The Economist Twist


Photo by: Howard Gees aka. Cyberslayer  Found on: Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by: Howard Gees aka. Cyberslayer
Found on: Flickr Creative Commons



If you operate in a world of “market forces” well, then you should probably leave the social research to the social scientists.  An August 23rd commentary in the Science and Technology section of the Economist magazine anonymously summarized an elegantly designed longitudinal quasi-experimental study in less than 500 words.  Their summary concluded with two very basic possibilities (because as we know the range of human possibility is exactly two!) to explain the correlation between criminality and socio-economic status:  either 1) the environment traps people in a culture of crime or 2) there is a genetic predisposition to being both poor and criminal.  That is, the criminal gene prefers to hang around in the bottom 20% of income earners.  Apparently, the “journalists” at The Economist are trying to revive the long dead nature vs. nurture debate as Sociology Lens addresses here and here. (more…)

The Necessity of Disorder in a Soft City: De Certeau vs Foucault (Part I)

This is a two-part guest post by Bea Moyes, who is an independent researcher based in East London. Having completed a Masters in Research at the London Consortium, Bea is working on ongoing research into the history of East London since the 1970s. Her work has often considered histories and narratives of urban space, particularly through the act of walking the city, and with dynamic and creative interactions which are generated in public spaces. She tweets @BeaMoyes



For better or worse, [the city] invites you to remake it, to consolidate it into a shape you can live in. (more…)

The romantic and the mundane: Finding your soulmate via Social Practice Theory


Do you believe that ‘The One’, your ‘soul-mate’, your ‘life-partner’ exists? Have you already found them? Hollywood movies, glossy magazines, and agony aunts repeatedly reassure us that, firstly, somewhere out there is Mr/Miss Right, and secondly, we just need the good fortune to find them – some auspicious occasion when true love will make its presence known. I was compelled to dwell on this when I read Julie Birchill’s recent article on the matter in the Spectator. I don’t want to debate whether or not there is one predestined mate out there for each of us (for the record I’m pretty sure there isn’t), but Birchill’s piece did make me dwell on how we meet partners in particular, and how we meet and make friends generally. In reality, this is often more about the social practices we engage in, rather than personality traits or, good fortune, which bring people together. As with a lot of sociology and psychology, it replaces the romantic with the mundane.


World Polity Theory and Gender Mainstreaming

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What is the relationship between global theory and feminist scholarship and activism?  Even when global theories do not appear to relate to contemporary feminist dialogues, links can be drawn between global theory and women’s rights agendas.  One example can be seen in the relationship between world-polity theory and gender mainstreaming.

World-polity theorists sought to emphasize the importance of cultural frames, even suggesting world cultural principles and institutions shape the actions of nations and individuals (Boli and Thomas 1997).  World polity theory examined the flow of instrumental culture by focusing on the discourses of science/technology, human rights, and mass education as key mechanisms for the creation of an authoritative social order in a diversity of settings (Meyer 2000). The creation of a global instrumental culture emerged not only through relationships between nation-states, but also though collaboration between non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs).  World polity theorists have suggested that as various non-governmental organizations, international non-governmental organizations, and intergovernmental organizations continue to work together with multiple nation-states to promote changes in national policies, nation-states are becoming increasingly connected and dependent on each other (Chatfield 1997; Boli & Thomas 1997).


How About “Just Don’t Rape?”: On the Invention of Date Rape Nail Polish, Preventive Advice, and Women’s Subordination (or Men’s Empowerment)

"Polished" by James Lee - originally posted to Flickr as Polished. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Polished” by James Lee – originally posted to Flickr as Polished. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

It is the same old tale, just spun with a different color thread: “Women: don’t get raped.”

Recently, four students (note that they are all male) invented Undercover Colors, a nail polish for women that changes color (like a mood ring) when it touches rape drugs commonly slipped into drinks. Now,  I do applaud the men for recognizing the all-too-common issue of rape and taking the initiative to do something about it. Only, what they did still places the blame on women.


Researching Young People and the Social Construction of Youth


Next time you read research about young people ask why is it focussing specifically on their age. It is still taken for granted that the process of maturing from a child to adolescent to adult unfolds as a series of naturally occurring stages, that there is a right age at which children should develop certain competencies and acquire certain freedoms and responsibilities (Scott, 1999).

Contemporary sociological research, however, has “highlighted the blurring of boundaries between youth and adulthood and the destandardisation of the life course” (Reisinger, 2012, p96). Griffin (1993), Lesko (2012), and Seaton (2012)) argue youth’s development is complex, non-linear, sophisticated, and dynamic; it involves a mutually defining interaction between asynchronous biological changes and multidirectional environmental and social influences. Any  research that fails to acknowledge this, by default, treats youth and age as a self-evident, timeless and unproblematic category. (more…)

Capital Ideas: Settling Accounts in Delhi


The first two posts for this ‘Capital Ideas’ series were organised around Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century, a work of economic sociology unusually attentive to the relationship (rarely made explicit) between kinship, capital and inequality. This week I turn to Capital: A Portrait of Twenty-First Century Delhi, by the British novelist Rana Dasgupta, continuing my exploration of the treatment of merit and inheritance in three contemporary bestsellers (one academic, one journalistic, and one fictional). Certainly, Dasgupta’s has not been afforded quite the celebrity (or recognition in the business and financial press) as Piketty’s similarly-titled book. Nonetheless, his Capital is the product of an effortlessly deployed sociological imagination, which conveyed Dasgupta along through the phantasmagoric world of Delhi’s elite business families, shaped by the destructive transformation of Delhi ‘from Walled City to World City‘. (more…)

“Who Are you Calling Entitled?” : The Problem with Lazy Millennials


In a recent Sociology Compass article, Dr Elisabeth Kelan draws attention to common uses of the concept of ‘Generations’ and points out that despite being a useful and commonly used concept for Psychology, it has not been widely drawn upon in the Sociological literature. This is surprising, as she notes, because it is so often used in more mainstream writing, media and culture, particularly to describe the characteristics of certain demographics of people. In reference to Dr Kelan’s work, the concept of generation can provide insight into how organizations can best treat their employees, by using their generation as a lens to understand their motivations, preferences and behaviors. Knowing what generation someone is in can be extremely helpful for our understandings of how people behave in certain ways.


Why the Fracking “Haves” Come Out Ahead

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Photograph taken by Joanne Koehler.

This is a guest post by Jamie Longazel and Joanne Koehler.  Jamie is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work at the University of Dayton.  Joanne is a recent graduate of the University of Dayton, receiving degrees in Sociology and Criminal Justice Studies.

There is an interesting and potentially important fracking case going on New Mexico right now. The Mora County Commissioners passed the Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance, making it illegal for gas and oil companies to extract hydrocarbons within county limits. The ordinance, which has been dubbed “The Mother of all Anti-Fracking Tools,” has not surprisingly been challenged in court. Claimants, who most notably include Royal Dutch Shell, one of the largest oil companies in the world, suggest the measure violates their right to corporate personhood, controversially affirmed recently in the Citizens United case.

Other municipalities have banned fracking within city limits, often by tweaking zoning laws. What makes this case unique is that it is situated at the county level, effectively banning the practice not just within city limits, where fracking rarely takes place anyway, but across mass swaths of potentially ‘frackable’ land.

From an environmental perspective, the Mora County ordinance is impressively bold. It goes so far as to establish “a local bill of rights for Mora County that protects the natural sources of water from damage related to the extraction of oil, natural gas, or other hydrocarbons.”

From a sociolegal perspective, the ordinance helps to level the playing field. With Mora County residents standing together as a collective and being represented by an experienced litigating group (specifically, the Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund), they stand a better chance of having their voices heard and resources protected than others in situations where companies run freely from door to door wooing landowners with offers they often cannot refuse. (more…)

The joy of Absence and the Digital Detox

I just came back from a week in Greece. I’m not here to brag, but it was pretty damn great. One of the best things about it was that I hardly used my phone. I couldn’t. Out on the scrubland hills on the island of Levkas, my friend’s mother’s villa does get some limited internet access, but it’s expensive and patchy, so I just didn’t bother using it at all. No email, no facebook, no twitter, no whatsapp, no news, no Sociology Lens! It was like stepping back in time. The only thing I used my phone for was playing music whilst reading lots of books and soaking up the sun (Okay, small brag there).

Unfortunately, my phone had a little accident involving a car door and a cracked screen, so when I got back to a rainy Manchester airport and all the other surnburnt Brits were turning on their phones to check their messages outside Arrivals, I couldn’t do the same. I must admit, I felt smartphone jealousy. Whilst I was in Greece it felt good, it felt right to not use my phone, but back in the UK – my place of work, of friends, of study, of home – it felt strange, like something was missing, like I was missing out. (more…)