The crucial point here is that what begins as a structural disadvantage can easily be interpreted through a cultural lens and defined as a cultural shortcoming on the part of African Americans. And herein lies the most significant weakness of [the authors'] analysis and, perhaps even more importantly, the most dangerous facet of their interpretation (or rather than misinterpretation) of African Americans' failure to ethnically succeed Italians in the numbers gambling enterprise. Rather than attributing African Americans' inability to succeed Italians to culture per se, [the authors'] argument would be far more convincing if they gave more credence to ethnic differences in economic capital, structural opportunities, and constraints.Yes, the argument that the authors in the original article are being not just incorrect but morally/politically "dangerous" in their argument. Indeed, the "dangerous"ness of their claims is apparently "even more important" than its logical/evidentiary "weakness." Understand that I haven't looked at any part of the rest of the articles and have no especial familiarity with the literature on the topic. I have no position on the findings of the original article (or the comment) since I haven't read it and, given the lack of substantive interest, presumably won't. Even so, I knew the comment was going to emphasize that was really being chalked up to culture was instead about "economic capital, structural opportunities, and constraints" (not that I would have predicted those exact words, necessarily, although probably something close and certainly using the word 'constraints'), and that it would close by also taking pains to emphasize the moral/political badness of dissenting from this view. This is how predictable sociology is. No offense to anyone, but certain parts of it do get a little dull and tedious sometimes.
Friday, March 24, 2006
the sociological imagination
Sociology is often criticized for the extent to which its work fails to yield reliable and verifiable predictions. I just received my February 2006 issue of the American Sociological Review, the discipline's flagship journal. I saw that there was an article "Black and White Control of Numbers Gambling: A Cultural Assets-Social Capital View." So (1) race, (2) criminal behavior, and (3) culture right there in the title. I also saw that the article was published with a simultaneous comment from someone else and reply by the article's authors, which is a signal of "controversy." And so, without looking at anything else, I flipped ahead to the last page of the comment because I knew what would be there, and, lo, it was: