deviance and work

- Military sociology

Regular paper submissions and session proposals are due by October 15, 2013, but the mini-conferences have their own deadlines.  For more info, click here for the jump.

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Written by katherinechen

September 12, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Posted in sociology

Tagged with

Three thousand more words on critical realism

The continuing brouhaha over Fabio’s (fallaciously premised) post*, and Kieran’s clarification and response has actually been much more informative than I thought it would be. While I agree that this forum is not the most adequate to seriously explore intellectual issues, it does have a (latent?) function that I consider equally as valuable in all intellectual endeavors, which is the creation of a modicum of common knowledge about certain stances, premises and even valuational judgments. CR is a great intellectual object in the contemporary intellectual marketplace precisely because of the fact that it seems to demand an intellectual response (whether by critics or proponents) thus forcing people (who otherwise wouldn’t) to take a stance.  The response may range from (seemingly facile) dismissal (maybe involving dairy products), to curiosity (what the heck is it?), to considered criticism, to ho hum neutralism, to critical acceptance, or to (sock-puppet aided) uncritical acceptance.  But the point is that it is actually fun to see people align themselves vis a vis CR because it provides an opportunity for those people to actually lay their cards on the table in way that seldom happens in their more considered academic work.

My own stance vis a vis CR is mostly positive. When reading CR or CR-inflected work, I seldom find myself vehemently disagreeing or shaking my head vigorously (this in itself I find a bit suspicious, but more on that below). I find most of the epistemological, and meta-methodological recommendations of people who have been influenced by CR (like my colleague Chris Smith, Phil Gorski, or George Steinmetz, or Margaret Archer) fruitful and useful, and in some sense believe that some of the most important of these are already part of sociological best practice. I think some of the work on “social structure” that has been written by CR-oriented folk (Doug Porpora and Margaret Archer early on and more recently Dave Elder-Vass) important reading, especially if you want to think straight about that hornet’s nest of issues. So I don’t think that CR is “lame.” Although like any multi-author, somewhat loose cluster of writings, I have indeed come across some work that claims to be CR which is indeed lame. But that would apply to anything (there are examples of lame pragmatism, lame field theory, lame network analysis, lame symbolic interactionism, etc. without making any of these lines of thought “lame” in their entirety).

That said, I agree with the basic descriptive premises of Kieran’s post. So this post is structured as a way to try to unhook the fruitful observations that Kieran made from the vociferous name-calling and defensive over-reactions to which these sort of things can lead. So think of this as my own reflections of what this implies for CR’s attempt to provide a unifying philosophical picture for sociology.

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A Word on Critical Realism

Seeing as Fabio has promoted some off-the-cuff remarks I made on Twitter about Critical Realism, I suppose I should say something a little more about it. All the moreso seeing as some anonymous commenters have been getting quite huffy at the very idea that anyone who called themselves an academic could make a dismissive comment without, presumably, devoting themselves full-time to “thoughtful debate and analysis” on the work in question. I have a general and a specific response to that. Speaking generally, online commentary should not be a kind of Markov process where every single contribution must start from scratch with no memory of anything that has gone before. The demand that any particular comment or post provide a full and complete accounting of everything on the topic (before it can count as “thoughtful debate and analysis”) is a hallmark of annoying Internet discussion. My specific response is that some time ago I did in fact devote myself full-time to thoughtful debate and analysis about Critical Realism, for a period of about eighteen months. I read pretty much everything on the topic that had come out until that time, which was a real barrel of monkeys let me tell you. I wrote and published an article on a current debate in the field, and then I moved on to other projects.

My conclusion, then as now, was that Critical Realism is a low-quality, confused, and misleading body of work. It is a justly peripheral branch of 1970s philosophy of science. The philosophical demands it satisfies amongst sociologists could be met elsewhere at much higher quality and far lower cost. In practice it does literally nothing substantive for the work of the sociologists who have taken it up, and I am dismayed to see it gain a foothold in the United States.

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Written by Kieran

September 4, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Posted in philosophy, sociology

you no exchange with us? slither home, body snatcher

Off-list, Howard Aldrich penned Brayden and me a heartfelt lament about the one-sided exchange between sociology and economics. He described a recently published article in which an economist urges fellow economists to conduct research on how organizational identity motivates workers to work hard because (surprise!) monetary incentives aren’t sufficient.

With Aldrich’s permission (but without naming the offending article and author), I am excerpting his thoughts here:

“What is heartbreaking is that there’s no sign in this article that the author has any clue that sociology and management & organization theory have been concerned with such questions for decades, or that there is a rich and robust literature on organizational culture, social identity, and so forth. Although the author mentions the social psychology of identity at one point (Ed. Note: plus 2 mentions of March and Simon’s work as “seminal”), all but a handful of the 60+ references are to the literature in economics.

Several years ago, I had a similar experience when I read a special issue of an entrepreneurship journal that was devoted to entrepreneurial teams. It contained an economist’s algorithmically driven analysis of why and how entrepreneurial teams should form. Plenty of other economists were cited, but he seemed clueless to the fact that, five years previously, a couple of sociologists (namely, Martin Ruef and me, together with a business administration scholar) had written an empirical paper, based on a nationally representative sample, addressing precisely some of the idle speculation he’d written up in his paper. I was so irritated that I called up the special issue editor, who apologized profusely but offered no explanation.

So, for economics, all that matters is what other economists have done. I’m sure this simplifies the literature search process, but one can imagine that some insights might be sparked if economists were occasionally to dip into the literature of other fields. For example, what came to mind immediately upon reading the first article was Bill Ouchi‘s rather famous – - at least to me – - book from 1981, Theory Z, which was one of the first books to ride the wave of the “organizational culture” phenomena in organization and management studies.”

In a follow-up email, Aldrich opined the desire for economists either to share or return home:

“I just want them to either go back to their own village or else begin engaging in a more fair exchange….The problem is that I doubt very much whether we can ever create a truly equitable exchange with economists – - I’ve seen the same pattern for years, and indeed Chick Perrow actually talked about something like “invasion of the body snatchers” in talking about when economists came into our field.”*

Since economists are supposedly prone to practicing what they preach, could it be that the discipline of economics is ill-suited to contributing to a knowledge commons?

Don't close your eyes, sociologists and organizational researchers

Don’t close your eyes, sociologists and organizational researchers

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Written by katherinechen

August 29, 2013 at 11:02 pm

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