Homo Anomicus – The Trader

I have already posted on the sociology of traders as a category thriving on anomic conditions and their exemption from social norms that impose restraints on the rest of us. See also Denis Colombi’s post on the subject of traders.

Many of us also remember this segment from The Corporation:

Now, as additional data point, we get this first-person account from a trader in the Independent, that depicts a culture of anomic excess:

And read there is no escaping the connection between financial excesses and the bodily internalization of this oh-so-very masculine normlessness (because it is a masculine world, no group of women would ever be collectively allowed to wallow in such excesses without stiff social sanctions) through the massive ingestion of red meat and read wine, followed by the self-loathing vomiting but all in a context of sociopathy:

And such anomic masculinity overflows into other areas of his social life:

And ultimately, he ends up behaving in a fashion that looks a lot like retreatism in Merton’s strain theory:

The whole narrative reads like a rather conventional "fall and redemption" narrative but it is a good exploration of the anomic subculture that prevails in the world of high finance and its complete disconnection from the rest of the social structure. This disembedding leads to the blocking out of the surrounding reality with devastating effects as all the speculating ultimately boils down to people’s lives outside of the financial "gated community".

Social Activism – The Lysistrata Way

And as with Aristophanes’s play, the goal is to force men to settle political discord:

And to make sure the squabbling politicians are not exempt from this and they have it all covered,

Can we use that last argument to bury abstinence-only programs for HIV prevention and other nonsense once and for all? It is interesting that the article does not analyze men’s presumed resistance: the idea of men’s entitlement to sex is so taken for granted that it goes without saying. Would there be such presumed "stiff resistance" (haha, get it? "stiff" resistance… sigh) if instead, the women went on a hunger strike? I don’t think so.

Book Review – The Violence of Hate

VofH I hve just finished reviewing Jack Levin’s The Violence of Hate – Confronting Racism, Anti-Semitism, and Other Forms of Bigotry (website) for its publisher. It is a short and interesting book that is probably more adapted to criminal justice courses than strictly sociology. It is well-written with a lot of examples and stories, and therefore highly readable for undergraduates. Anyone above that level will probably be frustrated.

Despite the inclusive title (but then why are racism and anti-semitism singled out?), the book deal mainly with racial and ethnic issues. Other forms of bigotry (as mentioned in the title) get a really short shrift. There is very little on misogyny or homophobia. Often, when these are mentioned, it is to indicate that racist and anti-semitic prejudices and social psychological mechanisms involved in such prejudices are similar when it comes to women and LGBTs. I understand that to deal thoroughly with gender issues in a broad would require a much longer book, but then, the title should reflect that and limit itself to "confronting racial and ethnic prejudice", that would be more accurate.

At the same time, when dealing with racial and ethnic prejudice, the book largely sticks to American issues. It is also, in my view, a major mistake. There are examples from other countries, of course, but that does not make a global perspective. A few comparisons here and there are just not enough. A quick look at conflicts around the world reveals a lot of ethnic dimensions whether as causes or consequences or both. Similarly, the book largely ignores the global rise of religious fundamentalism around the world and its role in ethnic prejudice, homophobia and misogyny not just in discourse but in practice.

Of course, if one teaches sociology or social psychology, there is little one will learn in this book, we are not the audience, so I won’t count reading yet again about Asch, Milgram and Zimbardo against the book. It is relevant. My issue is with the theory chapter. As a general rule, textbooks deal very very badly with theory. That section is often botched and it is no wonder that students do not get it.

Moreover, textbooks have a tendency to juxtapose one theory next to each other without really explaining their respective validity. Not all theories are equal. Some are better than others. And yet, we often get treated with things like "this is theory 1, it is largely macro, and critics say it ignores micro realities; then here is theory 2, it is micro and critics thinks it does not pay enough attention to macro factors." As a result, students do not get interested in theory, do not see why they should learn them or what a theory is for in the first place.

Unfortunately, this book is no exception in this pattern. Theories and perspectives that have been rather thoroughly debunked are still treated with kid gloves. The Bell Curve is garbage and one should not tapdance around that. The same goes with the Moynihan Report and other culture of poverty types of explanations. As with many textbooks, when I read this textbook, I really felt that the author did not enjoy doing it and did it only because it is a required chapter in all textbook. It comes across as a chore before going to the real stuff that the author is really interested in.

There is nothing really new or groundbreaking in this book. Personally, I get a lot more by reading David Neiwert’s blog on US hate groups. I do not necessarily fault the author for the lack of originality. Textbook publishers are afraid of innovation and they keep churning out textbooks that tend to be clones of each other. Part of me thinks that the textbook is obsolete when there are such great resources online. In this case, maybe, this book is the future, very short with just the basic background, and it would be up to the individual instructor to find additional resources elsewhere to make a course interesting.

This book is not for a Sociology of Violence course. It is not broad, global and thorough enough. It is good, though, as a introduction to explaining racial and ethnic prejudice.

Swine Flu and The Global Organization of Meat Production

This column by Mike Davis in the Guardian is an absolute must-read… a snippet:

Like I said, read the whole thing. So, far, serious discussions of our global flows of food (and especially meat) production have failed to happen, but after mad cow, foot and mouth, avian flu and now swine flu, at what point do we take the hint. The global corporatization of the food production is literally killing us and endangers us on a worldwide scale.

Personally, I would file that as one additional data point in systemic collapse of global capitalism.

The Labor Market for Sociologists… Down

I am intrigued by the "open search / more than one rank" category… if my college is any indication, it might mean position that were advertised but won’t be filled and yet, colleges have not closed the search. Or, as happened here again, the colleges and universities got smaller pools than usual and are keeping the searches open, waiting for the perfect candidate. (We were lucky, we did get the perfect candidate)

The Patriarchy Continuum – Let Them Get Fat Edition

Because heaven forbid that women gain some control over their bodies through exercise and fitness activities:

And what, exactly, is the problem with women-only gyms?

That is also an argument against

  • women getting an education
  • women voting
  • women in the workplace
  • women having access to contraception
  • women having access to abortions
  • etc…

For the upholders of patriarchy, the institution of marriage must be really bad if it has to be based on all sorts on constraining social structures otherwise, women would (1) not get married in the first place, and (2) leave it in a heartbeat if they had a choice.

Chocolate: Still Tainted With Slavery

So, this video by Slavery International is still relevant, especially the segment on cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast and the connection between slavery and the imposition of structural adjustment policies by the IMF:

Also, visit the International Labor Rights Forum for more information all global labor issues… especially if you plan on buying flowers for Mother’s Day.

Global Recession – Brothels Edition

Unsurprisingly, the articles mentions that high-class brothels are still doing pretty well. It is below on the social ladder that economic conditions are felt more harshly. The article also mentions that there may be an increase in supply: more women turning to prostitution as economic conditions worsen. And, higher supply means lower prices in a more competitive market.

What the article does not mention is that beside the "nice" legal German prostitution, there is a darker side to this trade: it is that of sexual slavery and trafficking which is flourishing in general but as more women get desperate in already poorer countries in Eastern Europe, the chances of trafficking increasing are great. It is already dreadful economic conditions that have pushed a lot of women from Moldova and other former communist countries into sex trafficking. And anyone who has read Kevin Bales’s books on slavery knows that any category of people that becomes destitute becomes a prime target for slavery.

So, I guess the point of the article was more "it’s tough for everyone" kind but it ignores a significant aspect of economic recession that is germane to its topic.

Milgram’s Experiment as Gameshow

Actually, it is a documentary on reality television entitled "How far can television go?" (shouldn’t it be "how low"?) as a critique of reality television. The documentary creates a fake gameshow based on Milgram’s experiment to determine how far contestants are willing to go.

I would love to see a similar documentary done in the United States. After eight years of 24 and government-sanctioned torture, it would be interesting to determine the impact on the people’s attitudes and behaviors. And with the added incentive of money (the only goal of any gameshow), I shudder to see a lot of people turn into torturer without a second thought.