Today Scotland faces a monumental decision. For once, politics is thrilling, anything seems possible, Scots seem excited and motivated to vote, with a record turnout predicted. By the time you actually read this, the outcome might already be known. In the last weeks before the referendum, the result has been too close to call, which considering a few months ago the ‘No’ campaign had a twenty point lead, is quite a dramatic shift. Whatever today’s result, it will be a close one – Scotland will either become independent, with a huge proportion of people having voted to stay in the UK, or Scotland will remain British, with a huge proportion having voted to leave. Lots of people will not be happy, and the blame game will begin. Whatever the result, this campaign has reminded us of politicians’ increasing inability to persuade voters – quite a depressing thought, when that is what politicians are supposed to be there for.
It remains to be seen if a surge in support for the right-wing nationalist UK Independence Party fulfils its mainstream media billing “as a seismic shift in the political landscape”. Voter turnout was low; around 34%, and, ironically, given UKIP’s obsession with Europe’s threat to Britain’s legislative sovereignty, there were few domestic policy issues at stake. UKIP has little meaningful to say about, for example, schools or the health service. Its self-defining agenda is to prevent immigration. (more…)
[By Porcielcrosa [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.]
Although soccer (or ‘football’ as it is known in most places globally) still lags behind the four ‘major’ sports of American football, basketball, baseball and hockey as a speactator sports, it does have a sizeable and growing following in the US. A recent interdisciplinary conference
at Hofstra University explored the importance and meaning of soccer in society – beyond (but including) economics and market shares – and made the argument that soccer (and sports more generally) should be treated as a serious topic of academic study, a phenomenon worthy of our attention and a lens through which society can be understood. One sociologically relevant topic is that of fans, violence, politics and identity in soccer.
[By Pete Souza (White House Flickr Account) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]
A few weeks ago, President Obama announced a new initiative
designed to increase opportunities for young Black and Latino men. Acknowledging that Black and Latino men lag behind other groups in educational achievement and employment, while outnumbering white men in jails and prisons, at first glance, the President’s “My Brother’s Keeper
” campaign seems like a much needed and timely project. However, when examining Obama’s rhetoric more closely, the initiative falls short of addressing the root causes and structural reasons for racial disparities in the US and instead perpetuates a neoliberal language of individual responsibility.
This month the 22nd Winter Olympic Games began in Sochi, Russia. The spectacle of the event has captivated persons from around the world to tune into watch their favorite sport or favorite athletes. Russia spent over $50 billion to prepare for the Olympics by building hotels, roads, stadiums, and to bring in artificial snow into the Southern resort town. The Sochi Olympics are the first mega-sporting event to occur this year, but will likely be trumped by the upcoming World Cup in Brazil over the summer. Brazil’s price tag for hosting the World Cup is considerable less at around $9 billion dollars. Nonetheless, the cost of both of these events and the emphasis by the respective countries to show the world the capabilities of their nation reveal the increasing globalization of these world sporting events. The Olympics and the World Cup are two global sports spectacles that have considerable cultural and economic ramifications, and are a product of intense politicking to bring the events to one’s national home.
By movie studio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
In January, President Obama became the latest in a long list of politicians and high profile public figures in taking a shot at academic disciplines perceived to be ‘useless’ from a labor market perspective. Talking about manufacturing and job training, Obama (who has since apologized
for his remarks) said
: “I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree.”
This attack on disciplines, fields and degrees that do not tie in directly to what is perceived to be the workplace of today and tomorrow are nothing new. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory made similar, albeit much more explicit and vicious, remarks
about higher education just last year, lashing out against the (inter)discipline of women’s and gender studies: “If you want to take gender studies that’s fine. Go to a private school, and take it. But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.”
These and similar remarks point to two related notions that dominate in the debate about (higher) education: 1. The idea of a “skills gap” – that is the idea that workers and college graduates do not possess the right skills to fill vacant jobs in growing economic sectors. And 2. The idea that some academic disciplines are simply useless pursuits, as they do not help graduates secure employment. But do these ideas have empirical ground?
Political Cartoon, July 5, 1919. Source: Wikimedia Commons
At the time of this posting, the government shutdown drags on, the debt default is on the horizon, and Democrats and Republicans are waging the battle of blame. Spin is, of course, business-as-usual in politics. Figuring prominently into this fight is the question of who is acting responsibly.
What stands out to me, as a student of social movement studies, is one particular strategy to smear opponents as irresponsible and therefore dangerous: the recent persistent use of the term “anarchist” by Senate Democrats to describe Republican politicians and the Tea Party social movement with which they are aligned. This approach is exemplified in Senator Elizabeth Warren’s blog post earlier this month entitled “We are not a country of anarchists,” and has been echoed repeatedly by other politicians, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in his claims that anarchists had taken over Congress. (more…)
Hanauer discusses the perceived wisdom or false premise that tax cuts for the rich creates jobs.
The following short video provides a really nice presentation of the gap between perceived and actual income inequality in the US .
Whether flipping through channels, listening to the radio, or reading the newspaper, it is evident that crime has secured a mainstay position in today’s media. In order to achieve high ratings, television networks and news outlets must fill their allotted time slots with only those headlines sure to popular attention (see Best, 2004). Oftentimes, those stories and reports are generated by sensationalizing criminal events. However, the seemingly overrepresentation of crime and delinquency is not the focus for this essay. Rather, it appears that crime has become a generalized preoccupation that has transformed a number of U.S. institutions (see Hudson, 2003). More specifically, crime – and societies growing fear of crime – has become a mechanism through which a new mode of governance has emerged. (more…)