November 20, 2013
Yes, I wanted to call the blog “worldsociety.wordpress.com”, but that name was already taken. (I was annoyed to see that the person doesn’t use the blog… but still hogs the name. Grrr.)
But, worldpolity.wordpress.com isn’t bad… and besides, retro is in, right? If everyone switches to “world society theory”, the blog will be hip.
November 19, 2013
I brought up the question of “world polity theory” vs. “world society theory” as an issue of labeling. In a nutshell, they refer to the same theoretical tradition within sociology.
But, there is also a substantive issue here. A polity is not the same as a society. Polity refers more narrowly to a formal political system and its associated authority structures. Society encompasses much more than the polity, and many definitions stress elements that are outside of the formal political sphere, such as private association or even shared culture.
This raises several important questions for world society scholars:
- Are global social phenomena best characterized as a polity? Or a society? Both?
- Can one make a distinction between the world polity versus a broader world society? Can they be measured independently? One obvious contrast would be between intergovernmental structures (IGOs and treaties) and “global civil society” or INGOs.
- Has the structure of the world society changed over time? Is there more of a world society now, compared to just an interstate system?
I’ve thought about this a fair bit, heavily influenced by Ron Jepperson’s outstanding work on polity types. For instance, Anglo-American dominance seems very obviously associated with the expansion of associational or “societal” activity in the international realm. One could imagine a counterfactual world of French hegemony, where you wouldn’t find so many INGOs or other “societal” elements — it would be closer to a pure inter-state system.
Last week Wade Cole mentioned that he had also thought about the issue a little. Well, Wade appears to have a gift for understatement. He sent along a paper, and it is clear that he has thought about the issue a lot! Wade agreed to let me post the draft, which does a great job of clarifying the issues at hand: Cole World Polity vs World Society.pdf
Wade provides an incredibly lucid discussion of the policy vs. society distinction, and sets out a research agenda to explore the issue further. Be sure to check out his paper!
By the way: These substantive issues do have implications for how to label the perspective. I think all the research on global culture, INGOs, and the like, are suggestive of a world society, not only a world polity (inter-state system). So, I prefer “world society theory” on substantive grounds.
November 17, 2013
I get asked: What’s the difference between world polity theory and world society theory?
The short answer: They refer to the same intellectual tradition. The term “world polity” came first. But, the term “world society” is a bit broader and arguably more apt, so some people have shifted over to it.
The long answer: World society theory is fairly new, as sociological theories go. The terminology is still evolving as the ideas develop and as people explore different imageries to convey the ideas.
World society theory is (or was) called many different things: world polity theory, world culture theory, institutional theory, neo-institutionalism, the “Meyerian” perspective, the Meyer school, and the Stanford school. Of course, institutionalism is another can of worms, because it can mean a lot of different things.
The term world polity was used in foundational works (e.g., Thomas et al 1987) and it pretty much stuck. When people like Finnemore translated the ideas to political science, that’s the label they used.
A subsequent foundational paper, the Meyer et al. 1997 AJS paper, shifted to a new language: ”World Society and the Nation State”
I was talking with John Meyer and Wade Cole last week, and asked about that change in language. To briefly summarize: In the 1970s and 1980s, John was struggling to think about the rapid spread of state policies and structures. The process appeared to be both global (as opposed to processes operating within national societies) and also social/political (as opposed to part of the world economy). So he invoked the idea of a world polity, to draw argue for something beyond national societies and the global economy.
Research over the 1980s and 1990s unpacked a range of social, cultural, and organizational processes operating at the world level: lots of discourse and culture, all sorts of associational and professional activity, and tons of organizations (especially INGOs). At that point, it seemed more natural to talk about a world society as opposed to the narrower idea of polity (political system).
I used “world polity” up through my dissertation and sometimes afterward. So did lots of others. The Drori et. al book, published in 2003, is titled Science in the Modern World Polity. Why did I switch later on? Mainly practical reasons: the term “world polity” confuses a lot of people. In a couple of instances, copyeditors couldn’t make heads or tails of it, and just changed it to “world policy”. I’ve gotten lots of blank stares, especially when teaching. The term “world society” conveys a tiny bit more. Even if people don’t know the theory, the name gives them the gist of it… or something closer to it.
But, switching to “world society” comes with costs. World polity theory has more name recognition, and many continue to publish using the label. Who knows what will ultimately catch on? Perhaps something else altogether! And, in the meantime people keep asking me about the difference between world polity and world society…
November 12, 2013
I enjoyed Neal Caren’s post on the citation “clusters” of sociology, which follows Kieran Healy’s analysis of philosophy. Neal took a bunch of articles from 2011 and 2012, and identified references that appeared together. These form the basis for a cluster analysis. (Sure, citation measures have all sorts of biases and problems… but it is still fun to look at them!)
One of the clusters is basically cross-national research. I’ve cut & pasted the list of papers below. Some off-the-cuff observations:
- The core theme is cross-national research, but environment has become quite central. I was a bit surprised. Maybe it is because both world society and political economy scholars both think of the environment as a big issue. Early on, Allan Schnaiberg (and others) directly linked environmental sociology to issues of political economy. And, world society scholars care about the environment because it is a rapidly growing (and arguably unexpected) international regime. By contrast, other classic world society topics, such as education and human rights, aren’t much on the radar of world system or political economy scholars. I guess the environment is a bit of common substantive ground.
- The foundational scholars are pretty much all there: Wallerstein, Chase-Dunn, etc, and the world society crew, Boli, Meyer, Ramirez, Thomas. But, with the exception of Wallerstein, the cites are newer work or reviews… for instance, the Meyer et al 1997 AJS and Boli & Thomas 1999, rather than the original 1987 “Institutional Structure.” Likewise, we see Chase-Dunn and Grimes 1995, rather than the classic Global Formation. I guess it makes sense. The later syntheses are shorter and often more accessible.
- Panel models are the common methodological glue: Halaby 2004 and Wooldridge 2002.
- As usual, Art Alderson shows up everywhere, along with his many terrific students and collaborators like David Brady, Jason Beckfield, etc. Well deserved!
- I’m visiting Stanford, and will be seeing John Meyer and Chiqui Ramirez later today. They’ll be happy to hear that their 1997 AJS paper is at the top of the list. They (along with John B. and George T.) put a ton of work into that paper…
- It is great to see the next generation of global environmental sociologists showing up (Jorgensen, Clark, etc) along with the classics (York, Rosa, Dietz, Bunker, etc).
- On a personal note, I’m glad the Schofer/Hironaka 2005 paper made it onto the list. That paper had a rough time in the review process at several journals before finding a home. I’ve always liked the paper a lot, so it is heartening that somebody is citing it. In a nutshell, the paper argues that world society isn’t just a theory of policy diffusion or “myth and ceremony” without substance. To the contrary, world society matters for the actual environment.
Excerpt from Neal’s post:
Keywords: World, countries, economic, political, global, cross-national, international, development, levels, environmental
|Meyer J (1997) Am J Sociol||0.19||31||countries, world, models, global, international|
|Frank D (2000) Am Sociol Rev||0.13||19||world, global, cross-national, economic, organizations|
|York R (2003) Am Sociol Rev||0.10||18||environmental, environment, theoretical, theory, population|
|Schofer E (2005) Soc Forces||0.09||15||cross-national, world, countries, international, organizations|
|Alderson A (1999) Am Sociol Rev||0.09||13||countries, world, investment, inequality, economic|
|Wooldridge J (2002) Econometric Anal Cro||0.07||22||rates, countries, panel, many, increases|
|Beckfield J (2003) Am Sociol Rev||0.05||10||countries, organizations, global, international, theories|
|Kentor J (2003) Am Sociol Rev||0.04||9||countries, cross-national, economic, investment, trade|
|Bunker S (2005) Globalization Race R||0.04||10||international, environmental, theories, structural, sociology|
|Gereffi G (1994) Commodity Chains Glo||0.04||7||global, international, trade, economic, globalization|
|Halaby C (2004) Annu Rev Sociol||0.04||24||panel, economic, changes, longitudinal, period|
|Chasedunn C (1995) Annu Rev Sociol||0.03||6||trade, world, international, theoretical, labor|
|Molotch H (1976) Am J Sociol||0.03||12||political, development, economic, theory, urban|
|Brady D (2007) Stud Comp Int Dev||0.03||8||countries, inequality, development, global, modernization|
|Schrank A (2004) Soc Forces||0.03||5||world, economic, particular, trade, specifically|
|Beck T (2001) World Bank Econ Rev||0.02||7||countries, rights, abuse, human, often|
|Dietz T (2007) Front Ecol Environ||0.02||8||environmental, environment, global, theories, theory|
|Alderson A (2002) Am J Sociol||0.02||14||inequality, income, policy, countries, economic|
|Alderson A (2004) Am J Sociol||0.02||6||economic, global, world, countries, network|
|Wallerstein I (1974) Modern World System||0.02||11||global, sociological, overall, countries, empirical|
|Boli J (1999) Constructing World C||0.02||12||world, organizations, global, models, society|
|Clark B (2005) Theor Soc||0.02||8||environmental, ecological, understanding, theory, political|
|Jorgenson A (2009) Soc Probl||0.02||9||environmental, cross-national, environment, nations, emissions|
|Bair J (2001) World Dev||0.02||4||where, political, global, promote, labor|
|Schofer E (2005) Am Sociol Rev||0.02||12||countries, international, models, organizations, cross-national|
October 25, 2013
I’ve been hanging out at Stanford, which is great fun. One question that came up recently is “how to best measure INGO memberships?” I’ve been dealing with INGO data for a long time and I have opinions…
First, some background: John Boli and George Thomas were the first to recognize that International Non-governmental Organizations (INGOs) are a core infrastructure of world society. The discourses and activities of INGOs are a key embodiment of an emergent global culture, and INGO play an important role in the spread of that culture. Their book “Constructing World Culture: International Non-Governmental Organizations Since 1875″ makes this point very vividly.
These days, country memberships in International Non-governmental Organizations (INGOs) have been accepted as the standard way to measure national embeddedness in world society. Countries tied to lots of INGOs are most exposed to global culture, and are fastest to adopt a whole host of policy innovations — new environmental laws, fashionable human rights commitments, and so on.
But, how should one actually operationalize INGO memberships in quantitative analyses? Suppose citizens of a country are members of 1,500 different INGOs. Should one use the raw counts? The natural log of counts? Memberships per capita? Or something else?
I usually use the natural log of the INGO membership count.
As a practical matter, raw counts are hugely skewed (except in some cases — for instance analyses focusing on certain particular regions). Logged INGO memberships are less skewed, and therefore work much better in regression-type models. Also, one can make a substantive argument: going from 100 to 200 INGO memberships has a bigger substantive effect than going from 1,100 to 1,200. The natural log transformation helps take this into account (despite being a somewhat arbitrary correction).
Sometimes people suggest that INGO memberships be standardized by population. Shouldn’t you correct for the size of the population? Big countries can have more memberships… and besides, don’t you need lots of memberships to influence the culture of a large country?
These arguments are plausible, but ultimately I’m not sold. First, the INGO membership variable from the Yearbook of International Association counts organizations that are tied to a country, not individual memberships. An organization is counted as tied to a country if one or more citizen is a member. That may not be ideal, but that’s the measure we’re stuck with. So, if all 1.3 billion citizens of China joined Greenpeace, it would still count as one INGO tie. Second, most diffusion studies focus on state policy, rather than individual attitudes or activities. Many INGOs function as advocacy groups of various sorts — and don’t need to be connected to each and every citizen to influence policy diffusion. Finally, I’ve looked at the actual result of standardizing INGOs by population. Often it produces a very odd distribution. Tiny island nations appear to be at the “center” of world society. (Again, this could vary for different types of INGOs or if you focused on a particular region.)
In short, I’d recommend using logged INGO memberships as a default approach. I can imagine situations where raw INGO counts or INGO membership per capita could be justifiable… but be sure to check the actual distribution before plowing ahead.
Those are my 2 cents. If people have other views on this, I’m interested to hear them.
Of course, I’m only talking about count-based measures of INGOs, which are easiest to get. Pam Paxton, Melanie Hughes, Jason Beckfield, and others, have been working on network-based measures of INGO ties. That opens up a whole other range of options…
September 19, 2013
Marc Ventresca passed along a neat wired article, describing the work of Kalev Leetaru, a research fellow at Georgetown. Leetaru did a cluster analyses of news report data to define regions in the globe.
The regions produce the following map:
The regions are mostly sensible… you can really see the legacy of European colonialism.
The full article addresses a wide range of issues — such as the “tone” of news reports, which Leetaru suggests is predictive of events.
One nit to pick: Leetaru describes his research as a new field of “culturomics”… whereas it looks to me like conventional quantitative social science. I guess the lesson is that “omics” is more rigorous than “ology”. Well, time to get back to work… doing cutting-edge sociomics!
August 24, 2013
We have another new PhD! Mayumi Uno successfully defended her dissertation at the University of Minnesota. The project is entitled: ”National Institutional Context and Educational Inequality: A Multilevel Analysis of Variation in Family SES Effects on Academic Achievement across OECD Countries.”
Mayumi pursues a question that is of great interest to me: How does institutional context and the organization of national education systems affect schooling? In particular, she focuses on educational inequality, operationalized as the slope linking family background (SES) and achievement — which captures the extent that schools reproduce existing inequality. The dissertation examines a wide range of national-level institutional variables that might influence inequality, including differentiation, sources of funding, private tutoring, labor market incentives, and even welfare state variables.
The dissertation has a ton of interesting findings. For one thing, strong state control over the educational system is associated with less SES-based inequality. If the state controls all the funding and curriculum, and if there are more instructional hours in the school year, family effects are reduced.
That makes a lot of sense. The simplest way to eliminate the influence of family SES would be to send all kids to state-run boarding schools year-round. Obviously, no country does that… but there are real differences in the length of the school year, centralized funding of education, etc, which appear to be very consequential for inequality.
The dissertation also has some surprising results. For instance, the prevalence of tutoring/shadow education in a country is associated with less SES-related inequality. Mayumi expected the opposite, and so did I. You’d think that family resources would translate into much better tutoring. But, inequalities are greater in societies where there isn’t much tutoring. Perhaps tutoring has the biggest payoff in societies where few people can afford it? Like any good dissertation, the project raises new questions to be studied…
The study is a multilevel analysis of the PISA dataset, looking at math achievement among 15-year olds. The quantitative analysis is superb. Among other things, Mayumi carefully parses out the within-school vs. between school components of the SES effects… which yield a whole other set of interesting findings. For instance, the prevalence of private schooling is associated with bigger school-level (contextual) SES effects but smaller within-school SES effects. It makes sense one I started thinking about it… but I definitely didn’t know that before. VERY interesting.
I co-chaired the dissertation with Teresa Swartz. Jeylan Mortimer and Ann Hironaka were also on the committee. Mayumi also worked with Karen Bradley at Western Washington, where she did her MA.
Congratulations, Mayumi! You did a terrific job!