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