Archive for the ‘books’ Category

party in the street: hypocrisy or not?

One of the responses to Party in the Street is that, in some way, we refuse to acknowledge the hypocrisy of activists. For example, Robin Hanson made the following observation on his blog, Overcoming Bias:

If they had framed their story more in terms of hypocrisy, they might have asked which media or interest groups tried to tell antiwar protesters the truth before Obama was elected, what reception they received, and why did other big media chose not to tell.
A few comments. First, the purpose of the book is to study party/movement interactions, not judge the moral consistency of our research subjects. Second, I think it is harder to establish hypocrisy than many people believe. What appears to be inconsistent can be ascribed to different processes:
  1. I believe X is bad and I support people who do X.
  2. I believe X is bad but I think that my favorite person is better at dealing with X than the other guy.

#1 might be called “bad faith hypocrisy.” We know that our moral claims and actions are different. #2 is more subtle. One might call #2 hypocrisy, but that is misleading since hypocrisy seems to entail conscious contradiction of actions and moral claims. Instead, #2 might be called “misplaced trust.”

What evidence do we have that the antiwar movement declined due to misplaced trust than bad faith hypocrisy? To show that there is misplaced trust, all one needs to show is that activists supported their friend because of a plausible case that there were substantial differences that were acceptable in the moral frameworks of the peace activists. We review this evidence in detail (see chapter 2), but I’d suggest that the de-escalation of Iraq (negotiated under Bush, carried out under Obama) is the major piece of evidence that Obama did something that was consistent with their views. Perhaps the most important piece of evidence against my claim is the massive escalation of Afghanistan, but the Democratic position was always that this was good and the beef of many activists was with Iraq, not Afghanistan. i suspect that most activists simply think that a Democrat would do better and leave it at that.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

November 4, 2015 at 12:01 am

need a social theory book?

As long time readers know, I have been working on a social theory book. It has been read by many people. Now, I want to test drive it. If you need a book for a class, email me and I’ll make a special deal. Highlights:

  • Short book organized around major ideas/theoretical ideas in sociology (e.g., inequality, institutions).
  • Illustrated with modern sociological research, not just classic texts.
  • Aimed at upper division/early grad students OR non-sociologists who want a summary of modern social theory.
  • Written in an academic but non-textbooky style. In other words, it’s an essay on how sociologists do theory with empirical examples, not a conventional theory textbook.

Compliment to the traditional theory anthology/reading list or can be read by itself. Operators are waiting.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

October 23, 2015 at 12:01 am

Posted in books, fabio, social theory

party in the street: podcast by caleb brown of the cato institute

My good friend and co-author Michael T. Heaney discussed Party in the Street with Caleb Brown of the Cato Institute. Nice summary of the major themes of the book.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

September 21, 2015 at 3:06 pm

navigating the academic pipeline: swim forth or swim out?

As the yearly season for academic hiring opens, and as students consider applying to graduate program, now is the time to reflect on one’s place and prospects in the academic pipeline. Written by two economists who also are parents, Professor Mommy: Finding Work-Family Balance in Academia raises important issues germane to those who are entering, navigating, or exiting the academic pipeline. While the book is aimed at academic women, a general audience would benefit from tenure-track tips. (Examples: the authors suggest working on and submitting grant proposals so that senior colleagues who serve on grant panels can become acquainted with junior colleagues’ work. The authors also recommend against co-authoring with colleagues who might be able to write tenure review letters, as co-authorship will preclude letter-writing.)

Like Fabio in his Grad Skool Rulz book, the co-authors Rachel Connelly and Kristen Ghodsee have a brutal and blunt chapter (“Know Thyself, part 1”) urging those unsure about academia to understand the limits of the academic job market, such as being expected to move where the jobs are and facing continual rejection. They warn that applicants should expect to spend between 3 to 5 years on the job market and that any job prospect might become THE job.

One especially illuminating section addresses how some job applicants may take positions at particular kinds of institutions, assuming that these allow for a work-family balance, without understanding that other institutions may have the resources better suited to support working parents. Although the authors don’t go into this in great detail, some employers are prepared to dole out substantial resources to faculty – funds that can cover all of conference travel expenses, a book allowance, a guaranteed spot in a desired school for a child, subsidized housing in a good school district, college tuition payments for children, etc. – that other employers cannot.

The book excels in revealing strategies used by academic parents to manage the limitless demands of academia and parenting. The one quibble that I have concerns a section where the authors offer a composite case of a “good student” who embarks upon an academic career as a default. The hypothetical academic struggles with the everyday challenges of academia and parenting; she eventually resigns from her tenure-track position to stay at home to raise children, supported by a husband who agrees to be the bread-winner for the family. Using this case, the authors invite readers to assess whether they truly enjoy “the life of the mind,” which include self-managing an academic career where deadlines can be postponed up until a point. The authors urge readers not to opt out of the pipeline in the way that the composite case’s academic does. They want readers to examine their “motivation” for considering an academic career.

While the authors’ advice adopts a realist perspective, as we know from Herbert Simon’s work on decision-making, people often don’t know what their preferences are (or fully understand the consequences associated with certain choices), until they try them. My added suggestion is that students and tenure-track faculty try cultivating certain habits – namely, formulating research questions, writing regularly, and meeting publication deadlines – as early as possible.* If these don’t jibe, move onto other career paths.

* As an analogy, read Dan Chambliss’s “The Mandanity Mundanity of Excellence” article about swimmers.

Written by katherinechen

September 17, 2015 at 3:15 pm

Posted in academia, books

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book spotlight: thinking through social theory by john levi-martin


John Levi-Martin is one of sociology’s most fertile thinkers. His book, Social Structures, was discussed at length on this blog and The Explanation of Social Action was a well discussed investigation of how social scientists try to approach causality. His new book, Thinking Through Social Theory, is a tour of foundational issues in social science and should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand current debate over the status of social explanation.

Roughly speaking, there is a long standing dispute among scholars about what constitutes a proper explanation of social action. The argument has many facets. For example, there is a dispute over realism, the view that people have fairly direct access to reality which can the be leveraged into causal explanation. There is a related argument about social norms and whether it makes sense to say that a rule “caused” or “forced” someone to act. And of course, there are arguments over the sufficiency of various schools of thought like functionalism, rational choice, and evolutionary theory.

Thinking Through Social Theory is Levi-Martin’s review of these issues. It not only summarizes the landscape, but offers answers drawn from one of his most theoretically rich articles, “What is Field Theory?” It is truly difficult to summarize this tome (e.g., there is multi-page analysis of the “gentlemen open doors for ladies” custom) but I can indicate some high points. First, there is a good review of the issues surrounding realism. And no, he does NOT side with those pesky critical realists. Second, there is an examination of two theories (rational choice and evolutionary psychology) that try to offer “ultimate” accounts of human action. Third, Levi-Martin offers a field theoretic alternative to theories of action that are found in schools as diverse as functionalism, institutionalism, and Swidlerian toolkit theory. The basic intuition is that individuals aren’t carrying around norms, but they are working in fields of action that push people into situations that generate behavioral, or even cognitive, regularities. Sounds like actor-network theory to me, but more meso-level.

So who is this book for? I see a few good audiences. One are social theory grad students. After marching PhD students though the history of soc up the present, it is good to sit back and think about the (lack of?) progress that has been made in building social theory. I also think that the philosophy of social science crowd would enjoy this, as would scholars in cultural sociology who often run into the issue of motivation. Thumbs up.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

August 18, 2015 at 12:01 am

Posted in books, fabio, just theory

book naming contest winner….

The accounting firm of Weber, Durkheim and Simmel has carefully counted the votes from last week’s book naming contest. The winner will get $20 (via PayPal or ASA handoff) or one my sociology books (From Black Power or Party in the Street) or ten copies of Grad Skool Rulz mailed to friends. The winner will also be given a place of honor in the acknowledgements should the book ever get published. Drum roll, please…

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by fabiorojas

July 23, 2015 at 1:36 am

Posted in books, fabio, just theory

party in the streeet: response to econlog commenters

Last week, Bryan Caplan wrote two lengthy posts about Party in the Street (here and here). He focuses on a few issues: the differences between Republican and Democratic administrations on war policy and the exaggeration of differences by activists. Bryan also argues that the arguments typically made by peace activists aren’t those he would make. Rather than condemn specific politicians or make blanket statements about war, he focuses on the death of innocents and war’s unpredictability (e.g., it is hard to judge if wars work ex ante).

The commenters raised a number of questions and issues. Here are a few:

  • Jacob Geller asks whether the collapse of the peace movement is spurious and could be attributed to other factors (e.g., the economy). Answer: There are multiple ways to assess this claim – the movement began its slide pre-recession (true), partisans are more likely to disappear than non-partisans during the recession (true), and the movement did not revive post-recession (true – e.g., few democrats have protested Obama’s war policies). Movements rise and fall for many reasons, but in this case, partisanship is almost certainly a factor.
  • Michael suggested that there was a Democratic war policy difference in that Al Gore would not have fought Iraq. One can’t establish anything with certainty using counter factual history, but Frank Harvey suggested that President Gore would like have fought Iraq, given the long standing enmity and low level armed conflict between Iraq and the Clinton administration  (including Gore).
  • Also, a few people raised the issue of voting and if the antiwar issue was salient for Democrats. A few comments – one is that in data about activists, Democrats tended to view Obama’s management of war in better terms than non-partisans. Another point is that opinions on the war affected vote choice in multiple elections. The issue, though, isn’t whether Democrats were motivated by their attitudes on the Iraq War. The issue is how that is linked to movement participation and how that changes over time, given electoral events. All evidence suggests that the democratic party and the antiwar movement dissociated over time, leading to the peace movement’s collapse.

Thanks for the comments!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

July 22, 2015 at 12:01 am


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