Category: Political & Economic Sociology

What Responses to Charlottesville Revealed About America

On the night of August 11th, white nationalists held a torch-lit pride parade through the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. They were met with counter-protests, and the demonstrations descended into a melee. The next morning, these same organizers held a “Unite the Right” rally in Emancipation Park, centered on a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee that had been scheduled for removal. Once again, battle lines were drawn, and a fight ensued. This time, the white nationalists were driven...

Collection on Populism: Free Content Collection

With the rise of populism across the globe in recent decades comprising distinct political styles, we invite you to read a collection of recent articles and chapters across the social sciences including sociological and social, political, geographical and cultural perspectives focusing on: Support for the concerns of ordinary people Relations between state, society, and citizens Power relationships within and between social groups How social inequality between groups (class, race, gender, etc.) influences politics All content is free until 31st December 2017!...

Decolonizing ‘Financial Literacy’

Does the discipline of sociology need to decolonise? When the editors of The Sociological Review put this question to their twitter followers earlier this year, the response was largely affirmative. Across the social sciences and humanities, there are growing concerns about the Eurocentricity of even the most putatively radical theoretical debates. Campaigns to decolonize higher education are not, however, limited to curricular matters. Sarah Cummings and Paul Hoebink have recently published research showing that only 14% of the authors (and...

Rethinking Agrarian Transitions and Left Politics in India: 50 years since Naxalbari

It is now half a century since the small uprising in the village of Naxalbari in West Bengal led to the spread of a Maoist inspired revolutionary armed struggle in India, that is still ongoing. But with the Indian state now bent on crushing these Naxalites, and with the more general challenges faced by parliamentary communist parties across India, the question of how to analyse the agrarian economy – the basis of left strategy for a communist society in many...

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;...