Derivatives and Deregulation

Happy New Year! And with that new year, a new paper.

Russ Funk and I have been working on a collaborative project on law and organizations in the context of financial regulation. I’m pleased to be able to post a new working paper for the project.

Derivatives and Deregulation:
Financial Innovation and the Demise Of Glass-Steagall

Abstract: Just as regulation may inhibit innovation, innovation may undermine regulation. Regulators, much like market actors, rely on categorical distinctions to understand and act on the market. Innovations that are ambiguous to regulatory categories but not to market actors present a problem for regulators and an opportunity for innovative firms to evade or upend the existing order. We trace the history of one class of innovative financial derivatives—interest rate and foreign exchange swaps—to show how these instruments under- mined the separation of commercial and investment banking established by the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. Swaps did not fit neatly into existing product categories—futures, securities, loans—and thus evaded regulatory scrutiny for decades. The market success of swaps put commercial and investment banks into direct competition, and in so doing undermined Glass-Steagall. Drawing on this case, we theorize some of the political and market conditions under which regulations may be especially vulnerable to disruption by ambiguous innovations.

The paper is available from SSRN or downloadable directly here. Let us know what you think!

Foucault and the Promise of Holistic Admissions

It’s that time of year again. College admissions season. And along with the actual admissions process, and the torrent of advice pieces on how to win the game, come a host of essays, news stories, and blog posts about what it all means. An example of this genre is The Atlantic’s The False Promise of ‘Holistic’ College Admissions’. The essay argues that holistic admissions promise an individualized form of assessment that they can’t actually deliver:

In exchange for your candor (‘here are my parents’ tax returns, my transcript, an essay about my deepest secret, and some letters from my teachers about what I’m really like’), many colleges promise to evaluate you as a human being.

The issue, then, isn’t that schools look beyond grades and scores. It’s that admissions committees don’t really know applicants personally, and that their claiming to do so is bad for students.

The article links to a useful NYTimes piece that reports the experiences of a past application reviewer for UC-Berkeley, who notes that each application gets about eight minutes of review, and that the criteria for sorting packets into rankings (from 1 to 5) are deeply weird.

This weirdness is not surprising if we step back and think about colleges as organizations. Admissions, including holistic admissions, are designed to meet multiple organizational objectives at once. Mitchell Stevens shows this tremendously well in Creating a Class, an ethnographic look at admissions at a small, selective liberal arts school. Administrators need enough football players for the team, enough academically talented admits to keep up the academic reputation of the school and populate honors programs, enough rich admits to pay full tuition to help make up for the scholarships needed to attract students who bring other talents or desirable traits, and so on. Ellen Berrey, Fiona Greenland and I explore some of these tensions in the history of the transition at the University of Michigan from more mechanical, quantitative admissions to a holistic process modeled after the Ivies in the wake of the 2003 Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action [pdf available here].

But what struck me about this particular Atlantic essay was not the general concern with the subjective character of holistic admissions, or the deep weirdness of the admissions process and its conflicting goals, but rather the Foucauldian aspect of the current system. Students are asked to translate their entire lives into transcripts, essays, and letters of recommendations, to tell the truth about themselves in a way legible to a large bureaucracy, to become a certain kind of admissions subject:

“Holistic” language is central to how students understand the application process. On the New York Times’s college-admissions blog, then-high school senior Michael Campbell wrote of “the struggle to disassociate an admissions rejection from the rejection of me as a person.” Yet he added, “I hope colleges see and evaluate ‘human me,’ not just ‘transcript-test-scores-class-rank me.’” Unfortunately, it’s the very notion that a college might be able to identify “the real and complete Michael Campbell” that makes rejection that much more difficult.

Older systems (at least at Michigan) judged applicants purely on some (admittedly problematic) standardized metrics, mostly GPA and SAT/ACT score. Holistic assessment abandons this pretense of mechanical objectivity in favor of a deeper engagement, an attempt to get to know the real you. The supposed payoffs include being able to better take into account the context of a student’s academic performance (a low junior-year GPA might mean less if a student dealt with a difficult personal or family problem that year, etc.). But it also means a shift from judging students on what they’ve done (grades, test scores) to judging them based on who they are.

And, as usual, the system itself is kind of a joke compared to its promises – how can an admissions officer know your true self from eight minutes spent with a carefully tailored application package? The Atlantic story emphasizes these failures in order to try to absolve applicants:

Ultimately, what’s at stake in college admissions isn’t who you are as a person, but whether you’ve demonstrated that you have the skills and experiences that qualify someone for a slot at a particular institution. If a school rejects you, what they’re really rejecting is your application.

Good intentions aside, holistic admissions becomes one more process forcing us to have a “true self” that we can somehow put fully into documents in order to be processed by a faceless bureaucracy – that delightful combination of individualized attention and mass control that characterizes Foucauldian/disciplinary systems.

What’s the IRB Got to Do With Teaching?

Inside Higher Ed has a new story with a few more details about the tenured Colorado University sociology professor who was forced to resign over concerns about a lecture/skit on prostitution in her sociology of deviance course. Some things are clarified, many things remain confusing. For example, CU does not appear to have denied the “post-Penn State” comment:

[Dean] Leigh told [Professor Adler] that there was “too much risk” in having such a lecture in the “post-Penn State environment,” alluding to the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Asked about the “post-Penn State” comment that Adler reported being told, [CU spokesman] Miller said that “all education institutions, including CU-Boulder, have to ensure that no student or employee feels subject to discrimination or harassment.”

Again, I’m really not sure what connection there is between the Penn State scandal and TAs feeling uncomfortable participating in a skit for a lecture on deviance, except perhaps that the former is now the newest excuse for heightened centralized bureaucratic authority over academic affairs. To be a bit kinder to the university, and in admission of a lack of full information, it’s always possible that there is more to the story, and that one of the undergraduate teaching assistants made a serious complaint that went unheard or something of the sort. Right now though, the rhetoric seems over the top.

But perhaps the most perplexing new detail is the administration’s invocation of the IRB as a relevant entity:

Mark J. Miller, a spokesman for the university, said via email Sunday night that the university was limited in what it could say because a personnel matter is involved. But asked whether there were concerns about the prostitution lecture and whether they were expressed to Adler, Miller said: “Yes. CU-Boulder does not discourage teaching controversial topics but there has to be a legitimate educational basis for what is being taught in the classroom. In all cases involving people in research or teaching, whether controversial or not, we want to insist on best practices to ensure full regulatory compliance. In some cases, this could involve review from our Institutional Review Board, which is responsible for regulatory compliance involving human subjects.”

For those keeping score at home, IRBs generally have nothing to do with teaching. Their mission is to handle regulatory compliance for research involving human subjects. That is, they make sure people give informed consent to participate, that protocols are in place to deal with problems, etc. To my knowledge, IRBs are only involved in teaching when the students in the course are to conduct their own research.* But what does the IRB possibly have to do with a professor giving a lecture?

Academic readers – have you ever heard of a faculty member getting IRB approval for something done in the classroom (that was not also part of a research project)?

EDIT: Two updates. First, the CU provost has issued a statement clarifying their side of the story. The provost argues that Adler was not forced to resign, but rather only forced to not teach deviance next term and warned that further issues could bring about a dismissal. The provost also points to complaints by anonymous TAs who felt uncomfortable refusing to participate and thus felt coerced as the source of the investigation / issue: “Student assistants made it clear to administrators that they felt there would be negative consequences for anyone who refused to participate in the skit. None of them wished to be publicly identified.” The full statement is up at HuffPo.

Second, Andy Perrin contacted Colorado to follow up on the “IRB, wtf?” part of this story. In a comment on a ScatterPlot post, he reproduces Colorado’s response: “You are quite correct regarding the misunderstanding about the appropriate role of IRBs, which is limited to the review of research activities. Our Provost will be providing a clarification in a memo to the campus this afternoon.” The Provost’s note (again available at HuffPo) does not mention the IRB.

EDIT 2: Today’s Chronicle story (gated) about the incident includes some follow-up from Colorado on the IRB question. The answer seems to be that Colorado acknowledges that the IRB has nothing to do with teaching… yet:

Mark K. Miller, a university spokesman, initially responded to questions raised by Ms. Adler’s treatment by suggesting that it might have been best for her to run her skit plans by an institutional review board.

He clarified on Monday that Steven R. Leigh, dean of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences, had raised the question of whether it might be appropriate for a review board to pass judgment on such an activity, but the university recognizes that such boards are established to oversee human-subjects research, not teaching.

So, the Dean knows IRBs don’t handle teaching, but thinks it would be appropriate for them to do so in the future. Lovely.

* For example, the research methods course at Michigan has some kind of blanket approval from the IRB, allowing the professor and graduate students to approve undergraduate research projects. If students want to continue those projects after the course (e.g. for an honors thesis) they are allowed to do so if they then get further IRB approval.

Tenured Colorado Sociologist Forced to Retire For Lecture on Prostitution?

Reports are coming in that a tenured sociologist at Colorado University – Boulder is being forced to stop teaching because of concerns about a lecture/skit about prostitution for a class on the sociology of deviance. Here’s one description of Professor Adler’s lesson:

The prostitution lecture is given as a skit in which many of Adler’s teaching assistants dress up as various types of prostitutes. The teaching assistants portrayed prostitutes ranging from sex slaves to escorts, and described their lifestyles and what led them to become prostitutes.

Senior Caitlin McCluskey, who was an assistant for Adler’s sociology class, performed as a prostitute during the skit earlier this semester.

She said all assistants were given the option of participating, and no one was forced to act in the skit. McCluskey said she was tasked with portraying an “upper-class bar whore” and wore a dress she already owned as a costume.

“I never felt pressured in any way,” McCluskey said. “I never felt uncomfortable. (The skit) was one of the main reasons I wanted to be come an (assistant) in the first place. It seemed like a lot of fun.”

As bad as the idea that a professor was forced to retire for a reasonably innocuous skit is, the rationale that Adler claims the University offered is even worse:

Adler told her students she tried to negotiate with the administration about leaving the skit off the syllabus. Administrators allegedly told Adler that in the era of sex scandals at schools like Penn State University, they couldn’t let her keep teaching.

So, because a university was grossly negligent in its duties to investigate allegations of sexual assault by coaches, a sociologist who finds engaging ways to teach about deviance is losing her job? Seriously? Is there anyone who rationally believes that such lessons would increase the possibility that a university will find itself involved in some kind of horrific sex scandal?

Grr. Argh.

Students have organized a petition in support of Professor Adler; it can be found here.

Junior Theorists Symposium 2014 CFP

Although next year’s ASA is still nine months away, it’s already time to start planning. This year, along with Jordanna Matlon, I am delighted to be organizing the 2014 Junior Theorists Symposium to be held the day before the main ASA events. Below, please find the call for abstracts and submission instructions. We’re very excited for our slate of discussants and after panelists, and we hope you will be too. Please share the CFP widely.

2014 Junior Theorists Symposium

Berkeley, CA
15 August 2014

Submission Deadline: 15 February 2014

We invite submissions for extended abstracts for the 8th Junior Theorists Symposium (JTS), to be held in Berkeley, CA on August 15th, 2014, the day before the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA). The JTS is a one-day conference featuring the work of up-and-coming theorists, sponsored in part by the Theory Section of the ASA. Since 2005, the conference has brought together early career-stage sociologists who engage in theoretical work.

We are pleased to announce that Marion Fourcade (University of California – Berkeley), Saskia Sassen (Columbia University), and George Steinmetz (University of Michigan) will serve as discussants for this year’s symposium.

In addition, we are pleased to announce an after-panel on “The Boundaries of Theory” featuring Stefan Bargheer (UCLA), Claudio Benzecry (University of Connecticut), Margaret Frye (Harvard University), Julian Go (Boston University), and Rhacel Parreñas (USC) . The panel will examine such questions as what comprises sociological theory, and what differentiates “empirical” from “theoretical” work.

We invite all ABD graduate students, postdocs, and assistant professors who received their PhDs from 2010 onwards to submit a three-page précis (800-1000 words). The précis should include the key theoretical contribution of the paper and a general outline of the argument. Be sure also to include (i) a paper title, (ii) author’s name, title and contact information, and (iii) three or more descriptive keywords. As in previous years, in order to encourage a wide range of submissions we do not have a pre-specified theme for the conference. Instead, papers will be grouped into sessions based on emergent themes.

Please send submissions to the organizers, Daniel Hirschman (University of Michigan) and Jordanna Matlon (Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse), at with the phrase “JTS submission” in the subject line. The deadline is February 15, 2014. We will extend up to 12 invitations to present by March 15. Please plan to share a full paper by July 21, 2014.

EDIT: To clarify, lecturers and non-tenure track faculty (who received their PhD in 2010 or later) are welcome to apply as well. Thanks!

Good Research Not About Adjunct Faculty

There’s a new study out that examines the teaching performance of tenure-track and non-tenure track faculty: Are Tenure Track Professors Better Teachers?. Briefly, the study finds that non-tenure track faculty teach better than tenure-track faculty at Northwestern University. The study’s been written up all over the interwebs, from Inside Higher Ed, to OrgTheory. Both IHE and OrgTheory use the term “adjunct” in their post titles – e.g. “Should we be happy or unhappy that adjuncts teach well?” These pieces are, I think, a bit misleading for reasons pointed to by John at Memoirs of a SLACer. What exactly is an adjunct in this study? Does that correspond to what we are mostly talking about when we talk about the turn to adjunct faculty in higher ed?

Digging into the study details, and with a few helpful insights from NU insiders like Jeremy Freese, we can see why framing this study in terms of “adjuncts” might be misleading. As the Figlio et al. note on page 9 of their paper:

Almost all classes taught by non-tenure track faculty at Northwestern are taught by those with a longer-term relationship with the university.

Jeremy adds at OrgTheory:

most non-tenure track teaching at Northwestern is not done by “adjuncts” but by what we call Continuing Lecturer Faculty, who are on multi-year renewable contracts for which the pay is less than tenure-line but substantially more than what adjuncts get paid at Northwestern, which is in turn substantially more than what adjuncts get paid at other places in the area that have used our students as adjuncts. Also, at least in sociology and neighboring disciplines, CLF are expected to teach 6 courses a year, but we are on quarters, which means that the actual number of hours a CLF spends standing in front of a classroom is roughly the same the standard load for a tenure-line faculty member teaching 4 courses at, say, Wisconsin.

The faculty in the Figlio et al. study, then, are (reasonably) well-paid, not overly burdened, teaching specialists with a modicum of job security. They are not adjuncts struggling to find single courses at multiple universities and colleges, making only a few thousand dollars per course, and lacking benefits. I don’t know the stats offhand, and I know there is a paucity of data adjunct pay and working conditions, but I don’t think full-time lecturers with 2-2-2 teaching loads are what we worry about when we worry about the turn to non-tenure track faculty for teaching.

Inside Higher Ed rightly notes the problems with generalizing a single university study to an entire field, but I think goes about the analysis all wrong. IHE writes, citing the original paper:

The authors acknowledge that Northwestern is not a typical college. It has highly competitive admissions and more resources to hire faculty members (tenure-track or not) than is the case for many other colleges. However, they add that “our findings that the benefits of taking courses with non-tenure track faculty appear to be stronger for the relatively marginal students at Northwestern indicate that our findings may be relevant to a considerably wider range of institutions.”

The Atlantic is similar, worrying that NU’s eliteness might make the results not generalize.

That the most marginal students at Northwestern benefit from non-tenure track faculty the most is interesting, and does suggest that such faculty might do well with student bodies less selective than Northwestern’s. But that might not be the biggest issue for generalizing the study’s finding. Rather than asking (just) about comparability of students, or even the capacity to attract elite non-tenure track faculty, we have to ask, where do non-tenure track positions look like the ones at Northwestern? For example, here at Michigan, the Lecturers’ Employee Organization (LEO) has successfully fought to unionize non-tenure track faculty, securing multi-year contracts for more senior instructors, along with benefits, and etc. So we can imagine these findings mapping reasonably well onto Michigan.* But could we say the same for Eastern Michigan? For Washtenaw Community College? For the (seemingly) typical adjunct making less than $3,000 per course with no benefits?

Weissmann at The Atlantic argues that questions about the effectiveness of non-tenure track faculty are important because,

the defining trend among college faculties during the past 20 years or so (40, if you really want to stretch back) has been the rise of the adjuncts. More than ever, colleges today rely on part-time, non-tenure track instructors to teach their students. And we should know what the effects of this switch add up to.


I agree that the rise of part-time non-tenure track faculty is perhaps the defining trend for college education right now (and the evidence from figures like the one above is persuasive), and I agree that studies of the effectiveness of such instructors are important. But this study says nothing about those teachers. Rather, Figlio et al. carefully state in their conclusion:

Our results provide evidence that the rise of full-time designated teachers at U.S. colleges and universities may be less of a cause for alarm than some people think, and indeed, may actually be educationally beneficial. Perhaps the growing practice of hiring a combination of research-intensive tenure track faculty members and teaching-intensive lecturers may be an efficient and educationally positive solution to a research university’s multi-tasking problem.

Note again the emphasis on full-time designated teachers. Full-time non-tenure track faculty are up from 10% to 15% since 1975 – a modest increase. Part-time non-tenure track faculty are up from under 25% to over 40%. Adjunctification is not about lecturers.

Figlio et al.’s study looks to my not especially expert eyes like an excellent evaluation of the efficacy of NU’s non-tenure track lecturers, with obvious relevance to the potential for such full-time faculty at other reasonably selective universities. But it’s just not a study about part-time adjuncts and says nothing about such instructors. So, let’s stop framing it that way.

* And, anecdotally, I can say that as a Michigan undergraduate, many of my best courses were taught by lecturers, and many (though certainly not all) of the instructors known across campus as excellent were lecturers.

The Sociology of the Door-Closer Redux

In 1988, Jim Johnson of the Columbus Ohio School of Mines published an article in Social Problems titled Mixing Humans and Non-Humans Together: The Sociology of a Door-Closer. The article is a classic in STS/science studies for its very vivid examples of non-human agents, and of the problems of ignoring the agency of non-human things. The eponymous example is the humble door closer on the entrance door to the School of Mines. The empirical portion of the article begins:

On a freezing day in February, posted on the door of the Sociology Department at Walla Walla University, Washington, could be seen a small hand-written notice: “The door-closer is on strike, for God’s sake, keep the door closed.” This fusion of labor relations, religion, advertisement, semiotics,and technique in one single insignificant fact is exactly the sort of thing I want to help describe. As a technologist teaching in an engineering school in Colombus, Ohio, I want to challenge some of the assumptions sociologists often hold about the “social context” of machines.

The article goes on to describe how the utterly essential technology of walls necessitates doors. But doors, in turn, have the problem of tending to remain open if you forget to close them. Hence the need for door-closers (especially given the use of heating and cooling techniques for the interior – and why bother having walls if not to maintain a different climate inside and outside). The door-closers could be individuals – grooms or doormen – but why not automate the job? After all, it’s much cheaper. And so on. The point of the analysis is to illustrate the mixing and substitutability of human and non-human actors, and to emphasize the material/technological/social constraints that push for the use of one over the other. In a word, automatic door-closers are (usually) easier to discipline than human door-closers. But the automatic door-closer comes with its own constraints: depending on how it is disciplined (the tightness of the hinges, etc.) some individuals may have difficulty passing through (small children or the elderly) because the door is too hard to push; similarly, the door may slam shut and cause injury if it swings closed too fast. And so on. Read the whole thing; it’s short and quite a performance.

I was remind of Johnson’s* article when I received another in a series of emails about the door-closers in another sociology department – the University of Michigan’s. These door-closers are on internal doors that separate two ends of a long hallway on the 3rd and 4th floors of the LSA building which houses the Sociology Department. When the building opened after renovations in the mid-2000s, the doors were kept open. A year ago, a fire inspection revealed that such doors were supposed to swing shut automatically and remain closed, to seal off the two halves of the building during a fire. Automatic door-closers were installed. But with the doors closed, the Department community was cut in half. Worse yet, and just as Latour noted, these automatic door-closers which were so useful in terms of fire safety were absolutely harmful for accessibility and there were “numerous incidences of students on crutches and in wheelchairs having difficulty maneuvering the now-closed doors.”

What’s the solution? Another kind of delegation, to an even more advanced door-closer, installed this Summer: “magnetic hold-opens… now tied into the fire alert system” such that “the magnets will release in case of an alarm.” A tidy piece of work, and a further encoding of social relations into an ever thickening web of technological ties. I’ll end where Johnson ends:

If, in our societies, there are thousands of such lieutenants to which we have delegated competences,it means that what defines our social relations is, for the most part, prescribed back to us by nonhumans. Knowledge, morality, craft, force, sociability are not properties of humans but of humans accompanied by their retinue of delegated characters. Since each of those delegates ties together part of our social world, it means that studying social relations without the nonhumans is impossible (Latour, 1988a) or adapted only to complex primate societies like those of baboons (Strum and Latour, 1987).

*Note, Jim Johnson is a pseudonym of Bruno Latour; the reason for the change of name (and affiliation) is given in a hilarious and bitter footnote with a back-and-forth to the editor:

The author-in-the text is Jim Johnson, technologist in Columbus, Ohio, who went to Walla Walla University, whereas the author-in-the-flesh is Bruno Latour, sociologist, from Paris, France, who never went to Columbus nor to Walla Walla University. The distance between the two is great but similar to that between Steven Jobs, the inventor of Macintosh, and the figurative nonhuman character who/which says “welcome to Macintosh” when you switch on your computer. The reason for this use of pseudonym was the opinion of the editors that no American sociologist is willing to read things that refer to specific places and times which are not American. Thus I inscribed in my text American scenes so as to decrease the gap between the prescribed reader and the pre-inscribed one. (Editors’ Note: Since we believed these locations to be unimportant to Bruno Latour’s argument, we urged him to remove specific place references that might have been unfamiliar to U.S. readers and thus possibly distracting. His solution seems to have proven our point. Correspondence to the author-in-the-flesh should go to Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation, Ecole Nationale Superieure des Mines, 62 boulevard Saint-Michel, 75006 Paris, France.)

What is Sociological Theory?

What is Sociological Theory? That’s a really hard question and one that admits multiple answers (see, e.g. Abend 2008). Let’s try a much easier question: What is Sociological Theory? That is, what do people talk about when writing in the journal Sociological Theory? Perhaps answering this question can shed some light on the more general, harder question.

Using Neal Caren’s handy-dandy RefCliq, I analyzed all of the articles in Sociological Theory from about 1994 to present (those available through the Web of Science), a total of 349 articles. The algorithm with default settings detected 16 citation communities, but a few of these seem to be generated by just a couple of articles citing a lot of the same works, so I increased the minimum citation count from two to three which reduced the number of communities to 10 and the number of cited works to about 1100 (from 2700). Each cluster is identified by a set of keywords from the abstracts and titles of the articles that cite the references in the cluster.

I like these subfield/single-journal analyses a lot, as they get into pretty specific clusters. For example, the first cluster is Bourdieu/agency discussions with a hint of critical realism. Very straightforward. The second cluster is one of two methodology / post-positivism / STS communities – bridging methodological debates within sociology and STS reflections on the nature of knowledge and science. Interestingly, in the larger 16 cluster model, there were two methodology/STS clusters – one more methodological, one more STS, which makes sense. Here they are collapsed together. Alexander, Habermas and the public sphere get a cluster. I especially like the cluster with Ann Swidler’s culture in action at its center – it’s mostly a social movements / political soc cluster! So, cultural approaches to social movements and politics?

If I were a bit more of a methods person, I think my next step would be to think about how to compare and integrate topic modeling approaches that key off the words within documents with these sorts of citation analysis / community-detection algorithms that key off the network of co-citations to see if the two methods tell similar stories, and if there’s a way to use to make sense of the other. For now though, here’s the output!

UPDATE: Neal Caren went and ran Theory & Society. I followed up with running the combined T&S and ST, all from 1994-2013. One interesting finding from the combined model is which clusters draw from just one of the two journals. E.g. the Markovsky/Willer “theories, performance, status…” cluster is only ST. The Konrad / Hankiss “Elites, circulation…” cluster is only T&S.

EDIT: Apologies for the broken hyperlinks. For the pretty html version of this model with working links, click here.

Cluster analysis of 349 articles based on 1,099 references cited at least 3 times in Sociological Theory.

approach, understanding, change, concept, bourdieu’s, agency, action, his, processes, empirical

Name Centrality Count Keywords
Bourdieu P (1977) Outline Theory Pract 0.18 30 approach, model, cultural, concept, understanding
Bourdieu P (1992) Invitation Reflexive 0.16 30 agency, approach, his, cultural, concept
Dimaggio P (1983) Am Sociol Rev 0.15 13 change, action, processes, organizational, approach
Bourdieu P (1984) Distinction Social C 0.13 29 approach, action, concept, bourdieu, bourdieu’s
Sewell W (1992) Am J Sociol 0.13 33 cultural, understanding, concept, culture, empirical
Bourdieu P (1990) Logic Practice 0.12 26 approach, bourdieu’s, understanding, concept, bourdieu
Berger P (1967) Social Construction 0.06 15 concepts, processes, behavior, concept, socially
Giddens A (1984) Constitution Soc 0.04 18 action, concept, agency, approach, change
Archer M (1995) Realist Social Theor 0.04 9 concept, bourdieu’s, habitus, make, writings
Mouzelis N (1995) Sociological Theory 0.03 11 concept, agency, his, bourdieu, bourdieu’s
Giddens A (1984) Constitution Soc Out 0.03 11 concept, contemporary, empirical, role, relational
Bourdieu P (1986) Hdb Theory Res Socio 0.02 8 concept, historical, alternative, change, american
Emirbayer M (1998) Am J Sociol 0.02 12 agency, concept, action, structure, process
Giddens A (1991) Modernity Self Ident 0.02 10 contemporary, insights, approach, relations, modern
Blumer H (1969) Symbolic Interaction 0.02 17 relations, structures, cultural, agency, his
Bourdieu P (2000) Pascalian Meditation 0.02 9 bourdieu’s, concept, action, agency, his
Meyer J (1977) Am J Sociol 0.01 8 change, organizations, provides, action, institutional
Dimaggio P (1988) I Patterns Org Cultu 0.01 5 change, fields, organizational, institutional, stability
Armstrong E (2002) Forging Gay Identiti 0.01 4 change, contemporary, society, alternative, cultural
Bhaskar R (1979) Possibility Naturali 0.01 9 concept, understanding, them, out, reflexive
Jepperson R (1991) New I Org Anal 0.01 8 change, action, society, symbolic, fields
Joas H (1993) Pragmatism Social Th 0.01 7 his, concept, agency, context, understand
Giddens A (1979) Central Problems Soc 0.01 11 concept, habitus, structures, his, bourdieu’s
Gadamer H (1975) Truth Method 0.01 4 structures, forms, ontological, his, term
Bourdieu P (2001) Masculine Domination 0.01 6 concept, action, itself, political, women’s

science, knowledge, his, rational, action, well, terms, should, theories, concept

Name Centrality Count Keywords
Merton R (1968) Social Theory Social 0.19 21 action, theories, question, problem, sociologists
Weber M (1949) Methodology Social S 0.17 15 his, well, role, understanding, action
Coleman J (1990) Fdn Social Theory 0.17 24 forms, possible, way, interaction, relations
Alexander J (1982) Theoretical Logic So 0.14 19 action, his, concept, society, structures
Somers M (1998) Am J Sociol 0.09 8 first, second, epistemological, explain, forms
Bloor D (1991) Knowledge Social Ima 0.08 6 knowledge, science, scientific, mannheim, writings
Habermas J (1984) Theory Communicative 0.07 22 his, action, terms, level, agency
Steinmetz G (2005) Politics Method Huma 0.06 8 epistemological, second, understanding, highly, cases
Kiser E (1998) Am J Sociol 0.05 5 choice, rational, lack, yet, explain
Parsons T (1951) Social System 0.05 14 well, function, out, his, approach
Fleck L (1979) Genesis Dev Sci Fact 0.05 7 concept, science, agency, knowledge, explain
Habermas J (1987) Theory Communicative 0.05 18 his, action, theories, society, historical
Weber M (1946) M Weber Essays Socio 0.04 13 theories, understanding, action, society, logic
Mannheim K (1952) Essays Sociology Kno 0.04 4 knowledge, scientificity, role, empirical, along
Latour B (1979) Lab Life Social Cons 0.03 4 scientific, science, knowledge, sciences, mannheim
Kuhn T (1970) Structure Sci Revolu 0.03 10 theories, epistemological, empirical, same, concept
Kuhn T (1962) Structure Sci Revolu 0.03 6 science, so, knowledge, empirical, broader
Lynch M (1993) Sci Practice Ordinar 0.03 6 knowledge, science, writings, field, relational
Latour B (1993) We Have Never Been M 0.03 8 science, problem, original, concept, here
Dahrendorf R (1959) Class Class Conflict 0.03 8 concept, economic, important, structure, contributions
Mcdonald T (1996) Hist Turn Human Sci 0.03 4 concept, yet, explain, first, approach
Lakatos I (1970) Criticism Growth Kno 0.02 10 science, theories, should, empirical, alternative
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cultural, public, political, society, culture, sphere, civil, dominant, his, discourse

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global, forms, political, issues, globalization, world, power, states, challenge, itself

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ASA Blogger Party 2013! Now With More Steampunk

Scatterplot has the news; this year’s ASA Blogger Party will be held on Sunday, August 11 at 5pm, at Lillie’s Victorian Establishment, 249 W 49th St. Given the venue, I suggest costumes: goggles, top hats, crazy beards, pocket watches, the works. I, for one, would like to see the King Of All Soc Bloggers in a proper crown.

Hope to see you all there!

“I am a philosopher of the particular case”: An Interview with Ian Hacking

I absolutely love Ian Hacking’s work. He takes the best parts of Michel Foucault and the best parts of analytical philosophy and mashes it up into something truly brilliant, clarifying, and wise. For example, his Historical Ontology is the closest thing I’ve found to a methods text for the kind of dissertation I am writing. The most recent issue of History of the Human Sciences contains a lengthy interview with Hacking (on the occasion of his winning a prize in 2009) that covers the full arc of his career: from early research on the emergence of probability as a style of reasoning, to his contemporary projects on mental illness and “the looping effects of human kinds.” The interview is a nice introduction, if you are unfamiliar with his work, and a delightful refresher if you’re already a fan. There’s also a great deal about his relationship to the work of Foucault, and why he identifies as a philosopher but not a historian. Below are a few choice quotes.

Here, Hacking summarizes his first two major books on the history of probability and statistics:

MSØ: But, could you say something about what you think happens in the history of sta- tistics in the 17th, 18th centuries that perhaps is of relevance for today’s thinking.

H: It is not so much about today’s thinking about statistics, it’s more about how we came to live in a universe of chance in which we think of everything in terms of probabilities. The newspapers are constantly concerned with probabilities of sport, equally of sex; everybody reads stories about the risks of various diseases. When a new building is to be put up on the hill here, there will be an environmental protection report which will discuss use-risk analysis and decision theory. We think, in physics that quantum phenomena are essentially indeterministic. In most studies of the human genome, and of what it teaches about illness and ancestry, what we get are probabilities. We live in that world of chance. There was no such world in the 17th century. I’m interested in how that complete change in our conception of the universe and ourselves came into being. I tried to tell the first part of that story in The Emergence of Probability (1975a), and to tell the second part in The Taming of Chance (1990).

The ‘moral scientists’ of the 19th century attended to the enormous amount of varia- tion between people. But, it’s not just variation: they found that there are regularities in this variation. They became convinced that there is a Gaussian curve for any particular attribute of humanity, whether it is the length of the male arm, or the speed with which men can run – or (they used to say) the extent to which people feel morally responsible. Thus it is no longer the Human, it is instead the average man with a statistical dispersion. Then comes the idea that it is important to normalize people. For instance, that the psychiatric patient is a deviation from the norm, who will be cured by normalization. The goal of medicine, and the goal of much else that is connected with people, is to try to make us normal. That’s a very different conception of being human from the Enlightenment one.

MSØ: Yes, so the whole idea of normality in that sense is a pretty recent invention?

H: Well, in my scale of ‘recent’, yes. But for most young people today, recent is at most 6 years ago, and that’s the end of recent.

Here, Hacking emphasizes a frequent distinction that he makes between categories, names, “kinds” that are potentially looping or interactive (because the objects named might care about the names in question) with those that are not:

When we discover a new kind of beetle, or a new kind of mineral, or a new kind of subatomic particle, we classify it in a new way, but our classification does not interact with the insect or rock we have identified. We tend to think that recognizing a new kind of person is very much the same. To use your loaded example, which by now has been too overworked for me to want to return to the subject, it was thought perverts were just there to identify; they were a kind of person that medicine got round to recognizing, and then the law got round to punishing. But kinds of people are not like kinds of beetle. In the case of ‘perverts’ we have a striking example of a relatively recent phenomenon, of how a ‘kind’ of person can take control of the ‘kind’ and redefine it both in theory and in action. Homosexuals have taken control of a classification originally introduced by medicine and the law. That is one of the things that Gay Pride is all about.

Finally, here’s a quote about Hacking’s conflicted, but mostly appreciative, relationship with Foucault:

Yes, we found problems with Foucault’s citations. I have always been pretty lenient about this, because I think that the main thrust of his analysis is correct. I give examples of his errors, and explain my willingness to be generous about them, in a little squib I wrote much later, ‘Night Thoughts on Philology’, reprinted in my Historical Ontology [2004c].
At the time I was trying to write a book explaining Foucault to an English-language readership which, in 1976, had not yet taken to his work. I became increasingly dissatisfied with what I was writing. Finally I decided I had to stop. So one day I took the entire manuscript, at least 200 pages of self-typed material, and fed it into the large dustbin in the Stanford quad outside the philosophy department. A number of grad. students watched in glee – one joked that each student present should salvage a chapter and use it for his PhD thesis.

Føllesdal recalls that I also tore up some small part of the book earlier, in his presence, right after one of our classes had met. Doubtless at that moment I was moved by dissatisfaction with Foucault, but I destroyed the whole typescript because I was dissatisfied with myself. I came to the conclusion that Foucault is the man to read about Foucault. There are now a hundred books about Foucault, and I still think Foucault is the only one to read.

Bonus: In answering the last question, Hacking reveals his love of Scandinavian crime fiction, including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo!