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Posted 364 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Social Media, politics / 0 Comments

In my book Social Media and Everyday Politics, I examine how social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr are used for both playing with and participating in political activity,for engaging with politics. Drawing upon research that I conducted over the last few years, this work extends beyond considerations of the political as just politicians, governments, and elections: politics includes issues of race,gender, sexual identity, class, and more.

 

Politics forms part of peoples’ everyday lives, and is reflected in (and influences) their every day activity on social media. My consideration of social media also goes past popular platforms to other digital technologies and online platforms used and implicated within political discussions and experiences. There is more going on than just what is happening on Twitter, for instance, and the platforms, users,practices, and experiences in question will also differ vastly across countries and contexts.

 

One of the most exciting things about studying social and digital media is how everything evolves: practices, platforms, communities, cultures, users, content…  The evolution of social media practices and platforms, and of political issues, means that there is an ever-growing list of examples in which social media and politics are intertwined. As I was writing in late 2014 and early 2015, for instance, movements like Black Lives Matter were (and are) important demonstrations of the intersection of the digital and the political through their campaigning and activism for civil rights. While not being social media-only movements, they make use of digital media as tools for visibility, support, awareness, and protest. Similarly, the responses to the Charlie Hebdo attack, in Paris in early 2015, saw visual social media and the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag as particularly prominent ways of commenting and reacting, across multiple platforms.

 

These examples also form part of ongoing trends and practices further linking social media and politics, responding to new events and actors as well as current issues. The#JeSuis solidarity style hashtag has been adopted in response to attacks in Paris, Bruxelles, Lahore, and more, as well as displays of support in other contexts (and its presence, meaning, and motivations have also been debated).Sentiments and movements get distilled into hashtag forms that can be concisely integrated into messages: #LetThemStay in Australia, campaigning to process asylum seekers in Australia instead of in detention on Nauru; #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgainfrom the comedian John Oliver, playing on Donald Trump’s campaign slogan to oppose and mock him; #PutOutYourOnions, the public schadenfreude accompanying Tony Abbott being replaced as Australian Prime Minister in a party leadership vote.

 

Social and digital media are also used to respond to events and issues in immediate and new ways:tweeting breaking news, sharing content on Facebook, posting visual commentary and reactions on Instagram, and spreading information and opinion across platforms and networks. Such content comes from established media and political actors as well as from user-generated and -created means. Engaging effectively with social media and its users is important, and news media have been adapting their coverage to embrace new forms. Footage is posted using Vine, press conferences streamed with Periscope, moments and infographics looped using animated GIFs, and apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat tested out for further content delivery.  Similarly, in addition to maintaining Twitter and Facebook presences, political parties, politicians,and candidates may engage (successfully or otherwise) with social media cultures through creating and sharing memetic content or using emoji in their commentary and campaigns.

 

Of course, social media are not without their own issues, and the politics of platforms is interlinked with the politics happening on these spaces. How platforms like Twitter and Facebook deal with abuse directed at users, hate speech, racist and sexist content, and user privacy is both ongoing and inconsistent. This affect show users decide which platforms to use: for activists, for example, security and surveillance are considered alongside the visibility and reach of popular social media. The announcement in April 2016 that WhatsApp had turned on encryption has particular relevance here, setting it apart from other popular messaging apps (although WhatsApp is also owned by Facebook, which may raise further questions for users). The impact of algorithms on user experiences,content provision, and the work of platforms is also a major part of current debate. For example, in March 2016 Microsoft’s Tay bot attracted widespread attention for how the responsive bot was (very quickly) taught to share offensive and bigoted messages.

 

What this means is that social media and politics are connected in more ways than just sharing links about Bernie or Hillary, posting a status about an election, or live-tweeting a debate. In Social Media and Everyday Politics, I offer an exploration of the diverse ways in which the political and the digital overlap, through experiences and examples which may be mundane, tangential, or irreverent, as well as the extraordinary. The flexibility of content and practices means that everyday activity on social media can be applied to the political as necessary, directed by users and not just by established political actors or by platforms. This is not to say, of course, that social media alone will change views, make protests and revolutions succeed, or determine elections, nor that there is a singular‘social media user base’ or way of using these platforms. However, as social media are popular means for engaging with political issues and events, what happens on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and more cannot be automatically discounted as purely frivolous, narcissistic, or uninformed.

Tim Highfield is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Sessional Academic at Queensland University of Technology

For more information:

http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745691343

http://timhighfield.net/?page_id=670


Posted 420 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Internet, Intelligence Services, Technology / 0 Comments

The Closing of the Net 

What is meant by The Closing of the Net? Iptegrity readers will already have their own interpretation. The notion has been helpfully or otherwise referred to by  Donald Trump who called for "closing that Internet up in some way".  Trump was reflecting calls by various political interests, including the intelligence services, for the technology companies to 'do something'. Do something about what? He was calling for restrictions on content reflecting undesirable agendas such as extremism.  Closing the net entails 

restrictions on Internet content, applications and services. Technology companies do have the capability to impose such restrictions. They can block. They can filter. They can monitor. There are many interests, including the companies themselves, who desire such restrictions.   We know it's happening and some researchers are beginning together the evidence, for example, the Lumen project at Stanford University. The political issue concerns the relationship between the Internet corporations and the State, and  under what terms they should be allowed to do it, if at all. 

 

In liberal democracies, closing the net is when you get a notice that the content you are looking for has been restricted by copyright holders. Closing the net is when your website is incorrectly filtered because it contains a keyword that's on a block-list, even though your content is legal. As a consequence, your customers cannot find you, and your readers go elsewhere. Closing the net is when your broadband provider charges you multiples of the standard price to watch video from a site they don't have a deal with. Call it preferential traffic management or call it zero rating, the effect is the same.

 

Of course, there is another interpretation of closing the net that applies in non-liberal regimes, where governments impose blanket monitoring of  all websites, content platforms and personal communications  and order the  shut down, sometimes of the entire Internet,  for political reasons. That is called censorship.  This kind of authoritarian censorship is not specifically addressed in my book.

 

 Instead I address the more subtle politics of restriction  in liberal democracies. It's a scenario where restrictions are imposed by private actors, often, although not always, for commercial reasons. Those private actors tend to be  large corporations who seek to exert political  influence in order to protect their perceived business interests. The effect may well result in a form censorship, although many would argue that this is not the intent. It is this subtlety of influence and non-transparency of intention that makes it critically important for citizens to understand it. 

 

In my analysis, closing the net is also about preferential display of content on a smartphone screen. Smaller than the traditional postcard, this screen is now how many people receive their news, entertainment and personal communications. The size implies a limitation on what people can see, but when the large platform corporations, such as Facebook, are deciding on what should be limited by means of 'personalisation' techniques, it implies a form of closure. The data that is used for personalisation is also sought by States for intelligence purposes, and in that regard, the relationship between States and corporations takes on a new significance.

 

A particular difficulty arises when political interests, such as the intelligence services,  begin to demand restrictions. This is the Trump agenda. For example, when an EU government blocks  a site to help migrants fleeing Syria, this is another form of closing the net. How far does it go before we do end up with an authoritarian censorship?  In this context,  the relationship between the technology industries and governments becomes very tricky. The technology companies fear an increase in  liabilities but at the same time, they increase their power over States.

 

 The Closing of the Net discusses that relationship of  States versus corporations.  It considers how the large network providers and content platforms seek to influence public policy.  It analyses the various calls for technology companies to 'do something' and the policy responses. All of this is discussed in the context of multiple, apparently unconnected agendas. Those agendas are copyright, net neutrality, data protection, mass surveillance,  content filtering and cloud computing. The assumption behind my analysis is an academic theory of structural power, evolved by the former LSE professor Susan Strange in the 1980s, and very much resonant with today's Internet policy agendas. Structural power suggests that these corporations control the means of access to knowledge because they control the structures through which knowledge is disseminated. They control the transmission, storage and retrieval of information. They know who is communicating what and when. The political activity of the corporations is intended to protect this power.

 

 The point is that if they get their way, the outcome would be a form of restriction. If they win every agenda point, the combined impact of such restrictions could be severe. The Closing of the Net will not be a single dropping of the portcullis. It will be a slow, subtle imposition that will not be noticed until it is too late.


Posted 402 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Technology, education / 1 Comments

Digital technology is clearly integral to twenty-first century education. Schools, colleges and universities are replete with digital devices, systems and applications. Silicon Valley is awash with talk of ‘massive open online courses’, ‘personalized learning’ and ‘learning analytics’. The ways in which people find things out and learn on a day-to-day basis increasingly involves Google, Wikipedia and YouTube. In short, digital technology now lies at the heart of how information is consumed, how knowledge is created, and how people communicate with each other.

Unfortunately, discussions about the use of technology in education often tend toward over-enthusiasm and hype. Many people inside education believe that digital technology supports forms of teaching and learning that are more democratic, flexible and appropriate to life in the digital age. Many people outside education are more radical still – seeing digital technologies a ready ‘fix’ or ‘solution’ to what is presumed to be a broken system. Yet as we know from the digitization of most other areas of society, technological change is rarely straightforward. As such, it is foolhardy to expect new forms of technology-based education to be without their own limitations and problems.

This book strives to take a more balanced approach. While emerging forms of digital technology clearly have much to offer the future of education,it is inevitable that these technologies have other consequences. The book therefore raises a series of questions that are rarely asked of technology and education.For example:

· what is lost with the ongoing virtualization of education – i.e. teaching and learning on a ‘remote’ rather than face-to-face basis?

· what aspects of education are not accurately represented in the data and algorithms that underpin online learning systems and analytics?

· are digital technologies merely advantaging the already advantaged – i.e. well-resourced, well-educated individuals who are confident in taking control of their own education?

· how does the highly individualized nature of digital education fit with the idea of ‘public’ education that is of common benefit rather than just individual gain?

· is digital education raising unrealistic expectations that complex social problems can be solved quickly through the innovative and ‘disruptive’ application of technology?

These are all tricky questions that are fundamental to improving technology use in education. Most importantly, these are not technical questions of ‘what works?’ but questions about the values and ideals that education is based upon. Given the significance of education to all of our futures there is clearly a need to start genuinely inclusive debates around the complexities and contradictions of technology and education. Digital technology needs to be seen as the starting point of a conversations about the future of education … not simply as the definitive answer.

Neil Selwyn is Professor at the Faculty of Education, Monash University, Melbourne. His latest work, Is Technology Good for Education? is available in April 2016


Posted 425 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Foucault, sexuality / 0 Comments

Foucault’s Last Decade is a study of the work Foucault conducted between 1974 and his death in 1984.In 1974, Foucault began writing the first volume of his History of Sexuality, developing work he had already begun to present in his Collège de France lecture courses. In that first volume,published in late 1976, Foucault promised five further volumes, and indicated some other studies he intended to write. But none of those books actually appeared,and Foucault’s work – which we can now closely track from his courses – went in very different directions. At the very end of his life, two further volumes of the History of Sexuality we republished, and a fourth was close to completion. In contrast to the originally planned thematic treatment, the final version was a much more historical study,returning to antiquity and early Christianity.

The Paris courses, other lectures, shorter publications, and related materials – some collaborative and some unpublished – are used in this book to provide an intellectual history of this final project of Foucault’s career. Research for this book was conducted in archives in France and California, and the account shows how Foucault’s pursuit of a problem led him to re conceive the project in scope and shape. The book is broadly chronological, and shows how all of Foucault’s concerns in this period – from race to confession, from governmentality to neoliberalism – are all, in various ways, connected to the project on sexuality or, as he re conceived it, on the relation between truth and subjectivity.

The book is partnered with a second study, on the period immediately preceding the last decade, tracing how Foucault moved from The Archaeology of Knowledge to Discipline and Punish. That book, Foucault: The Birth of Power, is forthcoming with Polity in 2017, and it analyses Foucault’s early Collège de France courses in relation to his political activism and research on health, madness and discipline.

Stuart Elden is Professor of Political Theory and Geography at Monash University

Foucault's Last Decade, written by Stuart Elden, will be available soon from Polity


Posted 433 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Psychology, Nursing / 0 Comments

Increasingly, nurses, alongside other healthcare professionals are under public and political scrutiny.  In recent years, there have been high profile cases of  failures of care leading to high mortality rates, where care staff have been described as showing a “disturbing lack of compassion towards patients” (Francis, 2013).  One of the key recommendations following the inquiry at Mid Staffordshire Hospital for example, was that “there should be an increased focus on a culture of compassion and caring in nurse recruitment,training and education”.  High profile cases, such as Mid Staffordshire, highlight how the ability to listen, respond and engage therapeutically with patients is pivotal to delivering person-centered and collaborative care.

But how?

A central theme in our upcoming book, Psychology for Nursing, is the importance of subjectivity. How can nurses understand the subjective experience of being a patient?  Alongside the importance of subjectivity, a second central theme explored is the binary concept of health and illness. Viewing people as either healthy or ill,diseased or disease-free is a fundamentally flawed perception. We actually exist on a continuum of health (or ill-health, if you like) that constantly changes.  Our subjective experience of our health and well-being is influenced by internal and external factors - and the interaction between these two.  As our circumstances change, so does our subjective experience of our health status .

It’s clear that nurses need to develop an understanding of the shifting nature of patients’ health experiences. To do this, they need to understand the clinical encounter and, in particular, the psychological aspects of the clinical counter. Only then can they develop a skillset to respond effectively to patients.

Psychology for Nursing aims to help nurses do just this. Aimed at undergraduate and postgraduate nurses, the book draws not only on psychology as a generic discipline, but also on health psychology to understand how nurses can work in partnership with patients in order to deliver high quality patient-centered care.

With nurses increasingly being held to public and professional account, how can psychology equip nurses of the future to contribute to the delivery high quality, patient-centered care? 

Alison Torn is a lecturer in psychology at Leeds Trinity University.
Psychology for Nursing, co-written by Alison Torn and Pete Greasley, is available now, published by Polity.


Posted 453 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: social work, disability, impairment, disabled people, social model, service user, practice, health and social care, social care, social services / 0 Comments

A number of things motivated us to begin this book – and, indeed, to follow it through to completion in the face of many competing commitments, including our ‘day jobs’. First of all, we have observed some inspiring social work practice with disabled people, and this is an area of work we would like to promote among the practitioners of the future. The literature on social work with disabled people is relatively sparse, and we would like to remedy that. Literature focusing on social work with people with physical and sensory impairments is particularly limited, and this is a gap we sought to address. Although people should not be defined purely in terms of their impairments, there can be variation between the restrictions that people with different atypical physical attributes will face, and variation again between their experience and that of people with learning disabilities. Despite our primary focus on disability associated with physical and sensory impairment, we have attempted to take a holistic approach which recognises that people with learning disabilities may also have physical impairments.

Secondly, we hoped to challenge the assumption that disability affects only service users, and conversely that social workers are invariably non-disabled. Clearly this simplistic dualism, an example of an ‘us and them’ approach, is both unhelpful and inaccurate. Thirdly, the social model of disability has informed much good practice, but it is not always fully understood by students. Therefore, we were keen to produce a text that would help students to develop this understanding. The lived experience of disabled people has been crucial in the development of the social model, and we have been privileged to work with disabled social workers, service users and carers who have offered their expertise to the students and staff of social work degree programmes. The experience that they have been prepared to share both with us and with our students has been invaluable. Therefore the book begins with Helen Burrell’s experience of disability and professional interventions in her life, both in childhood and adulthood. This illustrates some of the issues that appear later in the book; we hope that by addressing these initially through lived experience readers will be able to negotiate the material that appears in later chapters more easily.

Helen’s experience provides the opening chapter of Part I of the book - ‘Perspectives: Understanding disability’ – where we examine how disability is, and continues to be,defined, explained and understood. We then move on to consider theory and models, life course perspectives on disability, and law and policy. Our approach to theories and models is underpinned by the social model, but also engages in some detail with the way this model has been critiqued and developed, as we believe this has particular relevance for social work. We consider the knowledge that can be gained from taking a life course perspective on disability, before offering a critical analysis of the interface between law, policy and social work in relation to practice with disabled people. This includes contemporary legal frameworks, such as the Care Act 2014, the Social Services and Well-Being (Wales) Act 2014 and the Children and Families Act 2014, and highlights the importance of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Social work practitioners who gave us their views while we were working on the book emphasised the impact of inequality and oppression on disabled service users. Part II of the book reflects this concern, and includes chapters which explore the research on inequality, oppression and diversity, and the place of social work in challenging these. These chapters focus on the need for social workers to consider the impact of characteristics such as race, gender and sexual orientation. However, we also consider disability itself as a dimension of human diversity, by exploring issues such as discrimination, inequalities in employment, victimhood of crime, access to education, debt and poverty, and access to health and other public services. 

While we have drawn out implications for social work in Parts I and II of the book, it is Part III which focuses specifically on social work functions, roles, processes and practice with disabled people.  Each chapter in this part highlights strategies for best practice, starting the importance of strong communication skills in this area of specialist practice.  We focus on social work practice with disabled children, exploring core functions such as assessment and intervention, and also practice with looked after disabled children, before moving on to the social work role with disabled adults, in an increasingly personalised system of adult social care. Arguing that social work has a central role in safeguarding both children and adults, we also explore this function in the context of disability settings, with a particular focus on the concepts of risk and vulnerability. We end Part III by examining collaborative practice in this field, before we offer a final conclusion to the book, drawing together some of the key issues.

The introduction of care management from the 1990s onwards led to a narrowing of the social work role and a focus on gatekeeping. Given the critique of social work by some disability activists and academics, and the introduction of self-directed support, there has been speculation about a much reduced role for social work,particularly in adult social care. We consider that many criticisms of social work by disabled people have been justified, and welcome the introduction of self-directed support. However, we believe that social work can and does contribute to the promotion of disabled people’s rights and the securing of positive outcomes in their lives. If social work is to regain the confidence of disabled people, it needs to broaden its remit beyond the individual to engage with the barriers that restrictlives. We suggest that positive practice requires the following: a focus on human rights; critical reflection on the critique of social work by the disability movement; full understanding of the barriers that disable people with impairments; and partnership working with disabled people and their organisations, as equal allies. 

Peter Simcock is Senior Lecturer in Social Work at Staffordshire University. 

Rhoda Castle was formerly Senior Lecturer in Social Work and Applied Social Studies at Staffordshire University.

Their book, Social Work and Disability, published by Polity, will be available in March 2016.


Posted 472 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Judith Shapiro, China, economics, environment / 0 Comments

Since the publication of the first edition of China’s Environmental Challenges in 2015, the most common question I am asked is whether I think China will be able to resolve its environmental problems. The answer, of course, is complex, but the simplest response is simply, “It must.” As I outline in the new edition, the Chinese people’s frustration is at a boiling point. Red alert “airpocalypse” days, heavy metals and bacteria in water supplies, and adulterated, unsafe food including in staples like pork, tea, milk powder, and rice mean that in many well developed parts of the country the time for patience is over.The Chinese government understands this very well indeed and is strengthening laws and giving them teeth, punishing polluters, and making environmental protection a central feature of national plans.

There was a time, not long ago, when a disempowered,fatalistic populace thought they could do little to press their leaders to implement the laws and force polluters to stop their toxic ways. In 2001, in Shenyang in China’s Northeastern rust belt, a worker told me that the city’s chronic “fog” was something the local people were used to – but not you foreigners. Since then, the rising middle class, armed with social media that provide them with information transparency and the ability to upload their own images and facts about pollution, has come into its own. Independent journalist Chai Jing’s March 2015 “Under the Dome” documentary, viewed within a matter of days by hundreds of millions, called on the Chinese people to download pollution transparency apps and demand clean air and water, for the sake of their children who had never seen stars and whose very health was in jeopardy.

This encouraging restlessness does not solve China’s problems, as the underlying dynamics of displacement of environmental harm simply postpone and shift them: during the “APEC Blue” meetings of late 2014, for example, when factories were shutdown and automobiles kept off the road to provide clear skies for the global leaders’summit, a provincial governor boasted that soon all Hebei’s polluting factories would be relocated to Africa. Bad news for Africa, worse news for the planet. As I chronicle in the new edition, as long as “dirty migration” shifts environmental harm from politically strong regions to weaker regions, from cities to countryside, from East China to West China (where, not coincidentally, so many ethnic minority nationalities live), from China to neighboring countries and to the reaches of the globe, then the people of China and the world are postponing our reckoning with the limits of our planet’s ability to provide resources and absorb them after use. Indeed, as China goes, so goes the world.

Judith Shapiro is a Professor in the School of International Service at American University, Washington DC. She is the author of Mao's War against Nature and the co-author of Son of the Revolution and other books on China.


Posted 474 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Phillip Golub, politics, East Asia, economics / 0 Comments


The guiding theme of this book is that East Asia’s reemergence as a semi-autonomous core of the world economy constitutes one of the most significant structural changes in world politics since the Industrial Revolution and Eurocentric globalization in the nineteenth century. Thanks to a regional developmental dynamic of remarkable intensity, duration and spatial scope, which spread from Japan to the rest of the region, East Asia is gradually regaining the position in the world economy that it enjoyed prior to the great East-West and North-South divergence, commensurate with its demographic weight.

Over the past four decades the region’s share of world Gross Domestic Product (GDP), in purchasing power parity (PPP), has risen from less than 10 percent to 30 percent, a ratio that should rise by 2030 to just over 40 percent. China has become the world’s second-largest economy in current exchange rates (the largest in PPP). Since 1980 its share of world GDP (PPP) has risen from 2% to over 16%. Though growth has recently slowed due to the global contraction that followed the 2008 financial crisis, China remains on an ascending trajectory: average per capita GDP (PPP) has risen from $250 in 1980 to $9,800 and is expected to reach $16,000 by 2020. Assuming steady but slower growth going forward, per capita GDP should reach current Japanese or European levels by the mid-21st century.

China has simultaneously become the gravitational center of new transcontinental South-South trade and investment linkages, supplanting the United States, Europe and Japan as the leading trade partner of most East Asian countries, and becoming a crucial actor in South American, African and South Asian trade. Over the past twenty years South-South trade has expanded more rapidly than global trade, currently accounting for 25 percent of the total, 21 percent of manufacturing exports, and 25 percent of exports of manufactures with medium and high technological intensity. In many cases, notably in East Asia itself, this has been accompanied by industrial upgrading: the “developing” world’s share of manufacturing value-added has risen from less than 10 to nearly 30 percent.

The politics of postcolonial reemergence have lagged behind economics but a gradual political reordering is apparent in the growing voice of the South in international organizations and new institution-building efforts bypassing traditional centers of power and authority. In 2013, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa set up the New Development Bank (NDB), headquartered in Shanghai, which will combine investment and monetary functions, serving as a lending institution for infrastructure development projects as well as a reserve facility dealing with balance of payments problems. In 2014, China founded the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The creation of a distinct institutional system separate from the Bretton Woods institutions that have underpinned world capitalism since 1945 has major implications: from now on rules and regimes will no longer be exclusively set in the historic North.

The East Asian economic revolution, in short, is reshaping the global landscape. Though “revolution” has always been a problematic concept to describe the cumulative effects of technological, economic and social change, I use it not only to denote the relatively sudden, considerable and sustained increases in the rate of growth that the region has experienced, but also and more broadly its systemically transformative effects. Like the European Industrial Revolution, the East Asian one is gradually changing the order of the world. As the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) emphasizes: “The world is witnessing an epochal global rebalancing. The rise of the South reverses the huge shift that saw Europe and North America eclipse the rest of the world, beginning with the industrial revolution, through the colonial era to two World Wars in the twentieth century. Now another tectonic shift has put developing countries on an upward curve”.

The book explores the sources of that shift and interrogates its implications for understandings of globalization and capitalist development. Using a historical sociological approach to the study of world politics, it weaves together social theory and historical narrative to analyze the structural and contingent factors that gave rise, during distinct but interconnected moments of world history, to the East Asian development dynamic.

Moving from present to past and past to present the book examines the early modern European-Asian encounter, the imperial collisions of the nineteenth century, ‘Pax Americana’ and the post-war constitution of authoritarian capitalist developmental states, and China’s state-capitalist turn in the late twentieth century. The focus is on the ways in which imperialism, war and revolution shaped modern nation and state building efforts—the international interactions that generated state forms in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries which, to varying degrees, have proved able to harness transnational forces to national institutions and purposes, and to successfully alter national positions in the global economic hierarchy.

Major challenges lie ahead. For observers concerned with the problem of international inequality, such as this author, global rebalancing is normatively desirable. But because it implies intensified competition for resources, capital, status and voice it carries not insignificant political and economic risks. At the same time capitalist development has generated new social fractures and environmental problems. These problems need to be addressed to create the conditions for a sustainable and peaceful future.

Philip Golub is Professor of International and Comparative Politics at the American University of Paris


Posted 500 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Globla Democratic Theory, democracy, International Politics, governance / 0 Comments

The 2015 United Nations Climate Conference in Paris was preceded by public protests around the world in support of decisive action to address climate change. A clear theme in the protests to support climate action has been the idea that these negotiations are of global importance and that political representatives of the participating nation-states have been too slow to react to this issue. The problem of climate change highlights how global problems interact with a world where authority is vested in domestically orientated nation-states, where various forms of global governance exist but are not always effective, and where people are organising in networks of transnational civil society to influence formal negotiations.

In this context, democratic relationships of representation and accountability between citizens and their state are increasingly blurred as political decision-making becomes more densely embedded within complex and overlapping forms of globalization and global governance. As a result of these political dynamics, new thinking about the relationship between globalisation and democracy is required and scholars have developed various responses to the dilemmas of enabling public oversight of political life in an era of globalisation and global governance. Anthony McGrew has referred to this as a “transnational turn” in democratic theory: an emerging contention that democracy needs to be rethought in light of the impact of globalization.

In our recent book, we refer to this literature as global democratic theory and claim that a new field of scholarship has emerged in the writings of scholars interested in the engagement of democratic theory and globalisation. This book provides an assessment of the value of this scholarship and the possibilities associated with rethinking and redesigning the practice of democracy, including the possibility of creating democracy beyond the state. While there is a general argument in this scholarship that representative democracy vested in the nation-state needs to be adapted to globalisation, there is no consensus on how democracy could be reconfigured. Indeed, the approaches considered in this book reveal a wide range of views about the future of democracy and its possible extension to the global level. By examining the development of global democratic theory, this book provides glimpses of what these democratic futures might be.

This book focuses upon five primary approaches of global democratic theory. First, the liberal internationalist theory of Robert Keohane, Anne-Marie Slaughter and others focuses upon a democratic ethic of reform where international institutions act on the cooperative priorities of states and are transparent and accountable to national governments in ways that support democracy at the level of the nation-state. Second, cosmopolitan theorists like David Held, Daniele Archibugi, and Richard Falk, in contrast, argue for a democratic ethic of humanity which involves the creation of a democratic constitutional order for global governance and a long term vision which includes the development of new overarching institutions like a global parliament. Third, transnational deliberative democracy advances an ethic of dialogue as exemplified in the deliberative and republican scholarship of John Dryzek, James Bohman, and Philip Pettit. Unsatisfied with prevailing modes of liberal democracy, this ethic promotes an agenda that seeks to transform governance structures by enhancing the role of transnational deliberation and public reasoning in political life, even in IGOs not likely to be accountable via electoral processes.

Fourth, the social democratic approach captures a diverse array of positions attempting to develop a democratic ethic of equality by regulating and possibly transforming global capitalism. This broad position encompasses efforts by scholars supportive of the Third Way, scholars such as Colin Crouch and Andrew Gamble, who seek to reform global capitalism, and more radical scholars such as Alex Callinicos who seek to promote a revolution that supplants capitalism. Finally, the book considers the radical anarchist approach to democracy exemplified in the work of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. Their approach is grounded in an ethic of revolution that seeks to develop self-governing communities that can resist and overthrow the global system of sovereignty and capitalism.

The book outlines the contours of these approaches and their practical merits. Its main contention is that global democratic theory needs to deliver a range of practical perspectives that can help democratic leaders and citizens to critically rethink and redesign the organization of national and global governance. This body of scholarship offers important thoughts on how people can meaningfully participate in national and global governance institutions that shape their daily lives in the hope that global problems such as climate change will be more readily addressed.

Daniel Bray is a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia
Steven Slaughteris a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.
Their book Global Democratic Theory was published by polity in 2015 and is available for purchase.


Posted 508 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Philosophy, Ecology, economy, growth, climate change, Capitalism / 0 Comments

The task of philosophy today, according to Slavoj Žižek, is not to provide answers but rather to show how our perception of a problem is sometimes part of the problem itself.  If we look at the field of climate politics today, Žižek's critique does appear relevant. This field of politics is marked by a pervasive sense of urgency generated by calls to 'Act now!' and 'Save the planet!' On an immediate glance,these politics seem to have fully adopted Marx's 11th thesis on Feuerbach: 'The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways;the point is to change it.' The premise of Marx's thesis is, however, that the philosophers have already interpreted the world. This raises the question whether contemporary climate politics is informed by a sufficient analysis of the situation.

There is of course an abundance of scientific analyses documenting trends of global climate change, bio-diversity decrease, natural resource depletion, etc. Indeed such analyses are necessary in order to understand our current predicament. The problem, however, is that these studies lack a theory of humanity explaining, why it is at all worth saving in the first place. Humanity itself is not included in the world view of the natural sciences. At best we are merely just another species. The natural sciences tend to conceive of the world in purely physical terms thus excluding the domain of metaphysics. Let's explore the possible implications of this through an analogy.

Imagine that an obese woman comes into psychoanalytical therapy. She is suffering from excessive eating habits that is now threatening her physical health and perhaps even her life. Would we approach her by weighing her, measuring her blood pressure and submitting her to a number of other medical tests and then proceed to explain to her how a continuation of her current lifestyle gives her 80 percent likelihood of dying within the next five years? And would we tell her that the cure for her problems is a healthy diet and daily exercise? The answer is obviously no. The risk of subjecting the obese woman to a purely medical and physical gaze is that it might inadvertently confirm her own unconscious knowledge that her body is indeed just a heap of flab and meat that is heading for complete self-destruction and not worthy of any kind of edifying care and tender beyond the quick stimuli of sugar, fat and salt. And also her subjective sense of self-confidence and worthiness may be shattered by the realization of the things she has done to her own body.

The calls for global action against climate change based on new and evermore gloomy scientific projections risk functioning in a similar fashion. Why care about nature, if it is broken anyway? And why try to save the human race, when our biggest accomplishment so far has been to destroy our own means of existence on the planet? Rather than repeating medical facts about obesity, health and nutrition, psychoanalysis would approach the obese woman by trying to uncover the way that her general structure of desire is structured around certain unconscious ideas about food, body and eating. In similar fashion, philosophy should not simply repeat the scientific facts about climate change, resource depletion, etc. but rather attempt to uncover, why contemporary capitalism is so attached to perpetual economic growth in the first place.

We should therefore also be sceptical towards the concept of green growth, which is often held forward as a solution. Solving our global climate crisis through green growth is the equivalent of trying to fight obesity by eating fat-free potato chips, drinking Coke Zero and watching TV-shows about other people, who are trying to lose weight. The problem with green growth, from a philosophical perspective, is not that it is insufficient at best and impossible at worst in terms of solving the climate crisis. It is rather that the notion of green growth comes to stand in the way of an inquiry into the notion of growth itself. As long as the obese woman believes that she can solve her problems by eating fake fat and fake sugar instead of the real thing, she is not confronted with the core existential question: Why must I keep eating so much? In similar fashion, the fantasy of green growth stands in the way of a thorough Auseinandersetzung with the key question of contemporary society: Why must the economy keep growing? The posing of this question is the task of philosophy today.

Ole Bjerg is Associate Professor at the Copenhagen Business School and author of Parallax of Growth - The Philosophy of Ecology and Economy.


Posted 530 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: science, culture, society, STS, Technology, cultural studies, sociology, climate change, Fleck, Wittgenstein / 0 Comments

When Polity first contacted me to produce a second edition of SCS I was, as well as being a bit surprised, confident that a small amount of rewriting and updating the references would be sufficient to the task. How wrong I was! This new edition is an almost wholly new book, and for a number of reasons. The first is simply the pace of change inside the formal sciences: chapter 2 in both the first edition and second edition focus on a single experiment in biochemistry, actually carried out in the same lab. But where the first edition’s experiment was very complex and required considerable interpretation, the experiment in the second edition is, in my opinion, breathtaking in its complexity and level of analysis. I think this is indicative of how the formal sciences, and particularly the experimental life sciences, are proceeding, becoming more complex and more focused on very specific objects. New lab techniques, particularly the easy availability of PCR and cloning techniques have also added to this complexity. But that leads me to the second significant change: we have a lot ‘more’ science now, but we don’t seem to understand it any better. Actually, I think the opposite is the case: the more science we have the less we seem to understand it. The artificial separation of arts and sciences is becoming more and more entrenched in our technoscientific society and this is leading to positions becoming fixed and uncommunicative with respect to serious problems facing society.

Climate change is a strong focus in this new edition; it is a major challenge to human societies, but the solutions that are often offered are scientific and technical ones. Why is this? Why do we keep reaching for the sci-tech solution to social problems?

One thing that I have retained from the first edition is the theoretical framework. I am still committed to using the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein and Ludwik Fleck to make sense of science, with a strong focus on the language, meaning construction and representations of science in the different communities, both exoteric and esoteric, of which we are members. We need to find better and more appropriate ways of communicating and understanding science in society and I hope that this second edition can make a contribution to that urgent task.

Mark Erickson is Reader in Sociology at the University of Brighton.

The second edition of his book Science, Culture and Society: Understanding Science in the 21st Century is available now, published by Polity.


Posted 549 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Uncertainty, science, scientific method, development, discovery / 0 Comments

Uncertainty is deeply interwoven into human existence. It also provides a powerful incentive in the striving for more knowledge. Human attempts to predict the future reach back into the dawn of humanity and have greatly been expanded with the rise of modern science and technology. We have developed unprecedented capabilities to anticipate risks and to focus on uncertainties. But the more we know, the more we also realize what we do not know as yet.

Scientific discovery is an inherently uncertain and open-ended process as the outcome of fundamental research cannot be predicted. Much of this holds also for innovation. At present, a fissure of how to deal, let alone cope with uncertainty marks the relationship between science and society. One of the biggest challenges ahead that comes with the ability to push further into the territory of the unknown are the limits we face in anticipating the unintended consequences of human action.

The book puts uncertainty – and the craving for certainty that humans continue to manifest – into context. Paradoxically, the lure of predicting a future yet to come is stronger under conditions when people experience uncertainty, but equally when (over)confidence reigns that the optimistic upswing will continue. Today, with big data offering new and powerful ways of tapping into future behaviour and to turn prediction into performance, it is important to realize the limitations. The continuing impact of the financial crisis is a forceful reminder that risk must not be confused with genuine uncertainty and that the algorithms driving the models are devised by humans.

The return of the unexpected is only one of the many ingenious ways in which the cunning of uncertainty is at work. It can be a powerful ally, a subversive force, and it thrives on ambiguity. Promises, especially scientific and technological promises, offer an example of how it makes room for the new. Our attempts to cope with uncertainty reach from the experience of daily life to managing uncertainty within organizations and to confronting uncertainty generated in complex adaptive systems.

The reader is invited to consider what it might mean to embrace uncertainty. It acknowledges randomness and the thriving of science on the cusp of uncertainty. It reminds us that timing, the art of choosing the right moment, is mainly a response to uncertainty that emerges from interactions in the social world and their unintended as well as not anticipated consequences. In this respect uncertainty is very familiar. The cunning of uncertainty nudges us to see that whatever is the situation we face, it could be otherwise. Embracing it remains an open-ended process that aligns us with a genuinely open future.

Helga Nowotny is former President of the European Research Council (2010-2013) and Professor Emeritus of Social Studies of Science at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich.

Her book The Cunning of Uncertainty is available now, published by Polity.


Posted 573 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Morality, Philosophy, wellbeing, emotion, neuroscience / 0 Comments

What makes a person's life go well? Should we aim to give people what they happen to want, or try to shape their preferences to be more easily satisfied? Are we responsible even for actions that express implicit biases, or only for our conscious choices? Are reason and emotion essentially antagonistic, or do emotions embody reasoning? How is character molded and stabilized? Are we more authentic when we are alone or when we are in the company of intimate friends and family? How stark are moral disagreements, both within and between cultures?


In Moral Psychology, I develop philosophically nuanced and empirically informed answers to these questions. I begin the book by exploring five central moral psychological phenomena: agency, patiency, sociality, temporality, and reflexivity. People are agents: they make things happen in the world. They are also patients: things happen to them. Sometimes one person does something to someone else -- an instance of sociality. Sociality is complex because it is recursive. For instance, you, as agent, can persuade me, as patient, to do something. That thing might be to coerce someone else to do something. People can also act on themselves, both in the present moment and over time. When they do so, they exhibit reflexivity and temporality. Each subsequent chapter of Moral Psychology employs these five central concepts to better understand human behavior, decision-making, cognition, reasoning, and development.


In chapter one, I draw on behavioral economics and psychology to argue that preferences are neither entirely stable nor entirely determinate. This means that, to the extent that someone's wellbeing depends on whether their preferences are satisfied, wellbeing is also unstable and indeterminate. While this might seem like a problem, I argue that it opens up the possibility of shaping, reordering, and clarifying preferences, rather than treating them as set in stone.

In chapter two, I consider the ways in which implicit and explicit biases may help and harm both those who embody them and the people they come in contact with. Using the examples of police violence against racial minorities and gender inequality in the workplace, I show how even small and subtle biases can have huge effects over time. I then explain the psychology of implicit biases, which typically operate below the level of awareness, and explore the extent to which someone who has such a bias is responsible for their behavior. While it may not be possible to wrest complete control from such biases in the moment, I argue that there is reason to think that people can construct their environments and introduce counter-biases to take distal control over themselves. Hence, while we may not be fully responsible for what we do, we are responsible for the ongoing fact that we have biases.

In chapter three, I draw on recent neuroscientific evidence to argue that emotion -- far from being antithetical to reason -- is a way in which humans embody or implement reason. Unlike prominent emotion-skeptics like Joshua Greene, I suggest that emotions are often fine-tuned to ongoing concerns, registering gains and losses, opportunities and threats.

In chapter four, I develop an interactionist theory of moral character that is consistent with the most recent findings in both personality psychology -- which has documented remarkable kinds of consistency in people's dispositions to thought, feeling, and action -- and social psychology -- which has documented remarkable kinds of inconsistency in people's dispositions to thought, feeling, and action. I argue for the hypothesis of extended character, according to which people's character partially inheres in stable facets of their material and social environment, especially in the ongoing expectations-signaling of their near and dear ones.

In chapter five, I explain the kinds and levels of moral disagreement that can exist between cultures, within cultures, and even within individuals. I then argue that, despite facile arguments for inter-cultural disagreement, basic values are strikingly consistent in different parts of the world. There is more intra-cultural disagreement than inter-cultural disagreement, and even that disagreement is primarily about how to implement shared values, not about what's ultimately valuable.

Finally, in the conclusion, I explore future directions for philosophical and psychological research in moral psychology.

Moral Psychology marks a major advance in an emerging interdisciplinary field. It challenges many traditional views but also casts a critical eye on the scientific study of moral psychology, which turns out to be extremely difficult to do well. Undergraduates, graduate students, and researchers in both philosophy and psychology will find this book stimulating and thought-provoking.

Mark Alfano is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Princeton University Center for Human Values and Center for Health and Wellbeing. His book Moral Psychology will be published in January 2016.


Posted 578 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: elite theory, social theory, political sociology, economic sociology, celebrity, celebrities, status, power elites / 0 Comments

Free Teaching Aid:  A brief ‘fairy tale’ that gives students a quick and accessible introduction to the Murray Milner Jr's new book Elites: A General Model

The Parable of the Poor Robbers

Once upon a time all of Aville was populated by robbers. Since people spent most of their time robbing, the pickings were pretty poor. Some got tired of plunder and poverty so they decided to become producers. It was a better life and they would have been much richer, except they kept being robbed. So they made a deal with some of the robbers to protect them for a share of what they produced. These robbers changed their name to police persons and called their share of the produce taxes. The new safer producers now called themselves propertied persons or owners. Under the new conditions the owners could become rich if they worked hard.

The very first producers decided to grow potatoes. Though there was more food, people eventually grew tired of spuds. Some younger owners decided to raise pigs by feeding them potatoes. The old potato planters were horrified and said the young upstarts came from bad families and had no respect for sacred traditions. Most people acknowledged that this was true, but were happy to have pork with their potatoes. Even some of the potato planters were sick of spuds and offered to trade them for pork. But the planters and the piggers constantly argued about how many potatoes a pig was worth. Planters said everyone knew that spuds were sacred, and hence much more valuable per pound than unclean pigs and yucky pork. Piggers retorted that this was a lot of PP, (i.e., potatoist propaganda). Most of the time piggers and planters worked out a trade, but both sides resented the other. Yet, they agreed that being a rich producer—whether of spuds or pork—was better than being a poor robber.

Yet being a prosperous propertied producer was not as much fun as they had hoped; you had to work all of the time. So, the richer owners decided to hire some of the remaining poor robbers to help them work. This second group of ex-robbers called themselves laborers; it seemed to sound better and the police gave them less hassle. The police were adamant that only they had the right to collect taxes so the laborers share of the production was called wages. Since everyone else now had a name for their portion of the produce the owners decided to call their share profits.

Now the world would have been a much better place except that the owners were always arguing with the police and the laborers about how much they should receive in taxes and wages—in addition to producers arguing with one another about how many potatoes a pig was worth. Because the police specialized in force and violence, they would eventually win such arguments, but this was dangerous and tiring. Moreover, this squabbling took so much time that some of the policepersons began to specialize in arguing, and, though they were still policemen, they took on airs—and others began to call them politicians. Sometimes the owners were so stingy that it was hard for the police to remember that they were no longer robbers. Accordingly, the producers often had trouble telling the difference between the policepersons (sometimes called cops) and the robbers. Some of the laborers also forgot that they were no longer robbers and would take more than the owners said they should. The laborers called this redistributive justice, but the owners called it stealing and had the police punish these laborers. Some laborers, however, kept claiming that the owners were making big profits, but the owners swore they were not. They said these complainers were not really laborers at all, but were outside agitators—and they fired them.

These ex-laborers kept making trouble so the owners had the police make them go live someplace else. They called these trouble-making laborers outcasts. Not surprisingly the outcasts resented unemployment and being forced to move. They called the owners exploiters, the police pigs (and the politicians crooks), and the place they now had to live the ghetto. All this helped keep the other laborers in line, but it created more work and hassle for the police. Consequently they wanted more taxes and said that if they did not get them they might side with the laborers next time. The owners retorted that you did not have to be very smart to be a policeperson (and even less smart to be a politician) and that they would simply hire some of the remaining poor robbers to replace these greedy upstarts. Now the police, the laborers, and the outcasts were all mad and they threatened to get together and take all of the property away from the owners and have a revolution. The problem was that they could not agree among themselves about who would get the property after the revolution. Moreover, robbers still frequented the neighborhood. Hence, there was a danger that they might take over during a revolution and this would create what was called anarchy. While no one was sure what this was, everyone knew it was bad. In short, most people were richer than they had been when everyone was a robber, but life was much more complicated and the future did not look good.

To make matters worse, a neighboring society called Bville became envious of Aville’s new riches, resentful of their uppity attitudes, and aware of their bickering. They sent their own robber/police (renamed soldiers)to demand a share of Aville’s new largess. To fend off Bville’s invasion Avlle had hired more police and soldiers. But soldiers wanted even more money to fight wars than police did to catch robbers, so taxes had to be raised. Some Avillers called Peaceniks said it might be cheaper to share with Bville than to go to war. Most people thought this would be a dishonorable sellout and accused the Peaceniks of being unpatriotic—and even traitors. This led to even more squabbling. The planters, the piggers, the police/soldiers, the laborers the outcasts and the Peaceniks all agreed that bickering was bad. What they needed was a formula for how to divide the produce fairly, but they could not agree on what this would be.

Now in the meantime some had become very bored and depressed about bickering and war. They gave up their property and jobs and went off by themselves to figure out the meaning of life. They were even poorer than poor robbers. Since they did not have much and were not involved in the wrangling they were left alone—separated from everyone else. They became known as holypersons. Perhaps because they were often hungry and spent a lot of time alone, some of them began to hear voices and see visions. Someone named God kept talking to them about the meaning of life. One thing God talked about was justice, which had to do with how to fairly divide up what was produced. Now since God knew the meaning of life, and these holypersons weren’t involved in the usual squabbles, it seemed like a good idea to take their advice about what was fair and just. This helped reduce some of the arguments and the holypersons developed quite a reputation. They seemed purer and less corrupted, and best of all they knew what justice was. Moreover, they were buddy-buddy with God who according to them had lots of power and knew everything. This made them even holier. Hence if you wanted to improve your own status you could do so by going to see a holyperson regularly and listen to them talk about God, the meaning of life, and justice.

But holypersons were poor and most lived under some tree in a bad neighborhood—even in the ghetto. Owners, policepersons, and laborers did not like going into such areas. Moreover when it rained the tree did not offer much protection to holypersons or visitors. Some of the owners, police/soldiers, and laborers decided to take up a collection to construct a nice building in a good neighborhood for the holyperson they liked best; they called these churches or temples. Now that many of the holypersons were out of the rain they could write down what God had told them and so they created Holy Scriptures.

Some holypersons figured out that they were on to a good thing and they began to ask for more than just a roof over their heads. Because they were holy it was beneath their dignity to collect taxes, be paid wages, or make profits, but they agreed to receive gifts and donations—which everyone knows are much less corrupting. Moreover, they let it be known that they were not going to spend all their time listening to other people’s problems and teaching about justice, the meaning of life, and God, unless the donations came in pretty regularly. To distinguish these uptown more expensive holypersons from just any old ordinary holyperson, their devotees began to refer to them as priests.

These priests soon got accustomed to this new life. The thought of having to move back under a tree did not have much appeal. Therefore when people came to them wrangling about how much should go to each group, it was hard for them to ignore the fact that owners and police usually built nicer temples and churches than laborers did. Of course, they continued to be guided mainly by what God said was justice. Now priests were busy important people and had less time to talk to God. Nor did they did have as many visions or hear as many voices. Before long it was hard to tell the priests from anyone else—except that they were more sanctimonious.

The laborers increasingly suspected that what the priests said was justice had more to do with the gifts they received than with what God had said to them. Some laborers began to say that the priest were not so holy after all. Some of the priest felt guilty and returned to the frugal life under the tree. They started to have visions again—only this time God told them to go tell everyone that the priests were corrupt, that the police/soldiers were engaged in waste, fraud and abuse, and that the owners were making big profits. These new loud mouths were called prophets—which supposedly made their advice and approval even more valuable than that of priests. But it was hard to get them to say what people wanted to hear. Sometimes they would even blaspheme the Holy Scriptures. So the police often had to beat them up to keep them quiet. Unsurprisingly some of the prophets got tired of being hungry and unappreciated; so they started accepting gifts and approving of what the owners and police wanted. Some people began to call them false prophets or ideologues.

The true prophets called on God to put a curse on the false prophets, the priest, the police/soldiers and the owners. They also began to organize the laborers, the outcasts, and some of the remaining poor robbers. Worst of all they began to say what the laborers already knew, the priests suspected, the police couldn’t figure out, and the owners had always denied: that the owners were making big profits. Now since they were true prophets the police decided that what they said must be true. It made the police mad to learn the owners had been holding out on them so they joined the revolution.

[Choose an ending]

Ending A: The police took all the property away from the owners, but a squabble immediately began over what to do with it. Soon everybody was fighting and even killing each other. The one good thing to come out of this was that people finally figured out what anarchy meant. Before long it became impossible to be an owner, policeperson, a soldier, a holyperson, a laborer, or even an outcast—so everyone became poor robbers.

Ending B: The police decided that their politicians should form the People’s One and Only Party (POOP). The party would make all of the decisions and this would do away with squabbling (and free speech). POOP had to put a lot of loudmouths in jail, but they promised that in a few years inequality and social classes would wither away, solidarity and consensus would blossom, and everyone would live happily ever after.

Ending C: The police asked the politicians to create a More Effective Safe Society (MESS). So they came up with a set of complicated rules called laws and a set of rules about how to make laws called a constitution—and this did result in a MESS. Often people disagreed about what the laws said and so, in addition to the politicians, a second group of professional arguers emerged called lawyers. Just as the priests claimed to know what God said, the lawyers claimed to know what the laws said. But before they would tell you, they demanded even bigger fees than the police, the priest, or the politicians. Some of the laws were about voting and elections. Everyone got to vote for their favorite politician and the ones who received the most votes formed what was called a government—and they got make all the decisions. But the owners, laborers, the holypersons, and the lawyers were not satisfied with just getting to vote; they also tried to tell the elected politicians (now called government officials) what to do. The politician/officials would pretend to listen, especially if you gave them a big fee which they called a contribution (but others called a bribe). Now there was even more squabbling, but relatively little killing. It wasn’t the best of times; it wasn’t the worst of times; but it was a far, far better thing than the known alternatives.

[Or make up another ending]

©Murray Milner, Jr.

Discussion Questions:

1. What are the three kinds of elites that tend to emerge in complex societies?

2. What divisions commonly occur within each type of elite and within non-elites?

3. Can you think of parallels or examples of such divisions in contemporary American society?

4. In addition to some religious clergy, who serves as priests in contemporary societies? Who are the prophets?

5. In what category would you place Bill Gates? Betty Friedan? Jimmy Carter?

6. How would you use the parable to characterize the Tea Party?

Murray Milner is Professor Emeritus of Sociology, and Senior Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. His latest book Elites: A General Modelwas published by Polity in November 2014


Posted 581 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Problems, Philosophy, Contemporary Philosophy, Aristotle / 0 Comments

One of the strangest philosophical books ever written is a collection of unsolved problems written either by Aristotle or one of his followers. It is called, simply, “Problems.” In it, Aristotle (or “pseudo-Aristotle”) discusses a wide variety of head-scratchers, ranging from “Why don’t birds belch?” to “Why does the edge of the shadow cast by the Sun appear to tremble?” (Not because the Sun is moving, since the Sun doesn’t move back and forth as a trembling leaf does.)

Literally, in Greek, a problem is something projected or “thrown forward” (προ- + βλῆμα). In philosophy, as in mathematics, problems are “set forth” or “put forward.” Many problems have solutions that we may or may not be able to discover. Others seem to be insoluble in principle. When philosophers sense that a problem is insoluble they generate a second-level problem about the first-level problem. In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant’s critical problem was to explain why human reason generates insoluble metaphysical problems. In the twentieth century, the logical positivist Rudolf Carnap went one step further. In a book called Pseudo-Problems in Philosophy he argued that metaphysical problems weren’t genuine problems at all.

Today, most philosophers agree that there are genuine problems in philosophy. They may not be losing sleep over non-belching pigeons and trembling shadows (having bequeathed these particular problems to ornithologists and physicists), but they do scratch their heads over paradoxes about rule-following, reference, consciousness, self-consciousness, free will, and the nature of justice. These “first-level” problems are widely shared by “analytic” and “continental” philosophers. They also importantly connect with broader problems of contemporary social life and practice. Yet many contemporary philosophers sense that they may be insoluble, at least without first stepping back critically to look at their underlying form. Could a new critical approach to them – a new way of problematizing problems – provide assistance? A critical, or “paradoxico-critical,” approach that acknowledged its own problematicity?

Andrew Cutrofello (Professor at Loyola University of Chicago) and Paul Livingston (Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of New Mexico) are co-authors of The Problems of Contemporary Philosophy, which is published by Polity on the 25th of September 2015


Posted 587 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: porn, media, sexuality, cultural studies, gender, sex work, gender studies / 0 Comments

Does pornography harm its viewers? Does it help improve healthy sexual development? What about the workers – are they harmed or helped by making porn? The answer is simple – as we demonstrate in our new book Pornography: Structures, Agency and Performance: it depends.

In the case of pornography production, we ask such questions as: What are the conditions on set? Was it consensual and ethical, treating the performers well and respecting their boundaries? Were they paid fairly and did the production pay attention to workplace health and safety? Do they have a say in the distribution of their images?

When we turn to pornographic representations, we ask: What kinds of sexuality are available to what audiences? Is violence depicted consensually? Is non-violence depicted non-consensually? A person can consent to kink but still refuse a kiss! Are the representations illegal – and if so, do the laws protect the people on screen, or simply conform to heteronormative values? How does each example of pornography intersect with structural issues around gender, sexuality and class?

That’s a lot of questions. And that’s the point. To say that “Pornography does this” or “Pornography does that” is to avoid the vast complexity of sexually explicit media. There are relatively tame Playboy images that nonetheless perpetuate sexist ideals of women for the consumption of men, challenged by contemporary feminist pornography featuring BDSM that interrogates gender binaries and stereotyped sex roles. There is queer porn from the 1950s, when homosexuality was still illegal; and educational colouring books of vulvas today. All these examples beg a question of the reader: What is your “pornography”?

Pornography: Structures, Agency and Performance
explores the issues we must pay attention to as we make judgements about pornography. It discusses the production of pornography, from the world of big business to the work of individual webmistresses. It examines the academic research about the harms of pornography, and exposes the problematic assumptions underlying much “anti-porn” effects research. It considers the laws that manage pornography production and distribution – and looks at the harms that they themselves might institute by reasserting stigma against workers and sexually marginalized citizens. It looks at structural issues of power – not only gender, but also race and sexual identity – that inform the production, consumption and uses of pornography.

Pulling together all of these issues, we make the original argument that performance is at the heart of negotiations between structures and agency, and offers a framework for making informed and incisive decisions about the pornography we want. And in a world where pornography is increasingly available and ubiquitous, that’s something we desperately need.

Rebecca Sullivan is Professor at the University of Calgary.  Her book, co-authored by Alan McKee (Professor, University of Technology, Sydney) Pornography: Structures, Agency and Performancewas published by Polity in September 2015


Posted 619 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: social inequality, inequality, social divisions, stratification, diversity, social problems, Marx, marxism, Bourdieu, cultural sociology, sociology / 0 Comments

These are exciting times for the concept of class. For most of the 20th Century research taking it as the point of departure was dominated by various versions of Marxism or Weberianism. Whether it was social mobility, educational inequality, health inequalities or identities and political attitudes in the frame, advocates of the two intellectual traditions battled it out to lay claim to the proper explanation of how and why things are as they are. It could be structural Marxism or Birmingham-style Marxism, the diluted form of Weberianism that pervaded the US or the more full-blooded variety championed by John Scott in the UK, but in later years the standoff came to be characterised most sharply by the opposition between the programmes of two men in particular: Erik Olin Wright and John Goldthorpe.

Over the last twenty or so years, however, things have changed dramatically, and it is this revolution in class analysis that Class tries to capture and champion. Dissatisfaction with the prevailing options, partly fed by the ‘cultural turn’ in sociology and spurred by feminist research into the everyday experience of class, led scholars to look elsewhere for conceptual foundations and, in that search, one alternative proved particularly attractive: the class theory of Pierre Bourdieu.

Defining class not in terms of exploitation or life chances but in terms of the multiple properties, or capitals, which enable some people to be ‘misrecognised’ as somehow superior to others, and including education and culture alongside money and social connections as one form of such capital, he offered a novel way of thinking about class struggles that neatly avoided the mounting limitations and oversights of traditional research.

The turn to Bourdieu has also helped make something else abundantly clear: class is in no way dead or declining in significance. For a long time, through the 1980s and 1990s but right into the new millennium too, many people turned away from the concept, seeing it (or more accurately, its Marxist and Weberian incarnations) as too narrow, too limiting or too ‘soft’ to capture the way the world worked today – the expansion of higher education, the rise of identity politics, feminisation of the workforce, media and migratory flows and so on.

Yet, as I try to demonstrate in relation to a range of topics in the book, Bourdieu has provided a means of spotlighting persistence through change, or of social reproduction through social mutation. In the process he has revivified class analysis, given its practitioners a new confidence and stimulated a boom in research on class among established scholars and newer generations alike.

There are still some conceptual puzzles to solve, for sure, but this new strain of research promises to yield powerful insights into the workings of contemporary capitalist societies for some time to come.

Will Atkinson is Lecturer in Social Research at the University of Bristol. His new book Class will be published by Polity Press in September 2015.


Posted 647 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: European Union, crisis, Philosophy, germany, greece, the guardian, habermas, oltermanni / 0 Comments

This interview of Jürgen Habermas by Philip Oltermann first appeared in The Guardian on 16 July 2015.  The original article can be found here

Guardian: What is your verdict on the deal reached on Monday?

Habermas: The Greek debt deal announced on Monday morning is damaging both in its result and the way in which it was reached. First, the outcome of the talks is ill-advised. Even if one were to consider the strangulating terms of the deal the right course of action, one cannot expect these reforms to be enacted by a government which by its own admission does not believe in the terms of the agreement.

Secondly, the outcome does not make sense in economic terms because of the toxic mixture of necessary structural reforms of state and economy with further neoliberal impositions that will completely discourage an exhausted Greek population and kill any impetus to growth.

Thirdly, the outcome means that a helpless European Council is effectively declaring itself politically bankrupt: the de facto relegation of a member state to the status of a protectorate openly contradicts the democratic principles of the European Union. Finally, the outcome is disgraceful because forcing the Greek government to agree to an economically questionable, predominantly symbolic privatisation fund cannot be understood as anything other than an act of punishment against a left-wing government. It’s hard to see how more damage could be done.

And yet the German government did just this when finance minister Schaeuble threatened Greek exit from the euro, thus unashamedly revealing itself as Europe’s chief disciplinarian. The German government thereby made for the first time a manifest claim for German hegemony in Europe – this, at any rate, is how things are perceived in the rest of Europe, and this perception defines the reality that counts. I fear that the German government, including its social democratic faction, have gambled away in one night all the political capital that a better Germany had accumulated in half a century – and by “better” I mean a Germany characterised by greater political sensitivity and a post-national mentality.

Guardian: When Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras called a referendum last month, many other European politicians accused him of betrayal. German chancellor Angela Merkel, in turn, has been accused of blackmailing Greece. Which side do you see as carrying more blame for the deterioration of the situation?

Habermas: I am uncertain about the real intentions of Alexis Tsipras, but we have to acknowledge a simple fact: in order to allow Greece to get back on its feet, the debts which the IMF has deemed “highly unsustainable” need to be restructured. Despite this, both Brussels and Berlin have persistently refused the Greek prime minister the opportunity to negotiate a restructuring of Greece’s debts since the very beginning. In order to overcome this wall of resistance among the creditors, prime minister Tsipras finally tried to strengthen his position by means of a referendum – and he got more domestic support than expected. This renewed legitimation forced the other side either to look for a compromise or to exploit Greece’s emergency situation and act, even more than before, as the disciplinarian. We know the outcome.

Guardian: Is the current crisis in Europe a financial problem, political problem or a moral problem?

Habermas: The current crisis can be explained both through economic causes and political failure. The sovereign debt crisis that emerged from the banking crisis had its roots in the sub-optimal conditions of a heterogeneously composed currency union. Without a common financial and economic policy, the national economies of pseudo-sovereign member states will continue to drift apart in terms of productivity. No political community can sustain such tension in the long run. At the same time, by focusing on avoidance of open conflict, the EU’s institutions are preventing necessary political initiatives for expanding the currency union into a political union. Only the government leaders assembled in the European Council are in the position to act, but precisely they are the ones who are unable to act in the interest of a joint European community because they think mainly of their national electorate. We are stuck in a political trap.


Jürgen Habermas is emeritus professor of philosophy at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University of Frankfurt. He has published many books on the European Union, including The Crisis of the European Union. His latest book, The Lure of Technocracy, was published by Polity in February 2015



Posted 658 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: assisted dying, euthanasia, assisted suicide, ethics / 0 Comments

This post deals with the issue of euthanasia/assisted dying (as discussed in Chapter 7 of Ethics for OCR Religious Studies) and Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill, currently before Parliament. It sets out some background together with arguments in favour of assisted dying. A later post will set out arguments against.




Background: Lord Falconer’s private members' bill on assisted dying is currently before parliament. Whilst 70% of the public support the legalisation of physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill, parliamentarians are generally more cautious, aware of the complexities of applying law and regulating cases of abuse, so this bill is unlikely to make it into law. When Jack Kevorkian (the American doctor imprisoned for assisting in the suicides of 130 ‘patients’) started out, it was a crime in every country but Switzerland. Today, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg allow physician-assisted suicide, but the annual total of assisted deaths in these countries ranges from 0.5%-3%. Parliaments in New Zealand, Quebec, New South Wales in Australia and in the UK are debating the issue. Here in the UK, prominent cases have raised the issue of a need for a change in the law. For example…

Jeffrey Spector (2015)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-32881161

Terry Pratchett (2015)
See his film: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xnu340_terry-pratchett-choosing-to-die_shortfilms

Deborah Purdy (2014)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-25741005

Daniel James (2008)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/switzerland/3690874/Assisted-suicide-parents-of-Daniel-James-will-not-face-charges.html

Diane Pretty (2002)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1394038/Diane-Pretty-dies-in-the-way-she-always-feared.html

Since 1993, passive euthanasia has not fallen within the definition of assisted suicide. This involves the removal of life support, or withdrawal of treatment deemed futile, for example, in cases where nothing further can be done to improve the condition of a patient. In such cases their dying, not living, is being extended.

In 2010, the Director of Public Prosecutions added guidelines to clarify the 1961 Suicide Act. He stated that prosecutions for assisting in another’s suicide would be less likely to be pursued if it was deemed not to be in the public interest (i.e. where a jury would be unlikely to convict a friend or relative acting on compassionate grounds, and pursuing such cases would be a waste of time and money as well as being unnecessarily distressing for relatives of the deceased). The guidelines can be viewed here.

In 2013, the government announced that it was phasing out the ‘Liverpool Care Pathway’ which aimed to ensure that patients who were in their last days and hours died comfortably and peacefully along the lines. It had been criticised by many who testified that their elderly relatives had been put on this pathway without their consent. Some relatives saw the deaths of their relatives as being hastened by the over-prescription of drugs which diminished the desire or ability to accept food or drink, and through the withholding or prohibition of hydration (see More Care Less Pathway).

Furthermore, a Freedom of Information Act request in 2012 established that 2/3 of NHS Trusts had received incentive payments for meeting ‘targets’ for using the Liverpool Care Pathway, totalling £12million. An individual care plan approach has now replaced the LCP.

A great place to begin thinking about the issues involved is The Westminster Faith Debate on ‘Should we legislate to permit assisted dying?’ Members of parliament debate the legal and ethical implications of a euthanasia bill here.

How ‘dwindling’ has put assisted dying on the agenda

In 1945, male life expectancy was around sixty-five. Death typically came with vital organ failure or cancer, and little could be done for patients. Today, ‘dying’ has turned into ‘dwindling’ and there is an arsenal of pharmaceutical and surgical weapons to stave off death. Conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and the prospect of decades of dependency and expense lead many to want the option of physician-assisted dying, or living wills/advance directives (e.g. to specify a wish not to be resuscitated in the event of having Alzheimer’s disease and having a heart attack in a hospital ward). One US study (McLean, 2007) estimated that 40% of us will experience prolonged dying and 15-20% some form of dementia.

Below, we’ve presented some of the points in the case for euthanasia as acronymns, which can help with your retention and recall in an exam.

Reasons given in favour of physician-assisted dying

Biographical vs Biological: Philosopher James Rachels argues that quality of life matters and distinguishes biographical life (with self-awareness, a sense of oneself and of having a past and a future, desires and interests, and relationships with others) from mere biological life. In the UK, there are around 1500 patients who have been in a Persistent Vegetative State (PVS) for more than three months, after which their chances of recovering self-awareness are very low (though the condition can be misdiagnosed). Sanctity of life absolutism can obscure the fact of a quality of life that is so low as to be (in the subjective judgment of its bearers) not worth living.

Maleficence: The technology available to doctors (to take over lung function, maintain blood pressure and do dialysis of livers or substitute for failed kidneys), raises the question of whether such extraordinary means of keeping PVS patients alive can be regarded as harmful when they go against the interests that a patient has expressed in a living will, or those of their next of kin. So beneficence (the duty to act for the benefit of others) can be in tension with non-maleficence (the duty to do no harm). Care can deliver a quality of life deemed to be a ‘fate worse than death’, namely maintaining a patient with no prospect of recovering their cognitive functions, yet maintained indefinitely in a manner which distresses their next of kin who are forced into a mourning period with no end in sight. When so many patients of sound mind and body can specify the terms under which they would wish not to be resuscitated are denied their wishes, this condemns them to lengthy lives. In Peter Singer’s view, this does ‘harm to those whose misery is needlessly prolonged.’ 'CPCR' (cardiopulmonary-cerebral resuscitation) is perhaps a more helpful term than CPR as it is the brain (more specifically, the cerebral cortex where cognitive functions operate, as opposed to the part which maintains normal breathing, heartbeat, and unconscious functions), not the heart that is key to personhood and resuscitation.

Autonomy and Patient Choice: US pro-euthanasia activist and physician-assisted suicide practitioner Jack Kevorkian once said, ‘In my view the highest principle in medical ethics…is personal autonomy, self-determination. What counts is what the patient wants and judges to be of benefit or value in his or her own life.’ Generally autonomy is taken to require consent along with competency, a lack of pressure, and a sustained and properly informed decision. Kant’s understanding of autonomy is not simply, ‘what I want’. There are limits to autonomy – reason links this into the universal moral law and takes no account of hypothetical imperatives like, ‘If I am in unbearable pain, I can ask a physician to assist in my death,’ because they cannot be universalised. Utilitarians argue that our Judeo-Christian ethic is outdated. Peter Singer produces five new commandments in his book Rethinking Life and Death, the first three of which are: 1) Recognise that the worth of human life varies; 2) Take responsibility for the consequences of our decisions (in end-of-life care); 3) Respect a person's desire to live or die. Such preference utilitarianism is about choice. Dying threatens uncontrollable pain and distress, and even if patients do not take up the choice of assisted dying, having the option brings these factors under a degree of control.

Dignity: The loss of bodily and mental functions and the feeling of dependency and being a burden on others causes many like those in the cases listed above to want to end their lives before their human dignity goes. Deliberately ending life at a time and condition of one’s choosing is an attempt to take control of the suffering and pain, foreshortening the extended dying process.

Economics: A defence against the charge that assisted suicide is about saving money. In the Netherlands, where Assisted Dying accounts for 2.7-3% of all deaths, this might lead to patients forgoing an average of four weeks of life and save about 0.07% on healthcare costs. So proponents of euthanasia say it’s about patient choice, not saving money (though if these figures were the same in the US, it would make an annual saving of $627m, far less than 1% of total healthcare costs). In response to the argument, the Netherlands and Belgium, which have assisted suicide, also have better palliative care than their European neighbours that prohibit it. Unscrupulous relatives and doctors can be regulated by legal and procedural safeguards implemented in the care of the elderly and dying.

How would opponents of assisted dying counter the above arguments?

If you were to rank these reasons in order of importance, which three would come first?

 


Mark Coffey is a teacher of Religion and Philosophy at The Manchester Grammar School and an associate lecturer in ethics at The Nazarene Theological College in Didsbury. An Oxford theology graduate, he did a Master’s degree by research on Hauerwas at Leeds University under Nigel Biggar. He is a regular broadcaster on BBC Radio 4 and has written an introduction to the theological ethics of Stanley Hauerwas.


Posted 692 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: sex, sex addiction, sexual history, addiction, mental health, pyschotherapy, homosexuality / 0 Comments

Since the late 1990s, I have been teaching an undergraduate course on the history of sex. Students are fascinated by the topic. They are open to the idea that homosexualities have a history, that heterosexuality and pornography are relatively modern sexual constructs, that we can talk of a period of sex before sexuality (the subject of my previous, co-authored, Polity book), and can grasp the rapidly shifting concepts of what we now call trans. However, despite a willingness to think historically and critically, they have remained resistant to any questioning of the viability of sex addiction and the sex addict as categories.

This is because the idea of sex addiction has become firmly entrenched in our cultural consciousness, to a point that it is simply taken for granted, an assumed – and uninterrogated – explanation for socially disapproved sexual behavior. Sex Addiction: A Critical History, by Barry Reay, Nina Attwood, and Claire Gooder, tells this short history. And it is a critical history. By the time that we had finished our project, the Emperor, as the old saying goes, was stark naked.

Usually in projects of this sort the topic becomes more complicated as their search, writing, and thinking progress. But we found the opposite. Things became clearer and clearer. The sex addict did not exist before the second half of the twentieth century. Now the notion of perceived, out-of-control, sexual behavior is a cultural common place. The claimed disorder is used constantly: to account for the actions of celebrities, to summarize the theme of a movie, to condemn the effects of pornography, to sell treatment programmes, as a rationalization for arange of perceived complaints that could be explained by other diagnoses.

Although sex addiction is a spurious ailment, it has to be taken seriously as a phenomenon. Rarely has a socio-psychological discourse taken such a hold on the public imagination. Its success and unquestioning acceptance at the academic level is remarkable too – which should be noted before any judgments about its role in the media and popular culture.

Though definitely in a minority, there are critics of the concept: Lennard Davis, Janice Irvine, Helen Keane, Marty Klein, David Ley, Charles Moser, and Jerome Wakefield spring to mind. But ours is the first sustained history of sex addiction and the sex addict.

What, in summary, are some of our findings?

1. We dispute the claim that the concept of sex addiction has a long history. Effectively, sex addiction begins in the twentieth century. What came before bears little relation to modern notions of sexual excess.

2. While we explore the influential role of Patrick Carnes in the establishment of what has been termed the sex addiction industry from the 1980s onwards, we have found that it had earlier origins: in the 1970s with therapeutic self-help groups and in the work of Jim Orford, Stanton Peele, and Lawrence Hatterer, but even earlier with 1950s and 1960s pulp fiction.

3. We set out the central tenets of sex addiction as a malady, how the disease has been defined, built and reinforced through an industry of therapists and therapy-speak; in workbooks for addicts and partners, and textbooks for clinicians; through websites, and social networking services. What we call Addictionology 101.

4. We discuss the cultural habituation of the concept, and the role of the press, Internet, TV, film, literature, and even library classification in this process, and the manner in which the supposed malady has become the unthinking default explanation for any kind of promiscuous or obsessive sexual interaction.

5. We deal with the sexual stories in sex addiction’s celebrity literature, interrogating the actual content and context of these claimed instances of sexual addiction: from Bill Clinton to Mike Tyson, from Russell Brand to Tiger Woods. We analyze the non-celebrity chronicles that have been harnessed to the machine of the therapy industry, and also the numerous guides for the families and partners of sex addicts. Ironically, for those offering hope and release from the disorder of sexual excess, some of these memoirs contain prose almost as explicit as offerings on the pornographic market.

6. We interrogate the contradictions in the actual definitions and diagnoses of this claimed disorder. What is truly remarkable is that investigators have spent so much time and energy devising tests for a syndrome without actually questioning the veracity or viability of the thing being tested. But we take nothing for granted in our book, detecting diagnostic vagueness, imprecision, confusion, and weird scales of measurement, what one study has termed ‘many conceptions, minimal data’. Tellingly, this is discussed in a chapter called ‘Diagnostic Disorder’.

7. The same muddled thinking is reflected in actual therapy, also discussed, where there is little or no scientific, peer-reviewed evidence that any of the treatments for sex addiction have been effective. This includes the role of psychopharmacy. Indeed the use of drugs, given contestable diagnoses and the likelihood (as we see it) that the ailment is fictional, makes for some worrying scenarios.

8. We consider (amidst all this scientific imprecision) the unsuccessful quest by sexual addiction (as ‘hypersexual disorder’) for inclusion in the ‘Psychiatric Bible’, DSM-5 (2013), and its earlier bids for diagnostic legitimacy and the substantial insurance treatment reimbursement and research dollars that would have accompanied such recognition.

This book is a critical history of an archetypically modern sexual syndrome – an examination of the power of an idea and its social context. We argue that this strange history of social opportunism, diagnostic amorphism, therapeutic self-interest, and popular cultural endorsement is marked by an essential social conservatism: sex addiction has become a convenient term to describe disapproved sex.

Perhaps those who suffer from ‘sex addiction’ should read our book before embarking on costly and unverified therapy.

Barry Reay is one of the most foremost and influential historians of sex and sexuality, and holds the Keith Sinclair Chair in History at the University of Auckland. His book Sex Addiction: A Critical History co-authored with Nina Attwood and Claire Gooder will be published by Polity in June 2015


Posted 767 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: ethnicity, China / 0 Comments

Ethnicity in China addresses this important question: Are Western criticisms of China’s nationality policy valid?

China’s nationality policy is a key topic in the study of ethnicity in the People’s Republic of China since it determines who ethnic minorities are and how they are governed. This book shows that China’s nationality policy is based on the Confucian concept of cultural community, which plays down ethnicity and encourages acculturation and ultimate assimilation of minority nationalities into the majority Han-Chinese society.

This book then examines how China’s nationality policy affects the areas of ethnic inequality, the preservation and contribution of the rich traditions and customs of minority cultures, and the autonomy of regions such as Tibet and Xinjiang. This book also shows how China’s nationality policy influences its foreign policy towards international minority rights.

Relevant Western criticisms of China’s nationality policy are listed in the discussion of each of the above areas. Readers will reach their own conclusions on whether Western criticisms of China’s nationality policy are valid after reading this book.

Xiaowei Zang is Chair Professor of Social Sciences at the City University of Hong Kong. His book Ethnicity in China was published by Polity in February 2015



Posted 777 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Nonviolence, Philosophy, solidarity / 0 Comments


For many years I was involved in nonviolent political campaigns.  I organized and participated in the anti-apartheid movement, the movement for Palestinian rights, solidarity movements with those in Central America, as well as labor,anti-racist, and gay rights movements.  Throughout these movements, there was a fairly consistent commitment to nonviolence.  This does not mean that the movements with which we were in solidarity were always nonviolent.  Rather, it was that we saw nonviolence as the proper method for conducting our solidarity.
 
Alongside my work with these campaigns, my philosophical ideas were developing,particularly with regard to politics and more particularly with regard to a type of nonviolent anarchism.  If I were to continue along this path--which I did--eventually I would have to ask myself about the philosophical character of nonviolence.

Nonviolent Resistance is my attempt to do that.  It asks what makes a movement, a campaign, or even an action a nonviolent one, at least in the political sense.  It looks at various dynamics of nonviolence, seeking to understand their nonviolent character.  Finally, it grounds nonviolence in what I believe are its two founding values:  dignity and equality. Throughout, I appeal to particular nonviolent movements, from the famous Indian Independence and American Civil Rights Movements to more contemporary campaigns like Occupy, Tahrir Square, the Estonian Singing Revolution, and the anti-Marcos campaign in the Philippines. 

I don't know yet the extent to what extent I have offered an adequate philosophical grasp of nonviolence.  When I began my research, I was surprised to find that there is little in the way of sustained philosophical reflection on political nonviolence.  This is in contrast to the recent explosion of sociological, historical, and political literature on nonviolence.  My hope is that I have at least begun a conversation on the philosophy of the form of political resistance that, after all, is perhaps the best hope in confronting much of what is most egregious in the contemporary world.

Todd May is class of 1941, memorial professor of philosophy at Clemson University and author of Nonviolent Resistance: A Philosophical Introduction, published in February 2015.


Posted 794 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: cell phones, mobile phones, GPS, mapping, phone tracking, tracking devices, location based media / 0 Comments

I am too young to have read social theory about the Internet in the 1990’s. I didn’t really begin studying digital media until 2008, but I was lucky to have been in a PhD program that required us to go back to some of the formative texts in Internet Studies. From the perspective of the late 2000s and early 2010s, much of the 1990’s Internet research is remarkable. So much of it is prescient, and so much of it describes a particular moment that changed significantly over the next 20 years.

As someone who makes his living writing about smartphones and location-based services, what has always stood out to me in early Internet research was the implicit belief that our “cyberspaces” were in opposition to our physical spaces, that we ran the risk of turning more to our virtual worlds than the physical world we move through every day.

That opposition of the physical and digital can now seem somewhat outdated. However, it still remains in phrases like “in real life” and the near constant criticisms found in popular media about how we are turning to our smartphones to distract ourselves from our surroundings. Smartphones as Locative Media pushes back against the idea of distraction and the opposition of the digital and physical, instead analyzing how smartphones work as a form of locative media.

Locative media refers to any media technology that can be located in physical space and provide information about one’s surrounding space. Smartphones do so through a combination of cellular triangulation, GPS, and Wifi location, and many of the most popular apps are location-based services that work mainly through providing people with relevant information about what is around them. In effect, smartphones as locative media show how digital information and physical space are becoming increasingly intertwined, not separated into discrete virtual vs. physical spheres.

These moments of intersection between how people access location-based digital information and how they experience physical space are what makes smartphones as locative media such an important area of study. When someone maps a route using the Google Maps app, do they interact with the physical world differently, planning and processing their mobility through the smartphone interface? When they Yelp nearby restaurants, do they filter their decisions about the physical world through digital information? These are a few of the questions I address in this book, which includes discussions of many popular mobile applications, including Google Maps, Foursquare, Yelp, Instagram, and Facebook.

Possibly the most exciting thing about studying new media is how fast things change. Even now, just a few months after finishing this book, I’m already planning projects on new location-based services. For example, I’m super intrigued by Yik Yak and how its location features shape patterns of use. That being said, however, I wrote this book in a manner that discusses the impacts of locative media that won’t become outdated as new mobile apps come out and existing apps fail.

The general uses of smartphones as locative media probably won’t change in the coming years, and hopefully, much of the discussion throughout this book will be just as relevant two years from now as it is in our contemporary moment.  

Jordan Frith is Assistant Professor of Technical Communication at the University of North Texas. His new book Smartphones as Locative Mediawas published by Polity in February 2015.



Posted 805 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: sexualities, queer, marriage, Chinese, PRC, PeopleÕs Republic of China, prostitution, gay, lesbian, contraception / 0 Comments

When friends heard that I was writing a book with Elaine Jeffeys on sex in China, many of them raised their eyebrows, smiled (awkwardly), and asked, “That’s exciting. Tell me more about it. Do the Chinese do sex differently from most people (meaning ‘non-Chinese’)?”

When I told them it was not a book about doing sex and that I was by no means a sex expert (and therefore could not offer any advice on doing sex—or does it have to taught?), they felt a bit relaxed, and pressed me to tell them more about the book. I told them it was a book about China’s sexual culture—how it has been transformed, governed, represented, and debated—in the last 30 years.

What Elaine and I have produced is a book that situates China’s changing sexual culture in the socio-political history of the PRC as it gradually integrated into the global capitalism. It does not just discuss sex and sexuality in contemporary China, but engage with public concerns and debates on sex-related issues in and outside China. Hence it also offers insights on gender, health, rights and citizenship in the globalised and high mediatised world. In the book we have looked at:
 
  • The one-child policy and its impact on the concepts of marriage, sex, and family
  • Marriage, de facto marriage, cooperative/fake marriage, and fake divorce
  • Youth sexual culture, its performative quality, consumerist orientation, as well as conformist tendency
  • Sexual minorities, gay rights, struggles, representations, and dilemmas
  • Sex industry, the policing of prostitution and its counter arguments
  • HIV/AIDS and sexual health, the paradox of China’s AIDS governance
  • Sex studies, its history, development, and leading voices

In Sex in China, Elaine and I demonstrate that the emergence of new sex-related behaviours and discourses in China (and non-Western societies) is bound up with changing domestic and local policies, concerns, and cultures, often associated with technological development (such as the Internet digital communication technologies), not just international/Western influences.

We caution against the ‘repressive hypothesis’ that often identifies the Party-state as the repressor of sexual freedom and speakers or writers of sexual rights as fighters for democracy. Instead we call for attention to the complexities and nuances surrounding the newfound prominence of ‘sex’ in China today, and particularly the interplay between ‘sex’ and ‘power’ as the state authorities and individual sexed bodies and subjects all seek to shape or challenge sex and sexuality in China.

I encourage specialist and non-specialist readers to get hold a copy of our new book. We welcome your review/comment/feedback.

Haiqing Yu is Senior Lecturer of Chinese Media and Culture at the University of New South Wales, Australian.  Sex in China, is part of Polity’s ‘China Today’ series, and was published in February 2015.


Posted 812 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: media. philosophy, critical perspectives, German theory / 0 Comments

Friedrich Kittler was one of the most provocative and influential theorists of recent times. His arguments that technical media determine cultural production took aim at the unthought assumptions underpinning much of the humanities and social sciences.

His prolific output includes the stunning Discourse Networks 1800/1900, one of the most important monographs to emerge from Germany in the second half of the twentieth century, the unfinished Musik und Mathematik project, and exemplary essays demonstrating his radical approach to diverse source material ranging from canonical literary texts to the manual of an Intel microprocessor. Since his death in 2011 interest in his work has only increased and many disciplines continue to wrestle with the implications of his ideas.

This collection brings together some of the most influential scholars writing today in media, cultural and literary studies to reflect on his legacy, to engage with his ideas and to explore the application of his theories to their own areas of specialism. Contributors include Caroline Bassett, Steven Connor, Alexander R. Galloway, Mark B. Hansen, John Durham Peters and Geoffrey Winthrop-Young. It also includes previously untranslated work by Kittler himself.

In the collection, you’ll find discussions of mythology and mathematics, madness and intoxication, computers and musical notation, cryptography and cinema, and much more. It is the first book-length collection of secondary literature on Kittler produced in English and as such marks an important moment in his reception. The editors’ introduction also serves to outline and situate Kittler’s main ideas.

Kittler’s vital work is critical for those wanting to better understand the relationship between technology and culture. Kittler Now helps to open up his work for an Anglo-American audience and to provoke new debate across the humanities.

Stephen Sale is a PhD candidate at the London Consortium and Laura Salisbury is Senior Lecturer in Medicine and English Literature at the University of Exeter.  Their book Kittler Now: Current Perspectives in Kittler Studies was published by Polity in January 2015.


Posted 833 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Ulrich Beck, sociology, obiturary / 0 Comments


Ulrich Beck, who has died in Germany aged 70, was the greatest sociologist of his generation. He was a prolific author, whose works reached not just the academic community but also a wide popular audience across the world. Beck was one of the very first authors to discuss globalisation - at a time, in the 1980s, at which the notion was very new and when in fact many disputed its essential validity. As Beck deployed the term, globalisation refers to the increasing interdependence of world society, a process that for him goes a long way beyond the marketplace. This is far from being simply a benign phenomenon, as he showed in his first major work, Risikogesellschaft (Risk Society), published in 1986. As industrial society spreads across the world, it creates a complex tangle of risks and opportunities, many of which have no parallel in previous periods of history. For example, today we intervene into nature to a degree massively greater than any previous civilisation. We gain many benefits - such as a large-scale jump in standards of living. Yet at the same time we create huge new risks for ourselves.

One example consists in environmental hazards. Risk Society was published a year or so before the disaster at Chernobyl – a type-case of the sort of scenario Beck sketched out in his book and a remarkable anticipation of the future on his part. The book broke new ground in many ways and has influenced legions of researchers since the time at which it first appeared. It formed the platform for much of Beck’s subsequent work.

Risk – and awareness of risk – Beck argued, do not just come to dominate the large institutions of our society. They penetrate our everyday lives, as a necessary part of the breaking-away of the modern world from traditional customs and traditions. Our lives become far more ‘reflexive’ – thought about, considered, pondered – than used to be true in the past. Take the example of marriage and what we have come to call ‘relationships’. Marriage in modern contexts is no longer simply a ritual passage from one social status to another. It is an agreement made primarily by those directly involved, not by the wider family, and often agonised about before the commitment is entered into. Virtually everyone who gets married today, for example, recognises that divorce rates are high, and in some sense or another factors that awareness into the decision that is taken.

These ideas a key part of The Normal Chaos of Love, a work published by Beck, together with his wife, Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim, in 1995. Love is ‘chaotic’ because the world of ‘relationships’ is one continually in flux. Love is rarely ‘for life’ today any more than a job is. Fundamentalism, which turns back to tradition, is a reaction against this new world of everyday life. For this very reason, however, fundamentalism is not itself in fact ‘traditional’ – it is a creation of the very world it seeks to reject.

The ‘reflexive individualism’ that comes to dominate everyday life penetrates and reshapes the political world also, an issue discussed by Beck in a series of works including The Reinvention of Politics (1996), Power in the Global Age (2005) and World at Risk (2009). A half century ago, political parties in most democratic countries boasted high levels of membership and the majority of voters would vote regularly for the same party. Today that stable landscape has almost completely disappeared. The normal chaos of love has its counterpart in the ‘normal chaos of politics’, where stable political affiliations have sharply declined, levels of voting have fallen and volatility of voter preferences is the order of the day. Populist groups and parties, most of which have only a short life span, become a core part of the political scene, as do many other forms of informal grouping. Beck spoke of the influence of ‘sub-politics’ – political engagement that bubbles up from below and can have a significant impact upon the exercise of political power.

Populist parties of various kinds, of course, pepper the political landscape across Europe today – from the Front National in France to UKIP in Britain, on one side of the political spectrum, through to Podemos in Spain and Syrizia in Greece on the other. Beck had a long-standing interest in the evolution of the European Union, of which he was a strong supporter. For Beck the European countries will be the playthings of globalisation if they are not able to come together and exert a collective influence in world affairs. Sociology, he believed, must progress beyond ‘methodological nationalism’. The national context is far too narrow a focus for grasping the forces moving our lives in today’s global age. Similarly, the EU must be a transnational project, not just an assemblage of nations each trying to go its own way.

Beck explored these issues most recently in German Europe (Das deutsche Europa, 2012), written in the context of the crisis of the euro and its political fallout. The theme of risk, of course, reappears here with a vengeance. The novelist Thomas Mann famously argued in the 1950s that, against the background of two world wars, the objective of European integration should be to create a ‘European Germany’, not a ‘German Europe’. Yet as a result of the euro crisis and its aftermath it is precisely a German Europe, Beck points out, that is arising. Angela Merkel is the de facto ‘President of the EU’. Nothing much can be done without her say-so: Germany is setting the rules for everyone else. She exerts great power, but since Germany’s leadership position has little direct legitimacy, tries to cover this up. Merkel, Beck argued, has become ‘Merkiavelli’, deploying artful strategies to shore up her influence – strategies that amount essentially to deceit.

She seeks to save the European Union, but all her policies must first pass through the prism of German politics and German economic thinking. The result is the situation we see today. The euro is not stabilised because ‘Merkiavelli’ won’t support the mechanisms needed to do so, which essentially involve greater economic and fiscal integration within the eurozone. Germany’s austerity policy is imposed on the supposedly irresponsible southern countries without a semblance of democratic consultation. As a result, the political centre in those countries is collapsing even more than in most other states. What is needed in this situation, Beck argues, is a new ‘social contract’ for Europe. It would involve essentially a collective revolt against austerity and German dominance. Economic policy would become more investment-driven; social protection would be partly Europeanised; and the richer countries at any one point in time would assume greater responsibility for those that are suffering. In the longer-term efforts must be made to build European identity from the bottom-up. At the moment, ‘ the power of capital and governments is strong but their legitimacy is weak, the exact opposite of the protesters whose power is week but whose legitimacy is strong’. The coming Greek elections this January, one could say, will be a struggle between just these rival forces.

Ulrich Beck was a dedicated and conscientious scholar, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the social sciences. For such a distinguished figure he was refreshingly down to earth and approachable, highly popular with his students everywhere. I used to tease him quite often, since he never mastered the British sense of humour, with its mixture of self-deprecation and smug superiority. More often than not though I was the one who ended up looking foolish. He had a good line in put-downs when he needed to.

He was very much a creature of the world portrayed so incisively in his writings. He was for a long period a professor at the University of Munich. Yet he was an inveterate traveller and lectured at a host of academic institutions in different countries. He held visiting posts at the London School of Economics and at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris and wrote widely for the press in Germany, the UK, France and the US, while his books have been translated into over thirty languages. Among other honours he won the Cultural Prize of Honour of the city of Munich; the German-British Forum Award; and the Schader Prize for outstanding contributions to the social sciences.  Elisabeth, herself a very distinguished academic in her own right, was inevitably there by his side. Their marriage was remote from the normal chaos of love – it was the most stable and enduring bond in his life.

Anthony Giddens is a member of the House of Lords in the UK and former director of the London School of Economics. He is the co-author, with Ulrich Beck and Scott Lash, of Reflexive Modernisation, published in 1994


Posted 873 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Nonviolence, civil disobedience, civil resistance, people power, popular struggle / 1 Comments

Julie Norman

When we first started our edited volume, Understanding Nonviolence: Contours andContexts, one of our biggest challenges was deciding what terms to use indefining the field of study. While “nonviolence” may be the most commonlyrecognized term in the general public, and some advocates of the approach adoptthe word proudly, it was our experience that many activists, practitioners, andeven scholars reject it, claiming that “nonviolence” implies passivity,pacifism, and weakness; they prefer terms such as “civil resistance,” “popularstruggle,” “unarmed actions,” and “people power.” Furthermore, some felt that“nonviolence” defined the field based on what it was not rather than what it was,and therefore opted for more positively-defined empowering terminology.

Rather than skirt around the “n-word,” we decided to embraceit, using it as a way of reaching a broader audience. Through the varied casestudies and analyses that make up the book, we seek to unpack the myths andmisconceptions surrounding this particular approach to activism and politicalchange. Some of our findings include:

1.      Nonviolenceisn’t easily defined. While we often think of nonviolence and violence as either/orcategories, most struggles involve elements of both, and some tactics (such asproperty damage or using nonlethal weapons like stones), invite debates fromactivists regarding the extent to which they are nonviolent. In our book, wealso challenge the conventional dichotomy between those pursuing nonviolencefor principled v. strategic reasons, arguing that the distinction is actually quiteblurry when one begins examining cases in detail. Finally, our diverse casestudies illustrate the importance of context in nonviolent movements, showinghow successful movements adapt tactics to their own particular setting, drawingon local culture, political opportunities, and available human and materialresources.

2.      Nonviolence includes more than protests.  The common image of nonviolence may be massiveprotests, but evenmovements that employ large-scale demonstrations and civil disobedience dependon less visible forms of resistance, including developing parallel institutions,training and organizing participants, developing solidarity networks, andengaging in small acts of resistance (often utilizing arts, media, or humor) tobuild momentum and capacity. These “underground” activities also reflect theagency of activists, who seize, and  evencreate, opportunities for change in whatmay appear to be structurally hostile environments.

3.       Nonviolenceworks, as both a means and an end. As noted in many of the chapters,activists see a clear link between using nonviolent means and achievingpeaceful and just outcomes, with widespread movement participation helpingfacilitate the transition to democratic institutions and engaged civilsocieties. From Gandhi’s early campaigns to recent global justice movements,activists choose nonviolence not only for reasons of short-term strategy,religious belief, or attracting solidarity, but also because they believe themovement should reflect the sort of society they hope to build. The horizontal,participatory nature of many nonviolent movements contrasts with the typically morehierarchical and authoritarian nature of armed resistance.

Thefield of nonviolence will continue to develop and expand as the use of nonviolenttactics and strategies continues to be recognized and documented. We hope ourbook encourages scholars, students, and activists alike to think critically andcreatively about nonviolence in theory and practice as they pursue future studyand research on the topic.

Maia Carter Hallward is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Affairs at Kennesaw State University.
Julie M Norman is Visiting Professor of Political Science at McGill University.


Their book 'Understanding Nonviolence' was published in November 2014 by Polity.


Posted 879 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: political sociology, civil liberty, dignity, activism, solidarity / 0 Comments

At the outset, one might ask: What does sociology have to do with human rights? By training and inclination, sociologists have always been attuned to social inequalities (based on race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and national origin), power relations in contemporary society, and social problems (such as interstate and civil war, crime, poverty, cultural exclusion, and environmental degradation). But sociologists have not always conceptualized social inequalities, power relations, and social problems in terms of human rights. For a number of reasons—including the undertakings of political scientists, anthropologists, and geographers—this is beginning to change. Indeed, many sociologists have turned their attention to human rights abuses and remedies.

How do sociologists think about human rights? Sociologists define human rights as protections and entitlements, proposed by community groups, social movement organizations (SMOs), NGOs, and/or intergovernmental organizations (like the United Nations Organization, with its many agencies), and, under certain conditions, granted by states to individuals and collectivities. States are at once the principal guarantors of human rights and the most significant violators of human rights. The paradoxical status of the state is of great interest to sociologists.

In a nutshell, the sociology of human rights involves the analysis of the social origins and impacts of human rights norms, practices, laws, policies, and institutions. With a view to solidifying the new field, my book, The Sociology of Human Rights (Polity, 2014) weaves together three approaches:

  1. An approach derived from political economy/development sociology, illuminating “rights conditions”—the material circumstances under which grievances emerge;

  2. An approach derived from social movement research, elucidating the process by which community-based groups and SMOs translate their grievances into “rights claims”—the demands that aggrieved parties and their representatives make on states and other authorities;

  3. An approach derived from political sociology, explaining “rights effects”—the implementation of rights through legislation/policy at the state level and their impacts on power relations in society. 
Taken together, these three concepts—rights conditions, rights claims, and rights effects—capture the process by which human rights circulate not only from one level to another within societies, but also across national boundaries. Contrary to the expectations of elitist and Eurocentric theories of “diffusion,” new interpretations and applications of the human rights canon may move from the grassroots level to the state level and from the Global South to the Global North.

Accordingly, my book employs the term “circulation” to represent not only the mutability of human rights thinking, but also the role of power—particularly political power or the leverage of states and their affiliates (executive office-holders, parliaments, courts, law enforcement agencies, and militaries)—in either enabling or blocking the implementation of rights claims made by organizations, groups, and peoples. Building on a theory of circulation, I hope to contribute to a new understanding of the debates on and struggles over human rights in the age of globalization.

Mark Frezzo is associate professor of sociology at the University of Mississippi and co-editor (with Judith Blau) of Sociology and Human Rights: A Bill of Rights for the Twenty-First Century (Sage Publications, 2011). He has published a number of articles and book chapters on human rights, social movements, and globalization, as well as co-editing Societies Without Borders: Human Rights and the Social Sciences, and serving as an officer in the Human Rights Section of the American Sociological Association, the Thematic Group on Human Rights and Global Justice in the International Sociological Association, and the scholarly NGO Sociologists Without Borders.

His latest book The Sociology of Human Rightswas published in November 2014 by Polity


Posted 914 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Philosophy, Irrationality, Imperfect Cognitions, cognition, Key Concepts / 0 Comments

"What is it to be irrational?"

There is no straight-forward answer to this question. Judgements of irrationality are a constant feature of our social practices but we might mean different things when we call someone irrational. Irrationality is a moving target.


It escapes clarification because it is used to express disapproval towards behaviour that is sanctioned,where the reasons why it is sanctioned change according to the aspects of human agency that are found to be problematic in a given context.

Here are some examples:

People who deny climate change may be called irrational because they have beliefs that are badly supported by evidence and conflict with our best scientific theories.

People who go and live together or get married soon after they meet may be called irrational because they make an important decision based on emotional responses that are unlikely to be a reliable guide to their future happiness.

People who sincerely report to care about, and campaign for, water conservation but take long showers may be called irrational because they appear hypocritical and their behaviour lacks consistency.
 
Is there anything in common among these everyday manifestations of irrationality? Is it always bad to be irrational? What does the acknowledgement of irrationality mean for human agency?

I have been interested in irrationality for a long time,and in my forthcoming book I address philosophical issues surrounding the concept, with an eye to the latest findings in the empirical sciences of the mind.

We all recognise ourselves as irrational agents at least some of the time, and we certainly spot irrationality in our fellow human agents. This strongly suggests that irrational behaviour is not the exception, an unexpected deviation from the norm that needs to be explained away, but a core feature of our behaviour. It is important to acknowledge how pervasive irrationality is, as strategies can be developed to reduce the potentially negative effects of irrationality on the acquisition of knowledge, on the pursuit of our cherished goals and on well being more generally.

Lisa Bortolotti is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Birmingham. She runs a blog called Imperfect Cognitions where different aspects of human irrationality are discussed by philosophers, psychologists and psychiatrists.

Her new book, Irrationality, is part of the Key Concepts series and published in October 2014.


Posted 916 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: feminism, theory, Philosophy, gender, sex, sexuality, Simone de Beauvoir, history of gender / 0 Comments

I started writing feminist theory several decades ago. Although I have dealt with many different topics – method, psychoanalysis, epistemology – everything I wrote eventually came down to the subject. I have been, in a sense, circling around this topic since the beginning. So I decided, finally, to make it the focus of a book.

In The Feminine Subject I trace the feminine subject back to its beginnings in Beauvoir and through its evolution to the present. It has been a fascinating trip. What I discovered is that feminists are doing something completely unique to Western thought. And incredibly valuable. This is the thesis of the book.

Even though many feminists over the years have paid tribute to Beauvoir and her contribution to feminist theory, I don’t think that the full impact of her work on the subject has been appreciated. By connecting Beauvoir’s theory to the various iterations of feminism I attempt to remedy this. We are all daughters of Beauvoir in the sense that she has defined the uniqueness of the feminist subject from its inception.

I don’t think we will ever “get it right” and finally define the true feminist subject. Although material feminism has made a significant contribution to our understanding of the feminist subject, it is not the last word. We will continue to explore the question in the future, and this is as it should be.

Susan Hekman is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Graduate Humanities Program at the University of Texas at Arlington.  She has authored many books including  Gender and Knowledge: Elements of a Postmodern Feminism and The Future of Differences: Truth and Method in Feminist Theory.

Her new book The Feminine Subject published in September 2014



Posted 948 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Alan Dowty / 0 Comments

The third Gaza War of July-August, 2014, did not alter the confrontation between Israel and Hamas(the Islamic Resistance Movement) in any significant way. As in the previous two military clashes since Hamas took over the Gaza strip inJune, 2007, it revolved around the demands of Hamas for a loosening of the blockade of Gaza, and ended with the blockade still essentially intact.

As recounted in the current edition of Israel/Palestine, the Hamas regime in Gaza did not receive general recognition since it did not meet the three conditions posed by the international community: recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence, and respect for previous agreements (primarily theOslo accords). Israel and Egypt, controlling the only land access to the Gaza strip, instituted tight border controls designed to limit the flow of goods to that needed for basic subsistence, and thus to bring pressure for a restoration of Palestinian Authority (PA) control. 

Israel also instituted a naval blockade of Gaza’s coastline, on the grounds that Hamas control of Gaza was illegitimate and that the organization was a hostile force that considered itself at war with Israel. The basic strategy of squeezing Gaza to undermine Hamas rule there was generally supported not only by Egypt but also by the United States and other Western states.


The blockade was never total; “humanitarian” supplies (food and medicine) were allowed to pass, and in 2010, following the Mavi Marmara clash between the Israeli navy and a Turkish ship challenging the blockade, the blockade was further relaxed for non-military goods. But Hamas and others challenged the legality of the blockade on grounds that it constituted collective punishment of an entire population, contrary to a key principle of international law.

Israel defended it actions on grounds that the Hamas regime in Gaza was illegitimate and hostile, that blockade was a lawful measure in international conflicts, and that if it were interpreted as (illegal) “collective punishment” then no blockade would ever be legal. In any event, Israel argued thatlike any state it had control of its own land borders, and that the naval blockade had been ruled legal by the UN commission that had investigated the Mavi Marmara affair (and had generally been highly critical of Israel).


Hamas
challenged the blockade not only on the legal front, but also on the ground. Activists staged periodic attacks on border posts, and in 2008 forced a major breach in the wall on the Egyptian border through which a significant proportion of Gaza’s population temporarily streamed to secure wanted goods. Over the years hundreds of tunnels – an estimated 1200 in all – were dug under the Egyptian frontier, providing not only consumer goods but also construction materials and military supplies (Israel could of course take thisflow of goods into account when calculating how much to allow through the regular border crossings). But the mostdirect form of pressure on Israel, as Hamas leaders saw it, was the threat of rocket attack directly on cities and towns in Israel.

There had been sporadic use of primitive home-made rockets from Gaza since Israel had withdrawn its soldiers and settlers from there in 2005. After the blockade was instituted, Iranian expertise was tapped to improve domestic production, and more sophisticated Iranian and Syrian missiles were smuggled in through the tunnels on the Egyptian border. Israel responded to the rockets with air attacks on launching sites and rocket facilities, but such attacks were of limited effectiveness in the dense urban areas of Gaza, and inevitably inflicted civilian casualties that brought international censure.

Cease-fires were negotiated but eventually fell apart; when one cease-fire expired in December, 2008, it was followed by the three-week war of 2008-09, described on pp. 204-206 of Israel/Palestine. Though Hamas announced that it would not accept another cease-fire without an end to the blockade, in the end it allowed a unilateral Israeli cease-fire to take hold with the blockade still in place. Rocket launchings from Gaza fell to a sporadic level in the following period, but Hamas claimed victory by virtue of the simple fact that, despite heavier losses (1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis killed), it had survived moreor less intact despite Israeli military superiority.


Four years later, in November 2012, Hamas once again launched rocket attacks and announced that it would not accept another cease-fire without an end to the blockade. This second Gaza War involved eight days of rocket attacks and Israeli bombings, with 158 Palestinians and 6 Israelis killed. It ended with an Egyptian cease-fire proposal that included a promised re-opening of border crossings into Gaza, but left Israel (and Egypt) still in control of the actual flow of goods and people – that is, with the blockade still in place. During this episode an Israeli anti-missile system designed to intercept short-range missiles – the “Iron Dome” -- first came into widespread deployment. Proponents of the Iron Dome cited a success rate of 85-90 percent in intercepting rockets launched from Gaza, though some experts disputed this claim.


Once again, in the immediate aftermath of the war the incidence of rocket launchings from Gaza dropped precipitously (from 2248 in 2012 to 41 in 2013). But this time the lull between wars did not last as long. By early 2014 the pressures on Hamas were building. The 2013 coup in Egypt had replaced a government led by the Muslim Brotherhood – of which Hamas was formally a branch – with a government led by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi that suppressed the Brotherhood.

The al-Sisi government moved, more effectively than any of its predecessors, to destroy the tunnels connecting Gaza to Egypt, thus cutting off the most important supply route into Gaza. The Syrian civil war forced Hamas to choose sides; when it sided naturally with the Sunni rebels, it lost its base in Damascus and also most if not all of its support from Iran. As Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf states all feared Islamic radicalism, Hamas was increasingly isolated both regionally and globally, with only Turkey and Qatar as supporters.


At this critical moment, Hamas operatives kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teen-age religious students in the West Bank. It is not clear thatthis action was planned or authorized by Hamas leaders, but in combing the West Bank for the students, Israeli forces detained over 500 Hamas activists, dealing the organization another heavy blow. In response Hamas resorted to the one weapon that it had available, launching rockets at Israeli cities and towns and triggering the third Gaza War .


Once again, Hamas announced that it would not accept a cease-fire without an end to the blockade, thus clearly defining the core issue. Once again, Israel faced the dilemma posed by the new form of warfare in the fourth stage of the Arab-Israel conflict (see pp. 192-194 in Israel/Palestine). These wars are “irregular” or “asymmetric” or “counterinsurgent” or “wars amongst the people.” There is no battlefield, nor any attempt to conquer or hold territory; fighting drags out over time, the outcomes are fuzzy; and the targets on the insurgent side are very elusive.

Neither military doctrines and strategies of states facing such a challenge, nor provisions of classical international law, have kept up with this changing face of modern war. International law has relied on “distinction”(between military and civilian targets) and “proportionality” (to the military advantage of an action); both of these standards are highly problematic, if not impossible, when one side is deeply embedded among a civilian population.


As the militarily weaker party, it is only natural that Hamas has relied on advantages that “war amongst the people” offers. A captured Hamas military manual advises that staying close to civilians limits Israeli attacks and that destruction of civilian homes “increases the hatred of the citizens toward the attackers and increases their support for city defenders [Hamas]”. Buildings used for military purposes are legitimate targets according to classical international law, but in settings such as Gaza this clashes with the precept of avoiding civilian casualties. The attacking party can warn civilians to leave a certain location, as Israel did in some cases during this campaign, but in doing so it is also warning the fighters who are launching the rockets and are legitimate targets.


Mistakes and miscalculations are an unavoidable part of any war; the legal and moral issue is whether adequate care was taken to avoid unnecessary loss of civilian life. Such a judgment can only be made on a case-by-case basis. In the case of Israel’s attacks, such judgments will be made in Israel’s own internal investigation and in a UN investigation by an international committee. There will be less controversy about the rockets launched by Hamas, since they were explicitly targeted on civilian cities and towns.


This conflict lasted longer than the first two Gaza wars, largely because Hamas felt it could not let the fighting end without being able to claim a gain worth the cost, while the Israeli government felt it could not let the fighting end with Hamas being able to claim a gain. Once again, Hamas announced that it would not accept a cease-fire without an end to the blockade, and in the first days of the fighting it rejected an Egyptian cease-fire proposal like that of 2012, which did not include an explicit commitment to open border crossings fully. Yet after 50 days of fighting, with 2100 Palestinians and 70 Israelis killed, Hamas did in fact finally accept essentially the same proposal.


Nevertheless, as often in these fuzzy wars, Hamas could and did claim victory on the basis of its survival as an intact organization. The cease-fire includes a general commitment to the reopening of border crossings – though once again it leaves Israel and Egypt in control of the actual flow through those crossings. Also, Hamas was not forced to accept any of the conditions – demilitarization, international control of reconstruction, a larger role for the Palestinian Authority in Gaza – that were discussed as possible conditions in return for an opening of the borders.

Furthermore, the widespread dissemination of graphic images of destruction in Gaza did do considerable damage to Israel internationally. And the initial polls of Palestinians taken in the immediate aftermath of the war recorded a sharp rise in support for Hamas, despite the heavy losses – a natural response in wartime.


The Israeli government has of course scrambled to claim victory as well. Apart from the heavier losses inflicted (perhaps as many as 900 Hamas fighters),Israel was able to destroy dozens of attack tunnels into Israeli territory, before they could be used. The blockade remains intact, so long as Israel (and Egypt) choose to exercise their control at the border crossings. Israel still holds the Hamas activists it has detained, despite demands for their release.

The stockpile of rockets in Gaza has been reduced, perhaps by as much as three-quarters, and will be harder to replace with tougher Egyptian control of tunnels on its border (the same could be said of construction materials to rebuild tunnels). The success of the Iron Dome system in intercepting rockets – again said to be close to 90 percent– will presumably reduce the incentive for Hamas to renew this particular mode of warfare.


So who won? When all is said and done, honestly, neither side won. None of the basic issues were settled, none of the basic demands were met. We are more or less back where westarted. All will be relatively quiet, for a while.


Until next time.


Posted 969 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Philosophy, Leibniz, Monism, Natural Philosophy, Monad, European history, European thought, science, logic, history of mathematics, rationalism / 0 Comments

Richard T.W. Arthur

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz is not a household name. But he certainly has every right to be, and only politics, historical circumstances and his failure to publish his best ideas seem to have prevented him from the kind of fame enjoyed by his main rival, Isaac Newton.

I first came across his ideas while working on the problem of time thirty years ago, but the more I have learned about this man and his ideas, the more I have come to admire the profundity and amazing scope of his thought. My book in Polity’s 'Classic Thinkers' series is an attempt to convey some of that to the general reader.

To the extent that people have heard of Leibniz, they know him as the co-inventor (with Newton) of the calculus. In fact what we use today is his version, with its differentials and integrals, and not Newton’s. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. For Leibniz seems to have made original contributions wherever he turned his attention.

He was the first to appreciate the importance of the subconscious, with his notions of subliminal perceptions and of reasoning as “blind thought”, the unconscious manipulation of symbols. He modelled the latter with an algebraic logic that was two centuries ahead of its time, and this and his development of binary arithmetic and a sophisticated calculating machine, were precursors of computers and programming. He anticipated leading ideas of modern linguistics, such as Chomsky’s deep grammar. In etymology he argued for a proto-European ancestor language which later researchers would identify as proto-Indo-European.

In physics, he formulated the central concepts of energy and action, and with them the principles of conservation of energy and least action, and his forceful advocacy of the relativity of motion, space and time against Newton’s absolute space and time, had major influence on Mach and Einstein. He also anticipated leading ideas of information theory, fractals and matrices. In metaphysics Leibniz is known for his advocacy of the principles of Sufficient Reason, Continuity, Perfection, the Identity of Indiscernibles and Non-contradiction, and for applying these to refute Descartes’s laws of collision, and Clarke’s libertarian conception of free will. He argued that the basic continuants in the world are not lifeless atoms, but monads, embodied principles of activity which encode everything happening in the rest of the universe in one representation, and together make up a world that maximizes perfection.

Those of an empiricist bent have been happy to deride Leibniz as a head-in-the-clouds idealist. In this regard, it’s worth remembering that while Newton was poring over Biblical chronology to prove the age of the world at a little over 6,000 years, Leibniz was providing evidence of a much older Earth (what we now call “deep time”) through a correct interpretation of the fossils he had found in the silver mines in the Harz mountains, which he had spent many months trying to drain with the pumps he had invented. Through examples like this, I try to give a much more rounded portrait of this fascinating and multi-faceted thinker.

Thinkers as various as Diderot, Cantor, Russell, Borges and Deleuze found Leibniz’s thought inspiring. My intention with this book is to show why.

Richard T. W. Arthur is professor of philosophy at McMaster University and author of Liebniz, published by Polity in August 2014.


Posted 1000 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: coffee, resources, food and drink, inequality, economics, politics, supply chains, trade, history of trade / 0 Comments

If you’re in a reflective mood with your coffee one day, you might ponder all sorts of things: a fantasy of an exotic, far away coffee land; the feel of a warm, cosmopolitan café; or, if you are more somber, perhaps the volatility of coffee markets and the power of transnational coffee companies. But, what about the state?

In my book, Coffee, I argue that the importance of coffee “statecraft,” both good and bad, has been increasingly sidelined in the dominant coffee debates over free trade versusfair trade. Five key assertions form the basis of my argument.

1. Coffee statecraft has been central to a lot of “bad” in the coffee world.

Colonialism and slavery were both key to coffee expansion in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. First Haiti, under French rule, and then Brazil took turns having the world’s largest coffee economies on the backs of slave labour.

In the twentieth century, the state continued to play a central role in the coffee world, often maintaining highly unequal land distribution and terrible working conditions through state violence and mass murder.

2. Coffee statecraft has also been central to some “good” in the coffee world.

Both Costa Rica and Colombia have coffee industries that are dominated by smaller farmers an dare among the most efficient in the world, owing significantly to the role of the state in providing a variety of economic and social supports.

From 1963 to 1989, global coffee prices were regulated by a series of state-driven International Coffee Agreements (ICAs), involving all major producing and consuming countries. For many of those years, coffee farmers worldwide received prices close to or higher than what today would be considered the “fair trade” price.

3. Despite much talk about the decline of the state since the 1980s, coffee statecraft has continued to be of central importance.

The rapid growth of Vietnamese coffee exports, which helped spark a global coffee crisis from 1998 to 2002, occurred not strictly out of market forces. From the 1970s onward, the Vietnamese state was the key player in constructing the country’s entire coffee industry in the pursuit of economic statecraft. Today, Vietnam is the world’s second largest coffee exporter, after Brazil.

4.  Non-state projects, whether corporate social responsibility or fair trade, cannot match the impact and reach of the state.

Starbucks coffee company participates in fair trade and treats its retail workers better than most competitors. At the same time, only around 8.1 percent of its beans are certified fair trade and its workers are still low paid compared to other sectors. Starbucks, like most transnationals, is also a “tax avoider,” depriving the state of needed resources while advocating for government austerity. In 2012, protests emerged in the UK when it was discovered that, despite £3 billion in sales over 14 years, Starbucks had only paid £8.6 million in taxes due to various legal loopholes.    

Fair trade, while not perfect, is a meaningful grassroots project that has reached around 670,000 farmer families. Unfortunately, this represents only around 3 percent of the world’s coffee families.

5. Today, statecraft continues to play a significant role in the coffee world, but often by providing last minute bailouts as crises emerge.

In Central America, only after a major coffee rust crisis began in 2012, resulting in a significant drop in production and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, did states pledge millions of dollars to assist desperate growers. In the end, what is needed is not desperate-bailout statecraft, nor a turn away from statecraft in favour of market-driven initiatives, but better coffee statecraft guided by the history of gains and losses in the highly imperfect global coffee market.


Posted 1018 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Eurozone, Europe, crisis, Angela Merkel, European politics, politics, foreign policy, European Union international relations, integration / 0 Comments









My book, European Foreign Policy in a Changing World, is out now in its third edition. In all three books, I have analysed why and how the EU pursues five particular foreign policy objectives:

-  The promotion of regional cooperation
-  The promotion of human rights
-  The promotion of democracy and good governance
-  The prevention of violent conflict
-  The fight against international crime

I explore whether the way the EU pursues these objectives marks it out as a unique, sui generis, actor, and I argue that to some extent it does. The EU relies on dialogue and institutionalised cooperation more than many other ‘powers’ and eschews the use of coercion (including sanctions) – though this can be the case because the member states cannot agree to impose negative measures.

Over a decade has passed since the first edition of the book was published, and much has changed within and outside the EU. Have the EU’s capabilities to pursue its foreign policy objectives increased over time? Is the EU more likely to be able to fulfil its foreign policy objectives? Is its foreign policy becoming more coherent and consistent – that is, are the member states and the EU institutions more in agreement about foreign policy priorities and how best to pursue them?

In the 1st edition (2003), I found evidence that the EU ‘actorness’ was strengthening: the EU member states had shown ever more willingness to devote resources to try to achieve the five foreign policy objectives. However, I warned that there was still an underlying tension between the member states’ desire to preserve national prerogatives in foreign relations and their desire to project a more assertive and effective collective international identity.

The 2nd edition (2008) was bleaker,concluding that over the past five years there had been continual internal negotiations over institutional reform, while the member states showed persistent differences over various foreign policy issues.

The 3rd edition appears after the EU has experienced the very severe euro crisis, which has tested solidarity among the member states, drained attention and resources from other policy areas (including foreign policy) and seriously dented public support for the EU. At the same time, the almost decade-long process of institutional reform finally ended with the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, which was supposed to help strengthen the coherence and effectiveness of EU foreign policy (among other reforms).

Simultaneously, the world has been in flux – with a diffusion of power away from the ‘West’, and a good deal of violent turmoil in the EU’s neighbourhood. A more multipolar world could foster an appreciation of the benefits of strengthening the EU’s foreign policy capabilities, but so far the evidence that the member states recognise this – and are prepared to act accordingly – is thin. Setting clear priorities and devising strategies to meet them are still particularly difficult tasks for the EU member states.

In this new edition, I explore why and how this is evident in the EU’s pursuit of the five foreign policy objectives.

Karen Smith is Professor of International Relations and Director of the European Foreign Policy Unit at the London School of Economics and Political Science.  European Foreign Policy in a Changing World, 3rd Edition published on 18th July 2014


Posted 1019 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: gender, war, conflict, International Relations, peace keeping, masculinity, femininity, sex, violence, women, transgender gender / 0 Comments

It is a coincidence  that Gender, War, and Conflict was formally published on the eve of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence, held in London. The Global Summit, as its webpage described, was meant to shatter the culture of impunity towards wartime rape, take practical steps toward decreasing it, provide support to survivors, and change attitudes of apathy. 

This ambitious summit was attended by public figures like Hilary Rodham Clinton and Angelina Jolie , as well as by scholars of wartime sexual violence like my colleagues Amelia Hoover Green  and Marsha Henry , among others. While I sat this one out at home in Florida, I followed its progress on Twitter and read news coverage as the summit looked to "write the last chapter in thehistory of wartime rape."

Scholars writing from the Summit expressed a combination of hope – given the amount of high-profile political capital being devoted to the cause – and despair – given the long, complicated, and important history of social science research into wartime sexual violence that was largely ignored at the Summit. The biggest complaint I have seen and read is that the Summit's policy-world and advocate speakers have a commitment to the social cause of ending wartime rape without a matching commitment to knowing and understanding the history of wartime rape, the conditions of possibility of the crime, the significations of rape in conflict, and the gendered contexts in which wartime rape is committed.

In other words, the advocates at the Summit understood that war rape is a terrible crime  in which women are disproportionately victimized . But there is more to it, and scholars have been trying to communicate that in order to improve policy analysis, and, hopefully, policy solutions. While the summit is over and the media has moved on to its next target, I think that this point is still a very important one.

In that spirit, here are somethings that we do know about wartime sexual violence. First, both broadly interpreted (as domestic violence, sexual assault, kidnapping, trafficking, forced marriage, forced prostitution, forced impregnation, enslavement, and rape) and narrowly interpreted (as rape), wartime sexual violence has been a feature of war since its inception. This does not mean that it is inevitable, natural, understandable, or permissable. What it does mean is that there is a link between militarization, war violence, and sexual violence - a link that feminist work in International Relations has argued is bidirectional.

Second , and relatedly, we know that these crimes are gendered. One of the most common elements of that gendering is that they happen to women because they are women, but that is only one of a number of dimensions of the gendered nature of wartime sexual violence. I suggest in the book that war rape is a method of emasculation, whether men or women are its direct victims.

When the victim of rape is a man,the emasculation is straight forward; when the victim of rape is a woman, the emasculation takes the form of robbing 'enemy' men of their ability to protect their 'innocent' women and to reproduce their families, states, and nations. Wartime sexual violence at once shows the virility of the rapist (nation) and the impotence of the victim (nation). Without understanding war and conflict as gendered, and wartime sexual violence as a gendered part of gendered conflicts, we miss important things about how wartime sexual violence is possible, and, indeed, how it can be stopped.

Third , we know that the advocates at the Summit are right that there is a history of impunity towards wartime sexual violence. Wartime rape, and even genocidal rape, were not explicitly defined as crimes in international jurisprudence until the late 1990s, and were rarely classified as crimes against humanity - leaving radical feminist lawyer Catharine MacKinnon to wonder if women were human in the eyes of international law. This impunity, though, is not incidental like it comes across in a number of the statements of advocates at the Summit. Instead, it is structural. If war and conflict are themselves gendered, they rely on the perpetuation of gendered assumptions and gendered stereotypes to continue to exist themselves.

As such, those with a political interest in the maintenance of militarization also have a political interestin impunity towards sexual violence. In this view, the reach of the 'impunity' can be seen as broader: it is not only produced by ignoring wartime sexual violence, but also by insisting that wartime sexual violence is one-off, incidental, separable from the existence of war and militarism, and curable outside of addressing the gendered dimensions of those wars and militarisms. In this way, the Summit critiques surface-level impunity while – at least in someways – entrenching a deeper impunity.

This is important not least because it makes some occurrences and impacts of wartime sexual violence less visiblethan others. This leads to the fourth thing that we know: we know that war rape does not start when 'the war' starts or end when 'the war' ends. 'Wartime' sexual violence often happens with the presence of militaries, peacekeepers, and other instances of militarism before formal wars and conflicts begin, and long after formal wars and conflicts start. Even when the commission of sexual violence wanes, the impacts of that sexual violence – in terms of societal gender inequalities, unwanted and unsafe pregnancies, social stigma and rejection, health consequences, and economic losses – continue for years and even decades after those who would pay attention to a narrow reading of war rape would notice.

That is why many feminist scholars, myself included, suggest that war is not an event but a continuum - where violence increases and decreases, but always exists. Recently, scholars like Rachel Pain and Caron Gentry have been arguing that we cannot fully understand war without understanding its everyday presence - and nowhere is this as important as in the arena of sexual violence.

In short, it is important to both praise and contextualize events like the Summit. This is why, in the book, I suggest mainstreaming gender in analyses of war and conflict - both to see the ways that gender analysis serves to add to, correct, and even transform traditional theorizing about war and conflict, and to look for the overlap between gender dynamics and power relations based on sexuality, gender identity, race, ethnicity, class, religion, and other axes of political distinction(and therefore discrimination). That will help any effort to "write the last chapter" of sexual violence in war – or any gendered, oppressive phenomenon – address the problem with a depth that makes solutions possible.


Laura Sjoberg is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida. Gender, War, and Conflict was published by Polity in May 2014.


Posted 1019 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Israel, Palestine, Oslo Accords, Intifada, Middle East / 0 Comments

‘For as long as I can remember, I remembe rfear. Existential fear. The Israel I grew up in … was energetic, exuberant, and hopeful. But I always felt that beyond the well-to-do houses and upper-middle-class lawns of my hometown lay a dark ocean.’

So begins Ari Shavit’s recent autobiographical discourse on the state of Israel. The tension that Shavit perceives in Israel’s fortunes – between continual occupation and constant existential threat – is also evident in my own book, Israel Since the Six-Day War, in which I try to put across an understanding of the travails of Israeli men and women as they pass through periods of joy sharply marred by periods of sorrow.

The history of the state of Israel is complex and multifaceted, and we should not shy away from that fact, as many other authors have done. On the one hand there are a multitude of books that depict Israel as the epitome of evil. In this category writers liken Israel to a rapacious colonial state callously displacing a hapless innocent indigenous population and, in its lust for land, Israel wilfully encroaches on its neighbours’ territory. Some (even from within Israel) go as far as to suggest that Israel is an Apartheid state with Nazi tendencies.

On the other hand there are books written by pro-Israel authors that paint a glowing and complimentary picture of Israel suggesting that it is virtually free from any blemishes and has always conducted its internal and external affairs in an exemplary manner.

In my book I have attempted to describe Israel as it actually is, that is, like any other Western democracy, Israel has both positive and negative attributes, as well as a diverse spectrum of political perspectives. While the country’s defects and shortcomings are freely and even liberally highlighted, its positive aspects are in no way overlooked. What follows, I hope, is a judicious and balanced account of all the major events in Israel in the time period considered. Another mistake many make is to assume that the history of Israel is the history merely of conflicts, atrocities (on both sides) and continued international tensions.

Like any other democracy, Israel has experienced numerous social, economic, and cultural achievements and challenges. In particular, I delve into some of the demographic issues that Israelis have faced since the 1980s, with the influx of Ethopian and Russian immigrants, as well as the ballooning Ultra-Orthodox population.

For readers seeking to acquire an understanding of the real Israel without being bombarded by any underlying tendentiousness, my book would fit the bill.


Leslie was Associate Professor at Macquarie University in Sydney until his recent retirement and has written an acclaimed trilogy of books on the history of the State of Israel, the concluding part, Israel Since the Six-Day War: Tears of Joy, Tears of Sorrow, published last week by Polity Press


Posted 1047 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Heidegger, media, theory, Philosophy, communication studies / 0 Comments

The German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) was not someone you would like to have around for dinner and might seem to some an unlikely subject for a book about media. For David Gunkel and I, the striking mismatch that exists between Heidegger’s intellectual status and contemporary profile provoked us into writing Heidegger and the Media. Heidegger is generally acknowledged amongst philosophers to be the pre-eminent thinker of “being”.

However, despite the fact we live in a time of unprecedentedly mediated being, his work is largely ignored in the field of media and communications studies. The standard explanations we have encountered for the field’s avoidance of Heidegger rely upon one or both of two key themes
  1. Heidegger’s Nazi past makes him philosophically untouchable. Undoubtedly, the most unappealing and controversial aspect of Heidegger’s life was the 12 month term he served as the first Nazi rector of the University of Freiburg (May 1933 to April 1934) which led to his official classification as a Nazi Mitläufer, or ‘fellow traveller’, in March 1949 by the State Commission for Political Purification as part of the post-war de-Nazification process.
  2. His work is (in)famously unintelligible. According to Bertrand Russell, Heidegger's ‘philosophy is extremely obscure. One cannot help suspecting that language is here running riot.’
These themes raise important wider issues about the fate of philosophy in a media age:

Shakespeare’s second best bed syndrome – The fact that Heidegger was a deeply unpleasant individual bears little, if any, relevance to the powerful implications of his work. Just as pained discussions of Shakespeare’s lack of generosity to his wife in his last will and testament bears no meaningful relationship to his genius, so, as Wagner also demonstrated so powerfully in the realm of music, there is no unambiguous correlation between the quality of a person’s creative output and their personal “goodness”.

The cult of the individual –Tabloid-like fixations upon personal biography (the sort that risk turning Walter Benjamin into the James Dean of cultural theory) is ill-suited to the life of the mind and creates a practical problem. If Heidegger is forbidden territory, do we disingenuously overlook his undeniably powerful influence upon a number of more “morally good” thinkers: Derrida, Sartre, Arendt, Marcuse, to name but four?

Questioning Heidegger’s intelligibility – The “common sense”, Campaign for Plain English-type call for clear expression is frequently used as a poor alibi for anti-intellectual prejudice. Certainly, Heidegger is not an easy read, but then again academics should aspire to produce something more challenging than journalism by another name. Heidegger himself suggested that ‘making itself intelligible is the suicide of philosophy’, but I prefer to highlight another of his typically resonant statements: ‘Questioning is the piety of thought’. Seldom has such a noble sentiment come from such an impious man but perhaps the truth of his thought still lives on because, not despite, the esoteric form of its expression, as Arendt put it in Mass Culture and Mass Media: ‘there are many great authors of the past who have survived centuries of oblivion and neglect, but it is still an open question whether they will be able to survive an entertaining version of what they have to say.’


In Batman Begins Rachel Dawes tells Bruce Wayne that, ‘It's not who you are underneath, it's what you do that defines you’. When it comes to Heidegger, too many academics are trapped in this sophomoric, anti-philosophical mentality. In Heidegger and the Media we hope to show that outside Hollywood the relationship between philosophical thoughts and personal deeds is a more complicated matter than judging the personality of a fictional man renowned for dressing up as a paramilitary bat.


Paul A. Taylor is, with David Gunkel, the author of Heidegger and the Media, a new title from Polity Press that published in May 2014


Posted 1053 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Toleration, multiculturalism, religion, politics, Philosophy, race, class, conflict / 0 Comments



In the contemporary west (and perhaps elsewhere), many of us like to think we are open to meeting and having friendships with all sorts of people that are different from us.  We might have our own religious or moral beliefs, but we think of ourselves as beyond having to impose them on others.  So we meet others with views that can’t be true if ours are and we think “they are entitled to their views.”  With that firmly established in our minds, we think we can have an honest and respectful relationship with the other.  We think we can and should tolerate everyone else. Live and let live. So far so good.


Too often, however, the “live and let live” attitude is thought the opposite of a proselytizing dogmatism.  Proselytizing dogmatists, as I understand them, are uncomfortable with their own beliefs not being accepted by others and seek to convince everyone they meet of those beliefs.  These people are seemingly so convinced of their own beliefs that they can’t tolerate others not accepting them as true.

We seem to have two possibilities:

1.    Those thoroughly committed to the truth of their own views and, so, unwilling to accept that others can’t come to see the truth of these views

2.    Those who live and let live, presumably not very committed to their own beliefs.  The non-proselytizer, it seems, isn’t willing to say others are wrong.  Indeed, we often hear it said that we can’t (or shouldn’t) judge others or their beliefs and so must tolerate them.  Toleration, on that view, is based in our inability to judge others, perhaps because of a recognition of our own fallibility.  But, of course, if we are fallible with regard to our other beliefs, we are fallible with regard to our belief that toleration is a value!

We are, indeed, fallible.  I don’t think anything follows from this with regard to toleration.  It is perfectly reasonable to think toleration is a value while recognizing one’s own fallibility.  One may be wrong, but to say one thinks X is to say, “given all else I know, I think X and I will maintain X until shown that X is false.” 

As Joseph Schumpeter said “To realise the relative validity of one’s convictions and yet stand for them unflinchingly, is what distinguishes a civilized man from a barbarian.”  Indeed, it seems entirely natural to be willing to stand for one’s beliefs unflinchingly, recognizing one’s judgments may nonetheless be wrong.  Importantly, moreover, that willingness to judge is necessary for toleration (and, I think, part of a good life—consider someone unwilling to judge a chain-sawing wielding hockey-masked stranger). 

This is an important and sometimes overlooked fact.  To tolerate something is, in part, to refrain from interfering with it, but not every instance of noninterference is an instance of toleration.  I can watch my son play with his wooden trains for hours without interfering.  No one would say I tolerate his play.  If I said “yes, I tolerate his play,” I imagine people would wonder about my parenting.  This is because saying I tolerate the train play implies that I dislike or disapprove of it—that is, saying that in some way, I oppose it.  But I don’t oppose it.  I love it.  (This is also why multiculturalism, as advocacy of multiple cultures, is not a form of toleration; it is a form of endorsement rather than indication of opposition.)

Saying I tolerate X means, in part, that I have made a judgment that X is something in need of toleration, something not thought worthwhile or good, morally or otherwise.  If I make no judgment against X, I cannot (conceptually) tolerate X.   This suggests that the two possible positions noted in my third paragraph above are not exhaustive of the possibilities.  Indeed, a third sort of person is missing: (3) those thoroughly committed to their own views, willing to judge that others’ or others’ beliefs are worth opposing and yet insistent that—at least in some of those cases—the others must be tolerated.

“Advocating toleration does not mean advocating some wishy-washy namby-pamby way of being that requires you to refrain from judging others” (page 2).  To be an advocate of toleration is to think toleration is objectively valuable—that is, to think it something all should value, not something one merely endorses as good for oneself but perhaps not good for others.  Tolerating others requires opposing them in some way. 

This is one of the fundamental lessons I hope people take away from my book.  I also lay out different principles that indicate when we should tolerate and when the limits of toleration have been transgressed.  I endorse one of these and indicate why I reject the others—though I suspect others will think at least one of those others must be endorsed as well.  I will tolerate that.

Andrew Jason Cohen is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Georgia State University.  His book Toleration was published earlier this year by Polity Press



Posted 1054 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: race, immigration, U.S. immigration policy, color-blind racism / 0 Comments



In the heated immigration debates of the contemporary U.S., the theme of race is seemingly absent.  As with other aspects of public policy since the late 1960s, a “color-blind” approach in which overt considerations of race are unacceptable has attained normative status on immigration issues as well, evident in the rhetoric of groups across a wide range of the political spectrum. Thus those who argue against legalization programs for undocumented immigrants do not openly speak of race, but instead dwell on the importance of rewarding those who follow the laws of the land and punishing those who do not abide by them. And those who argue for raising the quota of employment visas do not speak of race, but cite the need for the United States to attract immigrants who will make important contributions to the economy.

 In writing this book, Cara Bowman, Megan O’Leary and I were interested in looking beyond the “color-blind” veneer of contemporary immigration discourse to explore the interactions of race and immigration and how they have developed over time. In the past, the agenda of a white nation was an explicit part of U.S. immigration policies, as reflected in such laws as the 1924 National Origins Act which sought to exclude all immigrants, except those from Western Europe. In the immigration regime of today, racial inequalities remain significant, even as a race-neutral ethos may work to mask them.

Since the 1990s, the U.S. has seen the growth of a massive immigration-industrial complex around the War on Terror, immigration law enforcement and the criminalization of undocumented immigrants; these have had disproportionate impacts on racial minorities. The iconic image of the “illegal alien”, promoted by nativist forces as a representation of danger to national sovereignty and security, has been used to racially identify and stigmatize immigrant minority groups, especially those of Mexican and more broadly, of Latino origin.

One of the intriguing aspects of the public debates on immigration in the U.S. is a nationalist narrative of America as an “immigrant nation” that intersects with that of America as an “exceptional nation.”  The latter imagines the United States as a unique and extraordinary country in human history and worldly affairs; it is a refuge of liberty, a moral leader that has been anointed by divine providence to assume a place of political and economic supremacy in the world. It is in fact in its special greatness, its commitment to freedom and opportunity, that America attracts immigrants from all over the world.

As symbolized by the Statue of Liberty, America beckons “the huddled masses” to its shores with its incomparable promise of freedom and opportunity -- the American Dream. America then is a place where dreams can come true, where immigrants can achieve success through hard work and determination, thereby affirming the greatness of America. As they do so they also merge into the great “melting pot” of America and become American. Indeed, the exceptionalism of America stems not only from its welcoming of immigrants, but also from its capacity to assimilate, to effectively integrate newcomers into its ranks.
    
In looking claims and representations of immigrants within American political debates in relation to these broad nationalist narratives, we were reminded of the ideas of the scholar Mahmood Mamdani,  who writes of  a “Good Muslim-Bad Muslim”  frame in the  media and its contributions to the popular notion of a fundamental civilizational divide between the West and Islam.

In a similar framing, immigration debates in the United States are  organized by ideas of  “good” and “bad” immigrants. In these oppositional images , the “good immigrant” is one who fulfills the expectations of assimilation and preserves American exceptionalism.  The “bad immigrant, ” in contrast, is a threat to the exceptional social and political fabric of America and unfit to be American.

In this fluid and relational framework, immigrants are continually evaluated in relation to “other” immigrants. The good immigrant-bad immigrant framework has thus contributed to divisions among immigrants, thereby reducing the potential for immigrant solidarity movements.
 
Nazli Kibria is Professor of Sociology at Boston University. With Cara Bowman and Megan O’Leary, she is the author of Race and Immigration


Posted 1060 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: volunteer, associations, activism, volunteering, volunteerism, ngo, non-profits, political sociology, politics, political participation, participatory democracy / 0 Comments

When you look at the numbers, the growth of civil society has been remarkable: 3.3 million charities in India and 1.5 million across the United States; NGOs like the BangladeshRural Advancement Committee that work with hundreds of millions of people; 81,000 international NGOs and networks, 90 per cent of them launched since 1975. That’s not counting all the street protests, social movements and informal community groups that are often omitted from the data. In the UK, for example, these latter outnumber registered charities by more than four to one.

These statistics are mightily impressive - except when compared to the problems that civil societies want to solve. You could argue that things would be worse without the involvement of these groups. There’s also evidence to show that they’re making inroads around the edges of poverty and injustice.

But there’s no sign that the underlying structures of social, political and economic violence and oppression are being shaken to their roots.

As a result, fewer people in the world are dying young, and basic indicators of health and education, income and employment are getting slightly better - at least for most people in mostcountries. However, economic inequality is rising, democracies are being hollowed out, climate change is worsening, and discrimination based on race, gender, ability and sexual orientation remains endemic.

Social movements have helped to challenge these underlying problems, and they’ve successfully unseated dictators in many parts of the world. But they haven’t been able to secure lasting gains in democracy, equality and freedom.

Expecting civil society groups to achieve these gains by themselves would be foolish. However, given the rapid growth of all these organizations, shouldn’t they be having at least some impact on the deep transformation of self and society? What is going wrong?

I’ve spent the last 30 years trying to figure out an answer to that question, and every so often I putsome thoughts down in print. Of course, like the proverbial painter on the Forth Rail Bridge in Scotland, I have to start afresh as soon as I’ve finished each round of revisions, since civil societies are constantly mutating. But they don’t seem to be mutating in the direction of social transformation, despite the headline-grabbing protests of the Arab Spring and other ‘revolutions.’ In fact my conclusion this time around may be surprising: the strength of civil society is declining even as its size continues to expand.

I think there are two main reasons for this mismatch. The first is that civil society groups are increasingly divorced from the forces that drive deeper social change. When one looks at the few times in history when civil society has functioned as a powerful and lasting moral and political lever - like the civil rights and women’s movements of the 1960s and 1970s - large numbers of people became active in translating ethical action into power structures at every level, from the family to the courts and corporations.

In this sense, civil society is like an iceberg, with the peaks of protest rising above the waterline and the great mass of everyday citizen action hidden underneath. When the two are connected - when street protests are backed up by long-term action in every community, bank, business, local government, church or mosque, temporary gains in equality and diversity have more chance of becoming permanent shifts in power and public norms. In that respect it’s not the Arab or any other ‘Spring’ that really makes the difference, but what happens in every other season, of every other year, across every generation.

Unfortunately these episodes of large-scale, joined-up action are quite rare, and the long-term trend has been the opposite, at least in Europe and North America. Traditional forms of participation - like voting and membership in labor unions and other mass organizations - have declined alarmingly over the last 50 years. Other forms of participation have emerged in their stead, but they haven’t had the same effect in pulling large numbers of people into face-to-face, ongoing, and potentially transformative activities.

These new forms of participation are largely social media-based, but they also include social enterprises and professional advocacy groups which have strong messages but much weaker memberships. They may well attract large numbers of people to donate money, sign petitions, and consume less harmful products, but none of these actions havethe same amount of purchase in the heartlands of politics and economics. They are too thin to have much effect on the transformation of society.

As an indicator of changing fashions, the number of Google searches for “civil society” fell by 70 per cent between 2004 and 2012. During the same period, searches for “social media” and “social entrepreneurs” rose by 90 per cent and 40 per cent respectively.

It isn’t that these new trends are bad in themselves - successful social movements have always made use of innovations in marketing, revenue-generation and communications. The problems arrive when they displace other forms of civil society action that remain essential. In that respect, it’s significant that today’s most transformative civil society groups incorporate both online and offline activism around a strong ethos of democratic participation and accountability. “Making Change at Wal-Mart,” for example, uses Facebook to help employees identify which of their “friends” works for the company, to supply them with information about their rights, and to connect them to campaigns and demonstrations that take place inside or outside each store.

But in terms of transformation, it does matter that a different ethos of competition and technocracy isincreasingly influential in civil society itself. In a classic case of cooptation, what was designed as a solidarity-based alternative is being turned into an integral component of the social capitalist economy.

The second reason for the decline in civil societies’ transformative potential is that structures that used to mediate between people of different views and backgrounds have largely disappeared. Getting large numbers of people to participate in politics and civic life is priority number one. But those people will likely disagree with each other on everything from gay marriage to student debt. That’s the reality of civil societies everywhere, which don’t belong to conservatives or progressives, or to anyone else in particular, but to everyone.

So priority number two is to find ways for people to come together across their differences and hammer out some common ground. That common ground then gets translated formally into laws and policies by voting in reforming governments, and informally into the norms of public opinion that set some sense of direction for society.

This was precisely the process that underpinned broad, public support for redistributive actions like the GIBill of 1944, which made college education and other benefits accessible for all returning veterans in the USA. Many future leaders of the US Civil Rights movement were graduates. Something similar took place in Britain after the end of World War Two, when the newly elected Labour Government introduced theWelfare State. Greater social intermingling during the war years, and a sense of shared experience and responsibility, helped to draw in a wider range of support.

In both these examples, the ground was laid for potentially transformative changes in society, though much of it has since been eroded. By guaranteeing the conditions in which broad swathes of the population could participate in politics and public life, governments gave civil society a tremendous boost.

The problem is that most of the structures through which people participated have been destroyed or allowed to wither on the vine. They included labor unions (which declined by 43 per cent in the USA between 1950 and 2000), parent-teachers associations (which lost 60 per cent of their members during the same period), political parties, and national federations of women’s groups. As a result, the rich and diverse ecosystems of civil society that had brought different groups together, however imperfectly, began to resemble monocultures in which organizations looked alike or turned into single issue or constituency groups.   

This process was most visible in the decline of particular kinds of civic institutions, but it also had a personal face. Coalition building, or simply arguing with each-other to create a sense of the public interest, requirea willingness to engage, and to recognize that sustaining civil society is a shared responsibility, even if we disagree about the details of what civic groups should do.

At its core, civil society has always been a deeply human construction, a way of “rearrangingthe geometry of human relationships” and not just cementing the bricks and mortar of NGOs and other groups. That, too, is being lost to the tide of corporatization and technocratic management.

Reversing the decline of civil society as a force for transformation will be exceptionally difficult, because the processes of hollowing out and separation, of commercialization and muzzling have become so deeply embedded. Any group that bucks these trends will be isolated and undermined. Philanthropists will deny them funding, politicians will curb their rights to organize, corporations will co-opt their language and their tactics, and other, less radical groups will try to colonize their work and capture their supporters.

But since civil societies are ours to lose, they are also ours to reclaim, to refresh and re-energize against the background of a constantly shifting landscape of opportunities, tools and techniques - social media and social enterprise included.

The destruction of civil society is easy, and it’s happening around us now. Its re-creation is much more difficult, akin to accumulating all the ‘snow’ that eventually makes the ‘iceberg’ of everyday citizen action.

That may sound like too little, too late, or simply take too long, or be too much work in an era when instant gratification is demanded. But it will be worth it. After all, it was an iceberg that sank the Titanic.


Michael Edwards is a writer and activist based in upstate New York, and the editor of Transformation. The third edition of his book, Civil Society,is published by Polity Press.


Posted 1061 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: India, International Relations, rising power, South Asia, security, national identity, nuclear / 0 Comments

With her economic, multilateral and perceptual horizons expanding courtesy of burgeoning international trade relations, India appears set to influence the nature of global affairs.  Just as other powers have risen, it is the principles of the top-tier powers that have, more often than not, gone on to shape the values of the wider international system. 

Given her relations with various institutions and other great powers, it appears that India will remain invested in promoting a multipolar system that eschews hegemony and endorses a more equitable world order.  Core principles of progress, peace, development and justice will further inform such a worldview.  In turn, India clearly benefits from her policymakers’ gradual embrace of the global liberal economic order, and all the gains in trade, growth and investment it brings.  New Delhi thus respects the current world system and does not wish to be a revisionist great power.

Although India is currently converting her economic wealth into military prowess, it appears to be in a largely benign and defensive manner that is intended to protect trade and energy security interests.  Such usage protects her domestic aims vis-à-vis modernization and development, and supplants her claims to international great-power status.  Therefore, if her broad foreign goals can be fulfilled (and suitable international recognition of her status adequately received), India would be considered to be a mostly satisfied great power concerning her international standing.

As India continues to rise, however, her leaders and policy makers will be increasingly challenged as to whether she is a responsible great power – that is, a state willing to make sacrifices for the greater global comity through the use of her national capabilities to help resolve international disputes / conflict.  Such responsibility could involve (military) intervention in other regions and other states, which would present considerable principled difficulties for India’s leaders, given their historical propensity against interfering in the affairs of others and their colonial past.

While evident, dynamic and sustained, India’s current trajectory is by no means guaranteed, marking out her present status as an uncertain great power.  Although projected to be an economic behemoth whose might will be converted into commensurate diplomatic and military capabilities, there are obstacles to fulfilling this ascribed role.  These include quelling many separatist, insurgent and terrorist threats; combatting corruption to ensure that economic gains reach all sections of Indian society; and facing internal environmental damage that causes mounting unrest.

Here is worthwhile reminding ourselves of Nehru’s still-applicable observation that ‘so long as we have not solved most of our own problems, our voice cannot carry the weight that it normally will and should’.  From this basis, and even more fundamentally, we must ask does India wish to even become a great power?  Faced by a raft of internal challenges, and the uncertainties, risks and potential losses associated with having a more outward looking, activist and (basically) unfamiliar foreign policy stance, can New Delhi realistically fulfil a major global role in the 21st century?

These, and many other, paradoxes / tensions inherent to India’s contemporary international affairs are confronted in my recently published Indian Foreign Policy volume.

Chris Ogden is Lecturer in Asian Security at the School of International Relations, University of St Andrews.  He is also a Senior Research Associate with the Foreign Policy Centre (FPC) in London.


Posted 1074 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Peace, Conflict Resolution, war, violence, diplomacy, mediation, agreement, ceasefire / 0 Comments

The term peace process has become widely used to describe efforts to manage and resolve conflicts. Yet the term is slippery and imprecise. What, exactly, constitutes a peace process? How do we quantify peace and distinguish it from the mere absence of violence? Can we recognise the start and endpoints of a peace process? Why do some processes succeed and others fail? My book Comparative Peace Processes attempts to address these questions.

The inspiration from the book arose from the seeming lack of clear answers to these questions. I recall the BBC reporter Jeremy Bowen once commenting that if there were two words he would ban from the vocabulary of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it would be ‘peace’ and ‘process’ as neither were in place. Yet episodic attempts at resolving the conflict persist and the label has endured. Other intractableconflicts have been more successfully managed. Arguably there is no such thing as conflict without end, a problem which cannot at least be partially resolved.

Comparative Peace Processes offers an upbeat analysis of the growing sophistication of political prescriptions which can be used to diminish or eliminate conflict. The range of measures, such as: consociation, cantonisation, confederalism, partition, devolution, have grown in sophistication, range and applicability. Peace-making has grown in scope and capability, as part of a process of policy-learning. It has also grown in applicability as the vast bulk of conflicts have become internal, ethno-national or ethno-religious clashes. Peacemakers apply their conflict-amelioration skills across a wide range of regions.

However, the book is certainly not based upon liberal utopianism. It is sympathetic to Realist perceptions that ultimate political outcomes may often be shaped by military fortunes and the willingness of states to compromise. The choice of case studies reflects mixed approaches to peace processes.These range from the pursuit of outright victory over opponents pursued, to very different levels and in markedly varying contexts, by the Sri Lankan and Spanish governments, to the forensically detailed processes of negotiation undertaken by the British government in the case of Northern Ireland.

The Israeli-Palestinian case highlights the problems of the absence of trust and the lack of an honest broker; the Lebanese study demonstrates how sec-building can triumph over state-building in consociational cases, whilst the Bosnian example shows how a subtle interplay of consociation and confederalism can begin to repair the damage of vicious secessionist struggles.

Finally, the book emphasises how the study of peace processes needs to continue to develop well beyond the grandstanding of the ‘big agreement’. Research needs to focus increasingly upon issues of implementation. These cover aspects of decommissioning and demilitarisation, but extend well beyond. Restorative justice for the families of victims, or more retributive measures, such as punishment for perpetrators,are peace process ‘essentials’, but too often are an afterthought amid the concentration upon securing the deal. The consequences for long-term peace and security can be severe and the book makes a plea for a less blinkered approach to the shaping of peace.


Posted 1074 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: science, scientific scandals, MMR, expertise, media / 1 Comments

What would it mean if we were all scientific experts? Since the Second World War the authority of science has fallen dramatically and lots of non-specialists now feel they can mount a challenge to it. Revolts against vaccination, such as the mumps, measles and rubella scare, are one symptom; resistance to the idea of global warming is another. People seem to think that invoking scientific authority is undemocratic, and the instinct of a parent for the wellbeing of their child – or the invocation of a conspiracy – can be just as sound a guide for action.

Science, along with everything else, began to lose its authority in the 1960s. A series of widely visible technological debacles reinforced the distrust. Academics fed on this shift and began to re-describe science as a mundane activity, if anything, reinforcing the public mood. Above all, we, the public, see experts disagreeing all the time and if the experts disagree, how do we know who to trust? 

It seems that we might as well make our own judgements, but this is a dangerous illusion. Specialists are used to coping with disagreement and have ways of picking sides that are not available to those who are not immersed in the scientific community: an internet debate between scientists can be a counterfeit debate rather than a genuine disagreement among front-line scientists. 

This is what fooled Thabo Mbekiinto saying that Anti-Retroviral drugs were not safe. One has to analyse the notion of expert and ask which kinds of expertise the public can access and which they cannot. It is impossible for the public to understandthe ins-and-outs of live scientific disagreements because that is a full-time job even for the specialists. 

The public do have a crucial role as ‘whistle-blowers’, helping to keep the scientific community honest wherever they have local knowledge, but that is not the same as understanding unfamiliar frontier sciences. There is no clash between democracy and expertise so long as experts are called to account on a regular basis.   On the other hand, a society in which the distinction between expert and non-expert faded away would be a ghastly dystopia.

Harry Collins is Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre for the Study of Knowledge, Expertise and Science (KES) at Cardiff University. He is a Fellow of the British Academy. His latest book Are We All Scientific Experts Now was published in February 2014


Posted 1074 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: diamonds, conflict, natural resources, trade, development, Kimberley Process, Congo, Sierra Leone, gem, NGOs, activism / 0 Comments

In November last year, Sotheby’s auctioned a flawless pink diamond for a world record price of US$83 million. At 59.6 carats and the size of a plum, the “Pink Star”, renamed the “Pink Dream” by its new owner, fetched almost $1.4 million per carat. According to Sotheby’s it had been cut from a 132.5 carat rough stone that had been mined in 1999 by De Beers “somewhere in Africa”. Beyond that, it origins are unknown. Mystery, of course, is part of a valuable diamond’s allure; its mystique. For generations, mystery has also been a hallmark of the diamond industry, whose secretive ways and their sometimes violent outcomes are described in my new book,Diamonds

Gem diamonds less spectacular than the Pink Star can still be worth tens of thousands of dollars per carat, but even the least of them has only one legal purpose: decoration. Because they have the highest value-to-weight ratio of any substance however, diamonds have additional, not-so-legal uses as well: money laundering, tax evasion, an alternative currency for drugs, guns, terrorism and other activities of interest to law enforcement agencies.

Despite the best efforts of a cartel established more than a century ago by the great robber baron Cecil Rhodes – a cartel that survived two global conflicts, the Cold War and other vicissitudes – regulation of the diamond trade has proven almost impossible. I was closely involved in the most comprehensive effort – the Kimberley  Process Certification Scheme – which involves industry and more than 80 governments. The KPCS was a product of NGO lobbying to end brutal diamond-fuelled wars in Angola, the Congo and Sierra Leone. In the process of that campaign, I was the first witness at the war crimes trial in The Hague of Liberian warlord Charles Taylor, now serving the first decade of a 50-year prison sentence. 

But when I continued to see diamond statistics, government claims and certificates that made no sense, and when I saw regulators look the other way as a member state used its armed forces to gun down artisanal diamond diggers, I knew I could spend my time more constructively elsewhere. 

Diamonds describes the geology, the political economy, the glitz and the hard, calculating rationale behind diamonds. It tells the story of blood diamonds and the attempt to regulate them, and it looks at what future development potential there might be in the dozen or so very poor countries where diamonds are mined. 

The Pink Star is only the latest in a series of mysterious diamonds and even more mysterious diamond stories. I have experienced some of them from the inside, and I have written about them in my book,Diamonds.

Ian Smillie currently chairs the Board of the Diamond Development Initiative, a non-governmental organization working to improve the condition of Africa’s 1.5 million artisanal diamond diggers. 

He has written extensively on the issue of conflict diamonds and was directly involved in the negotiations leading to the creation of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.  
 


Posted 1075 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Metaphysics, causation, Philosophy, analytic philosophy / 0 Comments

I heard this fable from a philosopher dabbling in political theory:

Once upon a time, there were two nearby islands. Paul was the lone inhabitant of one island, and he had a small boat for fishing. Vivian was the lone inhabitant of the other, which hosted abundant stringy plants that she harvested for rope fiber. By working alone, they collected barely enough food for survival, but by cooperating they could gather 50 times as much. 

Vivian had already spent an enormous amount of time weaving a few large nets out of plant fiber and Paul agreed to let her use his boat, but only if she gave him half of the fish. She agreed and gathered heaps of fish from the deeper waters. Before handing any fish over, Vivian reconsidered the fairness of dividing the fish equally. Vivian reasoned it was not fair for Paul to take half of the fish because he did not do any real work; he just let her use the boat. Paul reasoned that without his boat, Vivian would not have gotten the huge stock of fish, and anyway, she agreed to the deal beforehand.

This scenario illustrates the problem of cooperative surplus. Vivian and Paul each made a huge difference in the number of fish caught. 98 percent of the gathered fish can be attributed to Paul’s decision to lend Vivian the boat because if he had not, they would have caught 2 percent of what they actually caught. 98 percent of the gathered fish can be attributed to all of Vivian’s work because if she had not used the boat, they would have caught 2 percent of what they actually caught. 

The problem is that there is no way for Vivian to get 98 percent of the fish and Paul to get 98 percent of the fish. The benefits of cooperation cannot be distributed to each actor in proportion to how much of a difference each made.

That is why other considerations are ordinarily taken into account. One consideration bearing on distributing the surplus fairly is the amount of effort each person expended. Another is that people can bargain for whatever proportion they like.

Interestingly, the structural features of this puzzle from political philosophy exist by virtue of the way causation works. We sometimes identify occurrences as causes because they make a difference to the occurrence of an effect. Other times we identify causes because they seem to help produce or generate the effect.

For example, consider a train that hauls coal from the mine to the steel mill. What caused the coal to arrive at the mill? One cause was that the train pulled it the whole way. The train made all the difference because if the train had remained at rest, the coal would not have moved anywhere. Yet, the straightness of the tracks made all the difference too. If the tracks had been too bent for the train to move, the coal would not have moved anywhere. The motion of the train and the straightness of the tracks are equal causes in the sense of making a crucial difference to the coal arriving. 

In general, there is no reasonable way to distribute causal responsibility according to how much of a difference each causal factor made. As a result, we consider other factors, such as the fact that the train appears to be doing something, using fuel and driving its wheels forward, whereas the straightness of the tracks just remains there – seemingly inactive.

This example is one of many that illustrate the utility of understanding how causation works. It frequently turns out that difficult-to-resolve disputes inherit their problematic structure from general causal principles. By investigating causation, one can come to recognize where rational progress can be made and where opinions will likely remain at odds.

Douglas Kutach is visiting fellow at the Rotman Institute of Philosophy.  His book  Causation  will be published in August


Posted 1082 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Eurozone, Europe, crisis, Angela Merkel, European politics, politics, International Relations, integration / 0 Comments


For most students of European politics the EU is a symbol of integration; to them its demise implies disintegration. However, the EU performs poorly at present and it has lost the support of most of Europe’s citizens. The EU also seems unable to reform itself. Does the EU still act as an engine of European integration? Or does it generate conflicts and divergence?

European integration was supposed to get rid of power politics. Large and rich states were no longer permitted to bully small and impoverished ones. Above all, Europe was not to be ruled by Germany. Today a few “triple A” countries run Europe with Germany in the driving seat. Gone is equality among member states. New treaties are written with only some states in mind, external (arbitrary) interference in domestic affairs abounds, policies are chiefly about punishment rather than help and incentive.

European integration was also supposed to create the most competitive economy in the world. It was also supposed to make the “Stockholm consensus” prevail over the “Washington consensus,” not just in the North, but also in the East and South of Europe. The common currency and the single market were the key means for achieving these ambitious economic aims. Today the common currency is in trouble and it undermines the achievements of the single market. Even the strongest European economies fail to generate growth and Europe’s welfare systems are collapsing. The Euro was meant to help integrate Europe, but it achieved the opposite: it exacerbated the gaps and conflicts between the surplus and deficit countries, the importers and exporters, and the North and South.

European integration was more about efficiency than citizens’ participation, yet it never questioned the principles of democracy. Today some key decisions are being made by the ECB, the IMF and the German Constitutional Court with only symbolic in-put from the European Council representing democratically elected leaders. Citizens in individual states are free to elect their governments, but these governments are not free to change the course of their policies. The powers of the European Parliament have been progressively augmented, but fewer and fewer people bother to vote in European elections, and an ever-larger percentage of elected European MPs are Euro-sceptic. The strength of the EP as an institution has been achieved at the expense of its representative role.

The EU used to be an influential international actor despite its largely civilian nature. Its policy of enlargement has generated security and prosperity in post-communist Eastern Europe. EU regulatory regimes imposed extra-territorial scrutiny on numerous trading partners across the world. Today the EU no longer generates security. Russia was able to annex Crimea despite the EU’s outrage, and the EU is not prepared to offer tormented Ukraine a prospect of joining it. Europeans clash in the UN Security Council, and the European External Action Service cannot get off the ground. The EU fails to steer global trade or environmental negotiations leaving its citizens exposed to global turbulence.

Pro-European politicians talk about fundamental reforms of the EU, but can they deliver? The proposed reforms are often in conflict, and none of them seem to address the roots of the current problems. Does anybody really believe that electing the President of the European Commission will make people trust the EU? It is time to think about European integration with less or no EU. In my forthcoming book with Polity Press - “Is the EU Doomed?” – I offer such a prospect and spell out practical steps for integrating Europe in a new manner.

Jan Zielonka
University of Oxford and St Antony's College

 


Posted 1088 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: life course, culture, life stages, sociology, gerontology / 0 Comments

We all experience change in our lives. Going to first grade, leaving for college, getting married, having children, finding or losing a job, buying our first home, recovering from a life-threatening disease, retiring, losing our parents – most of us will experience a combination of major transitions throughout our lives. 

As a sociologist, I believe that our understanding of those transitions is profoundly shaped by the dominant discourse in society about those transitions. Movies, greeting cards, sports stars, music, popular blogs and websites, advertisements, political debates, and many other voices contribute to our interpretation of those transitions.

 
American society is, for a variety of reasons, especially preoccupied with transitions. How, then, does the dominant discourse in America depict life’s major transitions? What underlying themes and perspectives do we find, as we move across many of the most important transitions in life? 

In this book, I try to answer these questions. I identify two primary approaches to life transitions. The first approach depicts transitions as exciting, individualistic opportunities for new beginnings: the past is cast aside, the future is wide open, and the self has the opportunity to recreate itself anew. The second paints transitions as having to do with continuity: our connections to others, and the life-cycle, with an emphasis on acceptance and adaptation. 

At first, these two approaches seem in opposition and almost contradictory. But upon closer analysis we can see that they in fact complement each other, and ultimately reveal a great deal about some of the most fundamental aspects of American society.

Francesco Duina is Professor and Head of Sociology at the University of British Columbia, Canada. He is also Visiting Professor in the Department of Business and Politics at the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark.



Posted 1110 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Environmentalism, Ecology, history of the movement / 0 Comments

In order to understand the characteristics of what I call the “age of ecology”, we must look not merely for structures and historical roots, but also for stories and opportunities, for vivid human actors and surprising historical moments. My recent book, The Age of Ecology, thus concludes,

'Rightly understood, historical awareness means not only looking for the past in the present, but also discovering what is new in the world around us, experiencing more intensely and thinking through the transience of the here and now.

'We know from history that there are moments when the inertia of existing structures breaks down and much that has seemed impossible is suddenly regarded as possible.

'The best ‘use of history for life’ is perhaps the sharpening of one’s eye for such historical moments in the present. Who knows, perhaps we shall soon be living at such a moment.'

Was this outlook too audacious? Well, two weeks after the release of the original German edition of this book, the nuclear disaster of Fukushima happened, Angela Merkel surprised the German public with a sudden abandonment of nuclear energy and the proclamation of an “energy turn”, and the final sentence of my book was repeatedly quoted and declared prophetic.

The period after Fukushima saw an outpouring of ideas, information, and predictions; for a time nearly every day brought something new. So when revising the text for the English edition, I took advantage of this flow of ideas, this buzz of conversation on a topic that had become suddenly relevant.

But let’s be clear: we are not at the end of history. New historical moments may follow that could lead in a different direction, and countries all over the world are in quite different situations. The Age of Ecology is a history with an open end; that is a central idea of my book.

But what are the consequences for the present? That is the big question! Right from the beginning I intended to tell the story of environmentalism: a story of real people, actions, and dramatic tensions.

But it became clear that it would be misleading to present one single master narrative. Such a narrative would not only ignore the variety of forms that global environmentalism has taken but could also threaten to lead activists astray. They might actually inhabit a quite different history than the one they imagine.

As I demonstrate in my book, after 1970 there is no single overarching story of environmentalism, but rather several stories, each of them with its own dramatic tension: between single-issue movements and attempts to tackle the interconnectedness of ecological problems; between the strategy of struggle and the strategy of consensus; between emblematic moments and processes of bureaucratization; between grassroots movements and global players.

In spite of global environmental communication, there is an “ecology of ecological thinking” - characteristic differences between nations and regions which may even increase as ecological awareness grows.

In my book I trace diverse roots of environmentalism, reaching deep into the past to Fumifugium (1661) and Sylva (1664) by John Evelyn and considering several peaks of “environmentalism before environmentalism”: Rousseau and Romanticism around 1800; urban hygiene and nature protection around 1900; and New Deal America, Nazi Germany, and Stalinist Russia in the 1930s.

I also highlight a post-1945 global green movement that is today mostly forgotten. When Max Nicholson, in 1970, proclaimed an environmental revolution in his book The Environmental Revolution: A Guide for the New Masters of the World, he had good reasons for doing so. From California to central Europe and Japan, “environmental protection” was invented exactly at that time, not because of the shock of an environmental catastrophe but through an intellectual analysis of partly proven, partly theoretical risks.
 
On the whole, environmentalism is chameleon-like. It is a philosophy of life and a source of political legitimacy, a grassroots protest movement and a top-down strategy for change in which, in many cases, women are at the forefront.

Therefore, after a discussion of Rachel Carson, the “founding mother” of American environmentalism, The Age of Ecology presents 10 green “heroines” that most impressively embody the inner tensions of environmentalism (although this choice is somewhat arbitrary and open for discussion).

The Age of Ecology thus aims to correct a number of misconceptions by promoting the following theses:

  1. Institutional consolidation does not have to mean the decline of environmentalism, as from the beginning there has been interplay between citizens’ initiatives and top-down interventions.
  2. It is not realistic to create a dichotomy of true “post-materialist” environmentalism with a global scope and selfish “NIMBY” (Not in My Backyard) movements. On the contrary, it is precisely the local initiatives driven by local interests that are the true global element of environmentalism connecting the developed and developing worlds. Instead of “think globally - act locally” the slogan might read “Be global by acting locally.”
  3. Contrary to what is often asserted, modern environmentalism did not grow out of apocalyptic fear and catastrophic experiences, but more out of peaceful and hopeful moments in world history.

The more environmentalism succeeds in acquiring political power, the more it is subject to some of the typical problems of the old Enlightenment analyzed by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer in Dialectics of Enlightenment.

Moreover, there are instances when the age of ecology merges into an age of eco-bluff. This book aims to present a history of environmentalism that is both sympathetic and critical. We cannot exclude the possibility that the prophets of doom will be right in the end. And such an environmental collapse may even follow a quite conventional Ma-Ma-Ma pattern of Marx, Malthus, and Machiavelli: a synergy of the insatiable growth of the capitalist economy, of population growth, and of power politics.

While acknowledging these potentially unpleasant prospects, I would like to say of myself what Jacob von Uexküll said in 1988 at the presentation of the Alternative Nobel Prize to the courageous Brazilian environmental activist José Lutzenberger: “He is not an optimist, he is not a pessimist; he is a possibilist.”

I believe that possibilism in this sense is the best foundation not only for writing about environmental history, but also for getting something moving.  


Posted 1141 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: climate change, developing world, climate, energy, policy / 0 Comments

The mantle of climate leadership is shifting to developing and emerging economies. In the past, if one wanted to find the best examples of ambitious climate policymaking, they would have looked to states such as Denmark, Finland or the United Kingdom. China, Brazil, South Korea and Ethiopia would not have been on the list.

Today, with a growing number of countries making ambitious commitments to mitigate carbon emissions, we cannot neglect these important efforts. Indeed, some have even argued that that policies of developing countries are now likely to do more to limit emissions than those currently being implemented by industrialized states.

Yet research on climate politics and policymaking has tended to remain stubbornly focused on the experiences of industrialized states; climate governance in the developing world has been understudied. Further, the research that does exist has tended to focus on a select few cases, neglecting the many compelling instances of climate policymaking that can be found elsewhere.

This is the important gap that Climate Governance in the Developing World aims to fill. It does so by analyzing a set of important new cases that have rarely, if ever, been looked at by scholars of climate politics.

It includes, for example, chapters on relatively understudied countries such as South Korea, Mexico, Ethiopia and Mozambique, which have distinguished themselves as climate leaders in several respects. It also examines the problems of implementing ambitious climate policies in countries such as Indonesia and Costa Rica with major forest assets. A chapter on Argentina, a country that started out aiming to be a climate leader but which shifted towards inaction as the political climate changed, is included as well. Finally, of course, our book also contains chapters that offer fresh reexaminations of some of the better-studied developing countries, such as China, India and Brazil.

Each of the chapters provides an overview of the state of climate policymaking in one of the twelve countries the book covers, as well as an explanation of the policies that have been implemented. It documents the policies that are in place, and how those policies have been implemented, drawing and reflecting upon the theoretical literature that currently exists in the process.

In doing so, the book offers compelling insights into the way in which international forces, such as diplomatic pressures, rising energy prices and the growth of climate finance, have influenced domestic politics; the way that leaders have managed the policymaking process, balancing the wishes of voters and competing interest groups, for example; and the way that transnational actors, such as international organizations and private consulting firms, have shifted views on the perceived costs and benefits of low-carbon growth and the appropriateness of ambitious climate policymaking in developing states.

Overall, the book eschews explanations that try to account for all the relevant cases with only one or two variables. Instead, it utilizes a range of cases to comment on the existing theoretical literature and it draws inductively on those cases to develop a set of new propositions - set out in the introduction - which can illuminate distinct subsets of cases and which can serve as the basis for future research in the area.

Ultimately, much remains to be done before we adequately understand the politics of climate change. But if we are to make progress we cannot overlook the growing number of positive cases appearing across the developing world. Climate Governance in the Developing World offers a first step in that direction.

David Held is Master of University College and Professor of Politics and International Relations at Durham University.

Charles Roger is a PhD student at the University of British Columbia and Liu Scholar at the Liu Institute for Global Issues.

Eva-Maria Nag is the Executive Editor of Global Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science.


Posted 1147 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: activism, protest, Charities, Corporations, conflict, NGOs / 0 Comments

 Growing numbers of activist and advocacy organizations are embracing the world’s biggest corporations as allies.

Oxfam has partnered with Marks & Spencer, Nokia, and KPMG; the Human Rights Campaign has partnerships with Apple, Microsoft, and American Airlines; the WWF has a worldwide partnership with Coca-Cola worth over US$20 million a year; and Greenpeace has teamed up with PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, and Unilever to market ‘natural refrigerants’.

Even the anti-corporate Occupy Wall Street has taken donations from business leaders. Definitely many activists remain wary of companies, well aware of the long corporate history of human rights abuses, unfair wages, and environmental damage. Yet a new ethos of cooperation is clearly emerging, with activists increasingly asserting that it’s possible to partner with corporations without compromising values and goals. ‘Corporations,’ Greenpeace USA tells us, 'can be extraordinarily dynamic, powerful, and swift allies’.

Many groups, including Greenpeace, continue to condemn corporate misconduct. Most now, however, are speaking in business- and market-friendly language. They are calling for ethical consumption, eco-labels, and voluntary corporate codes of conduct; and they are choosing to co-brand consumer products to raise money for campaigns. Many NGOs are still calling for an end to the most egregious abuses—such as ‘modern slavery’—yet far fewer are working toward broad reforms to the world economy, such as establishing fair wages and safe workplaces.

The time, energy, and resources that activist groups are devoting to partnerships and multistakeholder coalitions reflects a growing belief in—or at least a begrudging acceptance of—voluntary corporate governance and business responsibility, as well as global capitalism more broadly.

Protest Inc. investigates the consequences of these trends for the power and influence of activism and big business. We ask, how are corporate funding and values changing NGOs? How are strengthening ties between corporations and NGOs interfacing with grassroots movements? And what are the consequences of corporatization for the potential of activism to spark change within world politics?

The answers, we argue, should worry anyone who believes that ‘another world is possible’. Even as workers and environmentalists and the unemployed continue to take to the streets to call for democracy and redistribution, the general trend, we argue, is nevertheless toward a corporatization of activism that is diminishing the power of activism to bring about system-wide change.

By embedding the projects and goals of NGOs in the very systems that activists claim to want to change, corporatization is causing more and more groups to conform with, rather than strive to transform, the capitalist world.

Importantly, this isn’t a simple story of NGOs selling out to big business. Our research reveals that wide-ranging political and socioeconomic shifts are driving corporatization. These include a deepening of consumerism; a worldwide crackdown on protest, direct-action tactics, and confrontational forms of dissent; and the crumbling of the social and material infrastructure once sustaining post-WWII social movements.

Our hope in writing Protest Inc. is to inspire a conversation about why these shifts are deradicalizing activism—and how best to challenge them.

Genevieve LeBaron is Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow in Politics at the University of Sheffield.

Peter Dauvergne is Professor of International Relations and Director of the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia.

They are co-authors of Protest Inc.: The Corporatization of Activism.


Posted 1223 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Webcam, new media, anthropology, relationships, masculinity, polymedia / 0 Comments

Compared to most new media, the use of webcam platforms such as Skype and Facetime have crept up on us. Today, they have become almost taken for granted, at least for transnational communication, without much reflection upon their consequence.

Most people probably assume that these are not very profound. By contrast, this book starts by using this development to re-think what it means to be human in the light of this particular technology.

As is often the case with anthropology, it is the developments we barely reflect upon and quickly take for granted that turn out to be of the greatest significance, once we are prepared to force them from the background to the foreground of academic inspection.

Each of the subsequent chapters adds a particular argument and perspective, which gradually build to support this claim. For example, the second chapter examines the nature of self-consciousness, pointing out that the little box in the corner of the webcam screen is the first time we have ever seen ourselves as we actually appear to others in the course of mundane extended conversation.

Other chapters show how at first we see webcam as merely a kind of video-phone, the visual addition to ordinary phone calls, but increasingly it is used in `always-on’ mode’ which helps us to re-think the foundations of everyday living together within the same house. In the final chapter, we explore usage by commerce to see how webcam relates to precedents such as CCTV and camgirls to challenge our sense of truth, trust and authenticity.

Putting these together we create what we call `A theory of attainment’ which considers how we can move beyond speculative and more sensationalist ideas such as post-human or trans-human that seem to consider each new technology as though this was some fundamental challenge to being ordinarily human. Using our evidence of webcam use we try and consider a more sustainable concept of being human that can incorporate not just this technology but those that will continue to be developed in the foreseeable future.

All of this makes our book sounds rather abstract but actually we strive for a very readable style using extended ethnographic case studies of particular people and stories about their experiences. Even our theory of attainment is laid out in colloquial language which is intended to be clear and transparent, so that this book is open to both academics and non-academic readership.

Daniel Miller is professor of anthropology at University College London and one of the leading anthropologists in the world today. He is known particularly well for his work on material culture and his many books include The Comfort of Things, Stuff and Tales from Facebook.

Jolynna Sinanan has just started her post-doctoral research fellowship in anthropology at University College London, which is part of a larger project on social networking. She has recently completed her PhD at the University of Melbourne, where she examined economic development in post-conflict societies, focussing on Cambodia.


Posted 1246 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: creative industries, creative economy, globalization, copyright, intellectual property, economic development, cultural policy / 2 Comments

 

There has been a major international debate in recent years about whether creative industries provide new opportunities for developing countries to benefit economically from their abundant cultural resources. Studies such as UNCTAD’s Creative Economy reports, as well as UNESCO reports, have identified ways in which the creative industries offer new opportunities for culturally sustainable economic development.

I discuss these policies in my book Global Creative Industries. UNCTAD recommends understanding cultural policy in developing countries as a form of industry policy, where ‘cultural policy in its broad interpretation embraces aspects of a number of other areas of economic and social policy’ (UNCTAD 2008:173). They observe that:

A positive outlook for industrial policy in which creativity and innovation are important drivers of growth is well suited to the contemporary economic conditions of globalization and structural change (UNCTAD 2008: 174).

Yet there is a paradox in these policy strategies when we consider copyright and intellectual property laws in light of such proposals. They generally recommend strengthening copyright laws and better securing intellectual property rights (IPRs), in order to allow producers and distributors in the creative industries to develop more secure and sustainable business models. But the international extension of copyright is often seen as a mechanism through which the global copyright industries can exploit consumers in the developing world by charging prices for cultural products. They are also seen as being based on ‘old economy’business models unsuited to the world of ubiquitous and freely downloadable digital content.

It is in this context that media piracy, or the distribution and sale of illegally copied versions of copyrighted cultural products, has come to be seen as legitimate in the developing world. Piracy is commonly seen not as theft, but as street-level entrepreneurship in the informal economy, or as resistance to transnational media and entertainment conglomerates, using digital technologies to exercise a ‘power of the weak’ against Western multinationals.

It is not hard to see why the piracy of digital content may be seen as a form of counter-power in the face of inequalities in the global creative economy. Almost all developing nations are net importers of intellectual property. It is also hard to muster support for crackdowns on the sale of pirated copies of Avatar in the teeming cities of the developing world so that James Cameron can build more extensions to his Malibu mansion.

The case for acting to strengthen IPRs in developing nations has two elements. First, it is linked to the need to enhance the overall quality of institutions and forms of governance in order to achieve better and more equitable economic and cultural development. Compliance with global copyright regimes will encourage creative businesses to invest in developing economies, and hence improve production and distribution facilities and enable technology transfers to occur. In the language of New Institutional Economics, institutions matter, and governance frameworks in developing countries are of vital importance in shaping the performance of local creative industries, and the economy overall.

The second argument for enhancing IPRs in developing nations relates to opportunities for creative producers themselves. Widespread content piracy in developing countries has its major impacts, not upon global media conglomerates, but upon local creative producers, as it promotes a culture where not paying for creative works appears to be the norm, while transferring wealth to those operating illegally in the informal economy.

Since pirate distribution chains are well resourced, and local enforcement regimes are weak (and often administered by corrupt officials), piracy subverts development of sustainable local creative industries. This in turn makes investment in these industries, and support for local creative producers, less attractive. Moreover, it denies local creators access to secure revenue streams arising from legal commerce.

If we take the case of music as an example, the situation of musicians in developing countries often differs from that prevailing in the developed nations. In the latter case, live performance typically complements sales and royalties, and it therefore makes sense to offer ‘free’ product as a ‘hook’ to consumers.

By contrast, live performance is commonly the only secure source of income for musicians in developing countries. In the absence of actions to enable them to derive legitimate income from sales of their music, there are strong incentives for successful local musicians to relocate to places where they can make money from the sales of their music. As a result, there is a continuing exodus of creative talent, and the loss of local capacity to further develop the sector, as well as the lack of development of intra-regional and South-South trade.

Another example discussed in Global Creative Industries is the booming Nigerian film industry, commonly known as ‘Nollywood’. Its production models have been rooted in the informal economy, where low-budget films are distributed in pirated formats through street markets in major cities. While this has enabled an alternative global network to emerge, a tipping point has now been reached where producers need to make bigger-budget films in order to maintain their audiences and attract new ones, but lack the means to do so in the absence of more secure, legal and sustainable distribution arrangements.

There is thus a formalizing imperative, or a need to move beyond the low-cost, fly-by-night arrangements to viewing Nigerian film as a successful local creative industry.This would also require local state agencies to act, not only to reduce content piracy, but to develop industry policies for the sector that enable creative artists and businesses to develop appropriate production and distribution networks and sustainable business models across the value chain.

The moral justification for piracy has typically rested on the assumption that Western multinationals control production and distribution in order to exploit the consumers of the non-Western world. But where the cultural producers are themselves in the developing world, and the local creative industries require supportive institutions in order to receive returns for their risky investments, from consumers in both the developed and developing nations, then the copyright bargain is linked to the formalization of creative industries, and the future development of creative economies in the developing world.


Terry Flew is Professor of Media and Communications in the Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia. He is Vice-Chair of the Global Communications and Social Change Division of the International Communications Association.


Posted 1313 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: political philosophy, political theory, social justice, liberty, community, equality, democracy / 0 Comments

Politics is a confusing business. It’s hard to tell who believes in what.Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether anybody believes in anything. Politiciansconverge on the middle ground, worrying about focus groups, scared to saythings that might be spun into ammunition by their opponents. There is someserious debate about policies, but little about the values that underlie them.

When it comes to principles, we have to make do with rhetoric, thefuzzy invocation of feel-good concepts. Who is against community, democracy,justice, or liberty? This makes it look as if values are uncontroversial.Politics comes to seem a merely technical matter: politicians disagree abouthow best to achieve agreed goals and voters try to decide which of them has gotit right.

The reality is different. Beneath the surface, concealed by the vaguenessof these grand ideals, lurk crucial disagreements. Politicians who share theview that liberty matters, or that community is important, may have verydifferent ideas about what they involve.

Even where they agree about what values mean, they may weight themdifferently. These disagreements feed through into policy. What we ought to doabout tax rates, welfare, education, abortion, pornography, drugs, andeverything else depends, in part, on how and what we think about values.

Some politicians may be clear about which interpretations of which idealsguide their policy preferences, and how important each is compared to theothers. Many are not. And even where they are, that doesn’t necessarily helpthose of us whose job it is to choose between them.

To do that we need to be clear about our own principles. We need to beaware of the different interpretations of these ideals. We need to see whereclaims presented in their terms conflict and, when they conflict, we need todecide which is right. We need political philosophy.

This book does not tell the reader what to think. Its aim is clarificatoryand expository, not argumentative. It tries to present some of the moreimportant arguments developed by political philosophers in a way that will helpthe reader to understand the issues at stake and to decide for herself what shethinks about them.

It really wouldn’t bother me if, having read Political Philosophy, somebody continuedto hold all the political views that she did before she started, howevermistaken. What matters is that she should understand better why she holds them,and have considered the reasons others might have to reject them.

Adam Swift  is professor of political theory in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick.


Posted 1313 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: China, environmental politics, comparative politics, sustainable development / 0 Comments

There is a widespread feeling that current political institutions are incapable of solving the urgent problems we face. Domestically, the dominant political parties offer only a narrow range of choices. They are increasingly alienated from citizens who no longer see much point in joining a party.

Globally, there seems little prospect that problems like global warming and environmental pollution, endemic poverty, wars and famine, will be solved by the actions of nation-states and international institutions. But we should avoid the temptation to fall into pessimism and even fatalism in the face of domestic and global crises. That temptation reflects a limited view of politics, which looks for solutions only from the official players and established institutions.

In fact, politics takes place on a much broader and more varied stage. Examples like the collapse of Soviet communism after 1989 and the more recent events of the Arab Spring demonstrate that what happens outside formal political institutions is often more important than what happens within them.

What is more, dramatic upheavals like these can never be predicted. Social revolutions are sometimes provoked by the actions of a single individual – like the market trader, Mohamed Bouazizi, who burnt himself to death in Tunisia. The overthrow of apartheid South Africa could hardly be imagined without Nelson Mandela’s courageous resistance.

Of course, as the events of the Arab Spring also show, the results of such actions are not always predictable and sometimes the opposite of what was intended. A movement in the name of liberty and democracy leads to military dictatorship. A secular revolution inaugurates a theocratic state.

Less dramatically but similarly unpredictable, over the last few decades western countries have undergone radical shifts in attitudes to women, to ‘racial’ and ethnic minorities, to homosexuality, marriage and the family.

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream speech’ electrified the March on Washington and the anti-racist Civil Rights movement. The 1968 Stonewall Riots in New York sparked a successful movement of gay and lesbian liberation. The ‘second wave’ women’s movement has transformed attitudes to women and the family. Animal welfare, the environment and sustainability have become unavoidable issues on the agenda of politics. Major political parties have been transformed, new parties like the Greens have emerged. New laws and government agencies have been formed.

These changes came from outside the formal institutions of politics, from the civil society activism of social movements, from civil disobedience campaigns and boycotts, from cultural and identity politics.

Focussing on social movements and ‘extra-institutional’ politics is surely essential if we are to understand the political life of society in all its breadth, richness and complexity. We may not be able to predict events like the Arab Spring and longer term shifts in social attitudes. But if we adopt a wider lens on ‘the political’ in all its diversity, we are at least more likely to understand them.

At the same time, understanding politics in this more inclusive way makes it easier for us to see the point of political action. For one thing, it’s easier to see that our actions can always make a difference – even when it looks as if nothing will ever change. Politics is often surprising and almost always unpredictable. We can never know with certainty what will happen.

So there is no basis for either optimism or pessimism about the future – which is just as well, since both attitudes discourage us from acting politically. Optimism tempts us to believe that things will get better whatever we do, so why should we bother to do anything?

Pessimism makes us think that things will inevitably turn out badly, so again why should we bother to act? Unlike optimism, pessimism even tends to be self-reinforcing, because the less we do to bring about a better future, the more likely our pessimistic beliefs will turn out to be true.

By contrast, a focus on social movements helps us to see that the future always depends on what ‘we’ do in the present. It is always possible that our actions will make a difference. So there is always a point in acting politically.

Of course, none of this makes politics easy. We cannot be sure that our actions will have the effects that we want. It is never easy to get all of ‘us’ to agree what ‘we’ should do. The actions of Mohamed Bouazizi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela brought led to significant changes, but only because other people were inspired or provoked to act as well.

But the more we recognize that our actions will help to determine the future, the more that future will be something we genuinely make together.

David West is deputy head of school at the Australian National University.


Posted 1340 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: comparative sociology, political sociology, Capitalism, states, empires, social welfare, gender, culture / 0 Comments

Today there is a debate on whether the United States is an empire, and if so whether it will endure or is in crisis. We can contribute to that debate if we carefully compare the U.S. to past empires.

Similarly, there is discussion on whether states are losing power to markets and to new global or localized institutions. In the long sweep of history, states are relatively new institutions. They have displaced empires, city-states, aristocratic fiefs, tribes and other overlapping power centers only in the past few hundred years, and it is only in the last century that states have become the main source of social benefits in much of the world. States’ past trajectories can offer insights into the seriousness of current challenges to state power and the fates of social welfare systems.

My book, What is Historical Sociology?, makes the case for the importance of bringing historical perspective and analysis to the issues of concern to contemporary sociologists. Our understanding of contemporary capitalism and its crises can and should be clarified by knowledge of the origins of capitalism and the dynamics of capitalist development, global expansion and crises of the past five centuries.

If we want to explain why revolutions and social movements occur, and especially what long-term effects they have, and why more often than not they fail and leave few permanent traces, we need to look systematically at variations in the causes and courses of such events in the past.

What is Historical Sociology?
seeks to identify works of historical sociology that are most useful in addressing these questions as well as work in the history of inequality, family and gender, and culture. I hope the book will both provoke debate and show how issues of current controversy can be clarified through historical analysis. Sociology and political dispute can benefit from historical perspective. My book shows ways in which that can be done.

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Richard Lachmann is professor of the sociology of culture and comparative/historical sociology at the University at Albany, State University of New York. He is author of States and Power and Capitalists in Spite of Themselves, winner of the 2003 American Sociological Association's Distinguished Scholarly Publication Award, the 2002 Barrington Moore Best Book Award Honorable Mention from the American Sociological Association's Comparative Historical Sociology Section, and 2001 Distinguished Publication Award from the American Sociological Association's Political Sociology Section.


Posted 1340 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Capitalism, society, inequality, Social democracy, neoliberalism / 0 Comments

Very few people, apart from some of the swivel-eyed in right-wing think tanks, really believe in the general superiority of the unimpeded free market as the best way to organize human affairs.

Most, whether experts or persons in the street, would probably agree with the statement that, while the market is a very useful device, it can have negative and damaging consequences, and we need various forms of protection from these.

In practice all democratic governments have to pursue some balance of that kind. Nevertheless, in today’s world it is parties (Conservatives, most Liberals, some Christian Democrats) that take as their standard pushing for ever more market, ever less protection from it, who seem confident that they represent the spirit of the times.

It is those that stand explicitly for pursuing the balance (Labour Parties, Social Democrats, Greens) who are depressed, telling themselves and being told by everyone else that they are out of touch.

They even have notably less energy than the new force in today’s politics, the xenophobic populists, who pretend that the whole problem of fitting markets to society does not exist, and that all woes are caused by foreigners, especially immigrants.

This absurd situation needs to be set right. Admittedly, the problems we nearly all have with unrestrained markets are diverse and not necessarily mutually compatible. Sometimes some of us need protection from the threat that we might lose our jobs for no good reason; or, if job loss is inevitable, we want the security of generous unemployment pay while we (with help) search for another.

At other times others of us will want our local environment protected from damage by a large development project; at all times all of us need our global environment protected from various man-made threats. At other times again some of us want to know that the medical staff, carers, teachers with whom we come into contact are motivated by a professional commitment rather than a need to make as much money out of us as possible.

And we should like to have some reason to believe that something out there is ensuring that the banks we use are not governed by those seeking profits through dishonest practices. Readers can think of their own examples to extend the list. Behind it stands the dominant fact that globalization is extending the scope of markets ever further, without any similar pressures to extend protection from the disruption they cause.

Not only are the concerns we all have with completely free markets not necessarily generally shared; we cannot always expect that our objections to some instance of the market’s disruptive force will be seen as reasonable. The market might be serving larger goals than our own immediate issues.

To take a very odd example, the Conservative–Liberal coalition in the UK is currently repealing a mass of regulations that have enabled local people to object to building developments; at the same time they are moving in exactly the opposite direction, strengthening local objection rights, on one issue alone: the construction of wind farms.

This is a clear example of protecting people from market forces, but it is odd for two reasons. First, it protects some aspects of local environments at the expense of far larger environmental problems caused by conventional energy sources. Second, in limiting competition in the energy market by restricting the growth of wind sources, the main interests it is protecting from the market are the large petroleum and other energy corporations.

The example reveals the complexity of the relations we all have to the market and its consequences. None of us can seriously take up a stance of always favouring it or always opposing it. But there must be a strong prima facie advantage for political movements that place confronting the challenge of finding the balance at the heart of their philosophy and public appeal, rather than those that just talk of the need for more market until forced to make ad hoc compromises – as in the wind farm example.

It could once have been objected that labour movements and social democrats were primarily hostile to the market and therefore no better placed to take up this balanced stance than dogmatic free marketeers. The great achievement of the New Labour, Neue Mitte and similar movements within social democratic parties during the 1990s was to move those parties away from such a stance, into positions of full appreciation of what markets can achieve, provided they were set in the moderating context of the welfare state and various forms of regulation.

Their error was to move so far in that direction that they tended to treat social policy and regulation as respectful nods to the museum pieces of their movement’s histories, rather than as vital and highly relevant sources of new political energy as we face the ever intensifying disruption of globalized capitalism and markets, with their complex mix of gains and threats to daily life.

Disparate though the problems we all have with markets may be, there is a unifying theme in the general proposition: ‘more market, yes please; creative policies to humanize and mediate its effects, yes please also’. This formula provides the base for linking together people worried about employment security, those anxious for the environment, those concerned with the protection of professional standards from various service providers. We might not all share all these concerns, but we can all appreciate that there is an underlying theme to which we are all at times joined.

Negative externalities

The technical economics term that unites these themes is that of negative externalities: those consequences of economic action that harm certain interests, but which do not feature in the cost calculations of the market transactions involved. The most obvious examples come from pollution: a factory’s effluent might pollute a river, but the costs of the pollution do not enter the factory’s operational costs, and in an unregulated market it will therefore ignore them.

The phrase ‘negative externalities’ is hardly the stuff of public political debate, but finding a better group of words is a task for the spin doctors. The idea itself is powerful and unifying, and brings us to a further major need for the political left: rediscovering the potency of the ideas of citizenship and shared needs.

Economic theory is most at ease with the idea of externalities when they affect an identifiable group of individuals who can be asked how much it is worth to them to pay to rid themselves of a specified negative externality. Are they willing to pay enough to make it worth while for the factory not to pollute, or for medical practitioners or teachers not to be concerned with making a profit out of their clients at the expense of their real needs? How much will people pay to ensure themselves against job loss?

If people are not prepared to pay enough, then the externality is not sufficiently damaging for the market activity concerned to be modified.

There are obvious objections to this stance on grounds of the distribution of income and wealth, but there are further issues: what if the externality affects a large, indefinite, not precisely knowable range of persons, and if the risks of damage caused by it are large and very difficult to calculate, such that it is not feasible to estimate how much those negatively affected would have to pay to offset it?

The characteristic externality risks in a globalized economy where resources are wielded on a vast scale typically have this characteristic. It might be feasible to ask if an angling association is willing to pay a factory to stop polluting the river where its members fish; it is not possible to ask the world’s population how much we are willing to pay to prevent economic activity from exacerbating climate change.

On a smaller but still general scale, it is not possible for millions of individuals to know how much they need to pay to protect themselves from labour market uncertainty and to equip themselves for new jobs in an economy, the contours of which are as yet unknown. Only shared action at the level of public policy can help us. Political programmes that place all stress on advancing markets, with only ad hoc adjustments from time to time, are not capable of grasping this kind of challenge.

Individuals and the collective

Seeing matters this way addresses a further problem that is currently agonizing social democrats: they seem stuck with a primary orientation to ‘collective’ things, while people are becoming more ‘individualistic’.

This issue presents itself in particular as one where these individuals are ‘aspirational’ in contrast with a rump of layabouts. The aspirational are the ‘strivers’, rather than the ‘shirkers’ whom collective social policy seems to conspire to help at their expense. Encouraging strivers is therefore what pro-market policies do, says the mantra; protecting skivers is what the welfare state does.

But this entire political stance is nonsense. The last thing any governing elite wants is a fully striving, aspirational population. One of the lessons of the financial crisis, the LIBOR scandal, the payment protection scandal, and other banking scandals, is that the most perfect examples of aspirational striving that our society knows, operators in the financial sector, include criminality and dishonesty as fundamental instruments in the entirely rational pursuit of their goals.

Also, in political rhetoric the aspirational are always seen as nested in families. Why this defection from pure individual striving? Should not the truly aspirational also be seeking to improve on their personal relationships, refusing to be tied down to any particular domestic collectivity?

They are also usually depicted as being patriotically tied to their nation. Why should this be so, when we know that the most successful entrepreneurs don’t even pay tax in their own country, unless it happens to have the lowest tax regime?

A true society of striving individuals would be an ungovernable mess of systematic tax dodgers, inveterate financial criminals and chronic adulterers. Governments do not want us all to be like that, just a few members of an elite.

They need the rest of us to be moderate, restraining our striving by respect for law and various moral codes. They want us to display market behaviour, but with its potential for damage checked and regulated – just as in the general stance towards markets that I am advocating here.

If this is the case, it is hypocritical to address voters as though they needed little more from public life than to be liberated to pursue their personal strivings and choices, as though mass political discourse need address people no differently from the way in which advertisements for products address consumers.

Perhaps political parties have spent so long learning the techniques of commercial advertising that they know no other language. But the collective, and ways of talking about it, are essential, as humans cannot survive outside of collectivities, and it is the job of the political world to work out how we should do this.

Showing how individual needs and circumstances fit into this bigger picture is essential, but it cannot replace the bigger picture itself. To try to do so amounts to a de facto disenfranchisement of the majority of the population, whose attention is turned away from the general issues affecting their society towards their private concerns alone.

Politics has to address people as citizens, not just as consumers, with rights and responsibilities that entitle and require them to think seriously about the things they need that cannot be achieved through the market, or which will actually be damaged if left to the market. Debate over negative externalities has to become central to democratic life within a global economy.

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Colin Crouch is an emeritus professor of the University of Warwick, specializing in work on European labour markets and problems of contemporary capitalism. His previous works include Post-democracy (Polity Press, 2004), and The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism (Polity Press, 2011). His new book, Making Capitalism Fit for Society, will be published by Polity in early September.


Posted 1363 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: gaming, computers, digital, online, roleplay, society / 0 Comments

My book is a contribution to the social history of computer games. It wasn’t obvious to anyone what the first computer game programs were for when they were created in the late 1950s and early 60s. The idea of the computer game as much as the technical objects  themselves had to be produced and, in various ways, defended and argued for.

Since the first games were developed in serious sounding research institutes on very expensive machines, calling them ‘games’ might even have been a little bit disconcerting.

To get from that situation in the 1960s to the one we have now, where gaming is a multi-billion dollar industry involving some of the largest technology companies, perceptions had to change. This change was not technologically determined but involved the interaction of technical objects with cultural and social forces which have shaped games and gaming as we know them today.

In my book I describe how a culture was formed around game programs that facilitated the switch from ‘games played on a computer’ to ‘computer games’. People stopped feeling the need to rationalize games as ‘diagnostic’ or ‘training’ programs, which is how early games like ‘Spacewar!’ were often described, and started to think about gaming as an inherently worthwhile activity in its own right.

That transition occurred in the second half of the 1980s and it is associated with the emergence and consolidation of new evaluative criteria for games, especially the idea of ‘gameplay’, and with the appearance of a new subject: the gamer.

The universal recognition computer games now enjoy was to a large extent accomplished by the young people who distinguished themselves from older computer obsessives and other youth on the basis that they ‘got it’ about games; they knew what made good games good and other people didn’t.

Through the pages of gaming magazines in the 1980s and 90s, a culture of taste was established that unified the community and enabled it to establish the computer game as a special kind of object that they related to positively and which other, non-gaming publics could not ignore.

A new ‘imagined community’ was created, of people who identified themselves as gamers and who shared ideas with each other about what made a ‘good’ computer game. Gamers and gaming were not merely a by-product of the commercial activity of the game corporations (Nintendo and Sega) who dominated the industry in the early 90s.

Gamers bought the games but they also made a nuisance of themselves by criticizing them and demanding more controversy from them than was comfortable for large media conglomerates whose primary concern was with their public image.

The arrival of gaming, carried essentially by this new community, was an important moment in the development of contemporary culture and society.
In the book I chart its importance through its impact on our social imaginary: the facility we all have for making sense of experiences in terms of the idea of ‘society’.

A coherent social concept is a product of the play of our social imaginary with available technologies and the kinds of information we have coming in, so to speak, about the wider world. As gaming became a near-global cultural practice it imposed changes on our social map, altering significant parts of the topography.

The 1990s was the decade of the ‘user friendly’ interface; the time when technology changed from being big, challenging machines into colourful, playful devices. Games spearheaded this development, familiarizing us with the idea that computers could be pleasing and fun. They were second only to e-mail as ‘first use’ applications in the spread of the Internet for example.

The meaning of work has also changed. The values of gaming culture are now diffuse and inform much of what we do from day to day. As we use playful computers for shopping, keeping in touch, working and everything else, so all our activity is infused by a sense of levity and play that characterizes digital culture. This is by no means an unambiguous benefit to society.

Precarious and exploitative labour practices are enforced and policed under the guise of what business studies people are increasingly inclined to call ‘gamification’. In the book I suggest that this re-imagining of technology and of work environments has to be seen as a technological extension of Boltanski and Chiapello’s (2005) idea of a ‘new spirit of capitalism’.

There is a kind of cynicism that is promoted by the idea that everything is just a game. This reflects the articulation of gaming values to the neo-liberal formatting of subjective experience.

It’s not difficult to see the connection: gaming is normally a competitive activity and it involves intense activity in the pursuit of one’s own interests or those of a ‘team’. Most gaming is about concentrated focus on the management of dynamic sets of variables and this comports strongly with contemporary forms of labour.

Over the last few decades the ‘gamer generation’ have grown up and entered the workplace. They seem ill-inclined to participate in solidaristic activities with goals that question the rules of the game and even if they were, they don’t usually have the time. The game may not be good for them but it is addictive.

I conclude the book by reflecting on the aesthetics of games and how they might provide the basis for a response to this situation. Most media theorists have focused on the content of games, treating them as texts subject to the same interpretive procedures as TV shows or films. In my view the real significance of games lies in the movement they demand from their players and the discrepancies, dislocations and breakdowns of meaning that guide, inform and intersect this movement.

The ambience of playful media like games tends to undermine or inhibit our capacity to form a stable, coherent image of society. Games are in this sense emblematic of what Boltanski (2011) calls the ‘viscosity of the real’: before we can get a firm handle on it, society has moved and we have to start again.

I suggest that some games offer powerful allegories of this and that in so doing they create spaces in which we are invited to reflect on the nature of our connection with others.


References
Boltanski, L. Chiapello, E. (2005) The New Spirit of Capitalism London: Verso
Boltanski, L. (2011) On Critique Cambridge: Polity.


Posted 1431 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Celebrity politics, celebrity diplomacy, humanitarianism, fandom, cultural consumption, popular culture, political journalism / 0 Comments

In recent years, there has been an increased involvement of celebrities in the political process. As P. David Marshall has commented, politicians have constructed ‘public personalities’ which have an ‘affective function’ in the organisation of interests and issues.

Clearly, these figures perceive their usage of the mass and multi-media to be an effective means through which to influence public opinion. This has had a profound impact upon the practice of politics, and the way in which it is communicated.

But how far do celebrity politicians and politicised celebrities actually affect outcomes? Traditionally, many academics view celebrity politics as a ‘manufactured process’ fabricated by media exposure. Public interest in celebrity has been manipulated through contrived, pseudo-events staged by a cynical media.

However, as celebrities have become politically engaged within the public sphere, this literature requires a re-evaluation.

John Street’s article ‘Celebrity Politicians: Popular Culture and Political Representation’ argues that celebrity politics has a given a greater expression to the representation of democratic behaviour. In particular, Street asks whether celebrities can use their reputations to reinvigorate politics with new ideas and an aggregated form of political agency.

He is concerned about the connection celebrities can make with the public through their ability to be ‘in touch’ with popular sentiment. This has been mediated through ‘fandom’ in which an ‘intimacy with distant others’ can be understood as the basis of political representation. Street contends that such a representational relationship is established by the ‘affective capacity’ of the celebrities and modern politicians’ cultural performances.

Consequently, as celebrities and image candidates assume the authority to promote political agendas among target audiences/citizens, it becomes necessary to reflect upon their significance in election campaigns, policy agendas and activism.

Street’s concerns about the relationship between political aesthetics and democratic practice segue into a wider debate about the dynamics which are shaping post-democratic societies. Here it is contended that traditional civic duties are being replaced by alternative forms of virtuous participation.

Within this new political environment, different types of agency such as celebrity politics have become centrifugal forces for public engagement. In this respect, Street’s analysis can be linked to Henrik Bang’s arguments that new forms of political capital are emerging as ‘everyday makers’ utilise community based narratives to engage with one another.

Similarly, John Keane’s concept of ‘monitory democracy’, in which consumer-led forms of representation become the measurement of accountability, has considered how changes to the matters of ‘voice’ and ‘output’ have reformed democratic practices.

In the light of these concerns, this analysis employs the United States’ (US) President Barack Obama’s 2008 election campaign as a case study. Within this campaign, Obama defined himself as a celebrity politician and utilised innovations in communication technologies to re-engage with the American electorate.

His story was one of a rapid rise from being a little-known state senator for the 13th District of Chicago, who made a well-received speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, to the senator for Illinois in 2004, to that of a presidential candidate who deployed information innovations within his campaign. Throughout his campaigns, his candidacy demonstrated how demo-elites should remain in constant contact with the electorate to build for success.

Therefore, Obama’s ascendency to the US presidency can be seen to be representative of the confluence of the reconfigured relationships that have emerged between the Everyday Makers, Monitory Democracy and the political classes.

Sean Redmond has described Obama as a ‘liquid celebrity’ who effectively communicated with those American citizens who had become disenfranchised by machine politics. He formed linkages with non-traditional activists by being a charismatic authority figure who promoted solidarity by fixing a communion with the public founded upon the construction of triumphant spectacularism. Through his catchphrase of ‘yes we can’ he promised the US electorate a palpable, yet undefined, sense of ‘togetherness’ to deal with the nation’s economic, political and foreign policy ills.

Moreover, within his website MyBarackObama.com, Obama established a form of celebrity performance that was built on reciprocity and shared meaning to encourage the popular scrutiny of his political deliberations. The often disaffected ‘mobile youth’ gravitated towards him and his messages of change, hope and identity.

However, in the fall-out of Obama’s presidency, it is necessary to examine Bang and Keanes’ arguments concerning the reconfiguration of democratic behaviour to consider whether they provide the appropriate means through which to capture the value of celebrity politicians. Their arguments aid understanding of the role of celebrity politicians such as Obama in creating ‘spaces’ to define links between the political classes and the public.

Yet, if the normative expectations of celebrity politics are limited to a measurement of voice and output alone, such activity has no greater merit than in relaying the values of the demo-elite to the public or in allowing oppositional groups to articulate their interests.

Consequently, this analysis contends that for celebrity politics to have an appropriate value, it must be seen to enhance civic virtues through the mechanisms of input and agency as much as illustrating the openings for voice and output.

For celebrity politicians to have a democratic worth they need to demonstrate ideological substance and provide clarity in establishing a fixed range of meanings upon which people may achieve a real sense of connection with political causes. Consequently, such forms of activity should provide the basis upon which citizens may participate in terms of their own political efficacy to define a wider sense of the common good.

This post is a summary of a journal article originally published in the British Journal of Politics and International Relations.

This post first appeared on the LSE Politics and Policy blog.


Posted 1432 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: gridlock, global cooperation, policy making / 0 Comments

Summary: Global governance is failing even as we need it most. Ironically, many of the causes of contemporary gridlock stem in part from the previous successes of the multilateral order.

The world has not been able to negotiate a new global trade deal for 19 years. After 21 years of climate talks, we have yet to find a way to meaningfully reduce the amount of carbon pouring into the atmosphere. And just 5 years after the worst financial crisis since the 1930s forged enormous political will to reduce the risks created by global financial flows, regulation is increasingly balkanized and, in many places, far too weak.

The multilateral institutions we rely on to solve global problems are less and less able to do so, even as the problems themselves grow worse.

To see why, think about your last trip in a car. After World War II, developed countries, and especially the United States, set about building modern road networks. In the US, the interstate highway system, as the project was called, cut the time required to cross the country from weeks to days.

This shift paved the way not just for cars, but for decades of economic growth and fundamental changes in the nature of American society. People began moving to communities where you had to have a car, or two, to get around.

Soon the existing roads became clogged, and more had to be built. But this just led to more people getting cars and moving further from urban centers, generating yet more traffic. And new kinds of problems emerged: vulnerability to gas prices, smog, sedentary lifestyles, etc. People began to spend more time sitting, gridlocked, in their cars than they spent with their kids. In other words, the postwar project to increase mobility succeeded extraordinarily, but in doing so created a new set of problems that road-building couldn’t solve.

The same paradox now afflicts the other ‘interstate’ network created after World War Two - our system of global governance through multilateral institutions. After the war, the leading countries, lead by the United States, built an extraordinary set of multilateral institutions.

Bodies like the United Nations created a system of collective security, and the Bretton Woods institutions set the world on a path toward managed economic integration. Over the next decades a virtuous cycle ensued. Cooperation between countries allowed companies and individuals to forge connections across borders.

These links increased mutual dependence, creating greater need for institutionalized cooperation to manage common problems. So states created more global bodies and treaties, new international organizations, international standards and regulations - thousands of which now exist, regulating most aspects of our lives. Cooperation undergirded globalization, and deepening globalization, in turn, required more cooperation to manage.

For most of the postwar period, this process of ‘self-reinforcing interdependence’ worked extraordinarily well, at least compared to any other historical period. It worked so well that multilateral cooperation - like road-building - created conditions that halted and even undermined its own success.

We call this phenomenon gridlock, a basket of trends that is today making international cooperation more difficult, even as deepening globalization and interdependence mean that we need global cooperation now more than ever.

Four separate dynamics have combined to produce gridlock. One, the rise of new powers like India, China, and Brazil means that a more diverse array of interests have to be hammered into agreement for any global deal to be made. Two, the problems themselves have also grown more complex, penetrating deep into domestic policies.  Three, the institutions created 70 years ago have proven difficult to change as established interests cling to outmoded decision-making rules that fail to reflect current conditions. And last, in many areas international institutions have proliferated with overlapping and contradictory mandates, creating a confusing fragmentation of authority.

What can be done? Recognizing that gridlock is a general condition of global politics - not just an issue-specific blockage - is an important step toward designing effective solutions. But at the same time, it militates against a hope in ‘silver bullet’ solutions. The problems facing global cooperation are long-term trends, and the solutions are likely to be equally gradual.

Several trends offer promise. First, even as traditional state-to-state international organizations stall, new forms of cross-border cooperation that involve companies, networks of cities, NGOs and other types of actors are filling some of the ‘governance gap’ gridlock creates. In most issue areas it remains to be seen how effective these new institutions can be, but they offer at least a partial solution.  

Second, while gridlock trends make political leadership unlikely, they do not render it impossible. Space remains for individual policymakers or broad social movements to force change. The key here may be in new actors - or coalitions of actors - forging links across issue areas. The radical increase in interconnectedness that has overwhelmed our existing institutional ‘technology’ may yet lead us to clearer roads ahead.

These themes are explored in a new book by the authors entitled Gridlock: Why Global Cooperation is Failing when We Need it Most, published 31 May 2013.

Thomas Hale
is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford University. His research explores how we can manage transnational problems effectively and fairly. He holds a PhD in politics from Princeton University.

David Held
is master of University College, Durham and professor of politics and international relations at Durham University. He is also a director of Polity, and general editor of Global Policy.

Kevin Young is assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His research focuses on international political economy, the politics of financial regulation and transnational policy networks. His recent work appears in the Review of International Political Economy, Regulation and Governance and Public Administration.


Posted 1466 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: China, media, culture, creative, art, design, entertainment / 0 Comments

Creative Industries in China is drawn from my research over the past decade on how Chinese policy makers, artists, designers and media practitioners are attempting to change a widespread perception that China is an uncreative nation. The ‘world factory’ portrayal is an uncomfortable reminder for many of economic dominance which is yet to be translated into the cultural sphere.

For this reason ‘industrialisation of culture’ has captured a great deal of policy attention since 2003. While the term ‘cultural industries’ is the politically correct usage for university research centres that solicit the support of the central government in Beijing, the term ‘creative industries’ has captured the imagination of liberal minded thinkers, small businesses and grassroots organisations.

In this book I describe three clusters of activity: art, design and media. In doing so, I have attempted to produce a book that will reach beyond the scholarly community. I assemble a diversity of sources, some from government reports, some from industry, but most from academia. The clusters are heterogeneous, crossing disciplinary boundaries.

I look at a broad range of creative sectors: painting, performance, industrial design, urban design, fashion, television, film and online video. I examine the political and institutional environments that enable and constrain innovation, for instance political factions, media regulation, censorship, copyright as well as regional variations in urban planning and cultural governance. Throughout the book I evaluate China’s attempts to renovate its national soft power, that is, China’s cultural attractiveness within the international community.

In writing this book I was presented with a methodological dilemma. Creativity obviously varies in different societies at different periods. So what kind of criteria should one use to measure it? In recognising a strong tendency to attribute Western origins to creativity and to the creative industries, my concern is to show how applicable this ‘gold standard’ is in the People’s Republic of China, a nation that is itself endeavouring to transform in to an ‘innovative nation’ by 2020.

How can we understand non-standard varieties? How many of the outputs listed in government reports in China are examples of originality or novelty? By the same token, the standard definition (of creative industries), incubated by the UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in the late 1990s, has undergone significant mutation in its travels throughout Asia. I show why this has occurred and reveal the consequences of such transformation for regional governance in China.

In my recent work, and throughout this book, I have opted for a functional definition of creativity.  I seek to downplay the emphasis on novelty that pervades innovation literature, which idealises heroic risk-taking creative entrepreneurs. In this book creativity is the ‘fitting of new ideas and alternative visions to existing norms, values and patterns’. Accordingly, the industries that governments like to promote as cultural and creative are frequently typified by mundane practices.

To be sure, they represent aggregations of so-called creative classes—artists, writers, filmmakers, designers and developers - but much of what is produced (and counted in reports) is the result of pragmatic variations of existing models and templates.

The term ‘creativity’ has a certain promiscuity, which allows it to be applied in many contexts. In many cases in China it is effectively harmonized, stripped of its critical elements. To understand its uptake in China I consider its dissemination within a society where freedom of expression has been devalued as a means of social organisation.

This is not to deny the inventiveness, ingenuity and imagination of Chinese artists and craftsmen - or the desire for openness. As I argue in chapter 2, cultural exchange has had a long history in traditional China, but innovators have had to contend with extended periods of Confucian (and neo-Confucian) orthodoxy. In modern China conformity to political dictates has rendered creativity a zone of uncertainty.

The upside of promiscuity is that the uses of creativity cut across different disciplines and fields of endeavour, psychology, business, aesthetics, science and education such that there are many views and many ‘experts’. To take the example of visual art, anyone can become a connoisseur by following art trends, joining art circles and reading art history.

However, as the Canadian conceptual art group the N.E. Thing Goes company showed, anything can be art; art only has to be thought by someone as art for it to be so. The question of value is another consideration. As the sociologist Richard Sennett points out, the lament ‘You do not understand me’ is ‘a not entirely enticing selling point’.

The book examines many of the selling points of Chinese culture. But more than this it looks at the sustainability of an indigenous model of creativity based on expedient adaptation. Is this the model that China should retain and risk being typecast as a follower nation rather than becoming an innovative nation?

I show how China is seeking to exploit creativity to climb the global value chain but I also demonstrate the limits imposed on creativity by a politically induced focus on quantity over quality, harmony over risk-taking, and economic development over human rights. While the government’s call for extending China’s soft power has increased productivity of its cultural sectors this has yet to impact on the most important indicator, China’s international cultural attractiveness.

Michael Keane is professor in the Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland University of Technology. He is the author of China’s New Creative Clusters: Governance, Human Capital and Investment (2011) and Created in China: the Great New Leap Forward (2007).



Posted 1476 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: media, mass media, media ethics / 0 Comments

This article was originally published on Think Africa Press, authored by James Wan.

Think Africa Press spoke to theorist Lilie Chouliaraki about how solidarity has become a consumerist choice rather than a conviction, and more about ourselves than others.

‘Doing good’ has never been easier. As clever charity adverts and glamorous celebrity activists insist, all you have to do is send a text to donate a dollar, click a button to share an appeal, wear a wristband to show your support, or sponsor a friend to run a mile.

But this isn’t the revolution everyone wants. Critics call this kind of effortless engagement ‘slacktivism’ or ‘clicktivism’ and denounce its narcissistic, celebrity-saturated, easy-come-easy-go nature. Meanwhile, proponents insist it does the job and say that engagement is only an inch deep if it stops there; who’s to say today’s uninformed clicktivist won’t go on to become tomorrow’s expert activist?

For the most part, the debate stops there – critics armed with scorn, defenders with balance sheets. One of the few exceptions to this polarised debate, however, is media and communications theorist Lilie Chouliaraki.

In her incisive, thoroughly engaging and accessibly-written new book, The Ironic Spectator: Solidarity in the Age of Post-Humanitarianism, Chouliaraki critically examines new forms of humanitarian engagement and communication. In looking at charity appeals, celebrity activism, rock concerts, and news reporting, Chouliaraki outlines a recent shift towards consumerist marketing strategies, and attempts to work out what they tells us about contemporary Western understandings of solidarity and morality.

She spoke to Think Africa Press about her findings:

What overarching questions were you trying to answer in The Ironic Spectator?

There are two main questions. The first was a general question about how we communicate the suffering and vulnerability of others, something the field of development has struggled over for decades. The debate has been there forever – and it is a moral and political rather than just an aesthetic debate – but I thought we weren’t getting very satisfactory responses. I felt we needed to revisit those questions, approaching the topic in a different way or with a fresh perspective.

The second question – and the main trigger for the book – was a recent trend in charity campaigns. New forms of campaigning have emerged, which are very advanced in the way they market international humanitarian brands, but in doing so employ a new logic to previous forms of humanitarian communication. I was intrigued by these new campaigns’ clean aesthetic, their sanitisation of the message, their total focus on the consumer, and their suppression of the sufferer in their messages. I theorise this new logic as ‘post-humanitarian’ and wanted to understand what these new manifestations tell us about where we are today in terms of representing vulnerability.

Could you elaborate on what do you mean by ‘post-humanitarian’?

Post-humanitarian campaigns rely on a set of aesthetic choices that move away from traditional portrayals of suffering others, both negative and positive.

Negative portrayals – which emerged after colonialism but are still seen today – show sufferers in pure destitution, as passive and as lacking agency; sick children lying down, helpless and emaciated for example (see below). They try to illicit feelings of guilt in viewers to push them to donate.

 

Positive portrayals emerged out of a new consciousness in the mid-1980s around the time of Live Aid and in response to a growing critique over how we depict Africa. This new ‘positive’ imagery reversed the negative stereotype, but remained a stereotype in that it was all too positive (see below). Campaigners were well-intentioned in wanting to foster more empathy and identification with victims, but the result was that you almost couldn’t see the need to donate as there seemed to be nothing different between the supposed sufferers and viewers.

 

The post-humanitarian aesthetic is a response to those two problematic forms of representation. Charities asked ‘if neither negative nor positive imagery works, what can we do?’ The answer I think they came up with was simply to do away with sufferers altogether and focus appeals on those who give, treating citizens as consumers in the same way any market brand does. ActionAid’s Find Your Feeling appeal, Oxfam’s Be Humankind or the very successful Kony2012 campaign are examples of this new aesthetic style.


 
What are the consequences of this shift?

There are two main consequences: firstly, it takes those who suffer outside the field of representation. They are not there most of the time and if they are, they are there in a metaphorical way where we can’t really see them and can’t really connect with them. Secondly, post-humanitarian appeals take away the reason we should be acting. It is as if justification does not matter any more. This is perhaps because charities figure that we already know why we give, that we already associate with a brand, or that we are sick and tired of listening to reasons.

These changes, in turn, crucially alter the nature of the solidarity these messages are ‘selling’ to us. Our solidarity towards vulnerable others, they seem to say, no longer has to rely on conviction and on the values of care and social justice as before, but is more a matter of individual choice – for instance the choice to click donate, buy a Christmas present, do an online quiz, follow a favourite celebrity and so on. Solidarity here becomes a lifestyle choice – one of the many we have in our consumer culture to make us ‘feel good’. The term ‘post-humanitarian’ thus signals that we are moving away from the moral values of care for the other and social justice that motivated humanitarian communication in the past.

Many in the development sector say that given the celebrity-driven, consumerist culture we live in, these branded marketing strategies are the only way to get people to have any engagement.

Yes, that’s right and I understand why campaigners are using post-humanitarian strategies. It is exactly this celebrity, showbiz environment which so much contributes to enabling and legitimising these approaches.

In the book, I make some recommendations as to how to move on from here and I refer to examples of existing practices that can combine marketing with an adherence to social values. But for now, let me just point out that if you always play the game under terms that are already set for you by the market, then you are always going to have to adopt logics that are foreign to you and that somehow contaminate or distort your message to the extent you don’t have control over it any more.

But why does this matter? After all, levels of donations have been rising.

Yes, donations have been rising in the UK in recent years, which is very good. But at the same time, relevant studies suggest that we have seen a fall in the quality of public engagement (for instance, Henson and Lindstrom 2010 or Darnton and Martin 2011). People are giving but don’t seem to care.

Now we cannot know everything about everything, and we cannot care with the same intensity about everything. But between that and the opposite end of the continuum – a consumer with a standing order every month because it makes him or her feel good – there is a whole range of moral and political positions we might want to explore and seek to adopt.

Why should we do that? I think that comes down to the fundamental question of values. We live in a world that extends beyond us and we need to ask ourselves whether we have a responsibility to care about what is going on in this world. If the answer is yes, which I hope it is for most of us, then there is hope. But without that fundamental sense of care, the world is not going to be a good place for anyone – including ourselves, but particularly for those who are in need. Money isn’t enough. We need some degree of emotional connection and a sense of understanding that doesn’t have to be a deep, complicated sense of expertise about things, but a sense of ‘I know what’s going on, I know the reasons I’m giving, and I can do more if needed’.

Humanitarian communication plays a paramount role in this process of ‘moral education’. This is why it should not only be about marketing but also about cultivating this sense of latent alertness – what one might call ‘monitorial cosmopolitan citizenship’. You’re there, you watch, you know. You don’t have to act, but you’re certainly not just engulfed in your own concerns and narcissistic view of the world.

Humanitarian organisations justify corporate-style marketing strategies by saying they are the initial step in cultivating greater engagement. Glitzy adverts or celebrities draw in lots of people in the hope some of them will go on to learn more – it’s not one or the other.

I think that is exactly the logic behind it, and it might work for some people – I’m sure it does work for some people – but I wonder if this is enough. And, as I mentioned earlier, overall, people’s self-reported concern about world poverty and humanitarian issues is falling.

We must ask ourselves: Do we want to see humanitarian engagement as a marketplace in which organisations fish for customers who might then come closer and become faithful to a particular product? Do we want charities to be more like corporations which adopt market strategies and vie for customers using all sorts of promotional devices, which may end up educating some, but only some rather than all? Or do we want, in a consistent manner, to keep an important civic conversation going about who these people are and why we should care about them?

How then could the development sector go about cultivating a more genuine sense of solidarity?

In my book, I make two broad suggestions:

Firstly, bring those who suffer – the whole point of why humanitarianism exists – back in. Let them speak so we can hear their voices, because that has happened at no point in the past and it is not happening now either. Create some form of communication and some form of interaction. It can be minimal and imaginative but let them talk and let us listen and, even, interact with them so we can start engaging with them in different ways.

Secondly, bring justification back in. Remind us, subtly but constantly, as to why this is important. There’s a concern for social justice that we tend to forget, particularly in this celebrity showbiz culture. We must keep focussing on how to create the conditions so that these types of suffering don’t exist anymore and on how we can struggle for a society in which the value of social justice is there in our vision constantly.

Opening up that space where we aren’t just seduced and don’t just donate, tweet or click is incredibly important. It may be hard but we need to try to keep alive the idea and ideal of a society of cosmopolitan citizens, rather than self-satisfied consumers.

More broadly speaking, the development sector has to become more sceptical about the basis of its business, which has become completely number-driven. At the moment, it is driven by concerns for efficiency and getting more donations. Similarly, nowadays those working in development studies (academics and policy-makers) have, for the most part, little interest in understanding relations of power and histories and cultures. The field has simply become concerned with how to manage to the micro-finances of nations so they can manage their debts.

Those in the development sector and development studies need more scepticism, a more critical attitude, and a return to the more fundamental questions of humanity and solidarity that go beyond the market and beyond numbers.

The photographs above are by Cate Turton/DfID (negative image), Adam Cohn (positive image) and Ryohei Noda (post-humanitarian image).

Lilie Chouliaraki is professor of media and communications at the London School of Economics.


Posted 1498 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: critical PR studies, promotions, political communication, consumer culture / 0 Comments

In the twenty-first century, promotion is everywhere and everything has become promotable: goods, services, people, organisations, ideas, nations, cultures, pasts and futures. But where is this promotional ubiquity in modern times taking us and how are we to assess the changes it is bringing?
 
Over the course of a century, ad hoc promotional practices became 'professionalised' and systemised on a wider scale. Individuals, organisations and public institutions, in turn, have come to internalise these promotional practices and discourses.

Techniques developed to sell all manner of everyday goods to consumers are now reproduced in many areas of society beyond commodities markets.

Popular culture, news and information, politics, government, finance, economies, charities and interest groups, markets and businesses, have all been reshaped in the cause of promotion. Individuals, in both their personal and working lives, have become more self-promotional.

Such developments have wider implications for society, culture, market economies and democracies. Promotional Cultures documents many of these changes, offers a range of perspectives with which to evaluate them, and explores where their wider implications.

Aeron Davis is professor of political communication at Goldsmiths, University of London.


Posted 1511 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: city, urbanization, rural China, migration, planning, urban governance, urban culture, poverty, urban sociology, urban geography / 0 Comments

China was historically an agrarian society with the majority of its population engaged in farming and living in rural areas, and this configuration continued until the last quarter of the twentieth century. But the country has aggressively urbanized since, adding more than 400 new cities and hundreds of millions of urban residents over the last three decades.

The shifting demographic trends are certainly striking, but the urgency to study Chinese urbanization comes from a different source, that is, the deeper transformation of Chinese society, as manifested in the changing governing institutions, the redistribution of wealth, and the remaking of citizen rights. Urban China sets out to understand how China has urbanized over a short period of time and what an urbanized China means for its citizens and for the rest of the world.

A critical analysis of China’s urban transition can also bring insights to a number of broader issues, such as the Chinese economy, globalization, and urban theory. First of all, studying China’s cities can help us better understand the origin of the Chinese economic miracle. China’s economic ascent and its urbanization are closely intertwined, and to understand the economic miracle, one needs to recognize the critical role played by its cities in these processes.

China’s urban transition also offers a vantage point for understanding the interconnectivity of the global economy. China’s urbanization did not happen in a vacuum, but was accompanied by close interaction with the larger world economy. From the sleek skyscrapers in Shanghai to the state-of-the-art Olympics facilities in Beijing and iPhone factories in Shenzhen and Zhengzhou, Chinese cities are remade by transnational flows of capital, information, and expertise. The transformation of the urban economy, communities, and landscape tells a larger story of globalization.

The unprecedented urban growth in China also presents an intriguing case with which to reflect on urban theory developed in the context of Western urbanization. Different from London, New York, Chicago, and Detroit, Chinese cities, and also many other cities in the global South, did not experience high Fordism and the post-Fordist transition, which constitute the basis for major theorizations on urban governance in the West.

Although contemporary Chinese cities exhibit similar tendencies of entrepreneurialism and neoliberalization, the causes often have to be sought in developments other than deindustrialization and urban decay, which are not happening or at least have not happened yet in China. A thorough understanding of China’s urban transition can open exciting paths for developing new urban theory and vocabularies.

Drawing upon both the secondary literature and some of my own work, this book examines the past trajectories, present conditions, and future prospects of Chinese cities by investigating five interrelated topics – governance, landscape, migration, inequality, and the cultural economy.

Part of the book was written when I was a fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC in 2011-2012, while simultaneously working on another book project comparing urban governance and citizen rights in China and India. Reading about Indian cities has certainly given me many new perspectives on the Chinese urban condition.

One major observation I want to share with the readers of this book is that India, and probably other developing countries as well, have learned many wrong lessons from China, such as setting up Special Economic Zones, advocating massive investments in infrastructure, hosting mega-events, and pushing urban renewal by displacing the poor. Indian cities face many problems and challenges, to be sure, such as housing shortages, poor infrastructure, and high levels of poverty. But following the Chinese model cannot solve these problems.

As the Chinese experience shows, massive investment in infrastructure has put local governments in deep debt, and the shining new infrastructure projects often become profit-making machines for private–public partnerships. Hosting mega-events such as the Beijing Olympics has not brought many benefits to the people living in post-event cities, and the Shanghai style of urban renewal has displaced millions of the poor and turned inner-city neighborhoods into exclusive colonies for transnational elites.

One of my goals in writing this book is to demonstrate the consequences of Chinese-style urban development and provide a cautionary tale for other cities aspiring to remake themselves into Shanghai. Contrary to the notion of “fast policy transfers,” the urban development strategies used in China, as this book shows, have to be unlearned.

Xuefei Ren is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Global Urban Studies at Michigan State University. She is author of Building Globalization: Transnational Architecture Production in Urban China (2011, University of Chicago Press).


Posted 1518 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: introductory sociology, introduction, sociology, society, social studies, Social science / 0 Comments

Question: how do you summarise and present the emergence, development and contemporary shape of a diverse discipline like sociology in a single textbook? Answer: with great difficulty, a ruthless selection process and 1130 pages.

The bare facts are that the latest edition of Polity’s Sociologyhas 23 chapters covering the established subjects of theories and methods, families, crime and deviance, religion and health as well as more recent inclusions such as the environment, war, terrorism, the life course, globalization and sexuality.

The book aims to provide a comprehensive introduction to the discipline for all new students, striking a productive balance between the classical traditions and contemporary sociology.

However, textbooks today need to do more than simply describe how sociologists make sense of our constantly changing social world. They also have to actively engage with readers, and the seventh edition goes much further in this direction than the previous six.

The end-of-chapter review sections and exercises are designed to stretch students’ knowledge and develop their research skills, encouraging them to seek out original journal articles, book chapters, online materials, films, novels, paintings and other artworks. The book tries to convince readers not only that is sociology still relevant, but also that in a globalizing age it is becoming more significant than ever before.         

This seventh edition marks 24 years since Tony Giddens’s original idea bore fruit in 1989. Since then, both sociology and the world it seeks to analyse, understand and explain have changed in so many ways.  

In the 1989 edition, a raft of major social issues that appear as ‘normal’ elements of sociology today were just not widely studied or taught. The fact that the seventh edition extensively covers environmental issues, global warming, terrorism, globalization, gender and sexuality shows that sociology’s central problems have shifted over the last quarter century.

Sociological theorizing has moved on apace too with new theories of globalization, ecological modernization, risk, postfeminism, cosmopolitanism and postcolonialism being developed to help us understand the changing societies we live in. Clearly any textbook worth its salt (or cash) has to find ways of combining the best sociology of the past (rooted in the ‘classical traditions’) with that of the present and this has been a major task for the new edition, which we hope works well.

Uniting the seven editions over 24 years is the conviction that encouraging readers to develop a ‘sociological imagination’ is the fundamental job of any introductory textbook in the discipline. We view encouraging and facilitating the development of a sociological way of seeing and interpreting social life as an end in itself that enriches both individual lives and the wider society, though its value is also evident in any number of contemporary issues.

For example, the recent discovery of horsemeat and horsemeat DNA in a variety of processed foods labelled as ‘beef’ is discussed by politicians and food industry leaders as a problem of fraud and criminality, of mis-labelling and a failure of regulation.

But for sociologists the episode illustrates wider social processes. It alerted people to the existence of some of the basic systems underpinning modern life, in this case the food production and supply chain which stretches across the boundaries of nation states.

Tracing some of the horsemeat from its origin in a Romanian slaughterhouse to a food trader in the Netherlands, on to a trader in Cyprus, then to food processing firms in France before it arrives in British supermarkets demonstrates something of what the rather woolly, abstract concept of globalization really means in practice.

It is unlikely that sociologists will simply ask ‘who is to blame’ in cases such as this. We are much more interested in trying to understand how this ‘scandal’ occurred and what it can tell us about the world we all help to make and inhabit.

Setting aside the initial urge to apportion blame and instead trying to gain a level of relative detachment from our personal prejudices and political values is a prerequisite for acquiring that sociological imagination which enables us to approach the world ‘with sober senses’. This commitment remains the leitmotif of the seventh edition of Sociology.  

Phil Sutton is  an independent researcher, formerly of the University of Leeds and Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, and co-author of Sociology, with Anthony Giddens.


Posted 1519 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: journalism, news, objectivity, reporting / 0 Comments

Early in the first season of HBO’s The Newsroom, a series set around a prime-time cable newscast, ‘News Night’, a dramatic declaration initiates a major ‘arc’ of the program.

The executive producer, MacKenzie McHale, outlines a new editorial concept for the program: ‘News Night 2.0’:

‘This is a new show and there are new rules’, she explains.
‘One, “is this information we need in the voting booth?”
Two, “is this the best possible form of the argument?”
And three, “is the story in historical context?” …
Finally, “Are there really two sides to this story?”’

Objectivity isn’t mentioned in this episode. Scholars of the area will recognize, however, that the show is preoccupied with issues central to the problematic of objectivity: issues such as the status of facts, the provision of context through interpretation, the impact of commercialism and the influence of personal viewpoint.

Testament to the idea that all that is old is new again, many of these concepts can be found in Walter Lippmann’s 1920 essay, ‘Liberty and the News’ (a title that forms a nice description of the television series). Both the essay and the series respond to a strong sense (articulated by Lippmann)  ‘that the present crisis of western democracy is a crisis in journalism’.

Lippmann felt that ‘Everywhere to-day men are conscious that somehow they must deal with questions more intricate than any that church or school had prepared them to understand.’ He promoted the view that ‘The cardinal fact always is the loss of contact with objective information. Public as well as private reason depends upon it.’   

In passages worthy of Aaron Sorkin, Lippmann spells out his view that ‘No one can manage anything on pap’:

‘Public opinion is blockaded. For when a people can no longer confidently repair “to the best fountains for their information”, then anyone's guess and anyone’s rumor, each man’s hope and each man’s whim becomes the basis of government. All that the sharpest critics of democracy have alleged is true, if there is no steady supply of trustworthy and relevant news. Incompetence and aimlessness, corruption and disloyalty, panic and ultimate disaster, must come to any people which is denied an assured access to the facts.’

There are good reasons why one should be cautious around a concept like objectivity in journalism, with its scientific and positivistic baggage, and a significant history of debunking and criticism. It rarely appears in journalism codes of ethics these days. But this should not mean we should stop actively debating the concept.

Jeremy Iggers’ memorable line ‘Objectivity may be dead, but it isn’t dead enough’ captures a prevailing view. Surprisingly however, prior to this book, no study had attempted an overview of the scholarship in the area. Reviewing the literature, one would expect a consensus view that objectivity is universally criticised. Indeed, for communications scholar James W. Carey, the conventions of objective reporting were developed to ‘report another culture and another society’. One can find more colourful turns of phrase in the blogosphere.

Surveying the field the critique is not universal in approach or content. One finds counter-arguments to the most common criticisms, and a renewed interest in issues of interpretation, procedure, judgement and standpoint, from both scholars and practitioners. In this context, we should resist the idea that it is naïve, out-dated, or unacceptable to speak of and about objectivity. What we need is a historically informed and critical dialogue about the concept and the issues it represents, which goes beyond the newsroom to include professionals, academics and readers. Objectivity in Journalism hopefully serves as a crucial resource for this discussion.
 
Steven Maras is senior lecturer in media and communications at the University of Sydney.


Posted 1523 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Rome, disasters, ancient history / 0 Comments

We all know that the Roman empire was one of the most successful and important civilizations the world has ever known. But we also know that it suffered some colossal disasters.

Huge military defeats, such as the battle of Cannae when as many men fell as on the first day of the Somme, natural disasters like the eruption of Vesuvius, and the first appearance in Europe of the bubonic plague were just some of the calamities they suffered.

And that's not to mention the many earthquakes, fires, floods and famines that regularly afflicted them.

These disasters stress-tested Roman society in a way that the good times never did. The result is that the Roman responses can tell us a great deal about how their society was ordered and what were its strengths and weaknesses.

Roman Disasters illustrates how the resilience of the Roman political and cultural system allowed the Romans to survive the impact of these life-threatening events. It also shows that, once the empire had become Christian, narratives of these disasters began to play an important role in Christian thought and rhetoric.

Jerry Toner is the director of studies in classics at Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge.


Posted 1523 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: immigration, transnationality, transnationalization, transnationalism, transborder, globalization, remittances, hybridity / 0 Comments

Increasing interconnections between nation-states across borders have made the transnational perspective a key tool for understanding our world.

Transnational Migration provides an accessible yet rigorous overview of cross-border migration from a transnational perspective, as experienced by family and kinship groups, networks of entrepreneurs, diasporas, and immigrant associations – and as regulated by states.

We define the core concepts of transnationalization, transnational social spaces and transnationality, In particular, transnationality connotes the social practices of agents – individuals, groups, communities and organizations – across the borders of nation-states. The term denotes a spectrum of cross-border ties in various spheres of social life – familial, socio-cultural, economic and political – ranging from travel, through sending financial remittances, to exchanging ideas.

Seen in this way, agents’ transnational ties constitute a marker of heterogeneity, akin to other heterogeneities, such as age, gender, citizenship, sexual orientation, cultural preferences and language use.

In short, transnational ties can be understood as occupying a continuum from low to high – that is, from very few and short-lived ties to those that are multiple and dense and continuous over time.

For example, migrants may remit varying sums of money or none at all. This is also to say that, for our purposes, migrants and non-migrants should not be considered simply as transnational or not, but as being transnational to different degrees.

Transnationality is characterized by transactions of varying degrees of intensity and at various stages of the life course; it is not restricted to geographical mobility. For example, non-mobile family members of migrants may engage in transnational practices.

Based on this typology of the transnational, we describe everyday transnational life, explore the implications for immigrant incorporation, and take a fresh look at issues of membership and citizenship. By examining the political, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of transnational migration, we seek to capture the distinctive features of the new immigrant communities that have reshaped the ethno-cultural mix of receiving nations, including the US and Western Europe.

We give equal importance to examining the effects of transnationality on regions of migrants’ origin, viewing migrants as agents of political and economic development.

In doing so, we aim to balance theoretical discussion with relevant examples and cases, making it an ideal book for upper-level students working on immigration and transnational relations, in sociology, political science, and globalization courses.

Thomas Faist is professor of transnational, development and migration studies at the Bielefeld University, Germany.

Margit Fauser is a researcher in the department of sociology at Bielefeld University, Germany.

Eveline Reisenauer is a researcher in the department of sociology at Bielefeld University, Germany.


Posted 1553 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: SNA, social network analysis, social networks, urban sociology, urban studies, community studies / 0 Comments

We have lived in communities as long as we have been human, but do we really understand how communities work and what they do? Technological changes, especially the growth of the internet, have led researchers to reevaluate many of our assumptions about the nature of community and communal life – even to ask again foundational questions such as, “What makes a community?”

Social network analysis is a rapidly developing new way of apprehending the social world. Communities and Networkstakes a closer look at communities and communal life through the lens of social network analysis in order to better understand questions about how communities operate in our lives and how our lives operate in communities.

Some of the questions I address:

What is a community and where does it come from?
What do communities do for us?
How do they shape identity and foster conformity?
What happens when they become fractured?
How do communities mobilize for collective action?
How do they foster innovation?
How are new communities in the age of the internet different from traditional communities?

Each of these questions can be addressed in new and insightful ways by looking from the perspective of social network analysis. The goal of this book is to make social network analysis understandable and useful by tying it to real world examples and by providing clearly written and easy to understand discussions of network analysis techniques and operations.

Much of the writing about social network analysis is quite technical and can often be difficult for students to understand on first introduction. But the concepts used in social network analysis allow us to penetrate more deeply into the complexities of urban and communal life and to fruitfully rethink some of our basic assumptions about communal processes and issues.

Communities and Networks attempts to explain network analytical concepts clearly and concisely so that we can begin to use social network analysis to conquer some of these intriguing questions about communities.

Each chapter of Communities and Networks explores one central question of communal life by looking at specific examples through the lens of social network analysis. Each chapter also has a special section devoted to explaining exactly how to employ the techniques of social network analysis with real world data.

These special sections are tied to substantive issues so that students are able to understand why and in what circumstances different network analytical techniques are useful and can give us new (and sometimes startling) insights into the issues at hand. But perhaps more importantly than merely learning the techniques, this book helps to explore and explain the theoretical perspective of social network analysis, which is a specific way of looking at the social world, concentrating on the relations among social actors (whether they are individuals or groups) rather than on the individual characteristics of those actors.

For example, in Chapter 7 we examine the emergence of Apple computers in the 1970’s in Silicon Valley using the concepts of small world structures and structural holes in order to see how the particular structure of the social relations in that place at that time played a critical role in fostering the innovations that led to the personal computer revolution.

Using histories of the era, we can look through the perspective of social network analysis at the importance of employee movement among firms (like Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel) and among sectors (such as engineering and venture capital) as a method for forming weak ties that bridge structural holes.

We can take into account the importance of personal tie formation at specific sites like the Homebrew Computer Club meetings to see how individuals like Steve Wozniak were tied into the larger network structure. We can further use network analysis to explain how the culture that spurred innovative collaboration coalesced.

Other examples look at a diverse range of questions: How can understanding network centrality and marginality help us understand the Nazi takeover of German cities leading up to World War II? How can multi-dimensional scaling help us understand the effects of the internet on new community structures? How can we better understand immigrant assimilation in host communities by looking at balance theory and structural balance?

Communities and Networks uses the techniques and perspective of social network analysis to give students the tools to re-examine community and urban studies and provide a fuller, richer understanding of how our lives are shaped by the communities we make.

Katherine Giuffre is associate professor of sociology at Colorado College.


Posted 1554 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Internet, digital media, sociology / 0 Comments

Over the last two decades, our general view of mass communication in modern society has been extensively reconfigured by the ‘new media’ applications stemming from the rollout of digital technologies. In so many different ways, digital media have come to be seen as the definitive technology of our times. The powerful combination of mechanical calculation, electronics, binary code and human language systems touches us in almost every aspect of life. Quite literally, the digital media have become the ‘operating system’ of almost everything else.
 
As a consequence, the ‘new media’ are no longer encountered as the technology of tomorrow. They have already become interlaced with the here and now. In everyday life, our interpersonal relationships are conducted in a large part through digital communications. The institutions of work and governance are finely regulated by the inexorable logics that lie at the heart of information technology. Our ready access to the vast stores of human knowledge, to cultural expression, and to significant events unfolding in societies across the world is overwhelmingly mediated through various forms of digital ‘content’.
 
Digital technologies, then, take us close to the rhythm of social life across the broad scale of human affairs. To understand these phenomena fully we must seek to discover how a ‘whole way of life’, in all its complexity, becomes infused with the presence of digital systems.  We must reflect upon how we got here, and what our present trajectory indicates about how we will live in the coming decades. As such, the multi-faceted relationship between digital media and human actions poses one of the most compelling questions facing contemporary sociology, and one that impacts upon almost every academic discipline in one aspect or another.
 
In this introduction to the field, I have chosen to approach the digital media with close reference to a range of key sociological traditions. This allows us to encounter many of the classic subjects of sociological inquiry in their digital manifestation: the competing forces of structure and agency, the predominance of conflict or consensus, the relationship between action and meaning and the interface of individual and collective experience. All of these framings have something to offer to a reader willing to make their own assessment of the various claims being made about the digital age, where social networking sites, internet auctions, online dating, mobile devices, workstations and cloud computing all provide fascinating examples of contemporary social experience.
 
‘Digital society’, the guiding term for this book, is not presently in common use. I use it precisely because the other available terms are all in some sense partial or overlapping with the terrain to be explored. Each of them favours the structure, usage or content of digital communication in different ways. Taking the broader notion of a digital society allows us to consider their significance in more relative terms. The term ‘digital society’ is therefore deployed on a qualified basis, claiming only that the presence of these technologies is sufficiently expansive to warrant this wide ranging discussion of how ‘we shape our tools and our tools shape us’.

Adrian Athique is senior lecturer at the University of Waikato and author of Digital Media: An Introduction.


Posted 1608 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: nation building, Irish republicans, Zionist movement, fundraising / 0 Comments

What has moneymaking to do with nationalism? We typically think of nation-building as a process of cultural representation. We realize that, at a practical level, national movements need money but we typically assume that people give money when they identify with the nation. From this perspective monetary transfers are secondary and dependent on prior identification.

But, as Viviana Zelizer points out, monetary transfers are also a medium through which social ties are negotiated, stitched together or dismantled (1994). Seen from this angle, fundraising mechanisms are not simply ways of maximizing resources, but also organizational tools that, when successful, bind and even create groups.

In Sinews of the Nation, I follow this lead and examine how the Irish and Zionist national movements used various monetary transactions to both raise resources and regulate their relationships with Irish Americans and Jewish Americans during the first half of the twentieth century.

The Irish and Zionist movements relied heavily on contributions of Irish and Jews in the US. Securing these funds, however, was hardly a straightforward task. First, while Irish Americans and Jewish Americans were willing to give them money, the sums they gave were insufficient.

Worse, in return for collecting charitable donations, diaspora organizations demanded a share of the money and a say in how the funds would be used in the homeland. Seeing the diaspora organizations as no more than a conduit for pumping funds into the homeland, the leadership in Ireland and Israel resisted these impositions.

To overcome this impasse, in 1920 and 1951, the Irish and Zionist leaders issued national bonds and sold them to the supporters. In purely financial terms, these bonds were unattractive, but by combining patriotic and pecuniary motivations, the Irish and Zionist leaders hoped to increase the flow of funds to the homeland and eliminate the political difficulties that were associated with conventional philanthropy.

In financial terms alone, both bonds were fairly successful. The Irish mission in the US sold more than $5 million worth of bonds to more than 300,000 subscribers in less than a year. Israel sold more than $145 million worth of bonds to almost 700,000 subscribers during the first three years of the drive. But here the similarity between the projects ends.

In the Irish case, the issue of the bonds only intensified tensions between leading Irish American organizations and the Irish mission in the US. Irish Americans leaders treated the bonds as a gift and continued to demand voice on matters of national importance.

The Irish leaders, in contrast, insisted that the Irish bond money was sovereign money and denied the Irish American leaders’ demands. As a result of these tensions, the attempt to issue a second Irish bond in the US in 1921, less than a year after the termination of the first drive, was a complete failure raising less than $700,000 of the planned $20 million.

In contrast, the Israeli bond issue successfully mediated between American and Israeli Jews. Like in the Irish case, Israeli and American Jews harbored different interpretations of the transaction.

For American Jews, on the one hand, the bond was mostly a gift. After all, if they were looking to maximize profits they could have invested in less risky and more lucrative ventures. In contrast, Israeli leaders, treated the bonds mostly as an investment and enjoyed an increase stream of dollars from the US, free from the humiliations and restrictions associated with philanthropy.

By sustaining some kind of willful misunderstanding regarding the relationships between them, the Israeli bond helped American and Israeli groups to cooperate and secured an increased flow of funds to the national project. Following the first drive, others followed, and the sale of Israel Bonds continues even today. Over the years, the Israel Bonds provided Israel with more than $31 billion - roughly a third of Israel’s external debt (Rehavi and Weingarten, 2004).

Over and above finance, the contrasting outcomes of the projects affected the development of Irish-American and Jewish-American ties to Ireland and Israel respectively. In the Irish case, the conflicts surrounding the bond project contributed to the disintegration of major Irish-American organizations, and as a result, Irish Americans were left with fewer ways to engage with Ireland.

Furthermore, these conflicts contributed to a crystallization of the differences between Irish and Irish-American communities and to a sense that the interests and preferences of these groups were not always compatible. Of course, Irish American identification with Ireland did not die off completely and during the 1960s and 1970s there was a surge in Irish American diasporic activism but nevertheless, in comparison with the pre-1920 era, the post 1920 activism pales.

In contrast, in the Jewish case, the bond provided American and Israeli Jews with an additional, important venue by which to engage each other and was instrumental in smoothing over differences between them.

Following a purchase of Israel Bonds, subscribers are invited to join a special tour of Israel and witness with their own eyes how their money works. More than a one-time purchase decision, the purchase of Israel Bond provides subscribers with an opportunity to engage Israel in an ongoing basis.

Through the Israel bonds, American Jews became not only financially invested in Israel’s future, but emotionally invested as well. The case of the bonds illustrates how fundraising mechanisms and monetary transactions can sometimes be used to embed various groups in social relations and create national attachment.

The Irish case clarifies how delicate and brittle these mechanisms are. Failure to regulate the expectations and rights that follow from various kinds of transactions can exacerbate tensions and alienate groups from the national project.

Money is obviously just one of the resources national movements secure. But by closely examining how national movements go about securing this resource, we can learn something fundamental about nation building more generally.

To succeed, national movements must reach out to other groups and enroll them and their resources. Without accomplishing this task, the nation would remain a fantasy of only a few. The process of reaching to other groups implicates various groups in complex social relationships. The challenge for nation builders is to construct institutional mechanisms that regulate these relationships.

From this perspective, nation building is not just a matter of discursively construing the nation as a cultural whole, a la Anderson’s Imagined Communities (1991), but also a matter of constructing mechanisms that allow members of heterogeneous groups, the various “fragments” of the nation in Partha Chatterjee’s terms (1993), to cooperate in the process of nation building.

Dan Lainer-Vos is assistant professor of sociology and the Ruth Ziegler Early CareerChair in Jewish Studies at the University of Southern California.


Posted 1652 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Philosophy, terrorism, Israel / Palestine, wars, Consequentialism / 0 Comments

Since the terrorist attacks in New York on 11 September 2001 and those that came in their aftermath in London, Madrid, Bali, and elsewhere, terrorism has been in the focus of a worldwide public debate. The debate has involved a wide array of participants, from political scientists and historians to politicians and common citizens.

Yet there is little agreement on any of the main questions raised by terrorism, whether conceptual, moral, or political. The debate has often been hampered by lack of clarity about what its subject is: Who is a terrorist? What is terrorism?

It has often been affected, and indeed informed, by all manner of emotions, passions, and interests. It has been plagued by double standards and moral relativism.  Unsurprisingly, it has often led to talking at cross purposes.

In such cases, philosophy can be of help at two levels of debate: conceptual and moral. It can display the confusions and double standards. It can help overcome the relativism captured by the cliché “one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter,” and offer a definition of terrorism that does not beg the moral and political questions. It can bring some order into the wide array of moral arguments for and against terrorism, and help us decide which of the positions on offer best accords with our moral values and basic political commitments.

This is what I seek to do in Terrorism: A Philosophical Investigation. I argue that, if we are to define terrorism in a way helpful in the moral and political debate, we should put aside both the identity of those resorting to it and their ultimate aims.

We should rather understand terrorism in terms of just what is done and what the proximate aims of doing it are. Such a definition should be morally and politically neutral, and thus enable, rather than pre-empt, a well-focused moral debate.

Since it is agent-neutral, such a definition wouldn’t rule out state terrorism - a phenomenon well known in modern history, yet curiously ignored, and often defined out of existence, in contemporary public debate. One of the central aims of the book is to redress this and highlight the fact that the state is, historically, the greatest terrorist - and for this and other reasons also the worst.

In the central chapters of the book, I examine the main positions on the morality of terrorism. One is consequentialism, which tells us that terrorism, like everything else, must be judged solely by its consequences. When its rationally expected consequences are good on balance, it will be morally justified. As Trotsky famously said, given a paramount end, the question of the means becomes one of expediency rather than principle.

Yet, surely it can’t be right that life and limb of ordinary citizens should be fair game whenever it is expedient that it should be so. Here, as elsewhere, consequentialism proves much too permissive with regard to questionable and even downright repugnant means. Terrorism can’t be judged solely by its consequences; first and foremost, it is wrong intrinsically, because of what it is.  

Among those who reject consequentialism, many find absolute prohibition of intentional killing and maiming of some ordinary citizens in order to terrorize others intuitively compelling – as obvious a moral truth as any. However, it proves difficult to support this intuition by convincing argument, for the benefit of those who don’t share the intuition.

Moreover, it becomes ever more difficult to uphold the absolutist position, as the critic constructs ever more catastrophic scenarios that can be averted only by resort to terrorism. Surely we shouldn’t insist on rights and justice even if the heavens fall?

Should we, then, try for a middle-of-the-road view? Terrorism is wrong in itself, because it violates some of our most important rights and constitutes a grave injustice. But recourse to it may yet be morally permissible, if a people, or a political community, finds itself in extremis, and terrorism is the only way out.

But then, just when is a people or a polity in extremis? An influential version of this view, Michael Walzer’s Just and Unjust Wars, introduces the notion of “supreme emergency”: a situation where deliberate attacks on innocent civilians or ordinary citizens are the only way of staving off an imminent threat to the survival and freedom of a political community.

I argue that this is vague and overly permissive, and go on to construct a position that is structurally similar, but much more restrictive. Terrorism is almost absolutely wrong, and resort to it may be considered only in the face of a “moral disaster,” understood in a special, highly restrictive sense.

In addition to presenting an original position on both the question of definition and that of moral justification of terrorism, the book also adverts to the oft-neglected question whether terrorism is morally special: not necessarily more evil than mass murder, torture, or ethnic cleansing, but evil in a different, and indeed unique way.

In particular, is it significantly morally different from killing and maiming innocent civilians without intent, but with foresight, as “collateral damage” caused by attacks on legitimate targets? A civilian killed incidentally, without intent, is just as dead as a civilian killed intentionally. The right to life of the former is just as violated as the right to life of the latter.

What, then, is the moral difference? And if there is no such difference, what does that tell us about terrorism and war?

The discussion of terrorism in general, which makes the bulk of the book, is complemented with two case studies of systematic, large-scale use of terrorism: the terror-bombing of German cities in WWII, and the use of terrorism in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The specific conclusions reached in both studies will perhaps be found controversial by some readers. The more general lesson to be drawn from both, though, is just how extremely difficult it is to provide a convincing moral justification of an actual act or campaign of terrorism. For terrorism is, after all, almost absolutely wrong.   

Igor Primoratz is emeritus professor of philosophy at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and professorial fellow at Charles Sturt University, Canberra.      


Posted 1652 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: media, culture, theory / 0 Comments

The mobile phone changes the way we arrange to meet somebody. The social web produces new ways of doing politics. Television and cinema have turned our cultures into visual cultures.

Every day we are confronted with statements like these. However, they are both right and wrong. They are right as they reflect that the various kinds of media matter. Media are deeply related to the way we live our everyday lives. They are wrong as they draw a very simplifying picture of what's going on.

It is assumed that all media have the same impact, more or less automatically and independent of the context and way they are used. In addition, statements like these are all formulated from the perspective of one single medium.

To grasp what is going on with the present media changes, we have to develop a different kind of perspective. We must understand that the various kinds of different media result altogether in a "mediatization" of our cultures. It is not just one medium that makes the difference. The core point is that our present worlds rely fundamentally on the way we relate them to different kinds of media: Our present family worlds, the worlds of business, of the stock exchange or of politics, all of them are deeply related to different forms of media communication. In this sense we are living in "mediatized worlds".

But how can we reflect this critically? First of all we have to realize that the mediatization of culture is not altogether new - but rather it is a long-term process. The modern nation-state would have been impossible without the emerging mass media - first print, then radio, cinema and television. And, the different digital media are fundamental to our late modern societies.

Secondly, we have to bear in mind that media as means of communication "mould" the way we communicate - but not as a direct effect, rather more as a structuring possibility. Therefore, we have to focus on the question as to how the various media altogether change the way in which we "construct" or "articulate" our social reality.

And thirdly, we must begin to focus more deeply on how our living together, how our communities change with mediatization - that is, the way in which mediatization and communitization are interwoven with each other.

The idea of my book "Cultures of Mediatization" is to outline a starting point for such a critical undertaking.

Andreas Hepp is professor of media and communication studies at the Centre of Media, Communication and Information Research (ZeMKI), University of Bremen, and author of Cultures of Mediatization.


Posted 1655 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Katyn, World War II, Second World War, massacre, 1940, Soviet, Russia, Poland, Ukraine / 0 Comments

Last month the National Archives of the United States released to the public a massive corpus of newly declassified documents related to Katyn, the massacre of nearly 22,000 unarmed Polish prisoners by Stalin’s secret police in 1940. Obscured by one of the longest and most extensive cover-ups in history, Katyn has been for decades a sodden field of unanswered questions. Among them: did the Allies know during the Second World War that the Soviet Union, not Nazi Germany, was responsible for the crime?

Many of the documents made public on 10 September 2012 shed light on this question. They offer evidence that the Roosevelt Administration likely knew of Stalin’s guilt as early as 1943, when the Katyn site was first discovered, and subsequently suppressed that knowledge in order to maintain a fragile wartime alliance with the Kremlin.

For historians, these archival disclosures offer no new bombshell revelations. They merely confirm long-held suspicions about what the Allies knew and when they knew it.

For many others outside the discipline, however, the newly declassified documents are reinvigorating and reshaping public memory of Stalin’s emblematic mass murder. News reports from Warsaw to Moscow have cast the White House alongside the Kremlin as an enemy of the truth, reshuffling the conventional dramatis personae of the Katyn tragedy. Appeals have been made for an official apology from the US government.

The release of these Katyn documents constitutes what my co-authors and I call a ‘memory event’ – a revisiting of the past that creates a rupture with its accepted representation – in our new book, Remembering Katyn.

In contrast to Pierre Nora’s ‘sites of memory’ (lieux de mémoire), which ‘stop time’ by simulating eternity in space, memory events ‘start time’ by endowing the past with new life in the future. They are deterritorialized and temporal phenomena, moments of agitation and transformation in the public sphere that spring from a diverse array of genres and contexts to change the way we commemorate the past.

Our book explores a series of memory events – including the 2010 plane crash that claimed the lives of Poland’s leaders en route to Katyn – which have kept the massacres a highly fluid, dynamic and contested subject of memory politics in Eastern Europe and beyond.

To understand why Katyn is a central front in a European ‘memory war’, we map its legacy through the interconnected cultures of seven countries: Belarus, Poland, Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic States. Mobilising our collective disciplinary and linguistic competencies, we pursue connections between Soviet and Russian political identities, Ukrainian and Belarusian cultural processes, Polish and Estonian historical narratives, and much more. This transnational methodological approach is critical to an understanding of the full reach and scope of Katyn, which literally and figuratively touched the entire region.

In fact, we now know that the majority of its victims perished far from the forest in western Russia that gives the tragedy its name. They were shot outside of Kalinin (today’s Tver) in northwestern Russia, near Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, and in secret prisons in cities such as Minsk, the Belarusian capital. Today the remains of these victims - the pride and promise of the Polish people - are buried in mass graves throughout Russia, Ukraine and, most likely, Belarus. They lie alongside Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian artists and civic figures; Jews, Catholics and Orthodox; men and women known and unknown. All of them were murdered by the Stalinist regime.

What we offer the reader in Remembering Katyn is a journey through the contested past and volatile present of a region that we define as Europe’s future. We hope that our uniquely transnational study of cultural memory will open up new vistas for students and scholars across the humanities and social sciences.

Rory Finnin is Lecturer in Ukrainian Studies and Chair of the Cambridge Committee for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Cambridge. He co-authored Remembering Katyn with Alexander Etkind, Uilleam Blacker, Julie Fedor, Simon Lewis, Maria Mälksoo and Matilda Mroz.


Posted 1694 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: civilizing process, Civilization, murder, personal violence, social control, History, criminology, historical criminology, crime / 0 Comments

Yes we are. This is true when present-day Western society is compared with its recent past. But modern punitiveness is not simply a backlash; it is accompanied by a concern for crime victims that is more intense than ever before. When viewed over some six centuries, moreover, the standards of punishment have undergone important transformations. This is no less true for violence.

These questions refer to key themes of my new book, Violence and Punishment. Along the way, the book explores specific and general questions: Why did fights between Jews and Christians often take place on the Blue Bridge in Amsterdam? How did a yellow bulldog betray a killer who had hoped to remain undetected? What happened to a thief whom the citizens stopped by splitting his skull with an axe? Why did executioners activate the guillotine by cutting the rope that holds up the blade with a sword? What does the punishment of Adam and Eve reveal about the work and fears of our ancestors?

As the reader familiar with my work will expect, I am writing within the tradition established by Norbert Elias. The human stories of this book are firmly embedded in a theoretical framework that derives from Elias but also creatively expands on his effort. I am using the concept of civilizing processes of course, but also the theory of diminishing power differences between social groups and that of changes from one figuration to another. I expand on this theoretical framework by giving the theme of honor a central place in it. Finally, I am also commenting on the work of theorists such as Michel Foucault and Emile Durkheim.

The chapters of this book have been published before, but they have all been thoroughly revised and updated. More important, most of the essays were published originally in languages other than English or in an unofficial series. For Anglo-Saxon readers especially, they are in fact new. The reader will note the extraordinarily wide scope. One essay discusses murder and honor in Asia, concluding that long-term trajectories of violence offer a more promising base for intercontinental comparison than imaginary and static “civilizations.” Two essays trace their subject back to the beginnings of agrarian society, while ending squarely in the present.

Readers, I hope and expect, will enjoy the style and original ideas.

Pieter Spierenburg is professor of historical criminology at Erasmus University, Rotterdam.


Posted 1699 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: politics, media, democracy, privacy / 0 Comments

Is media coverage of politics becoming more focused on the private lives of politicians across democracies?

It is often remarked that the personal lives of politicians, like those of sports, film and television stars and host of other celebrities, have become a familiar part of the public's daily media consumption.

The public, it might be said, know more detail about politicians’ personal lives than their policy stance or voting records. Like celebrities in other fields they have willingly surrendered their privacy, or have been unable to defend it from a celebrity-obsessed media.

There have been a number of studies conducted in a range of democracies that have pointed to similar developments. Take France for example, research has documented the ‘peopolisation’ or celebritization of French politics in the 2000s, a key aspect of which has been personalized self-disclosure.

Leading French politicians regularly make carefully choreographed appearances on television talk-shows and in glossy celebrity magazines. In the run-up to the 2007 presidential election, Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal appeared in her bikini in Voici, Closer and VSD.

Nicolas Sarkozy, exploited his private life for political purposes, openly using his family to bolster his presidential ambitions. His courtship and marriage to supermodel and singer Carla Bruni, was conducted very much in the media spotlight.

In the UK, Tony Blair frequently disclosed aspects of his private life to the public. For example, in an interview with Tony and Cherie in the Sun during the 2005 general election campaign,  Tony confessed he was ‘up for it’ at least five times a night, a point corroborated by Cherie, who when asked if he was ‘up to it’, said he always was.

In Italy, numerous authors have remarked on the personalized nature of political communication since 1994 and the formation of the Second Republic. Silvio Berlusconi used his private life to promote himself to the Italian people.

Research also points at the increased proclivity of certain media to intrude into the private lives of politicians. Bill Clinton’s presidency was dogged by a series of allegations and revelations concerning his fidelity.

The media digging for and publishing dirt on politicians is now a permanent feature of US politics at all levels, not just the presidency. Further, in democracies where the private lives of politicians have been very much legally protected, certain media outlets seem increasingly eager to publish gossip about public figures.

In France, Germany and Spain, celebrity magazines have not shied away from publishing paparazzi pictures of leading politicians in their swim suits, something that would have been unheard of before.

There may be those who say ‘so what?’, but I would argue that these different nationally focused examples cannot be ignored. They point to a potentially significant development in democratic political communications, namely the growing focus on the personal lives of politicians. They suggest that across a range of advanced industrial democracies the personal lives of politicians are no longer a purely private matter but are instead an increasingly ubiquitous feature of the mediated public sphere.

The zone of privacy which once surrounded politicians and those in public life seems to be slowly disappearing with and without politicians’ consent. These documented incursions of the personal into the public sphere are an indication for some of a public realm that ‘no longer has anything to do with civic commitment’ but one that is increasingly colonized by the trivial and inane.

However, while the above examples provide a tantalizing glimpse of recent developments, they are far from conclusive; it is hard to determine whether there is a trend across advanced industrial democracies and difficult to identify the consequences of such developments, in short, more evidence is needed.

Intimate Politics provides that evidence for the first time. Looking comparatively at seven democracies (Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the US) it assesses the extent to which the personal lives of politicians have become a prominent feature of political communications and explains why this might be.

What are the findings? In nutshell, based on a range of measures, political communication is not equally personalized in every democracy examined. What emerges are two main clusters of countries.

Political communication is highly personalized in the US and the UK and a lot less personalized in the other countries. In the US and UK, media coverage of national leaders seems to focus on aspects of their personal lives to a greater extent than in the others and there are a larger number of instances of publicized infidelity. Further, the research also shows that there has been an increase of personal coverage over time.

Of course there are national exceptions - leaders such Nicolas Sarkozy received more personal coverage than his predecessors - but generally significant differences remain between these two clusters of countries.

What factors are driving these developments? There is no single causal factor, such as new communication technologies, or tabloidization. Indeed, the book makes the case that the search for a causal silver bullet is problematic. Rather, the outcome is the result of a complex interplay of necessary and sufficient factors operating in conjunction.

Using fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis the book identifies a number of so called causal recipes that explain why political communication is more focused on the private lives of politicians in the US and UK. These recipes include personal factors including the age of the politician, media conditions, such as the size of the tabloid press and presence and absence of privacy protection for public figures, and political factors, such as the nature of the political system.

What are the consequences? Scholars, most notably Hannah Arendt and Richard Sennett, have tended to lament the incursion of the personal into the public realm seeing this as leading to a de-politicization of civil society. However, the little empirical research that has been conducted paints a less straightforward picture.  

The book argues that the impact can be most clearly seen in those countries where personalized politics is most developed, such as the US and the UK. Looking at the US and the UK, the book suggests the major consequences of intimization are two-fold: first, a politicization of the personal lives of politicians, especially high-profile leading politicians, not a de-politicization, as suggested by others, and, second, the emergence of regular controversies and scandals around privacy intrusion and protection.

In other words, the very act of exposure and what is revealed can be the site of intense struggle. These are by no means the only developments but they are significant in democracies where mediated political communication is increasingly dominated by the personal lives of politicians.

James Stanyer is senior lecturer in media and communication studies at Loughborough University.


Posted 1707 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Water, freshwater, geopolitics, sustainability, environmental security, environmental justice / 0 Comments

Drought, floods, contaminated streams and depleted groundwater supplies ... daily headlines draw our attention to these and other water problems. Are they isolated incidents or symptoms of a global crisis? I contend that they are inter-connected threats to our livelihoods and welfare.

What links them is the concept of sustainability: ensuring that the various ways we manage freshwater for growing food and fiber, producing energy, making and transporting goods, and meeting household needs do not impair the welfare of other living things, or of future generations.

Sustainability also means promoting development, protecting the environment, and advancing justice. Yet the way freshwater is managed often does just the opposite.

Moreover, when we abuse other resources that interact with water we create unsustainable conditions for freshwater management in two ways.

The aim of my book is to convey the magnitude of these underlying threats to freshwater sustainability, and to suggest how they might be prevented. I examine “big” threats such as the plight of refugees and the building of huge dams, as well as less dramatic but no less serious ones, such as pollution and the loss of biodiversity.

I also examine who controls freshwater, whether growing private control of water supplies is good or bad, and if what we pay for freshwater is fair. I further discuss alternative ways of providing freshwater, including desalination and wastewater recycling, and whether they can equitably slake our planet’s thirst.

Finally, I reflect on whether access to freshwater can be thought of as a basic human right: there is certainly no debate that it is a fundamental human need.

I argue that the world’s freshwater is unevenly distributed and unequally used. Growing demands and factors such as climate change will likely worsen this unevenness and inequality.

Further, threats to freshwater quality continue to diminish its usability and endanger public health. Moreover, competition over freshwater is growing because it is a resource increasingly subject to trans-boundary dispute, and increasingly an object of global trade.

Finally, when demands for water exceed availability in a given locale, stress and conflict arise, including over proposed methods to make additional water available.

David L. Feldman is professor and chair of planning, policy, and design at the University of California, Irvine and the author of Water.


Posted 1718 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Global media, Media representation, Media and society / 0 Comments

We tend to think of imagination as something private, a personal creative faculty of the mind that is unique to us.

But our capacity to imagine isn't produced as some kind of spontaneous generation. Imagination must be nourished, as Luc Boltanski says.

Who feeds our imagination in the modern age? We might not always like to admit it, but the media are one of the central 'feeders' of our imagination: how we imagine ourselves and others, how we think and feel about the world we live in, and about the lives we could have, or could have had.

So I feel it is important that we look closely at the media diet that is feeding our imagination - which is what my book is about.

This diet is comprised of the images, stories, accounts and voices that we encounter daily, on television and the internet, in advertisements, and in newspapers. These media representations invite us to travel to distant contexts, to 'meet' strangers and become their friends, their intimates. They produce what David Harvey calls 'cartographic knowledges' - particular maps of the world, certain understandings of what the world is. The images and stories in the media invite us also to explore our selves, to shape our life narratives, and to contemplate possible other lives than our own.

I look at these issues by exploring five central sites of imagination that the media feed - although not always with the most varied and nutritious diet!

Imagining others - looks at how media representations call us on to relate to distant others. I use the example of depictions of victims of natural disasters, and reflect on some of the transformations that have taken place since the 18th century in the way images of distant suffering call on viewers to relate to far-away sufferers.

Imagining ourselves - focuses on the nation as a symbolic construct that remains central and important for how we are invited to think about our belongings in a global world. I use examples of representations of national conflicts to tease out this site of imagining and to discuss its tensions, between identification with our national community and distancing and even estrangement from it.

Imagining possible lives - looks at how the daily appearances of migrants on our television and computer (internet) screens fall into binary opposition of 'dreams' (the fantasy of pursuing life in another country) and 'nightmares' (the horror the host country and/or the migrants face). But alongside these crude 'scripts' about the possible lives global migration produces, there are some other kinds of stories and images that refuse clear conclusion or classification; they provide an incomplete and more ambivalent interpretation of the experience and consequences of pursuing other lives in this global age.

Imagining the world - examines how the world itself is a social imaginary that media images and narratives construct. I focus on New Year celebrations - a media event that is broadcast repeatedly (every year) on the main international and national news channels. The world is presented as a homogenous space of sameness, but also as a competitive space marked by sharp distinctions. Against the formulaic broadcast news reports I look at some alternative cartographic imaginations of the world: an amateur YouTube clip of New Year celebrations in a village in West Africa, the Chinese CCTV broadcast of its national New Year, and a blog written by an activist in Gaza published by Al Jazeera.

Imagining the self - examines how the self has become the principal prism through which the other, the nation, possible lives, and the world are explained and imagined. The story of the individual, often in psychological language, provides a rich and productive form to imagine things outside the self. At the same time, it is dangerous and counterproductive to knowing and understanding: rather than opening up to the other and to the world outside us, and to contemplating alternative lives to the ones we lead, the focus in the media on the individual self fosters an inward, self-centred view.

Media Representation and the Global Imagination speaks to the media and to us, their consumers: let’s be more imaginative about how and what we would like to feed our imagination with.  

Shani Orgad is senior lecturer in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science.


Posted 1767 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: anthropology, consumption, climate change / 0 Comments

When a book is published that may be regarded as topical, making concrete recommendations with regard to key issues of the day, one of the questions one is likely to be asked is whether your opinions have changed since you wrote the text. To be honest, I half expected to find this book already dated, overtaken by events, or for my own views to have changed.

I wasn’t particularly concerned with the bulk of the work, which is based on many years research on the practice and explanation of everyday consumption and I am confident about that evidence. I was more worried about the last chapter which focuses on the issue of what we might do about climate change.

One reason is that this chapter is not at all what I wanted to write, simply because I found the evidence and arguments refused to confirm my expectations and opinions. But nothing I have seen since then would have changed the conclusion that climate change is just too immediate a problem to be dependent upon the whims of consumer lifestyle.

Even if we did all turn green overnight the proportion of the problem that comes from consumer choices is just too small. This is why I look at several other possible interventions and solutions.

But then perhaps it’s a pity that we have come to assume that contemporary social scientists only write the views they would wish for and the evidence that supports their opinions. I was brought up with a different notion of academic integrity, that you followed the evidence and the arguments wherever they lead you. In that sense this is a very old fashioned book.

It is one of the reasons I couched the material in the form of an internal argument between three characters. But in the end finding plausible and feasible solutions to climate change is simply too important and I honestly believe that the issues that comprise that chapter are the debates we need to be having right now.

Daniel Miller is Professor of Material Culture at University College London and the author of Consumption and its Consequences.


Posted 1768 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: China, environmental politics, comparative politics, sustainable development / 0 Comments

China’s huge environmental challenges affect not only the health and well-being of China but the very future of the planet.  I wrote China’s Environmental Challenges to provide students, teachers, and the general public with a way of organizing a topic of utmost importance and great complexity.  

I hope that the book will encourage teachers to shine a spotlight on the ways in which China is interconnected with the rest of the world and help students appreciate that China’s environmental problems cannot be divorced from their own consumption patterns.

I lectured on the book in China this past June.  Many Chinese policy makers treat environmental problems as technical problems to be solved by engineers and scientists – while the book argues that they are essentially political and social problems.

I was in China at a time of political tightening and government insecurity, even crisis, in the lead-up to the 18th Party Congress.  Yet the message of this book was strongly welcomed, not only by policy-makers at the Ministry of Environmental Protection who are questioning whether China should continue to foul its own nest on behalf of the rest of the world, but also by young environmental scientists who, after reading excerpts from the book, told me they wished to broaden their horizons from their wastewater treatment laboratories and start to support green public citizens’ groups.

 I was newly impressed by the courage and innovation of groups like Greenpeace, which is conducting clandestine tests of effluents in preparation for launching public campaigns to “shame and blame” key corporations, and the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs which has developed an analytical tool to attempt to “green” production supply chains and press for information transparency.  

I was struck by how quickly Chinese people mentioned high levels of air and water pollution and poor food safety, even without my prompting, and how unhappy they were about this situation.  

Yet I was also chilled by how blithely one Qingdao resident accepted the displacement of environmental harm to politically weak populations, one of the book’s main concerns:  “Oh,” he said, when I asked about his seaside city’s comparative lack of air pollution. “It’s all been moved out.”  

In this statement we see our core blind spot and greatest challenge: In a world of increasing limits on resources, is it possible to create a system in which people enjoy equal access to resources and protection from extraction without harming the vulnerable or stealing from future generations?

The book focuses on five themes:  broad trends such as population increase and globalization of manufacturing; the challenges of governance in a country where state authority is weak and official corruption at the top of people’s concerns; contested national identity in which concern for “face” influences development choices; the dramatic evolution of environmental green groups and civil society; and problems of environmental justice and displacement of environmental harm, which threaten to delay our planet’s confrontation with the limits of its resources.  

China’s struggle to achieve sustainable development is occurring against a backdrop of acute rural poverty and soaring middle class consumption. Surely, the Chinese people have the right to the higher living standards enjoyed in the developed world.

But the Chinese government faces difficult, contradictory tasks:  it must meet the material needs of the millions who have been left behind in the breakneck quest for growth, in part by continuing to assume the burden of the pollution that is a byproduct of manufacturing the world’s consumer items; at the same time it must confront public dissatisfaction with high pollution burdens that may shake the government's stability, legitimacy and control.

Whether China can “leapfrog” prior models of industrialization and show the world a new development path is still, I believe, a possibility worth fighting for.  


Posted 1768 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: health studies, public health, health promotion, determinants of health / 0 Comments

As a course leader of an undergraduate degree in health studies, I was often asked by students if I could recommend a really good book that would cover the key things that they needed to know when they were starting their 3 year degree programme. I wasn’t able to make such a recommendation at that time. Yes there are some books that touch upon relevant material, but many did not entirely cover the curriculum that I was delivering, and many were written in styles that I found unenticing hence my reluctance to provide a single recommendation.

Yes, light bulb moment: there was a need for a new book in this area! This book is an attempt to create a resource that is useful but it is also about more. In writing Contemporary Health Studies, my colleagues and I felt able to demonstrate the interesting aspects of the field and to write in a way that was thought-provoking and engaging for our student readers. We have also tried to create a book that enables readers to begin to understand the complexities of health and the many factors which influence it, in a critical way.

The book is a detailed introduction to health studies, a large, multidisciplinary field. It is about health and health determinants, which feature constantly in media reports and are regularly scrutinised by governments, academics and students alike. However, this mass of attention is not always increasing our understanding of what determines health, either good or bad.

In developing our ideas about the book through many enjoyable conversations, we envisaged three parts that would help us to structure the large amount of material that informs the field of health studies.

We begin by exploring understandings of health in part 1. We absolutely had to begin with a chapter about defining health; to study health one has to understand how it is conceptualised and understood in many different ways.

Then we move onto the contemporary threats to health; there are many challenges to health that exist today and these have also evolved and changed in tandem with societal developments. Have you ever considered how these threats are conceptualised and defined? Chapter 2 examines such processes. Given too that health is affected by many determinants, we also included threats to health in this chapter that perhaps are less obvious, such as crime.

This broad thinking about health is a key aim of the book and this should be evident to readers throughout the chapters. The final chapter in this section is about how we investigate health, exploring research methods and thinking particularly about developing a research project for final year undergraduates.

Feedback from students who I teach research methods to about this chapter has been positive; they found it simple and easy to understand which is how we wanted it to be – so much research methods writing is difficult to engage with and, as this chapter shows, it doesn't need to be.

The next part of the book looks at how different disciplines contribute to our understanding of health. It is not a panacea – these are simply the disciplines that we feel contribute the most to our understanding, and that we feel are useful to draw upon. So, we wrote about sociology (chapter 4), anthropology (chapter 5), psychology (chapter 6) and health promotion (chapter 7). Each of these chapters gives an insight into the discipline and how it helps us in understanding health.

Taken together in this second part of the book, these chapters again show that health is influenced by many aspects of the social world such as society, culture, our own psychology and how health is promoted.

The final part of the book uses the Dahlgren and Whitehead determinants rainbow model to provide a framework for the analysis of health influences.

Have you thought about how your own characteristics influence your health? If not then read chapter 8.

How about the community that you live in and the social networks that you are connected to? These also act as health determinants in a number of ways. Chapter 9 explores these in depth.

Chapter 10 then moves on to look at how the physical environment affects our health; things that perhaps we take for granted in many high-income countries such as sanitation, water, housing and education. Health as a basic human right needs all of these environmental influences to be present to an adequate standard. This can be influenced by social policy, which affects all aspects of the social world in which we live including our health.

Chapter 11 explores the policy environment and its relationship with health.

Chapter 12 deviates somewhat from the Dahlgren and Whitehead model because it examines the global context in which health is influenced and located; an area not included in the model. However, it is an area that warrants attention as global forces are important in shaping health outcomes and the impact of globalization is still much debated.

We end the book in chapter 13 with critical evaluation of the Dahlgren and Whitehead model and more importantly 3 case studies that examine the determinants of health, differential analyses of the problem from a variety of schools of thought, and strategies for action. This is an important chapter because many books are good at highlighting health problems but then fail to analyse strategies for action and are thus not useful for practitioners.

Throughout the writing process we spend much time discussing the social model of health, which underpins much of what we have written here. We also consider how we can add to understandings of health and hope that this book will engage readers from a range of areas in helping us to address this task.

Louise Warwick-Booth is course leader of health studies at Leeds Metropolitan University.


Posted 1799 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Disarmament, militias, security studies, peacekeeping, politics, DDR / 0 Comments

Demobilizing Irregular Forces came about nearly by accident. I had been considering a book on postconflict reconciliation practices when the opportunity to write specifically about the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process arose. Since I work primarily with military officers, the thought of working on the area of stability operations that they are most likely to confront was an intriguing challenge. My thinking on the subject has been shaped significantly by the conversations with many of my colleagues and students with tremendous first-hand experience.

The greatest insights of the book are arguably not so much lessons learned as ones rediscovered. Questions over the sequencing of DDR phases, how well the phases should be integrated, and the scope and priorities of DDR are questions easy to identify, but very difficult to address.  Recognizing how dependent DDR success is on the context wherein it is applied is a near universal insight. However, this insight does not stop an almost pathological desire to find “templates” from one case to another. The search for “best practices” is an understandable desire, but practices considered outside of historical and cultural contexts are frequently not “best”.

Secondly, the real success of DDR is found in psychological shifts in combatants and the wider community and not in more quantifiable measures such as weapons collected. Finding ways to measure these shifts is the challenge, but agencies must measure what matters, not what they can see and count. This also leads to the implication that agencies must consider what the individual phases of DDR mean within the context (and timing) of their application. In some cases, removing weapons from an environment will build trust, but in others, it fosters insecurity. It is the context that influences the value of the DDR program, not objective measures of performance.

Finally, the book argues for recognizing “acceptable levels of failure”. Too often, politicians, combatants and communities expect too much from DDR. DDR is not a cure for all conflict, and will not make all forms of violence go away. It is impossible to fix everything, and promising to do so will only lead to greater disappointment. Managing the expectations of both those implementing the DDR program and (perhaps most importantly) the affected community is one of the more valuable reminders from the work.

Eric Shibuya is associate professor of strategic studies at the US Marine Corps Command and Staff College.


Posted 1802 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Virilio, speed, dromology, media / 0 Comments

Virilio Now is a collection of essays and interviews by some of the world’s foremost cultural experts which focuses on the key concepts of the French cultural theorist Paul Virilio.

The book, authored and edited by Professor John Armitage, Associate Dean & Head of Department of Media in the School of Arts and Social Sciences, examines Virilio’s considerable body of cultural theory which includes several focal issues which have gone on to reliably predict and influence how we live today.

He developed concepts such as 'dromology' - the science of speed; 'military space' - wherein he suggests that in a culture dominated by war, the military-industrial complex is significant regarding the creation of the city and the spatial organisation of cultural life; and the ‘cyberwar’ where he claims the aim of the US military is to seek what its chiefs term ‘global information dominance’.

Virilio Now offers a preeminent single-volume book on Virilio's work and world and includes interviews with Virilio conducted by Armitage as well as essays from eminent contemporary theorist including Arthur Kroker, Nigel Thrift and Sean Cubitt.
Professor Armitage explained: ‘Paul Virilio is one of the most significant cultural theorists writing today. His thought remains much misunderstood by many postmodern cultural theorists. For many, his writings exist beyond the terms of postmodernism and should be conceived of as a contribution to the emerging debate over “hypermodernism”.

‘In writing and collating the material for this book, it has been very interesting and beneficial to consider the work of Virilio from the viewpoint of other contemporary theorists and to see Virilio’s musings and predictions become reality, cementing his acute acumen and absolute cultural validity.’

Virilio and the Media
was conceived and written to render Virilio’s media texts and theories such as ‘polar inertia’, ‘the accident to the landscape of events’, ‘cities of panic’ and ‘the instrumental image loop of television’ accessible, priming his readers to create individual critical evaluations of Virilio’s writings.

Speaking about the book, Professor Armitage explained: ‘In books such as The Aesthetics of Disappearance, War and Cinema, The Lost Dimension, and The Vision Machine, Paul Virilio has fundamentally changed how we think about contemporary media culture.

‘Virilio’s examinations of the connections between perception, logistics, the city, and new media technologies comprise some of the most powerful texts within his hypermodern philosophy.

‘Virilio’s texts on the media are vital for everyone concerned with contemporary media culture.’


Posted 1816 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Global public health, global governance, international organizations, International Relations, security studies / 0 Comments

 When there is an international disease outbreak, who should respond? Who should coordinate disease surveillance operations? Answering these questions is less straightforward than commonly thought.

The World Health Organization is charged with being the lead agency to respond to transnational infectious disease epidemics, but it is hardly the only interested party.

Governments play a role. New hybrid organizations like UNAIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria have emerged in recent years. Private actors like the Clinton Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have assumed a place of prominence.

The International Health Regulations have undergone a wholesale transformation in the past decade, fundamentally altering the responsibilities of both states and individuals.

Global Health Governance sorts out the jumble of history, actors, and issues facing global health today. It begins by examining early efforts at creating some measure of coherence in international health efforts.

The second section focuses on the key actors involved in global health in the contemporary world: the World Health Organization, World Bank, UNAIDS, the Global Fund, private foundations, and civil society organizations.

The final section turns its attention to some of the key issues facing global health governance today, like the role of disease surveillance, efforts to frame global health as a security issue, and access to pharmaceuticals.

Global health has achieved an unprecedented level of prominence in recent years, and global health governance has moved in fits and starts to respond to this heightened visibility. Global Health Governance helps the reader understand how we got to the place we currently are and anticipate where we might be going.

Jeremy Youde is assistant professor of political science at the University of Minnesota Duluth.


Posted 1827 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: War and conflict, civil war, civil unrest, peacebuilding / 0 Comments

Enormous media coverage has been generated by the case of Trayvon Martin. The unarmed black teenager was shot dead on his way back from the shops to the home of his father’s fiancée with whom he was staying. 

This occurred on 26 February 2012 in Florida. The initial controversy arose as a result of the failure of the police to charge George Zimmerman, the person who had killed Trayvon Martin, with any offence. 

A contributory factor to their decision appears to have been Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, under which the claim of self-defence against a perceived threat to the person can establish the basis for immunity against prosecution. The existence of such statutes in a number of states, most particularly in the Deep South, reflects populist exploitation of the fear of crime, and the consequent pressure for legislation that provides additional protection for law-abiding citizens against muggers and thieves. 

Whether such legislation is in any way required is open to question, given that self-defence is a widely recognised and accepted justification for the use of lethal force in circumstances of the reasonable perception of a threat to life.

In this case, how reasonable or unreasonable George Zimmerman’s actions were is now set to be determined by the courts, thanks to the overturning of the original decision to release him without charge, following nation-wide protests. However, it remains to be seen what impact legal proceedings will have on the racially polarised reaction there has been to the case, most obviously reflected in the actions of the Black Panthers and white supremacist groups, but also in the coverage of such media outlets as Fox News.

What the case has underlined is the continuing importance of racial divisions in the southern states of the US and the impact these divisions continue to have on the operation of the justice system and how it is regarded by members from different communities. 

The problem of justice in such societies is an issue discussed in depth in my book, Politics in Deeply Divided Societies. By way of illustration it focuses on the shooting of a black infant in South Africa in 1998 and the racially polarised reaction to that case in post-apartheid South Africa, which demonstrated the persistence of racial division even after the country’s political transformation.

The book considers how in deeply divided societies, justice tends to be affected by whether the victim and perpetrator come from the same or different communities.  Thus, it is argued that in societies with clearly defined dominant and subordinate communities, there is a blatant tendency for the authorities to show leniency to perpetrators from the dominant community when the victims are from the subordinate community and, by contrast, severity when the roles are reversed.

Adrian Guelke is professor of comparative politics at Queen's University of Belfast.


Posted 1834 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: social policy, welfare state, inequality, health, family, education / 0 Comments

As an academic subject, social policy is something of an undiscovered treasure trove. When I first accepted an invitation to write Social Policy for Polity's Short Introductions series my aim was to proselytise on behalf of a subject which, though it thrives at postgraduate level in the UK and as a field of research, tends to be poorly understood among the uninitiated. That the book has warranted the production of a second edition augurs well, perhaps, for the subject's future development.

In a book short enough to be read almost at a sitting, social policy is presented as the ultimate multi-disciplinary subject area, that raids an entire gamut of social science disciplines - sociology, economics, politics, human geography, social development and much else besides - in order critically to understand the social relations necessary for human wellbeing and the systems by which human wellbeing may be promoted or impaired. As a discrete area of study, social policy (or social administration as it was originally called) emerged in the UK a century ago. It was often associated with social work and/or with public sector management, but in the past 30 or 40 years it has branched out, taking on comparative and international perspectives and engaging with competing critiques of modern welfare state provision. In the twenty-first century, as commitment to the idea of the welfare state unravels and an era of fiscal austerity unfolds in the global north, while interest in social development and new modes of social provision begins uncertainly to burgeon in the global south, social policy is poised at the epicentre of global debates.

Social policy is concerned with the mending of social ills, but in a more fundamental sense with just how in human societies we care for and about each other. Even in the poorest countries a major slice of national income and a great deal of political effort is likely to be devoted to supporting the sustainability of people's livelihoods (though labour market policy, social security and pension provision) and the provision of human services (including health and social care, education and housing). Just as importantly, policy makers may involve themselves in attempting to supervise or govern the part that families, civil society organisations and market providers play in people's everyday lives.

Social policy therefore bears on pretty much every aspect of human existence and is a subject with few boundaries. It engages with practical as much as theoretical issues. It brings rigorous analysis to bear upon major controversies to do with who gets what in society, who controls this and by what criteria the outcomes may be considered just. What's not to get excited about?

Hartley Dean is professor of social policy at the London School of Economics and author of Social Policy (which has just appeared in a second, updated edition).


Posted 1833 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: none / 0 Comments

What explains the peculiar intensity and evident intractability of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict?  Of all the "hot spots" in the world today, the apparently endless clash between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East seems unique in its longevity and resistance to resolution. Is this conflict really different from other ethnic and nationalist confrontations, and if so, in what way? 

I demystify the conflict by putting it in broad historical perspective, identifying its roots, and tracing its evolution up to the current impasse.  My account offers a clear analytic framework for understanding transformations over time - and in doing so, punctures the myths of an "age-old" conflict with an unbridgeable gap between the two sides.  Rather than simply reciting historical detail, Israel/Palestine presents a clear overview that serves as a road map through the thicket of conflicting claims.

In this account the opposed perspectives of the two sides are presented in full, leaving readers to make their own evaluations of the issues.  Israel/Palestine thus expresses fairly and objectively the concerns, hopes, fears, and passions of both sides, making it clear why this conflict is waged with such vehemence - and why, for all that, there are some grounds for optimism.  The third edition has been thoroughly updated, with special attention to strategic issues of nuclear weapons and Iran; the international and regional context of the Arab-Israel conflict, and the position of the Arab citizens of Israel, have also been expanded.

Alan Dowty is professor of political science emeritus at the University of Notre Dame.


Posted 1854 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Social science, relationships, connections, interactions / 0 Comments

Land of Strangers offers a diagnosis of attitudes towards the stranger in the West since 9/11, when some visible minorities have been increasingly targeted as the focal point of subcutaneous fear, aversion and envy about all manner of things, and the object of punitive measures of surveillance, control and exclusion.  It explains the current situation as the play between a new biopolitics of catastrophism making its way into state cultures of security, and enduring vernacular anxieties over difference and diversity that simmer but remain largely non-violent. 

In particular, the book dissents with the language of cooperation, contact and togetherness that progressives have invented as a counter-measure to the disciplinary society. Taking the West as constitutively hybrid and impersonal, the book argues for a politics of ‘civility’ of indifference towards difference, as a way forward, so that the convivialities of multiculture in everyday life that Paul Gilroy speaks of can be reinforced, naturalised, given affective surge in the public imaginary as the matrix of community and collective agency towards an uncertain future.  

The book traces a series of sites for such a politics, including, for example, a return to the social state, a narrative of community as a plural and agonistic public sphere, commonalities born out of joint work and plural uses of public space, a renewed social democratic critique of ‘catastrophism’, and public and political clamour against discrimination, exclusion and vilification of minorities and subalterns. 

Thus, for example, the city is offered up as both a space of closure and possibility: historically a space of many boltholes and possibility for minorities and dissidents, especially in spaces of incomplete surveillance or exclusion by disciplining public authorities, states and colonising elites. 

Its shared public spaces are often the ground of convivial indifference or agonistic compromises.  But the provisions and deprivations of public policy and public culture are crucial arbiters, of both the vernacular of ties between majorities and strangers, and the material openings available for strangers and subalterns.  This is why the balance between the culture of catastrophism and the culture of provisioning is judged to be so crucial in this book.

Ash Amin is the 1931 Chair of Geography at the University of Cambridge.


Posted 1900 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: development, International Relations, global inequality, poverty, population growth, sustainability, conflict, security, foreign aid, world trade, globalization / 0 Comments

The primary motivation for writing Understanding Development was to take stock of where development is today.  It seemed to me that this was an issue that had received insufficient attention and needed to be addressed, especially in the context of globalisation and environmental decline.  Indeed, many works that have been written on development seem to play down or simply neglect the importance of context.  

Exploring the condition of development required examining many of the key areas that have come to define the subject, including foreign aid, debt, gender, education, health, participation, and trade.  

In particular, the book addresses many of the challenges facing development, notably climate change, increasingly complex patterns of global poverty and inequality, a global economic crisis, escalating world population growth, the growth in the number of fragile states, and the rise of new centres of global power.  In the case of the latter, for example, the rapid economic growth of some countries in the developing world is encouraging their call for greater influence within international development institutions.  

At the same time development continues to attract criticism, ranging from post-development writers dismissing it as a Western project through to politicians questioning the effectiveness and necessity of aid.  Furthermore, many of the UN Millennium Development Goals look unlikely to be achieved by 2015.  
    
Based on this investigation I do not seek to claim that development is in crisis, nevertheless it is arguably at a historic juncture.  For instance, the planet’s eco-systems will simply not be able to sustain the model of development hitherto pursued in the West, especially its level of consumption.  

In addition, there is a lack of consensus amongst those working within development about how to achieve it and what it should entail, evident in competing development theories and strategies.  Moreover, some commentators are detecting what has been termed ‘aid fatigue’, but also a sense that development may be running out of steam in the light of the disappointments and controversies that continue to surround it.  

All of this does not mean that we should give up on development.  In spite of the criticism, and the power politics that continues to envelop it, development retains a moral purpose in the sense of trying to improve people’s lives.  Development is also an evolving and reflexive discourse, something that is reflected in new areas becoming more prominent in the recent period, such as sustainability, conflict and security, and information and communication technologies.

In undertaking this investigation, the book highlights the contested and plural nature of development.  It shows how it has evolved, the extent to which the different aspects of development are interdependent, and why studying it requires an interdisciplinary approach as well as taking into account contemporary globalizing processes.

Paul Hopper is Senior Lecturer in Humanities at the University of Brighton.


Posted 1908 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: political science, Africa, international affairs / 0 Comments

Africa is re-emerging as a strategic piece on the global chessboard.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is approaching the 1 billion mark, and by 2050 is expected to reach 1.8 billion inhabitants. This demographic dynamic is imposing a dizzying pace on the continent’s economic, social and political transformations. In view of the speed and amplitude of the metamorphosis underway, it is worth scouting out the road ahead.

Yet public debates continue to portray the space south of the Sahara as a blighted and marginalized land, untouched by globalization. This view of Africa has to a large degree overlooked the changes deeply affecting African societies, changes which few have fully grasped. Now, in the early 21st century, while the world’s emerging actors observe African developments attentively and actively reconsider their relationships with the continent, the transatlantic community seems to be hesitating.

Four decades ago, a renowned economist wrote on the “Asian drama”, predicting that underdevelopment would remain the main feature of Asia, in part due to the burden of a rapidly expanding population. China, the sleeping giant, has now risen to become the world’s second largest economy in 2010.

Africa is the sleeping giant of the early 21st century. The purpose of Africa's Moment is not to predict whether it will thrive or stumble, nor to determine who might then be held accountable or take credit for progress made. What matters is that policies are reshaped to be in step with the present and foreseeable opportunities and risks that stem from its demographic trends and what we perceive as the strategic re-emergence of Africa.

An Africa of 1.8 billion inhabitants will rapidly gain a stake in the globalization game. If transatlantic partners do not sufficiently commit to cohesive and forward-looking policies toward Africa, we risk facing the domestic consequences of its great transformation. Africa’s re-emergence calls for urgent changes in conventional thinking and public policy.

Olivier Ray currently works at the French Development Agency. Previously, he worked for the United Nation's Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Security Council Report, on questions of development, conflict prevention and post-conflict recovery.


Posted 1911 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Spielberg, Tintin, media studies, film studies / 0 Comments

Tintin and War Horse are two Spielberg films that have been released in America, within two days of each other.  Neither has taken top honors in the box office but the earnings are respectable enough to show that Spielberg still plays to the massive audiences that he helped create forty years ago. 

The geographical center of the audience has shifted to somewhere over the Atlantic and he has given Tintin to the Europeans a month before he release it domestically; while he delayed the foreign release of War Horse.  Prioritizing the foreign release suggests a willingness to strategize the foreign audience more than us Americans.

I ask myself what these films imply for a book entitled Steven Spielberg’s America.  They confirm the end of a Bush era cycle that began with Minority Report (2002) (or perhaps even further back with Saving Private Ryan (1998)) and culminated in Munich (2005).  Spielberg portrayed American (and Israeli) anxiety over democratic openness, responsibilities and security in most of the seven films he directed through this cycle. 

But the book argues that the director often pulls his punches in his treatment of history.  Currently the king of the blockbuster is still willing to take the historical turn. 

Both films are set in the first half of the previous century.  Tintin is a character created in 1929 by the Belgian cartoonist Herge.  War Horse is the story of an English horse conscripted for World War One service and captured by the Germans.  But neither refers to a specific historical-political problem. 

Yet there is something of the political moment in them if only in the way that an American filmmaker still wants to work with European stories.  Is it that the Atlantic cultural divide has evaporated? 

However, this is the moment Europe has become the exotic “other” in rightwing American politics, the example of the hell that waits, if we abandon the free market.  Therefore in selecting such settings we can suspect Spielberg of being the liberal in the domestic culture wars.
 
Spielberg always presents himself as an entertaining storyteller, not an engaged liberal.  The films’ market plans assume the universal cultural appeal of the wish fulfillment genre.  It is this assumption of universalism that triggers the Barthesian analysis of ideology. 

The cartoon images and photo-realisms of the two films are determined by the same impulse.  Even the central positions of a horse and an ageless teenaged boy respectively in the two stories work against specific identities. 

The European settings let the American Spielberg off the hook.  He can ignore the Belgian colonialism of the original Tintin and pick the Tintin stories that take him the furthest away from Herge’s own compromised politics.  He was once naïve about the colonial ideology of classic Hollywood that he unwittingly quoted in the first two Indiana Jones movies.  Now he knows enough to avoid it if not what to offer as an alternative.

There is an analogous ambivalence in Tintin’s style.  It may be pioneering a new level of capture motion animation, but it uses animation to improve photo-realism by degrees, not to break with it.  For example the code of realism in Tintin lengthens the actor’s ability to suspend gravity, as Tintin tumbles from one hammock to another, but it does not defy natural law.  Overall the movie plays as a prequel to the next installment that Peter Jackson will direct.

The director’s heart was more in War Horse.  The English writer who created the story, Michael Morpurgo, shares Spielberg’s sentimentalism whereas Herge only shares his visual approach to adventure. 

Again the American can ignore the specifics of the Great War in order to tell a universal anti-war story.  This is in contrast to Saving Private Ryan where Spielberg’s great concern was to insist that Americans embrace the actual reality of their parents fighting the war. 

In that picture he used subjective sound, shaky hand held camera, chaotic framing and de-saturation of color to drive home the point that this “really happened.”  In War Horse the images of trench fighting are well known and the filmmaker does little to make them strange or to shock us, except for the central conceit of placing the horse as the primary agent. 

Spielberg does not go as far as to tell the story in the horse’s voice (Morpurgo did).  But he uses cinematic techniques to restore the central perspective to the horse in contrast to the stage production of War Horse

Of course, a horse’s perspective transcends politics.  It is a continuation of Spielberg’s approach to sentiment that has formed the “auterist” spine of his entire career.  I argue that it is indicative of the present state of American realism that discourages storytellers from assigning moral responsibility. 

Perhaps the most revealing contrast is not between War Horse and Saving Private Ryan but with Paths of Glory (1957) made by Stanley Kubrick (later to become Spielberg’s friend) that lets nobody off the hook (least of all the viewer) for the great bloody mindedness of the last century. 

We await Spielberg’s Lincoln picture to see if he can abandon his universalism and engage his liberalism long enough to teach the hard lesson that Americans have to learn in the current political impasse.

Frederick Wasser is an associate professor at the Department of Television and Radio, Brooklyn College-CUNY.


Posted 1935 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: cultural sociology, economic sociology, consumption, consumerism, consumer society / 0 Comments

It was only $2. And those who enrolled in auto-pay wouldn’t be charged. Verizon’s convenience fee for making one-time bill payments got the math right but the meanings wrong. A public controversy ensued as consumers expressed righteous outrage over the new wireless phone fee, and the company backed down.

Had monthly phone or data rates inched up on all plans by less than a dollar, who would have noticed? It was not the amount but the culturally inappropriate manner in which it was levied that stirred the flames. If you ask consumers whether Verizon should charge more for specific categories of service, the answer depends on the service you’re talking about. Sometimes consumers will appear to be penny wise but pound foolish as they quibble about a dollar here or there, but these consumers are acting appropriately given their understandings of what’s right and what’s wrong for a specified category of expenditure.

The Culture of Markets builds on arguments by economic sociologists like Viviana Zelizer who show just how fraught spending categories can be. Money earned by a child who delivers newspapers or who mows the neighbors’ lawns gets its own nickname (category): paper money, lawn mowing money. The child may be encouraged to use those funds for school related expenses or to buy toys, but those earnings are unlikely to be applied to the rent or the car note. Money that comes from a lottery win gets spent differently from money that comes from an adult’s salary. And what the right price is also depends on negotiation and group understandings. In other words, what we think we should do with our money depends on where it came from, who earned it, and the purpose to which it will be put. Paying more to pay a bill just feels wrong. It stirs up a collective memory of exploitation and usury. And these collective understandings of what the charges mean compel consumers to act to restore their sense of justice.

Markets are not amoral places; they are moral communities with situation-specific norms and principles that are keenly felt when breached. As Verizon comes to understand the morality of markets, they will find that they can charge more, but first they have to get their categories right.
 
The Culture of Markets makes sense of market mishaps such as this one and provides other examples of how companies inadvertently stir up firestorms: why consumers “inexplicably” fail to respond to market stimuli (e.g. incentive pay, some types of tax cuts), and why “more efficient” options are sometimes foregone.

People do lots of different things in markets, and their understandings about what they are doing depend on more than mathematical calculations. As their intentions and the stories that they share with others come into focus, we can better perceive what money means, how demand rises and falls, why producers partner with specific types of suppliers and distributors, and why well calculated schemes go awry. (See my blog: cultureofmarkets.com)

Frederick F. Wherry is associate professor of sociology at the University of Michigan.


Posted 1938 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Sovereignty, statehood, recognition, global politics, Peace, Conflict Resolution, International Relations / 0 Comments

The recent Palestinian bid for international recognition has failed to secure the backing that the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was hoping for, and it looks like the United States will not have to use its veto at the United Nations Security Council.

Even so, the Palestinian leadership has until now rejected the less ambitious option of becoming a “non-member state” of the UN - which could be achieved through a vote in the General Assembly - and remains set on full recognition. This speaks to the continued appeal of international recognition. So what does the failure to gain UN recognition mean for the future of Palestinian statehood?

When David Cameron was asked why Britain did not support the Palestinian bid, he replied “I don’t believe you create a state by making declarations” and proceeded to argue that “you create a state by bringing together the two relevant parties ... and hammering out an agreement” (the Guardian, 26 November 2011).

But the peace process has so far failed to create an independent Palestinian state, and has now ground to a halt, and although UN recognition would not in itself have created the empirical realities of statehood on the ground, it would have put Israel in a very difficult position. Even if - as was always more likely - recognition had been blocked (solely) by a US veto, such a moral victory would have strengthened the Palestinian position.

As it is, Palestine will continue to exist as an anomaly in the international system of sovereign states: it is recognised by a large number of states, enjoys observer status at the UN, and became a member of UNESCO in October 2011, but it has not gained full international recognition and the empirical realities on the ground do not reflect independent statehood.

Palestine is not the only anomalous entity in the international system of sovereign states. Entities such as Abkhazia, Nagorno Karabakh, Northern Cyprus, Somaliland, Taiwan and Transnistria have all failed to gain international recognition, or are only recognised by a few states, yet they function by and large like independent states.

They enjoy all the trappings of statehood such as an army, a government, courts, hospitals, schools and other public services, and some of these entities may even be better functioning than their de jure parent state. Lack of recognition, and an anomalous international position, therefore clearly does not preclude survival, but does that mean that recognition - or the lack thereof - does not matter?

These entities survive despite their lack of recognition and their survival depends on the support of transnational networks, including patron states, diasporas, international aid organisations and trade (legal and illegal).

Now, recognised states also rely on external support for their survival, for example in the form of military alliances and trade agreements, but for unrecognised states such support is always problematic. Their lack of recognition means that important doors remain closed to them.

Even a case such as Taiwan is unable to become a member of the IMF and the World Bank and its membership of the World Trade Organization is dependent on it accepting the name Chinese Taipei. For other unrecognised entities the reality is one of international isolation and their access to international finance and trade is almost non-existent.

As a consequence, most of these entities depend for their survival on the military and financial support of an external patron; such as Russia in the case of Abkhazia and Armenia in the case of Nagorno Karabakh. This has led some observers to denounce unrecognised states as little more than the puppets of external actors.

While survival without recognition is clearly possible - and some of these entities even thrive - the lack of recognition therefore comes at a price and this affects the kind of entities that result: external backing is paramount and internal cohesion crucial for their continued survival.

Unrecognised states frequently introduce political reforms - partly in a bid to improve their chance of international recognition - but such democratising efforts tend to be undermined by an emphasis on the need for unity in the face external dangers. These entities are, moreover, highly militarised and although the image of puppets is often over-played, unrecognised states do find it hard to escape their external dependence.

International recognition consequently matters; even in a time of globalisation and even in cases that have for decades been outside the control of their de jure parent state. Declarations do not create states, but their absence affects the kind of entities that results: their internal developments and their reliance on external actors.

The example of Kosovo, moreover, shows that widespread international recognition is far from an empty gesture. The above-mentioned entities, in any case, already enjoy the territorial control to which Palestine aspires. Despite the existence of the Palestinian National Authority, which was established to govern parts of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel maintains a degree of control over both territory and internal security that prevents Palestine from enjoying de facto independence.

This makes international recognition all the more important; it would help create a reality of statehood that is presently missing, whereas in the other cases, it would recognise a reality that already exists.

Recognition is not the be-all and end-all of state creation, but it does matter, and it affects not only the lives of the people living in these entities, but also the prospect of finding peaceful solutions to protracted conflicts.

Nina Caspersen is the author of Unrecognized States: the Struggle For Sovereignty in the International System, which analyses how unrecognised entities survive and develop, and the effect this has on attempts to reach compromise solutions.


Posted 1938 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: social history, encyclopaedia, knowledge, wikipedia / 0 Comments

The origins of this book were in personal curiosity, in an attempt to answer the question, by what paths did we reach our present state of collective knowledge? Hence I start in the middle of the 18th century, where volume one ended, and continue the story until the present. The book focuses on academic knowledge, but discusses its relation to other forms of knowhow. It concentrates on the West, but notes the exchange of knowledge with other parts of the world, especially with China and Japan. In order to compensate for both national and disciplinary biases, this study adopts a comparative approach. In a field dominated by specialized studies, the book attempts an overview.

A Social History of Knowledge is inevitably concerned with long-term processes, among them reform, quantification, secularization, professionalization, specialization, democratization and globalization. However, I also emphasize the importance of the coexistence and interaction of trends in opposite directions, a kind of equilibrium of antagonisms. Thus the nationalization of knowledge coexists with its internationalization, secularization with counter-secularization, specialization with attempts at interdisciplinarity and democratization with attempts to counter or restrict it. Even the accumulation of knowledge is offset to some degree by what is lost (destroyed, discarded or simply mislaid).

Peter Burke is Professor Emeritus of Cultural History at the University of Cambridge.


Posted 1938 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: art, Philosophy, analytic aesthetics, cultural value, authenticity, taste, perception, expression, representation, art theory, art criticism / 0 Comments

When people ask me what I do, and I say that I work on philosophy of art, a great many otherwise educated people draw a blank. They can’t imagine what happens when philosophers discuss art.

The answer, of course, depends on your conception of philosophy: the sole origin of philosophy is a sense of wonder or amazement. Or at least that is the position that Plato ascribes to Socrates in the Theaetetus. Throughout Plato’s writings, Socrates’ method is to select a concept that everyone else seems to find unproblematic. He asks them to explain it, or he begins by reporting how someone else has explained it. He then unravels the assumptions of the explanation until it becomes apparent that the topic is far more complex than it seemed.

For those who possess the requisite sense of wonder, this process is stimulating. For many of Socrates’ discussion companions, it is frustrating and annoying, and some of the dialogues break off with the ancient equivalent of “Gosh, look at the time. I must be off to keep that appointment to trim my beard.”

For thirty years now, I have been professionally amazed by our assumptions about the arts. Above all, I have been puzzled by assumption that there is cohesion to the raggle taggle cultural activities that we group together with those words, “the arts.” And the longer I spend with the topic, the more amazed I am that almost everyone believes that there is a clear boundary between the arts and the many cultural activities that fall beyond that boundary.

I do not mean to suggest that the collapse of the boundary is something recent or particularly postmodern. It was no clearer a hundred years ago, nor two hundred. Three hundred years ago, the category was “the fine arts” (actually, it was sometimes an even more slippery construction: “the finer arts”), and it was used to distinguish between the books that were appropriate for the leisure time of a cultured reader and those that were not.

Today, bookstores routinely segregate the stuff called “literature” from the romance novels and vampire stories (and vampire romance stories) and self-help books that actually appeal to the majority of readers.

With minimal adaptation, virtually the same words could be used concerning the intersecting category of the aesthetic.

In the spirit of Socrates, I have found that teaching philosophy of art is first of all a matter of generating that motivating sense of wonder in my students. There are many challenges to doing so. There are the obvious ones that make any college instruction a challenge.

However, philosophy of art must deal with the additional challenge that almost every student who enters the classroom is quite certain that they can distinguish artworks from non-artworks. And yet, once we move beyond a few familiar names — the Mona Lisa, that “song” by Beethoven that starts da da da daaa — no two of them agree on which music or movies or books are artworks and which are not.

Another challenge is that almost none of them voluntarily spend time attending to the things that they push to the “art” side of the conceptual boundary. Never mind where you locate that boundary: today’s college students simply don’t have much exposure to art. I kept all of these challenges in mind when I designed this introduction to my philosophical field of specialization.

The Philosophy of Art differs from other recent introductions to the field by devoting four of its nine chapters to the topics of creativity, art forgery, authenticity and cultural appropriation, and the boundary line between fine art and popular culture.

Because they interest me, most of my previous writing has centered on the latter pair of these four. But they also happen to be philosophically rich topics that resonate with people who can’t work up much initial excitement about the more traditional issue of how to define art.

As I point out, that tradition is a recent one: Plato and Aristotle engaged in debates that remain central to philosophy of art, yet they were not culturally positioned to worry about the definition of art. Thus, philosophizing about art does not have to start with the issue of the proper definition of art. And therefore I reserve that topic for a later chapter, after showing that there are many other conceptual puzzles about art that can engage our sense of wonder.  (But have no fear: if the definition of art is the topic that makes you pick up the book, the chapters can be read as self-sufficient discussions of their nine topics. Yet there’s also abundant cross-referencing that points out where a point made in one chapter intersects with a related topic elsewhere in the book.)

I want to be very clear that the cultural ignorance that seems an obstacle to teaching philosophy of art is also liberating. Philosophers like to discuss Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, and Cindy Sherman. But few students who are being introduced to philosophy of art know those names. Those who teach philosophy of art must also serve as art history teachers.

What I find liberating about this situation is the freedom it offers us in selecting examples. From the neophyte’s perspective, Warhol and Emily Dickinson and Yoko Ono are all equally fresh and therefore equally subversive. 

However, it’s then a very small step to a more inclusive approach. To someone who’s paid no attention to poetry, seventeenth-century haiku is no more culturally remote than Emily Dickinson or T. S. Eliot. Or, to put it the other way around, a European “classic” like the ballet Swan Lake is as culturally remote as Japanese kabuki theater.

To the extent that philosophy of art explores human activities and values that are alleged to be human universals, we ought to be discussing both Swan Lake and kabuki, Rembrandt and Katsushika Hokusai, Mickey Mouse and anime. Therefore I do.

And once I got over the idea that there’s an organized canon of examples that we all know about, I finally accepted that most art is unfamiliar to most of us. At that point, the freedom to be more inclusive dovetailed with the responsibility to do so, and the result has been that students are relieved that their ignorance about the “big names” in art won’t be an obstacle to their philosophizing about art.  And then they become a bit more liberated in their thinking. They feel that they have permission to wonder about the full diversity of the art world. Its borders start to look very strange.

Another technique to induce wonder - on a small scale, admittedly - is the regular placement of short thought experiments. More than 60 of them are sprinkled through the book. They are clearly delineated invitations to stop reading in order to think about the implications of adopting an idea or thesis.

In some cases, the exercise is a simple reminder that the reader should now consider their own example of an artwork, rather than rely solely on the examples that others have chosen for them to consider. In other cases, I hope to create resonances between different parts of the book.

For example, early in the book, I call attention to Amie Thomasson’s point that some positions on the nature of art are simply too revisionist to succeed. Much later, I try to remind readers of this point by asking them to reflect on Leonardo da Vinci’s written descriptions of his goals in producing visual representations, and then ask whether it is plausible to accept a definition of art that implies that da Vinci completely misunderstood what he was accomplishing.

These many attempts to get the reader to think on the go are then supplemented by the traditional practice of ending the chapters with sets of review questions and with suggestions for further reading and, usually, of films that will provide additional grist for thought.

Theodore Gracyk is department chair and professor of philosophy at Minnesota State University.


Posted 1950 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: wood, cultural history, timber / 0 Comments

Wood is a material fundamental to world history, which is important to examine, and of which everybody has their own discoveries and experiences. ‘Ötzi’ the ice-man needed it when he was climbing his Alpine glacier; so did medieval cathedral-builders; so does today’s growing green economy.

From time immemorial, the skill of the human hand has developed by working on wood, so much that we might say that the handling of wood is a part of human nature: a basic element in the history of the human body. ‘Wood is one of the greatest and most necessary things in the world’, Martin Luther said in a talk on 30 August 1532, ‘I marvel how our god has given so many uses to wood for all men in the whole wide world.’

Four hundred years later, Lewis Mumford, a grandfather of American environmentalism said ‘Take away wood and one takes away literally the props of modern technics.’

Since Werner Sombart, the pre-industrial era has been called a ‘Wooden Age’. Wood, however, is not only a typical pre-modern material, but a requirement for industrial development, whether in North America, in Central Europe or in Japan. We often forget that role.

The worry of a future wood famine caused a panic in the 18th century, which marked the roots of modern environmentalism; this fear has returned in recent times. ‘Sustainable development’, set as the goal for the whole world economy at the 1992 environmental Rio summit, was first applied – though it seems to have been forgotten in Rio – to the forest, and especially the montane and saline forests of Central Europe.

My own debut in the matter was in 1981, at an international conference in Essen on ‘Energy in History’, where I questioned the thesis of a catastrophic shortage of wood in the 18th century. This triggered a controversy that rumbles on even today, thirty years later, more lasting than most other controversies among German historians. For it has been the sacred myth of the proud German forestry culture that, ever since Germany began to revive after 1800, it has protected its homeland more than any other countries from the threat of a supply disaster.

But the Wooden Age did not end because of a shortage of wood, any more than the Stone Age ended because a shortage of stone. A broad overview demonstrates this fact more clearly than a plethora of special studies could ever do. Growing scarcity of wood was not the time bomb of the Wooden Age, as Sombart believed it to be, but rather the emergency brake of an economy which was not fit for permanent growth.

In pre-modern time, the ‘limits to growth’ were self-evidently natural and no title for a bestseller. Today, these limits have been rediscovered. Now, wood could become the epitome of sustainability. If the old Age of Wood did not collapse because of a wood shortage, a new Age of Wood may be possible, to at least some degree.

The histoire totale of wood and woodlands, which goes beyond the traditional boundaries of forest history, demonstrates what many discussions, even at an international level, have continued to ignore until now: that the solution of many wood supply problems will not be found in the forests alone. Forest history is intimately connected with the great mainstreams of history. The sustainable use of forests is not solely a question of forestry.

Wood traces the environmental, cultural and technological history of wood. It demonstrates that wood offers a secret key for a better understanding of world history, of certain peculiarities and of varieties of cultures, moreover of the rise and fall of great powers. It also reveals a co-evolution of nature and culture which offers hope for our future.

If we look only at the mass of complaints about forest destruction and wood shortage that reached a peak in the late 18th century, one is tempted to argue – as many have done before – that the rise of the West based on coal and steel was a response to the growing scarcity of wood. But that seems to be wrong (though the discussion continues).

In most regions, industrialization proceeded on the basis of wood along with animal and water power. A global comparison clearly shows that, in the 18th century, Europe was still relatively rich in timber with no exceptional shortages.

Wood is a key to historical microcosms, but at the same time to questions of big theories on world history. In the ‘modern world system’ described by Immanuel Wallerstein, does the timber trade further widen the gulf between core and periphery – Wallerstein’s central concept – or do the forests on the contrary give the periphery a special opportunity?

Is Garrett Hardin’s ‘tragedy of the commons’ decisively confirmed by the history of the forest, or are on the contrary forest communities the best example for the rehabilitation of local commons, as Elinor Ostrom suggested in the work that won her the 2009 Nobel Prize for economics?

‘America’s Wooden Age was a wonderful era, specifically because of the nature of the prevailing technology which depended so heavily upon wood’; so begins the anthology America’s Wooden Age, published in 1975 by the National Museum of History and Technology.

So, we might ask, if the Wooden Age was so wonderful, why didn’t America stick with wood until today? If one writes a history of wood filled with enthusiasm for the material, one finds oneself asking why it no longer rules the world, but often has been driven out by other materials.

A critical approach is needed in order to avoid succumbing to illusion. If wood is to win back some ground, an explanation is needed as to how it lost that ground in the first place. Many advantages of wood have become evident only in retrospect. And the narrow horizons of the timber industry have prevented many an opportunity from being seized. The trio of forestry, the timber industry and environmental movement are still filled with deep tensions. We are a long way from a grand Green Trinity which could become pioneering for a future Age of Ecology. Wood’s history is an unfinished story.

Joachim Radkau is professor of modern history at Bielefeld University.


Posted 2021 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Cultural theory, continental philosophy, media studies, literary theory, postmodernism, Philosophy / 0 Comments

What’s the fuss about Sloterdijk? – more talked about than read; praised, condemned and until recently ignored in English-language scholarship.

This book offers an introduction to, critical appraisal of and engagement with this mercurial thinker. It is the first book devoted to Sloterdijk in English, and its contributors are an international and interdisciplinary dream-team – Babette Babich, Sjoerd van Tuinen, Eduardo Mendieta, Marie-Eve Morin, Efraín Kristal, Wieland Hoban, Nigel Thrift, Jean-Pierre Couture, and Sloterdijk himself.

Ranging across his extensive works, the contributions focus on key themes and crucial questions. You’ll find discussions of his politics, his ways of engaging in debate, his understandings of space, humanity, art, anger, literature and language.

No one interested in philosophy and social theory in the twenty-first century can fail to have an opinion on Sloterdijk. Sloterdijk Now provides plenty of ammunition for the debates to come.

Stuart Elden is Professor of Geography at Durham University.


Posted 2021 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Sovereignty, statehood, recognition, global politics, Peace, Conflict Resolution, International Relations, politics, security studies / 0 Comments

Unrecognized states are places that do not exist in international politics; they are state-like entities that have achieved de facto independence, but have failed to gain widespread international recognition. Territories such as Abkhazia, Nagorno Karabakh, Somaliland, Taiwan and Transnistria frequently enjoy all the trappings of statehood: an army, a government, courts, hospitals, schools and other public services. They may therefore look like states and act like states, but they are not recognised as such in the modern international system.

Unrecognized states hold a fascination for the intrepid traveller with a fondness for the paradoxical, but their involvement in conflicts over contested territories also makes them of wider interest. Some of these conflicts – in places as diverse as the Balkans, the former Soviet Union, South Asia, the Horn of Africa, and the South Pacific – have elicited major international crises and intervention, while others could be the site of future warfare. Even so, there has been a lack of academic analysis of these curious anomalies and they remain subject to myths and simplifications.

Unrecognized states join a list of other anomalies in the international system, such as associated territories, internationally administered territories and mini-states, but unlike such entities unrecognized states are not afforded a place in the international system of sovereign states. Their lack of recognition comes at a significant cost, yet a number of unrecognized states have survived for decades and some of them even thrive.  This raises important – yet hitherto largely unanswered – questions about the conditions that enable these anomalies to survive in a system of sovereign states and about the kind of entities that can emerge from non-recognition. In answering these questions we find out something important, not just about unrecognised states, but also about sovereignty and statehood.

Building on extensive fieldwork, my new book Unrecognized States: The Struggle for Sovereignty in the Modern International System examines the origins of unrecognized states, the factors that enable their survival and explores their likely future trajectories: is reintegration, status quo or recognition on the cards for these entities and how can peaceful solutions best be promoted? I hope that this book will prove a valuable resource for students, scholars and practitioners with an interest in contested territories, sovereignty, state-building and conflict resolution.

Nina Caspersen is lecturer in peace and conflict studies at Lancaster University.


Posted 2023 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: climate change, social systems, sociology, environmental studies / 0 Comments

In Climate Change and Society the ‘social’ is positioned at the heart of the analysis of why climates are changing and of assessing and developing alternative futures. This book especially demonstrates the importance of social practices that over time are organised into powerful ‘socio-technical’ systems. In the fateful twentieth century, various high carbon social practices, increased income, wealth and movement, engendered huge population growth, increased greenhouse gas emissions and used up maybe half of the world’s oil that had made this world go round. Especially important in stabilising these high carbon systems was the ‘carbon military-industrial complex’, the most powerful of set of interests operating worldwide.

In this new century it is such systems that have to change, to move from growing high carbon systems to a cluster of those that are low carbon. It is clear that such a transition has to happen fast so as to create positive feedbacks of each low carbon system upon each other. How can we change such systems and practices, and how can they be changed in time? The urbanist Mike Davis concludes that such a Plan B is unlikely to have been realised by 2030 and the convergent effects of climate change, peak oil, peak water, and an additional 1.5 billion people will produce negative synergies beyond our current imagination.

John Urry is professor of sociology at the University of Lancaster.


Posted 2048 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: Organizations, communication, emotions / 0 Comments

I wrote Communicating Emotions at Workafter spending several decades collecting emotional narratives from clerks, probation officers, teachers, firefighters, managers, factory workers, and many others.  From this research I learned several important truths. 

First, although work is often mundane, emotional encounters make it more meaningful, memorable, humane and (sometimes) stressful. 

Second, the success of organizations and individual workers very much depends on their capacity to communicate and regulate human feeling.

Third, emotional communication is often a positive force in organizational life.  It is often through expressions of feeling that we forge bonds with coworkers, mark and resist unethical practices, and create cohesive responses to complicated tasks. 

Fourth, emotional communication is too often abused or neglected, often with profoundly negative consequences for people and organizations.

Emotion certainly has its biological, cognitive, and affective dimensions, but this book is very much about communication.  I want students to think deeply and concretely about how emotion arises from interactions, language practices, collective performances and messages produced by organizations for various audiences. 

The book is also firmly rooted in the practice of work.  Students will see that emotion is shaped by organizational rules, rituals, processes, and power relations - that emotion flows across teams, networks, technologies, occupational cultures, and work/home boundaries. 

In writing Communicating Emotions at Work I made every effort to engage the student reader.  At the same time, I hope the book spurs more organizational researchers to think about emotion as a rich communicative phenomenon, one essential to the process of organizing.

Vincent R. Waldron is professor of communication studies at Arizona State University.


Posted 2071 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: gender, inequality, globalization, marginalization, social theory, education / 0 Comments

A world out of control?  A world of ruthless elites, environmental disaster, reborn patriarchy, and growing gaps between rich and poor?  A world where the alternatives are riot, terrorism, or futile protest?  Our world, right?

If that is NOT to be our world - if we want real democracy in rich countries as well as poor - we need new strategies of social change, and knowledge to base them on.  Confronting Equality shows how social science provides knowledge and ideas vital for democratic politics.   Its chapters discuss men’s role in achieving gender equality, the social impact of neoliberalism, the new politics of teaching, key theorists of global society, and more.

Social science matters.  Reliable knowledge matters.   Much social research is presented in conservative, dependent, or depressing ways.  But social science can be a site of excitement and insight, and a way of opening new perspectives on the world.

Raewyn Connell is university professor at the University of Sydney and the author of numerous books, including Confronting Equality, Gender, and Southern Theory.


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