Archive for the ‘books’ Category

ermakoff book forum 3: group identity and rational choice

This part of the book forum is about Ivan Ermakoff’s theory of collective abdication. It’s a little complicated, so bear with me. First, in analyzing the March 1933 vote in Germany or the 1940 vote in France, Ermakoff rejects the views that it was simply a matter of external pressure or “defecting” to the bad side. In his reading of events, people were able to resist and they were not Nazis or sympathizers. And of course, if you are afraid of Nazi retaliation, giving them unlimited power would not solve the problem. He also rejects the view that it was a matter of political incompetence. Perhaps, some historians have argued, German and French legislators simply underestimated how bad the Nazis were going to be. In reading the original source materials, Ermakoff finds plenty evidence to the contrary. At the very least, the main actors in the story were highly skilled politicians and many knew exactly what might happen.

So what does Ermakoff propose? Roughly speaking, he argues that authoritarian challenges can result  in abdication when the challenge effectively dissolves pre-existing social structures, which then allows for a re-alignment that the challenger can shape. The result is that the re-alignment can inflate the support for the challenger as people try to infer what other people think and mistakenly acquiesce because they think others are doing so.

To help understand this theory, let’s choose the example of a large academic humanities department, with, say 50 professors. Then let’s assume hurricane Katrina hits and its hard for people to come to work or otherwise communicate normally. All of a sudden, the Dean shows up and demands that the department become a new data science program and that you have to vote on it right now. A lot of people don’t know what to do and normal communication is no longer an option. So people look at each other and see that there is a pretty set group of people who like the Dean’s proposal. Little by little, people move to the Dean’s proposal and the English department switches to being a humanities data science program.

Ermakoff shows (in a technical appendix) that as long as you have a not tiny faction of people who agree with the dean and people are trying to coordinate with each other, you can get a lot of people to switch. In other words, when people deliberate on extremely high risk activities, they try coordinate with each other in a number of ways. Such forms of coordination in the absence of normal constraints can result in allowing the challenger to win. It’s an interesting argument in that it combines a social psychology explanation (people look to each other  for meaning) and embeds it inside a nested game.

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

Written by fabiorojas

December 24, 2015 at 12:01 am

ermakoff book forum 2: of nazis and vichy

The purpose of Ruling Oneself Out is to understand when political groups, or coalitions, literally vote themselves out of power, often with disastrous consequences. Today, I’ll briefly describe the historical cases and tomorrow I’ll discuss the theory Ermakoff uses to explain things.

The first example is the Reichstag’s March 1933 vote to give Hitler broad power. Essentially, the Reichstag abolished democratic controls over the chancellor by giving the chancellor and the cabinet the ability to pass laws with the Reichstag’s approval. Most historians concur that this was the effective end of the Weimar state. It was replaced by a Nazi party state that dispensed with republican institutions.

What is crucial for Ermakoff is that the Nazis won because they had the backing of various Center and right parties, including some who were very suspicious of Hitler. Communists had been banned from the vote and only the Social Democrats voted no.

Ermakoff’s other case is the French government’s vote to give Petain power in 1940. The complete disaster of the French war effort completely destabilized French state, resulting in the withdrawal of the government from Paris, the resignation of the leadership, and the creation of German dominated Vichy France.

In reviewing these two events, Ermakoff wants to criticize a number of explanations offered for the surrender to Nazism. For example, it is often argued that coercion was the main explanatory factor. Non-Nazi parties were justifiably fearful of violence and relented. But Ermakoff notes that this is an incomplete explanation. First, there was actually a fair amount of resistance to Nazi violence. Second, the Center party, which went all in for Hitler, actually was internally split and many seemed able and willing to resist. In France, Ermakoff shows that voting for the Vichy State was not associated with being from an area that would be under German occupation, and thus subject to more violence. Similarly, Ermakoff closely examines the evidence for other theories of abdication, such as the hypothesis that Nazi ideology contaminated its opponents. Tomorrow, I’ll discuss Ermakoff’s alternative theory.

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

Written by fabiorojas

December 23, 2015 at 7:25 am

new book Handbook of Qualitative Organizational Research Innovative Pathways and Methods (2015, Routledge) now available

At orgtheory, we’ve had on-going discussions about how to undertake research.  For example, I’ve shared my own take on dealing with the IRB, gaining access to organizations, undertaking ethnography , timing and pacing research, writing for wider audiences, and what is ethnography good for?  Guest blogger Ellen Berrey elaborated her thoughts on how to get access to organizations, and we’ve had at least three discussions about the challenges of anonymizing names and identities of persons and organizations, including guest blogger Victor Tan Chen’s post, guest blogger Ellen Berrey’s post, and Fabio’s most recent post here.

Looking for more viewpoints about how to undertake organizational research?  Preparing a research proposal?  Need a new guide for a methods or organizations class?  Rod Kramer and Kim Elsbach have co-edited the Handbook of Qualitative Organizational Research Innovative Pathways and Methods (2015, Routledge)


In the introduction, Kramer and Elsbach describe the impetus for the volume:

There were several sources of inspiration that motivated this volume. First and foremost was a thoughtful and provocative article by Jean Bartunek, Sara Rynes, and Duane Ireland that appeared in the Academy of Management Journal in 2006. This article published a list of the 17 most interesting organizational papers published in the last 100 years. These papers were identified by Academy of Management Journal board members—all of whom are leading organizational scholars cognizant of  the best work being done in their respective areas. A total of 67 board members nominated 160 articles as exceptionally interesting; those articles that received two or more nominations were deemed the most interesting. Of these exceptional articles, 12 (71%) involved qualitative methods.

This result strongly mirrors our own experience as organizational researchers. Although both of us have used a variety of methods in our organizational research (ranging from experimental lab studies and surveys to computer-based, agent simulations), our favorite studies by far have been our qualitative studies (including those we have done together). One of the qualities we have come to most appreciate, even cherish, about qualitative research is the sense of discovery and the opportunity for genuine intellectual surprise. Rather than merely seeking to confirm a preordained hypothesis or “nail down” an extrapolation drawn from the extant literature, our inductive studies, we found, invariably opened up exciting, unexpected intellectual doors and pointed us toward fruitful empirical paths for further investigation. In short, if life is largely all about the journey rather than destination, as the adage asserts, we’ve found qualitative research most often gave us a road we wanted to follow.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by katherinechen

December 18, 2015 at 5:27 pm

party in the street: reason magazine

Reason magazine was gracious to feature Party in the Street in its December issue. A few clips from an extensive review of the book:

Party in the Street is a deceptively cheery title for an autopsy. In this book, the social scientists Michael T. Heaney and Fabio Rojas dissect the remnants of “the second most significant antiwar movement in American history” after Vietnam—the post-9/11 effort to restrain the American war machine.

In the years after the September 11 attacks, Heaney and Rojas write, peace activism became “truly a mass movement”: From 2001 through 2006, there were at least six anti-war demonstrations that drew more than 100,000 protestors, “including the largest internationally coordinated protest in all of human history” in February 2003.

The authors brought teams of researchers to most of the largest national protests from 2004 to 2010, and gathered reams of survey data from more than 10,000 respondents. Early on, they noticed substantial overlap between anti-war agitation and affiliation with the Democratic Party. That “party-movement synergy” helped the war opposition to expand dramatically during the administration of George W. Bush. It also, eventually, contained the cause of its undoing under Barack Obama. “Once the fuel of partisanship was in short supply,” Heaney and Rojas note, “it was difficult for the antiwar movement to sustain itself on a mass level.”


What lessons can be learned from the collapse of the post-9/11 anti-war movement? Party in the Street‘s final chapter offers some “strategies for social movements” at a time of heightened partisanship. They won’t do much to cheer would-be reformers of any stripe. “In an era of partisan polarization, social movements risk experiencing severe fluctuations in support concomitant with variations in partisan success,” Heaney and Rojas write.

It’s a risk that seems nearly unavoidable. Resisting party loyalty is no guarantee that a movement will achieve its goals. The Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011 was so wary of being co-opted by political parties that Occupiers repulsed MoveOn’s attempts at solidarity and shouted down Green Party candidate Jill Stein at one encampment. Yet “antipartisanship had the effect of drastically narrowing Occupy’s supportive coalition,” the authors note.

Check it out.

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


Written by fabiorojas

December 10, 2015 at 12:01 am

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


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