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intellectual desegregation

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Before the epidemic, I had a short op-ed come out at the James G. Martin Center on the topic of intellectual desegregation and getting out of academic echo chambers. Here is a sample:

The very first step toward a genuinely heterodox mindset is intellectual desegregation. In other words, most academics find themselves in relative “safe spaces” where they encounter people like themselves.

There is an old joke about Richard Nixon that makes this point. A professor in a very liberal enclave, such as Cambridge, says, “I don’t understand how Nixon could have won—none of my friends voted for him!” Many professors and educators live similar lives. They live politically homogeneous lives. I don’t merely refer to the neighborhoods in which they reside. I also mean their intellectual lives.

Read the whole thing!

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Written by fabiorojas

April 2, 2020 at 12:19 am

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contexts and covid: we have what you need

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COVID-680x340-c-center@2x

Sociology is a tool we will need to help us sort out why corona virus struck and how it impacted society. But instead of letting the journal process drag on for years, we at Contexts magazine solicited pieces from a wide range of scholars. These short pieces, written by sociologists who study public and other relevant topics, give you short, digestible approaches to the crisis. No games, no paywall, just relevant information.

Our first batch addresses the response from Asian nation states:

We start with Asia as it is considered ground zero for the global pandemic. The articles in this first wave focus on why Taiwan has such few cases despite its geographic proximity to mainline China, how Asian countries and polities deal with medical supply problems, and how families grapple with physical and social isolation. We will also feature more articles on Asia and the experiences of Asian Americans over the coming weeks.

And we also have pieces on the impact of Corona virus/COVID on the healthcare system:

The articles in this wave of our COVID-19 special issue illuminate the importance of having a formidable healthcare infrastructure that interweaves federal, state, and local governments. They also highlight the benefits of universal and equitable healthcare systems. Factors including efficient testing, accurate reporting, communication, trust, social capital, and community preparedness impact what is occuring at state health offices, hospitals, community clinics, and local neighborhoods.

Please check it out and tell me what you think.

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50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
Intro to sociology for just $1 per chapter – INSANE BARGAIN!!!!!
A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

April 1, 2020 at 12:12 am

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open borders and covid-19: shut down immigrant detention centers

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Things, as you can imagine, got busy for me. I transitioned to online teaching. It wasn’t too bad as I learned how to do an online course last year. My family also adjusted to being at home for the next month or so. But now, it’s back to blogging and I’d like to talk about immigrant detention centers.

As many of you know, I am a defender of migration and I oppose attempts to prevent peaceful people from migrating. I’d like to draw you attention to this Newsweek:

A federal judge ordered the immediate release of 10 detainees, held by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and considered vulnerable to the coronavirus, who are waylaid at three correctional facilities in New Jersey where there have been confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Pause for a moment. If immigration presented a genuine threat, wouldn’t we do with the prisoners what we do for violent offenders? Wouldn’t  we just put them in a prison infirmary? No, instead the judge released them. Why? Most immigrants are non-violent and movement does not pose any real threats.

You may retort – “This is an emergency!” Doesn’t that make my case stronger? If immigrants are really violent people, or they really take jobs, or they strain the public system, then wouldn’t those reasons hold during a crisis?

When you really think about it, it’s simple. Immigration is no crime. If someone is violent, we have laws for that. But otherwise, shut down detention centers – send them all home!

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BUY THESE BOOKS!!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
Intro to sociology for just $1 per chapter – INSANE BARGAIN!!!!!
A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

March 31, 2020 at 12:02 am

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interstitial bureaucracy: high performing governmental agencies operating in ineffective governments

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Back in February (which now seems like an eternity from a fast-disappearing alternate reality), sociologist and organizational researcher Erin Metz McDonnell virtually visited my graduate Organizations, Markets, and the State course to talk about her research on high performing governmental agencies in Ghana.   McDonnell initiated an electrifying and dynamic discussion about the applicability of her research findings.  She also shared her experience with the opaque process of how researchers form projects that contribute to public knowledge.

Many of her observations about organizing practices are particularly timely now that the US and other nation-states face extreme challenges that demand more proactive, rather than retroactive, preparations for pandemic conditions.

Here’s a digest of what we learned:

  • Why Ghana? Prior to graduate school, McDonnell went to Ghana on a Fulbright award.  These experiences helped her question conventional organizational orthodoxy, including generalized statements about “states do this” built on research conducted in North America.  Using such observed disjunctures between the organizational canon and her lived experience, McDonnell refined research questions.  When she returned to Ghana, she identified high performing governmental units and undertook interviews.

 

  • Why did McDonnell include other cases, including 19th century US, early 21st century China, mid-20th century Kenya, and early 21st century Nigeria? McDonnell discussed the importance of using research in other countries and time periods to further flesh out dimensions of interstitial bureaucracy.

 

  • How did McDonnell coin the term interstitial bureaucracy? Reviewers didn’t like McDonnell’s originally proposed term to describe the habits and practices of effective bureaucrats.  “Subcultural bureaucracy” was perceived as too swinging 1960s, according to reviewers.

 

  • What can Ghana reveal about N. American’s abhorrence of organizational slack? McDonnell explained that high performing bureaucracies in Ghana reveal the importance of slack, which has been characterized as wasteful in N. American’s “lean” organizations.  Cross training and “redundancies” help organizations to continue functioning when workers are sick or have difficulties with getting to work.

 

  • Isn’t staff turn-over, where people leave after a few years for better paying jobs in the private sector or elsewhere, a problem? Interestingly, McDonnell considered staff turn-over a small cost to pay – she opined that securing qualified, diligent workers, even for a few years, is better than none.  (Grad students added that some career bureaucrats become less effective over time)

 

  • What can governmental agencies do to protect against having to hire (ineffective) political appointees? McDonnell explained how specifying relevant credentials in field (i.e., a degree in chemistry) can ensure the likelihood of hiring qualified persons to staff agencies.

 

For more, please check out McDonnell’s new book Patchwork Leviathan: Pockets of Bureaucratic Effectiveness in Developing States from Princeton University Press.  Also, congrats to McDonnell on her NSF Career award!

safe movement vs. no movement

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When an epidemic breaks out, especially one that has killed as many people as quickly as coronavirus, it makes sense to ban public gatherings and restrict physical contact. But does that mean that borders should be permanently shut down?

It really depends a lot on the danger presented. For example, if we expected the sort of deaths that Europe experienced during the plague era, it might be advisable. However, coronavirus is no where near that level. Some of the scariest numbers come from model estimates where people, literally, do nothing at all to prevent transmission. It will be a while before we have good data and valid inferences about the precise levels of danger, but coronovirus is almost certainly not near plague levels in terms of danger. It is more in the murky intermediate zone of danger.

If you are faced with a very serious problem, but not one of existential threat, why might you allow travel and migration? There are some very sensible reasons:

  • Jobs – food will still need to produced and distributed. And migrant labor is often the way we do that.
  • Safety – A lot of people in this world live in incredibly dangerous places. The danger may be from dysfunctional health services or repressive governments. We should try to see if we can make it possible for people to safely move.
  • Helping the elderly – if the coronavirus sheltering and lock down continue, a lot of elderly people in this world will need help. They need to stay at home. Relatives and paid helpers will need to be hired so they can live.

What I propose is a policy of “safe movement” vs. no movement. We should ask, what policies can be proposed to allow safe movement? For example, we may require that people from other nations quarantine for 14 days before we let them in.  We can also increase monitoring and screening at entry points. This is what was done in the US during the Ellis Island era of migration. We can also ask about innovation – how can transportation be improved so it reduces risk?

Bottom line: When disaster strikes, we need to respond, but that doesn’t mean we have to impose policies that will have counter intuitive effects. Innovation is the key, not panic.

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Intro to sociology for just $1 per chapter – INSANE BARGAIN!!!!!
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The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
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Written by fabiorojas

March 18, 2020 at 5:53 pm

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open borders and coronavirus

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I am an advocate of open borders. During the current epidemic, a number of people have asked me if I am changing my mind. In general, open borders help reduce transmission in a number of ways:

  •  Nations and regions vary in their ability to treat illness. Let people move to the place where they need to be to get treatment.
  •  It is better to have some movement and screen people at borders, then to have people be unmonitored and travel unobserved. People with symptoms or people from hard hit areas can be quarantined. As one person said on my Facebook feed, “do you really want to have people bring the disease via underground tunnels?”
  •  People will need all kinds of help getting through this. It may be help from a health care providers, or an elderly person hiring people to bring them food to their house, or an elderly person bringing a relative to live with them, or a supermarket that needs extra workers to keep the shelves stocked.
  •  In general, we need to let people decide which businesses and organizations need to shut down and which can remain open.
  • And of course, diseases diffuse through a population within a specific time period. That means travel and migration can resume normally once that has happened and the contagion is on the wane.

In theory, I can imagine a disease so incredibly deadly that we need to shut down travel and close the borders. But coronavirus doesn’t seem to be that. It’s dangerous and we can perform reasonabe actions, like shutting down mass gatherings and social distancing, that will make the disease more manageable and save lives. So let people move to where they need to go and let’s battle this disease the smart way – not by cracking down on immigrants.

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BUY THESE BOOKS!!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
Intro to sociology for just $1 per chapter – INSANE BARGAIN!!!!!
A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

March 16, 2020 at 2:43 pm

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black studies discussion group

To help keep your mind off things, I’ve started a Twitter thread on the history of Black Studies. Day 1 is an overview of the social position of Black Students pre-1960s and Day 2 is a discussion of Black Student organizations:

And

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BUY THESE BOOKS!!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
Intro to sociology for just $1 per chapter – INSANE BARGAIN!!!!!
A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

March 12, 2020 at 6:22 pm

Posted in uncategorized