Wiley: The British Journal of Sociology: Table of Contents
Understanding the mobility chances of children from working‐class backgrounds in Britain: How important are cognitive ability and locus of control?
Research in social stratification has shown that children from working‐class backgrounds tend to obtain substantially lower levels of educational attainment and lower labor market positions than children from higher social class backgrounds. However, we still know relatively little about the micro‐level processes that account for this empirical regularity. Our study examines the roles of two individual‐level characteristics—cognitive ability and locus of control—in mediating the effect of individuals’ parental class background on their educational attainment and social class position in Britain. We find that cognitive ability mediates only about 35% of the total parental class effect on educational attainment and only about 20% of the total parental class effect on respondents’ social class position, net of their educational attainment. These findings contradict existing claims that differences in the life chances of children from different social class backgrounds are largely due to differences in cognitive ability. Moreover, we find that although individuals’ locus of control plays some role in mediating the parental class effect, its role is substantially smaller than the mediating role of cognitive ability. We measure individuals’ social class positions at different points in their careers—at labor market entry and at occupational maturity—and find that the mediating roles of cognitive ability and locus of control are remarkably stable across individuals’ working lives.
National and international policy‐makers have addressed threats to environmental sustainability from climate change and other environmental degradation for over 30 years. However, it is questionable whether current policies are socially, politically, economically, and scientifically capable of adequately resolving these threats to the planet and living organisms. In this paper we theorize and develop the concept of a “policy assemblage” from within a new materialist ontology, to interrogate critically four policy perspectives on climate change: “liberal environmentalism”; the United Nations policy statements on sustainable development; “green capitalism” (also known as “climate capitalism”) and finally “no‐growth economics.” A materialist analysis of interactions between climate change and policies enables us to establish what each policy can do, what it ignores or omits, and consequently its adequacy to address environmental sustainability in the face of climate change. None, we conclude, is adequate or appropriate to address climate change successfully. We then use this conceptual tool to establish a “posthuman” policy on climate change. Humans, from this perspective, are part of the environment, not separate from or in opposition to it, but possess unique capacities that we suggest are now necessary to address climate change. This ontology supplies the starting point from which to establish sociologically a scientifically, socially, and politically adequate posthuman climate change policy. We offer suggestions for the constituent elements of such a policy.
This paper examines recent street tests of autonomous vehicles (AVs) in the UK and makes the case for an experimental approach in the sociology of intelligent technology. In recent years intelligent vehicle testing has moved from the laboratory to the street, raising the question of whether technology trials equally constitute tests of society. To adequately address this question, I argue, we need to move beyond analytic frameworks developed in 1990s Science and Technology Studies, which stipulated “a social deficit” of both intelligent technology and technology testing. This diagnosis no longer provides an effective starting point for sociological analysis, as real‐world tests of intelligent technology explicitly seek to bring social phenomena within the remit of technology testing. I propose that we examine instead whether and how the introduction of intelligent vehicles into the street involves the qualification and re‐qualification of relations and dynamics between social actors. I develop this proposal through a discussion of a field study of AV street trials in three cities in the UK—London, Milton Keynes, and Coventry. These urban trials were accompanied by the claim that automotive testing on the open road will enable cars to operate in tune with the social environment, and I show how iterations of street testing undo this proposition and compel its reformulation. Current test designs are limited by their narrow conception of sociality in terms of interaction between cars and other road users. They exclude from consideration the relational capacities of vehicles and human road users alike—their ability to co‐exist on the open road. I conclude by making the case for methodological innovation in social studies of intelligent technology: by combining social research and design methods, we can re‐purpose real‐world test environments in order to elucidate social issues and dynamics raised by intelligent vehicles in society by experimental means, and, possibly, test society.
In much public discourse on immigrants in Western Europe, perceptions towards newcomers are discussed in relation to what white national majorities think. However, today, new migrants often move into places which are already settled by previous migrants. This article investigates the local experiences, perceptions, and attitudes towards newcomers among long‐established ethnic minorities in an area which they have made their home, and where they predominate not just in numbers but also by way of shops, religious sites, school population, and so on. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in East London (UK), it looks at long‐established ethnic minority residents’ attitudes towards newcomers from Eastern Europe, and how these are shaped by their own histories of exclusion. By bringing together theories on symbolic boundary making with the concept of “convivial labor,” it shows how experiences of stigmatization impact on perceptions of white newcomers, and how these perceptions are characterized by a combination of empathy and resentment.
Utilizing the moral nobility of older Chinese women in governance: The uses of humility, empathy, and an ethics of care in moral clinics in Huzhou city
This paper examines the emergence of the role of “moral doctors” who volunteer in what are called “moral clinics” in Huzhou city. In these moral clinics, the characteristics, experiences, and attributes of older women, in particular, are highly valued and viewed as being essential to the role of the moral doctor. These moral doctors act as moral exemplars and conflict mediators in their local communities. Their moral capital and professionalism, combined with their gender, age, familial and neighborhood attributes, contribute to the accumulation of an affective feminized labor which employs the techniques of care, reason, and moral fortitude to govern the self and others. We unpack these ethical virtues exemplified by moral doctors and nurses in order to show how a female‐centric “ethic of care” can become a set of techniques in governing others. In this paper, we elaborate on the role that these moral doctors perform to support the aims of the moral clinics in terms of fostering pro‐social behavior and moral obligation in local communities. We argue that the performance of this type of “moral work” is both a mechanism of discipline and a process of self‐actualization. We contribute to the current literature on “therapeutic governance” in China by showing how the non‐expert medicalization of social ills by moral doctors is incorporated into the reproduction of social control.
Paradoxes of late‐modern autonomy imperatives: Reconciling individual claims and institutional demands in everyday practice
Governmentality studies and social theories agree that in contemporary societies the idea of autonomy is no longer simply an ideal or an individual aspiration but a social obligation. In an attempt to clarify the meaning of autonomy in this day and age, this paper asks how individuals perceive and negotiate the various dimensions of autonomy and how this affects the functioning of late‐modern institutions. The empirical insights derived from a qualitative study provide a differentiated picture of how individuals pursue their claims to autonomy and comply with institutional demands for autonomy in everyday practice. By presenting seven types of late‐modern “autonomy managers,” the analysis evinces a usurpation of autonomous agency that renders individuals the institutional editors of the contemporary contradictions, deficits, and tensions that occur in their everyday interactions. This comes at the price of notionally free but exhausted actors running short of all kinds of resources.
This paper explores temporal constituents of the female self in terms of their role in underpinning ongoing gender inequality. Drawing on the work of Simone de Beauvoir and Iris Marion Young, together with sociological approaches to ambivalence, I suggest that these temporal subjectivities are embodied, arise from the split subjectivity associated with woman as simultaneously subject and object, and counterpose the neoliberal emphasis on “choice” and agency with a more traditional gendered “expectation,” or “waiting” style. The dialectic between both temporalities, in which neither is hegemonic, results in a chronic state of ambivalence which impedes women's ability to fully project themselves into the future, a skill significant to planning and career ambition and the absence of which suspends women instead in an extended present. The paper aims to do two things in particular. In conceptual terms it aims to explore aspects of the configuration of the gendered self that underlie the stalling and slowing down of the gender revolution and which can be seen to provide a “missing link” between structures, institutions, and micro‐cultures. In empirical terms, it suggests a future research agenda, of which this paper constitutes a beginning, through which such gendered temporalities can be explored in greater detail via ethnographies of women's lived experience of time throughout the life course.
Internationally, sex work research, public opinion, policy, laws, and practice are predicated on the assumption that commercial sex is a priori sold by women and bought by men. Scarce attention has been devoted to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning (LGBTQ) sex working as well as women who pay for sex. This is as much an empirical absence as it is a theoretical one, for the ideological claim that women comprise the “vast majority” of sex workers is rarely, if ever, exposed to empirical scrutiny. Focusing on the UK, we address this major gap in evidence in order to challenge the gendered and heterosexist logics that underpin contemporary debates. We do so by presenting large‐scale data gained from the quantitative analysis of 25,511 registered member profiles of an online escort directory. Our findings point to heterogeneity rather than homogeneity in the contemporary sex industry including in terms of gender identity, sexual orientation, and advertised client base. For example, while two‐thirds of advertisements self‐identify as “Female,” one in four are listed as “Male;” less than half list their sexual orientation as “Straight;” and nearly two‐thirds advertise to women clients. Our study thus challenges prevailing heteronormative assumptions about commercial sex, which erase LGBTQ sex workers and other non‐normative identities and practices, and which we argue have important political, practical, and theoretical consequences.
While description is a valuable aspect of meaningful sociological work, this paper takes issue with Mike Savage’s argument that the social sciences, and sociology in particular, should seek to prioritize description over practices of explanation and analysis, and attention to questions of causality. The aim of this paper is not to take issue with descriptive forms of sociology in themselves, but to argue that the answer to the problems identified by Savage and Burrows in their landmark paper “The Coming Crisis of Empirical Sociology” is not to follow commercial forms of research by prioritizing practices of description and classification at the cost of asking fundamental questions about the “why?” and the “how?” of social life and politics. Rather, this paper argues that it is imperative that sociology does not simply describe inequalities of different types, but questions, explains, and analyses the structures and mechanisms through which they are created, reproduced, and sustained. The argument will be developed in three stages. First, this paper will restate the main points of Savage’s call for descriptive sociology; second, it will address his critique of “epochalist thinking” and subsequent opposition to the idea of neoliberalism; and third, it will respond to his use of Thomas Piketty’s work as a model for developing sociological descriptions of class and inequality.
Sibling violence is an under‐researched field, and the impact of adolescent family violence (AFV) in particular on siblings is not yet well understood. The Australian study Investigating Adolescent Family Violence in Victoria elicited responses from siblings who had experienced AFV from their brothers or sisters, as well as reflections from parents and practitioners on the difficulties of addressing AFV directed towards siblings. This article explores characteristics of sibling violence identified in this study, impacts of the violence on siblings, parents, and families, and responses to sibling violence in Victoria, Australia. Siblings described experiencing severe physical, psychological, and emotional violence, and beyond this recounted a range of difficulties such as not being believed by the adults in their lives; the violence being dismissed as normal sibling behavior; an inability to access support services without the help of parents or other adults; sadness and distress at the loss of the sibling relationship; and resentment towards parents for their perceived inaction against the violence. Practitioners highlighted the dearth of services and resources available for siblings affected by AFV, and the inadequacies of current Child Protection responses. This research sheds light on the hidden issue of sibling violence and highlights the need for nuanced responses rather than a one‐size‐fits‐all approach.
Nostalgia had a prominent place in the Brexit Referendum campaign, epitomized by Nigel Farage carrying around with him an old‐fashioned blue British passport on the campaign trail. In this paper, we seek to examine British attitudes towards the past through a new survey instrument administered online in July and August 2018 (N = 3,000). We empirically establish two dimensions of nostalgia that are differentially associated with political preferences. We conclude that it is the substance of the nostalgia that matters, not the looking towards the past per se.
The British Journal of Sociology, Volume 71, Issue 1, Page 3-3, January 2020.
This paper responds to Nick Gane's “Against a descriptive turn”. I argue that descriptive research strategies are more open and inclusive than those which purport to be causal where explanatory adequacy is assessed by expert insiders. I also show how open descriptive strategies can assist a wider explanatory purpose when these are conceived in non‐positivist ways. I argue that epochalist sociology lacks an adequate temporal ontology because it collapses descriptive specificity back into overarching epoch descriptions. Finally, I argue that if the entire range of publications associated with the Great British Class Survey are considered, that it has demonstrated a productive way of recognising the significance of class which has facilitated major research advances in its wake.
This paper joins the debate on the formation of territorial stigma by uncovering the existence of a form of “foundational stigma” that preceded place‐based stigma of the era of advanced marginality. I show that not only were the traces of stigma present prior to the era of advanced marginality but that these early traces facilitate later forms of stigma by providing the necessary foundations upon which adhesive and detrimental stigma was operationalized. Following a critical discourse analysis approach, this paper examines coverage in the British press of Toxteth, Liverpool between 1900 and 1981 as a paradigmatic case study to show that this primitive stigma existed in three key ways: relating to inter‐community strife, to crime, and to substandard housing conditions. These traces of stigma laid the foundations for later forms of stigma based on the presence of the poor, violent, deviant other that would be operationalized by dominant voices during the era of advanced marginality.
Are universities left‐wing bastions? The political orientation of professors, professionals, and managers in Europe
Universities are accused of being left‐wing bastions, unwelcoming to conservative and right‐wing professors. However, we know little about the political orientation of professors in comparison to other professionals, which would be the right comparison group if we want to know whether universities are potentially hostile environments to conservatives. Examining culturally and economically oriented political orientations in Europe, it is demonstrated that professors are more liberal and left‐leaning than other professionals. However, there is no greater homogeneity of political orientations among the professoriate relative to other specific professions, suggesting that there is a diversity of opinions which is similar to what professionals would find in other occupations. One exception concerns attitudes towards immigration, on which professors have more liberal orientations and comparatively low residual variance around that more liberal mean. Importantly, the difference between professors and other professionals is not so clear within graduates from the social sciences, but emerges more clearly among graduates with a medical, STEM, economics or law degree. An important political cleavage exists between professionals and managers, a group of similar social standing.
The atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 is one of the most powerful global memories. While the literature on global memories has greatly expanded in recent decades, Hiroshima remains surprisingly understudied. In addressing this lacuna, this paper develops a new theoretical prism for the study of global memories. It argues that the Hiroshima memory cannot be understood in isolation, but rather as the hub in a broader memory complex. This complex is the result of symbolic dialogues that connect Hiroshima with such different events, situations, and memories as Nanjing, Pearl Harbor, the Cold War, and so on. The paper demonstrates how these dialogues have been forged, often in the context of substantial controversy. While distinctly sociological in orientation, the paper takes its main theoretical inspiration from cultural, literary, and history scholars such as Jan and Aleida Assmann, Sebastian Conrad, Astrid Erll, Ann Rigney, Michael Rothberg, Aby Warburg and Mikhael Bakhtin.
Irrational rationalities and governmentality‐effected neglect in immigration practice: Legal migrants’ entitlements to services and benefits in the United Kingdom
Governments’ attempts to manage immigration increasingly restrict immigrants’ eligibility to healthcare, education, and welfare benefits. This article examines the operation of these restrictions in the United Kingdom. It draws on qualitative research with civil servants and NGO expert advisors, and applies sociological theories on bureaucracy as a lens to interpret these data. Conceptually, the paper employs a generative synthesis of Ritzer’s notion of “irrational rationality” and Foucault’s perspective on “governmentality” to explain observed outcomes. Findings show that public service workers struggle with complex and opaque regulations, which grant different entitlements to different categories of migrants. The confusion results in mistakes, arbitrary decisions, and hypercorrection, but also a system‐wide indifference to irrational outcomes, supported by human factors in contexts of austerity. I consider this a form of governmentality‐effected neglect, where power operates as much through inaction as well as through intention, but which results in exclusions of legal migrants that are harsher in practice than in law.
In this paper, we test two mechanisms through which cultural capital might affect educational performance: (a) teachers misinterpreting cultural capital as signals of academic brilliance and (b) cultural capital fostering skills in children that enhance educational performance. We analyse data from the ECLS‐K and ECLS‐K:2011 from the United States and focus on three aspects of children’s cultural capital: participation in performing arts, reading interest and participation in athletics and clubs. We find that (1) none of the three aspects of cultural capital that we consider affects teachers’ evaluations of children’s academic skills; (2) reading interest has a direct positive effect on educational performance; and (3) the direct effect of reading interest on educational performance does not depend on schooling context. Our results provide little support for the hypothesis that cultural capital operates via signals about academic brilliance. Instead, they suggest that cultural capital fosters skills in children that enhance educational performance. We discuss the theoretical implications of our findings.
Deservingness put into practice: Constructing the (un)deservingness of migrants in four European countries
The increased comparative research on perceptions of public welfare deservingness studies the extent to which different subgroups of citizens are deemed worthy or unworthy of receiving help from the welfare state. The concept of deservingness criteria plays a crucial role in this research, as it theorizes a universal heuristic that citizens apply to rank people in terms of their welfare deservingness. Due to the mainly quantitative nature of the research and despite the indisputable progress it has made, the subjective existence and actual application of these deservingness criteria remain a bit of a black box. What criteria of deservingness do citizens actually apply, and how do they apply them? This article opens the black box of welfare deservingness and sheds light on the nature and practice of deservingness criteria. Empirically, the paper explores how the deservingness of immigrants is discussed and established within 20 focus groups conducted in Slovenia, Denmark, UK, and Norway in 2016 with a total of 160 participants. All 20 focus groups discussed the welfare deservingness of immigrants based on similar vignette stimuli. Our analysis shows that (1) deservingness criteria are used both to construct images of target groups and as normative yardsticks; (2) deservingness criteria do not work independently of each other, but rather co‐function in specific hybridized discourses; and (3) the moral logic of deservingness is supplemented by alternative moral logics, at least in the case of migrants.
Time, Science and the Critique of Technological Reason Jose Esteban Castro Bridget Fowler Luis Gomes 2018 Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, imprint of Springer International Publishing 390 pp. £96.50 (Hardback).
The British Journal of Sociology, Volume 71, Issue 1, Page 200-202, January 2020.
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