The Social Construction of Deviance – DSM V Edition

There has been a lot of discussion already regarding the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. By looking at what disorders have been discarded and which new entries are added, one can get a glimpse of the state of deviance and its socially-constructed medicalization, for instance, the brand new “temper dysregulation with dysphoria” (kids who throw tantrums). In this last case, it is not just medicalization but pathologization of social behavior.

As Todd Krohn notes,

It is actually the pathologizing of an entire age category in the context of the surveillance society where children and teenagers are turned into a suspicious categories with propensity for deviance, especially, sexual deviance.

Over at Larvatus Prodeo, Robert Merkel adds another layer:

This adds the power layer to labeling of medical / psychiatric disorder for social behavior that violates the norms. Which reminded me of this:

As always, there is too much emphasis on chemistry and psychology but there is some good stuff on the way deviance behavior is defined and processed (which is where psychology should be the object of study rather than the explanatory approach, after all, we have gone from defining behavior from sinful, to criminal, to mental disorders, each corresponding to the power of different groups – moral entrepreneurs – to define deviance on their own terms).

A Sociological and French Valentine’s Day

Denis Colombi tackles that thankless task by mobilizing insights from contemporary sociology to compose the perfect Valentine (well… kinda):

As Colombi says, if all else fails, you can still get chocolates. [Cliché alert] But sociology NEVER fails, it can only be failed [/Cliché alert]

Who said sociology lacked practical applications!?

Discussing Religion Tends To Bring Out The Stupid

I mean, seriously:

Here, let me fix that for you:

Churchgoers ‘just as ethical as atheists’

Because, you know what, the last time I checked, the people who

  • pilot planes into building
  • try to blow themselves up on planes in various ways
  • ran a pedophile ring called the Catholic Church
  • insist on the subjugation and oppression of women and girls
  • would love to have us all lived in their imaginary medieval world
  • try to legislate their hatred of women, LGBTs and sex

are not atheists. They’re churchgoers. But somehow, the assumption, explicit in this title, is that, BY DEFAULT, religion = morality.

Oh, and this is interesting too:

Wow, geez, I guess they don’t read Durkheim in psychology classes.

And while it certainly is true that “criticism targeted at religion is experienced as a fundamental threat to our moral existence” (never mind the power it takes to have criticism of what one holds dear cast as “a fundamental threat to our moral existence”… somehow, that is never examined as if religion is simply an individual characteristic rather than an institutional structure as well as a set of groups with various kinds of power and privileges), one could perfectly argue that religion itself IS a fundamental threat to our moral existence.

Food Insecurity in the US

As you all know, First Lady Michelle Obama just launched an anti-obesity campaign (I will never trust such a campaign to be anything other propaganda as long as it focuses on individual behavior rather than question the system of food production as well as the role of agribusiness). One of the benefits is the creation of a bunch of tools on diverse variable, such as the Food Environment Atlas, which allows the generation of neat maps on a variety of social indicators, such as food insecurity:

The green states have lower than average food insecurity, the yellow states are average and the red states have food insecurity rates higher than the average. See a pattern here?

There are a lot more variable to play with. Poverty, for instance:

Adventures in College Teaching – You Have Got to Be !@#ing Me

The setting: second day of class, student arrives late for class, plops himself down on the front row, right in front of me, pulls out a book (completely unrelated to the class and starts reading)…

Me: Put the book away or leave.

Doesn’t anyone teach manners anymore? I know I sound like an old hag but still! Or else, I need to reconcile myself with the fact that college involves a whole new socialization for a lot of my students.

The Future of Labor: The End of Work, The Rise of Gigs and Public Policy

What do these two items tell us about the future of work?

First item:

This is an interesting article, notwithstanding the “the new economy is so cool” overall tone of the piece. Before I go further, let’s look at the second item:

My first reaction to reading these two pieces was irritation because Richard Sennett wrote about these same developments in the late 1990s but apparently, new technologies have made precarization and destructuration of work life hip and cool. We are all freelancers and private consultants now. The world described in the first piece is that of Cory Doctorow’s Makers where the typical worker is an educated and creative engineer with no attachments whatsoever (partners or children) who lives fully connected and does not have a career but build a job portfolio of all the gigs he has had. He is the perfect flexible, mobile and individualized worker. And with the freelance and consulting fees he makes, he pays for his own health insurance, retirement plan, etc..

Needless to say, this is a view of labor with very narrow blinders. It is only because of the super-exploited labor of others that this individualized worker can live the life of the free agent, skillfully navigating the new economy (which is never in recession in this view). It is a liberating experience not only for the worker but also for the businesses (can we still talk of employers?) who can retain skilled workers for a few hours and crowdsource projects.

What the second piece shows is that this should be the era of big government: who will educate this mobile workforce if not mass higher education which can only be public? Who will assist these free agents as the building of a portfolio is not as easy and liberating as it seems? And this is definitely the era where the government should provide single payer health care and national retirement plans as these are absolutely necessary in the era of precarization and career destructuration. As the example from Denmark shows, this gig economy can only work with extensive social programs.

Any social structure that is still based on the idea of life-long employment with one employer or family structures based on the brief social stability of the 1950s is obsolete and social movement organizations (especially on the conservative side) blaming people for failing to still function according to the outdated template show themselves to be poor analysts of society at best, and dishonest (especially when such destructuring of work life, leading to the destructuring of family life is the product of conservative economic policies) at worst. After all, individualization is the ultimate form of privatization.

Ironically, both pieces emphasize the need for strong unions as guilds that could provide benefits to their members, such as social insurance of various types, instead of collective bargaining (which does not make much sense in an individualized environment, except maybe in the sense of French “collective conventions”).

And as always, both pieces behave as if everyone was equal on the labor market, as if there were no racism or sexism, as if everyone had access to a good education (primary, secondary and higher), a dubious proposition especially in the US. In other words, the gig economy is assumed to be  this imaginary (and illusory) meritocracy where everyone is a member of good standing of the creative class and where we can maintain the illusion that this class is not standing on the shoulders of the global poor manufacturing the tools of the gig economy.

This is all about exploitation except that the raw exploitation of long hours in the factory at exhausting pace has to remain hidden from view and the soft exploitation of the destructured and completely precarized labor has to be reframed as hip and cool.

(Bad) Food Underground Network

Remember this?

Understanding food stamps means understanding the food networks that the poor have to resort to in order to feed themselves. And those are not pretty.

Needless to say, in the current contexts, these stores are expanding:

But in typically American fashion, it is easier to have the First Lady engage in an anti-obesity campaign focused on individual behavior rather than examine the structure of food production, distribution and consumption in the US. Focusing on individual behavior leaves the Food Inc system unquestioned.

Catastrophic Sociology

Over at Sociology and Criminology at Keele, Mark Featherstone applies Virilio’s theory of catastrophe to Haiti’s recent earthquake. First he summarizes Virilio’s theory in a clear fashion:

How does this apply to a natural disaster like the earthquake?

This resonates with Pierre Le Hir’s article in Le Monde:

It all goes back to SHiP (Structure / History / Power). Natural disasters are what they are but they differentially affect societies based on their history (in Haiti, slavery, revolution and then constant neo-colonial interventionism), social structure (corruption and largely non-functioning government, mass poverty) and power (omnipresence of gangs, corrupt police, unfavorable regime of global governance).

And as studies show (based on research on known earthquakes since 1900), the number of victims of earthquakes is not correlated to the severity of of seismic activity nor to the density of the population in the affected area but to the level of poverty or wealth.

This holds true for any natural disaster. In the past twenty years, 98% of the two million victims of such disasters were in poor areas. At the same time, the economic losses to developing countries due to natural disasters were twenty times what they are for developed countries. It is a double penalty. And it shows no signs of going away.

The study of natural disasters is the study of global inequalities.

“Guard Labor”

This is interesting (and cited everywhere already):

I would argue that in the context of the surveillance society, this notion needs to be broadened beyond protecting private wealth to other forms of power preservation.

And nice debunking of the functionalist view of inequalities. Actually, the idea of imposing discipline is a nice illustration of the role of the neo-liberal state provided by Wacquant in Punishing The Poor.

Also, the idea that inequalities are actually detrimental to society as a whole, including the wealthiest segments is thoroughly explained in The Spirit Level.