Louisa Roberts, PhD!

Congratulations to Louisa Roberts, who successfully defended her dissertation at Ohio State University this week:  “The Globalization of the Acceptance of Homosexuality:  Mass Opinion and National Policy”

The committee included Ryan King (the chair) and Hollie Brehm, two of the outstanding graduates of the Minnesota sociology department.  I met Louisa at ASA, and ended up getting added to her committee along the way.

The dissertation uses data from the World Values Survey to explore shifting values toward homosexuality around the world.  Louisa argues that world society sustains strong noms that are having a powerful impact, reshaping attitudes and also propelling pro-LGBT legislation such as laws permitting same-sex marriage.

Among the project’s many contributions:

1) First, the dissertation does a really nice job of describing and exploring the trends in attitudes toward homosexuality, overall and by region.  One comes away with a powerful sense of the dramatic global change that has occurred.  With the recent resurgence of anti-LGBT movements and legislation in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and some former soviet states, it is easy to forget the very large increases in tolerance throughout most of the world.  Sociologists are always quick to point out continuing injustices, and rightly so, but one must not lose sight of the tremendous social change that has occurred.  The change is massive, and cries out for explanation.  And, the dissertation does not disappoint in terms of developing a strong answer.

2) The project joins people like Liz Boyle, Markus Hadler, Jennifer Givens, and Lir Wang in exploring how world society affects individuals.  Originally, world society theory focused almost exclusively on state policy adoption… but it is increasingly clear that world society penetrates down into national societies and affects people.  This branch of the world society literature is in its infancy, and Louisa’s dissertation adds to the literature in a big way.

3) The first empirical chapter shows that world society (measures by INGOs) affects attitudes.  But, then in a very nice touch, Louisa shows that the liberal attitudes accelerate state policy adoption of LGBT-friendly policies, such as same-sex marriage laws.  So, states are “squeezed” from above (by world society pressures) and from below (by citizens, whose attitudes are shaped by world society).  I think this is an increasingly common dynamic — sort of a top-down world society version of Keck and Sikkink’s “boomerang”.  One place this is discussed is in a 2016 Social Forces article by Wes Longhofer, David Frank, Natasha Miric, and myself… though I think others have played with variants of this idea.  Anyhow, Louisa shows the process very well.

In Fall Louisa will be starting her new job as an assistant professor of sociology at the University of South Dakota.  Congratulations on that, too!!!

Rethinking War

The big news in our household is that Ann’s newest book is out!

tokensofpowerhironaka

Tokens of Power: Rethinking War, by Ann Hironaka, (Cambridge University Press, 2017). Amazon link.

This is Ann’s biggest book by far in terms of scope and ambition.  It started as an effort to explore how world society shapes international competition and warmaking, but it evolved over time into a full-fledged critique of the dominant understandings of war in military history and international relations.

The book is too big to easily summarize, but I’ll try to provide a taste of it.  The conventional view in military history and classic international relations sees war as a domain of strategic action, in which states compete in order to survive.  Such analyses tend to focus on leaders and their strategies, the concrete resources they fight over, and the evolving technologies that determine the course and conduct of war.

Ann undercuts these seemingly iron-clad determinisms by focusing on the incredible ambiguity and complexity of warmaking.  In fact, the combatants, goals, and strategies are ever-changing, and in most cases leaders are perpetually caught flat-footed.  The history of war is filled with monumental disasters, of powerful countries making epic misjudgments and bankrupting or destroying themselves in pursuit of technologies and resources (“tokens of power”) that often proved worthless in the end.

Theoretically, the book draws together strands of John Meyer’s world society theory with Jim March’s insights about the challenges of learning and rational action in a complex and ambiguous world.  War may be a miasma of infinite complexity, but states are under pressure to prepare for it anyway.  And, where ambiguity dominates, dynamics of social construction fill in the gaps in military plans.  Military theorists construct arbitrary interpretations of prior wars, which diffuse across world society and inform subsequent generations of military planning.

Ultimately, Ann argues that interstate competition tends to devolve toward “one-upmanship”.  While the actual world is complex, the social hierarchy of Great Powers is crystal clear.  The complex goal of obtaining “security” devolves into efforts to climb above others in the status hierarchy, usually to the detriment of all involved.

Scholars in international relations have been moving in this direction to various degrees for some time.  Fearon pointed out that rational states would avoid (costly) wars, so warmaking must reflect systematic error and misperception.  And, IR theorists are more accepting of the idea that war involves tremendous uncertainty, that states follow “bandwagons”, and that states fight over intangible things like “reputation”.  And, constructivists like Wendt suggest that security, itself, is constructed.

Ann uses insights from sociology to link these emerging themes in IR theory, to create a more coherent overall account of the dynamics of warfare over the past few centuries.  Of course, I’m biased, but I think it is an incredibly important book.  Sociologists have largely given up the study of war, but I think this is unfortunate.  Sociological ideas are more relevant than ever as the field of IR itself seeks to move toward constructivist direction.

Polity vs society, the blog

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.

Polity vs society, the substantive issue

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.

World polity or world society?

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…

The global citation cluster

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

Name Centrality Count Keywords
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

INGO memberships: raw or cooked?

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…

The World’s Regions (according to news reports)…

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.

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/09/world-civilizations-from-network-analysis/

The regions produce the following map:

Image

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.

http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3663/3040

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!

Wes Longhofer Defends

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.”

Meyer Annual Review

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.  🙂

Human Rights: Myth and Consequences?

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!  🙂

The Sources of Association

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:

Schofer Longhofer 2011 Sources of Association AJS.pdf

Frank et al — Criminal Regulation of Sexuality

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:

Frank Camp Boutcher World Trends Regulation of Sex 8.27.2010.doc

Environmentalism in Textbooks

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:

Bromley Meyer Ramirez Environmentalism in Textbooks 6.2010.pdf

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.

Individuals v. States

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:

Cole Individuals v States HRC Rulings.pdf

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.”