otrThat is what a cop said to Alice Goffman after she was swept up in a raid at the residence of her African American subjects / friends. Actually it gets even better than this:

“On the way to the precinct, the white cop who is driving tells me that if I am looking for some Black dick, I don’t have to go to 6th Street; I could come right to the precinct at 8th and Vine. The Black cop in the passenger side grins and shakes his head, says something about how he doesn’t want any of me; he would probably catch some shit.

At the precinct, another white guy pats me down. He is smirking at me as he touches my hips and thighs. There is a certain look of disdain, or perhaps disgust, that white men sometimes give to white women whom they believe to be having sex with Black men—Black men who get arrested, especially.

(…)

Do your parents know that you’re fucking a different nigger every night?

(…)

What is your Daddy going to say when you call him from the station and ask him to post your bail? Bet he’d love to hear what you are doing. Do you kiss him with that mouth?” (70)

It’s a double whammy: patriarchy mixed with racism and rape threats

So far, this is a very powerful book, I have to say..

Years ago, I was still living in France, in a Southern city with a very far-right mayor (he had defected from the National Front mostly because it was not big enough to fit his massive ego). He was all one would expect from a fascist, except on one topic: HIV-AIDS. On that topic, he was pretty compassionate and almost progressive. His wife would sit on the board of multiple NGO related to that cause. Why the discrepancy? Because their son had the disease. Now, all of a sudden, it affected them so, they could not buy their own rhetoric and policies on this.

Still years ago, at my workplace, I am listening to a talk (I don’t remember the topic or the speaker), but it had to do with gender equality. During the Q&A, one person stated that whatever problem was under discussion would have been solved if the ERA had passed and that the conservative governor was against it then. The speaker said that since then, the governor had become the grandfather of several now-young women and that he was much more sensitive to gender equality issues, because gender inequalities might affect them.

More recently, I watched the documentary Food Inc. and one of the people featured then is Barbara Kowalcyk who lost her son to E.coli after eating a burger. She describes herself as a conservative who did not care about food issue and thought this was all liberal / hippie stuff. But then, she directly suffers a personal loss as a result of lack of food safety, and all of a sudden, she becomes a food safety advocate.

And a few days ago, this piece in the New York Times:

“It turns out that judges with daughters are more likely to vote in favor of women’s rights than ones with only sons. The effect, a new study found, is most pronounced among male judges appointed by Republican presidents, like Chief Justice Rehnquist.

(…)

The standard scholarly debate about how judges decide cases tends to revolve around two factors: law and ideology. “Here, we’ve found evidence that there is a third factor that matters: personal experiences,” Professor Sen said. “Things like having daughters can actually fundamentally change how people view the world, and this, in turn, affects how they decide cases.”

The new study considered some 2,500 votes by 224 federal appeals court judges. “Having at least one daughter,” it concluded, “corresponds to a 7 percent increase in the proportion of cases in which a judge will vote in a feminist direction.”

Additional daughters do not seem to matter. But the effect of having a daughter is even larger when you limit the comparison to judges with only one child.

“Having one daughter as opposed to one son,” the study found, “is linked to an even higher 16 percent increase in the proportion of gender-related cases decided in a feminist direction.”

The authors also looked at the same judges’ votes in a separate set of 3,000 randomly chosen cases. There was no relationship between having daughters and liberal votes generally. Daughters made a difference in only “civil cases having a gendered dimension.””

The above are only anecdotal but it seems that conservatives can only reach a compassionate position on something if it affects them personally. No amount of data or evidence or stories from other people matter. It is not entirely surprising since conservatism is based on a rather pessimistic view of “human nature” (such as it is) and a proclivity for punitive social policy based on the idea that bad things only happen to stupid / bad people who make bad decisions usually based on a lack of personal restraints.

But, once personally affected, then they see an issue as having affected one of the “good guys”, then, the issue becomes understandable as one of policy rather than individual failings. Think back in the early days of HIV / AIDS when conservatives really didn’t give a damn until “the good guys” (not gays, not drug users) started getting infected.

This particular form of sociopathy is also what is at work in TV shows like Undercover Boss. Does one really need to experience exploitative working conditions to understand exploitation? Reading about them on paper really does not convey that understanding? It takes a massive amount of privilege and just not giving a damn to only start to care about issues when one is directly affected.

It is also a massive failure of thinking if one cannot think past one’s own experience. It is also a major failure in understanding complex issues. Issues can only be understood as personally experienced or they don’t exist (kinda like being born again). This is something that, maybe, should be considered alongside the anti-intellectualism of that particular political ideology, an avatar of it.

Over at his blog, Ludovic Lestrelin (a football / sport sociologist specialized in fans and supporters, well worth following) has an interesting post (and a version published by Le Nouvel Observateur) on the convergence of the World Cup, globalization and support for national teams. I’ll highlight the main points since the post is in French, obviously, with my comments in there as well.

As we are getting close to the end of the group phase of the World Cup, a few teams will be going home. What of their supporters? Do they still to go, or watch, the games once “their” teams are done?

For Lestrelin, the system of sport-as-spectacle has two pillars:

Uncertainty tied to the confrontation at every game; after all, the current World Cup has already produced a few surprises with “big” teams not making it through the group stage (so long, Spain and England). At the same time, the whole system of qualification rounds pretty much guarantee a certain equalization between the different teams as no team would have made it past the qualification stages if it weren’t of good caliber.

Identification: this is the sociologically well-known in-group / out-group dynamic, the team becomes “we” and everyone else is “them”. In his most recent book, David Goldblatt emphasizes the importance of football in solidifying nationalism in Brazil. Also insert appropriate reference to Benedict Anderson’s imagined community. There is no question that, whatever the motivation (be it political or crassly commercial), these kinds of global competitions are major vehicles for the production of nationalism (also see Durkheim on the importance of such rituals).

But wouldn’t the last point mean that once one’s team is disqualified, the experience is over for the fans and supporters? Well, one possible reaction is resentment. One certainly the highly negative reactions triggered by the incidents with the French team at the last World Cup in 2010 where the players were accused to be traitors to their countries, happy to play well for the individual teams that pay them handsomely, but reluctant to break a sweat for “their” national team.

For Lestrelin, there is more though, as football does not necessarily lead to ultra-nationalism (pun intented). Indeed, Lestrelin argues, that one gets a stronger and more emotionally involved sport experience once one has chosen a side and so, the supporter of a losing team finds a substitute allegiance, having to do with their individual history and experience.

This is not new but increased migration and geographical mobility in the context of globalization has made finding such replacement allegiance easier to find. But the main point is that these replacement allegiances have their roots in individual history and experience: you root against the team that beat “your” team, you root for the team of the country where you studied for a term, the country of your best friend, or whatever, etc. Of course, one can also root for individual super-players. Lestrelin notes that in 2002, quite a few French supporters from the Lens and Sedan clubs supported Senegal as many Senegalese players played in these two clubs.

Increased migration and presence of diasporic communities also provide easy multiple allegiances as societies become more diverse and cosmopolitan. Indeed, as Lestrelin notes, supporters of Algeria or Turkey or Morocco are not hard to find in France or Belgium. Immigrant communities do not cut emotional ties with their countries of origin and these get reactivated at times such as the World Cup. National identity as floating signifier in a multi-layered experience, not necessarily primarily tied to national citizenship.

Actually, for Lestrelin, supporters’ experience is less and less national. Allegiance is not a given. One gets to pick sides in the context of weakening boundaries where individualistic choice is the default posture (see, Bauman, individualization). And so, supporting as individualized identity becomes easily a multiple identity and switching from one allegiance to another becomes an available strategy (much to the chagrin of nationalist and anti-immigrant political groups) for whom anything less than total devotion is akin to treason (except if the team itself is made of x-generation immigrants, in which case, any defeat – or lack of anthem-singing –  will be interpreted as lack of loyalty to the nation).

Last year, I posted about the first season of In The Flesh, a BBC zombie show that I liked quite a bit. Season 2 finished airing on BBC America last week and it is still very good. Season 1 was only three episode-long, but season 2 has six episodes, so, it allowed a more complex and multi-dimensional storyline as well as more character development.

[Spoilers included]

Season 2 picks up a little later and is marked by backlash on both sides of the issue. On the one hand, the living are no longer as frightened of the PDS sufferers as they were in season 1, and that leads to both interpersonal and political backlash, with the rise of the UKIP-type political party, Victus. Hence the arrival of the new Victus MP for Roarton, Maxine Martin, one of the new characters for this season.

The rhetoric of the party is very fascist and soon after her arrival, MP Martin starts registering PDS sufferers, and later on forcing them in to the new Give Back scheme, a forced labor program, supposedly designed to make PDS sufferers “repair” some of the damage they did during their time as zombies.

Why would they participate? Because concurrently, their basic civil rights have been suspended, and, supposedly, they can only get them back after completing the Give Back. Needless to say, this is a system of exploitation and abuse that generates resentment on the part of the PDS sufferers.

And, of course, no discrimination and stigmatization scheme would be complete without a visual status signal. So, it’s not a yellow star, obviously, but the orange vest that tells the world that one is a PDS sufferer working on the Give Back scheme, which makes enforcement of all the restrictions easier.

That resentment is then used to unofficially reactivate the Human Volunteer Force (under a new name) to enforce the Give Back scheme. That scheme is hilariously presented in all its hypocrisy, with fancy brochures and cheesy DVD presentation to the community. Also, most of the PDS sufferers are made to work building a fence whose purpose is not yet really known. And, of course, one of the rules is to use lenses and make-up. PDS suffered are forbidden from leaving their present location (so, no trip to Paris for Kieren). Any deviation from the rules marks the PDS sufferer as non-compliant, which can lead to their return to the treatment center.

On the other side, there has been radicalization on the part of the PDS sufferers as well, with the introduction of a social movement organization, the Undead Liberation Army (ULA), that conducts terrorist attacks, using a substance called “Blue Oblivion” that temporarily returns the PDS sufferers to their zombie state.

The ULA is led by a mysterious “prophet” (whom we do not see during this season) who appoints people to lead PDS rebellion in various areas. That is how another new important character shows up in season two, Simon, “the Irish” as some Roarton denizens call him. This dual radicalization (Victus v. ULA) has religious undertones on both sides, and the show treats religious fanaticism as inherently violent.

Whereas fear was still somewhat present in season 1, it is mostly mutual hostility that sets the tone of season 2, which is much darker than its predecessor and the entire season leads up to an ultimate confrontation by religious fundamentalists from both sides, exposing the absurdity of their beliefs.

Season 2 is also marked by the disappearance of older patriarchal figures, and their replacement by different, more diverse figures. Last season ended with the death of HVF leader, Bill Macey, shot dead by Ken Burton, who, himself is killed in an ULA attack in the first episode of season 2. Later on, Vicar Oddie, a big anti-PDS agitator, dies of a heart attack (and MP Martin could have helped him but decided to do nothing, in effect, letting him die). So, three old white men are out. Enters the black female MP (Martin). And then, younger characters take more center stage: Phil Wilson (the young town councillor who used to take his marching orders from Vicar Oddie, and now from MP Martin… up to a point), Gary Kendall (the new HVF leader who claims for himself the rank of captain), Simon (of the ULA), and Kieren Walker and Amy Dyer, of course.

In this season, the themes of the previous one (stigmatization) are still here, but the in-group / out-group dynamics are much more salient and obvious. Living and PDS sufferers position themselves in opposition to each other, extremist living not longer considering PDS sufferers as humans, and extremist PDS sufferers rejecting the label and considering themselves a kind of superior race to the living. How these distinctions and ideologies are created, sustained, amplified, and transmitted is the most interesting part of this season.

There is one narrative thread that is started in season 2, and, is one the most promising for season 3 (hopefully, there will be season 3): the two doctors that created the drug that keeps PDS sufferers from “turning rabid” also created the pharmaceutical company that mass produces it. In the last episode, the government agents are sent to Roarton to collect someone (we never know who it is until the very end) but we don’t know why. That government / corporate storyline will hopefully be developed more in season 3, as there are references throughout the season, to experiments (torture, really) conducted on PDS sufferers at treatment centers (Nazi experiments, anyone?).

In all, it is hard to avoid the comparisons with the rise of fascism and seeing the PDS sufferers as the racial/ethnic target of hatred, along with their economic exploitation, and the curtailing of their rights. It is hard not to think about the current situation in Europe, with the rise of far-right / fascist parties all over the EU.

There are also still interpersonal storylines going on throughout the season, that add a human (see what I did there?) dimension to the socio-political aspects.

I like the way that Kieren’s homosexuality is treated as a non-issue in itself, and so, his burgeoning affair with Simon is only a story because because of Amy’s crush on Simon, or the fact that Simon is then tasked by the Undead Prophet to kill Kieren. There is the Amy / Philip story, the Jem / Gary / Henry storyline, and a series of other secondary characters that really add texture to the entire series.

I highly recommend it.

PunkSociologyHow can I not read this book with a title like this?

The central theme of is pretty simple:

  1. Sociology is in crisis and in need of renewal.
  2. The punk ethos is a good approach to provide such renewal.
  3. Punk sociology.

And that’s about it. In and of itself, that’s not a problem. The book is rather short (99 pages of pages) and reads more like a pamphlet more than a full-fledged sociological treatise on the subject of sociological crisis and renewal.

Let me get through the main points before offering my views on all this.

So, the starting point of the book is that sociology is in crisis for a variety of reasons: it is a fragmented discipline (which is why people often ask what sociology actually is and what sociologists do). As a result, the discipline faces uncertainty and identity crisis and the response has been to play it safe, which, according to Beer, is not what we should be doing. He also reviews some of the literature on the subject of the future of the discipline, from Howard Becker’s live sociology, to the advocacy for more openness and inventiveness when it comes to methods.

From this diagnosis, the questions are as such:

“How do we re-imagine the craft and promise of sociology? How do we find ways of being creative, inventive, and lively? How can we deploy the sociological imagination in creative ways? How can we resist the restrictions of uncertainty, crisis, and measurement?” (Loc. 344)

Beer comes back over and over to the promise of sociology as outlined by C. Wright Mills in The Sociological Imagination and wants his book to be considered a contribution to the discussion of where we should take the concept at this point in the history of the discipline.

Beer also positions his book in the current academic context and the changes happening in universities, that we are all familiar with: universities as businesses, students as consumers, etc., all under the broad umbrella of neo-liberalization.

“It is obvious that we are not going to reverse the apparent marketization and neoliberalization of higher education. Instead, we need to think about how we should respond. The best response, that is to say the best form of protection, is to shape a discipline that is attractive, lively, and exciting. A discipline that draws people in.

(…)

It will also make it far more likely that value is seen to reside in the sociological project. This does not mean that we are ‘selling out’, it is not to go with the flow and to simply adopt the spirit of market-based competition into our lives. Rather it is to work towards a version of sociology that thrives under these conditions by offering an alternative voice and an engaging tone. Sociology will then thrive, because it will draw people into its debates, into its ideas, and into its findings, all of which are likely to provide alternative visions of the social world. This is a version of sociology that plays the game to its advantage. It is a version of sociology that succeeds by its own rules. This is a version of sociology that operates in the contemporary, if you will forgive the expression, knowledge economy, whilst providing a space for thought and provocation. My suggestion is that the best way to achieve all of this is to work on producing a discipline that fires people’s imaginations.” (Loc. 406)

What is that supposed to look like?

“what I am suggesting with punk sociology, is that we attempt to play along with the demands placed on us, but that at the same time we try to preserve a creative space. This will be a space in which sociology is not entirely bounded and shaped by the directions that are intended for it (by systems of government, measurement, and the rhetoric of impact). In other words, it uses an engagement with a creative cultural form to help direct it away from the obvious and to give it space to react and respond to the challenges it faces. The punk ethos, as one example, gives us the type of creative space and imaginative framework that might allow us to continue to thrive in a changing academic and social context, whilst also enabling us to be bold and confident, and to think in ways that escape from orthodoxy and conservatism.” (Loc. 418)

But is the punk ethos exactly? As defined by Beer, it involves a certain number of characteristics:

Punk Ethos

The idea then is that sociology should embrace these ideas (“punk sociology”) as the basis for renewal in the discipline:

“A punk sociologist is likely to want to think with and draw upon alternative and outside forms of knowledge – such as film, literature, TV, social media, and the like, as well as materials from across the scientific, computational, political, and journalistic fields – but this is not restricted to the outputs that might be labelled as punk. Rather this is about using punk as a resource for reflecting upon our very craft and the way we go about being sociologists. In this instance, punk is an approach rather than an object of study.” (Loc. 686)

A punk sociologist would questioning hierarchical and normative judgment on cultural products, would question the very existence of hierarchies, and would accept as equally valid high versus marginalized cultures. The punk sociologist would not treat her version of the social as privileged or superior or more valid and would value other sources of knowledge on the social without being threatened by them. Other accounts of the social (be they literary, visual, sonic, etc.) would be embraced by the punk sociologist. All knowledge is seen as subjective.

The punk sociologist would also be open to interdisciplinarity but also to breaking barriers and boundaries between researcher and researched, author and audience. This is where the deliberate unlearning comes in: we might want to reconsider our disciplinary training and conceptual / theoretical apparatus.

In addition, just like punk rock, punk sociology should aim for contributions that are “raw, stripped back, and fearless“:

“One of the key defining features of punk was its stance against forms of progressive or ‘prog’ rock. Similarly, if we are looking to provide points of comparison, then punk sociology might be understood to exist in counter-distinction to ‘prog’ sociology. This distinction provides a helpful starting place for thinking about the communication of sociological work. Prog sociology, as the academic adaptation of prog rock, could be understood to be sociology that is indulgent, maybe even self-indulgent, and self-congratulatory. This is sociology that is wrapped up in its own sense of self-importance. As with the prog rocker’s foregrounding of virtuosity, the prog sociologist is someone who uses their research to show off their virtuosity in research – the sociological equivalent, we might imagine, of a 10-minute guitar, keyboard, or drum solo. ‘Prog’ sociology uses research as a vehicle for demonstrating the abilities of the researcher.” (Loc. 861)

Instead, a punchier sociological style might help us keep up with the deluge of materials and news that circulate everyday and trigger debates that sociologists should be part of.

The punk sociologist should engage with the variety of media through which content circulates and, just like punk rocks had fanzines as opposed to glossy magazines, punk sociology should have alternative publications to the academic journal (blogs, for instance).

And the punk sociologist should be inventive in two ways: (1) in topics, questions, and research methods, and (2) in the way we deal with the neoliberal university. In both cases, the punk sociologist should refuse to play it safe. What does this mean?

“The punk sociologist uses the limitations of austerity to find creativity, to motivate their nothing-to-lose attitude, and to embed resistance and edginess in their outlook. They bounce off the restrictions and respond with creative means.” (Loc. 1089)

Now, if all this looks like very general statements of principle, with not much concrete substance, that is because that is exactly how the book is written. The reader will find very few examples in the book overall. The most sourced section is the lit review on the crisis in sociology.

Beyond that, I have several major issues with this book:

1. I understand that Pivot is an imprint that is based on quick turnover and publishing, but this book needed some serious editing. The writing is very repetitive. The same phrases are used over and over again.

2. Isn’t sociology always in crisis? Or when has sociology not been in crisis? When Talcott Parsons ruled US sociology? I see the “permanent crisis” state as a reflection of the well-known fact that sociology is obviously not a dominant discipline in the field of social sciences (political science, economics, and psychology get more respect, dammit). And one of the consequences of being in dominated status is a constant search for a relevance that is always in question in the academic context (and yes, especially now, with the whole idea that education = job training).

3. Looking back at the description of the punk ethos, couldn’t pretty much every new musical genre be described that way? At least partially? Doesn’t every new musical genre either borrow and absorb other genres, or clearly demarcate itself from others? Same deal for the questioning of hierarchy?

4. As for punk sociology itself, the way it is described, it seems to me that, precisely because the discipline is so diverse, we are already doing all of that: crossing boundaries, finding new types of data and types of sociological questions, looking at new trends in media and other fields. Sociologists blog, tweet, etc. and generally engage with the topics of the day in formal (through traditional academic publications) and informal (through blog posts, tweets, FB posts, etc.) ways. And this has led to a proliferation of sociological voices, not just the usual academic stars.

It is also weird to see punk sociology described as one that does not rank cultural products… Bourdie’s Distinction, anyone?

5. As for taking risks, that is all well and good, but in the context of tightening academic labor markets, limitation of tenure protections, etc., that seem a tall (and very vague) order. I am not sure what this specifically involves, and creativity and inventiveness are always good, but Beer needed to be clearer as to what this implies and how to deal with being tossed out of academia as a result.

In the end, Beer asks, what else are we going to do?

I don’t have an answer (or maybe I’m just a prog sociologist) but one thing is certain: I teach at a community college so, my workload is all teaching (5/5! That ain’t for the faint of heart) and this is where one gets to be more safely creative (although I wouldn’t put my tenure on the line. Call me a sellout) because we are not constrained by the requirements of research and publication. I really do think that cc faculty should be doing a lot more public sociology.

But the bottom line is that I don’t think there is much that is new here (and it is very possible that I missed the point entirely… wouldn’t be the first time). From where I stand, punk sociology already exists in a multitude of places, practiced by a lot of sociologists, functioning within their own national, institutional, and organizational constraints, I don’t think the punk framing brings a lot to the table here.

Yup, I’ll be watching the World Cup. And a few media outlets have come up with some great dataviz on the subject. My favorite so far comes from the Economist, and you can spend a lot of time playing with this one:

Goals

It is fully interactive and it visualizes all the World Cup goals with a lot of neat filters (countries, year, stage). You can see which countries are big scorers and try to derive playing style based on that.

Business Insider looks at the average temperatures at kick-off (it will be interesting to see if that correlates with other things, like goals scored, etc.):

wc_temps

More interesting is this dataviz dashboard that comprises information regarding which league players play in during the regular season, as well as the experience v. age factors:

And here is a bunch of various stats on the World Cup (the whole scrolling thing is a bit tedious… simplicity is often better):

And via Le Monde (in French), here is a dataviz video summarizing roughly the same statistical info:


Les chiffres insolites de la coupe du Monde by lemondefr

This is Todd’s turf more than mine but check out this dataviz from the New York Times:

06TK-nat-ARMS-web-Artboard_1

The big question is how and why considering that crime rates are not exactly exploding right now, and it’s not like US law enforcement is fighting the Sinaloa cartel.

Well, first, there is supply to be dumped, according to the article:

“As President Obama ushers in the end of what he called America’s “long season of war,” the former tools of combat — M-16 rifles, grenade launchers, silencers and more — are ending up in local police departments, often with little public notice.

During the Obama administration, according to Pentagon data, police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.”

And in a very bureaucratic and Weberian fashion, once the tools are there, they will be used. And sure enough:

“The equipment has been added to the armories of police departments that already look and act like military units. Police SWAT teams are now deployed tens of thousands of times each year, increasingly for routine jobs.Masked, heavily armed police officers in Louisiana raided a nightclub in 2006 as part of a liquor inspection. In Florida in 2010, officers in SWAT gear and with guns drawn carried out raids on barbershops that mostly led only to charges of “barbering without a license.””

And so you end up with a militarized police force even though the crime statistics do not justify it. In addition, the use of militarized gear changes the way police forces approach situations, i.e., they do so more aggressively since the balance of force is more in their favor. And since the equipment is free or would be scrapped if unused, it is easy to see why police chiefs would get stuff that, really, they don’t need. But once they have it, the equipment acquisition has to be rationalized. So, you get jewels like these:

In the Indianapolis suburbs, officers said they needed a mine-resistant vehicle to protect against a possible attack by veterans returning from war.

“You have a lot of people who are coming out of the military that have the ability and knowledge to build I.E.D.’s and to defeat law enforcement techniques,” Sgt. Dan Downing of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department told the local Fox affiliate, referring to improvised explosive devices, or homemade bombs. Sergeant Downing did not return a message seeking comment.

(…)

Some officials are reconsidering their eagerness to take the gear. Last year, the sheriff’s office in Oxford County, Maine, told county officials that it wanted a mine-resistant vehicle because Maine’s western foothills “face a previously unimaginable threat from terrorist activities.””

What it does though, is turn police officers into soldiers in occupied territories where all civilians are potential enemies and neighborhoods into potential war zones. And we all know which neighborhoods will face militarized police forces, of course, because we already know who bears the brunt of heavy policing.

The World Cup is about to start, so, unsurprisingly, football is in the news a lot and I have noticed the publication of quite a bit of dataviz relating to sport in general, and football in particular.

First, the Guardian’s great Datablog has a series of quick charts on the statistics of the different teams.

Top and bottom five by average team age (not age by players where the oldest is 43 and the youngest is 18):

The oldest teams are in Latin America and the youngest two are in Africa but the spread is pretty narrow (about three years).

Top and bottom five by caps:

Spain won in 2010, so, it kinda makes sense that they would use experienced players. However, France, for instance (we all remember their great “performance” in 2010) has a comparatively low number of caps for a country that won 16 years ago and was finalist after that. Maybe there’s a generational change at work. I am surprised that Japan would rank so high. Japan is not a big football team on the international scene. Or maybe there is a limited pool of players, so, they get to accumulate more caps.

Top 10 by number of international goals:

The top three are really not surprising at all. In number of goals, Spain and Germany completely outclass every other team. But where are Brazil, Argentina, or Italy?

Clubs with 10 or more players in the World Cup:

No surprise here either. It is the Big teams (those that can afford these kinds of players) that top the list. Note the large representation of the English Premier League. Speaking of which…

Leagues with the most players featured:

The wealthy leagues top the list. Again, no surprise here.

Top and bottom teams with players based in home country:

We know the big leagues extract players out of other countries (especially African countries). That’s another resource flow from the periphery to the core.

But football is a global sport and the migration of players outside their own countries during regular season is also well illustrated by this dataviz (I’ll put the ginormous but interesting version below the fold) by the Pew Research Center:

World_Cup_Migration_Map

But sports also involve spectatorship and the Economist has done some data work on that as well:

Sports_Attendance

Even though, the US tops the list with attendance figures for the NFL, that is a relatively small percentage of the population. Surprisingly (at least, for me) is the largest percentage that goes to the Australian football league. Also note that Canada is counted with the US except for football. One could argue that the US has three popular sports (football, baseball, and basketball, then, to a smaller extent, hockey) where other countries tend to have one largely dominant sport (often football).

Continue reading

Pro Publica (a very worthwhile news organization that you should all read) has published a very nice data visualization regarding imports and exports of guns by states (and nationwide) based on tracing done after criminal activity. You can go state by state and look at where guns came from and where they went across state lines.

So, first, the national map:

National_exports

Ok, I decided to pick Illinois since this is where I am located and in, every discussion on guns, someone will claim to have the decisive argument that Chicago is not murder-free despite a gun ban. So, let’s look at Illinois imports:

IL_imports

About half of the guns traced by the authorities came from out of state. Who would have thought that somehow, things, like guns, would make their way to Chicago and that somehow, Chicago does not live under a dome, Stephen-King style.

For the most part, these imported guns came from Indiana, Wisconsin, and Mississippi. The dataviz also has these imports (and exports) broken down by state.

Anyhoo, Illinois also exports guns to other states:

IL_exports

But check out New York state:

NY_imports

So, close to 70% of guns traced in NY state came from out of state, and you can see that, for the most part, they came from other East Coast states.

But compare that to Texas:

TX_imports

Only 18% of the traced guns came from out of state.

No big surprise here. If a state has strict gun laws, one can expect more imports. But if a state has fewer restrictions on guns, then, by definition, imports will be less necessary.

Get check out the whole thing.

With the recent shootings at UCSB, there has been a lot of talk about the gendered nature of homicides, where the gender of shooters is almost invariably male, and the gender of the victims is largely male but also female.

I would like to pursue the point that, indeed, homicide is a gendered social fact. So, first, check out this visualization of the proportion of homicide by gender:

Let me note that ratio is not the appropriate term here. The map actually represents the proportion of males in the sum of homicides in a country. For instance, if you take Zambia, about 78% of murder victims are men, hence the dark blue color.

Now, you can notice that any country in red, orange, or yellow would be a country where the proportion of women victims of homicide is higher than that of men. The light yellow color would represent rough equality in the gender of victims (between 45 and 55%). So, congratulations, Iceland, on being the only country where 100% of murder victims were women. Anyone care to guess the murder rate in Iceland? The most recently published data show 1 murder in the last year (2012). I presume the unfortunate victim was a woman.

Similarly, you will notice rough equality in Germany and a couple of Scandinavian countries (Finland and Norway), and a couple of smaller European countries, Japan and South Korea. These are all countries with low murder rates.

Otherwise, the rest of the map is solidly blue, that is, there are more men victims of homicides than women, sometimes, dramatically so. And these darker blue countries are also countries where the murder rate is higher. Let me explore that a bit further with some more UNODC data I have used before.

Let’s look at where the homicides are, compared to population size, so we can get a rough sense of over/under:

Homicide compared population

Clearly, Africa and the Americas are the continents where homicides are a major issue. No surprise here. But when one adds the gender aspect of this, we see two different dynamics at work:

Homicides compared gender

Women are more likely to be killed by a spouse (or ex), a relative, or an acquaintance. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to be killed by someone they do not know (a rival gang member, for instance) or an acquaintance. For women, victimization is an intimate thing. Not so for men.

Let’s add another layer to this:

Homicides compared locations

As you can see, high-homicide rate countries have more men victims, and the murders are more likely to take place in public places. On the other hand, in low-homicide rate countries, the proportion of women victims increases and these homicides become privatized, taking place at home.

This goes to the larger context: countries where homicide rates are high are countries where governments have a hard time exercising legitimacy and authority, and therefore, obtaining and retaining a monopoly over the use of force (see; Weber). So, such a country might have a very big gang / drug cartels / paramilitary groups problem. These groups are composed largely young men, who might end up killing each other. And the internal culture of these organizations is very much hegemonically masculine. Moreover, when a group like the Zetas engage in mass murder, they do not just as a tactical matter, but also as a public statement of power (hence the gruesome stagings). These killings are a form of “public policy” for these groups.

On the other hand, in countries with low homicide rates, governments tend to be stable and able to exercise their authority over their entire territory. As such, there is less public violence and less challenging of governmental authority. Therefore, murders become more private matters and women are more likely to be the victims.

ExpulsionsEvery new book by Saskia Sassen is always a small event for me, since she is one of my favorite contemporary sociologist. This one is no exception. Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy is a bit shorter than Sassen’s usual length but it has the usual “big picture” and dense writing that are characteristic of her style. Sassen is both an empirical and theoretical sociologist, so, every book of hers, marshalls a deep conceptual apparatus to explain disparate occurrences (or thick realities, as she calls them in this book). She sees these distinct and not-entirely similar trends are subterranean expressions of larger assemblages driven by a dual logic of inclusion / expulsion within the global context. However, this is ground-level work.

That’s a mouthful but that is the general idea and throughout the book, Sassen uses a variety of datasets and case studies to make her points, exploring in greater details four visual expressions of this inclusion / expulsion logic:

  1. shrinking of the economic spaces,
  2. the new rush for African land,
  3. financialization of everything,
  4. environmental destruction.

In all these four domains, we found the same logic of inclusion (something brought onto the global capitalist system) / expulsion (the exclusion and marginalization of the “losers” of the inclusion logic). Since the point of the book is to make the logic of expulsions visible, the focus is on extreme cases. However, because expulsion is the flip side of inclusion, it can occur in a context of economic growth, and therefore, remain deceptively out of sight. In addition, the inclusion / expulsion duality is often overlaid with a complexity / elementarity (yes, that’s a word, I checked) duality where complex mechanisms (such as financial instruments concocted by high-level mathematicians, and comprehensible by only a few) led to the elementary logic of expulsion (mass foreclosures).

The resulting expulsions Sassen define as elementary brutalities produced by complexity. Such complexity comes in various forms (again, financial instruments, structural adjustment programs, “free trade” contracts that lead to land dispossession, complex resource extraction technologies), through various institutions and organizational forms, but they lead to expulsions all the same, and acute ones at that.

But no matter what specific form such expulsions take, they all are part of a mechanism of what Sassen calls ‘savage sorting‘: the sorting of who will matter and be counted in economic indicators, and who will not and be sentence to live at what Sassen calls the systemic edge.

First, Sassen identifies the latest shift in capitalist accumulation with the 1980s. This is a familiar story: the end of the post-War period with its focus on redistribution, inclusion, social protections, etc. Reaganomics-type of economic policy in Western countries, the “lost decade” in the Global South led to an inversion of inequality dynamics with increasing concentration of income and wealth at the top and stagnation for the rest of social classes. Such a reversion of the “Trente Glorieuses” was not a conspiracy of the elites but also a systemic product of institutional, organizational, and technological processes. Not only that but this concentration could, for the first real time, be scaled up to a truly global level. This complex mix, Sassen calls a predatory formation.

But then, what Sassen is really interested in is not the nth statistical description of increased inequality and/or poverty. What she points to is something akin to a statistical ethnic cleansing where the expelled from shrunk (yet growing) economies are simply no longer visible (hence the picture of growth). The economic space is shrunk by pushing out the marginalized, those who no longer receive unemployment benefits, those who leave, those who are incarcerated, those who have committed suicide. Most of these things have happened or are happening in one way or the other, Sassen often uses the extreme example of Greece after the 2007 economic collapse: Greece underwent several waves of austerity imposed by the EU and its economy was pronounced as recovering because the measures and indices that are supposed to show such recovery actually ignore the social collapse.

So, on the one hand, there is the measured corporatized economy, now existing as a shrunk space, after divestment from social-contract, social-welfare-related expenses. It is not hard to see this is exactly what has happened to the countries subjected to austerity programs imposed from the EU:

“It leads one to wonder if this brutal restructuring was undertaken precisely in order to achieve a smaller but workable economic space that would show growth in GDP according to traditional metrics — even if it necessitates the expulsion from the economy, and its measures, of significant shares of the workforce and the small business sector. After all, a mere hint of GDP growth can be a positive signal to investors and financial markets, and this is a key achievement from the perspective of current IMF and European Central Bank policy — and not only in the EU. The alternative survival economies that are emerging exist in a different economic space, one that falls outside formal measures and indicators. For now they are not enough to meet the needs of the expelled and of the merely impoverished.” (43)

To put it simply, the logic of displacement looks like this:

Displacement (1)

This combination of shrinking of economic space / expulsion has occurred irrespective of the political / economic systems in place. For instance, if one look at incarceration in the United States, one can see a mix of privatization and deregulation (that is, the opening up of a market / corporate space), along with systemic racism and massive expulsion. But all of elements in the image above are the product of predatory formations that are themselves a mix of different institutional, organization, and technological mechanisms. On the face of it, they may look very different from each other and unrelated, but once reconceptualized as part of such logic of inclusion / expulsion, they bear some very Wittgensteinian family resemblances.

Sassen also demonstrates that the same logic of inclusion / expulsion is at work in the current land grab made necessary by (1) the rise in demand for industrial crops, such as biofuels, and food crops, and (2) growing interest from global investors (hence the rise in food prices). On the ground, this means the expulsion of small farmers, who then join the legions of urban poor, themselves expelled from the economic growth of the global cities, creating what Mike Davis had nicknamed Planet of Slums.

At the same time, this mass acquisition of land in the Global South was made possible because the IMF and the World Bank have used debt reduction as part of a disciplining regime, that was, again, supposed to integration countries of the Global South into the global economy, but resulted in elementary expulsions, as governments from these countries had to agree to conditions akin to austerity programs (the infamous structural adjustment programs). Sassen describes at length the mechanisms of land acquisition in the context of the discipline-through debt reduction.

A similar logic is at work in the financialization of everything that was so central to the crisis of 2008:

“The financialization of a growing number of economic sectors since the 1980s has become both a sign of power of this financial logic and the sign that it is exhausting its growth potential in the current phase, insofar as finance needs to use and invade other economic sectors in order to grow. Once it has subjected much of the economy to its logic, it reaches some type of limit, and the downward curve is likely to set in. One acute illustration of this is the development of instruments by some financial firms that allow them simultaneously to bet on growth in a sector and bet against that sector.” (137)

This is also a well known story and it is not hard to see the expulsions it created. The best documentary on that subject is Inside Job which does a good job of showing the globally-interrelated dynamics that created the pre-crisis situation: Wall Street, US academia, global investors, pension funds (local, national, and global), etc.

Finally, Sassen turns to her last form of expulsion: expulsion from the biosphere. The anthropocene era means that humans are having an irreversible effect on the biosphere’s ability to regenerate. This leads to the creation of dead landscapes through a variety of human practices that affect wildlife and fauna (we recently learned that extinctions are at an increasing pace) and flora. Sassen goes through a multiplicity of local instances and examples which can be mapped out below:

Expulsions from the biopshere (1)The fact that these instances of environmental degradation (that involves our now-familiar dynamic of inclusion / expulsions) can be found in a variety of political economies show that no system has a monopoly over bad environmental management.

Having gone through an enormous amount of data and a multiplicity of cases, Sassen pulls it all together in her concluding chapter where she explores more thoroughly the idea of systemic edge, whose key dynamic is incorporation (inclusion) / expulsion. The way I see it, Sassen uses incorporation / inclusion in two senses: (1) to describe the post-War period where redistribution mechanisms led to the incorporation of more actors within the system (minorities, women, etc.) and (2) as bringing something within the realm of the capitalist world-system (areas or sectors that were previous not included but now could, thanks to technology, institutions of global governance, etc.

But from her own examples, it is that second meaning that seems the most relevant at this point: inclusion comes at a price: expulsions in all the forms Sassen describes, be they social, economic, or ecological.This reads as very pessimistic as the book ends with the defining of the systemic edge as a space of expulsions, where the expelled are relegated. I guess her next book should be about that space since she spent this one describing the shrinking space at the system’s center.

Indeed, this is a very rich book that feel a bit unfinished. I do hope she gets to write Part II – Life at the Systemic Edge or some such title.

This is not an easy book but it is worth anyone’s while. What is important, I think, is how Sassen takes “stories” that most of us are now familiar with (the end of the Trente Glorieuses), the neoliberal turn, increase inequalities (a fertile topic before Picketty-mania stroke!), slum-ification of the global cities, environmental degradation, and then reconceptualizes them as part of a set of predatory formations. The strength of the book is, I think, in its deployment of Sassen’s conceptual apparatus. So, I wish this book got more play but not, it’s all Picketty all the time, and I’m concerned that this will eclipse a work that should receive greater publicity.

In any event, here is Sassen speaking about expulsions at the LSE:

herbertgansRGBSource: Sociology as a Vocation – Looking to the Future

“A good deal of work in measuring inequalities is already taking place but sociology needs to take a greater interest in its effects on America’s institutions and peoples. The micro-sociological aspects of economic, political and social aspects of inequality require more exploration than they have so far received. Whenever possible, sociological research should be policy-oriented. It cannot be expected to engage in actual public policy making, which is beyond the expertise of many sociologists. However, they can conduct research that helps answer questions raised by policy advocates, policy makers, analysts and critics of public policy dealing with inequality.

Since economists and political scientists still tend to deal with issues that concern the country’s elite, sociology must intensify its attention on the non-elite. Further research must be undertaken particularly with and about the most vulnerable Americans, notably the below median income population that will undoubtedly suffer more from rising inequalities than anyone else. Among them, those who are least well represented in and by the polity and most often left out of the public discourse, should come first.

Sociology cannot speak for these populations but it can focus more research attention on their problems. The studies should focus particularly on the social, emotional and other costs of the most important inequalities. For example, the last several decades, and the last few years especially, have seen a dramatic increase in downward mobility, the frustrations of aborted upward mobility and lowered expectations. Sociologists should long ago have begun to make the processes and effects of downward mobility a major research area.

In addition, sociologists need to pay more attention to the long-range effects of extreme poverty, such as hypotheses that suggest it can result in post-traumatic stress disorders that can last for several generations. At the same time, researchers should understand how people cope with, struggle against and try to resist downward mobility at the various levels of poverty. Properly designed, such studies may provide clues to policies and politics that can offer help.

Even more important, sociology’s concern with the below median income populations must also extend to the forces, institutions and agents that play major roles in keeping them in place and impoverishing them further. Studying the makers of increased inequality is as important a research topic as learning more about its victims.

Concurrently, sociologists should do more to demonstrate the social usefulness of the discipline. This is best done by providing new research findings and ideas relevant to currently topical subjects, issues and controversies. Although easier said than done, sociologists should place less emphasis on contributing to “the literature” and other disciplinary concerns. Fewer studies that unnecessarily elaborate the already known would also help.

Sociologists must also continue to explore topics that the rest of the social sciences are ignoring or do not even see. They should be undertaking more research on and in the backstages of society that do not interest or are hidden to other researchers.

Whenever possible, sociology should prioritize empirical work, quantitative and qualitative. Despite the increasing availability of Big Data, the discipline must continue to concentrate on the gathering and analysis of small data, particularly through ethnographic fieldwork. Understanding society by being with the people and in the groups and organizations that sociology studies is our distinctive contribution to Americans’ knowledge about their country.

The discipline ought also aim for innovative and adventurous theorizing, with frames and perspectives that question conventional wisdoms, such as labeling theory in the past and relational and constructionist theorizing more recently. The changes in the country generated by the currently rising inequalities may encourage and even require novel ways of looking at American society.

Above all, sociology must strive harder to reach the general public, by presenting new sociological ideas and findings that should be of interest to this public in clear, non-technical English.”

The Washington Post has a couple of very detailed data visualizations regarding the death penalty in the US. Here is the first one (click on the image for a larger view):

DP1

This graph reads like a population pyramid and clearly shows the racial distribution between the executed population (on the left) and the victim population (on the right). Apparently, the victims are factored in at the time of execution rather than actual year of death (see 2001, where the victims of Timothy McVeigh were counted when he was executed). It is easy to see the overrepresentation of African Americans on the executed side as well as the greater prevalence of whites on the victim side, which conforms what we know about the application of the death penalty.

Here is the second dataviz:

DP2

Here, one can clearly see that executions peaked in 1999 (the article explains why), then steadily declines after that. By method, one can see when lethal injections became prevalent, at the expenses of electrocution (although that my be changing has drugs needed for executions are becoming more difficult to obtain, see Todd’s post on this).

The age category might be affected by the length of appeals. Men (as they are mostly men, as one can see on the gender chart) may be sentenced while in one age group and actually executed in another. The chart is based on age of execution, not sentencing. So, the bulk of execution takes place for men in their 30s and 40s.

More shocking, yet not surprising, is the regional distribution. Check out the South. It dwarves all the other region by at least a factor of 10. And Texas alone dwarves the rest of the country by at least a factor of five. If the death penalty really worked, the South, and especially Texas, should be a crime-free heaven.

From the Guardian, on Uruguay president Mujica:

“After two years in office Mujica legalised abortion up to the third month of pregnancy. Even with substantial restrictions, this law is unique in South America. Less than a year later a bill authorising same-sex marriages was passed. Uruguay legalised divorce in 1913. “Yes, we have an innovatory spirit, deeply rooted in our history,” he asserts. “We’re a country of immigrants, anarchists and persecuted people from all over the world. The result is the most secular country in Latin America, with a clear distinction between church and state. For my part, I’m president but I don’t believe in God.” You would never hear anything of the sort in neighbouring countries. But in June 2013 he received a warm welcome when he met Pope Francis.

The pinnacle of his presidential career came in June 2012 when defence minister Eleuterio Fernández Huidobro announced that the state would be taking over the production and sale of marijuana, which would be legalised and regulated. Compared with the experiments under way in the US, in Colorado and Washington, in the Netherlands and Spain, this system seemed so avant garde that the journalists present thought it might be a hoax. But the bill was passed and came into force last month.

Before the end of this year, by which time a new crop will have grown and a market set up, adult Uruguayan consumers registered with the authorities will be able to purchase up to 40g of marijuana a month at chemists, paying $1 per gram. It will be produced and marketed under government control. Consumers will also be allowed to grow their own in a neighbourhood co-operative or indeed at home, limited to no more than six plants per household. Somehow this is typical of Mujica, who says he has never smoked a joint and knows very well that 62% of voters are opposed to legalisation, yet has no qualms about launching the world’s first state-grown marijuana. He says it is a question of public security and that he is determined to separate consumers from dealers, and marijuana from other narcotics.

Drug trafficking has reached alarming levels in Latin America but has spared Uruguay, where the number of users is relatively low. “There’s a saying among farming people here,” Mujica explains. “When you see your neighbour’s beard on fire, you drench your own.” Adding, with a smile: “This law is a trial. It doesn’t mean we have the final answer. But our neighbours will have to take a look at our little country which might actually be a perfect location for this experiment.” He pushes his chair back. “The only thing I’m sure of is that the policy of combating drugs which has been enforced for decades is a crashing failure. I’m glad we’ve kicked over the ant hill.””