orgtheory.net

laid to rest (2020 quarantine edition)

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The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
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Written by fabiorojas

August 23, 2020 at 5:05 pm

Posted in uncategorized

the political economy of “nice white parents” – part 1, schools are complex organizations

The New York Times has a new podcast series called “Nice White Parents.” The story is reported by Chana Joffe-Walt and it’s about the her child’s school in Brooklyn. The focus of the series is the fact that the school, and many others in New York, has remained segregated throughout most of its history.

The main characters in the story are “nice white parents,” non-white parents, and various school officials in New York City. Her main thesis is that “nice white parents” (NWPs) constantly make demands on the school, ask for special privileges and often bail on schools when it comes time to actual enroll in the school. The result is a school that remains segregated. The podcast I think will be very interesting to sociologists of education, organizational sociologists, and political sociologists. There’s even a cameo by sociologist Eve Ewing, who has written a book on the Chicago public schools, and was a consultant for the series.

I’ll write a few posts about the series. This first one will be how the podcast illustrates something that organizational sociologists have always appreciated about schools, but that non-specialists overlook. Schools have murky goals and multiple sites of decision. The average person thinks of schools in Weberian terms – their is a goal (teaching), a hierarchy, and an trained experts (teachers) whose job it is to carry out instruction. While this is true on paper, the reality is much more complex.

For example, Joffe-Walt describes two groups of parents who participate in the school in extremely different ways. A group of NWPs push for dual language instruction in French and even go to the effort to create a private foundation that will raise earmarked money for the project. The PTA, in contrast, collects funds through “mom and pop” activities like bake sales and raffles. I’ll call these people the “Local Parents,” who are mainly Black, Latino, and Middle Eastern, as reported by Joffe-Walt.

The reporting focuses mainly on cultural differences, There is clearly discomfort by the local parents when they are asked to participated in a fundraising activity associated with the French embassy in Washington. The local parents often feel that the school is being co-opted.

But at other points, Joffe-Walt hits on a deeper point that I want to elaborate on: NWPs and Local Parents simply want different things out of schools. As the narrator points out, earning a high school degree and obtaining basic skills is an extremely valuable thing that a school can offer. It’s a stepping stone to college and better jobs. In contrast, the children of NWPs seem to want a luxury good. Their kids will get the basics not matter what. If their kids want college, they’ll get it regardless of what their local school does For them. The issue is that the school doesn’t offer luxury goods, like dual language instruction. And yes, in comparison with basic literacy and math skills, having a class in French is a luxury.

In my reading of the story, a big issue is that the school has two constituencies who simply need different things and they are allowed to assert influence, which results in the somewhat chaotic series of changes at the school. Some want luxury education and while others want the basics. When she looks at the historical record, she finds NWPs who demanded desegregated schools and bailed on them. They framed things in terms of the benefits of a diverse, to use a modern term, school. In contrast, Local Parents wanted safe and clean schools that were nearby and that offered basic education. Desegregation was not a luxury item for them, it was just about obtaining basic public services.

Getting back to organizational sociology, Joffe-Walt has stumbled upon is the “garbage can” model of organization. According to that theory, there are some organizations that characterized by vague goals (“making citizens”), vague technologies and decentralized decision making. Public schools, like the one in Nice White Parents, fits that description perfectly. You have a situation where multiple groups (the school board, the principal, NWPs, Local Parents) use the school to all pursue their own goals. What makes things worse is that some actors have very little investment in schools, so it is easy for them to make demands and then not follow through. NWPs have the money for private schools, Locals don’t.

I’ll conclude with a comment about institutional design. If a key issue is that NWPs make these demands on schools, why not simply prohibit them from doing so? Or have a rule that if you make a demand on a school, you must have enrolled kids or commit to enroll them? Why not work harder to de-emphasize the chaotic “garbage can” aspect of public schools? In the podcast series, Joffe-Walt does talk about the Success Academies, a network of charter schools that does exactly that. These school basically use a one size fits all model and they really don’t want input from outsiders. But this is probably a non-starter for most parents who don’t want a rigid approach to school, they *want* a messy system with PTAs, school boards, and private foundations involved. The deepest lesson is that public schools deliver what their structure allows: a system where a concern with teaching basic skills is bundled with external interventions.

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The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

August 20, 2020 at 5:40 pm

Posted in uncategorized

open borders: a response to jake syma about refugees and self-selection effects

Last week, we had an ASA session on open borders. Tanya Golash-Boza, David Fitzgerald, and my self gave short talks on open borders. Overall, I am very happy with what happened. Not only did all panelists deliver a set of interesting comments, but about 30 in total. Not bad for a session with minimal advertising on a controversial topic. If someone out there wants to help with audio processing to make a nice podcast, please reach out. My zoom recorded it.

Here, I want to discuss an issue about open borders that Jake Syma brought up on Facebook. When I talk about open borders, I often discuss self-selection of immigrants. People often wonder if immigrants will bring crime or become dependent on public services. I say that this is counter-intuitive because of self-selection. Immigrants are not a random sample of people from the home country. Rather, immigrants tend to b above average because migration often requires that you save money, plan ahead, and learn a new language and culture.

When I was speaking, I casually said that maybe refugees are an exception. On Facebook, Jake then asked why I thought that. This post is a response to Jake’s query. My mental model of refugees is that a war or other forms of mass violence occur and that entire populations move. In this model of refugee migration, everyone is moved out. So there is no self selection for better people. But this might not be true. It probably is not the case that wars randomly move people. For example, perhaps some people are part of the conflict and they stay home in order to fight and settle grievances. Another issue is that moving is costly no matter the reason. So refugee populations may be more middle or upper class than the population average. The public image of Syrian Civil War refugees was that may were middle class. I would be very interested in knowing if that impression is true.

The two selection processes that I mentioned (people who fight stay home/wealthier and more educated people are more likely to move) produce migrant populations that will likely be less likely to be incarcerated or rely on public services. However, war and internal conflict has complex effects on society and it may be the case that selection effects produce populations that have high incarceration rates and might be less well off economically.

Still, this would not dampen my enthusiasm for open borders. Refugee crises are the exception, not the norm, in immigration. Most immigration brings people who seek work and opportunity. Even in the case of refugee migration, I would be hesitant to stop their movement. As I note above, there are reasons to think refugee populations are above average due to selection effects. But even if that weren’t the case, the benefits to be gained (e.g., not dying) really outweigh the likely modest strain on public services.

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The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

August 17, 2020 at 4:52 pm

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teaching resources on employee ownership – guest post by adria scharf

For those of you who are constructing courses or gathering materials for students or practitioners, please have a look at Adria Scharf’s guest post about a new online resource.  Adria Scharf  is the director of the Curriculum Library for Employee Ownership at Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations.

“Teaching Resources on Employee Ownership

The Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations houses a free online library of teaching resources about employee ownership with more than 600 teaching materials and links, including case studies, videos, policy reports, syllabi, and articles. Find the Curriculum Library for Employee Ownership (CLEO) site here: http://cleo.rutgers.edu.

 

RutgersCLEOScreen Shot 2020-08-07 at 5.33.04 PM

The library includes about 75 resources–such as journal articles, films, case studies, and policy reports–about worker cooperatives. It provides 90 links to company case studies–most of which were written for business school classrooms;  50 resources on “capitalism,” and more.

The site is designed to give instructors in business schools, sociology, labor studies, and other fields resources to teach about, and research, employee ownership. It conceives of employee ownership to include a wide range of organizational forms ranging from truly democratic worker cooperatives to more traditional public and private companies that share stock broadly with their employees.

From the CLEO home page, you can search by key word, title, or author name. Click on “Advanced Search” to filter your searches by multiple criteria. At the bottom of the home page, you can browse the database by search categories including Format, Discipline, Subject, Industry, World Region or Country, Company Name, and/or Publication Date.

RutgersCLEOsamplesearchScreen Shot 2020-08-07 at 5.34.53 PM

Also on the home page, click on “CLEO Collections” to find free downloadable case studies, recent videos and new policy reports.”

RutgersCLEOcollectionsScreen Shot 2020-08-07 at 5.36.17 PM

Written by katherinechen

August 10, 2020 at 3:19 pm

the sociology of worker ownership – guest post by adria scharf

In this guest post, Adria Scharf, director of the Curriculum Library for Employee Ownership, invites you to watch a video workshop that can help inform research, course syllabi, reading lists, and work with practitioners.  Read on for more info, including a special Q&A session at the 2020 ASA meeting.

“The Sociology of Worker Ownership

“Worker ownership” offers both an alternative to the dominant capitalist model of the employment relationship and a means to broaden the ownership of wealth in society.

In this video workshop, “The Sociology of Worker Ownership: New Data Sets and Research Approaches,” leading researchers introduce datasets and research approaches to study worker ownership and its effects:

The video opens with comments from Joyce Rothschild and Joseph Blasi, and is moderated by Adria Scharf.  Janet Boguslaw, Laura Hanson Schlachter, Nancy Weifek, and Joseph Blasi present data sets and research. Sarah Reibstein also contributed.

Alternatively, you can view the video (automatic cc: available) here: https://cleo.rutgers.edu/articles/the-sociology-of-worker-ownership-new-data-sets-and-research-approaches/

This Research & Policy Workshop was developed for the 2020 Annual Meeting of the ASA.  A live Q&A with the presenters will take place at the 2020 ASA virtual annual meeting on Tues., August 11th at 5:30 EDT.

Find a list of several datasets, with information on how to access them, here:

https://cleo.rutgers.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Datasets-on-Employee-Ownership-2.pdf

 

Written by katherinechen

August 4, 2020 at 6:46 pm

in memory of primo pisares

My father in law, Primo Pisares of Salinas, California, passed away at the age of 84. Here is his obituary at the Struve and La Porte Memorial Chapel. Thank you.

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The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
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Written by fabiorojas

July 24, 2020 at 5:58 pm

Posted in uncategorized

open borders talk on youtube + blogcation

Hi, everyone:

I will be taking a break from public writing for a few weeks. In the meanwhile, feel free to watch the recent panel with Ilya Somin and Daniel Morales on the legal foundations of open borders.

Sincerely,

Fabio

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The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

July 21, 2020 at 3:16 pm

Posted in uncategorized

get more jensen

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Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
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Written by fabiorojas

July 19, 2020 at 6:56 pm

Posted in uncategorized

defense for the “open” position during covid

On Twitter, my good friend Mike Bader asked me if I still believed that “opening” is a good thing. My answer is yes. Roughly speaking, I believe that most institutions should try to resume normal operations and we should end most versions of the lock down.

In this post, I will explain my position in some detail. Here is the argument in brief, then I will explain the different parts below.

  1. Public policy should usually be focused on understanding trade offs and assessing risk. Totally eliminating a problem is often not technically viable or it has very large costs. Public policy should explore low cost partial solutions rather than seek perfect solutions.
  2. In understanding COVID risk, I focus less on case numbers, because they are ambiguous and there is a wide variation in terms of the impact on individual lives. Instead, I focus on mortality.
  3. We will likely have multiple waves of COVID if it is similar to other epidemics in US and world history.
  4. COVID is extremely dangerous for elderly people, but not for most other people. Deaths seem to be disproportionately concentrated in nursing homes.
  5. There are reasonable way to drastically reduce COVID transmission that do not entail more severe lockdown measures: remove people from nursing homes; wearing masks; avoid large gatherings.
  6. The level of COVID mortality is in the range of previous epidemics (except Spanish flu, which was way higher) and similar in magnitude to other risks that we already live with.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by fabiorojas

July 16, 2020 at 12:52 am

Posted in uncategorized

medieval jolene

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Written by fabiorojas

July 12, 2020 at 4:01 pm

Posted in uncategorized

open borders: a free webinar with daniel morales and ilya somin on july 16th, 1pm est

On July 16th, at 1pm, we will have a 1 hour discussion/Q&A with legal eagles Daniel Moral and Ilya Morales. The topic will be the legal theory for open borders. Participants will have the chance to ask their own questions. It is free and all you have to do is sign up here.

Be there or be square!!!

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50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
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The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

July 8, 2020 at 6:18 pm

Posted in uncategorized

contexts and the police insurance bill

A general view of an NYPD SUV on patrol in the Harlem section of New York, NY

The New York Post reported today that the NY state assembly is considering a bill to require officers to buy their own insurance to cover misconduct claims:

Biaggi’s proposal would require each officer to obtain individual liability insurance. The city or other local governments would still be required to cover the basic insurance policy to cover tort litigation costs.

But Biaggi said her bill would better hold officers accountable by requiring them to pay any increase in premiums related to payouts for wrongdoing.

“Officers who have misconduct claims brought against them may see their premium go up and will be required to pay those costs. The purpose of this bill is to establish a financial disincentive for police misconduct and create accountability for abhorrent behavior,” she said.

Between July 2017 and June 2018, New York City paid out $230 million in 6,472 cases for alleged misconduct or alleged wrongdoing by officers, according to a report released by city Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office.

Wow.

Contexts has a policy brief by Rarkimm Fields on exactly this policy. Read it here. The main issue is that many reforms that aim to reduce police misconduct don’t work terribly well. So making officers invest in insurance is a way to restructure incentives in a more positive way. I am very pleased that Contexts was one voice that promoted this reform. Check it out.

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Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

July 7, 2020 at 4:34 pm

Posted in uncategorized

i loves you porgy (botti edition, indiana special)

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Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

July 5, 2020 at 12:55 am

Posted in uncategorized

book spotlight: american bonds – how credit markets shaped a nation by sarah l. quinn

Schumpeter, in an essay on fiscal sociology, once said that if you want to know what a society really values, look it spends in the budget and who it taxes. Sarah Quinn would add, “sure, but you have to pay for it somehow.” American Bonds is a very interesting historical sociology of how the American state used credit markets to manage economic and political problems. The book examines multiple cases of how credit markets were made, and unmade, in the 19th and 20th centuries. If the book has a core argument, it might be that where ever you see political development, credit markets are not far behind.

The book itself is fiscal sociology. It examines things like the history of credit expansion after the 1873 crash, mortgage bundling before the Great Depression, and the rise of securitization in the late 20th and early 21st century. The lesson is an important one: credit markets are a tool for state making, in good and bad ways. When you read 19th American history, you see this out of the corner of your eye – all that home building was financed by someone. Of course, in the Great Depression, credit markets take center stage, and they also did in the Great Recession of 2007. In this way, Quinn’s book is an important to economic and political sociology. You can’t understand American political development unless you understand how credit is made and distributed.

I am not an economic historian, so I can’t assess whether Quinn reads the evidence right or wrong on a specific historical episode. Instead, I’d like conclude by stepping back and thinking about the sorts of things she describes from a political economy perspective and tease out some normative points. Theoretically, she relies on a Polanyi style frame. Markets uncontaminated by politics are not reasonable, instead the history of markets is the history of politics. This leads her in the concluding chapter to side step the issue that state actors may have bad effects. She is odd since earlier chapters describe how state managed lenders enforced racial inequality and may have laid the groundwork for the Great Recession. My intuition is that she doesn’t want to lay the blame on state institutions because she doesn’t to align her self with laissez-faire defenders, which she critiques at various points in the book.

Instead, I would probably borrow a few ideas from outside economic sociology to think about bad faith state actors. First, I’d appeal to the Madisonian idea that states are just normally populated by bad actors, like lenders with anti-Black prejudice. That’s why we need checks and balances in a constitutional framework. Similarly, I think economic sociologists might think what checks and balances exist to counter credit markets and state run agencies. Second, if the issue is that cheapening credit leads to over investment and busts, then might there be a technocratic solution, in the same way the Fed tries to hit certain inflation targets or to be “neutral” in terms of the money supply? It’s an interesting thing to consider.

So overall, very good book and strongly recommended for anyone interested in economic sociology.

++++++++
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The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

July 3, 2020 at 12:19 am

Posted in uncategorized

protest, covid and the social construction of risk

The purpose of this post is to discuss how Americans assess risk in light of COVID. In the last month or so, we’ve seen Americans break lock down and social distancing for many reasons. Most notably, we saw thousands of people across the nation appear for political demonstrations. At first, there were pro- and anti-lockdown protests. Later, we saw anti-racism protests in response to the murder of George Floyd. Other people broke lock down for religious reasons, jobs, and entertainment, like going to the beach.

The purpose in drawing attention to these mass gatherings is not to say that they are right or wrong, but to use them as an example of revealed preference. Given what we know about COVID, a lot of people seem comfortable in accepting a slightly higher mortality risk so they can mobilize for social change, engage in religion, find jobs, and enjoy life. This is not unexpected as people accept risk for many other activities such as driving a car (40k deaths in 2017), hospital acquired infections (99k deaths in 2013), and narcotics and alcohol consumption (67k deaths in 2018). In other words, COVID-2019 is will claim 200,000 lives in 2020, which two to five times the rate of some risks that people already accept. It should not be surprising that people are breaking lock downs for COVID.

In normative terms, I am not dismayed by this, given that COVID fatalities are disproportionately concentrated among the elderly and those in nursing homes. Thus, the risk to non-elderly, non-immune compromised people is quite low and comparable to other mortality causes that we don’t think about much. So, it doesn’t seem horrible if people start resuming parts of their lives. Perhaps the main policy directive should be to erect a barrier between the elderly and non-elderly, rather than engage in society wide lock down.

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The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

July 1, 2020 at 2:38 pm

Posted in uncategorized

academic free speech: blm dissent edition

At Inside Higher Education, Jonathan Zimmerman has a great essay on why professors should support other professors who voice unpopular views. He focuses on the case of Harald Uhlig, the Chicago economics professor who, quite simply, thinks Black Lives Matter is lame. In summary, Uhlig thinks BLM has completely unrealistic goals, he implies that BLM protesters are childish, and he compared them to flat earthers. Soon thereafter, there were calls by many prominent economists to have him removed from his position as the editor of the Journal of Political Economy and some alumni accused him of racist actions in the class room.

Zimmerman thinks people should lay off:

What I cannot accept is the way they called for his head, which is different from criticizing his comments. The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago cut ties with Uhlig, who had been a consultant in its research department. And economists around the country demanded that he step down as editor of his journal, arguing that his tweets had made him morally unfit at such a charged political moment.

Zimmerman then goes through the long, and tragic history, of people trying get professors fired for a wide range of actions, such as criticizing America’s role in World War I and arguing that the Cold War had gone too far. He concludes on a powerful note:

I say that as an unabashed ally and supporter of BLM, which has done more than any other organization to expose and challenge racism in policing. But it doesn’t need to rest of us to police the university on its behalf. That patronizes the movement, all in the guise of protecting it.

So if somebody else gets hit for criticizing Black Lives Matter, stand by them. It is not a time to lecture them about what you think they did wrong. They need your support, not your moralizing and sanctimoniousness. And we’re all in this together.

Well said.

++++++++
50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
Intro to sociology for just $1 per chapter – INSANE BARGAIN!!!!!
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The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

June 29, 2020 at 12:46 am

Posted in uncategorized

patrice roushen is one totally amazing piano player

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50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
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The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

June 28, 2020 at 12:51 am

Posted in uncategorized

will the real intersectionality theory please stand up?

I thought that I was done discussing the debate on intersectionality theory between Jacob Levy, Phil Magness and myself. Well, 200 Proof Liberals (a new successor blog to Bleeding Heart Libertarians) has a post by Jess Flanigan. She argues that there are multiple version of intersectionality theory and that it’s easy for libertarians to accept the mellow version, which they never opposed anyway, but there’s a serious issue with the more hard core version:

Rojas’s point is that it’s a mistake to equivocate between these two conceptions of intersectionality. If the theory (T) refers to the first definition (T1), then it doesn’t seem like classical liberals should oppose it, but it’s also not clear how many classical liberals do oppose it. If it’s the second definition (T2), then they should clearly oppose it because T2 is directly opposed to classical liberalism. Levy doesn’t make the case that T2 is consistent with classical liberalism.

So what are the different versions of the theory that are at issue? Let’s simplify:

  1. Basic: In this version, the only point is that people are unequal in multiple ways and these hierarchies intersect in important ways.
  2. Intermediate: The intermediate version of the theory focuses on the distinctive aspects of intersecting hierarchies but does not anchor them in larger normative or empirical claims. In my original post at the Cato Unbound web site, I argued that standpoint epistemology could be one example.
  3. Hard Core: Intersectionality theory is really a whole sale critique of the modern liberal capitalist social order. Damaging inequalities are structural, not epiphenomenon. The reason we have gender inequality is wrapped up with the reasons we have poverty, inequality, and racism. You have one, you have them all.

Basically, Levy asserts that any rational person would want intersectionality #1. Magness, Flanigan, and myself respond by saying that nobody opposed #1 to start with. Magness deepens the point by documenting how racial domination, such as slavery and apartheid were well discussed and rejected by classical liberals and libertarians since the 19th century. My essay was a defense of the view that pro-market liberals could have a constructive dialogue around #2. However, most of the dedicated practitioners of intersectionality theory probably adhere to #3, which makes a dialogue incredibly hard. If you buy #3, then a classical liberal who even considers intersectionality theory is probably a walking contradiction. If Levy retreats from #1, then the next thing that would need to happen is for a social theorist/normative political theorist to reconstruct intersectionality theory on different grounds so that it would be compatible with classical liberalism.

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Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
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Written by fabiorojas

June 26, 2020 at 7:46 pm

Posted in uncategorized

discussion of research on violent protest

Word on the Street, the blog of the Urban Violence Network, has a short piece by me on the research linking violence to negative outcomes. A key clip:

In the current context, these findings have sparked much online debate, including critiques of Wasow’s work and a sustained rebuttal by the author of claims that his research “allows people to blame ‘inner-city rioters’ and ignore other causes.” But the overall message of research on violence during protests is coming into focus. Violence, in the form of protests or riots, may receive attention and some policy response, but it comes at great cost. In the case of Black social movements, violent protest has been associated with more repressive administrations and sustained damage to Black communities. More generally, violence allows counter-movement actors (e.g. far right activists) to depict African American activists (e.g. of Black Lives Matter) as unreasonable and not worthy of support. In short: violence does not work for social movements.

Check it out.

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June 25, 2020 at 3:29 pm

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santa cruzin’

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The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
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Written by fabiorojas

June 21, 2020 at 12:11 am

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the covid recession kills a great bookstore: university press books in berkeley

One of the great pleasures of the 2010s was the discovery that the independent bookstore business was still viable, if challenging. Sadly, COVID not only wrecks lives, but it is also destroys businesses. University Press Books, in business for over 40 years, finally gave in as COVID removed all the foot traffic, which was vital to a small business located across the street from the UC Berkeley campus. The $10k/month rent was simply too much of an obstacle during normal times, impossible during a recession.

Personal memory: One of the reasons I loved Berkeley as a city was its abundance of actual physical places for culture – obscure music spaces, cool record stores, and, of course, Berkeley’s truly majestic bookstores. On this blog, I reported on the closing of Cody’s Books a while back and Moe’s used book store is so epic that it even garnered it’s own issue of the famed Cometbus zine. UPB was relatively small in square footage but it maximized it’s rarefied air – it stocked mainly super hip, super cool university press monographs and it was next to a classical music cafe. When I was first accepted to Chicago’s PhD program in sociology, I went to the sociology section, which was on a small mezzanine overlooking the rest of the shop, and bought a copy of Coleman’s Foundations of Social Theory. I still have that memory and it’s a good one.

Slowly, the eco-system of cultural businesses in Berkeley is eroding. The book stores have faded – Cody’s, Black Oaks, UPB – and the music shops have also shut. But hope lasts, UPB has said that they plan to reopen somewhere in the East Bay in a year and will continue online. No replacement for being at the hub, but I do wish them the best and I hope to purchase more sociology texts at their future location.

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Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
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June 18, 2020 at 1:57 pm

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intersectionality and jacob levy at the cato institute: a final comment

The Cato Unbound forum on intersectionality theory has now concluded. The first essay is by Jacob Levy, who argues that classical liberals should integrate intersectionality theory into their thinking. The responses are by Phil Magness and my self. I am semi-skeptical and Phil is 100% skeptical.

I won’t restate the arguments, as you can read the original essays yourself. But I think the issue that there are two versions of intersectionality theory: an empirical theory of inequality and a normative political theory. My criticism is that classical liberalism, understood as a belief in limited government, free markets as the primary form of production, and the protection of social and civil liberties, should really be concerned with intersectionality’s empirical claims but should reject it’s anti-market orientation. Phil thinks that the empirical claims are unimpressive and that Jacob overlooks classical liberalism’s long history of rejecting racism and opposing racially motivated regulations. What really concerns Phil and myself is that classical liberals really believe that free trade is generally a good thing, while most intersectionality theorists see free trade and the private enterprise system as one of the reasons we have multiple interlocking forms of repression.

In his final rejoinder, Jacob approved of parts of my essay, which sees links between liberal thought and intersectionality, but labeled my criticisms as part of an undesirable knee jerk reaction. Here’s may take. There are now multiple intersectionality theories. Sure, there are probably many social scientists who are happy to accept the hypothesis that people are “multiply marginalized” and some grumpy libertarians should mellow out and accept that. Jacob is definitely right on that point and accepting a “basic” intersectionality will help classical liberals understand illiberal social practices better. However, there’s a lot more to intersectionality theory than the “basic model,” including a tight alliance with Marxist theory and a deep suspicion of markets. At the end of the day, this more expansive, and very popular, version of intersectionality theory is simply incompatible with a normative framework built on a presumption that markets and trade are the best way to organize an economy.

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June 16, 2020 at 4:43 pm

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meditations on integration

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June 14, 2020 at 12:32 am

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a virginia school approach to racial discrmination

This past March, Public Choice published an article I found to be very interesting. It is called “The anti-discrminatory tradition in Virginia School public choice theory” by Phil Magness. I found this article interesting for two reasons. First, I’ve read a fair amount of public choice and, honestly, I had no idea that racial discrimination was a topic they dealt with in detail. Second, after the really misleading work by Nancy McLean on Buchanan, I wanted to read something written that is more level headed and, to be blunt, truthful.

So what is the article about? Magness examines the published and unpublished writings of scholars associated with the “Virginia School” of public choice theory, which focuses on how incentives affect state actors, the theory of rules and and constitutions, and issues like regulatory capture. He focuses on scholars who visited or were affiliated with the organizational home of public choice theory, the Thomas Jefferson Center at the University of Virginia. History has overlooked some figures, like WH Hutt, who wrote entire books about race, such as The Economics of the Colour Bar, and the African American economist Abraham L. Harris. Second, Magness excavates a theory of racial discrimination from the speeches and unpublished writings of these scholars.

It’s a very strong article that manages to be history of economic thought and theory building at the same time. In Magness’ view, the “Virginia” approach to racial discrimination has four big take home points:

  1. Racism leads to regulatory capture: The dominant racial group in society may take control of government regulatory agencies and use their power to harass others.
  2. Racial discrimination makes markets less efficient: Employers who discriminate produce things at higher cost. The converse argument is that these same employers work at a competitive disadvantage.
  3. Racial discrimination is a constitutional problem: A violent majority, or an empowered minority, can use the democratic process to pass racist laws and regulations.
  4. Racial discrimination is a “historical problem:” Oppressive institutions have negative externalities and massive costs. Slavery, for example, required massive enforcement – a diversion of resources – and thus impoverished everyone.

It’s a very interesting perspective that compliments current theorizing on race in sociology. Many sociologists are now focusing on the interactional aspects of race (e.g., Emirbayer/Desmon on race as interactional order, Ray on race a membership criterion) or how racist attitudes/ideologies yield racist policies. This “Virginia” school approach to race adds a political economy perspective that most sociologists of race may not be aware of. Check it out – a fascinating read in intellectual history and an enriching discussion of how discrimination can screw up states and markets alite.

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June 10, 2020 at 2:30 pm

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orgtheory meets black lives matter

Its been a while since I’ve jumped on this platform (apologies to Fabio for jumping in on “your” stream).  The events of the day are calling me out of blogging retirement because it turns out the most important policy response to the death of George Floyd has to do with OrgTheory: Defunding the Police.  The idea here is basically to do a root reorganization of the concept of policing by breaking it into several constituent elements are creating new organizations that are better aligned with specific missions.  Core competence comes to the rescue.

There also is a minor subplot unfolding that is miles and miles less important, but one I happen to be more connected to which is what seems to be the dramatic potential downfall of CrossFit.   This weekend, CrossFit’s founder—Greg Glassman—unleashed a series of very questionable communications that conflated the twinned crises of Covid-19 and #BLM into a massive fireball; the kind of fireball one sees when a platform falls from the stratosphere straight into the ground.

I wonder if other orgTheorists out there have been writing about either of these topics?  In particular, I’ve been teaching for a few years now in the area of public policy and my research has of course touched on social movements.  I think this is the first time–correct me if I’m wrong–where those two things have really converged.  Has there ever been a real, in the streets, social movement which demanded an organizational response of this kind?  If so, I’d love to read up on it more.  I’d be grateful for pointers towards any serious thinking on topics and I’ll post my own thoughts in due course.

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June 9, 2020 at 11:27 am

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contexts spring 2020 is online – and free for 30 days!!!

Contexts Spring 2020 is here. Topic – gender and sexuality. I love this cover by Jeff Sheng, which comes from a photo essay about LGBT in the military. The whole issue is free for 30 days.

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June 8, 2020 at 12:42 am

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alt.folk gateway

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June 7, 2020 at 4:37 pm

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open borders: boris johnson edition?

This image is from the Telegraph and show a protest in Hong Kong.

The Chinese government has threatened to pass a series of laws that shifts control of major decision from the Hong Kong city government to China. In response, the Johnson government in the UK has offered to grant visas to 3 million Hong Kongers, essentially offering a path to citizenship and exit from tyranny.

You don’t hear me say this often, but way to go, Boris!

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Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

June 3, 2020 at 2:35 pm

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protest and police: a cato institute podcast

Over at the Cato Institute, I did a podcast on the deteriorating relationship between police and protester. Check it out.

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Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
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Written by fabiorojas

June 2, 2020 at 4:15 pm

Posted in uncategorized

evan parker, more electro acoustic ensemble

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Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

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May 31, 2020 at 12:10 am

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my response on intersectionality up at cato unbound

What is the link between intersectionality theory and classical liberalism? Cato Unbound has my response essay up. Key quote:

Levy’s relatively uncritical depiction of intersectionality does not confront the fact that the theory, as understood by its practitioners, is simply at odds with classical liberalism because it sees inequality and repression as the natural outgrowth of a liberal social order. Still, dialogue is possible if classical liberals understand that intersectional theory has multiple goals and some of these goals should be rejected. The embrace of Marxism and other theories that view the market economy and limited government as inherently suspect should be critiqued and cast aside. Also, intersectionality theory, like all schools of thought, has its own excesses that should be avoided. For example, the more thoughtful practitioners of intersectionality warn against an “oppression Olympics” where resources are earned by boasting about injustice.[ix] Classical liberals are wise to follow this advice.

Check it out.

+++++++++

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The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

May 29, 2020 at 2:57 pm

Posted in uncategorized

current social media strategy

Right now, I am active on four different social media platforms. In theory, I am supposed to cross post to all of them to maximize impact. Instead, I choose to use each for separate purposes because I really want “each Fabio” to have different flavors. Here, I will briefly describe each form of social media and what I do on them.

Blog: This blog (orgtheory.net) is all about long form discussion. Even though blogs are no longer trendy, they remain unbeaten for medium length discussion. They are also much easier to control than any other form of social media. For these reasons, I use it to discuss sociology and the academic profession. Just for kicks, every Sunday, I post some music. The only thing I don’t like about blogs is that the sociology audience that used to populate comment sections and provide discussions have now moved to Twitter to engage in rapid fire snark fests.

Facebook: I treat Facebook as a more personal form of communication. I rarely discuss personal matters, but I use it for talking about pop culture and keeping contact with my network of friends, professional colleague, and neo-liberal confederates. During lock down, I’ve done a series of videos just talking about nerdy things (“Nerd Therapy”). You will also see more humor there than on the blog.

Twitter: I’ve come to loathe Twitter even while I recognize its utility. Sure, there can be great discussion, but there are people who trash talk and swear at you. Snark is ok face to face, but I hate it in more public settings. Twitter is uncontrolled not only in who can jump into conversation, but also it shows you people that you might be avoiding. It’s the platform where I have to block and mute people the most. Still, it’s very useful for lightning fast discussion so I maintain a presence there (fabiorojas). I post infrequently on sociology and policy but I try to keep it structured. I respond to few people. I also publicize this blog and Contexts magazine.

Instagram: I have tiny presence on Instagram (@hoosierfab). I only got an account so I could reach out for folks in the visual arts, for social and research purposes. So the account is mainly art photos, street photography, and, during lock down, discussions of art books. It’s a dry and restrained social media account. Still, I’ve me really great people and I’ve made great connections. Also, it’s the complete opposite of Twitter as it almost never ticks me off.

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Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

May 28, 2020 at 3:34 pm

Posted in uncategorized

contra deadwood

deadwood

I am one of the luckiest people in the world. I’m healthy,  I have a great family, and I’ve been successful in my chosen career. Still, there’s one thing that I do worry about – becoming deadwood. It’s part of my self-image – I just don’t want to be seen as someone who is degrading. It’s also about health. Trying to be active does seem to contribute to longevity and actually being healthy. Finally, I don’t want to be pitied. I don’t want graduate students in 2035 so look at me and say, “gee, that’s cute, it’s nice that they still keep him around.”

How does one avoid being deadwood? Well, I was lucky to have role models. At my PhD institution, I saw some really solid faculty remain very active up until retirement and beyond, like Charles Bidwell and Ed Laumann. On the internet, Pamela Oliver, the self described “olderwoman,” keeps writing, posting, and contributing. At my current employer, Indiana sociology, many advanced faculty are amazingly active. For example, our own Bernice Pescolodio remains one of the most actively and influential students of mental health in the world and has done so through a very lengthy career.

What a lot of these folks have in common, I think, is a combination of mission, a rich collection of social ties, and, lack of a better word, “discipline” or “structured practice.” Many of the folks who do avoid deadwood status deeply believe in the mission of their work. They may be concerned with status and income, but that’s by no means the whole picture. There is a deep commitment to some bigger goal that the academic profession supports.

Non-deadwood also tend to have very robust social ties. As a graduate student or colleague, I can only see the professional side of their network. But in almost all cases, I see lots of co-authoring and service work. They pop up all over the place. This is all made possible by “structured practice.” What I have noticed is that non-deadwood are very careful in terms of ordering their lives. I don’t mean that they mastered Microsoft Outlook but that they really work on building daily habits that help them manage these workloads and social ties, which in turn, contributes to longevity. 

A few days ago, I worked on my summer work schedule and I shocked to find that I had 14 projects in various stages of development. Some of these are short things, but others are serious commitments. At first, I was dismayed but then I realized that this is a nourishing life and, hopefully, a life where I will never be deadwood. And that’s a good thing.

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Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
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Written by fabiorojas

May 27, 2020 at 12:48 am

Posted in uncategorized

agenes clement/debussy

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BUY THESE BOOKS!!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
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The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

May 24, 2020 at 12:54 am

Posted in uncategorized

do not be an awful dissertation advisor

I realized yesterday that in a relatively short time span (2010-2020), I have hooded more PhDs than many faculty at major research oriented doctoral programs. Why? I am not magic and I don’t spend all my waking hours mentoring people. Yet, I hood and I place, My students have gotten jobs in doctoral programs, teaching programs, and the private sector.

Here are some tips:

  1. Actually take students. No need to take all folks who ask, but actually do your share. My view is that a full professor at an R1 program should have at least one or two people dissertators at a time, more if you are in a lab science. Many faculty shirk.
  2. Create a system for time management. Some folks have a strong scheduling system. Personally, I prefer a flexible drop in system, so I can deal with problems sooner than later.
  3. Be responsive. Seriously. One of my most bitter experiences at Chicago sociology was faculty who went silent, skipped meetings, and refused to talk to me… after they agreed to help with the dissertation. I’m stubborn and got my degree despite that, but AWOL faculty can be fatal.
  4. Be reasonable in expectations. Dissertations do not pass the bar if they get published in your discipline’s flagship journal. They pass if they show mastery of an area and expand knowledge. Big difference.
  5. Be mellow and cool. No crying in office hours and no yelling. Just be calm and tell people what needs to fixed in order to improve.
  6. Tell most students to do short dissertations focusing on incremental research. A PhD means you know a field and contribute, but that can be done in short order. Three papers and you are done.
  7. Short dissertations focusing on incremental research. A PhD means you know a field and contribute, but that can be done in short order. Three papers and you are done.
  8. Finally, do all paper work in a timely manner without complaint. Letters of recommendation, yearly evaluations, foreign student forms – whatever. Smile and just quietly say “yes” and do it.

Editorial: All the things I just wrote are simple and common sense, yet so many faculty just bungle them. No one’s perfect, but there is no excuse to going AWOL on students, or not doing rec letters and so forth. It’s your job. Do it or quit.

+++++++++

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50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
Intro to sociology for just $1 per chapter – INSANE BARGAIN!!!!!
A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

May 21, 2020 at 1:41 pm

Posted in uncategorized