Friday, November 10, 2006

the social forces social

So, my post about the Notre Dame rankings and Social Forces and its follow up have gotten a lot of comments. I'm out of the discussion as a participant, but highlights of some others' observations:

1. Kim has posted rankings that are based on the Notre Dame group's methodology but drops Social Forces over at Marginal Utility. Why she doesn't send them to Footnotes, I don't know.

2. Dan Myers from Notre Dame has posted his opinion about the Notre Dame rankings.

3. I was told to "CHECK YOUR OWN BIASES!", in boldface no less, by showing skepticism to a ranking which ranks many departments ahead of my own, which is defensible given that my current cloaking of my blog from search engines prevents me from easily linking back to my several posts criticizing the US News & World Report ranking system that ranked my own department #1.

4. While Kim and Dan may feel they have valid points, I think we can all agree that this comment is the true voice of righteous sociology on these matters. Fight the power. Peace. Word. Dude. All we have to lose are our chains.

5. Somebody (and also this) pointed me last night to the Sociology Rumor Mill blog, which has lately taken up journal prestige in its thread as well. It's spawned a Wiki that is meant to summarize key information about the junior search market.

Update: Dan Myers has started a discussion board devoted to professional socialization issues.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Re: #4. Smug condescension towards people who are advocating social justice in a way you find "silly" - typical.

Tom Bozzo said...

Re #4, academics -- even elite-level academics -- are (generally) upper class? C'mon, I'm a non-academic economist and I know that isn't true.

I'm not sure "smug condescension" was exactly the sentiment, either, but it's in the ballpark of what was merited.

Non-anonymously yours...

jeremy said...

Anon 10:16am: I know that sociologists are supposed to be cuddly toward anyone who seems like they have a desire for "social justice" in their hearts, no matter how immature, wild, or facile the assertions they make may be, but that's a bus I'm not very interested in riding on anymore myself, as I think a fairly long history at various levels of analysis indicates that kind of discourse in the name of "social justice" is not very productive toward achieving anything I would recognize as very just or even, weirdly, very social.

Lars said...

May I ask a, perhaps, stupid question? Is the problem really between those who advocate social justice versus those who do not? I'm thinking that most people, or lets say most sociologists, are probably in favor of something called social justice. The problem isn't with social justice per se, but what to do with it. Or am I wrong? Seems like some folks think that we define social justice and the look around for situations that violate it. Other folks look arounds, see what is happening and then determine whether it is fair or not. In either case, the problem isn't really with social justice, but how it is used. In one case, it seems to be evaluative, we can judge the quality of research using the stadard of social justice. In the other, social justice is a result (or not) from how we go about looking around.

I know, this is a gross simplification, but it seems to me that saying that some sociologists have monopoly on "justice" and others have no concern for it seems a bit absurd itself. But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the very opinionated masses can tell me how, exactly.

A+ said...

This is interesting to me. And I know this is going to sound insufferably naive, but what are we talking about when we say "upper class" here? I ask because Tom's comment got me thinking: I'm 6.5 years into my program, and I'm still sort of battling that difference between my "old" life and the "new" one. I feel a class difference, particularly in feeling like I don't entirely fit in academic circles, though I'm not sure this is the "class" being talked about. Perhaps I'm misinterpreting.

And Jeremy, I see your point about the "discourse in the name of social justice" not doing a helluva lot. But I also do wonder how far "the discourse of mockery" gets us, either.

jeremy said...

A+: Your point is taken. Note that the simplistic/incorrect assertions about class background were not what prompted mockery, but the assertions to the effect that the sociology that gets published in major journals is such "boring" "rubbish" that it does not even deserve to be printed on paper, etc.. I just think anonymous broadsides like that, especially when they are also accompanied by weird inaccurate stuff, are plainly ridiculous, and one can certainly say a character flaw of mine is that I am not always able to let ridiculous stuff pass without ridiculing it.

Anonymous said...

Lars asked:

Is the problem really between those who advocate social justice versus those who do not?

The answer, methinks, is no. However there is a very vocal contingency with in Sociology who frame Social Justice as their issue and assert anyone who adopts different epistemological assumptions, theoretical traditions, or methodological tools as apostate.

In some ways I'm sympathetic to critiques of elitism in the discipline (though, a different elitism than what #4 alleges). I'm not prepared to mount a vigorous defense of this now, but certain styles of sociology produced at certain places are more likely to place in ASR and AJS. As I tried to argue the other day, I'm not convinced that this alone means they are useful or important.

Despite that, it doesn't strike me as useful or productive to reduce the complexity of this issue to class and gender bias. At least, I don't see evidence to support that.

A+ said...

Jeremy: Ah, I get it - I actually misunderstood the commenters' original message, and your response, I think. Didn't read closely enough...

And that last comment about being snarky to others was directed as much at myself as you - Where that's concerned (as we both know), that would definitely be pot-kettle on my part.

Tom Bozzo said...

At the risk of fanning the flames here, I found the "boring" claim to be the most nearly accurate one in the original comment. Which is to say, good articles are a little boring but useful, and great articles are not boring and useful. (If something is not boring and useless, I'd just as soon be reading fiction.)

I'll readily admit that there are nuances to the class issue that my original comment totally ignored. I would not deny the existence of elites and elitism -- the latter as in, among other things, my grad school department's senior faculty by and large wouldn't seriously consider hiring themselves these days. My claim amouts to (1) most academics are socioeconomically middle- to upper-middle-class, and (2) you have a far better chance of breaking into the relative academic elite if you're smart and hard-working than you do of breaking into the socioeconomic upper class if you're middlingly well-to-do, smart, and hard-working.

Brayden said...

The boring description makes little sense to me. Calling something boring is value-laden and determined by your perspective. Something that is boring to me may be very exciting to someone else, while what I find thrilling (e.g. lattice models) is going to bore my students to tears. Calling the AJS or ASR boring just demonstrates that the anonymous author's point of view is as one who is not really interested or engaged in the current academic debates within sociology. That is fine if you're not interested in those debates, but you shouldn't expect us to change the subject matter of our top journals just because it bores you.

Tom Bozzo said...

A student who is totally disinterested in the academic debates within [$field] will, probably, be best off not getting a PhD in [$field].

However, I would note that there's potentially a difference between [$subject] being thrilling (to someone), and the academic literature on [$subject] being thrilling. Which is to say, I read the AER for the big pictures but not for the articles as such. But maybe the ASR is a lot more exciting than the AER...

Anonymous said...

Isn't calling someone "smug and condescending" smug and condenscending? And yes, by saying that, I just did it too.

Anonymous said...

Brayden, the "boring" description doesn't have to be essentialist, which is all you're really arguing against. It can be a description of a social fact: lots of people out in the world (academic or otherwise) find ASR boring. This can be due to all sorts of relational factors and still be a robust finding. Put another way, when sociologists talk about ASR, do they describe it as exciting, neutral or boring? Empirical question, with a non-controversial answer: boring as heck.

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to do a study about academics who are children of other academics. I know there are tons of them in sociology (including myself). So I think there is a certain elite advantage that gets passed and inherited on in our field too.
It's funny how sociologists get defensive when accusations of elitism happen within their own field

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jeremy said...

(Hey, look, Jeremy's reached the end of his patience with stupid and abusive anonymous commenters!)

Incidentally, a nice thing about sociology is that there is actual sociological theory to explain why you would expect social science literature to be boring-in-the-text even when they are ultimately talking about issues that are exciting-in-their-substance (see Latour, Science in Action, ch. 1).

rps said...

(Hey, look, Jeremy's reached the end of his patience with stupid and abusive anonymous commenters!)

Just a quick note to say that I applaud this use of your administrative/executive role!

Anonymous said...

"...certain elite advantage that gets passed and inherited on in our field too..."

Particularly when the forebear is an elite. Otherwise, it's more ambiguous...

Anonymous said...

if you can't take the heat get out of the kitchen...sociologists typically do not solve social problems, they just write about them, so it is to be expected that they will engage in all kinds of "we're not upper-middle class", "you should be so happy we let "coloreds" and "little women" into our field

jeremy said...

This is my house, and I would rather you get out of my kitchen. Seriously, great things about the blogosphere are that (1) anybody (e.g., you) can start your own blog and (2) any blogger can disable anonymous comments. Since I like many of my other anonymous commenters, I'm reluctant to do this. Anyway, if you can stand the heat and would like to be in the kitchen, I invite you to post under an identifiable name.