In a Minneapolis Star-Tribune op-ed on political rookies seeking high offices, political scientist Lawrence Jacobs invokes sociologist Max Weber’s (1919) Politics as a Vocation:

The legendary German sociologist Max Weber explained that the “vocation of politics” requires an aptitude to engage in the “strong and slow boring of hard boards.” Successful apprenticeships in politics can instill a healthy skepticism about searching out quick fixes and simulating representation in place of genuine community engagement.

The hard work of fashioning government policy in a process designed to invite conflict among divergent perspectives requires the skills of a specialized craft — the ability to search out compromises that achieve mutual gains, the patience to pursue gradual but meaningful progress, and sustained and strong bonds with constituents.

Sudhir Venkatesh talks research methods with Stephen Colbert:

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The Washington Post picked up on a new finding from the American Sociological Review on the truism that people become more socially and politically conservative with age. This commonly held belief that rigid thinking and old age are related is dismissed by sociologist Nicholas Danigelis in the most recent ASR.

Washington Post reporter Susan Morse reports:

“Researchers who examined the attitudes of more than 46,000 Americans over a 32-year period found that their views about such issues as extramarital sex, race relations, childbirth outside marriage and homosexuality did not become less accepting as they grew older — and that a person’s attitudes on such topics could not be predicted simply by their age.”

“Lead author Nicholas Danigelis, chair of sociology at the University of Vermont, said three factors might explain why a group of people older than 60 might appear more conservative than a group younger than 40: physiological changes such as hearing loss; the process of becoming socialized to believe certain ideas; and the ‘period effect’ — having lived through a signal event such as World War II.”

A recent study from York University indicates that nearly 43 percent of ‘personal support’ workers experience physical violence in their workplace everyday. This group of workers is predominantly made up of women and many of them are immigrants or from other minority groups. These workers experienced being slapped or hit with an object, being pinched, having their hair pulled, or even being poked or spit on. The workers also reported receiving unwanted sexual attention in the workplace.

CNW reports:

“What we found is disturbing,” says Pat Armstrong, a professor in York’s Department of Sociology, and study co-author. “Canada’s levels of violence towards long-term care workers are significantly higher than the other countries we looked at. The situation is out of control, as one respondent put it.”

Workers at 71 unionized long-term care facilities in Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia were surveyed about their experiences of physical violence, unwanted sexual attention, and racial comments. They were nearly seven times more likely to experience such daily violence than workers in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden…

Armstrong says most violent incidents go unreported.

“Workers are afraid to report violent incidents, fearing that they will be blamed. Or they simply don’t have the time to do so. Alarmingly, workers inform us that they are expected to take such abuse. They are told to ‘lighten up,'” she says.

The study also establishes a correlation between levels of violence and heavy workloads placed on staff. The main difference between Canada and Nordic countries is staffing levels.

chores.jpgThe latest report from the Council on Contemporary Families indicates that men have nearly doubled the number of weekly hours they devote to housework since the 1970s, but that it does not level the playing field…

The Mercury News reports:

“‘What it comes down to is men are doing more,’ said Scott Coltrane, a University of California-Riverside sociologist who co-authored the review released by the Council on Contemporary Families. ‘They were starting at such a low level, however, that they don’t rival what women do.'”

“Still, while the average full-time-employed married man with children has increased his housework contribution by two hours a week since the 1970s, his female counterpart does three hours less housework than she once did. Still, women on average spend 19 hours a week cooking, cleaning, shopping and doing other family work, compared with 10 hours for men. (Both partners, since the ’70s, have increased the amount of time they spend doing child care.)”


In a recent USA Today article on new patterns in American immigration, sociologist Douglas Massey weighs in.

USA Today’s Haya El Nasser reports:

“Douglas Massey, sociologist at Princeton University and editor of New Faces in New Places: The Changing Geography of American Immigration, says immigrants are ‘more mobile and … moving into economic niches in the suburbs.’

Their arrivals in such rural areas sometimes have produced outcries for a crackdown on illegal immigration. ‘When you go into a place like North Carolina that hasn’t had immigrants in 100 years and people speaking a different language plop down in the middle of their society, it’s unnerving to a lot of people,’ Massey says.

Immigrants, including many who entered the country illegally, also have flocked to fast-growing suburbs to fill the need for construction workers, gardeners, maids and other service workers. Such areas also have attracted more affluent, highly educated immigrants who are engineers, doctors and lawyers.

‘You have an industrial park with a bunch of programmers and engineers and a bunch of them are foreign-born,’ Massey says. ‘Then you have the service staff, and they’re foreign-born, too.'”

A recent article in The Boston Globe featured the current stalemate between the Greater Bowdoin-Geneva Neighborhood Association and the The Bibleway Christian Center over the relocation of a congregation. Pastor Willie James wants to bring the Bibleway Christian Center to an area where the neighborhood association would like to see a small business such as a bakery or a bank, or even a community center.

Sociologist Omar McRoberts weighs in…

“Associate sociology professor McRoberts argues that the neighborhoods and the religious groups need to avoid vilifying each other. Communities should recognize that churches can contribute to the civic needs of the neighborhood. And pastors, he said, should work to make their churches community institutions, not just places of worship a few hours a week.

“It’s not that churches have to be at odds with the goals of development,” McRoberts said, adding that he often heard Four Corners residents say they wanted more places to eat nearby.

“What better incentive for a family restaurant than the fact that every Sunday hundreds of people descend on your neighborhood to go to church?”” –Boston Globe

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the Kerner Commission Report, academics and journalists have gathered for a symposium at the University of Pennsylvania to address issues of racial and socio-economic inequality in the United States.

The Kerner Report was commissioned in the 1960s in the wake of urban riots and concern over the growing racial gap in the U.S. The report’s conclusion that “our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white – separate and unequal” was shocking to much of its audience.

The Philadelphia Daily News reports:

“A lot of what we’ve learned since Kerner is that we find ourselves in a different moment, a different place,” said Darnell Hunt, a professor of sociology at UCLA. “We’re confronted with a lot of the same problems we were confronted with in 1968. We’ve seen some progress in certain spheres, but a lot of the underlying structure has remained largely unscathed.”

church.jpgThe Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released a report this week documenting the change in American religiosity based on their most recent surveys. The report delivers the findings from interviews with 35,556 adults in the United States which indicate that increased diversity and dynamism of American religiosity make it hard to develop predictions for the future of religion and public life in the United States.

News reports on the Religious Landscape Survey highlight:

Faith is fluid: 44% say they’re no longer tied to the religious or secular upbringing of their childhood. They’ve changed religions or denominations, adopted a faith for the first time or abandoned any affiliation altogether.

“Nothing” matters: 12.1% say their religious identity is “nothing in particular,” outranking every denomination and tradition except Catholics (23.9%) and all groups of Baptists (17.2%).

Protestants are fading: 51.3% call themselves Protestant, but roughly one-third of this group were “unable or unwilling” to describe their denomination.

Immigrants sustain Catholic numbers: 46% of foreign-born U.S. adults are Catholics, compared with only 21% of native-born adults. Latinos are now 45% of all U.S. Catholics ages 18-29.

Read more…

In the January issue of The Atlantic, sociologist Elijah Anderson comments on the television show, ‘The Wire.’ The HBO series has gained wide acclaim for its portrayal of the struggles of urban life in Baltimore.

The Atlantic’s Mark Bowen reports:

“I am struck by how dark the show is,” says Elijah Anderson, the Yale sociologist whose classic works Code of the Streets, Streetwise, and A Place on the Corner document black inner-city life with noted clarity and sympathy. Anderson would be the last person to gloss over the severe problems of the urban poor, but in The Wire he sees “a bottom-line cynicism” that is at odds with his own perception of real life. “The show is very good,” he says. “It resonates. It is powerful in its depiction of the codes of the streets, but it is an exaggeration. I get frustrated watching it, because it gives such a powerful appearance of reality, but it always seems to leave something important out. What they have left out are the decent people. Even in the worst drug-infested projects, there are many, many God-fearing, churchgoing, brave people who set themselves against the gangs and the addicts, often with remarkable heroism.”

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