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family destruction at the border and the big picture

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Quite justifiably, there is outrage over family separation at the US Mexico border. And President Trump deserves scorn for inflicting needless pain on thousands of children. At the same time, I suggest that we all look at the big picture. Family destruction is one part of a much, much larger problem – migration restriction laws.

Migration restrictions prevent honest and hard working people from getting jobs that can radically improve their lives. Border patrols and deportations take peaceful people and toss them back into poor and violent countries, often leaving families and friends behind. Family destruction at the border is simply one of the more cruel and inhumane consequences of laws that are designed merely to eject people of the “wrong” nationality.

This suffering is needless, as migration is never a crime and migrants bring their energy and skills to their host country. We should do what we can, immediately, to reunite these children from their families. It may be calling your representative, or donating to an immigrant support group. Some may even consider non-violent action. Do what you can.

But we should also look at the bigger picture. Americans should make America great again, but not by torturing toddlers and babies, but by allowing people to migrate freely again. We should say to the world that if you want to work hard and play nice, you will always have a place in this country.

What do I want?

Release the children and shut down internment camps for babies.

Abolish ICE.

Fire the Border Patrol.

Open the borders.

Let freedom ring.

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Written by fabiorojas

June 20, 2018 at 3:25 am

Posted in uncategorized

open borders and broken families

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We are now in a crisis. The media has been reporting that thousands of children have been forcibly separated from their families by immigration authorities. Like most of you, I believe this is an atrocity and all children should be immediately reunited with their families.

At the same time, I want readers to consider the broader picture. Some readers may think that Trump is a uniquely horrible leader who condones and promotes the removal of children from their families. There may be some truth to that, but the bigger truth is that the United States has been breaking up and deporting families for decades.

The truth is that deportations and breaking up of families occurred under both Democratic and Republican administrations. The Trump administration is merely using the tools built by the Clinton, Bush II and, especially, the Obama administrations. Thus, we shouldn’t reserve our anger for Trump, but think about why this would be wrong no matter who was in the White House.

I’d also suggest that we think about open borders. If we truly cared about families and keeping them together, we would not create regulations that required people to be separated from their families if they want to find a job in the US. We would let people move freely between nations. But as long as we allow this byzantine and brutal immigration system to exist, we will break up families and separate children.

So give it some thought. If you want families to stay together, think about open borders.

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Written by fabiorojas

June 18, 2018 at 1:17 pm

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agreement and disagreement with victor ray about conservatives in academia

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Recently, my friend and colleague Victor Ray published a very interesting essay in Inside Higher Education. In it, he makes three claims about conservatives in academia:

  1. Demands for intellectual diversity are not made in good faith.
  2. Conservatives “dominate” higher education.
  3. There is no diversity within conservative thinking.

I agree with #1 but I think #2 and #3 are simply incorrect. Let’s start with agreement: There are exceptions, of course, but many people who claim to represent conservative view points are not really interested in genuine engagement. Probably the most obvious case are the types of people who invite Milo Yiannopolous, Ann Coulter and other conservative “performance artists” who come to college campuses. They’re shock jocks, not real intellectuals.

But on the other points, Victor is not quite right. To be fair to Victor, let me quote him directly: “The second false premise that promoters of so-called diversity of thought rely upon is that conservative ideas are marginalized in higher education when, in fact, they are ubiquitous.”

It depends on what you mean by “marginalized,” but here are some relevant facts:

  • Most research on professor politics shows that they are overwhelmingly registered Democrats and/or liberal. In some disciplines, like sociology, people on the right constitute about 10% (!) of the population. Interested readers can consult Neil Gross’ book, which remains the standard treatment of this topic. There’s even a book that discusses the psychological lives of conservative professors because they are the minority in their workplace (“Passing on the Right“).
  • If you read through the major journals in the social science in the humanities, you don’t see a lot of conservative themed articles. Go ahead, show me some.
  • A standard finding in political science is that college educated in America people are *more* liberal and democrat than republican. Here’s a recent summary by Pew on the topic.
  • I suggest that readers go the course catalog of their own institution and find courses with an obvious conservative leaning. A seminar on F.A. Hayek, or maybe Burke? There are some, of course, but unless you teach at a place like Hillsdale, it’s probably uncommon.

I also disagree with Victor’s claim that there is no variation among conservatives. Once again, here is Victor: “A third premise that should be strongly questioned is the very idea that conservative thought is diverse. What is diverse about a body of thought reliably in support of a reactionary status quo?”

I am not conservative, so I am probably not the best person to defend their point of view, but there is definitely a wide range of thought. And some of it might even be seen as liberatory. For starters, there is the split between social conservatives and libertarians, who often hold conflicting points of view. It is such a stark split that it inspired calls for “fusionism” in earlier eras. Among intellectual conservatives, you have Straussians, nationalist conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and Burkean conservatives. Treating about 40% of the population as a Borg like entity is just as bad as treating everybody from one ethnic group as having the same beliefs.

Let me end on a point of agreement with Victor. In his essay, he says that conservative ideas are “hegemonic.” I think that is an over statement, but there is an important truth in it – the conservative party (the Republicans in 2018) are dominant in a way they haven’t been in about a century. Maybe not in academia, but definitely in the American state.

The GOP holds the White House, the state houses, and the US Congress. There political ascendancy is due to multiple factors, but one is  definitely culture. The GOP, and the Democrats to a lesser extent, offer ideas that people want to hear. They want big prisons, and they want deportations, and they want a war on terror, and they want tariffs and trade wars. These ideas need to be resisted and refuted.

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Written by fabiorojas

June 14, 2018 at 4:35 am

Posted in uncategorized

if something, like, totally great happened, would sociology cover it?

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Sociology is often seen, with some justification, as the discipline of muckrakers. If there’s racism or sexism out there, you bet sociologists will be on top of it. This has led people, including myself, to criticize the discipline for negativity bias. In a previous post, I even used the term “museum of dysfunction” to gently poke at our collective tendency to focus on the negative. Like most sociologists, including myself, would agree that social status is ever present in social life and it has bad effects, but can that insight be pushed too far?

To answer that question, I asked, how would the discipline of sociology respond to genuinely positive developments in American society? For example, how have sociologists responded to these genuinely positive developments in society?

povrate

400px-United_States_homicide_victimization_rates_by_race_1980_2008.svg

life_expectancy_2009

  • Life expectancy has increased over time. Source: Centers for Disease Control.
  • The abolition of legalized discrimination against women and Blacks.
  • The de-stigmatization and legalization of same-sex relationships.

You would think every introduction to sociology class would begin with “Hi, everyone, this is soc 101, the scientific study of society. In this class, I’ll tell you about how American society is moving in some great directions as well  as some lingering problems.” You’d also think our journals would have articles like “Top 5 Ways Life Expectancy Increased in America” or “Fun fact: Everyone used to get murdered all over the place.” But somehow, I don’t think this is an accurate depiction of our discipline.

Of course, I’m being flippant. There are pockets of sociology that do focus on improvements in population averages rather than inequality studies. For example, there are some sociologists who focus on the origins of the industrial revolution, like Jack Goldstone. Within social movement research, there are actually a fair number of people who study who movements that generate positive outcomes, like the Civil Rights movement.

If sociology is truly a broad social science, and not just the study “social problems,” then we might encourage more research into the undeniably positive improvements in human well being.

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Written by fabiorojas

June 12, 2018 at 4:00 am

Posted in uncategorized

book cover exploration #2: party in the street

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Party cover

In this installment of book cover exploration, I wanted to explain the background behind this image. Like I did for “From Black Power,” I spent a fair amount of time searching for the right image. I looked at quite a few artists who painted pictures of protest. Interestingly, few people did antiwar related art. Then, I went to Getty Images and lo and behold, the perfect image appeared.

This was taken by William B. Plowman, a professional photographer. The image is from July 28, 2004 at the Democratic National Convention. I think it is perfect in that it is an “everyday” photo and it combines the theme of antiwar activism and the Democratic party.

obama photo

The book has many incredible images. This one is a picture of Obama giving “the speech” in 2002 that cemented his reputation as an opponent of the Iraq War.  We were lucky to track down people who were present at the speech. Sociologically, we find this image gripping because Obama is a connection between the world of activists and the world of partisan politics.

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Written by fabiorojas

June 7, 2018 at 4:28 am

how many people do you need to succeed in academia? i count 21 people.

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How many people, exactly, do you need to succeed in academia? By success, I simply mean “get tenure at a degree granting program in your field.” Here’s how I count it, pre-tenure vote:

  1. Three letter writers for grad school.
  2. Probably two or three people on a grad school admission committee.
  3. Three dissertation committee members, who usually write job market letters.
  4. Optional: If your committee is dysfunctional, you may need to recruit a couple more people for the job market.
  5. Three people on a job hiring committee.
  6. Three peer reviewers at a decent journal.
  7. The editor(s) of the peer review journal.

That makes about 21 people. If you are at a competitive R1 you might need multiple publications, so add about 3-4 more people. Let’s call it 25 people.

Now, what about all those tenure committees and deans and stuff? If you get through steps 1 to 7, tenure is usually straightforward process. People write letters for tenure candidates with good CVs and avoid them for bad CVs. Deans only get involved when something goes bad (e.g. personality conflicts, border line cases, etc.) But even at that level, decisions at all but the most elite schools most often reflect the decisions of journal editors. Academia isn’t an easy profession, but when you lay it out in steps, it’s way more understandable.

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Written by fabiorojas

June 6, 2018 at 6:13 pm

Posted in uncategorized

of colonialism and socialism

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If you were to look back at the last few centuries of global history and ask what ideas wreaked the most havoc on humanity, I’d say that two come to mind. The first is colonialism, which costs the lives of millions upon millions of people. It might be through violent conquest, or war, or exposure to communicable disease, or slavery, or one of many other forms of brutality. Second, there is communism. Between the bloody wars of Eastern Europe, the Cambodian holocaust, or all the people served up to Mao’s great leaps forward, communist nations leave a deep record of violence.

This got me thinking about the intellectual parallels between these two ideologies. One parallel is that defenders of each ideology start off with a kernel of truth. The communist is rightly concerned about poverty, corruption, and inequality. The colonialist correctly points out that their culture, or nation, may have valuable resources and technology, which other people might benefit from. The profound mistake of each ideology is to then use these kernels of truth as an excuse for dehumanizing other people and subjecting them to violence.

But how are people dehumanized? For the socialist, the individual becomes the subject of a grand experiment where people must put their labor at the service of grand projects. The colonialists ask the same thing – each person must subsume themselves to the empire, or the race. A cultural, rather than economic project. We still see both projects at play. Some socialist nations still carry on, like in North Korea. We can also see impulses of empire and colonialism, as when the Russian state exerts power on its neighbors, or American “neo-cons” insist that war and conquest are the tools for engaging the world.

What I think marks the line between liberalism, in its many forms, and its competitors is seeing that race, colony, and state should not completely envelop humanity. Whatever ills there are in the world are not to be solved in such a fashion. Instead, what makes modern culture so valuable and important is that it realizes that problems can be tackled, and worked on, without the resort to these extreme methods.

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The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
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Written by fabiorojas

June 5, 2018 at 4:13 am