Archive for the ‘sociology’ Category
If you look at the list of department chairs here at Indiana, you’ll notice that the first few were chairs of “economics and sociology.” I thought the old combined economics and sociology department at Indiana was some historical accident. That is, until I read The Emergence of Sociology from Political Economy in the United States: 1890 to 1940 by Cristobal Young. The article, published in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, makes a few simple points:
- Economics came first and sociology was added to existing programs. Solo sociology programs, like Chicago, were in the distinct minority.
- Most sociology programs were part of economics programs until the 1920s.
- There was still much collaboration between sociology and economics until the 1940s.
- Once economic institutionalism finally faded, ties between disciplines faded.
- The separation really started when sociologists started their separate meetings.
What to make of this history? A few thoughts: 1. Heterodox economists should just give up on mainstream economists and hang out with sociologists. 2. There was some sort of hybrid disciplinary action going on that got truncated in the 1940s. It probably happened on both sides. Mathematical formalism made strides in economics, while structuralism appeared in sociology at the same time. These formalizations probably created needless rifts between disciplines. It might be worth seeing if that multi-disciplinary history can be reconstructed.
Arguments about the place of women in science often focus on whether gatekeepers treat men and women equally. Over time, there is emerging evidence that gatekeepers do not treat young scholars equally. Consider the following article from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Corinne A. Moss-Racusin, John F. Dovidio, Victoria L. Brescoll, Mark J. Graham, and Jo Handelsman:
Despite efforts to recruit and retain more women, a stark gender disparity persists within academic science. Abundant research has demonstrated gender bias in many demographic groups, but has yet to experimentally investigate whether science faculty exhibit a bias against female students that could contribute to the gender disparity in academic science. In a randomized double-blind study (n = 127), science faculty from research-intensive universities rated the application materials of a student—who was randomly assigned either a male or female name—for a laboratory manager position. Faculty participants rated the male applicant as signiﬁcantly more competent and hireable than the (identical) female applicant. These participants also selected a higher starting salary and offered more career mentoring to the male applicant. The gender of the faculty participants did not affect responses, such that female and male faculty were equally likely to exhibit bias against the female student. Mediation analyses indicated that the female student was less likely to be hired because she was viewed as less competent. We also assessed faculty participants’ preexisting subtle bias against women using a standard instrument and found that preexisting subtle bias against women played a moderating role, such that subtle bias against women was associated with less support for the female student, but was unrelated to reactions to the male student. These results suggest that interventions addressing faculty gender bias might advance the goal of increasing the participation of women in science.
Bottom line: Experimental evidence indicates that women face a tax in the science careeer pipeline, which likely suppresses their numbers.
It’s safe to say that “social theory” is in retreat in sociology as an occupational category. The number of people who identify themselves as primarily “social theory” is shrinking. Let me quote Kieran, who shared with us his graduate level theory syllabus:
Social theory within sociology is in a strange position. The nickel version is: there are no longer any theorists in sociology. There are theories (or things people call theories); there are theory courses and there are people who teach theory; there are theory articles and theory journals; inside papers there are mandatory theory sections; inside the American Sociological Association there is a Theory Section, too; there are career returns to being thought of as a clever sort of person who can do good theory; you cannot get published in a top-flight journal without convincing the reviewers that you have made a theoretical contribution; and there are people who were once hired as theorists and still think of themselves as such. In some related fields on the humanities side there is also capital-`t’ Theory, with its own practitioners. But since the late 1980s or early 1990s there has essentially been no occupational position of “theorist” within American sociology. No-one gets a job as a theorist. (For more on this, see Lamont 2004, and also Healy 2007.) Crudely, the sort of people who once would have thought of themselves—and hoped to be hired—primarily as theorists now think of themselves as sociologists of culture instead, or (less often) as disciplinary historians of ideas.
Well said, Mr. K. Now, a few comments:
- A humanities style moral/social philosophy/history of thought sub-field is in retreat in every discipline. Political science is the exception.
- You can still do theory, as in writing fat books that are praised but rarely read. They get published. There are theory journals, and you can still get career points for them.
- Hypothesis Uno: Old style theory was only advantageous in a data poor environment.
- Hypothesis Dos: Old style theory was only advantageous in a low tech environment.
- Hypothesis Tres: Science is now bigger, which gives an advantage to empirical specialists.
- Conclusion: In a fast paced world where people have real data, high tech tools, and can consume a lot quickly, writing Parsons style magnus opuses is something that few people can pull off.
Final comment: I’ve now spent 9 years between IU and Michigan as faculty and post-doc. Very different departments, but that allows you to see the wide range of sociology. I’ve looked over (and tried to read) *hundreds* of job applications. Very, very few “pure theory” applications. What does that tell me? From time to time, you’ll the fat theory book come out, but the profession collectively says “meh.”
Interested in consumption?
Dan Cook, an expert in childhood consumption at Rutgers, writes:
“There is 2 weeks to go to secure our membership numbers for Consumers and Consumption. Let students and colleagues know about our effort. I am confident we will also reach many new people at the next ASA in NY, but our numbers now matter.
To become an official member, you must add Consumers and Consumption to your Section membership through the ASA website. Right now it costs only $5/year—in the future, we expect the dues to remain at $5 for students and probably $12 for faculty. But right now it is $5 for everyone.
Attention Students, there are some limited funds available for ASA Student members to join Consumers and Consumption for free for 2012. Send me an email to dtcook [at] camden.rutgers.edu with “Consumption Student Membership” in the subject line. In the message, include the email that is on file with the ASA. A few are left.
Also, near the end of September or in early October, you will hear about sessions for next year, a possible reception and call for nominations for Section election of officers.”
You can read more about the section, with newsletters and an extensive list of members and their research interests, here.
In particular, this section’s pre-ASA-conferences are a great way for researchers at all stages of their careers (grad students included) to meet other like-minded scholars and “cross-fertilize” across sub-disciplines. In my case, my American Behavioral Scientist paper on how the Burning Man organization promoted a logic of artistic prosumption, in which participants simultaneously consume and produce Burning Man’s art, germinated from the literature I read and contacts I made through participating in this group.
Looking for a friendly venue to present papers? Consider the Eastern Sociological Society, or ESS. ESS meets in March 21-24, 2013 at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel and Towers. The full call for papers is here. Full disclosure: I am currently serving as the ESS secretary (it seems that my ability to take excruciating, in-depth meeting notes led to my nomination).
Here are some calls that recently went out on the ESS list that may be of interest to some of our orgheads:
1. “Rosanna Hertz is organizing a session on “Productive Rule Breakers and Innovators” and would like to identify potential presenters. The panel will focus on the turning points (power, resistance and resilience against institutions and governments) that have shaped women and men’s success in becoming successful change agents in their chosen fields from NGOs to the public sector and private sectors. If you are interesting in submitting an abstract for this session or would like more information about the proposed session, please email her at rosannahertz1 [at] gmail.com”
I’m teaching Weber next week in my social theory class and this afternoon I uploaded some of the recommended reading to the class website—a longish excerpt from the first volume of Michael Mann’s The Sources of Social Power, a book which made a big impression on me when I read it as an undergraduate. It didn’t turn me in to a Big Structures/Huge Comparisons guy, if for no other reason than the ambition it entailed seemed so gigantic, but of all the products of the so-called “Golden Age” of macro-sociology, Sources—and the first volume in particular—seemed to come closest to fulfilling Weber’s vision for what really big-picture sociology could be. Re-reading the first hundred-odd pages this afternoon I was struck by the directness and accessibility of Mann’s approach, and by how much of his theoretical intuition seemed right, given his aims—in particular his insistence that societies are not totalities or systems, and his determination to avoid the pitfalls that come with thinking they are:
Societies are not unitary. They are not social systems (closed or open); they are not totalities. We can never find a single bounded society in geographical or social space. Because there is no system, no totality, there cannot be “subsystems,” “dimensions,” or “levels” of such a totality. Because there is no whole, social relations cannot be reduced “ultimately, “in the last instance,” to some systemic property of it—like the “mode of material production,” or the “cultural” or “normative system,” or the “form of military organization.” Because there is no bounded totality, it is not helpful to divide social change or conflict into “endogenous” and “exogenous” varieties. Because there is no social system, there is no “evolutionary” process within it. Because humanity is not divided into a series of bounded totalities, “diffusion” of social organization does not occur between them. Because there is no totality, individuals are not constrained in their behavior by “social structure as a whole,” and so it is not helpful to make a disctinction between “social action” and “social structure.” … State, culture, and economy are all important structuring networks, but they almost never coincide. There is no one master concept or basic unit of “society”.
Instead, for Mann, what matters are the overlapping networks of social interaction—ideological, military, economic, and political—that can provide the organizational means of attaining goals.
All of which is to say that, after a bit of idle googling, I was surprised to learn that volumes three and four are scheduled for publication later this year and early next, respectively. Mann published volume I in 1986 and volume II in 1993, and while he has done a lot of other things in the meantime, parts of volume II, in particular, gave the distinct impression that the project had gotten seriously bogged down. I’m very glad to see that he’s pushed the project through. The first two volumes are also set to be reissued, with new Prefaces (and covers). I suppose it is too much to ask that they have proper indexes this time, too.
In her work over the past decade or so, Viviana Zelizer has developed the concept of “relational work” as a way of encapsulating and generalizing some of the lessons of her influential studies of people’s economic lives. Ths goal, as she describes it, is to understand how people connect, or are connected by, four elements in economic life: social ties between people or groups; sets of economic transactions across those ties; various media of exchange used in these transactions; and the social, often moralized meanings associated with particular bundles of these media, transactions, and ties. Relational work “consists in creating viable matches” between these elements. Thus, an economic sociology of relational work seeks to describe, understand, and explain the various ways people bring these elements together.
Recently a group of scholars have begun to explore whether an economic sociology built with these concepts might succeed Granovetter’s “embeddedness” framework. The language of embeddedness in its many forms has dominated research in the field for the past quarter-century. The questions are whether economic sociology needs a new orienting idea, and whether “relational work” is it. My view, developed in a bit more detail in a working paper that I’m in the process of revising, is—maybe. Depending on how it is taken up, “Relational work” could become a productive framework for research (as “embeddedness” was in its early stages) or a catchall catchphrase (as “embeddedness” has now become). Pushing things down the first channel depends mostly on taking seriously aspects of Zelizer’s work that are generally left underdeveloped, in particular the place of self-interest in her account.
Blogs work when there’s a solid community of readers and writers. We’ve been blessed with both. If you haven’t checked in for a while, look at these great discussions by leading scholars and the quality comments by readers:
- Neil Fligstein on the theory of fields, with comments by Useem and Goldstone. Update: Check out the Thornton, Ocasio, and Lounsbury response as well.
- Our two week forum on relational work. Start with Fred and Nina’s intro, and a new post by Fred Block. There will be a lot of good posts in this series.
- Rob Robinson and Nancy Davis discuss their recent book on religious movements and civil society.
Coming up on orgtheory: in September, a review of Gabriel Rossman’s book on the radio industry and in October we’ll do our book forum on Andreas Glaeser’s Political Epistemics book. And don’t forget guest posts by Jenn Lena, Katherine Chen, and Brandy Aven.
I’m teaching our required Graduate Social Theory course again this semester. This year I decided I’d snub not just monomanical German system-builders but French Weberians as well. No Foucault for you! I should have started a “What, no x?” sidebet before posting it. In the syllabus, I present a justification for my sins. An excerpt:
The scholarly community continues to celebrate the life of Mayer Zald after his recent passing. A number of beautiful tributes have popped up online. Dan Hirschman’s blog served as an impromptu memorial for Mayer. The comments section of Dan’s initial post grew to include an amazing set of dedications from people who wanted to share in their love and respect for him. The OMT blog also has posted remembrances from Mike Lounsbury, Dick Scott, Cal Morrill, Huggy Rao, Sarah Soule, Doug McAdam, and Jerry Davis. They are all worth reading. This flood of online expressions is a real tribute to his breadth of influence in the field and of the kind of person and friend that Mayer was.
In a series of posts about real utopias (see the earlier posts by Gar Alperovitz and Jerry Davis), we’ve invited Fred Block, professor of sociology at UC-Davis, to write about his session that will take place Sunday at 10:30 at the ASA conference.
My Real Utopia proposal for this ASA meeting is on “Democratizing Finance.” It is posted at the Real Utopias website. Writing this was much more difficult than I ever imagined, and this draft still needs a lot of work. It was hard because at the current moment, getting unemployment in the U.S. down to 7% seems unimaginably difficult and unrealistic goal. It follows that major structural changes such as democratizing finance appear to be wildly utopian with no element of realism whatsoever. The other problem is that almost all the work we have in the sociology of finance is focused on what happens in one or another specific market. We have very little work that generates an overview of the financial system as a whole, but serious reform has to look at the entire structure.
My argument proceeds through the following steps:
The annual American Sociological Association conference is nearly upon us! I imagine some of you are going to Denver today. If you’re going to be in Denver stop by the blog party, which is covered in awesomesauce, on Saturday from 8-10 at Harry’s Bar in the lobby of the Magnolia Hotel. In addition to being a get-together of the socio-blogosphere, we will also be celebrating the release of two books, Jenn Lena’s Banding Together and Gina Neff’s Venture Labor. Orgheads will remember that we did a book forum on Banding Together earlier this year.
Feel free to highlight any sessions, events, or parties in the comments section!
Some things people are Bringing Back In at ASA 2012 later this week: Animals, Hegel, Gender, Migration, Utopia, Materiality, the Generalized Other, Theory. Some things we are going Beyond at ASA 2012 later this week: the Glass Ceiling, Geneticization, the Individual, Growth and Neoliberalism, the Normal v Deviant, the Cost Structure, the Fact/Value antagonism, the Black/White divide. Some things we are After at ASA 2012 later this week: Globalization, 9/11, Gouldner, the Flood, the Afterschool Special, Socialism, Retirement, Occupy. Some things that are a Paradox at ASA 2012 later this week: Public Space, Empowerment, Suicide, Internet Privacy, Fictive Kinship, Carbon, Authenticity, Global Schizophrenia, Mexican Developmental Institutions, Food Stamps and Obesity. Some things being Revisited at ASA 2012 later this week: Embedded Autonomy, Trivers-Willard, Becoming White, Secularism, Gender Violence, Marginal Man. Things that will be found to be Relational at ASA 2012 later this week: Mechanisms, Ontologies of Individuality, Ethnic Identity, Carework, Dynamics, Events, Political Culture, Signaling, Perspectives, Understanding, Process, and Models.
To my surprise, however, only one thing is being Reconsidered, and we are not Taking anything Seriously.
Finally got around to reading the Regnerus SSR article. A few comments:
1. Up front – my politics: I am against laws that distinguish between people based on sexual orientation. I also believe that people should be tolerant of many sexual orientations, not just heterosexuality.
2. My prior scientific belief: I believe that it may be possible that sexual orientation may be correlated with family outcomes in positive or negative ways, just as there might be differences between other groups (e.g., Latinos may be better or worse parents according to some measure).
3. My prior legal belief: The presence of group differences doesn’t entail policy change unless the differences are extreme. For example, we might discover that alcoholics are worse parents, but I would be against a law that banned alcoholics from having children. In other words, I can believe that some group (e.g., gays) may be better or worse parents than other groups, but that doesn’t mean we should discriminate.
4. What I’ve been told: I am not a family sociologist, but multiple people have told me that prior research tends to find little or no difference between children of straight parents and gay parents. They could be wrong and I’d be willing to update my belief if a sufficiently strong study came out.
5. The actual Regnerus study contains a modest, but interesting result. According to multiple measures, people seem to be worse off if they had a parent who had same gender sexual relations. This isn’t surprising given that most reported two person families were mixed gender. That suggests that same sex contacts were outside the family. In other words, the study measured the “Larry Craigs” of the world. I am not shocked that their children may be worse off in some way.
6. The issue, to me, seems to be the claim that the data provide evidence against same sex marriage. First, even the author admits, there are very few people who reported two parents of the same gender (17, to be exact). Second, there is a severe selection effect. Most of the survey respondents grew up when same sex marriage was illegal, thus preventing what might the equilibrium state in an environment where same gender marriage is legal. To be blunt, the gay people who set up families a decade or more ago are not the same people who might set up families in the current environment.
7. There was petition asking the Social Science Research editor to explain how this paper went through the review process. As an author whose papers have gotten stuck for *years* at a time, I was shocked to learn that it went through in a matter of weeks.
8. Critics claim that the outcry was a “witch hunt” (see the Scatter discussion). That’s a vague and charged term, so I will ignore it. But a few things are safe to say. Science is built on skepticism. If a paper comes out claiming that all previous work in the topic was flawed and produces a controversial result, it would be normal for people to ask questions. The proper response is to provide an explanation of how the research was conducted, not accuse people of a “witch hunt.” No one is asking that anyone be fired or banned from doing sociology. The petitioners are merely asking, “why was this published?”
9. There is some truth to the charge that the outcry is political. Consider a thought experiment, what if a researcher produced a flawed article that supported a liberal policy? Has there been an equivalent level of outcry against bad research that supports liberal points of view? This doesn’t mean that the Regnerus critics should stop. They were right to ask questions. Rather, it means that we should bring the same skepticism to all research, regardless of policy implications. Liberals and conservatives should be equally fearful of sociology’s methodology police.
10. Darren “BMX” Sherkat was asked the the SSR editor to do an audit of the paper and its review process. Personally, I think this is excessive. The editor, James Wright, is an accomplished scholar and likely knew that the paper would be controversial, even used as ammunition in a political dispute. We give editors great leeway. They may agree with reviewers or override them. He chose to publish this paper after getting some feedback, which is normal. Darren found that the reviewers had some connection with the author. This isn’t always bad. I’m sure that the reviewers of some of my rejected papers know me personally, and that I’ve rejected the papers of people who I like and admire. The bottom line is that the James Wright is an adult and sociology is a contact sport.
11. Bottom line: I think this a modest paper that presents an intuitive result. If one of your parents is gay but is with a different gender partner, then kids may be worse off. A family where there a sever mismatch in orientation between parents is likely to be stressful, to say the least. At best, the paper would have to be severely rewritten to match the text and the results. At worse, as Darren notes, the paper should just be rejected along with other papers where the claims don’t match the data. The extremely fast publication process suggests that these options were not seriously considered.
“organizing creativity” and other articles on organizations and work available in sociology compass journal
Need an overview of research on conditions that enhance or constrain creativity in organizations? Check out my just published Sociology Compass article “Organizing Creativity: Enabling Creative Output, Process, and Organizing Practices,” which pulls together findings from organizational sociology, cultural sociology, psychology, and organizational studies.
Orgheads may also be interested in other Sociology Compass articles on a variety of topics in organizations and work. These articles are ideal for undergraduates and practitioners as they quickly and comprehensively introduce classic and current research. In addition, graduate students and thesis writers may find these helpful for exploring possible topics to research. Also, seasoned researchers can keep up with the latest research under specific topics of interest.
Here are several examples from the past two years:
Have any recommendations for your own or your colleagues’ articles on organizations or work that are useful for updating syllabi or catching up on the field? Please post them in the comments.
In prior posts on analyzing “unusual” cases, gaining research access to organizations, research, the IRB and risk, conducting ethnographic research, ethnography – what is it good for?, and writing up ethnography, I discussed various questions and challenges of conducting ethnography. In this post, I want to turn to the topic of timing and pacing ethnographic research, particularly during post-graduate years. When considering what research projects to undertake while in graduate school, I realized that conducting intensive ethnography would be more difficult later in my career. I thus chose a field site where I knew I could devote my efforts. Like other ethnographers, I moved to another city for months at a time and regularly conducted up to 12-hour-long observations on weekdays and weekends.
Now, I am working with more constraints. These include managing increased responsibilities, as well as navigating hurdles that didn’t exist in prior decades, such as explaining research methods that are unfamiliar to a campus Institutional Review Board (IRB). In addition, disseminating the findings of previous research, as Diane Vaughan wrote about in this AJS article, can cut back time available for on-going projects.
Over the years, I have noticed that some colleagues have switched from ethnography to other research methods. They may focus on interviews only or engage in archival research, content analysis of publicly available material, quantitative analysis of existing datasets, and theoretical work, all of which are more amenable to less flexible schedules. Some of these methods don’t (yet) involve writing a lengthy proposal to the IRB or spending months negotiating access to a field site that might ultimately decline. In addition, some of this research can be conducted from the office or scheduled around other responsibilities.
For those who continue to conduct ethnographic research as a professor, juggling research with increased responsibilities is a challenge. With increased teaching, service, and family commitments to aging parents and/or children, researchers have slimmer blocks of time and energy to undertake observations, write field notes, and analyze and prepare the results for publication. For those who are eligible, a sabbatical or a course release can free up some time during the school year. Teaching online, evening, or weekend classes can also facilitate research during the weekdays. Careful selection of research projects and sites allow some to do research whenever they can travel.
Like researchers who use other methods, ethnographers may train undergraduate and graduate students to help with a larger research project as part of a class assignment or research assistantship. Because of their relative youth and diverse ethnic and class backgrounds, student researchers may find it easier to enter certain field sites, and they may uncover details that the lead researcher cannot access. Even though most students will not pursue research as a career, they gain a deeper understanding of the difficulties of conducting such studies. Moreover, some researchers enjoy mentoring students, and these studies benefit from multiple perspectives.
When conducting observations with an elongated schedule or particularly complex, changing phenomena, researchers may have a harder time determining whether they have reached theoretical saturation such that they are no longer learning something new from observations. The desire to gather more research is hard to resist. One colleague has semi-jokingly compared field immersion with becoming a “field junkie.” Other colleagues have worried whether time spent on various responsibilities away from the field means missing a crucial development. Eventually, competing commitments or diminishing stamina or interest may force researchers to move onto the next stage.
For readers who are undertaking ethnographic research or have colleagues who do so, what are your tips for sustaining an active research project? Alternatively, please post your recommendations for relevant readings on this topic below.
The ASA invites you to download their new mobile app for the Denver meetings. It has many awesome features. It is available to “Smart-phone (and tablet) users worldwide” on the “iOS (iPhone/iPad), Android and BlackBerry platforms”. There is a QR code. Or you can download it right now by going … to … this … web … page. It’s a web page. Tina was exactly right.
I really hope they didn’t pay anyone any money for this App. On the upside, here is some of the reaction on Twitter, which perhaps justifies any outlay:
The Center on Everyday Lives of Families has released a book called Life at Home in the 21st Century, authored by anthropologists Elinor Ochs, Anthony Graesch, and photographer Enzo Ragazzini. Based on extensive ethnographic work and interviews, the authors went into 32 LA area homes and discovered massive clutter. Just to give a sense of the clutter, they found that in 75% of homes, the garage no longer housed a car. The garage housed old stuff. What does that say? I’ll take an unconventional answer. We need more disposable stuff. We have the desire to save a lot, which made sense in world of scarcity. In a world of cheap goods, it’s a bad rule.
Hello fellow orgtheory readers! Orgtheory was kind enough to invite me back for another stint of guest blogging. For those of you who missed my original posts, you can read my 2009 series of posts on analyzing “unusual” cases, gaining research access to organizations, research, the IRB and risk, conducting ethnographic research, ethnography – what is it good for?, and writing up ethnography.
Those of you are familiar with my research know that I have studied an organization that mixed democratic or collectivist practices with bureaucratic practices. Here’s a puzzle: although we operate in a democracy, most of our organizations, including voluntary associations, rely upon topdown bureaucracy. However, this doesn’t mean that alternative ways of organizing can’t thrive.
Valve, the game developer behind Portal, has attracted much buzz (for example, see this article in the WSJ and various tech blogs entries, such as here and here) about its self-managing processes. The company prides itself on having no bosses, and their employee handbook details their unusual workplace practices. For example, instead of waiting for orders from above, workers literally vote with their feet by moving their desks to join projects that they deem worthy of their time and effort. Similarly, anthropologist Thomas Malaby describes how Linden Lab workers, who developed the virtual reality Second Life, vote how to allocate efforts among projects proposed by workers. Sociologist David Stark has described how workers mixed socialist and capitalist practices in a factory in post-Communist Hungary to get work jobs done, dubbing these heterarchies.
Interestingly, several of the conditions specified by Joyce Rothschild and J. Allen Whitt as allowing collectivist organizations to survive may also apply to these workplace organizations – for example, recruiting those like existing members and staying small in size. However, my research on Burning Man suggests that these are not always necessary or desirable conditions, particularly if members value diversity.
Although these self-managing practices may seem revolutionary to contemporary workers, orgtheory readers might recall that prior to the rise of management and managerial theories such as Taylor’s scientific management, workers could self-determine the pacing of projects. Could we make a full circle?
Any thoughts? Know of other interesting organizations or have recommendations for research that we can learn from? Put them in the comments.
Field theory is of general importance in the social sciences because it provides a way to balance tendencies toward structural determinism and agency as well as micro and macro scales of analysis. There are many theory traditions of field sociology, and F&M provide a discussion of some of them, but in terms of accumulated symbolic capital such as citations, Bourdieu’s field theory is clearly the leader and arguably the most intellectually significant point of comparison. Having found a somewhat loose appropriation of Bourdieu’s field sociology to be valuable in the study of science, technology, social movements, and society, I am sympathetic with F&M’s use of Bourdieu’s work and willingness to modify it as they see fit.
In summary, the book is likely to have considerable influence for many reasons, including the symbolic, temporal, and social capital of the authors in the field of sociology and their interest in connecting diverse approaches to the concept of fields in several subfields of sociology. Their project explicitly resists the tendency for researchers in, for example, organizational sociology to develop field theories without the benefit of similar work going on in economic sociology and social movement studies. Thus, they see the concept of strategic action fields as enabling a broad intra- and interdisciplinary conversation with related conceptual frameworks, such as work on organizational fields, games, networks, and policy domains and systems.
I’m still mulling over some of the issues raised at the Chicago ethnography and causal inference conference. For example, a lot of ethnographers say “sure, we can’t generalize but ….” The reason they say this is that they are making a conceptual mistake.
Ethnography is generalizable – just not within a single study. Think of it this way. Data is data, whether it is from a survey, experiment or field work. The reason that surveys are generalizable is in the sampling. The survey data is a representative sub-group of the larger group.
What’s the deal with ethnography? Usually, we want to say that what we observe in fieldwork is applicable in other cases. The problem is that we only have one (or a few) field sites. The solution? Increase the number of field sites. Of course, this can’t be done by one person. However, there can be teams. Maybe they aren’t officially related, but each ethnographer could contribute to the field of ethnography by randomly selecting their field site, or choosing a field site that hasn’t been covered yet.
Thus, over the years, each ethnographer would contribute to the validity of the entire enterprise. As time passes, you’d observe new phenomena, but by linking field site selection to prior questions you’d also be expanding the sample of field sites. This isn’t unheard of. The Manchester School of anthropology did exactly that – spread the ethnographers around – to great effect. Maybe it’s time that sociological ethnographers do the same.
Several people have pointed out Neal Caren lists of most cited works. I appreciate how hard it is to do something like this and I appreciate the work Neal Caren has done. So my criticism is intended more to get us closer to the truth here and to caution against this list getting reified. I also have some suggestions for Neal Caren’s next foray here.
The idea, as I understand it, is to try and create a list of the 100 most cited sociology books and papers in the period 2005-2010. Leaving aside the fact that the SSCI under counts sociology cites by a wide margin, (maybe a factor of 400-500% if you believe what comes out of Google Scholar), the basic problem with the list is that it is not based on a good sample of all of the works in sociology. Because the journals were chosen on an ad hoc basis, one has no idea as to what the bias is in making that choice. The theory Neal Caren is working with, is that these journals are somehow a sample of all sociology journals and that their citation patterns reflect the discipline at large. The only way to make this kind of assertion is to randomly sample from all sociology journals.
The idea here is that if Bourdieu’s Distinctions is really the most cited work in sociology (an inference people are drawing from the list), then it should be equally likely to appear in all sociology articles and all sociology journals at a similar rate. The only way to know if this is true, is to sample all journals or all articles, not some subset chosen purposively. Adding ASQ to this, does not matter because it only adds one more arbitrary choice in a nonrandom sampling scheme. .
I note that the Social Science Citation Index follows 139 Sociology journals. A random sample of 20% would yield 28 journals and looking at those papers across a random sample of journals is going to get us a better idea at finding out which works are the most cited in sociology.
Is there any evidence that the nonrandom sample chosen by Neal Caren is nonrandom? The last three cites on his list include one by Latour (49 cites), Byrk (49 cites) and Blair Loy (49 cites). If one goes to the SSCI and looks up all of the cites to these works from 2005-2010, not just the ones that appear in these journals, one comes to a startling result: Latour has 1266 cites, Bryk, 124, and Blair Loy 152. At the top of the list, Bourdieu’s Distinctions has 218 on Neal Caren’s list but the SSCI shows Distinctions as having 865 cites overall. Latour’s book should put him at the top of the list, but the way the journals are chosen here puts him at the bottom. It ought to make anyone who looks at this list nervous, that Latour’s real citation count is 25 times larger than reported and it puts him ahead of Bourdieu’s Distinctions.
The list is also clearly nonrandom for what is left off. Brayden King mentioned that the list is light on organizational and economic sociology. So, I did some checking. Woody Powell’s 1990 paper called “Neither markets nor hierarchies” has 464 cites from 2005-2010 and his paper with three other colleagues that appeared in the AJS in 2005, “Networks dynamics and field evolution” has 267 cites. In my own work, my 1996 ASR paper “Markets as politics” has 363 cites and my 2001 book “The Architecture of Markets” has 454 from 2005-2010. If without much work, I can find four articles or books that have more cites than two of the three bottom cites on the list (i.e. Byrk’s 124 and Blair Loy’s 152 done the same way), there must be lots more missing.
This suggests that if we really want to understand what are the most cited and core works in sociology in any time period, we cannot use purposive samples of journals. What is required is a substantial number of journals being sampled, and then all of the cites to the papers or books tallied for those books and papers from the SSCI in order to see which works really are the most cited. I assume that many of the books and papers on the list will still be there, i.e. things like Bourdieu, Granovetter, DiMaggio and Powell, Meyer and Rowan, Swidler, and Sewell. But because of the nonrandom sampling, lots of things that appear to be missing are probably, well, missing.