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the iraq war, a forever war

 

On September 10, 2001, I never imagined that the US would be involved in an endless war in Iraq, a conflict that still takes thousands of lives each year. Even after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, I did not imagine that the US would be involved in Iraq fifteen years later, sending money and advisers in a nearly endless stream.

What horrifies me is the human cost. When I was doing the research for Party in the Street, I met people who had lived in Iraq or served in Iraq. Meeting and talking to them showed me the immediate cost of the war. Families lost. Lives shattered. Faces disfigured. Children who committed suicide.

What now? The Iraq War is a “Keynesian war,” to used a phrase coined by sociologist Sidney Tarrow. Modern wars are often fought with borrowed money and volunteer armies. They are kept out of the public view. They are pursued in ways that prevent scrutiny and public input. That means that the war in Iraq, and Afghanistan, can continue in one way or another for quite a while.

I am not a pessimist. But I am a realist, this will continue for a while before it gets better. My hope is that Iraq follows the path of the Philippines after it was occupied by the US in the early 20th century. They had a long insurrection but then a period of modernization and integration into the global economy. Sadly, we’ve already had the violence, and it’s time to move on.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome! 

 

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Written by fabiorojas

March 22, 2018 at 4:22 am

the only reason anyone should ever buy my theory book

People write books for lots of reasons. Fame. Money. Popularity. Well, writing social theory books doesn’t get you fame, money or popularity. Instead, I wrote Theory for the Working Sociologist with one goal in mind: I want the *average* sociologist to understand how important theory is to their everyday research practice.

Please take note of what I did not say. I said nothing about history of social thought. Sure, that’s important, but lot’s of other books will walk you from Marx to Weber. I also did not say “impress other social theory specialists.” That’s important, too. There are folks who will feel enlightened after reading 300 pages of Luhmann to properly appreciate autopoeisis. I got no beef with them.

But what I have an issue with is the average sociologist who thinks that theory is just not relevant to what they do. I am really concerned with the average demographer, or survey sociologist, or education specialist who came away with the wrong message about social theory. The message they got from graduate school was that theory is hard to understand, historical in nature, and can only be absorbed by reading 800 page books.*

That’s why I wrote a short book that is chock full of cool examples from empirical research. If you really want to learn theory as a living and breathing thing, check out the book. Sure, I’ll review Bourdieu, but then I’ll give you a dose of Larueau and Bonilla-Silva. Intersectionality theory? You got it! I’ll go over the basic idea and then get into scholarship that applies it to health and social movements. And the whole book is like that! Cool theory + cool examples. And the book is short and (relatively) jargon free.

So give it a shot. If you want a simple and direct overview of modern sociology, pick up the book and give it a read. I think you’ll like it

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome! 

* Looking at you, Sloterdijk.

Written by fabiorojas

March 21, 2018 at 4:47 am

consumerism: what’s the big deal?

People will often use “consumerism” in a pejorative way and, recently, I got into a discussion of why intellectuals are often so obsessed with critiquing consumerism. First, a definition, then a discussion of reasons why people criticize consumerism.

Online, I found two definitions. One is not relevant to this post – consumerism as a defense of consumer rights. The second definition is the one most intellectuals have in mind when they discuss or critique consumerism – an obsession with the purchase or acquisition of consumer goods.

Let’s get into critiques:

  1. Consumerism is bad because it is wasteful.
  2. Consumerism is bad because it is a status signal.
  3. Consumerism is bad because it is anti-spiritual.
  4. Consumerism is bad because it is inauthentic.

A few responses:

  1. Consumerism can only be viewed as wasteful if you have a concrete idea of what is and is not wasteful and this is much harder than it seems. In modern society, people have a relatively high amount of surplus wealth. Should people not spend money on anything beyond shelter, food, and medicine? If so, when is it enough? Arguments about wastefulness and consumerism appear to me to be about what the critic values (e.g., if I like books, they are not “consumerism”). This criticism strikes me as weak.
  2. This is one criticism that I have sympathy for. If people are buying tons of stuff just to socially compete, it is a poor use of one’s time and resources. Consider how diverse the modern world is, how many things in it can make you happy. To spend money on things just to display status is a tragic waste. A cessation of buying things probably won’t solve the underlying problem, as people will probably signal status though non-pecuniary means. Thus, the criticism identifies a genuine issue, but consumerism is a symptom of a deeper problem that being anti-consumerist may not stop.
  3. A lot of religions slam the consumption of material goods. It’s been that way for millennia. So one’s response to this depends on one’s religious views. Personally, I lead a happy secular life that’s deeply enriched by material goods, so the criticism doesn’t work for me on a personal level.
  4. The gist is that you need some sort of real connection or appreciation of the world. So passively consuming things or being obsessed with the latest material goods is an inauthentic life. This strikes me as a reasonable criticism and it resonates with me once you consider the opportunity costs of consumerism. By obsessing over cars, or wine, or computer, you pass up the opportunity to do more enriching things. Fortunately, there are solutions. One is hipsterism – you consume things but only in hyper-aware ways that emphasize your knowledge and relation to the produce. Or, you can follow that advice that you should work on experiences rather than things. I suppose that could turn into a version of consumerism, but it’s less likely than getting into wine or Justin Bieber merchandise.

Do you live a consumerist lifestyle? If so, tell me what you think.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome! 

Written by fabiorojas

March 20, 2018 at 4:01 am

Posted in culture, ethics, fabio

if you have something stupid to say, please send it in the form of a blog post!

Did you get desk rejected at PLoS ONE? Does your advisor ignore you… when you are standing right in front of him in the elevator? Does the cruel and uncaring academic system just ignore your screaming into the wind?

We won’t. Orgtheory has the lowest publication standards in all of academia. If you have a commentary, rant, critique, self-promotion, or whatever, send it over. We’ll publish it and we will never ask to see your data.  You have nothing to lose except your dignity!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome! 

Written by fabiorojas

March 19, 2018 at 4:07 am

Posted in blogs, fabio, uncategorized

du pre, dvorak

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome! 

Written by fabiorojas

March 18, 2018 at 4:11 am

open borders day 2018

Every year, I like to draw attention to Open Borders Day (March 16), the moment when we take time to think about legalizing all forms of peaceful movement. This year, you might want to take a moment to consider the Open Borders position. A few of my thoughts on the topic:

In the next few months, I hope to have more news on open borders events. Until then, I want you to imagine a world were deportations are a thing of the past and it is just as easy to move between Mexico and the United States as it is to move between Indiana and Illinois. It’s a good world and I hope we can make it happen.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome! 

Written by fabiorojas

March 16, 2018 at 4:01 am

Posted in ethics, fabio, uncategorized

student walkouts against gun violence: notes and commentary

I have been asked by a few news sources on my views about today’s student walkouts, which are protests in favor of stricter gun control legislation. In no particular order:

  1. There is a long tradition of student protest, which includes walk outs by K-12 students. These include various student protests during the Civil Rights era, walk outs for other issues like immigration, and walk outs to protest school administrators and teachers (e.g., see Grant’s history of Hamilton High School).
  2. By themselves, walkouts will not directly lead to change unless they are connected to a larger political strategy.
  3. If this turns out to be an effective tactic, it will not be enough by itself. It will likely be part of a larger serious of contentious events around this issue.
  4. Gun control is a highly constrained space in American policy. Voters know what they like, elected officials know what they want. There isn’t a lot of wiggle room for movements.
  5. It would be interesting to see which schools issued statements for or against a protest and what correlates with that (e.g., Democratic district, district SES, etc.)
  6. My bet is that the biggest effect of these protests will be on students themselves. As suggested by some social movement research, participation acculturates people in new ways.

Add your own comments and predictions below.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome! 

Written by fabiorojas

March 15, 2018 at 1:01 am