Simon Feeny and Mark McGillivray
This article examines the relationship between foreign aid and poverty in developing countries, with the goal of determining whether donor governments are motivated and actively set out to reduce poverty in developing countries through the provision of aid but with the impact of aid on poverty reduction. It begins with an overview of the aid and poverty record based on global data from the 1980s onward, with particular emphasis on Official Development Assistance (ODA). It then considers the analytics of aid and poverty before reviewing the relevant literature, including studies that address the impact of aid on growth and growth elasticity of poverty. The article argues that aid has had a marginally positive impact on poverty reduction in developing countries, and that poverty would be slightly higher without it.
This article examines the unique contribution that analytic ethnography has made and can make to accomplishing two of the key principles of analytical sociology: developing theoretical explanations by identifying mechanisms that connect actors, action, and outcomes; bridging the micro, meso, and macro levels of analysis in those explanations. It first distinguishes ‘analytic ethnography’ from other varieties of ethnography before showing how analytic ethnography has historically developed mechanism-based explanations that go beyond the micro level. It then compares analytic ethnography to analytical sociology in order to highlight the compatibility of the two. Finally, it demonstrates how theoretical integration can be achieved first within analytic ethnography, then between analytic ethnography and analytical sociology, using research on signaling and explanations of outcomes in which signals are the mechanism.
Peter Hedström and Lars Udehn
This article locates analytic sociology in the Mertonian tradition of middle-range theory, which focuses on partial explanation of phenomena observed in different social domains through identification of core causal mechanisms. Robert K. Merton was one of the most important figures in twentieth-century sociology. He wrote on a wide range of topics, including bureaucracy, deviance, mass communications, professions, social stratification, and the sociology of science, paying attention to the consolidation and codification of existing sociological theories. His theoretical agenda has much in common with that of contemporary analytical sociology. This article begins with an overview of Merton’s middle-range theory, followed by a discussion of the micro-macro relationship. It then considers Merton’s arguments regarding social dynamics, along with his theories of self-fulfilling prophecies and the Matthew effect. It also explains different kinds of middle-range theories and concludes by stressing the importance of developing theories with sufficient causal depth.
This article examines the multiple mechanisms by which beliefs are formed — from observation, social influence/socialization, induction, deduction from other beliefs, adaptation to desire (wishful thinking), and dissonance-reduction mechanisms — as well as the conditions under which each arises and the characteristic processes (and problems) associated with each. The discussion is generally set in a socio-cognitive framework, which is based on the assumption that individuals are motivated by an ‘effort after meaning’. The article first considers the role of categorization in belief formation before turning to inductive reasoning and analogism. It then describes the conditions under which people’s beliefs are particularly likely to be influenced by others, followed by an analysis of the mechanism of dissonance reduction. It suggests that while beliefs are slippery and difficult to nail down, they need to be taken into account in any explanation of action.
Jade Lo and Nina Eliasoph
This article proposes a more serious engagement between the fields of cultural sociology and organizational sociology by studying how culture shapes daily organizational life and how, in turn, everyday activity can build up to large-scale cultural change. It argues that people’s everyday methods of coordinating action in organizations, no matter how mundane, are meaningful. To support its arguments, the article examines transformations of words’ meanings in everyday language use by looking at three examples, one from a study of changes in the publishing industry and the other two from a larger study of youth civic engagement projects in the United States. It also discusses the concept of typification, structuralism in practice, border disputes within organizations, and Jeffrey C. Alexander’s notion of “performance” within organizations. Finally, it considers the use of cultural sociology to see how people in organizations coordinate action.
This article demonstrates what ethnography can do for cultural sociology by investigating the struggles of Muslim immigrants for multicultural integration in Sweden, and native Swedish resistance to it. The discussion is based on the presupposition that data can speak to us, even “surprise” us, due to the theoretical attentiveness the ethnographer can bring to them. Such notion makes it possible for the reader to see that all possible aspects of encounters in everyday life “carry a meaning other than the simple fact of their existence.” The article considers the position of “cultural autonomy” in what less culturally musical sociologists take to be merely divisive material conflicts over boundary position. It shows that many Muslim immigrants, despite their anger and resentment, still yearn for recognition and for the success of Sweden’s social democratic ideals.
Rod Hick and Tania Burchardt
This article examines capability deprivation as the basis for analyzing poverty. The capability approach, developed initially by Amartya Sen, questions the “informational space” on which considerations of poverty, inequality, justice, and so forth, should be based. According to the capability approach, the appropriate “space” for analyzing poverty is not what people have, nor how they feel, but what they can do and be. After providing an overview of the concepts that comprise the capability approach, this article discusses three key questions within the literature regarding the nature of the approach, namely: the question of functioning and/or capabilities, the question of a capability list, and the question of aggregation. It also describes some prominent empirical applications that have been inspired by the capability approach and concludes with an assessment of the current state-of-the-art literature on the capability approach.
This article examines collective action, focusing on the role of social interactions, conflict, and the dynamics of interpersonal influence in shaping collective identities and interests. The discussion is based on the co-occurrence of individuals’ interest and group identity through a consistent course of action and begins with an overview of analytical models used to investigate extraordinary forms of collective action. The article then describes formal models and the problem of cooperation between self-interested actors, along with the notion of free-riding and the origin of shared interests and collective identities, paying attention to the importance of conflict, social networks, and interpersonal influence. It also explores the role of multiple levels of decision-making and actors’ consciousness in collective action before proposing a formal approach to collective action that is simultaneously less and more rational than the one currently employed in analytical sociology.
Mark R. Rank
This concluding article proposes a new paradigm in which to understand poverty, focusing primarily on the United States even as several dimensions of the paradigm apply globally across other countries. It first considers the major tenets of the “old” paradigm, which is to a large extent a reflection and affirmation of both the free market economic structure and the culture of individualism that have profoundly shaped the American ideology. It then introduces the new paradigm, which aims to stimulate a fundamental shift in how we conceptualize and act toward the problem of poverty, and some of its major themes: poverty results from structural failings; poverty is a conditional state in which individuals move in and out; poverty constitutes deprivation; poverty as injustice; the condition of poverty affects and undermines each one of us.
This article examines the dynamics of conditional choice as a mechanism for explaining social action, with particular emphasis on identifying model frameworks for the analysis of the trajectory and outcome of conditional decision-making processes. It begins with an overview of conditional decision-making, including key words and concepts, followed by a discussion of conditional decision rules and initial states of activity and how they shape the basic trajectory and outcome of a conditional decision-making process. It then considers possible sources of resistance to influence, focusing on the ways unconditional actors pull all other group members towards their position and how individual variation in resistance to influence can stop a process from reaching complete conformity. It also explores patterns of social interaction and how they work in combination with resistance to influence to account for variation in activity among individuals or groups, paying attention to the contingent effect of local networks.