Capital Ideas: Enriching Economic Sociology (Part 1):

cAPITAL iDEASThis post is the first in a short series exploring the ways in which ideas about kinship and inheritance appear in three recent and high-profile explorations of economic life: Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century, Rana Dasgupta’s Capital: A Portrait of 21st Century Life, and the admittedly less current Capital by John Lanchester. (The astute amongst the readers will have noticed something of a pattern!) This instalment follows on from Johannes Lenhard’s earlier Sociology Lens post by exploring Piketty’s writing on inheritance and inequality through anthropological eyes. In the second half of ‘Enriching Economic Sociology’ (to be posted on August 14th), I suggest that high profile sociologists studying finance and markets have adopted methodological and theoretical commitments which prevent them from engaging with Piketty, or even asking questions about merit and inheritance in their research. If we are to address this blind spot, there is as much to be learned from Piketty-as-sociologist as there is from Piketty-as-economist. (more…)

Investigating misogyny on Twitter: sociology’s role.



There are now free tools available, such as Node XL, which, at unprecedented speeds and scales allow us access, harvest, and analyse the traces of people’s (often transgressive) thoughts, opinions and behaviours on Twitter. Since it combines the grand scale and generalisability of methods such as national surveys with the granularity and detail of close textual analysis, ethnography, or participant observation (Driscoll & Walker, 2014, p1746), Twitter analysis seemingly represents the holy grail of research methods. Existing research into misogyny on Twitter for example shows feminism is as indispensable as ever. There is, however, an increasingly important role for sociology to address technologically mediated symbolic violence like this. (more…)

Was Facebook’s ‘emotional contagion’ experiment really so unethical?

There’s an interesting post at over on The Philosopher’s Eye, questioning whether Facebook’s recent ‘emotional contagion’ experiments really were so unethical. So, what do you think? Was manipulating the newsfeeds of a few hundred thousand Facebook users unethical, or just part and parcel of the standard user agreement?

The Facebook Scandal that Wasn’t – By Udo Schuklenk

Is Sleep ‘nature’s soft nurse’, or just for wimps?

Sleepy? Get used to it kid. []

How well did you sleep last night? Or the night before? Feeling rested and ready? Nope, me either. While I find it no trouble at all to feed myself adequately, I’m in a constant struggle to provide myself with enough of that most basic resource, sleep. It sometimes feels like while my body and mind most certainly value sleep a lot, technology and modern social practices seem to have very little regard for it at all, and my body and mind are on the losing side in this battle. I’m not the only one: sleeping habits seem to be getting worse in many developing countries, with some experts estimating that people in the UK sleep an hour and a half less today than we did sixty years ago. Yet beyond a bit of grogginess, why should we care? What’s caused this shift in sleep patterns, and what can we do to get more shut-eye?


Why We Definitely Need Feminism

Source: Women Against Feminism

Source: Women Against Feminism

Recently, one of my acquaintances sent me a link to a blog called “Women Against Feminism.” The site is a response to the “Who Needs Feminism” campaigns that emerged a few years ago. Now, anyone who has spoken with me for more than five minutes (or read anything I have written) probably has a clear understanding of my political position on feminism, equality, and human rights. I have spoken and written on the issue of feminism, post-feminism, and anti-feminism so often that it surprises me how strongly I still react to this kind of propaganda. I continue to be shocked and upset by the ways in which feminism and feminist agendas are warped and distorted by both men and women. Thus, once again I felt compelled to respond and defend feminism, the continuous fight for gender equality, and basic human rights.

Here are some of the reasons women today reject feminism:

#1.  “I don’t need feminism because I am an adult who is capable of taking responsibility for myself and my actions.”

I agree with the latter. I am an adult and I am also capable of taking responsibility for my actions. However, I cannot always be responsible for the actions of others or the ways in which other people’s actions impact my physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.

In a recent discussion of sexual violence, this argument about “personal responsibility” arose. Survivors of gender based violence, even the most “perfect victims,” frequently struggle with the line between personal responsible and those things that are beyond their control. The bottom line in this discussion was that no survivor is EVER responsible for his or her assault.

Feminist agendas that follow this line of reasoning are not promoting personal irresponsibility. Rather, they are promoting a culture that does not excuse violence and inequality by framing it as either choice or personal responsibility.


Smart phones, Simulacra, Prince and The Matrix: Why I (also) don’t want to be a Digital Witness

The election of the Pope, in 2005 and in 2013

Avid Sociology Lens readers (as I am sure you all are) will have already read Roger Tyler’s piece this week; “Digital Witness: Memory vs. Experience”. In it, he discusses his experiences of attending Glastonbury Festival and the summer solstice at Stonehenge, and how in both cases he felt showed examples of how obsessed we have become with the need to document and record our experiences as they are happening. Even as the fireworks go off or the sun comes up, we all reach for our smart phones; as if, if we don’t record something and share it with our friends it cannot possibly have happened.

By a strange coincidence (either offering support for the issue, or implying lack of imagination, I’m not sure which…) I was in the middle of writing an almost identical piece this week. Given that I am lazy, and there is no such thing as too much Sociological analysis, I want to build on the points made in the article, and see if I can usher in a few more theories along the way.


Digital witnesses: memory Vs experience.


Stonehenge at dawn on summer solstice, 2014

I have recently had the double-privilege of going to Stonehenge to witness the sunrise on summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and then onto Glastonbury festival, to witness er… lots of live music and people dancing around in mud. I’ve been to Glastonbury many times before but Stonehenge was my first time. As you can see, I captured some of it on my camera-phone, and naturally I wasn’t the only one. The photo above prompted a friend of mine to comment that it “Looks like more people enjoying it through their phones than their eyes”. At first I felt a bit defensive, because I was guilty of the same thing, but I thought it was ok. What’s wrong with taking a few pictures of a special event in an auspicious setting?


Re-thinking the Definition of “Public Goods”

The following article By June Sekera gives an extensive account of how the concept of the “public good” has been undermined and redefined as a market failure.

The introductory paragraph is below and the remainder of the article can be found at


A year ago last May, the Real World Economics Review blog published my post, “Why Aren’t We Talking About Public Goods?” In that article I argued that we need to revive and reframe the concept of public goods. A concept of public goods is immensely important because: 

  • The absence of a widely-held, constructive idea of public goods in public discourse denies citizens the ability to have an informed conversation, or to make informed decisions, about things that matter mightily to the quality of their lives and their communities.
  • Its absence robs public policy makers, leaders and managers of the concept that is most central to the reason for their being. 
  • The current economics definition of public goods feeds and supports the marketization and privatization of government, and the consequent undermining of governments’ ability to operate.         

Since last May I have met with economists and other social scientists across the US and in the UK and have been in discussion with people responding to my post from several other countries. I have also been conducting further research.

In this post I summarize the results of my discussions and findings to date and offer for consideration some criteria for a possible “instrumental” definition of public goods.  Ultimately, an instrumental definition of public goods must be accompanied by a concordant theory of non-market production in the public economy. Both are needed to ground an improved theory and practice of governance.


Reflections on Voluntourism


Source:  Points of Light

Source: Points of Light


After spending five weeks conducting ethnographic research in Nepal, I was ready to return to the United States and many of the luxuries of a developed nation. I knew that it would take time to adjust my sleep schedule. I also figured that it would take some time to return to the fast-paced life of New York. What I did not expect was the overall difficulty I would have returning to a developed country. The air conditioning is so cold. The price of day-to-day life is so high. People’s daily problems are so trivial.

The majority of literature on volunteer abroad programs, voluntourism, and service vacations suggests that volunteers frequently have a relatively small impact on the people and countries where they volunteer. These scholars suggest that volunteers frequently frame their experience in terms of what they got out of the experience rather than what they were able to give to the organizations and people in the nations where they worked.

Obviously, my difficulty readjusting to being back in the U.S. is self-centered, based on my personal experiences and what I realized while I was living in a developing country. And when one of my friends asked me, “Do you think you made a difference,” I had to spend time reflected on the question before I could answer. (more…)

Is England’s World Cup failure symptomatic of Capitalism’s malfunction?

The Premiership Trophy

Football is England’s national sport. It’s played in every city, town and school in the country. The English Premier League is the richest league in the world. For millions of English fans who contribute this wealth, watching football either live or on TV is effectively a costly tax on their devotion to their club. Why then does England lose to smaller nations with fewer players and less money to invest in talent? (more…)