Happy Three Year Blogversary! Best of the Blog Post

Today marks three full years here at A (Budding) Sociologist’s Commonplace Book!* What a ride – three ASA blogger parties, hundreds of posts and comments, my first troll, and so many more memories. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, please take this opportunity to introduce yourself and let me know what you think of the blog, if you have any requests, etc.!

On this happy blogversary, I thought I’d list a few highlights: my top five most popular posts (by number of views), my five favorite posts, and a few other categories.

Top Five Posts (by Views**):

1. Is Economics a Science? From Nobel Prizes to Public Opinion (3,706):

A perennial search engine favorite. In this post, I try to bring some data to the question of “is economics a science”? In particular, the GSS has some interesting data from a module on science showing that sociology and economics are viewed relatively similarly – which I think tells us we need to be more nuanced in thinking about where the “science gap” between soc and econ lies (hint: perhaps policymakers, not the public).

2. Basic Concepts in Sociology (2,860):

I think there are three basic concepts [in sociology] that often go unremarked but are incredibly potent in contemporary (and early) sociological thinking: division of labor, definition of the situation, and taken for granted.

3. 4 More Definitions of Agency (1,907):

  • Agency as free-will.
  • Agency as the explanatory residual of structure.
  • Agency as a mode of action (way of affecting the world).
  • Agency as an analytic counterfactual and (perhaps) site of future intervention.
  • 4. The Passions of Adam Smith: Self-Interest, Sympathy and Societal Good (1,617):

    In sum, Smith saw the market as a societally useful coordinating system for harnessing self-interest, one of man’s many motivations, to produce good outcomes. Smith did not think markets always worked, that they worked perfectly, that they worked solely in the absence of any government involvement, or the like. Most importantly, to me, Smith never denied the obvious ways in which people are altruistic or other-regarded, rather, he focused on the limitations of such motivations for coordinating a complex society. Indeed, this scope of benevolence is part of Adam Smith’s distrust of politicians – even those who are most altruistic may still be focused helping a fairly narrow subset of others, and may end up hurting the whole.

    5. Agents: Rational, Natural or Open Systems? (1,406):

    My first big entry on the structure/agency kerfuffle. I analogize between org theory models of organizations as rational, natural or open systems to models of the individual agent, and then speculate as to how this trichotomy might help make sense of the structure/agency debate.

    Five Favorite Posts (unordered):

    1. In Defense of Callon’s Performativity of Economics:

    My first cut at explaining why I like Callon’s version of the performativity of economics (as somewhat distinct from MacKenzie’s version, which focuses more on truth and less on the production of calculative agencies).

    2. Nerds vs. Geeks vs. Dorks: Round n of N:

    The only blog post for which I have commissioned a graphic (a ternary plot provided by a professional graphics designer and childhood friend). I bring Google search data to the timeless question: what’s the difference between a Nerd, a Geek and a Dork? The answer may surprise you.

    3. Mr. Tambourine Man: Enchanting Song or Warning of the Return of the Old Ones? A Textual Analysis:

    Perhaps my silliest post, and one that I am sure gets the worst reactions from folks who accidentally find it through a search engine. I offer a Lovecraftian reading of Bob Dylan’s famous hit. I am far too proud of this work of literary interpretation.

    4. Four Arguments for the Free Market:

    I discuss four not always convergent arguments for the free market, along with some critique:

    1. Market allocate scarce resources efficiently.
    2. Markets take advantage of all of the information in society.
    3. Markets generate the perennial gale of Creative Destruction, that is, innovation that produces wondrous new goods and cheaper and better ways to do everything.
    4. Markets limit discretion and power.

    5. So Long, Mariann (Or, Stinchcombe Was Right):
    A post about the passing of a woman who helped define and run the amazing high school I attended, using Stinchcombe’s phrase “the guts of the institution.”

    Best Incoming Link:

    “Dan Hirschman Tricked Me!”

    Fabio: You have tricked me, Dan of Ann Arbor! Curse you and your European social theory!

    Favorite QOTD:

    Block on Polanyi QOTD (I Made You A Perpetual Motion Machine But I Eated It):

    Here’s the quote, read the post for the context:

    But even by the logic of [Polanyi’s] own argument, there can never be a self-regulating market system, so the idea of impairing its functionality is an absurdity. It is the equivalent of complaining that one’s perpetual motion machine was damaged when it was inspected by skeptical scientists. (Block 2003: 297)

    Favorite Guest Post:

    Jeff Lundy, Why Everyone Younger Than You is Spoiled:

    …I think younger generations are already well aware that older generations (particularly boomers) think we’re a bunch of slackers. In fact, I’ve gotten so tired of hearing this from my elders that I’ve spent some time contemplating why older generations think us younger generations are so spoiled.

    While there are many things that must feed into this complex phenomenon, I think that a major culprit here is our elders’ amateur financial accounting.

    I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it! Here’s to another excellent year! And, I hope to see you in Ann Arbor, Vegas or wherever the winds shall takes us!

    * A fun bit of trivia – this blog was actually my second attempt at an academic blog. The first dates back to my year at UC San Diego, back when I studied immigration.
    ** According to WordPress.com’s wacky and mysterious stats tracker.

    Previous Post


    1. Stephan

       /  February 26, 2011

      I’m a regular reader and I like your blog very much. That said I would like to hear more about Karl Polanyi — especially contemporary research. Would be a nice counter point to the online avalanche of Hayek adoration.

      • I’m presenting a paper on Polanyi at ASA in Vegas*, so I’d be happy to write up a few thoughts on Polanyi (especially when I get further into the secondary literature as I work on polishing the paper this summer). Thanks for the request!

        * Vegas, baby, Vegas!

    2. Brian A. Pitt

       /  February 26, 2011

      Happy Blogversay Dan! I am a regular reader, and I enjoy your posts.
      It seems to me that your theoretical and empirical interests are eclectic, as you read widely. As one who suffers from the identical, while pleasant, malady I am interested in learning about your research interests, or what direction you plan to go in for your dissertation.
      Keep up the excellent posting!

      • Hey Brian!

        Thanks for reading! I’m a big fan of your blog as well. That reminds me, I really need to update the blgoroll here…

        I’m right now working on my dissertation prospectus, but somewhat slowly as I’m trying to finish up a few smaller projects first. The basic idea is still about the connection between the practice of national income accounting and the economy as an object of knowledge and intervention. It’s going to have two historical parts and, fingers-crossed, one fieldwork piece. As I start working on the prospectus more heavily, perhaps I will write up some pieces of it. Right now I’m struggling with thinking about a good way to do some systematic discourse analysis to “establish the phenomenon” that economic discourse really changed between, say, 1890 and 1955. Perhaps I’ll run some of my ideas up on the blog to see what y’all think!


    3. I, too, wish you a happy blogversary Dan! I admire your assiduousness in updating it regularly these three years (I’m finding out that it’s more difficult than it looks to keep up a blog), and enjoy your interesting musings on all things sociological.
      As an avid reader with many of the same interests, I would be interested to know more of your thoughts on a few topics:
      1) An extended treatment of value neutrality in the social sciences, particularly in economics and sociology. You’ve discussed value neutrality in passing in several posts, but I’d like to know what you’ve come across in your readings, as well as your own ruminations.
      2) Did you end up pursuing any more work on ‘ethical consumption’ as you mentioned in your first few posts?
      3) Did you ever play (in my opinion) the greatest Final Fantasy game of all time, Final Fantasy Tactics?
      Congratulations again, and here’s to another great year of blogging!

      • Alex,

        Thanks for reading! Value neutrality is something that comes up every now and then, but I haven’t done too much systematic reading or thinking about it. If I come across anything else juicy on the subject, I’ll be sure to post about it.

        I still have some dreams of studying free & open source software as an anti-commodification movement, but it’s not happening right away. A good friend of mine at Michigan is doing a dissertation on political activity and ethical consumption, so right now I live vicariously through him. If you are interested, I’d be happy to put you in touch!

        And last, I played FFT for many, many hours. I actually bought a playstation after I spent 12 hours straight watching one of my best friend’s younger brothers play FFT back when I was in.. 8th? grade. I also enjoyed the first gameboy edition (back when I had a working gameboy). FFT is undoubtedly a great game, but in my mind it’s incommensurable (Espeland 1998, Espeland and Stevens 1998) with the main FFs. FFT is what I wanted combat in a table-top RPG to be, but the rest of the gameplay was basically just min-maxing, with no puzzle-solving or exploration component. So, an excellent, immersive game, but not in quite the same game-space as FF6, 4, 7, or 9 (my favorite 4, in roughly that order).

        Best! And as a social scientist who is trying to learn how to cook, and not just bake a lot of cookies, I look forward to another year of your blog as well!

        • Deft reasoning on the FFT issue, and I would agree. Puzzle solving and exploration were a great virtue of the other games in the FF series. I played them all religiously in middle school as well. I decided to return to FFT two summers ago for a fun throwback activity. Ironically, I got stuck on the same boss (Wiegraf) at 22 that I did when I was 12!
          What a game.

    4. Happy blogversary Dan! This is one of my favorites and I visit way too rarely. Thanks for the retrospective and best wishes for more blogtastic wonderment.