Bea Arthur (1922 – 2009)

This fan of Maude and the Golden Girls is sad. And let’s not forget Ms Arthurd brilliant Broadway career either. Here’s some classic camp (“Rock Hudson would never EVER take advantage of a woman” 🙂 )

And some Broadway classic with Angela Lansbury:

SocProf Supports William I. Robinson

[Updated below for more ugliness]

WIR William I. Robinson is one of my favorite sociologists on globalization. Bar none. His book, A Theory of Global Capitalism: Production, Class, and State in a Transnational World is one of the most thorough and fascinating account of globalization I have ever read. He is now under attack because of two students who found course materials offensive and are accusing him of anti-semitism.

I heard about this case via Doug Henwood’s blog (who does not pull punches either.

These charges are absurd and it would appear that in a rush to appease the students, the University has already violated its own process to investigate students’ grievances.

The course materials that Professor Robinson sent were absolutely appropriate for the content of his course (and the students do not get to decide that, nor other faculty) and the students were not required to agree with the position expressed in them.

Other students have rallied behind Professor Robinson and created a website where all documents related to the case (students complaints, ADL letter, Robinson’s responses, etc.) are post for all to see.

The UCSB students are fortunate to have a scholar of the caliber of William Robinson teaching there. There is a lot they can learn from him, his rigorous analysis of globalization and social conflicts, and his ability to make complex concepts crystal clear. He is a superb social theorist of globalization.


The Relevance of Sykes and Matza’s Techniques of Neutralization

As applied to the use of torture. First, a reminder (here as well),

The application:

Actually, in the denial of victims, I would think "who cares about terrorists" applies better.

And last but not least:

Indeed, the very existence of the legal memos wordsmithing formulations that would actually say "yeah, go ahead and torture" without actually saying so is a major form of rationalization "just in case". And the fact that such memos had to be issued over and over again clearly indicates that the people involved knew they were ordering torture or engaging in it.

There is probably a great institutional / organizational sociological study to be written about the bureaucratization of torture and its rationalization in the Bush administration, beyond the 1984 comparisons (which are eerie, though). But from what we already know, it is clear that torture had become instrumental to the internal purposes of the organization (the Bush administration), and not the pursuit of information to thwart terrorist attacks (just as we know that, in the USSR, torture was used extract false confessions as part of keeping the crumbling edifice of the statist apparatus up for a few more years) and to terrorize both the objects of torture and the larger global audience. After that, once permission was given, the actual torturers "simply" engaged in what Philip Zimbardo described in The Lucifer Effect.

In any event, Marcy Wheeler is doing a great job of going through these memos with a fine comb. Her series of posts on the subject (and her previous reporting on the Plame outing) are a must-read.

What Would Durkheim Think – Corporate Suicide And Family Annihilation

I have blogged about econocides before and today, again,

This is highly reminiscent of the Enron suicide. Both involved the fear of investigation and potential loss of reputation and status and possible humiliation rather than individual economic downfall, as we have seen before. Also, these are also masculine suicides. As Pierre Maura notes, anomic conditions might indeed bring their "contingent of voluntary deaths":

Maura also points to this post by Claude Bordes that has a detailed overview of Durkheim’s Suicide. On anomic suicide, for instance,

Indeed, deregulation unleashed wild processes of enrichment with no social limitations. But once the social structure collapses, all of a sudden, all these anomic excesses are exposed. Exposure seems to be crucial factors in these corporate suicides.

On the other hand, in the case of family annihilation followed by suicides, it is the loss of agency and control and the perspective of loss of status that seem to be central, again, as part of a masculine conception of "what men should do."

What is especially interesting is that even though it is men / fathers who murder their families and then commit suicide, this patriarchal dimension is often evacuated. Indeed, look at the Context post "When do people turn to murder-suicide?" But it is not "people" turning to murder and suicide: it is rejected husbands and fathers. And as this post in Sociological Images notes, media report tend to shift blame onto the rejecting wives. To use only one examples of many such headlines,

In such cases, Robert Merton’s Strain Theory seems to apply better, with his redefinition of anomie.

"Merton was mainly concerned with American society, where he detected a universal cultural goal of material success, an unequal distribution of the acceptable means to reach such a goal, and consequent adoption of alternative, illegitimate solution. His interest was in the structural causes of non-conformist (deviant) behaviour." (Thompson, 120)

Hence, Merton’s classical typology of acceptance / rejection of goals and means.

Sociology – Robert Merton’s Social Strain Theory: Helpful in Criminology, Understanding Anomie and Deviance via kwout

But in a patriarchal society, success is not just measured materially but also in terms of social relationships. The common trait in these murders / suicides is the anomie generated by the loss of patriarchal standing (which may have been preceded, as in some cases, by domestic violence) and of the object of one’s dominance and control (wife and children). And since patriarchal families and conjugal relationships are perceived as the only possible form of intimate relationships, once that is seen as gone, the pattern is one of (1) regaining control in an illegitimate way (murder as innovation), but then, faced with societal consequences, (2) suicide as retreatism.

The Patriarchy Continuum – Expelled From the Field of Social Relations

Algerian These are heartbreaking stories. In the 1980s, the Algerian government, in a futile attempt to appease religious fundamentalists, passed the Family Code, inspired by Sharia law. This effectively operated a major downgrading of the status of women in Algerian society. The law establishes the legal inequality between men and women. A woman cannot get married without permission from a male relative. She can only inherit one half of what a man inherits. In cases of divorce, the woman gets the children, the man gets the house. A man can be polygamous or repudiate his wife at will. All these forms of gender discrimination have made a lot of women homeless.

These homeless women are those who refused or fled forced marriages. Divorce, extra-marital pregnancies or domestic violence are also causes of women (and children) homelessness. To leave and live on the streets is often the only option to evade what is often a form of domestic slavery. Only one NGO tries to provide shelter for these women.

As Algerian sociologist Fatma Oussedik states, these women, being neither sisters, nor spouses, nor daughters are in a sense expelled from the social field of relations and receive no forms of protection. These women are perceived as refusing to fulfill the functions that society expects. In a very Durkheimian way, Oussedik considers this as part of the collapse of the form of social solidarity that prevailed in Algeria for a long time. As a result, it is the entire Algerian society whose family structure is in crisis.

Here is a video of Fatma Oussedik discussing social change and the social reorganization of Algerian society. I hope you understand French, because this is a great stuff.

The Patriarchy Continuum – Women Are Unfunny and Humorless Edition

There has been controversy over the rape scene (yes, it’s rape even if she mutters something in between pukings) in the last Seth Rogen movie. This movie is a perfect illustration of the continuum and that these cultural sexist views are only matters of degrees when compared to the marital rape law of Afghanistan. Kevin Moore gets it.

Take Back the Humor

Saskia Sassen, Global Cities and Financial Crisis

SofG Saskia Sassen gave an  interview to Le Monde at the occasion of the translation of A Sociology of Globalization in French (Denis, Pierre, Fred et Ben, Dave, Jay, Mark, how about we all read it and have ourselves a little online cross-blogs symposium on it? Could be fun, no?). Full profile here.

Saskia Sassen is, of course, a famous sociologist who coined the phrase "global city" to indicate the confluence and convergence of global processes enmeshed in national and local dynamics in the urban centers of the world, global North and South alike to create centers of economic and financial power.

She is a scheduled speaker at the World Investment Conference, whose topic is "investing in global cities."

According to Sassen, the destabilization of non-urban economies in the global South is going to accelerate the massive urbanization already taking place. At the same time, tent cities are also cropping up in the United States. Urban poverty is on the rise and it is affecting the middle classes and not just the usual poor and homeless. Large cities in the global North have seen their revenues plummet and therefore have cut back on services.

Global cities are an integral infrastructure of the global financial systems. It is at their heart that these new and risky financial "products" were designed. They are also the prime target for the crisis. The urban embedding of global cities with global financial flows also makes them vulnerable. Indeed, London and New York City, for instance, are being dramatically affected.

Financial flows targeted the cities themselves as investment objects, with the same short-term focus and high ROI. Look at Dubai with its massive luxury real estate developments not based on housing needs but on pure speculation (capital in search of profitable investments). Similarly, the sub-prime loans were based on the same logic. The financial world created extremely complicated instruments to extract wealth from modest households with high ROI. For Sassen, these mechanisms are destructive for the cities as housing units are now abandoned by the millions.

The globalization of cities has also produced similar structures in world cities: same business districts, same commercial centers and shopping malls, same luxury chain hotels, same airports with nice international terminals, all for the transnational capitalist class. For Sassen, this urban environment is dedicated to dominant economies but at the same time, cities compete through economic specialization.

So, what kind of stimulus do cities need? For Sassen, sustainable development is key to create jobs, private / public partnerships. Businesses badly need cities, their infrastructures and networks. This places cities in a favorable position to negotiate with the private sector.

Surveillance Society – Pre-Crime Edition

Via Todd Krohn,

I especially love "not yet convicted", because we all know that the criminal justice system NEVER EVER makes mistakes and the people arrested and detained always turn out to be the guilty party and therefore rightly convicted. And we thought the days of J. Edgar Hoover were long past.

Between that and the torture memo, we are truly living in Orwellian times.

Somali Piracy and Global Networking

I would guess that this is a quick example of the type of reticular analysis that Yannick Rumpala has called for in his writings and on his blog. It is also a good illustration of the phenomenon that Roland Robertson (and after him George Ritzer) have called glocalization (the local consequences of global phenomena as well as the local influences on globalization):

The whole thing is enlightening.