Wiley: The British Journal of Sociology: Table of Contents
What do stress tests test? Experimentation, demonstration, and the sociotechnical performance of regulatory science
After their successful introduction during the 2007–2009 financial crisis, central bank stress tests were adopted as a fixture of international banking supervision. However, in recent years a new normal has emerged where banks are expected to pass the tests, raising questions about the tests’ usefulness and legitimacy. Combining a dramaturgical interpretation of regulatory science with the idea of performativity in the sociology of finance, this article understands stress tests as a sociotechnical Goffmanian performance. With a focus on the Bank of England’s program, the paper argues that the Bank’s decision to make their tests “predictable” is an attempt to shore up central bank legitimacy by constraining regulatory discretion. This is accomplished through the use of calculative and procedural stage management techniques which allow the Bank to control the contingency of the testing process while demonstrating its objectivity. Nevertheless, the conclusion suggests that in the context of low levels of trust in central banks, routine declarations of “all clear” may undermine public confidence in the tests’ credibility and necessity. The study draws on 20 interviews with high‐level regulators, financial practitioners and other stakeholders in the Bank of England’s stress tests.
Combining moral philosophy with sociological theory to build on themes introduced in Hall and Lamont’s Successful Societies (2009), the paper outlines a distinctive perspective. It holds that a necessary condition of successful societies is that decision‐makers base their decisions on a high level of attentiveness (concern and comprehension) towards subjectively valued and morally legitimate forms of life. Late modern societies consist of a plurality of forms of life, each providing grounds for what Alasdair MacIntyre has called internal goods—valued and morally valuable practices. The status of such goods is examined, and distinctions are drawn between their manifest and latent, and transposable and situationally specific, characteristics. We integrate this refined idea of internal goods into a developed conception of habitus that is both morally informed and situationally embedded. The sociological approach of strong structuration theory (SST) is employed to demonstrate how this conception of habitus can guide the critique of decision‐making that damages internal goods. We identify the most pervasive and invidious forms of damaging decision‐making in contemporary societies as those involving excessive forms of instrumental reasoning. We argue that our developed conception of habitus, anchored in the collectively valued practices of specific worlds, can be a powerful focus for resistance. Accounts of scholarship in higher education and of the white working class in America illustrate the specificities of singular, particular, social worlds and illuminate critical challenges raised by the perspective we advocate.
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 1-2, January 2020.
The British Journal of Sociology, Volume 71, Issue 1, Page 3-3, January 2020.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How do Norwegian migration and diversity researchers experience and maneuver participation in public debate? And do their experiences and strategies fit with Michael Burawoy's image of Norwegian social science and with his model of public sociology? In this article, the concept of public sociology is expanded to public social science, encompassing communication of research not just from sociology but social science in general. Semi‐structured interviews with 31 Norwegian migration and diversity scholars from 10 academic institutions about their experiences of, and views on, public research communication constitute the empirical material. The article concludes that Burawoy is right about the relatively high participation in public debate among social scientists in Norway. And his ideal‐typical distinction between four types of sociology is helpful in analyzing how researchers relate differently to the science‐public interface. Yet the results indicate that his perspective on public sociology is overly optimistic and not sufficiently attuned to the normativity already attached to highly politicized issues in public debate.
This article reports on an ethnography of architectural projects for later life social care in the UK. Informed by recent debates in material studies and “materialities of care” we offer an analysis of a care home project that is sensitive to architectural materials that are not normally associated with care and well‐being. Although the care home design project we focus on in this article was never built, we found that design discussions relating to a curved brick wall and bricks more generally were significant to its architectural “making”. The curved wall and the bricks were used by the architects to encode quality and values of care into their design. This was explicit in the design narrative that was core to a successful tender submitted by a consortium comprising architects, developers, contractors, and a care provider to a local authority who commissioned the care home. However, as the project developed, initial consensus for the design features fractured. Using a materialized analysis, we document the tussles generated by the curved wall and the bricks and argue that mundane building materials can be important to, and yet marginalized within, the relations inherent to an “architectural care assemblage.” During the design process we saw how decisions about materials are contentious and they act as a catalyst of negotiations that compromise “materialities of care.”
Bureaucratic encounters “after neoliberalism”: Examining the supportive turn in social housing governance
It is well established that encounters between welfare bureaucracies and their clients have been reconfigured under neoliberalism to address the problem of “welfare dependency.” Contemporary bureaucratic encounters therefore entail measures to activate clients’ entrepreneurial/self‐governing capacities, and conditionality/sanctioning practices to deal with clients who behave “irresponsibly.” Despite the dominance of the neoliberal model, recent research has identified a counter‐trend in the practices of housing services away from entrepreneurializing and punitive strategies and towards a more supportive approach. This paper examines this counter‐trend and its implications for neoliberal welfare governance. To do this, it presents findings from research into social housing governance in Queensland, Australia, where the neoliberal focus on welfare independence, conditionality and sanctioning has been tempered by a new supportive approach focused on assisting vulnerable clients to maintain and benefit from access to welfare/housing support. Following Larner, we argue that this shift signals the emergence of an “after neoliberal” governmental formation, wherein key features of neoliberal governmentality are replaced by, or redeployed in the service of, progressive initiatives that address neoliberalism’s failings at the street level, but leave broader neoliberal policy settings undisturbed. We also challenge recent sociological accounts that construe supportive welfare practices as a function of an all‐encompassing neoliberal project, arguing instead for appreciation of the contingency of these developments and the progressive political affordances that they entail.
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.
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.
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.
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.
British Journal of Sociology is published on behalf of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) is unique in the United Kingdom in its concentration on teaching and research across the full range of the social, political and economic sciences. Founded in 1895 by Beatrice and Sidney Webb, the LSE is one of the largest colleges within the University of London and has an outstanding reputation for academic excellence nationally and internationally.
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