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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

book announcement: party in the street – the antiwar movement and the democratic party after 9/11

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It is my pleasure to announce the forthcoming publication of a book by Michael Heaney and myself. It is called Party in the Street: The Antiwar Movement and the Democratic Party after 9/11. It will be available from Cambridge University Press starting in early 2015.

The book is an in-depth examination of the relationship between the major social movement of the early 2000s and the Democratic Party. We begin with a puzzle. In 2006, the antiwar movement began to decline, a time when the US government escalated the war and at least five years before US combat troops completely left Iraq. Normally, one would expect that an escalation of war and favorable public opinion would lead to heightened  activism. Instead, we see the reverse.

We answer this question with a theory of movement-party intersections – the “Party in the Street.” Inspired by modern intersectionality scholarship, we argue that people embody multiple identities that can reinforce, or undermine, each other. In American politics, people can approach a policy issue as an activist or a partisan. We argue that the antiwar movement demobilized not because of an abrupt change in policy, but because partisan identities trumped movement identities. The demobilization of the antiwar movement was triggered, and concurrent with, Democratic victories in Congress and the White House. When push comes to shove, party politics trumps movement activism.

The book is the culmination of ten years of field work, starting with a survey of antiwar protesters at the Republican National Convention in August 2004. The book examines street protest, public opinion, antiwar legislation, and Iraq war policy to makes its case. If you are interested in American politics, political parties, peace studies, political organizations, or social movements, please check this book out. During the fall, I’ll write a series of posts that will explain the argument in some more detail.

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

what do 1st-year grad students need to know?

I’m back from ASA and engaging in a little just-in-time production of syllabi. (For anyone who’s wondering, I did take notes on the “future of orgs” panel and will write those up, but want to run them by the presenters before I post them.)

As grad director, I get to run the proseminar for first-year graduate students. Ours is one hour a week, both semesters. In the past, about half of it has been faculty introducing students to their research areas — e.g. urban week, work & orgs week, demography week, etc.

But grad students have expressed dissatisfaction with this format, and I don’t think faculty are overly thrilled with it, either. So I’m trying to mix things up a bit and make it more immediately useful.

One challenge is that while we want students to get the message about the need to publish, etc., in the past they’ve found such messages a bit overwhelming in the first year, when they’re still trying to figure out how to get through Durkheim. So I’ve tried to approach this from the perspective of, “What do you need to know your first year of grad school?”

Here’s what I’m thinking in terms of weekly topics. This is by substantive area, not chronological. Most weeks will involve guest speakers; I’ll lead perhaps 1/3 of them.

  • How to get around the university
    • Intro to the grad curriculum (DGS)
    • Introduction to the department (department chair)
    • How to get things done in the department (graduate secretary)
    • Guide to library resources  (librarian)
  • How to get through the first year of grad school
    • How to “read” 1000 pages a week (DGS)
    • What I wish I knew my first semester (2nd and 3rd year students)
    • Mid-semester check-in (open discussion)
    • Surviving stats (stats faculty, 2nd-year grad student)
    • The “hidden curriculum” (including race, gender, class issues; DGS and possibly grad students)
    • Successful TAing (one faculty, one student)
    • Making the most of your RA experience (ditto)
    • Time management (DGS? Or someone better with time management skills…)
    • The personal side of grad school (social life, psychological challenges) (not sure…)
  • Thinking about the next year
    • What do I do in the summer? (2nd and 3rd year students)
    • Reverse CV exercise—find people whose jobs you want—what did they have to do to get there? (DGS)
    • Planning years 2, 3 and 4 (DGS)
    • Looking back—how’d the first year go? (open discussion)
  • Thinking about finances
    • Fellowships and grants (DGS)
    • Financial aid & personal finance (financial aid office rep, advanced students)
  • Learning about the profession
    • An overview of the profession (DGS)
    • Developing a publishable research project (one student who collaborated with faculty, one who published from MA?)
    • Developing mentors (advanced grad students)

Then there are a few topics that seem important, but that are not primarily first-year topics. I may include some of these, but open the meetings up to advanced grad students as well:

  • My first article (advanced grad student)
  • Publishing in AJS/ASR (faculty)
  • Will your dissertation be a book? (book faculty)
  • Types of jobs (guest panel—research, teaching, non-academic)
  • Presenting at conferences (advanced students)
  • Choosing a dissertation topic (advanced student + faculty)
  • Finding postdocs (???)
  • The transition to becoming faculty (new junior faculty)

What do you think? Additions? Omissions? Things to skip?

Written by epopp

August 22, 2014 at 1:35 am

Posted in academia, sociology

durkheim viva voce

I just attended the American Sociological Association Meetings in San Francisco, and while there my friend Marion Fourcade told me about a remarkable little piece of sociological history. It’s an audio recording of Émile Durkheim delivering a talk.

Emile Durkheim recorded in 1911 in Bologna.

Emile Durkheim recorded in 1911 in Bologna.

I had no idea such a thing existed. The recording is about two and a half minutes long. It’s a fragment of a piece titled Jugements de valeur et jugements de réalité, which you can read in French here. It was recorded in 1911 at a meeting in Bologna, which I think is one of only quite few times that Durkheim left France in order to attend a conference. Here it is. (There’s a short bit of dead silence at the beginning.)

(If you don’t see the player, download the clip directly).

The original is held at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Here’s the catalog entry for the recording. I think what’s needed to top this is maybe some decent video footage of Marx’s speech on the anniversary of the people’s paper.

Written by Kieran

August 21, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Posted in sociology

an ASA bingo retrospective

ASA Conference Bingo is on a permanent vacation pending its return around 2030 in a nostalgic comeback that warms the hearts of fans old and new. But as several people have asked me about it, here is a collection of the cards from years past. Not available in stores.

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Written by Kieran

August 13, 2014 at 11:10 am

Posted in academia, sociology

of dead sociologies

I am now old enough that I have seen three traditions in American sociology die. In describing them, I am not necessarily saying that I don’t like them. In fact, I am a published practitioner in one of them. Rather, these traditions have not been able to reproduce themselves at the core of the profession. They may be popular in other fields, but not in soc:

  • Functionalism/neo-functionalism
  • Postmodernism
  • Rational choice

Each promised a lot and had a moment in American sociology. Munch, Alexander, and others led the charge on neo-functionalism in the 1990s, and Luhmann has a following. Rational choice still has notable adherents, like Doug Heckathorn at Cornell or Richard Breen at Yale. And the AJS and ASR had their share of articles discussing postmodernism (here, for example). But still, it’s hard to say that these traditions aren’t dormant in American sociology. Few students, few placements.

The question is whether there is any commonality. Is American sociology resistant to certain types of theory? If these three cases indicate a deeper process, then I’d make the following guesses:

  • “Strong assumptions” – American sociologists don’t like models with what appear to be overly strong assumptions. Rational choice models have smart actors; postmodernism has overly complex actors; and the various functionalisms had actors that were hyper sensitive to social norms and communities were overly structured.
  • “High tech” – With the exception of applied statistics, American sociologists don’t like fancy things. The AGIL system in functionalism; math for RCT; European philosophy/social theory for post-modernism.

So the ideal theory would be one with weak assumptions and requires little machinery. Many of the dominant theories these days seem to fit this: institutionalism/field theory; intersectionality theory; theories of racial privilege; etc. Network theory rests on simple, but weak, assumptions and uses only stats.

It is unclear to me if this is a good or bad state of affairs. However, if you think it’s bad, then you have a real problem. The most obvious way to change it is to recruit different kinds of people into the profession who like demanding theory or high tech tools. That seems like a tall order given our undergraduate audience, which is the major talent pool for the profession.

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

Written by fabiorojas

August 11, 2014 at 12:01 am

the persistence of the old regime

Yesterday afternoon I ended up reading this Vox story about an effort to rank US Universities and Colleges carried out in 1911 by a man named Kendric Charles Babcock. On Twitter, Robert Kelchen remarks that the report was "squashed by Taft" (an unpleasant fate), and he links to the report itself, which is terrific. Babcock divided schools into four Classes, beginning with Class I:

And descending all the way to Class IV:

Babcock’s discussion of his methods is admirably brief (the snippet above hints at the one sampling problem that possibly troubled him), so I recommend you read the report yourself.

University reputations are extremely sticky, the conventional wisdom goes. I was interested to see whether Babcock’s report bore that out. I grabbed the US News and World Report National University Rankings and National Liberal Arts College Rankings and made a quick pass through them, coding their 1911 Babcock Class. The question is whether Mr Babcock, should he return to us from the grave, would be satisfied with how his rankings had held up—more than a century of massive educational expansion and alleged disruption notwithstanding.

It turns out that he would be quite pleased with himself.

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Written by Kieran

August 7, 2014 at 11:19 am

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