January 17, 2013
Thanks to Jasmine Kerrissey, I’ve been learning about labor unions both in the US and comparatively. Our paper on union membership and political participation (in the US) is finally out:
Kerrissey, Jasmine O. and Evan Schofer. 2013. Union Membership and Political Participation in the United States. Social Forces, doi: 10.1093/sf/sos187.
We are also working on the same issue cross-nationally…
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!
November 28, 2011
John Meyer wrote a terrific review paper entitled “World Society, Institutional Theories, and the Actor.” It can be downloaded here.
It is John’s most refined, clear statement about institutional theory to date. A definite “must-read.”
The review draws a contrast between cultural/phenomenological institutionalisms — which treat actors as socially constructed — versus “realist” institutionalisms which tend not to. In John’s imagery, one might think of individuals or organizations as “stage actors” (who enact scripts) as opposed to a more conventional social-scientific or economistic view of actors with a priori preferences.
As a student in the 1990s, I can remember wading through “Ontology and Rationalization in the Modern Western Cultural Account”. I spent quite a long time puzzling through that sweeping, profound, and sometimes cryptic chapter. Reading this new review, I can’t help but be amazed at how much John’s vision has grown and become more clear. The core ideas were already there in the 1987 chapter, but there was much fleshing-out to be done.
An excerpt from the 2010 review:
The Modern Social Order
“Under the cultural and associational conditions outlined above, the outlines of modern society become clear. The scriptwriting Others of the world prescribe agentic actorhood for individual persons. And they prescribed very agentic actorhood for the organizations and nation-states built by these persons. Actorhood means the enhanced standing of the entities involved and their empowered comprehension of the scientized and rationalized environment in which they are to act.” p. 9
I included this excerpt partly because it is impressive to have see anyone try to sum up the entire modern social system in a paragraph. Also, it shows that John still has the ability to be simultaneously sweeping, profound, and cryptic.
November 10, 2011
Wade sent me and Ann some of his recent work on human rights. He’s got some great papers, including one coming out in the AJS. More congrats to Wade! He’s really on a roll!
Anyhow, the papers take on a really important issue: the conditions under which global institutions actually have meaningful consequences, versus being loosely coupled. It is a really important direction for world society research. (Ann and I have a paper in Social Forces that looks at environmental outcomes… and are thinking about doing more research along these lines.)
The AJS paper is entitled “Human Rights as Myth and Ceremony? Reevaluating the Effectiveness of Human Rights Treaties.” The paper addresses recent work, including a widely cited AJS paper by Emilie Hafner-Burton and Kiyo Tsutsui, showing that treaty signing is negatively associated with subsequent practices. The literature concludes that treaties are “just talk”, or that treaties only matter in highly specific contexts.
Wade’s paper improves on the literature in two ways: 1) He delves much more into the substance of the treaties, looking at specific amendments and optional provisions that nations might sign — which might affect specific kinds of human rights outcomes; and 2) He addresses the possibility that treaty signing itself may be endogenous, via an instrumental variables model.
The AJS paper shows that nations making stronger treaty commitments tend to improve on various measures of human rights. So, HR treaties do matter after all, it seems… Go world polity!
The second paper, “Decoupling Reconsidered: Accounting for the Implementation Gap in Human Rights Treaties” looks at the state-level factors associated with loose coupling. The paper is really terrific and deserves a close read. But, in a nutshell, stable regimes are more likely to successfully implement treaties. This fits really well with Ann’s prior work on weak states… which often commit huge atrocities in the context of extreme disorder or civil conflict. In other words, loose coupling probably isn’t “strategic” window dressing, but rather reflects the very limited state capacities of many countries.
Wade is looking for feedback as he revises the paper, so check it out: Wade Cole Decoupling Reconsidered.pdf Actually, knowing him, you’d better hurry with comments… I’m sure it will be in print soon!
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 28, 2011
The world is awash in associations, which go by many labels: non-profits, NGOs, advocacy groups, “community based organizations”, voluntary associations, and so on. Wes and I have been working for a long time on the general question: “Where do associations come from?” Our main paper on the issue is forthcoming in the September issue of the American Journal of Sociology.
One common view is that associations arise from society itself — from educated, affluent individuals seeking to address various collective issues. We actually find support for this (or at least the point that education encourages association).
We develop two alternatives (each rooted in a long line of sociological work):
1) We argue that the state is an engine of association — and its historical expansion massively drives the growth of association. Our argument is in some ways out of fashion. It is more common to claim that the state “crowds out” association, and that NGOs flourish in the vacuum produced by shrinking or collapsed governments. We spend a good chunk of the paper discussing why this “conventional wisdom” is off-base, and working out why the expansion of the state (and other features, such as decentralization) encourage the formation of association. Among other things, the state legitimates issues in the public sphere and provides both resources and incentives to organize.
2) We argue that world society encourages association on a global scale. The international sphere is now filled with thousands of international NGOs, IGOs, “transnational advocacy networks”, and the like. This rich associational and cultural environment provides the legitimation, organizational models, and sometimes direct resources and assistance that encourage the formation of associations around the world — especially in the global south. In particular, “civil society” is very much in fashion, and international donors — not to mention key players like the World Bank — routinely fund (directly or indirectly) all sorts of local NGOs and community groups. Of course, this raises some issues. What does it mean to be a “local” when a great deal of funding and support for associations comes from places like the World Bank? We reflect on this at the end of the paper…
We explore these arguments using statistical data on voluntary associations for a large sample of countries over the past few decades.
It was a fun paper to work on, and Wes did a great job. A pre-publication version can be found here:
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:
August 23, 2010
Tricia Bromley sent me another terrific paper, written with John Meyer and Chiqui Ramirez, coming out of the increasingly-prolific comparative project on textbooks.
The paper shows vividly how environmentalism is increasingly brought into the school curriculum… and that the trend is part of a broader “package” of world society themes in education, which they call “post-national” curricular emphases — such as a focus on human rights or international issues generally.
Piece by piece, this project is building the case that school systems increasingly serve as repositories of a common global culture. And, given the obvious role of schools in transmitting knowledge and culture, the implications are seismic. Whereas many treat educational enrollment measures as an indicator of human capital, I see an indicator of the worldwide penetration of global culture (or in David Frank’s terms, an incredibly important “receptor site” that imports and transmits global culture).
Definitely worth reading. Here’s the paper:
This is the “short” version. They have a longer version with extensive appendices that show many more examples from various textbooks. The extra examples are terrific and really give a sense of the many ways that the environment shows up in the curriculum… from old-school maps of a country’s climate zones or mineral resources (something I remember from my childhood) to more “contemporary” discussions of global warming, etc. A more systematic treatment of that, alone, could make another great paper. The long version is quite a download (60+ megabytes)… Here is a link.
August 17, 2010
Wade Cole sent me an excellent paper entitled: “Individuals v. States: An Analysis of Human Rights Committee Rulings, 1979-2007.”
The paper is about complaints issued to the Human Rights Committee (HRC) under the First Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (a key human rights treaty). Specifically, he analyzes which countries are found to be “violators” and which tend to be exonerated… both as a function of country-level characteristics and also characteristics of the complaints themselves.
Like the International Criminal Court (ICC), the HRC is an international forum… in this case, where individuals can lodge complaints against states for a wide range of human rights violations. These types of international institutions are a great topic to study… and Wade shows the extent to which these kinds of institutions are used — and how much they actually rule against states.
Wade also does a great job of characterizing the nature of the Human Rights regime. It is clear that the HRC is rather toothless… it issues non-binding “views” — they can’t even call them “rulings”, as that might encroach on state sovereignty. But, Wade also give a sense of the potential cultural/symbolic/normative import of these (and other) international institutions — which both world society research as well as constructivists in Poli Sci have emphasized.
The main country-level findings: Rich (i.e., mainly Western) countries are more likely to be “exonerated” by the HRC and less likely to be viewed as a violator. That isn’t shocking, but important to know (and consistent with a variety of theoretical perspectives). Meanwhile, newly democratizing countries — those in transition — are the opposite.
The paper also looks at the content: what kinds of claims generate rulings against states. Wade finds that claims about due process (& detention) and basic liberties are most often viewed as violations — as compared, say, to complaints about voting rights, family issues, and the like. It sounds like the HRC is most aggressive on the “traditional” home turf of the HR regime… and less willing to support claims on “softer” issues.
Anyhow, Wade mentioned that he’s revising it, so I’m sure he’d welcome comments/reactions. Here is the current draft:
Edit: I emailed Wade with some thoughts about the models… and he mentions some future directions and related work:Wade writes: “I’m currently undertaking more detailed analyses to determine if the composition of the HRC along various lines (political, cultural, etc.) influences rulings. I’m especially interested in interaction and period effects – for instance, are Western countries more likely to be found in violation as the number of HRC members from communist countries increases during the Cold War, and are non-Western countries more likely to be found in violation as the number of Western members increases after the Cold War? I hope I have sufficient sample sizes for these sorts of analyses.” “Incidentally, I have a companion paper under R&R at International Sociology which finds that violations do, in some cases, have a positive effect on subsequent practices. The effect varied by type of abuse: infractions of civil rights and religious freedom were more susceptible to change than was abuse of physical integrity rights such as torture. These findings made good sense to me.”
August 16, 2010
We revised our review paper on world society / world polity theory. I’ve added the new version to the “world polity resources page”.
It isn’t much different from the older version… but we cleaned it up a bit.
August 14, 2010
Before hopping on a plane to ASA, Wes sent me the news that our paper on environmental associations is finally out!
I’m especially happy for Wes, who worked really hard on this one… and who will be on the job market at some point and will hopefully benefit directly from it. Also, the paper had a complex/convoluted history — and so I’m really happy that it made it through the review process. Many thanks to the current and former ASR Editors — especially Vinnie Roscigno, who went “above and beyond the call” to help us improve the paper and get it into print.
A pre-publication version is available here: Longhofer Schofer ASR Environmental Associations 9.24.09.pdf
I hope everyone is having fun in Atlanta! I’m skipping ASA this year… I’ll have to wait for next year in Chicago to partake in the frenzy.
July 15, 2010
Kristen Shorette (a PhD student at UCI) and Ann Hironaka have a new paper looking at a another dimension of environmental degradation: agricultural chemicals such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
Kristen has spent a fair bit of time thinking about world-system theory, and has brought that to the collaboration. Their paper joins people like Andrew Jorgenson (at Utah), who are examining both world-system and world society effects on environmental degradation.
Here’s one of their tables of results: Shorette Hironaka Pesticides Table 7.15.10.pdf
As we’ve seen in prior work, global institutions and organizations (e.g., treaties, INGOs) are associated with lower levels of degradation. But, the effect of world society is less strong in the semi-periphery. (See the positive interaction in Model 8… which shows that the generally negative effect of world society is a attenuated for the semi-periphery.)
I’ve been talking with Ann about it. One option is to tell a loose coupling story. A variety of factors undermine the link between international pro-environmental institutions and concrete outcomes — such as lack of domestic resources. Very poor countries often aren’t up to the task of implementing treaties, for instance.
The pressures generated by world-system dynamics may be one more source decoupling that attenuates world society effects. Though it is interesting to note that the interaction doesn’t actually indicate a positive effect of world society on pesticide use. The large negative main effect (which corresponds to the reference group) combined with the smaller positive interaction (for the semi-periphery) still yields a negative coefficient — indicating a negative effect of world society on pesticide use in the semi-periphery.
July 1, 2010
More good news. John Meyer told me that his paper, with Tricia (Martin) Bromley and Chiqui Ramirez was recently accepted at Sociology of Education!
The paper comes out of their major ongoing project to code textbooks from a large number of countries. I’m a big fan of the project. Sociologists of education are mainly concerned with stratification, and one consequence is that the curriculum hasn’t garnered much attention (except, of course, in narrow ways that relate to stratification).
This project examines the curriculum in a new light: as one of the important forms of institutionalized cultural knowledge in society. Curricula reflect dominant cultural themes of modernity — and so global analyses of the curriculum shed light on global culture.
The curriculum is also a particularly consequential form of institutionalized culture… because it is transmitted to kids through schooling. The curriculum — and education systems more generally — consolidate and reproduce modern culture. This project, in my opinion, reflects a really important new direction for institutional theory and for the study of modern culture/knowledge. (Another example is David Frank and Jay Gabler’s book Reconstructing the University.)
Anyhow, the paper has some nice models identifying the key factors associated with high levels of emphasis on human rights in school textbooks around the world. Human rights appears in textbooks increasingly over time (especially after the mid-1990s), particularly in those that are very student-centric and focus on international issues. At the country level, some measures of individualism and economic development predict human rights.
The descriptive material and analysis of the content of human rights discourse really make the paper shine. The paper gives a powerful sense of how the curriculum is increasingly globally defined — with a content that enshrines the importance of the empowered individual.
June 29, 2010
*** Update: Colin just told me that the paper was accepted in the time since he sent it to me. It will be appearing in Social Science History. Congrats Colin!!! ***
Colin Beck was kind enough to share his paper on revolutions, which he presented earlier at the Irvine Comparative Sociology Workshop. The paper makes the argument that global cultural dynamics contributed to waves of revolutions throughout European history.
Here is a link: Beck World Cultural Origins of Revolutionary Waves.pdf
I think of my work as spanning long periods, but I can’t compete with Colin. The paper is based on a 500 year time series of data on European revolutions. The key outcome is the count of “revolutionary situations” per year associated with “waves” (as opposed to wholly isolated ones). Colin finds that periods of world cultural efflorescence predicts revolutionary situations (as do periods of hegemonic war).
He makes several arguments, centering on the point that cultural efflorescence generates expansive ideologies that are at odds with political realities — creating conflict. The argument hinges, in part, on the neo-institutional concept of “actorhood”, that modern global culture constructs individuals as political actors, which facilitates greater collective action than one might expect… apparently including revolutions. For background, check out the Meyer/Jepperson paper in Sociological Theory on “actorhood”, listed in my Institutional Theory Resources page. Colin also argues that periods of world cultural efflorescence can “fracture elite consensus through the evolution of new ideologies,” creating opportunities for revolution.
Anyhow, download the paper and check it out!
June 25, 2010
Colin Beck just sent me a couple of papers. This one, written with Gili Drori and John Meyer, looks at human rights enshrined in constitutions around the world.
This is a great issue. Obviously, there is a huge global human rights regime… but one wonders how much of this actually gets institutionalized at the national level. Well, this paper addresses that question.
Some of the key empirical findings: 1) This is obviously a global process… and therefore countries with strong ties to the human rights regime are much more likely to incorporate human rights into their constitutions in various ways. 2) Older countries and countries that haven’t revised their constitutions since the rise of the human rights regime tend not to address human rights in their constitutions. 3) Democracy tends to have a positive effect, but it loses significance when you include all the global variables.
Some other interesting tidbits:
1) A focus on human rights doesn’t seem to displace or supplant existing ways of thinking about rights in general. Rather, they are “added on” to constitutions on top of all the other kinds of rights.
2) The paper examines whether “post-conflict” societies have more mentions of human rights. They don’t get an effect (on average, across all cases). But, there are some conspicuous examples. Uganda, Serbia, Bosnia, and El Salvador are all really big into human rights, at least in their constitutions…
3) New Zealand has a 1,200 page constitution. (The mean is around 60.) There are 278 mentions of human rights… wow. Glad I didn’t have to code that one!
Anyhow, take a look at the paper: Beck, Drori, Meyer Human Rights Constitutions June 2010.pdf
One thing: I’m now curious to see more descriptive information on the content of human rights in constitutions. What kinds of global discourses tend to get incorporated? Which don’t? And, do the patterns vary across different types of countries (e.g., democracies versus non-democracies)?