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fdr and the unjust incarceration of japanese americans

Another reason to hate the 32nd president. On his Facebook account, historian David Beito posted this excerpt about how FDR ignored the FBI’s recommendation that Japanese Americans be left alone:

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover “argued against calls for the evacuation of the 110,000 Japanese-Americans (70,000 of them U.S. citizens by birth) living on the West Coast:

‘The necessity for mass evacuation is based primarily upon public and political pressure rather than on factual data. Public hysteria and, in some instances, the comments of the press and radio announcers have resulted in a tremendous amount of pressure being brought to bear on Governor [Culbert] Olson [of California] and Earl Warren, Attorney-General of the State, and on the military authorities.’

Roosevelt disregarded Hoover’s advice. He listened instead to alarmist voices from California, among them that of the general commanding West Defense Command, John L. De Witt, who insisted that, despite their peaceable appearance, Japanese-Americans were ‘organized and ready for concerted action.’ De Witt drew sinister conclusions from his own lack of evidence. ‘The very fact that no sabotage has taken place to date,’ he perversely argued, ‘is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will be taken.’ The president was surprisingly impressed by De Witt’s lack of logic. On February 19 he signed Executive Order 9066, which paved the way for the mass internment of Japanese-Ameri­cans on the West Coast, who were branded as disloyal and deprived of their liberty without trial or right of redress.”

Christopher Andrew, For the President’s Eyes Only: Secret Intelligence and the American Presidency from Washington to Bush (New York: Harper Collins, 1996), 74

Wow, when J. Edgar Hoover accuses you of making it all up, you are really on the wrong side of history. What I find interesting about this excerpt is how DeWitt’s reasoning  belies the paranoia and illogic of bias. When people aren’t doing anything, that is evidence they are up to something!!!

Chinese workers, Japanese farmers, Mexican laborers, Syrian refugees – the story is the same every time. Guilty until proven innocent. The less they do, the more dangerous they are. It behooves us to remember historical episodes like this the next time political leaders demand that some group be punished.

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Written by fabiorojas

May 4, 2017 at 12:49 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

let charles murray speak

On Tuesday evening, Charles Murray will speak at Indiana University. Not surprisingly, his visit has resulted in a bit of discussion on campus. A number of people have immediately wanted to protest the meeting and, like at many campuses, people want “answers.” A lot of my colleagues have acted honorably. While some have jumped to wild conclusions and recommended strong actions, most have done what scholars are supposed to do. They are asking questions, they are discussing the scholarly responses to Murray’s work, and they are organizing their own events.

Here, I want to lay out how I think about campus free speech. Basically, campus free speech is really about the ability of the owners, managers, and employees of an academic institution to discuss whatever they want in a civil environment. There is a lot of trust and tolerance built into this view of free speech. There are no boards that police campus events. There is no party that the campus represents. It is not the Indiana University of Liberals and it is not the Indiana University of Conservatives. It is simply Indiana University. Thus, if a small group of students and faculty obtain their own funding to bring in an outside speaker, so be it.

In this discussion, two important issues are raised and they deserve an answer. First, does permitting Murray to speak somehow legitimize or bring attention to “hate speech?” The answer is clearly no. Lots of ideas are taught and discussed in universities, including hateful ones, but that doesn’t legitimize them. For example, many Western Civilization classes and history classes will read Mein Kampf, in an attempt to understand national socialism and related movements.

Furthermore, it is not clear to me that Murray’s talk would even fit the definition of hate speech, which is that it is speech that “attacks” or “disparages” a minority group. His speech is about his book, Coming Apart. I have not read it, but it appears to be about the differences between working and middle class Whites. It may be right or wrong, but does not appear to be hate speech, as normally understood (“disparaging” or “attacking” remarks about an ethnic group). Finally, it would be unwise for universities to directly police speech. I rue the day that a committee of professors and students directly intervene in invited talks and seminars.

Second, people ask whether it is good or bad that conservative groups sponsor a talk. Once again, I return to the foundation of higher education. A university is not a community of liberals or conservatives. It is a community of scholars. Thus, funding – from any source – is not a problem so long as the funding is consistent with the ideals of independent scholarship. It is totally ok if a group funds scholarship that they like, so long as the student or faculty member is free to come to the conclusion they feel best reflects the evidence.

This is the standard that should be applied to liberal groups, like the Soros Foundation, or conservative groups, like the American Enterprise Institute, which often donate to campuses. In terms of the Murray talk, the faculty who helped organize the talk – some of whom I know personally – have also invited liberals, such as E.J. Dionne, and conservatives, such as a recent talk by Bill Kristol. The Murray talk seems to be consistent with inviting a fairly broad spectrum of commentators, even those who are in the opposite camp.

Finally, let me end with a discussion of the source of Murray’s notoriety. It is not Coming Apart, it is The Bell Curve.  That is the book that most people are alluding to when he is accused of hate speech. In all honesty, it is the only work by Murray I have read in its entirety. I read it in the 1990s to see what all the controversy was about.

It’s a mixed bag in my view. The book’s main goal is to argue that IQ research is not a sham and that it is a variable of importance for studying life outcomes. This is actually a fair point and it is consistent with a lot of sociological practice, but not its rhetoric. For example, how many models of achievement or status control for “academic ability?” Answer: tons. In the mid-20th century, it wasn’t unusual for sociologists to have a regression with IQ in it, such as Blau and Duncan’s The American Occupational Structure. Even today, many surveys will include measurements of cognitive ability. The GSS even has a verbal test in it so the researcher can adjust for IQ.

But The Bell Curve goes farther than that and makes many dodgy claims. For example, it claims that American cities will become segregated by cognitive ability, which may or may not be true. Then, there is the very short section on group differences – including racial differences – in IQ, which should be treated with great caution. But, for me, most people skipped over the most non-sequitur claim in The Bell Curve, which is that cognitive limits should be the basis of public policy (e.g., cutting social support makes sense since it won’t change IQ and thus behavior). This strikes me as bizarre. If low IQ individuals have limited life course chances, shouldn’t they be the first to get help? Even on its own terms, The Bell Curve stretches a lot of evidence and argument to reach the authors conclusions on policy.

The bottom line is that the university should be a place of free speech, even speech that may disgust us. There is a difference between unpopular opinions or distasteful opinions and truly hateful speech. Murray says a lot of things I disagree with (e.g., his recent move to restrict migration, which is a bad policy) but he is not in the realm of the politician who incites people to violence (e.g., see Trump’s infamous “Get ’em out of here!” moment), the student who loses their temper, the student’s who physically attacked and injured a professor at Middlebury College, or the faculty member who directly calls for brute force against journalists.

Let him speak. Show up if you want to, or not. Either is fine.

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Written by fabiorojas

April 11, 2017 at 12:17 am

brayden king discusses the importance of organizational theory

In Contemporary Sociology, Brayden King reviews recent works and offers his opinion on the state of organizational sociology. A few choice clips:

There are numerous institutional reasons that organizational sociology has moved toward the periphery of the discipline, including the lack of sociology jobs in the subfield and the fact that many organizational sociologists, this author included, are no longer housed in sociology departments but in business schools. But if we put aside the questions of where and how organizational sociologists are trained and get jobs, at the heart of the problem is whether organizational sociology has anything new to say to sociologists who do not study organizations. If organizational sociologists are becoming irrelevant, it is because we are increasingly disconnected from the conversations most central to sociology as a discipline.

And, after describing recent work on the decline of the “classic” organization:

If public corporations are disappearing for their lack of functionality and because the elites that once steered them are disconnected, then there is clearly an opportunity for organizational innovation. Sociologists, less tied to a strict normative imperative of maximizing wealth than economists are, are well positioned to offer insights about the future of organizing. Doing so would surely make the work of organizational sociologists more relevant to sociology as well, inasmuch as it would reconnect our subfield with sociology’s fundamental concerns about improving communities and societies.

Read the whole thing!!

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Written by fabiorojas

March 10, 2017 at 12:05 am

book forum: the conversational firm, part 1 by catherine turco

truco_book

This Spring’s book forum is dedicated to The Conversational Firm: Rethinking Bureacuracy in an Age of Social Media by Catherine Turco. The book is based on an ethnography of tech company and focuses on the communication practices within the firm. Turco’s main goal is to understand how social media have shaped the way that people talk or interact within firms. As is my normal practice with book fora, I’ll summarize some major points of the book in the first post. Then, in subsequent posts, I will describe the strengths and weaknesses of the book.

The Conversational Firm is the result of about a year or so of participant observation in a “high tech firm.” The focus of the write up is how the use of internal forms  of communication reshape bureaucratic authority and power. The subtitle is slightly misleading. The focus of the field work is not on social media as an average person understands it. It is not, for example about how employees gossip about work Facebook or Snapchat. Rather, it is about internal “wikis” and bulletin boards. The book is about how open ended and highly egalitarian forms of communication might be changing firms. So the book is filled with discussions of how workers discuss projects, argue about who is in charge, and otherwise negotiate the social world of the firm.

The book’s main theoretical contribution is to argue that these forms of social media are, in fact, redefining authority and order in the firm. The book highlights its case by contrasting it with older theories of bureaucracy that focus on top down hierarchies and clear social divisions between managers and workers. The book is to be commended for taking seriously the view that technology has a real impact on firm organization.

That’s the summary, then will delve into the good and the bad. If you’d like to follow the conversation, please buy a copy of the book. It’s a pleasure to read and will be of interest to organizational studies scholars, ethnographers, and work & occupations people.

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Written by fabiorojas

March 8, 2017 at 12:01 am

the antitrust equilibrium and three pathways to policy change

Antitrust is one of the classic topics in economic sociology. Fligstein’s The Transformation of Corporate Control and Dobbin’s Forging Industrial Policy both dealt with how the rules that govern economic life are created. But with some exceptions, it hasn’t received a lot of attention in the last decade in econ soc.

In fact, antitrust hasn’t been on the public radar that much at all. After the Microsoft case was settled in 2001, antitrust policy just hasn’t thrown up a lot of issues that have gotten wide public attention, beyond maybe griping about airline mergers.

But in the last year or so, it seems like popular interest in antitrust is starting to bubble up again.

Just in the last few months, there have been several widely circulated pieces on antitrust policy. Washington Monthly, the Atlantic, ProPublica (twice), the American Prospect—all these have criticized existing antitrust policy and argued for strengthening it.

This is timely for me, because I’ve also been studying antitrust. As a policy domain that is both heavily technocratic and heavily influenced by economists, it’s a great place to think about the role of economics in public policy.

Yesterday I put a draft paper up on SocArXiv on the changing role of economics in antitrust policy. The 1970s saw a big reversal in antitrust, when we went from a regime that was highly skeptical of mergers and all sorts of restraints on trade to one that saw them as generally efficiency-promoting and beneficial for consumers. At the same time, the influence of economics in antitrust policy increased dramatically.

But while these two development are definitely related—there was a close affinity between the Chicago School and the relaxed antitrust policy of the Reagan administration, for example—there’s no simple relationship here: economists’ influence began to increase at a time when they were more favorable to antitrust intervention, and after the 1980s most economists rejected the strongest Chicago arguments.

I might write about the sociology part of the paper later, but in this post I just want to touch on the question of what this history implies about the present moment and the possibility of change in antitrust policy.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by epopp

January 9, 2017 at 6:51 pm

driverless cars vs. police departments

In my view, driverless cars are revolutionary. At the very least, they will eliminate a major health problem – auto injuries and fatalities. No system will be accident free, but driverless cars will be better at driving that most humans, they don’t get drunk, and they won’t drive recklessly.

There is another social consequence of driverless cars that needs discussion. Driverless cars will seriously disrupt police departments. Why? A lot of police department revenue comes from moving vehicle violations and parking tickets. In a recent news item, one judge admitted that many small town fund their police department entirely through speeding tickets. Even a big city police department enjoys the income from tickets. New York City receives tens of millions in moving violation fines. This income stream will evaporate.

Another way that driverless cars will disrupt police departments is that they will massively reduce police stops. If a driverless car has insurance and registration (which can be transmitted electronically) and drives according to the rules of the road, then police, literally, have no warrant to pull over a car that has not been previously identified as related to a specific crime. Hopefully, this means that police will no longer use moving violations as an excuse to pull over racial minorities.

Even if a fraction of the hype about driverless cars turns out to be true, it would be a massive improvement for humanity. Three cheers for technology.

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Written by fabiorojas

November 3, 2016 at 12:15 am