Kjerstin Gruys and David J. Hutson
This chapter uses a comparative case method, drawing on autoethnographic accounts to explore how ethnographers perform aesthetic labor across two research sites: a women’s plus-size clothing store and a coed retail gym. The authors find that they engaged in aesthetic labor as they adapted to the aesthetic expectations of sites by either blending in or sticking out. In their studies, the successful accomplishment of aesthetic labor relied primarily on gender and body size, highlighting how the body functions as a status characteristic that influences existing power dynamics. Such insights suggest the need to conceptualize ethnographic research through the lens of labor—a lens that makes clearer how academic work is structured by the same intersectional inequalities prevalent in most occupational fields.
This chapter explores “anti-consumerist” critique and practice as articulated in a range of Western nations over the last two decades. It surveys the rise of a twenty-first-century consumption politics, identifying how it has coalesced around opposition to consumerism and overconsumption, while remaining elusive in the extent to which it advocates substantive social and economic change and in the degree to which it rejects or embraces consumption as an arena of agency. The chapter explores this ambiguity through discussion of two interconnected forms of recent consumption politics—“responsible” consumer choice and “alternative” enterprise—outlining the fractured and tenuous ways in which these practices speak of contestation and of the emancipatory in relation to consumption and consumer economies. The chapter concludes by recognizing the conceptual and ideological limits of contemporary consumption politics, while insisting also that it has significantly expanded the political and ethical sensibilities through which we understand the commodity and its impact.
This chapter focuses on research among internally displaced Afghan communities who had fled to Pakistan over the protracted periods of conflict and were then unable to return to their homes and are currently living in temporary accommodation. Drawing on interviews with forced migrants this chapter aims to explore their lived experiences. In doing so, it highlights the complexities of the decision-making processes that involuntary migrants undertake. Negative public discourses of Afghan refugees notwithstanding, they are the quintessential exemplars of a global migration crisis, given that the geopolitical situation in the region over the last three decades have compelled millions to flee their homes. In order to dispel the fears and distrust toward asylum-seekers this chapter shows the importance of producing accurate data based on the worldviews of the displaced as they are formulating their decisions to flee. This in turn enables us to challenge both the artificially constructed demonizing discourses centered on asylum-seekers as well as the refugees’ own retrospective accounts, which are sometimes at odds with their actual experiences.
André Grow and Andreas Flache
Social scientists increasingly construe social life as a complex dynamic process, in which macro-level properties of social systems can emerge from individuals’ actions and interactions in unexpected, unintended, and possibly undesirable ways. Reputation and status differentiation are important examples. This chapter discusses how agent-based computational modeling (ABCM) can be used to better understand the social processes by which the behavioral dynamics that underlie reputation formation can generate social inequality and contribute to status differentiation. The chapter begins by elaborating the foundations of ABCM and subsequently discusses a number of ABCM examples that address the emergence of reputation and status differentiation from simple but fundamental rules of social behavior and interaction. To further illustrate the method, the chapter presents a formal model that explains the emergence of status differentiation from reputation formation. It closes with a discussion of important future directions in this area, in particular the role that gossip might play in future ABCM work on reputation and status.
Laura Hurd Clarke
In this chapter, the author considers some of the theoretical and methodological conundrums that she encountered in her qualitative research that has focused on later life experiences of the aging body as a site of inequality. Western culture is replete with deeply entrenched ageist stereotypes, which position old bodies as inherently asexual, dependent, frail, obsolete, senile, unproductive, and undesirable. Negative cultural constructions of old bodies are further reflected in and buttressed by masculinity and femininity ideals as well as societal assumptions concerning personal responsibility for health. Collectively, these cultural norms shape research in powerful ways as they lead to the avoidance of certain topics, taken-for-granted assumptions that are difficult to elicit or interrogate, and complex power dynamics between researchers and study participants. Reflecting on the intricacies of researching later life body image and embodiment, I offer some suggestions about how the challenges might be reframed as opportunities.
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 chapter considers the significance of Marx’s concept of alienation to his overall criticism of capitalism. At the concept’s core is the idea that while labor is potentially a fulfilling and liberating activity, under capitalism it appears only as a hostile, dominating force. Workers thus experience their own activity, natural and built environments, and fellow human beings as alien and hostile. While this idea has been deeply influential, it has also been the subject of heated controversies, in particular for its apparent dependence on an essentialist or teleological idea of human nature. While important, such controversies were often inflated by their political and intellectual context, and this chapter argues they should be considered alongside the lasting significance of alienation as an explanatory concept. Understood as such, it can still contribute a great deal to understanding and criticizing contemporary society, and provide guidance for how to transcend and replace 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.
Marx’s historical materialism is a powerful antidote to culturalist essentialism of the kind that became known as Orientalism after Edward Said. The Marxian perspective allows for a full consideration of the role of Western imperialism in hindering the development of the Middle East as well as in the deliberate preservation of archaic sociopolitical features in the region. The concept of Bonapartism that Marx developed in his writings on the French Second Empire is highly relevant to the analysis of the national-developmental experiences that emerged in the Middle East in the twentieth century. His insight on the reactionary aspiration of sections of the petite bourgeoisie confronted with capitalist transformation provides an important clue to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East. Marx’s theory of revolution as resulting from the blockage of economic development finds a most striking illustration in what is commonly designated as the Arab Spring.
Analyzing the Socio-Technical Transformation of Energy Systems: The Concept of “Sustainability Transitions”
Dealing with the immense societal challenges of climate change and resource depletion requires no less than a fundamental transformation of the energy system, comprising not only technological change, but also cultures of energy use and consumption, new regulations, and new types of actors operating on the energy market. A growing field of interdisciplinary social science research on “sustainability transitions” deals with the dynamics and governance of such transformative, systemic, and socio-technical change processes toward sustainability. This chapter gives an overview of concepts used to study energy system transitions, their strengths and shortcomings, as well as new advancements. The chapter also discusses a concrete example of socio-technical change in the field of renewable energy—wind power—and reflects on some of the lessons that can be drawn from this about the interdependence of energy and society and for an understanding of transitions toward a more sustainable energy system.
Bianca Beersma, Gerben A. van Kleef, and Maria T. M. Dijkstra
This chapter provides an overview of the antecedents and consequences of gossip in work groups. First, the chapter reviews the different motives for gossip in work groups (i.e., bonding, entertainment, emotional venting, information exchange, maintenance of group norms/social order, and interpersonal aggression) and links each motive to psychological theory. Second, the chapter reviews the different types of influence that gossip can have on various indicators of group effectiveness. Reflecting on the motives underlying gossip in work groups, as well as on its outcomes, it argues that future research should start integrating the diverse insights provided by earlier research on both gossip motives and outcomes, and it provides a number of suggestions for doing so.
The theme of the Anthropocene raises fundamental questions for how world politics is now to be understood. Geopolitics can now no longer take the context of the human drama for granted; transformations are afoot that are of humanity’s own making. Nature is increasingly being produced at the largest of scales, and political thinking has to come to terms with this new condition. Globalization is, it turns out, a profoundly physical process, not just a matter of trade and cultural change networked by communication technologies. The global economy is effectively a new geomorphic force at work in the biosphere. The Anthropocene thus provides a formulation for rethinking many things and is, as such, a profoundly useful category for new thinking about global studies.
This chapter examines global energy trends, whether a global renewable energy transition is already taking place, and what steps are needed to further accelerate the global deployment of renewables. It first considers the expansion of renewable energy in light of global energy trends, noting that a global energy transition is not yet a reality but is urgently needed. It then looks at drivers and barriers for an accelerated expansion of renewable energy and proceeds by discussing how renewables are moving from the sidelines to the center stage of global energy governance. In particular, it describes the politics behind the creation of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), an intergovernmental organization on renewable energy, as well as current challenges for global governance on renewable energy. The chapter shows that global renewable energy capacities have grown significantly but that global energy supply is still dominated by fossil fuels.
This chapter assesses how from early modernity to the present day, art has been a significant agent in the cultural transmission of globalization. It is a cultural legacy, however, that continues to be divided by a deep sense of ambivalence toward the question of how social imaginaries are delimited by the ubiquitous processes of global capital. The field of contemporary art is often entirely complicit with a culture of manufactured exclusivity and large profits, yet it also has its critical edge that has shown how the glossy allure of transnational capital obscures visions of other possible, less inequitable worlds. Other possible worlds have also appeared in art in a recent turn to the great, circulatory systems of the oceans as both the historical conduits of globalization and the channels through which we might envisage what kind of global imaginary will prevail in response to environmental crisis.
Through a revisit of the evolution of Marx’s ideas about Oriental society and the village community, this chapter explores the methodological meaning of Asia for the Marxist conception of history and demonstrates its contemporary relevance. Following Marx’s original cases of India, China, and Russia, the chapter traces how eventually in his analysis national liberation and class struggle became mutually indispensable and why the oldest forms of social organization could be transformed into the newest as the communist project. This textual study of a remarkable intellectual trajectory begins with a critical examination of Marx’s Asiatic mode of production and then looks into the major twists and leaps in his later reflections, and concludes with a tentative appraisal of the significance of his eastward turn. Marx’s non-deterministic history with a strong agential as well as ecological consciousness is shown to be an indispensable source for contemporary Marxist rethinking of historical and global transformations.
Throughout the past forty years various leaders from both major political parties in Australia have categorized the arrival by boat of people seeking asylum as a “crisis” and the people themselves as “illegal.” This is despite Australia being a signatory to the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and receiving relatively few people who seek asylum compared with many other countries. Punitive government policies and processes have further reinforced these representations, such that “crisis” and “illegal” can now be understood as both categories of analysis and practice. The repeated use of such categories may be helping to produce and reproduce prejudice and racism and obscure the needs and experiences of people seeking asylum.
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.
This chapter reviews behavioral biological analyses of ethnic solidarity and conflict. The universality of ethnic behavior, including frequent altruism, points to evolutionary origins. This chapter reviews the history of research into ethnicity by ethologists, sociobiologists, and evolutionary psychologists. The biosocial approach is unique in tracing causality back to adaptations, including brain functions and the evolutionary processes that selected them. One such selection process is cultural group strategies in which rules and beliefs adopted by a group help it replace others. The most influential biosocial theory states that ethnic solidarity is nepotism extended to the population. Ethnic nepotism theory and other insights have been fruitful in suggesting research directions. These include ethnic group dominance, superorganism theory applied to ethnic middleman groups, the idea that ethnic trust boosts economic competitiveness by reducing transaction costs, and the finding that ethnocultural diversity increases social conflict. Other research concerns national character.
Frédéric Lebaron and Brigitte Le Roux
Chapter abstract The extent to which the concepts of field and social space are linked to a concrete mode of empirical research—and in particular to a set of original statistical tools—has seldom been acknowledged. This chapter aims to re-establish the close link between the field concept and geometric data analysis (GDA), Bourdieu’s preferred technique for mapping the “social distances” between individuals. The elective affinity between the two is based on a relation of tight interdependence: on the one hand, the emergent practice of GDA sustains and strengthens the “implicit philosophy” of the theory of fields; on the other hand, the method’s widespread use by Bourdieu and his collaborators has facilitated GDA’s international reception in the social sciences. The chapter concludes by discussing the empirical research program that results from wedding a sociology of fields with the systematic use of GDA.