Obama the Sociologist?

The NYTimes had an interesting story in last weekend’s magazine about Obama and lower and middle-class, especially rural, men. I’m still winding through it, but this quote from Obama at the beginning about ‘bittergate’ caught my eye:

“I mean, part of what I was trying to say to that group in San Francisco was, ‘You guys need to stop thinking that issues like religion or guns are somehow wrong,’ ” he continued. “Because, in fact, if you’ve grown up and your dad went out and took you hunting, and that is part of your self-identity and provides you a sense of continuity and stability that is unavailable in your economic life, then that’s going to be pretty important, and rightfully so. And if you’re watching your community lose population and collapse but your church is still strong and the life of the community is centered around that, well then, you know, we’d better be paying attention to that.”

So, not only does Obama seem to have a lot of sociological thinking behind his campaign (just look at this website’s social networking features, to start with), but he’s got a Weberian, anti-Marxist stance (well, anti-vulgar Marxist, e.g. voting against your pocket book is not just false consciousness) to boot. I wonder if Obama’s team has been following Gelman’s work (e.g. Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State) and the line of academic inquiry that rejects the premise of “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”. I hope so. It’d be nice to have a president who thought non-economist academics had something useful to say.



  1. Michelle’s influence?

  2. Precisely what I was thinking. This is why we should vote for him: his wife has a bachelor’s in sociology.

  3. Perhaps, but our last (and only) president with a B.A. in Sociology didn’t turn out so well…
    Then again, Sociology in the 1920-1930s was not the discipline we know and love. I wonder what his curriculum was like.

  4. Natalie

     /  October 20, 2008

    Well, I guess there’s a reason A Budding Sociologist would want the academic field the president cares about (outside of economics) to be Sociology…

    Just as those of us in other fields would want him to care about them too.

  5. Gelman is a political scientist, I mentioned him as well.

  6. Hm, wow, taking the perspective of ‘the other’. Didn’t Mead say this is the elementary dynamic of self-formation? I think it’s interesting we need to postulate Michelle as the source of this insight. This is SOC 101 stuff. I would hope any educated person and many thoughtful autodidacts are able to produce this level of analysis. If we can’t expect graduates of prestigious universities to get this without help from a spouse, we’re in some kind of trouble.

    Haha! I made a funny. Three quarters of my faculty colleagues can’t even do it. Sheesh. But maybe Barack was smart or nerdy enough to pay attention in his freshman core and actually got taught by someone who could rub two ideas together and get a spark. Probably a grad student.

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