August 21, 2012
I really enjoyed the ASA meetings in Denver this year.
Lots of great conversations with both new friends and old. And, some very good panels (which can sometimes be hit-or-miss).
I was struck by the rapid growth and maturity of the Global & Transnational Sociology section. The organizers and leadership deserve a huge amount of credit, starting with John Boli (who really put it all together) and continuing through to this year’s Chair Sarah Babb… and everyone in between. They’ve built a broad tent, inclusive of scholars addressing a wide range of theoretical, substantive, and methodological issues. And, people are clearly putting effort into making the ASA less American-centric. Last, but not least, it is just a friendly bunch of people.
The growth of the section is creating community and lots of positive interactions… including the terrific pre-conference (organized by Peggy Levitt and Liz Boyle) and some excellent panels.
Also, the section literally helps constitute and institutionalize the global/transnational sub-field in sociology. This year I’m seeing what is surely a record number of jobs for scholars working in “global & transnational sociology”. This is totally new. In the past, one might see postings for scholars whose research is “international” or occasionally jobs for people studying “globalization” or “comparative sociology” or “global political economy”. Now that there is a formal section, we see standardization of job postings around the label. And, the existence of the section presumably makes it easier to list global/transnational as an area on a job ad. The section legitimates the enterprise… so probably more jobs overall.
Overall, this is a Very Good Thing.
August 21, 2012
Posting always slows in January — and this year stopped completely — when Graduate Admissions and teaching ramp up. But, I only have one more year of serving as Graduate Director (together with Nina Bandelj — a terrific person to work with!). So, hopefully that bodes well for the future of the world polity blog. :)
December 10, 2011
Last but not least, Wes Longhofer defended yesterday! Woohoo! Wes is the first student I’ve worked with from beginning to end, so it was especially rewarding to see it all come together.
Wes’s dissertation, “Foundations of Global Giving”, examines the recent explosion of globally-oriented philanthropic foundations, as well as their consequences for a variety of outcomes. He also has a chapter on individual participation in charitable organizations, which turn out to be affected by world society variables (in addition to conventional predictors).
Philanthropy isn’t exactly a new phenomenon, and sometimes it has taken transnational forms (from missionary work to the Ford Foundation). Yet, Wes argues we are seeing a new kind of liberal/American-style philanthropy emerging and becoming institutionalized in world society. The argument parallels work by John Meyer and Ho-Kyu Hwang on recent changes in the development regime, where models of progress become increasingly Anglo/liberal, locating the key to progress in individuals and their aggregations (e.g., NGOs) rather than states or other collectivities. Philanthropy is increasingly organized along global (neo-)liberal lines, generating a distinctive new flavor. Instead of missionaries or the Ford Foundation, we get lots of INGOs and global philanthropic networks, pushing all sorts of new “social ventures” worldwide.
It goes without saying that the dissertation had some diffusion analyses — in this case models of the global expansion of philanthropic foundations (at least one type of them). It is sort of a rite of passage — everyone in the world polity/world society tradition has to model diffusion at some point or another. And, there have to be INGOs. Lots and lots of INGOs.
Wes also examines the effects of foundations on national-level outcomes using statistical data. Foundations, it seems, have concrete consequences. Environmental foundations affect some measures of environmental degradation; medical foundations affect some kinds of medical outcomes (e.g., vaccinations), and so on. Some of the effects are mediated by the size of the state, with bigger effects where the state is smaller. In a world frequently typified by loose coupling, these direct consequences of foundations are actually kind of surprising…
Wes’s defense was a nation-wide phenomenon, with Liz (co-chair) and Michael Goldman in Minnesota, me and Ann Skyping in from the West Coast, and Michael Barnett on the East Coast. The defense was particularly lively, with the Michaels doing a great job of pushing back on the world society perspective, in a manner that was thought-provoking and constructive. It is always great when people ask the hard questions… I think of it as a sign of respect. You don’t push people if you know they can’t hold their own. Anyhow, it made for a fun defense (especially for those of us, who weren’t actually in the hot seat!).
Congratulations, Wes, on a job well done!!!
p.s. Wes won some serious style-points for dedicating his dissertation to their newborn, who is appallingly cute by all accounts: “For our beautiful daughter, Harper, whose first smiles came as I put this dissertation to bed — an event I chalk up to correlation, not causation.”
December 10, 2011
This past Wednesday Jasmine Kerrissey defended her dissertation, entitled “Union Mergers in the United States, 1900-2005″.
The project examines the causes and consequences of union mergers in the United States over the past century. As I told Jasmine many times, this ambitious project could easily have been two dissertations. First, she assembles historical data on essentially the entire population of mergers among national labor unions, to understand why and under what conditions unions merge. Second, she looks at the consequences of mergers for union governance — and in particular, the extent to which unions are internally democratic.
Union mergers are interesting for lots of reasons. Most of the research on organizational mergers comes from the study of private-sector firms, and so unions provide a fresh arena to test conventional arguments.
But, more interesting and important is the question of how mergers relate to the union movement specifically. Are mergers a response to external threats and the growing size of corporations which they bargain with? Changes in the political environment? Something else? And, does merging change the character of unions? No single project could fully address the latter, but Jasmine looks at a key issue: whether mergers lead to less-democratic governance. She discusses several reasons why this might occur… and, indeed, she finds that post-merger unions are often less-democratic their pre-merger counterparts (controlling for key factors, such as size). Thus the consolidation of unions has arguably generated some adverse consequences for the labor movement.
The project includes remarkable quantitative data and analyses (building on Judy Stepan-Norris’s unrivaled dataset on American unions), and rich archival research — a real empirical tour de force, with a very compelling case study that unpacks the findings of the quantitative research.
Having known next-to-nothing about unions before meeting Jasmine a few years back, it has been a pleasure to see this project develop, and also to work with Jasmine on various collaborative endeavors. Judy Stepan-Norris was the chair (Caleb Southworth, Cal Morrill, and David Meyer were also on the committee)… I was just along for the ride.
Anyhow, congratulations Jasmine!
December 10, 2011
OK, still catching up on old news… We’ve had a bunch of defenses at UCI, starting with Karen Robinson a few months ago.
Karen’s dissertation looks at the rise of choice in university curricula over the past century. Classically, universities offered rigid “courses of study” — specific sequences of topics, from which students could not deviate. Or, there were exam-based programs, again affording no options to students.
This, of course, has given way to a world where students choose among myriad elective courses, and even design their own majors to address their highly individualized interests and preferences.
Karen does a wonderful job of telling an intertwined story — that the rise of individualism writ large is bound up with celebration of individualism and choice in university curricula. On one hand, the university is a fantastic site to interrogate the nature of modern individualism (she has some amazing qualitative material). On the other hand, Karen argues that the university, itself, is a primary locus for the institutionalization and promulgation of individualism in modern societies. Obviously, this historical shift is related to the rise of students as consumers, but she resists a simple story that student “demand” drives the expansion of choice. Rather, Karen compellingly argues that the imagery of demand is just one facet of a sweeping cultural shift toward greater individualism in society.
David Frank chaired the committee, and you can see his influence in the massive data collection that Karen undertook. (David is rather zealous — some would say crazy — when it comes to data.) She examined university course catalogs over an entire century, focusing mostly on American universities (including elite, land-grant, religious, and historically black universities and colleges). She also has a comparative chapter that examines diverse cases across the world — and shows that the rise of individualism and choice in university curricula is a global phenomenon.
You can get a flavor of the project from Karen’s solo-authored paper in Sociological Forum, which came out in the September issue: “The Rise of Choice in the U.S. University and College: 1910–2005“. Congrats on that, too!
October 26, 2011
Deserving of a separate post: Wade Cole has also recently moved to the University of Utah, in the sociology department. Congrats, Wade!
Utah has a long history of strength in global/international issues going back to people like Ed Kick (of Snyder and Kick). Michael Timberlake and Jeffrey Kentor are there, along with more recent hires like Andrew Jorgenson. And, with Wade and Tricia there, the place keeps building. They really have critical mass…
Wade has also been cranking out a bunch of great papers, which I’ll take up in a later post…
October 19, 2011
OK, not exactly the newest news item… I’m doing some long overdue posting.
Tricia (Martin) Bromley landed a job at the University of Utah in the Political Science Department. Congrats Tricia!
I visited once and really liked it there — the Rocky Mountains are a stone’s throw away. More on Utah hires in a future posting…
Tricia continues to crank out terrific papers, including this paper with John and Chiqui on student-centeredness in the curriculum, which is forthcoming in Social Forces (congrats on that, too!):
The paper takes on a big and really important issue: the dramatic shift toward student centrism in education. Schooling used to put authoritative knowledge at front-and-center… Shakespeare and Plato are important, students are not. In contrast, modern pedagogy places the empowered student at the center of things. Instead of learning Shakespeare, they should write their own poetry. This is reflected very clearly in textbooks…
The paper does two great things: First, it brings some really amazing cross-national data to bear on the issue. The Stanford group has assembled a truly remarkable dataset on textbooks from around the world. Not only does this allow systematic statistical analysis of the issue, but the examples (scanned images) really drive the points home.
Second, the paper (along with others coming out of the project) shows how the curriculum is a powerful site for exploring the culture of modernity — in this case, the nature of “individualism.” There is less work on the foundational culture of modernity than one might expect. You’d think that sociologists of culture would be all over this stuff, but there sometimes seems to be a tendency to shy away from the foundational aspects of modern culture (there are notable exceptions, for instance Zelizer’s “Pricing the Priceless Child”). Anyhow, the article offers fresh insights into the culture of individualism — and the role of the curriculum in institutionalizing that culture.
Good luck getting settled in the new job!
August 25, 2011
Back from ASA in Las Vegas. Phew! Fun, but tiring…
The highlight was definitely when John Meyer was awarded the Global and Transnational Sociology Distinguished Career Award.
It was just a really nice event. Roland Robertson, who won the award last year gave an introduction, Liz Boyle presented the award, and then John made some really thoughtful remarks. Among the funny parts: John thanked Roland for the kind introduction — and then mused that he felt he ought to disagree. (Maybe you had to be there…) I think some people took a video of the speech (maybe Yong Suk?). I’ll post it if I get hold of it.
A whole bunch of John’s students showed up, which not only drove home the impact John has had on the field but also made it feel like a big family reunion. Many of his students are now senior scholars in the field themselves — but there were plenty of mid-career people and recent PhDs in the room, too. It was quite amazing to see the span of people he’s worked with. And, Maria Meyer was there, adding her own cheerful warmth to the event. All in all, a very nice evening.
On top of that, David Frank, Sarah Babb, and Cheris Chan won awards, too… all terrific scholars (and really nice people, too).
January 19, 2011
Greetings! After an unplanned hiatus (meaning, I was busy), I’m back to blogging again. Anyhow, I have some great news to share:
Wes Longhofer landed a terrific job! Starting next year, Wes will be an Assistant Professor of Organization & Management at the Goizueta Business School at Emory University.
They have a great orgs group there — Anand, Giacomo, Peter, Chris, and a bunch of other terrific people. Of course, this continues a trend of B-schools pulling many of the best and brightest from sociology…
p.s. now I know what to get Wes as a graduation present: a sociology-to-MBA dictionary, so he can communicate with the MBAs… for instance, his dissertation on “global philanthropy” roughly translates as “social ventures in emerging markets”.
p.p.s. I’ll try to hold off on the MBA jokes, but it is hard to resist…
September 3, 2010
Chiqui wrote an excellent — and fun to read — review of the book DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education by Anya Kamanetz. Check it out:
The book taps into a number of recurrent themes about the imminent demise of conventional higher education — especially the idea that technology (in this case the internet) renders traditional universities obsolete. Who needs to pay 40K a year to go to Stanford, since everyone can watch Kahn Academy videos on Youtube for free?
Chiqui provides a gentle rejoinder, reminding us that universities are deeply institutionalized certification systems that may not easily be supplanted:
“The future, Kamenetz knows for sure, belongs to personal networks, not to the certifying dinosaurs.But therein lies the rub. To truly undercut universities, one must undermine their certification clout. Kamenetz imagines this will happen because technology allows us to peer into universities and classrooms and see results. We indeed can see results with respect to a narrow domain of skills. But as regards a broader range of more complex qualities – what she calls the “pearl inside the oyster” – results are murky. And it is precisely this uncertainty that will continue to give universities and their diplomas the edge over personal learning networks and their portfolios.”
Anyhow, it is definitely worth thinking about the role of technology in transforming higher education. But, Chiqui’s review reminds us not to forget about the institutional centrality of universities in the process.
August 27, 2010
David Frank just passed on some terrific news. His paper on worldwide trends in the regulation of sex (with Bayliss Camp and Steve Boutcher) just got accepted at ASR!!!!!!!
Congratulations! It is a great paper. Moreover, I’ve seen first hand the incredible amount of labor that David has put into this project. David usually goes for ambitious data collection efforts, but this project was just insane. (Really, really insane.) It is great to see all the hard work paying off.
And, it is great news for Bayliss Camp and Steve Boutcher. Steve is just starting a new position at UMass, Amherst. How auspicious to hit ASR shortly after starting a tenure track job!
The paper looks at global trends in the criminal regulation of sexuality — specifically, laws regarding adultery, sodomy, rape, and incest — from 1945 to 2005. How does David know about legal changes in every country for 60 years? Well, that’s the insane data collection…
The empirical story is very clear: The scope of adultery and sodomy laws tends to shrink over time, while the scope of rape and incest laws greatly expands. The paper masterfully explains these dual trends as deriving from a global cultural shift toward individualism. Here’s an over-simplified version: Traditional familial/corporatist societies (think Feudalism) organize law in terms of crimes against the family (or patriarch). In that kind of system adultery is considered really bad. Wives were viewed as property, and adultery was essentially a crime against the family. But, that culture is increasingly displaced by a modern “individualistic” culture… wives are no longer property, but independent individuals. Modern laws are now oriented to protect individuals, not the family. In the newer framework, adultery isn’t so bad — but other things, like rape, very much are. (David — correct me if I’m simplifying too much.)
Anyhow, the actual argument is better and more sophisticated than my brief summary. If you haven’t seen it, check out the paper:
May 20, 2010
I’ve added a page with some basic resources on institutional theory.
Partly, it is a place to hold Ron’s excellent review paper (see previous post). But, I’ve also added some general info and references… and will update it in the future.
May 18, 2010
I created a new page that lists some key resources on world society/world polity theory. I’m not really trying to include “everything-and-the-kitchen-sink”… it is more like a starting point. That said, feel free to suggest things to add…
September 1, 2009
John Boli just sent around an updated world society/world polity bibliography (created by John, Selina Gallo-Cruz, and Matthew Mathias). It is a tremendous resource — 42 pages of references! Every time I look at it, I see something new that I want to read.
Click here to download: World Society-Polity bibliography 1 Sept 09
May 27, 2009
Wonderful news: Miriam Abu Sharkh was just received a MAJOR award from the European Research Council for her proposal entitled “Global Governance and Gender Disparities. Explaining Developments in Key Labor related Human Rights Indicators”. She got 5 years of support — Wow! Congratulations Miriam!
As a separate matter, it is terrific to see that an explictly neo-institutional/world polity project is being welcomed by major funders in Europe. It is an increasingly mainstream and legitimate enterprise… which benefits us all.