Tim Gill is a CIPR fellow at Tulane University. His research addresses political sociology and globalization. This guest post addresses the candidacy of Donald Trump.
In May, I taught my final course at the University of Georgia as I finished up my dissertation: a three-week long seminar on political sociology. Before the course, I was certain that Trump would be the most sought after topic of discussion by the students, regardless of what topic we broached. The Great Depression and issues of tariffs? Trump. The civil rights movement and Black Lives Matter? Trump. And, finally, how performances matter within US politics? Well, of course, Trump.
I admit. When I teach political sociology and use books and articles concerning US politics, my head tends to wander back to Venezuela, where I do most of my research. This didn’t happen though nearly as monolithically this summer. Along with the students, my thoughts also redirected themselves towards Trump, his recurrently outlandish policy positions, and bigoted comments. After each new comment, we would think this surely would be the end of the campaign. As we found out, it wasn’t. And it somehow hasn’t been, even as the absurdities have persisted.
This week, we’ll have a few posts about the candidacy of Donald Trump. It will have three parts:
- Tom Gill will post on Trump as a political performer.
- Then, Josh Pacewicz will dig into Trump’s poll numbers.
- We’ll wrap up with a post by me on Trump, where I’ll add some of my own thoughts.
I’ll focus on the following points. Interested readers should send me questions:
- How predictable/unpredictable was the Trump candidacy?
- Using the Entertainment Theory of the GOP to understand Trump’s nomination and likely November loss.
- Using Trump to explain when social science theories do/do not work.
What do you want to know about Trump? Use the comments or send me email.
Fabio has written about this a bit already, but it’s worth thinking about how sociology on the internet parallels this larger story about blogs as distinctive showcases of writers’ voices to to the greater immediacy of twitter alongside the ubiquity of “blogs” on many different kinds of websites. In the New Republic, Jeet Heer argues blogging was a victim of its own success, though it’s interesting to consider how this tracks onto the decreased importance of blogging within sociology, which seems to me a much more straightforward story of technological change (folks shifted from blogging to social media).
To judge by Read’s account, both Gawker and blogging were victims of their own success, albeit in very different ways. Gawker got big enough to earn a frighteningly powerful enemy, a relentless and unforgiving man who deployed his vast resources and the legal system to crush the publication. Blogging got so popular that it caught the attention of the mainstream media, which bought up the best talent, and of Silicon Valley, which recast the writer’s medium from an intimate platform that was all about voice to a social network all about clicks and shares. Banks are lucky enough to be too big to fail; Gawker and blogging were too big to succeed.
Org theory people are just coming home from the Academy of Management meetings and sociologists are about to leave for the American Sociological Association meetings. I am also trying to wrap up a really, really, really ridiculously cool project that I am so going to tell you about. So we’re taking a break here till next week. But, boy, do we have some good stuff coming up:
- A mini-symposium on the sociology of Trump: Tim Gill from Tulane will write about political performance and Josh Pacewicz from Brown will approach the Trump candidacy from the perspective of class politics.
- Catching up on books: The Inner Lives of Markets by Ray Fishman and Tim Sullivan; Anthony Ocampo’s The Latinos of Asia; and The Second Machine Age by Brynjolfsson and McAfee.
- Article discussion of “Racism and Discrimination” by Nancy DiTomaso
- My response to Pamela Oliver’s post on mass incarceration. Hint: Don’t wait. Read it now.
Also, if you are at the ASA, please drop by and say hello. I would love to meet you. I’ll be at the following events:
- The historical/comparative sociology mini-conference.
- Panel discussion on Black Power outcomes (Sunday 10:30 AM).
- Author meets critics for Joyce Bell’s book, The Black Power Movement and American Social Work (Monday 10:30 AM).
- Regular panel on new work on healthcare professions (Monday 4:30pm) .
See you after ASA!
This guest post is by Mikalia Lemonik Arthur, associate professor and chair of sociology at Rhode Island College and a long time friend of the blog. She is an expert in higher education and is the author of Student Activism and Curricular Change in Higher Education.
My colleague Fran Leazes and I recently released a report “How Higher Education Shapes The Workforce: A Study of Rhode Island College Graduates,” funded by TheCollaborative. Our college—Rhode Island College—is a public comprehensive college at which 85% of students come from within the state, a figure no other college in our state can come close to matching. Our project was spurred by an interest at the state policy level in why graduates of colleges in our state leave Rhode Island. But, we argue, students who were not Rhode Island residents when they began college may not be best understood as “leaving Rhode Island” when they are often really going home. Thus, tracking our alumni—who really are from Rhode Island—provides a useful window onto both higher education outcomes and workforce development in Rhode Island.
Our project combines data from a number of sources to come to several conclusions about our alumni, including that we actually retain most of them in state. Those who leave often leave in pursuit of graduate degrees. And the majority of our graduates find employment in fields related to their undergraduate major. While the report makes several state-level policy suggestions (invest in public higher education, including expanded graduate degree offerings; better promote the excellent alumni workforce we have available in the state), our research process and findings also highlight the need for comprehensive colleges like ours to invest more substantially in their alumni offices.
Most elite private colleges have robust alumni offices. These offices work hard to maintain alumni connections to the college, largely in order to pursue fundraising opportunities. But elite private colleges know that alumni offices serve other purposes as well. By maintaining excellent databases of their alumni, elite private colleges are easily able to make claims about the percentage of alumni who have earned graduate degrees, the number living in particular geographical areas, and the representation of alumni in key professional fields like medicine or politics. Comprehensive colleges, in contrast, rarely have the resources or staffing in either the alumni office or the institutional research office to gather and maintain such information. Thus, in order to put together our report, we had to employ a team of five undergraduate research assistants, who spent the entire fall semester combing the Internet for biographical data on our sample of alumni.
Of course, it would have made our lives easier if our college already had access to such data. But more importantly, such data would enable our college to tell its story in a more persuasive fashion. Rather than talking about the kinds of outcome measures the performance funding types tend to value (employment and salaries a year after graduation), a robust alumni database would allow us to document the value our college has to our state by highlighting the number of successful professionals, community leaders, volunteers, and others RIC has educated.
Comprehensive colleges are an often-ignored sector of higher education, but we play a vital role in educating the professionals who keep our states moving—the nurses, teachers, social workers, police officers, accountants, small business owners, local politicians, and others. And we are often the most accessible and affordable colleges for working class students who will go on to do great things in our states and beyond. The fact that our alumni affairs offices are under-resourced may not be the type of educational stratification researchers and policymakers pay attention to, but it is a type of educational stratification with consequences for our reputations and our institutions’ funding streams.