Category: Political & Economic Sociology

By Simons/Staff Sgt. (according to Exif data) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Carbon offsetting: back from the dead

Back in 2006, before ‘foreclosure’, ‘credit default swaps’ and ‘double-dip recession’ became terms we needed to worry about, climate change was an issue that actually had some traction in popular culture. This was the year that An Inconvenient Truth was released, a film which, unusually for an apocalyptic documentary, actually made an impact. Not only did Al Gore’s film highlight the issue of climate change, but it also made viewers aware of they could do to make a difference. That...

"Not In My Name" Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail

“Not In my Name” they shouted. That was ten years ago, but it feels as though the same could be said today of the increasingly hate-filled, aggressive tone of public life in the UK, United States and much of Europe. “Not In My Name” was one of the slogans of the campaign against the UK’s invasion of Iraq. Although I was sympathetic to the message at the time, I thought this was a slightly pathetic, anodyne slogan, one which felt...

‘LOBO’ Loans: Derivatives, Local Government Debt & Citizen Audits

I was recently asked to contribute to a piece on derivatives for an economics education website – with the brief being to explain why derivatives ‘matter in daily life’ for readers with no presumed or particular interest in finance. So far, I confess, I’ve not found it particularly easy. Derivatives are a funny kind of sociological object. We’ve almost all heard of them; many will have a sense that they (or some particular use of them) were implicated in the...

The Rise of ‘Citizen Economists’ and ‘Economics Citizenship’ (Part 2)

In my previous post for Sociology Lens, I took a brief look at the sociological literature on ‘citizen science’ and ‘scientific citizenship’. My aim was to ask whether recent efforts to challenge the expertise of academic economists – and democratize economic knowledge – might be understood in parallel terms, as matters of ‘citizen economics’ and ‘economic citizenship’. ‘Citizen science’ has largely come to be discussed as a matter of collaboration with or working under the direction of professional scientists, although...

The Rise of ‘Citizen Economists’ and ‘Economics Citizenship’

A couple of years ago, Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang wrote in an opinion piece for the Guardian that the “economy is too important to be left to professional economists (and that includes me).” In fact, Chang suggested, judgments made by “ordinary citizens may be better than those by professional economists, being more rooted in reality and less narrowly focused…Indeed, willingness to challenge professional economists and other experts is a foundation stone of democracy. If all we have to do is...

The VA Backlog

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs handles the claims, benefits, and memorial services for veterans as well as provide services for their spouses and dependents. However a long-standing problem with this office is the expected turn around with claims processing that often leaves many veterans and their families without adequate healthcare or other benefit support. Given the debate in the United States with the Affordable Care Act and its comparability to other Western Hemisphere countries that have initiated universal healthcare,...

Professionals on Strike

Yesterday, for only the second time since 1975 (the first was this January), junior doctors in England went on a 24-hour strike. The strike action was the culmination of a series of disputes and breakdowns in negotiations that have been ongoing since late 2014, when the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration recommended a new contract. The contract threatens to have a significant impact on doctors’ pay, and on the extent to which they are protected from working excessively...

The ‘public’ and the ‘private’ in the shaping of markets

A couple of years ago, in a meeting hall adjacent to the Houses of Parliament, I sat in the audience while fund managers spoke alongside officials from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and representatives of the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG), an organisation funded by DFID and other donors with a mandate to “encourage private infrastructure investment in developing countries.” (PIDG was praised by DFID in their 2013 Multilateral Aid Review for “catalysing private investment in infrastructure,” but...

Mass Media Depictions of Black and White Crime

The depiction of crime in fictional mass media occurs differently for people depending on the color of their skin and what this color has come to symbolize in such a complex system of race, ethnicity, and stratification in the United States.

Buying Time: Stefano Sgambati’s Sociology of Money, Debt & Finance

Writing for the Guardian’s Comment is Free blog yesterday, David Graeber warned that we may be heading towards yet another crisis of the kind we saw in 2007–08. In his Comment, Graeber takes to task George Osborne’s 2015 Mansion House speech (or rather the logic underpinning it), in which Osborne made a commitment to run a budget surplus in ‘normal times’, much to the consternation of dozens of academic economists. It seems that the utterly misleading and moralizing analogies so...

Making sense of the ‘social’ in social media (and social enterprise, social marketing, social analytics…)

Doubtless I am not alone among the contributors to Sociology Lens in having been exposed, during my first year as an undergraduate, to an array of foundational thinkers in sociology (and anthropology) who present human history as a movement away from ‘traditional’, ‘face–to–face’ or ‘kinship–based’ societies, towards those in which interaction and identity is less relational, and more individualized. Such theorizing is not only limited to the classical sociologists who wrote in the 1900s, like Ferdinand Tönnies and Émile Durkheim;...

The same old ‘New Politics’? Or has Corbyn just done something historic?

Yesterday I had to pinch myself when I saw Jeremy Corbyn on the front benches of the House of Commons, facing David Cameron as the leader of the British Labour party. Corbyn is the man who has spent all of his adult lifetime on the fringes of mainstream politics, an unapologetic socialist campaigner who has fought many of the battles of the left: against South African apartheid and Thatcherite deindustrialisation in the 1980s, against the introduction of university tuition fees...

To What Is A Prisoner Entitled?

The New York Times recently published an article about one of Norway’s maximum security prisons, Halden Fengsel – i.e. the “world’s most humane” prison.  The article doesn’t seem real.  Flowers, barley, open fields, live cows.  Since 1998, Norway’s sentencing has focused on rehabilitation.  This particular prison model – one that is designed from its inception for rehabilitation – was the first of its kind in Norway.  Even I, with my bright-eyed naiveté and mid-20s progressive agenda can’t help – just...

The Division of Society into Two Classes Transforms into the Sexual Differentiation of Space

(Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Marxism#/media/File:Flickr_-_NewsPhoto!_-_Marxisme_festival_Amsterdam.jpg) The economist Karl Marx believed for society to change, there was a need for an uprising, and an overthrowing of the ruling class; the bourgeoisie. To Marx, no person would truly be free unless this rebellion would occur. Marx is known for his theories about the economy, workers, and social life. One concept, of his, that appeals to my attention is the division of society into two classes. However, what Marx failed to realize, was by this division, he,...

The UK Election: How to lose friends (and still influence people)

Roy Jenkins famously described Tony Blair’s task in getting Labour into power in 1997 as “like a man carrying a priceless Ming vase across a highly polished floor”. This has now become something of a truism of electioneering. According to this view, winning power is about damage-limitation, about not messing up, and it implies a strategy of ‘triangulation’ – co-opting voters from other parties whilst keeping your own voters onside. It implies a certain lack of ambition, trying to carry as many...

Offshoring and Forgetting – the dark side of Globalisation

On paper, it had all the makings of a perfect scandal – tax evasion aided by a household-name bank, the prime minister dishing out jobs to his City friends, bankers dishing out parcels of untraceable banknotes to account holders in Zurich. But, somehow, the story of HSBC’s Swiss banking arm’s ‘dodgy’ dealings let the genie out of the lamp ever-so-briefly, only for it to be sucked it again in no time at all. That particular scandal of money and politics...