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book spotlight: beyond technonationalism by kathryn ibata-arens

At SASE 2019 in the New School, NYC, I served as a critic on an author-meets-critic session for Vincent de Paul Professor of Political Science Kathryn Ibata-Arens‘s latest book, Beyond Technonationalism: Biomedical Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Asia.  

Beyondtechnonationalismcover

Here, I’ll share my critic’s comments in the hopes that you will consider reading or assigning this book and perhaps bringing the author, an organizations researcher and Asia studies specialist at DePaul, in for an invigorating talk!

“Ibata-Arens’s book demonstrates impressive mastery in its coverage of how 4 countries address a pressing policy question that concerns all nation-states, especially those with shifting markets and labor pools.  With its 4 cases (Japan, China, India, and Singapore),  Beyond Technonationalism: Biomedical Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Asia covers impressive scope in explicating the organizational dimensions and national governmental policies that promote – or inhibit – innovations and entrepreneurship in markets.

The book deftly compares cases with rich contextual details about nation-states’ polices and examples of ventures that have thrived under these policies.  Throughout, the book offers cautionary stories details how innovation policies may be undercut by concurrent forces.  Corruption, in particular, can suppress innovation. Espionage also makes an appearance, with China copying’s Japan’s JR rail-line specs, but according to an anonymous Japanese official source, is considered in ill taste to openly mention in polite company. Openness to immigration and migration policies also impact national capacity to build tacit knowledge needed for entrepreneurial ventures.  Finally, as many of us in the academy are intimately familiar, demonstrating bureaucratic accountability can consume time and resources otherwise spent on productive research activities.

As always, with projects of this breadth, choices must made in what to amplify and highlight in the analysis.  Perhaps because I am a sociologist, what could be developed more – perhaps for another related project – are highlighting the consequences of what happens when nation-states and organizations permit or feed relational inequality mechanisms at the interpersonal, intra-organizational, interorganizational, and transnational levels.  When we allow companies and other organizations to, for example, amplify gender inequalities through practices that favor advantaged groups over other groups, what’s diminished, even for the advantaged groups?

Such points appear throughout the book, as sort of bon mots of surprise, described inequality most explicitly with India’s efforts to rectify its stratifying caste system with quotas and Singapore’s efforts to promote meritocracy based on talent.  The book also alludes to inequality more subtly with references to Japan’s insularity, particularly regarding immigration and migration. To a less obvious degree, inequality mechanisms are apparent in China’s reliance upon guanxi networks, which favors those who are well-connected. Here, we can see the impact of not channeling talent, whether talent is lost to outright exploitation of labor or social closure efforts that advantage some at the expense of others.

But ultimately individuals, organizations, and nations may not particularly care about how they waste individual and collective human potential.  At best, they may signal muted attention to these issues via symbolic statements; at worst, in the pursuit of multiple, competing interests such as consolidating power and resources for a few, they may enshrine and even celebrate practices that deny basic dignities to whole swathes of our communities.

Another area that warrants more highlighting are various nations’ interdependence, transnationally, with various organizations.  These include higher education organizations in the US and Europe that train students and encourage research/entrepreneurial start-ups/partnerships.  Also, nations are also dependent upon receiving countries’ policies on immigration.  This is especially apparent now with the election of publicly elected officials who promote divisions based on national origin and other categorical distinctions, dampening the types and numbers of migrants who can train in the US and elsewhere.

Finally, I wonder what else could be discerned by looking into the state, at a more granular level, as a field of departments and policies that are mostly decoupled and at odds. Particularly in China, we can see regional vs. centralized government struggles.”

During the author-meets-critics session, Ibata-Arens described how nation-states are increasingly concerned about the implications of elected officials upon immigration policy and by extension, transnational relationships necessary to innovation that could be severed if immigration policies become more restrictive.

Several other experts have weighed in on the book’s merits:

Kathryn Ibata-Arens, who has excelled in her work on the development of technology in Japan, has here extended her research to consider the development of techno-nationalism in other Asian countries as well: China, Singapore, Japan, and India. She finds that these countries now pursue techno-nationalism by linking up with international developments to keep up with the latest technology in the United States and elsewhere. The book is a creative and original analysis of the changing nature of techno-nationalism.”
—Ezra F. Vogel, Harvard University
“Ibata-Arens examines how tacit knowledge enables technology development and how business, academic, and kinship networks foster knowledge creation and transfer. The empirically rich cases treat “networked technonationalist” biotech strategies with Japanese, Chinese, Indian, and Singaporean characteristics. Essential reading for industry analysts of global bio-pharma and political economists seeking an alternative to tropes of economic liberalism and statist mercantilism.”
—Kenneth A. Oye, Professor of Political Science and Data, Systems, and Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“In Beyond Technonationalism, Ibata-Arens encourages us to look beyond the Asian developmental state model, noting how the model is increasingly unsuited for first-order innovation in the biomedical sector. She situates state policies and strategies in the technonationalist framework and argues that while all economies are technonationalist to some degree, in China, India, Singapore and Japan, the processes by which the innovation-driven state has emerged differ in important ways. Beyond Technonationalism is comparative analysis at its best. That it examines some of the world’s most important economies makes it a timely and important read.”
—Joseph Wong, Ralph and Roz Halbert Professor of Innovation Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto
Kathryn Ibata-Arens masterfully weaves a comparative story of how ambitious states in Asia are promoting their bio-tech industry by cleverly linking domestic efforts with global forces. Empirically rich and analytically insightful, she reveals by creatively eschewing liberalism and selectively using nationalism, states are both promoting entrepreneurship and innovation in their bio-medical industry and meeting social, health, and economic challenges as well.”
—Anthony P. D’Costa, Eminent Scholar in Global Studies and Professor of Economics, University of Alabama, Huntsville
For book excerpts, download a PDF here.  Follow the author’s twitter feed here.

rural voters do actually vote in their self interest

It is often said in the media and academia that rural voters do not vote in their interest when they vote for Republican or conservative candidates. For example, there is a famous book called What’s the Matter with Kansas? which takes point of view. I think this is incorrect. I think rural voters are rational voters in the sense that they vote for parties that give them concrete social and material benefits.

Traditionally, the idea that rural voters do not vote in their self-interest – let’s call it the misguided rural voter hypothesis – hinges on a crucial assumption. Namely, that the only, or main, way that states benefit their populations is through welfare state spending. Thus, when conservative politicians appeal to voters through demagoguery (e.g., don’t support poverty alleviation because of “welfare queens”) they persuade voters to oppose policies that might actually help them in a very concrete way.

The flaw with this argument is that is overlooks the many different ways that states can transfer and redistribute wealth. Schools, poverty relief, healthcare subsidies and unemployment insurance are only part of the story. There is also tax relief, infrastructure spending, and spending on national defense and police. These are all tools the states can use to transfer tax funds to specific groups.

roadcostmap

To see how this applies to rural communities, consider the following. First, rural communities rely on a vast system of roads for their survival. These roads are infrequently traveled compared to urban roads and they rarely have tolls. Thus, tolls and gas taxes are rarely enough to cover road costs. This great map from City Lab shows that the most rural areas of the country do not cover their road costs from tolls and taxes alone. My state, Indiana, only covers 43% of road costs this way. More rural areas, like the deep South and the Dakotas, only cover about 20% to 30% of their road costs. Thus, the building of maintenance of roads, and related infrastructure, represents a direct transfer of funds form wealthier urbanized areas to more poor rural areas – a spending stream that is rarely criticized by either party.

Another form of wealth transfer involves the criminal justice system. The expansion of incarceration benefits a lot of people – mainly in rural areas. In a recent book called Big House on the Prairie, John M. Eason talks about the massive construction boom required by mass incarceration and how most of the new construction is to be found in rural areas. Once again, this represents an enormous transfer of wealth from urban centers to rural communities and it is staunchly defended by conservative politicians.

A third form of income transfer involves defense spending. One might expect any nation to have some level of defense spending, but the United States towers above the rest of the globe in terms of quantity and quality of spending. And much of this spending affects rural areas. For example, this blog reports on well known data about how rural recruits are over represented in the armed services. There are also many military installations in rural areas. The spending on defense is a important transfer of wealth to rural areas.

Cultural politics are certainly important. I am not a materialist and I don’t think all politics boils down to financial incentives. But in the case of rural voters, their material interests and voting do align very well.

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Written by fabiorojas

March 26, 2018 at 4:01 am

the democratic party sucks hard, part 2

The Democratic Party sucks hard, part 1.

One of the most elementary strategies in electoral politics is protecting your base. Give them stuff, be nice to them, make sure they stay in the party. A recent study suggests that the Democratic party failed even in this task. A recent article from The Nation by Sean McElwee suggests that right to work laws had an appreciable effect on decimating Democratic vote totals. From the article:

In this new NBER paper, the researchers compared counties in states that became right-to-work with counties in neighboring states that did not become right-to-work, or that were previously right-to-work, and how they voted from 1980 to 2016. (This method that has also been used to study the minimum wage on employment and Medicaid expansion on political participation.) A simple state-by-state comparison might not be as useful here: Obviously, Republican-controlled states likely to pass right-to-work laws tend to have different voting patterns and outcomes than blue states. But by looking at bordering counties that are very similar politically, demographically, and economically, the effect of right-to-work laws can be more easily measured.

The chart below shows the dramatic effect—for 12 years before right-to-work the counties are quite similar, while in the 12 years after there are deep gaps in Democratic vote share.

The key chart:

Democratic-vote-share-RTW

This trend has many parents, but McElwee notes how active choices within the Democratic party made it possible: “This all has tremendous importance for the future of the Democratic Party, which mainly has taken unions for granted for years. The legislative priorities of unions have taken a back seat when Democrats are in power, despite the fact that unions are a central organizing institution for the Democratic Party. Pressured by centrist operatives in the mode of the now-defunct Democratic Leadership Council, who were looking to win over suburban professionals, Democrats sat on the sidelines as Republicans waged an assault on the ability of unions to act on behalf of working-class people. But while Democrats looked away, the corporate assault on unions increased dramatically in intensity.”

There is an interesting story to be written about how the Demcoratic party changes, not just in terms of embracing Civil Rights, but slowly allowing urban elites to shift the part’s priorities away its traditional base.

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Written by fabiorojas

February 7, 2018 at 5:15 am

levy book forum 3: is civil society that bad?

In the last two installments of the Levy book forum, I reviewed the basic ideas of the book and some of his discussion of states. In this last installment, I will discuss Part III of the book, which goes into how associations can be pretty nasty.

Part III starts with a parade of the horrible things groups can do to members and their types of dysfunctions. Factionalism, interest groups who hijack the state, angry majorities who hunt minorities. The discussion makes me afraid to walk home at night!

I think most sociologists would be comfortable with this overall view. There are many groups that are illiberal in nature and we should be concerned. And this is a permanent feature of the human condition. We ally with others of similar mind to oppose those we find distasteful or dangerous.

A few questions came to mind as I read that section. First, empirically, have civil associations been fairly depicted? I think my answer is no. I think that non-states can be repressive and violent, but since they like access to state violence, the magnitude of the problem is much less. Levy is not an empirical social scientists, so it may be a smidgen unfair to raise this issue. But we can ask – what are the worst atrocities committed by non-states vs. those committed by states? In some order: the European genocide of non-European peoples; the mass murder of people by socialist states like China in the Cultural Revolution or in the Leninist-Stalinist phases of the USSR; genocide and war making by imperialist and fascist states in the mid 20th century.

In contrast, it is hard to find atrocities of this level committed by private groups without the assistance of states. When we look at private atrocities, like Belgian companies killing millions in the Congo in the early 20th century, they are supported and endorsed by the Belgian state. People often look at example like United Fruit massacre, where a private company killed many, many people. The casualty there is much lower (about 2,000 in the worst estimate) and even then, many historians think it had the blessing of the US state.

A second issue is how we can think to limit or mitigate the illiberal tendencies of civic associations. One answer I wish Levy had delved into is to have states strictly enforce the right of exit from any contract or agreement. A hardcore libertarian might say that we have the right to waive that right. But pragmatic concerns point in a different direction. If courts consistently make it possible to exit communities with low or reasonable penalties, then associations would have an incentive to act in ways that treat members well. It doesn’t address all the pathologies that Levy talks about, but an Al Hirshman perspective might help a lot here.

To summarize: Rationalism, Pluralism, and Freedom is a good long read in political theory. I think it raises great questions for sociologists and political scientists alike. Recommended!!

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Written by fabiorojas

November 14, 2017 at 5:06 am

levy book forum 2: political theory and the nature of society

A few weeks ago, I began reviewing Jacob Levy’s new book Rationalism, Pluralism, and Freedom. The main point of the book is that you can’t have it both ways. A political liberalism that restrains the state can’t, at the same time, celebrate the civil sphere without qualification because civic associations themselves can become illiberal. Private groups can behave in fairly repressive ways that resemble what states do.

As I wrote, the book is lengthy and covers a lot of ground. In this part of the review, I want to delve a little into Part II, which examines how political theory has thought about the state. I think sociologists might enjoy this because it provides an alternative to how we think about states. In modern sociology, states, per Weber, are holders of legitimate force, or they are the place where ultimate authority is created and exercised. Perhaps a Bourdieusian might suggest that it is a place for statecraft, while a post-Bourdieusian view, like that espoused by McAdam and Fligstein (2012), would see it as an “ultimate” field that overlaps with other fields.

What does Levy draw from the discussion of states over the course of political theory? Perhaps most interesting to sociologists is the idea that modern states are not so much about violence, but rather the centralization of force and violence. Second is the response to centralization – things outside states are about self governance rather than governance by others. So, as we shifted away from the middle ages to modernity, we built big fat states, which encouraged people to assert independence in various forms (guilds, universities, etc.) There is much more to Levy’s analysis, but this captures a crucial starting point. Third, modern notions of freedoms are about trying to pull together all the concessions made to individual freedom by states during their formation. A lot of political theory is about trying to provide a more integrated account of freedom because in the middle ages freedom was defined in an ad hoc and disconnected way.

What should sociologists draw from this? One obvious lesson is that a crucial dimension of fields, such as states, is vestment in governance. In a particular field, or social domain, who has the authority? Is there a lot of self-governance? Centralized power? Or some sort of collegium model? Second, rights – political rights in Levy’s case – may be scattered or concentrated. Thus, in understanding fields, it is not about inequality or resources, but also about claims over resources and autonomy. As the case of political rights shows, rights can be broken up (e.g., right to trade, right to free speech) and effort (“institutional work” in modern jargon) must be expended to make the right more coherent in its context. The big lesson is that maybe field theory, and the sociology of states, focuses too much on resource inequality and should think more carefully about autonomy and control.

Next week, I’ll focus on Levy’s claims about the ills of private associations. Thanks for reading.

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Written by fabiorojas

November 9, 2017 at 5:01 am

legislators are less likely to vote for the draft if they have draft age kids

From a new working paper, “No Kin in the Game: Moral Hazard and War in theU.S. Congress,” which can be read at NBER. Eoin McGuirk, Nathaniel and Hilger Nicholas Miller use Congressional voting data to show that there is a negative correlation of draft votes and voting for the draft:

Why do wars occur? We exploit a natural experiment to test the longstanding hypothesis that leaders declare war because they fail to internalize the associated costs. We test this moral hazard theory of conflict by compiling data on the family composition of 3,693 US legislators who served in the U.S. Congress during the four conscription-era wars of the 20th century: World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. We test for agency problems by comparing the voting behavior of congressmen with draft-age sons versus draft-age daughters. We estimate that having a draft-age son reduces legislator support for pro-conscription bills by 10-17%. Legislators with draft-age sons are also more likely to win reelection, suggesting that support for conscription is punished by voters. Our results provide new evidence that agency problems contribute to political violence, and that elected officials can be influenced by changing private incentives.

Recommended. H/T: Peter “The Entrepreneur” Klein.

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Written by fabiorojas

October 18, 2017 at 4:01 am

i declare complete victory in the more tweets, more votes debate

In 2013, my collaborators and I published a paper claiming that there is an empirical correlation between relative social media activity and relative vote counts in Congressional races. In other words, if people are talking about the Democrat more than the Republican on Twitter, then the Democrat tends to get more votes. Here’s the regression line from the original “More Tweets, More Votes” paper:

MTMVjournal.pone.0079449.g001.png

People grumbled and complained. But little by little, evidence came out showing that the More Tweets/More Votes model was correct. For example, an article in Social Science Quarterly showed the same results for relative Google searches and senate races:

senate_google

Latest evidence? It works for wikipedia as well. Public Opinion Quarterly published a piece called “Using Wikipedia to Predict Election Outcomes: Online Behavior as a Predictor of Voting” by Benjamin Smith and Abel Gustafason. From the abstract:

We advance the literature by using data from Wikipedia pageviews along with polling data in a synthesized model based on the results of the 2008, 2010, and 2012 US Senate general elections. Results show that Wikipedia pageviews data significantly add to the ability of poll- and fundamentals-based projections to predict election results up to 28 weeks prior to Election Day, and benefit predictions most at those early points, when poll-based predictions are weakest.

Social media DOES signal American election outcomes! I spike the football. I won. Period.

It’s pretty rare that you propose a hypothesis, your prove it’s right and then it is proved right a bunch of times by later research.

#winning

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Written by fabiorojas

September 19, 2017 at 4:01 am

racism and the liberal democratic society

Most people who think about democratic societies don’t mean “direct democracy.” They don’t want a world where every whim of the majority is translated into policy. Rather, most think about representative democracy and systems of checks and balances because, frankly, the voters often demand unwise things. Furthermore, when we think about democracies, we often think of a goal that might be called the liberal democratic society – a society where the state takes the input of voters seriously while allowing people to set the course of their own lives.

However, there is still a problem in democratic societies. Even with elected representatives and checks and balances, minorities can still push through illiberal policies that directly harm other minorities. I think American racism is a great example of that. Roughly speaking, there is a chunk of the electorate that has a terrible view of immigrants and ethnic minorities. This article from The Root briefly describes recent polling data from the National Opinion Research Center. About a quarter of Republicans and about 15% of Democrats hold highly negative views of Blacks, describing them as less intelligent and lazy.

Now, in historical terms, this is a huge improvement. Fifty years ago, most whites held very negative opinions of Blacks. So why should you be worried? The reason is that there is a strong correlation between partisan identification and nativist/racist sentiment. For example, in the GSS data reported by The Root, the  partisan gap is about 10%-15% points. And once you get a strong faction within a party, they can occasionally win elections – even national elections.

So what do we do when virulent minorities gain power? As we saw in the 2016 presidential system, parties don’t have the power to stop them in a primary system. But we are seeing signs of life. The business community is slowly abandoning Trump. The military has decided to drag its feet on Trump’s transgender soldier ban. In a few cases, the courts have blocked a few of Trump’s more repressive policies, such as the ban on migration from Muslim countries.

This points to an important feature of liberal democracy. It’s liberal character is not in the policy, but the wider culture. Our institutions have had a mixed record in preventing folks like Trump and the virulent “deplorable” 20% that brought him to power. The Republican party collapsed in 2016 and mainstream “establishment” Republicans were helpless to stop Trump. Congress has stopped some of Trump’s worst excesses, but only because the Senate is in relative disarray, not because of active resistance. The strongest resistance has been from outside the political system. Now that Trump has announced the end of DACA, we’ll see how the culture of liberal democracy expresses itself. Will it collapse and agree to a new immigration system that limits movement even more? Or will it assert itself and promote a system that is consistent with freedomo of movement?

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Written by fabiorojas

September 6, 2017 at 4:54 am

american emulation: comments on caplan’s post

Over at Econlog, Bryan Caplan asks – why did so few people want to emulate the US?

After World War II, virtually every Third World country had a major political faction that looked on the Soviet Union as a model society.  What path should their nation take?  The answer was obvious: Emulate the Soviet Union….

And:

As far as I know, the Christian Democratic parties of Germany and Italy never anointed the United States as the Promised Land.  But in the Third World, it’s hard to think of any major political parties that held the U.S. up as an ideal.  For example, the governments of South Korea and South Vietnam angrily rejected the Soviet path, but their alternative was independent nationalism, not Americanism.

Two responses: First, there was a lot of emulation of American culture. McDonald’s, blue jeans and Coca Cola ruled the day. Second, Americanism/Western democracies embodied two things that most people don’t like – market competition and limits on state power. The modal global citizen of the Cold War, and many of the elites of the time, loved American affluence but they wanted Soviet style redistribution. In general, people are deeply suspicious of markets and they also want states to have more power, not less. Thus, it shouldn’t be surprising that there are few parties that directly praised Western liberalism.

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Written by fabiorojas

August 25, 2017 at 12:00 am

democracy in chains symposium

Over at Policy Trajectories Josh McCabe has organized a great symposium on Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains, the most dramatic book on public choice theory you are ever likely to read.

Featuring economist Sandy Darity, political scientist Phil Rocco, and your truly, the essays try to get beyond some of the sturm und drang associated with the book’s initially glowing critical reception and intense subsequent backlash. Instead, they ask: How is political orthodoxy produced and challenged? What responsibility do individuals bear when their actions reinforce institutionalized racism? And what explains increasing efforts to put limits on democracy itself?

MacLean’s book may itself be highly polarizing. But the conversations she has opened up will be with us for a long time to come. Check it out.

Written by epopp

August 24, 2017 at 12:15 pm

the democratic party sucks hard, a scholarly analysis

Let us start with some basic data. First, the Democratic party has won the plurality or majority of the Presidential vote 6 out of 7 times since 1992. Yet, they won the Electoral College only 4 out of 7 seven times. Second, the Gallup polls shows that the Democratic party has a modest advantage in identification, with Democratic identifiers and leaners getting about 46% of the population vs. 40% for the Republicans. Yet, the Democrats only control 32% of the governorships (16 out of 50) and they control  29% of the state legislative chambers (29 out of 99). In the national Congress, Democrats do OK. Democrats have 48% of the Senate (48 of 100) and 44% of the House (194 of 435).  If we assume that non-party identifiers evenly split, the Democrats are somewhat under-performing, but just a little. So, in terms of party control, it is only in Congress where Democrats perform as expected, or perhaps slightly under-perform, but in the Presidency and the states, they really do suck. Hard.

Why?

And, please, no, it is not gerrymandering – the Presidency and the governorships are not gerrymandered. Gerrymandering has a modest effect at best. There really is a consistent under-performance.

I’ve been reading a few books that shed light on this really big structural feature of American politics. Each book offers a discussion of an issue in party politics and when you piece them together, you see how the Democratic and Republican parties differ:

  • In Local Party Organizations, Douglas D. Roscoe and Shannon Jenkins report on a survey of 1,220 party officials at the state and local levels and they ask a number of questions about the operation of local parties. First, how did state parties help locals? GOP advantage – website development, newspaper buys, campaign expenses, social media; Democratic advantages – computer support, record keeping, staff. (page 30). Second, GOP local parties were more likely to have “clear strategic goals” and a well managed organizational culture. (page 42). Third, GOP organizations are more likely to have a complete set of officers, by laws, and headquarters, whiles Democrats are more likely to have a phone listing. (page 52). Also, Democrats also tend to focus on labor intensive actions, like door-to-door and voter registration. (page 55). Fourth, these activities often (but not always) correlate with electoral success (see all of chapter 4). Bottom line: GOP organizations appear to be a little more focused, organized, and strategic. Democrats seem to concentrate a bit more on things people can do (door to door, for example and record keeping).
  • In Asymmetric Politics, Matt Grossman and David Hopkins delve deep into the culture of the GOP and Democratic parties to argue that they are very different beasts. The GOP is ideologically driven and policy oriented, while Democrats are more oriented toward group solidarity and coalition maintenance. The book is massive and presents lots of data, such as public opinion data, voting patterns, and publications by interest groups and think tanks. Even though I disagree with some points, it is well taken. Democrats have a diffuse ideology and work on the coalition, while the GOP is more “mission oriented.”
  • David Ricci’s Politics without Stories is a study of political rhetoric and it has a simple message. Look at the philosophers, wonks and orators of the Democratic party and you see nuance and sophistication. Look the the GOP and you see more direct narratives. To quote the great Kieran Healy, Republicans “fuck nuance.

What do we learn from this overview? From top to bottom, the Democratic and Republican parties show important and consistent differences. Not just ideological differences, but qualitative differences in how their parties are organized and how they behave. Democrats, to simplify, are “people oriented” and focus on social practices and ideology that fits that general perspective. In contrast, Republicans are a little more task oriented, which translates into more focused and digestible rhetoric and more of an institutional interest in concrete results. There is probably more to this story, but this is a good start.

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Written by fabiorojas

May 12, 2017 at 12:01 am

russian and chinese control of social media

Last week, I was asked to be a discussant on a panel for a conference on Russian media. I responded to a paper by journalist, Andrei Soldatov, whose paper chronicled the Russian state’s response to social media. The way I summarized it is as follows:

  • As with most states, initial confusion.
  • Then, journalists, and social media by extension, were granted Western style autonomy.  Until…
  • The contraction of the Russian economy de-legitimized Western views of press freedom.
  • And then the Russian state clumsily tried to usurp social media firms.
  • And then that failed, they turned to the Chinese state for help managing social media.

In my reading, then, the Russian state is in between Western and Chinese models of social media control. The Western model is passive and uses law enforcement as a model. You let people post what they want but you do surveillance and intervene as needed. In the Chinese model, you control the entire platform and censor as needed.

Soldatov added that recently the Russian and Chinese states have met to set up standards and arrange for the purchase of Chinese equipment, which suggests that the Russian state is going deeper into the Chinese model of social control.

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Written by fabiorojas

April 18, 2017 at 12:17 am

race and sovereignty in the american republic

Isaac Arial Reed, associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, has a lengthy blog post up at Public Seminar about the interplay of race and government in post-colonial America. His post is a reflection on the military career of Anthony Wayne, an early American general who wages war in the Northwest Territory:

But Wayne had done for the USA what two previous military leaders of the early 1790s, Josiah Harmar and Arthur St. Clair, could not — he secured the Northwest Territory. Wayne had defeated the allied tribes in the Ohio Valley at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, slashed and burned towns and cornfields afterwards, but wisely stopped short of engaging the British. He had then, in 1795, negotiated the Treaty of Greenville, a massive expansion of U.S. territory, which was now open for settlement.

The life of General Wayne points to the highly racialized history of the Republic:

Wayne was also white. In the history of the USA, the use of racial criteria to judge and violently enforce who is inside and who is outside the republic is deep and extensive. This judging of inside and outside can be about physical borders, but it can also be about social and symbolic borders to citizenship as well (e.g. treatment by police and courts). Importantly, this is not the only logic that has governed the trajectory of the republic — and I will discuss others in part 2 of this analysis — but it is one that has a long history and has been particularly powerful, and whose reappearance we are witnessing now. In Anthony Wayne’s view, the Native Americans he battled and with whom he negotiated would never be part of the band of brothers that made up the citizenry. And, importantly, this was not just about the nation as imagined community, but also about the authority of the state as an organization to govern and settle territory.

Read the whole thing!!

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Written by fabiorojas

April 13, 2017 at 8:48 pm

race and sovereignty in the american republic

Isaac Arial Reed, associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, has a lengthy blog post up at Public Seminar about the interplay of race and government in post-colonial America. His post is a reflection on the military career of Anthony Wayne, an early American general who wages war in the Northwest Territory:

But Wayne had done for the USA what two previous military leaders of the early 1790s, Josiah Harmar and Arthur St. Clair, could not — he secured the Northwest Territory. Wayne had defeated the allied tribes in the Ohio Valley at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, slashed and burned towns and cornfields afterwards, but wisely stopped short of engaging the British. He had then, in 1795, negotiated the Treaty of Greenville, a massive expansion of U.S. territory, which was now open for settlement.

The life of General Wayne points to the highly racialized history of the Republic:

Wayne was also white. In the history of the USA, the use of racial criteria to judge and violently enforce who is inside and who is outside the republic is deep and extensive. This judging of inside and outside can be about physical borders, but it can also be about social and symbolic borders to citizenship as well (e.g. treatment by police and courts). Importantly, this is not the only logic that has governed the trajectory of the republic — and I will discuss others in part 2 of this analysis — but it is one that has a long history and has been particularly powerful, and whose reappearance we are witnessing now. In Anthony Wayne’s view, the Native Americans he battled and with whom he negotiated would never be part of the band of brothers that made up the citizenry. And, importantly, this was not just about the nation as imagined community, but also about the authority of the state as an organization to govern and settle territory.

Read the whole thing!!

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Written by fabiorojas

April 13, 2017 at 12:05 am

what to expect from the upcoming pence administration

A lot of Americans are asking: What will a Pence Administration look like? He’ll be sworn in any day now,  so it is important to get ready. I’ve lived in the great state of Indiana for thirteen years and here is what I’ve learned about the 46th President:

As with any soon-to-be President, I want to give Mr. Pence the benefit of the doubt. I urge him to steer the Republican party from it’s nationalist state and reform the immigration system. Already, it’s rumored that he’ll reverse the Department of Education’s recent decision to de-fund Spanish classes and require Russian for high school seniors. That’s a good start.

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Written by fabiorojas

March 31, 2017 at 12:03 am

conspiracy theory, donald trump, and birtherism: a new article by joe digrazia

search-images

Joe DiGrazia, a recent IU PhD and post-doc at Dartmouth, has a really great article in Socious, the ASA’s new online open access journal. The article, The Social Determinants of Conspiratorial Ideation, investigates the rise in conspiratorial thinking on the Internet. He looks at state level Google searches for Obama birtherism and then compares to non political types of conspiracy theory, like Illuminati.

The findings? Not surprisingly, people search for conspiracy related terms in places with a great deal of social change, such as unemployment, changes in government, and demographic shift. This is especially important research given that Donald Trump first rose to political prominence as a birther. This research is indispensable for anyone trying to understand the forces that are shaping American politics today.

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Written by fabiorojas

February 8, 2017 at 12:22 am

the polls did better than you expected in the 2016 election, but not state polls, they sucked

Remember when everybody said that the polls completely got the 2016 presidential election wrong? Now we have final numbers on the popular vote count, and guess what? The national polls were on target:

However, the state polls sucked. Not too hard, but they did suck a little bit, except Wisconsin and Minnesota, which totally sucked:

This is consistent with conventional wisdom about state polls, which is that they are less reliable because it is hard to pinpoint people in states, hard to identify likely voters, and have smaller electorates that can fluctuate (e.g., voter registration laws or bad weather).

Still, in retrospect, looking at state polls did suggest that a popular vote/electoral vote split was possible. A Trump victory was within the margin of error of the polling average in a number of states such as New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. This observation about state polls is also consistent with the finding that the HRC lead was due to urban centers.

Bottom line: The conventional social science about polls held up. National polls do decently, states polls a bit worse and in some cases badly. However, they was plenty of evidence that Trump might get an electoral college victory, but you had to really read the state polls carefully.

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Written by fabiorojas

January 16, 2017 at 12:11 am

will trade associations exacerbate growing economic inequality in the united states? a guest post by howard aldrich

Howard Aldrich is the Kenan Professor of Sociology at UNC-Chapel Hill. This post examines an important question at the intersection of economic and political sociology, the role that trade groups have in American politics. This post originally appeared on Howard Aldrich’s blog and is reposted with permission.

An essay prepared for a special section of the Journal of Management Inquiry gave me an opportunity to reflect on potential social changes in the US resulting from major political changes over the past three decades.   I believe a long-term decline in class consensus within the American business elite (Mizruchi, 2013) has raised the relative power of trade associations, compared to the powerful peak business associations of a bygone era, paving the way for more narrow self-interested actions and diminishing the influence of other kinds of interest associations. The worldview of the incoming president and his cabinet officials will facilitate this development, I believe.

Escher "Drawing Hands"

Historically, business managers and owners could attempt to exert influence at four different levels in the system. First, they could get involved as individual executives, contributing money, lobbying officials and agencies, and so forth. Second, representatives of their organizations could do the same, especially through board interlocks with other firms in different industries, through which could diffuse general business practices as well as practices aimed at producing public goods  (Davis & Greve, 1997; Galaskiewicz, 1985). Third, firms could participate in specific industries’ trade associations that favored policies and practices they favored (Ozer & Lee, 2009). Fourth, and perhaps most important, a handful of peak associations sat above the previous three levels, cutting across firms and industries, and claiming to speak for the business community as a whole. For example, the now-defunct CED (Committee for Economic Development) advertised itself as offering “reasoned solutions from business in the nation’s interests.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by fabiorojas

January 13, 2017 at 12:23 am

why obama won 53 counties in iowa and clinton won 6

Iowa in 2008, Iowa in 2016

So there are a thousand reasons Trump won the election, right? There’s race, there’s class, there’s gender. There’s Clinton as a candidate, and Trump as a candidate, the changing media environment, the changing economic environment, and the nature of the primary fields. It’s not either-or, it’s all of the above.

But Josh Pacewicz’s new book, Partisans and Partners: The Politics of the Post-Keynesian Society, implies a really interesting explanation for the swing voters in the Rust Belt—the folks who went Obama in 2008, and maybe 2012, but Trump in 2016. These voters may make up a relatively small fraction of the total, but they were key to this election.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by epopp

December 1, 2016 at 3:48 pm

the progressive explosion is here

Originally, I was going to write a detailed post about how Clinton 2’s campaign created the Rust Belt Bungle. The Washington Post has done the job for me, with a detailed analysis of the campaign’s missteps. But before I drop the discussion of the Clinton 2 campaign, I also want to concur with critics of the party who note that nominating Clinton 2 was taking a large risk. While partisans liked to push the narrative that Clinton 2 was a master politician, the record says otherwise. When something big is on the line, Clinton 2 has often fumbled. Whether it be losing healthcare in a fight with a Democratic congress in 1994, voting for the Iraq War in 2002, or losing a big lead to a no-name Senator from Illinois in 2008, Clinton 2 has not been a master of the political game. Thatcher or Merkel she is not. Future biographers can assess why, but I think Colin Powell summed it up best when he wrote that her hubris “screws up everything.”

Instead, I want to talk about a bigger issue – the progressive explosion in the Democratic party. During the primary, I wrote that there were signs that establishment Democrats were slowly losing their grip and we’d see a Tea Party style blow up. It happened – and sooner than I thought. The party has been decapitated and now the progressive base is out for total control. From The Hill:

Liberals interviewed by The Hill want to see establishment Democrats targeted in primaries, and the “Clinton-corporate wing” of the party rooted out for good.

The fight will begin over picking a new leader for the Democratic National Committee.

Progressives are itching to see the national apparatus reduced to rubble and rebuilt from scratch, with one of their own installed at the top.

And there is talk among some progressives, like Bill Clinton’s former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, about splitting from the Democratic Party entirely if they don’t get the changes they seek.

Other media have reported that Sanders has endorsed a DNC chair candidate and that liberals are preparing for an all out war for control. Given that there is no leadership right now, it could be a messy, but healthy, process. Except for 2004, the party has been dominated by one faction for almost thirty years.

Honestly, I don’t know what will happen. Maybe there is a post-Clinton restoration of some type in the wings. Or perhaps the party will move hard left. But what I do know is that the Tea Party president is here and that is what they’ll have to deal with.

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Written by fabiorojas

November 14, 2016 at 12:04 am

the parking lot theory of third parties

Right now, we aren’t seeing a collapse of Donald Trump. Instead, we’re seeing (a) Clinton 2 steady at about 45% in the four way race and (b) Trump moving from about 40% to 43%. That means that the third party vote is collapsing. Johnson is dropping from a summer high of 10% to 4%. How can that be?

My current favorite explanation is the “parking lot” theory of American third parties. Most people today are highly polarized, which means they strongly sort themselves into parties and stick with it. A number of people, including myself, have argued that parties are a sort of social identity. Perhaps not as fundamental as gender or racial identity, but important none the less. The consequence of party-identity theory is  that people usually become defensive about their identity and they are loathe to leave it.

“Parking lot” theory is a corollary of party-identity theory. When people are faced with a horrible candidate from their party, they become defensive and don’t want to give it up. They refuse to consider third parties. At best, third parties become “parking lots” for voters who are indecisive or embarrassed until they finally pull the lever for mainstream parties. I suspect that is what resulted in those 10% polls for Johnson. The Libertarian Party was simply the “parking lot” for 5% of American voters who fully intend to vote GOP but are too embarrassed by Trump. There is a real libertarian vote out there, but it is in the low single digits. Definitely not 10%.

I’m not the first to make this argument. In fact, one my BGS* pointed out that this argument appears in Shafer and Spady’s recent book The American Political Landscape. They don’t develop it fully but the historical data is there. In 2016, we see a spike of 10% for the Libertarians but they’ll be lucky to get 5% on polling day. In 1992, Perot peaked in the 30%  range but ended up with 19% (still impressive) and then 10% in 1996. In 1980, John Anderson peaked at 20% but ended up with a paltry 7%.  Nader 2000 is probably the only modern third party candidate that wasn’t a voter parking lot. He polled consistently in the 2%-4% range and got 3%.

Bottom line: The Libertarians may spoil a state or two this round, but they are doomed to be a voter parking lot.

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* Brilliant Grad Students

Written by fabiorojas

November 2, 2016 at 12:01 am

bernie in the street: how occupy wall street fits in the democratic party

Mobilizing Ideas has a new forum where a scholars are discussing movements and elections. I’ll start with a few snippets from “Bernie Sanders and the Occupy Wall Street Wing of the Democratic Library,” written by my dear friend Michael T. Heaney:

While it is impossible to definitively establish what fraction of Occupy supporters also supported Sanders, it is possible to look to social media for clues of this support. To this end, I gathered a list of 374 Twitter handles and hashtags associated with the Occupy movement that were in operation between 2011 and 2013. From this list, I randomly selected 150 pages for the purpose of content analysis and coded Twitter feeds for these pages from April 2012 and April 2016. The purpose of this exercise was to understand the extent and nature of movement involvement in Democratic Party politics during two identical periods in the presidential election cycle.

The results of the content analysis reveal significant differences in the activities of the Occupy movement between the April 2012 and April 2016 periods. First, the sites examined became significantly less active over time. In April 2012, 59 percent of sites were active, while this fraction fell to 18 percent by 2016. Second, the level of engagement in electoral politics significantly increased from 2012 to 2016 on the Occupy sites that remained active. Third, the tweets shifted significantly from a more negative perspective on politics in 2012 to a more positive perspective in 2016. In 2012, each site had an average of 0.14 positive tweets about candidates/parties, in comparison to an average of 1.16 negative tweets. In 2016, however, tweets had become more balanced, with an average of 8.70 exhibiting positive valance and an average of 6.62 indicating negative valence.

Read the whole thing.

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Written by fabiorojas

October 3, 2016 at 12:17 am

the donald and the mule

In the 1950s, Isaac Asimov wrote a series of books called The Foundation Series. The plot is simple and fascinating. Far in the future, civilization is collapsing, Roman Empire style. A small group of mathematical social scientists (“pyschohistorians”) use all kinds of models to predict what might happen to humanity. They decide to let the Empire fall and replace it with an alternative social order originating on a marginal planet called Foundation. And of course, the pyschohistorians pull the strings to make this happen.

The sequel introduces a fascinating twist. For the first hundred or so years, everything is going to plan. Foundation becomes a strong city state and starts to restore political order. Then, all of a sudden, a Napoleon like leader, called “The Mule,” shows up and effortlessly conquers vast expanses of space. What happened? None of the social science models predicted that this would happen.

It turns out that the Mule is a mutant who has mind control. He simply conquers populations by adjusting their emotions and memories, so they just immediately fall into his lap. Eventually, a hidden group of psychohistorians, “the Second Foundation,” defeat the Mule, he becomes normal, and social progress is back on track.

This is the best way to explain my model of the Trump candidacy. He is a type of figure that does not normally get consideration in social theory. He isn’t quite as all powerful as The Mule, but he does share one key trait. He has a unique ability to directly appeal to a large group of people and by pass the normal channels of influence. The Mule had psychic powers, the Donald has the skill to manipulate the media. Weber, of course, spoke about charisma, but few have really gone into depth and integrated an account of charisma into social theory more systematically. That is why so many social scientists have difficulty talking about Trump, even after the fact. It’s about time we thought more carefully about these rare, but important, figures.

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Written by fabiorojas

September 27, 2016 at 12:37 am

party in the street: why study failed movements?

This is the last post responding to Professor Amenta’s lengthy, supportive and critical take on Party in the Street. We earlier discussed whether it was wise to group Afghanistan and Iraq and if our explanation of the anti-Vietnam War movement was valid. In the review, he asks, if the antiwar movement of the 2000s failed, what is the point of studying it?

Short answer: Don’t select on the dependent variable.

Long answer: In the social sciences, we often exhibit a bias toward success. We like to talk about Apple and Google, but not Pets.com.But that’s a bad thing, especially if you want to study the outcomes of social processes. Failures are just as important as successes in the social sciences. You need a random sample of events or a sample where you can model the bias. So, in movements, we shouldn’t study only those that succeed. We need comparisons. And detailed case studies of a movement are way to start.

Peace movements are a class of movements that are notoriously unsuccessful, as we note in the book. By studying one in detail, and comparing with others, we can develop a sense of why that might be the case and then ask about other movements. Note: If you want a highly meritorious study of a study that uses a random sample of successful and non-successful movement groups, see Kathleen Blee’s award winning Democracy in the Making.

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Written by fabiorojas

September 26, 2016 at 12:06 am

party in the street: let’s talk about vietnam

Earlier this week, I discussed Professor Amenta’s insanely generous review, “Raising the Bar for Scholarship on Protest and Politics,” which just came out in Contemporary Sociology. We’ve been discussing Amenta’s criticisms. On Tuesday, I discussed why it is useful to see the wars in Iraq an Afghanistan as part of a broader war on terror. Today, I’ll discuss Professor Amenta’s other criticism. He doesn’t buy our explanation that polarization was such a big for the modern peace movement in comparison to the Vietnam era movement:

The authors attribute the contrast between the vigor of the anti-Vietnam War movement during the post-Johnson (Nixon) years and the weakness of the antiwar movement during the post-Bush (Obama) era to the less intense partisanship of the earlier period. It is true that U.S. politics in the late 1960s featured many conservative southern Democrats and moderate Republicans, but partisanship remained important and influenced political contention against the war. In addition, the earlier antiwar movement was boosted by Nixon’s ‘‘secret plan’’ to end the Vietnam War, which was revealed to be intensive bombing of Vietnam and then invading Cambodia. Moreover, unlike recent history, there was a draft and no news blackout on Vietnam War destruction and deaths, each of which spurred continued movement activity in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This is a significant oversight because it underlines the difficulties faced by antiwar movements today.

First, let’s start with points of agreement. Michael and I definitely agree with Professor Amenta about the importance of the draft. That’s a huge difference and it certainly kept a lot of other wise apathetic citizens on the street to prevent themselves and their family from being drafted. In multiple interviews with older activists, we where told a number of times that the draft was a big motivator in the 1960s.

Still, that doesn’t get you far enough. If “draft theory” were very true, then there would not have been any antiwar movement at all. A relatively small volunteer force fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan. We would not have seen any protest at all. Furthermore, you need some explanation of why there would be ups and downs of the movement. We think our partisan-identity theory is a plausible explanation rooted in an intuitive political psychology. Polarization just exacerbated the issue. Once Democrats assumed leadership in the war effort, there was nobody on the “other side” to pick up slack in the movement, as moderate Republicans might have in an earlier era.

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Written by fabiorojas

September 16, 2016 at 12:26 am

pro-religion, pro-science

Tim O’Brien* of UW-Milwaukee and Shiri Noy of U-Wyoming have a new article in Socious (“A Nation Divided: Science, Religion, and Public Opinion in the United States“) that explores people who are both religious and pro-science. From the press coverage:

“If we look at the modern group and the traditional group and their political and social attitudes, they differ in virtually every domain of human society,” O’Brien said. “When it comes to criminal justice, they are different. When it comes to families, they are different. When it comes to civil liberties, race relations, sexuality, we see a big schism between these traditionalists and the moderns. As you might expect, moderns tend to hold more liberal or progressive opinions and traditionalists tend to be more conservative or orthodox.”

The wild card is the post-secular group. Embracing both science-oriented and religiously inclined views led them to have unique attitudes toward social issues. They are more conservative when it comes to gender and sexuality but lean progressive when it comes to social justice, and education.

“Basically what we have found is that scientific Americans aren’t necessarily liberal. … We also find that religious Americans aren’t necessarily conservative; they are progressive in some domains as well,” O’Brien explained. “The overall finding is that people’s attitudes about science and religion really map onto their socio-political in a more diverse set of ways than I think people usually acknowledge.”

That’s important because moderns and traditionals make up 70 to 80 percent of the American population, and they vote predictably. It’s the post-seculars who have disproportionate sway in American political elections. They tend to vote Republican, but with this year’s unorthodox election, it’s anybody’s guess.

Read the whole thing.

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*As my former TA, I take .01% of the credit for Tim.

Written by fabiorojas

September 14, 2016 at 12:06 am

party in the street: response to amenta

In the most recent Contemporary Sociology, Irvine’s Edwin Amenta wrote an incredibly kind and generous review of Party in the Street (“Raising the Bar for Scholarship on Protest and Politics“). It’s really humbling to have such an accomplished researcher so deeply engage with our work and find so much value. Not only did Professor Amenta say nice things about the book, he also offered a number of carefully thought out critiques of the book. In this post, I’d like to summarize what Professor Amenta wrote and offer a few brief comments in response.

Amenta takes issue with a fundamental assumption of the book. Here is Amenta:

Specifically, I question the authors’ explanation for the contrast between the decline of the recent antiwar movement and the expansion of the anti-Vietnam War movement, the analytical conflation of antiwar protest and antiwar movements, and their empirical conflation of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Let’s start with what I think is a more amenable issue – the issue of the connection between the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Once again, Professor Amenta:

The authors’ most puzzling decision—to combine analytically the war in Iraq and the one in Afghanistan—challenges their account of movement decline. This conflation of the two wars is central to their puzzle— why did the antiwar movement end while war kept going? But the contrast in opposition to the two wars answers this better than the rise to power of a Democratic president. The war in Afghanistan, beginning almost immediately after the September 11 attacks, drew the protest of only scattered anti-imperialist, anarchist, and other smallbore groups. That war was waged on a Taliban regime and its ward al Qaeda,  which had planned the attacks, and generated public support. By contrast, even before the war in Iraq began, it drew extensive opposition from a broad coalition of organizations and participants; it was clear during its lengthy run-up that Iraq had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks and that the Bush administration claims of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction were questionable. Without this war of choice, or ‘‘dumb war,’’ as Illinois state senator Barack Obama referred to it in 2002, it seems unlikely there would have been much antiwar activity or an antiwar movement. As president, Obama quickly wound down the Iraq war, the one that the movement opposed. And so it is not surprising that antiwar activity slowed and did not return, even after the 2009 surge in Afghanistan, as there was never any real movement against that war. The origin of the mass antiwar movement in opposition to the Iraq war—in its  gratuitousness, deviousness in justification, and bungled execution—helps to explain the decline of this movement, as it ended as that war ended. The authors’ point is well taken that protest declined after partisan government changed, but the decline of movements is also typically related to their emergence and their influence; and thus any analysis of decline should address these influences.

A number of issues suggested to us that it would be useful to link the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in the narrative. First, the “kernel” of the antiwar movement emerged in the days after 9/11. Amenta calls these early groups “smallbore.” I would agree, but all movements need to start somewhere. The Afghanistan war was the event that pulled a lot of hard core activists into peace activism and these activists often went on to leadership positions. For example, one the leading groups during the Iraq War era was International A.N.S.W.E.R. From one perspective, it is a “smallbore” group – allied with the socialist left and operates with a pretty small staff. However, it was one of the groups that got in “on the ground floor” right after 9/11 (the early Afghanistan war era) and became a highly influential player during the peak of the antiwar movement (the Iraq War era). Therefore, it makes a lot of sense (to us) that both of these conflicts were important events that shaped the trajectory of the movement. The Afghanistan war “jump started” a core of activists who were previously working on other issues while Iraq allowed that core to grow into a truly mass movement.

But there is a deeper point. Much of the antiwar movement leadership said they were in the *peace* movement, not the anti-Iraq War movement. Also, it was the frame offered by the Bush 2 administration. They were both parts of the “War on Terror.” If you can accept this view, then a lot of public opinion makes sense. The public supported both Iraq and Afghanistan as responses to terrorism and only turned on Iraq once casualties mounted. Among activists, they were both wars to be opposed for similar reasons (e.g., pacifism or anti-imperialism). Only among the Democratic/liberal wing of the electorate do you see the split on Iraq and Afghanistan, which we attribute to the tension between partisan and movement identities. This overall pattern only makes sense if you consider Iraq and Afghanistan as part of a broader context, not completely independent events.

Later this week, we’ll delve more deeply into the comparison between peace activism in the Vietnam and Iraq War eras.

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Written by fabiorojas

September 13, 2016 at 12:33 am

more tweets, more votes: wired magazine

A few weeks ago, Wired magazine discussed how you can use social media data to improve political forecasting. From Emma Ellis:

Traditional polling methods aren’t working the way they used to. Upstart analytics firms like Civis and conventional pollsters like PPP, Ipsos, and Pew Research Institute have all been hunting for new, more data-centric ways to uncover the will of the whole public, rather than just the tiny slice willing to answer a random call on their landline. The trending solution is to incorporate data mined from the Internet, especially from social media. It’s a crucial, overdue shift. Even though the Internet is a cesspool of trolls, it’s also where millions of Americans go to express opinions that pollsters might not even think to ask about.

And they were kind enough to cite the More Tweets/More Votes research:

According to Fabio Rojas, a sociologist at Indiana University who conducted a study correlating Twitter mentions and candidate success, “More tweets equals more votes.”…

Social media data gives you a sense of the zeitgeist in a way that multiple choice questions never will. “Say I wanted to learn about what music people are listening to,” says Rojas. “I would have to sit down beforehand and come up with the list. But what if I don’t know about Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber?” Polls are generated by a small group of people, and they can’t know everything. Social media is a sample of what people actually talk about, what actually draws their attention, and the issues that really matter to them.

That sentiment matters, and pollsters can (and in PPP’s case, do) use it to direct their questioning. “People clue us in on stuff online all the time,” says Jim Williams, a polling analyst at PPP. They even ask the Internet where and on what they should poll next, hence Harambe’s presence in its poll. But, Williams says, joke suggestions aside, Twitter’s input also helps pollsters include the finer points of local and national politics. And even the Harambe question itself actually tells the pollsters something interesting.

Interesting stuff.

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Written by fabiorojas

September 2, 2016 at 12:01 am

trump symposium iii: social science and trump

In this third installment of the Trump symposium, I want to talk about how social scientists should think about Trump. Let’s start with prediction – who foresaw Trump? We need to make a distinction.

So what should a social scientist do?

  • Start with the following mantra: Social science is about trends and averages, rarely about specific cases. If an outsider becomes a major party nominee once, then you can cling to the old theory. If you get three Trumps in a row, then it’s time to dump the Party Decides model, unless, of course, you see the party openly embrace Trump and he becomes the new establishment.
  • Feel confident: One crazy case doesn’t mean that you dump all results. For example, polling still worked pretty well. Polls showed a Trump rise and, lo and behold, Trump won the nomination. Also, polls are in line with basic models of presidential elections where economic trends set the baseline. The economy is ok, which means the incumbent party has an advantage. Not surprisingly, polls show the Democratic nominee doing well.
  • Special cases: Given that most things in this election are “normal,” it’s ok to make a special argument about an unusual event. Here, I’d say that Trump broke the “Party Decides” model because he is an exceptionally rare candidate who doesn’t need parties. Normally, political parties wield power because politicians don’t have money or name recognition. In contrast, Trump has tons of money and a great media presence. He is a rare candidate who can just bypass the whole system, especially when other candidates are weak.

What does the future hold? Some folks have been raising the alarms about a possible Trump win. So far, there is little data to back it up. In the rolling Real Clear Politics average of polls, Trump is consistently behind. In state polls, he is behind. He has no money. He has not deployed a “ground game.”In fact, the RCP average has had Clinton 2 ahead of Trump every single day since October with the exception of the GOP convention and about two of the worst days of the Democratic campaign. Is it possible that Trump will be rescued by a sudden wave of support from White voters? Maybe, but we haven’t seen any movement in this direction. A betting person would bet against Trump.

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

Written by fabiorojas

September 1, 2016 at 12:44 am

trump symposium ii: the organizational basis of today’s crazy politics – a guest post by josh pacewicz

This guest post on Trump’s run for president is written by Josh Pacewicz, a political sociologist at Brown University. 

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In case you haven’t noticed, this has been a crazy election cycle. On both the Democratic and Republican side, a candidate who is more extreme than the typical serious presidential contender went all the way to the convention. Trump, who espouses some positions that are not recognizably Republican, is arguably even more the anomaly than Sanders. But both fared well, which suggests that the contours of America’s 20th Century party system are strained, if not cracked. How did this happen?

2016 makes sense only in the historical context of the gradual polarization of American political parties, or the tendency of politicians from the two parties to vote differently on every issue. Party polarization is distinct from other trends like a rightward drift among both Republicans and Democrats and is visible in, for instance, analyses of congressional voting, which show no Republican with a voting record left of any Democrat. A political status quo based in complete disagreement is a necessary precondition of this election, because only then do political observers expect politicians to treat their opponents as unredeemable out-there radicals, a state of affairs that creates opportunities for candidates who truly are outside the political mainstream. Because partisan polarization is a decades-long trend, explanations of 2016 that focus on factors like the recession or racial resentment over Obama’s presidency seem incomplete. Since the 1980s, party polarization has increased in good economic times and bad, during periods of war and peace, and under Democratic and Republican administrations.

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Written by fabiorojas

August 31, 2016 at 12:39 am

trump, social solidarity, and the performance of politics: a guest post by tim gill

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.

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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.

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Written by fabiorojas

August 30, 2016 at 12:01 am

black lives matter moves to cultural nationalism: analysis and forecast

Let’s start with a quiz. Guess which policy demands are from the Black Lives Matter platform and which ones are from the original 10-point plan from the Black Panthers in 1966:

  1. We believe that this racist government has robbed us, and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules.
  2. An end to the privatization of education and real community control by parents, students and community members of schools including democratic school boards and community control of curriculum, hiring, firing and discipline policies.
  3. We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else
  4. We believe we can end police brutality in our Black community by organizing Black self-defense groups that are dedicated to defending our Black community from racist police oppression and brutality.
  5. A reallocation of funds at the federal, state and local level from policing and incarceration [specific programs omitted] to long-term safety strategies such as education, local restorative justice services, and employment programs.
  6. Institute a universal single payer healthcare system. To do this all private insurers must be banned from the healthcare market as their only effect on the health of patients is to take money away from doctors, nurses and hospitals preventing them from doing their jobs and hand that money to wall st. investors.
  7. Racial and gender equal rights amendment.

Answer: BLM – 2, 5; BP – 1, 3, 4. Trick question: 6 & 7 are actually from a list of Occupy Wall Street demands. If you got some wrong, don’t worry. A lot of these demands are interchangeable and all three groups have promoted some version of most of them.

The purpose of the quiz is to illustrate how the recent Black Lives Matter platform draws heavily from Black cultural nationalism and progressivism. It also shows that the Black Lives Matter movement is now evolving in a direction very similar to these groups. Like the Panthers in 1966, Black Lives was founded specifically in response to police repression. But it framed itself in Marxist terms and soon expanded to offer social programs. Similarly, Black Lives Matter started in response to police shootings and has now offered a fairly comprehensive list of demands rooted in the Left.

There are differences of course, but I think we can now articulate a framework, or baseline, for thinking about BLM. It is a progressive, community oriented movement, not a movement that primarily focuses on police reform. It is also a movement that will have wide appeal on the Left, but less appeal to the middle and the Right.

Since we’ve had a number of movements like this, we can look at their history. We’ve had the Panthers in the 1960s, the anti-globalization movement of the 1990s, and the Occupy movement of 2010s. These movements tend to be brief, but intense. They have wide cultural impact, but limited policy or electoral impact. The impact of BLM will be very concentrated in a few places and otherwise widespread and diffuse. Time will tell if the comparison with BLMs ancestry is an adequate guide to their future.

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

Written by fabiorojas

August 11, 2016 at 12:01 am

party in the street: feeling the bern!

Over at the Washington Post/Monkey Cage, Michael T. Heaney has an article about what he learned about DNC protesters. A few big points. First, Berners dominated the protest:

We went to demonstrations on many issues, including clean energy, police mistreatment of African Americans, immigration, poverty and peace. Our surveys on the first day of protests, July 24, found that 95 percent of the protesters who said they voted in the 2016 presidential primaries said they voted for Sanders, with only 4 percent voting for Clinton and 1 percent for other candidates. That’s quite a jump from what my collaborators (Seth Masket, Dara Strolovitch and Joanne Miller) and I found at the 2008 Democratic conventions, where protesters had supported then-Sen. Barack Obama (58 percent), Clinton (22 percent), Dennis Kucinich (6 percent), Mitt Romney (4 percent), Ron Paul (3 percent), Ralph Nader (3 percent) and others (4 percent).

Second, they feel Berned:

Of course, people who protest outside national party conventions are hardly representative of any candidate’s supporters; they’re a small, unusual group of highly motivated activists. But from this group, of those who voted for Sanders in the primary, only 9 percent said they were inclined to vote for Clinton in November. The vast majority (72 percent) said they would write in Sanders or vote for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. Less than 1 percent planned to vote for Trump, about 5 percent were looking at other candidates, and 13 percent were undecided. By contrast, just over half (51 percent) of the 2008 Democratic convention protesters who hadn’t supported Obama in the primary planned to vote for him in the general election.

Third, they’re coming back:

There aren’t enough of these activists to make a dent in votes in the fall. Their discontent will probably influence events by how they channel their organizing energy.

Where will that be? Consider that 74 percent strongly agreed that the Sanders campaign had a positive effect on the Democratic Party, while another 16 percent agreed somewhat. These activists feel powerful. They may be frustrated that their candidate lost the nomination battle, but they still see their efforts paying off by, for instance, making the 2016 Democratic Party platform the “most progressive” in the party’s history. Such “small wins” keep people engaged and organized because they think their efforts were valuable.

Commentary: First, kudos to Michael for getting this data and digging deeper into the phenomena of convention protest. Second, this gives us some insight into the current state of the Democratic party. Tactically, the DNC convention was successful in presenting Clinton 2 in a strong light. However, these protesters show that there is a long term game that is unfolding. The Clinton network (Clinton 1 &2, Gore) has dominated at least five presidential contests. Clinton 2 is probably the last major politician from this network, which means that there will be a structural opening in the party. If they play their cards right, these fringe protesters may end up starting the upcoming progressive explosion in the Democratic party.

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

Written by fabiorojas

August 3, 2016 at 12:07 am

Call for papers: Social movements, economic innovation, and institutional change

To be hosted at the UCLA Meyer & Renee Luskin Conference Center

Date: November 3-5, 2016

We invite submissions for a workshop on the intersection of social movements and economic processes, to be held at the new UCLA Meyer & Renee Luskin Conference Center from Thursday November 3 to Saturday November 5, 2016.

This meeting extends the theme of “Social Movements and the Economy,” a workshop that was held last year at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. The goal of the earlier workshop was to bring scholarship on social movements and organizations into closer conversation with political economy scholarship focused on how economic forces and the dynamics of capitalism shape social movements.

For the present meeting, we hope to further develop this dialogue, continuing the focus on both movement effects on the economy as well as economic effects on movements and movement organizations. Although the conference will not at all be limited to these, welcome topics of investigation will include: links between social movements and financialization; changing or innovative organizational forms; the link between economic and technological change in contentious politics; labor organizing; connections between movements and political or economic elites; studies of relationships between movements and firms or trade associations including partnerships, funding, and/or cooptation; cross-national comparative or historical analyses of movements and economic forces.

We welcome scholars from sociology, management, political science, economics, communications, and related disciplines to submit abstracts for consideration as part of this call. As in the previous workshop, this meeting will seek to engage in a thorough reconsideration of both the economic sources and the economic outcomes of social movements, with careful attention to how states intermediate each of these processes.

The keynote speaker will be Neil Fligstein, Class of 1939 Chancellor’s Professor in the Department of Sociology at UC-Berkeley.

The workshop is planned to start with a dinner in the evening on Thursday November 3, to conclude with morning sessions on Saturday November 5. Invited guests will be provided with domestic travel and accommodation support.

Submissions (PDF or DOC) should include:

– A cover sheet with title, name and affiliation, and email addresses for all authors

– An abstract of 200-300 words that describes the motivation, research questions, methods, and connection to the workshop theme

– Include the attachment in an email with the subject “Social Movements and the Economy”

Please send abstracts to walker@soc.ucla.edu and b-king@kellogg.northwestern.edu by August 21, 2016. Review and notification will occur shortly thereafter.

Contact Edward Walker (walker@soc.ucla.edu) or Brayden King (b-king@kellogg.northwestern.edu) for more information.

Written by brayden king

July 21, 2016 at 7:45 pm

technology in collective behavior: it’s about relative strength

The attempted coup and subsequent counter-coup in Turkey has raised questions about the role of technology in collective behavior. Notably, the coup leaders attempted to assert control by seizing the media, while the president of Turkey re-asserted control by using Facebook. At his blog, Kieran comments:

The irony was immediately apparent, as all of this was a rather large departure from Erdoğan’s previous attitudes to both social media and public protest. It also set off a little side-debate about the role of these technologies in preventing the coup. That’s encapsulated by Zeynep Tufekci (who is in Antalya at the moment) and her exasperated response to a satirical tweet mocking the idea that tech mattered in any decisive way.

Here’e my take on the issue of technology and collective action. Having access to a technology doesn’t give a movement any advantage by itself. Rather, it’s about relative access to technology. Here’s some selected examples from the recent history of politics:

My argument is that technology can only give a group or movement a short term relative advantage. Otherwise, the strength and vitality of movements and insurrections on “fundamentals” like public opinion, political opportunities, and the support of elites. In the case of Turkey, the coup approached things in a traditional way – by seizing television and radio – and overlooked (?) Facebook, which allowed Erdogan to communicate that he was alive and in control. Ultimately though, I’ll side with commentators who point out that the Turkish military had already been de-funded, purged, and otherwise enervated by Erdogan and his political party. Facetime is a small, and incidental detail, to a larger picture.

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

Written by fabiorojas

July 18, 2016 at 12:12 am