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Contemporary Sociology: A
Journal of Reviews
Disciplining the Poor: Neoliberal Paternalism and the Persistent Power of Race
Sujatha Fernandes
Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews 2013 42: 109
DOI: 10.1177/0094306112468721cc
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Ó American Sociological Association 2013
DOI: 10.1177/0094306112468721
service and industrial sectors. The first generation of Filipino immigrants struggled for
and soon (in 1906) attained the right, as U.S.
nationals, to unlimited entry into the United
States. The author skillfully shows how Filipinos were clearly agents, and not merely
victims, in this process: they were active in
both class struggles, to obtain better wages
and conditions, and legal battles, to achieve
right of entry into the United States.
Even though they gained the right to unrestricted immigration, Filipinos confronted
other legal barriers regarding interracial
marriage, property rights, and naturalization
as U.S. citizens. In addition, local governments also attempted to police the color
line by passing laws enforcing social segregation. In general, the legal issues were complicated by two principal factors. First, the laws
were not always created with Filipinos in
mind and the existing racial categories did
not easily apply. Indeed, part of the strategy
of Filipinos was to argue that they were outside of the laws that were erected explicitly
against Afro-Americans, Mexicans, and
‘‘Asiatics,’’ namely, Chinese and Japanese.
Second, the interests of local ‘‘nativists’’ often
conflicted with those in agribusiness or the
federal government. On the one hand, the
nativists sought to preserve white privilege,
dominance, and the color line; they opposed
Filipino immigration. On the other hand,
agricultural enterprises were in favor of Filipino workers, although they also sought
ways to divide and conquer them whenever
workers organized and pressed for better
working conditions. In addition, the federal
government was obliged to concede some
degree of legal and naturalization rights to
Filipinos. In the international sphere, it was
not good politics to simply exclude them as
‘‘aliens’’ in U.S. society. Especially interesting
is the analysis of the diverse and often contradictory positions of the local nativists in
towns, counties, and states, the economic
interests of agribusiness in the region, and
the laws and policies of the federal government. In addition, the full range of actions
and strategies of Filipinos on different fronts
is fully explained.
The Third Asiatic Invasion: Empire and
Migration in Filipino America, 1898–1946, by
Rick Baldoz. New York, NY: New York
University Press, 2011. 301pp. $25.00 paper.
ISBN: 9780814791097.
University of Puerto Rico, Rı́o Piedras
[email protected]
This book begins with the creation of the colony of the Philippines in 1898 and ends with
national independence in 1946. However, the
book does not center upon either; instead, it
focuses on the economic, political, and legal
struggles of Filipino immigrants in the United States. The book is organized chronologically, although there is some overlap of periods across chapters. The first chapter deals
with the racial politics of empire and the
establishment of the Philippines as a colony
of the United States. This lays the groundwork for the analysis of the political economy of Filipino immigration (1900s–1920s) in
the second chapter. The next chapter deals
more specifically with social and legal barriers that Filipinos confronted during the
first three decades of the century. Chapter
Four is a study of violence directed against
Filipinos in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
Finally, last two chapters deal with the political negotiations for independence, the participation of Filipinos in the Second World
War, and the consequences for immigrants
in the United States.
The colonization of the Philippines
resulted in the creation of a new legal category: the U.S. national, that is, those persons
owing allegiance to the United States because
they were at the same time citizens of one of
its colonies. However ‘‘nationals’’ were not
full-fledged citizens of the United States,
and this initially led to considerable confusion about their rights to entry and to work.
This ambiguous political status set the stage
for the immigration of Filipinos who came
to work in agri-business, first in Hawaii and
then to the western and southwestern states.
Later, Filipinos would also find work in
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
64 Reviews
The author includes an excellent discussion of the racial dimensions in the definition
of Filipinos as a ‘‘social problem’’ by dominant groups. During the 1920s and 1930s,
nativists began to interpret Filipino immigration as a social problem, focusing upon
issues of public health, interracial sex, deviant sociality, labor competition, and political
radicalism. Local officials and newspapers
were active in defining and attempting to
segregate immigrants while the local populace often resorted to riots and vigilante violence. Beginning in the late 1920s, violence
erupted sporadically all along the west coast
up through the early 1930s and this brought
many issues to national attention. Nativists
considered Filipinos to be ‘‘aliens’’ and tried
to exclude them, by any means necessary,
from social, political, and economic participation. Filipinos responded in creative
ways: labor organizing, legal test cases, alliances, and so on.
By the 1930s the movement for independence in the Philippines converged with local
and federal interests in controlling immigration. The Tydings-McDuffie Act (1934) established a ten-year probationary period that
would culminate in full independence and
it also prepared the way for limiting immigration of citizens from what would eventually (1946) become an independent country.
However, World War II soon complicated
the process. In the United States, Filipino
immigrants were recruited to serve in the
armed forces and in the Philippines regular
and guerrilla units were organized under
U.S. command. The author argues that the
loyalty shown by Filipinos to the United
States’ war effort was the basis of their claims
for veterans’ benefits and for the naturalization of veterans as U.S. citizens.
Although the book is not systematically
comparative, it frequently introduces comparisons with Chinese, Japanese, Mexican,
and occasionally Puerto Rican immigrants.
This adds considerable depth to the legal discussions. The book is well researched, using
a wide range of newspapers, legal cases, Congressional debates, and legislation. Many of
the issues raised by the Filipinos were fought
out in the courts, but the book always contextualizes these cases and never becomes too
legalistic. The author is very conscious of
the class and gender aspects of the Filipino
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
experience and in this respect the sociological
analysis is superb. This book on the political
economy and politics of Filipino immigration
to the United States is an excellent study of
the paradoxes and contradictions of racialized citizenship.
Homeless in Las Vegas: Stories from the Street,
by Kurt Borchard. Reno, NV: University of
Nevada Press, 2011. 239pp. $24.95 paper.
ISBN: 9780874178371.
University of Alaska Anchorage
[email protected]
‘‘They should have a ‘beware of people’ sign
when you enter this city’’ (p. 171), exclaims
a homeless subject in Kurt Borchard’s ethnography set in Las Vegas. The author conducted in-depth interviews with 48 homeless
persons in 2005 and 2006 and one gets a sense
that such a sign would do little good warding
off newcomers. Las Vegas is a powerful magnet, attracting those who seek riches, excitement, opportunity, and a new start. This is
a book about those who get much more
(and much less) than they bargained for. At
times engrossing and too often exasperating,
it provides a flawed yet layered look at homelessness in Sin City.
Homeless in Las Vegas is Borchard’s second
book about homelessness in Vegas, so he
knows the ground well. He takes the reader
outside the ‘‘homeless corridor’’ where
homeless services are concentrated into
niches less visible to tourists and authorities.
Unfortunately, the book is sometimes as
meandering and disorganized as the lives
of its subjects. Too often the author’s substantive discussion of the broader implications of his encounters is characterized by
tangential self-revelation, flighty supposition, and jumbled overreach.
For example, he introduces Jessi—a disabled Native American female—to illustrate
the array of obstacles faced by racial minorities and the need for childhood educational
programs. This seems straightforward, yet
a few pages prior to this discussion Jessi
has confided that she previously attended
college, owned a home, and worked as
a medical technician. In other words, her
Reviews 65
narrative is completely at odds with much of
the discussion used to contextualize it. Jessi’s
pathway to homelessness appears to stem
from the trauma of a car accident resulting
in an amputated leg. This would seem an
excellent opportunity to discuss the crushing
burden of healthcare costs and the special
difficulties involved for those who are both
homeless and physically disabled. Instead,
Borchard shoehorns a puzzling discussion
of racial inequality and at-risk youth into
his conclusion.
Borchard seems as preoccupied with the
emotional well-being of his homeless subjects as their material circumstances. Bruce,
camping in an open field near a casino,
sums up the numbing effects of homelessness: ‘‘The more you are homeless, you feel
yourself less’’ (p. 78). This emotional focus
is fully in line with the stated aim to document the ‘‘individual lives and voices’’ of
homeless people but in places it approaches
the absurd. In one harrowing encounter,
Kevin, a muscled ex-con, admitted murderer,
and avowed member of the Aryan Brotherhood, threatens to lynch the researcher. It is
a terrifying moment and Borchard distinguishes himself by diffusing a dangerous situation. However, his subsequent policy prescription—empathy training in prisons—is
In other places, this spotlight on psychological states is more grounded but still has
a reductionist tendency. Regarding homeless
individuals with severe mental health problems, Borchard posits that community mental health centers should provide ‘‘esteembuilding’’ for homeless schizophrenics and
he professes the need for shelters to foster
a ‘‘positive self-image.’’ However, brief
glimpses inside the shelters suggest that
they are barely able to maintain a modicum
of hygiene and safety in the face of a surging
homeless population. Space and resources
would seem to be the major priorities here.
As for mental health services, Borchard
provides the reader with little information
about the actual state of affairs in Las Vegas.
Are there any community mental health programs in Las Vegas? Well, they are apparently ‘‘weak or nonexistent’’ but the reader is
never told which. Are they underfunded?
Maybe, probably. Are there systemic failures
that account for so many mentally ill
homeless persons apparently falling through
the cracks? It is unclear. Perhaps it is a bit
unfair to expect such a deep analysis of the
local social service infrastructure in an ethnographic study. However, given that one of
Borchard’s primary stated goals is to reveal
the ‘‘key failure in many bureaucracies
designed to help the homeless’’ (p. 3) it is
incumbent upon him to flesh out the institutional realities rather than simply presuming
them to exist.
Borchard is far more effective when depicting the labyrinthine Las Vegas labor market.
Nearly all of his homeless subjects mention
the struggle to secure proper forms of identification and certification to work in the city.
Ricky, who seeks employment in the resort
casino industry, circumnavigates the city to
obtain a health card, a Sheriff’s card, and an
alcohol management card. And, of course,
each of these cards requires its own documentation. Kevin takes sporadic cash-only
construction jobs as he desperately waits for
a social security card and certified birth certificate to be mailed to him. Gary’s gaming
card is pulled after nearly two decades of
dealing poker and he promptly ends up on
the streets. Chuck struggles to get a Nevada
state driver’s license for his job. It is little
wonder so many of Borchard’s subjects eventually turn to panhandling, petty theft, gambling, and other forms of shadow work to
supplement their income.
Despite its scattershot approach, one consistent theme emerging throughout the
book is the interplay of forces conspiring to
make homelessness invisible in a touristbased urban economy. This is rooted in part
in local siting decisions that concentrate
social service agencies miles away from iconic tourist destinations like the Vegas Strip.
There is also the selective enforcement of
anti-panhandling and camping ordinances
which funnels the ‘‘visible’’ homeless into
marginalized areas. Finally, there are the
actions of the homeless themselves, who
often seek to conceal their status from potential employers, law enforcement, the public,
and even their own families. Borchard
reveals how many of those who have recently become homeless—not yet broken down
and visibly tattered by life on the streets—
subsist in plain sight by ‘‘blending in.’’ Casinos and coffee shops become ‘‘public’’
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
66 Reviews
resources where they can pass for tourists
and access temporary shelter, free wireless,
cheap food and drinks, and a sense of normality. Given the housing collapse that
rocked Las Vegas and many other cities in
the years since Borchard’s fieldwork, it is reasonable to suspect that these newly invisible
homeless have multiplied.
Moral Movements and Foreign Policy, by Joshua
W. Busby. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge
University Press, 2010. 327pp. $31.00 paper.
ISBN: 9780521125666.
University of Geneva
[email protected]
Why do some campaigns by principled
advocacy groups succeed in some places
and fail in others? The question addressed in
this book is simple, but providing an answer
to it is a more difficult endeavor. Moral Movements and Foreign Policy does an excellent job
in doing so. The book’s main argument is
that movement success depends on the combination of three main factors: the material
incentives facing states, the cultural resonance of the movements’ messages, and
the presence of policy gatekeepers. In brief,
it argues that movement success rests on
a blend of low costs, high value fit, and supportive policy gatekeepers. Translated into
the social movement jargon, this means
that social movements may have a chance
to influence policy decision-making when
the costs are not too high and above all are
not perceived as being too high, when movement leaders frame the issue in a way that it
fits the country’s dominant values, and
when political opportunities are favorable
and do not pose too many obstacles at the
domestic level.
Joshua Busby shows that states sometimes
act against their own material self-interest
when a given issue is framed in a way that
it fits the country’s values and when policy
gatekeepers view them as important. He
points out the limits of interest-based explanations, yet without rejecting them completely, and suggests that a framing-meets-gatekeepers or framing/gatekeepers approach
provides a better explanation of why the
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
demands of advocacy movements succeed
or fail. In the process, he stresses more specific aspects that have played a particularly
important role in some cases, such as the
international reputation and prestige that
states want to build or maintain, the role of
messengers and the similarity of attributes
between them and gatekeepers, the importance of perceived costs, and the impact of
shaming efforts.
Working with an interesting and helpful
typology of situations with regard to the possibility of movement success intersecting
costs and values, Busby analyzes four cases
of transnational campaigns dealing with different issue areas: international economics
and development (debt relief), environment
(climate change), public health (HIV/
AIDS), and justice/security (the International Criminal Court). In addition, he looks at
these campaigns in comparative perspective
across seven democracies: Canada, France,
Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom,
and the United States. This two-fold comparison is conducted systematically across the
four case studies, showing how the combination of the three factors mentioned above has
led to success or failure of the campaigns.
Each of the four case study chapters is
organized in a similar fashion, which makes
the reading comfortable and the line of argumentation easy to follow. The chapters start
with an overview of the campaign at hand,
then provide a partial explanation based on
material interest and show its limits (whose
general contours are also outlined in the theoretical chapter), followed by a more complete explanation stressing the framing/
gatekeepers argument (again, outlined in
more general terms in the theoretical chapter), and by a more detailed discussion of
some relevant national cases showing how
the more specific aspects have played a crucial role in these cases.
There is more than one reason to praise this
book. Firstly, the book examines the impact of
transnational movements and campaigns.
This is all the more important as most of the
existing studies of the consequences of social
movements focus on national-based movements. At the same time, the author shows
the importance of local or domestic factors
for the success of transnational campaigns.
Secondly, the book is firmly comparative,
Reviews 67
both across issue areas and across countries.
Since comparative analyses, especially on
these two levels, are still a rare supply in
this field, this is a very welcome addition
to this literature. Thirdly and perhaps most
importantly, the book goes beyond interestbased and simplistic cost/benefit accounts
of social movement outcomes to show the
importance of moral motivations and altruistic behavior. Yet, the author avoids throwing the baby out with the bath water and
considers explanation based on self-interest
as incomplete rather than incorrect. He
shows the limits of this kind of explanation,
but considers costs and material incentives
as part of a broader framework that puts
framing and political opportunities at center
This book, however, could have been even
better, had Busby considered more seriously
its potential ‘‘bridging’’ function. Indeed,
perhaps the main criticism that one could
address to this excellent book is that, while
dealing with the outcomes of social movements, it largely – if not entirely – ignores previous work by students of social movements.
The latter, for example, is not discussed in
Chapter Two, which is where the author
lays out his theoretical framework for the
analyses to follow in subsequent chapters.
Although one is not necessarily expecting
the often tiresome ‘‘review of literature’’ section, the book could have improved with
explicit references to the social movement
To be sure, blaming an author for not having used the concepts and terminology ones
wishes to read and is familiar with would
be quite an illegitimate criticism if not that
doing so would have made the book and
analysis even stronger. This lack of reference
to prior work on the outcomes of social movements, made mainly by sociologists, but also
by political scientists, has two negative consequences in my view. Firstly, some of the
interesting arguments put forward in the
book have in fact already been made in prior
work, and this could have been acknowledged more explicitly. To make the most
striking example, one of the main explanatory factors, namely the role of gatekeepers, or
veto players, sounds similar to the concept of
political opportunity structures, only named
differently and less enmeshed with structural
concerns in favor of individual institutional
actors. Secondly, more references to the social
movement literature would have contributed
more explicitly to another major strength of
this book, namely the fact that it bridges
two bodies of work that too often travel on
separate tracks. The analyses provided in
this book draw heavily on social movement
theory—most notably, on the framing and
political opportunity approaches—yet without fully acknowledging it. Doing justice to
these works and literature would only have
made the book stronger.
The Inequalities of Love: College-Educated Black
Women and the Barriers to Romance and Family,
by Averil Y. Clarke. Durham, NC: Duke
University Press, 2011. 409pp. $26.95 paper.
ISBN: 9780822350088.
University of Kansas
[email protected]
In a book the author likens to a ‘‘chick flick,’’
love, marriage, and childbearing take center
stage to explain the inequalities that African
American women experience. Averil
Clarke’s central arguments are that love matters when shaping productive and reproductive relations, that African American women
face significant disadvantages in pursuing
love and marriage, and that inequality scholars should shift their focus from money to
love to better understand class formation
and maintenance. The Inequalities of Love is
based on 58 in-depth interviews with college-educated black women under the age
of 50 and the analysis of national quantitative data, which allows the author to compare college-educated women across racial
lines and African American women across
social class lines. The quantitative data provides the big picture of trends among women in education, marriage, fertility, abortion,
and a host of other interesting factors, but
the richness of the interviews pushes us
beyond assumptions easily (and often erroneously, Clarke argues) drawn from the
quantitative data. Intersectionality theory
provides the framework for the book: love
inequalities are shaped and maintained
within the context of gender, racial, and class
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
68 Reviews
inequalities, especially as they unfold in
institutional hierarchies. But Clarke draws
liberally from a range of social theories—
stratification, Bourdieu, Merton, feminist—
to craft her argument that love matters and
The first chapter of the book explores how
the interviewees came to pursue a college
education. Clarke uses their narratives to
construct a typology of motivations, but
points out that the women rarely fell into
a single category. Some were motivated by
a racial logic (e.g., the ‘‘status seekers’’ and
‘‘stigma avoiders’’); they sought a college
education to escape persistent negative
images of black women that depict them as
irresponsible, immoral, hypersexual, and
overly fertile. The economy of love in their
families also mattered: nurturing families
were the source of status attainment for
many (‘‘prominent people pleasers’’), but
dysfunctional families also fostered the
desire for self-sufficiency and independence
(‘‘conforming escape artists’’). The decision
to pursue college also unfolded within the
context of structural factors such as being
recruited into college preparatory programs
or affirmation action initiatives. The ‘‘money
logic’’ inequality scholars use to explain college attainment, Clarke argues, ignores the
actual experiences and processes that lead
to the creation of class categories, especially
how they are informed by factors such as
In the remaining five chapters Clarke
delves more deeply into her argument of
love as a salient factor in creating and maintaining inequalities, starting with the deprivation that African American women experience when forming families. Much of the
deprivation derives from cultural images
and representations of blackness, which construct black women as socially undesirable
and form the basis for creating elite feminine
identities—identities that are not available to
black women. The middle-class African
American women in this study struggled to
signify by their behaviors that such racial
images are inaccurate: they saw non-marital
sexuality and childbearing as wrong and
stigmatizing and wanted stable, committed,
monogamous relationships. But in heterosexual relationships, it is men who decide
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
which women are eligible for such relationships, and black women face the choice of
a love/sex drought or engaging in the very
behaviors they disapprove of. The conflict
between their beliefs and their behaviors
resulted in sporadic and ineffective contraceptive use, and resorting to induced abortion as ‘‘back stage work’’ to preserve their
class identities. But in the end, their marriage/family/reproductive lives look more
like those of low-income black women than
their white and Hispanic college-educated
Racial isolation, gender-based romantic
rules, and the pursuit of class credentials to
avoid racial stigma all restrict black women’s
access to love. Moreover, these experiences
unfold within the contexts of other social
and institutional hierarchies—families, educational institutions—that also constrain
their choices. Clarke argues that the complex
inequalities that effect African American
women are rarely captured by stratification
theorists, as their emphasis on social class,
rational choice, and productivity ignores
unequal access to love, marriage, and childbearing. Feminist theory also often falls short
in its analysis of family, childbearing, and
love as burdens that impede educational
and economic advancement of women.
Such thinking negates women’s desire for
families and children; moreover, romantic
love and childbearing may actually push
women toward greater attainment.
Clarke presents a persuasive case for the
ways in which love matters in understanding
inequality. Class advantage does not always
lead to social power, especially for black
women who cannot distance themselves
from the symbolism associated with black
bodies or gender inequities in the pursuit of
love. This book complicates the simple
‘‘shortage of marriageable black men’’ theory
used to explain the marriage decline among
African Americans by providing an integrated look at the romantic goals of women within the context of class, gender, and racial constraints. Class is not achieved solely in the
productive arena, but also through love, marriage, and family. The book may be criticized
for excluding the love narratives and goals of
black men and for being, at times, somewhat
redundant. The strengths of the book, however, far outweigh its weaknesses. It is
Reviews 69
theoretically rich and compelling. Detailed
statistical analyses of national data are combined with fascinating narratives from interviewees in ways that reveal processes that
underlie class formation and maintenance.
Moreover, the author aims to move inequality scholarship in a new direction—the consideration of inequalities in love and reproduction. The book is an excellent choice for
scholars and teachers in the fields of gender,
family studies, and social inequality.
Confronting Equality: Gender, Knowledge and
Global Change, by Raewyn Connell. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2011. 191pp.
$22.95 paper. ISBN: 9780745653518.
University of Southern California
[email protected]
Confronting Equality is Raewyn Connell’s
latest contribution to the social sciences.
Connell’s field-defining works have broadened our understanding of masculinities,
gender as a social construction, and among
others the sociology of knowledge. In this
book, Connell examines the impacts of and
challenges brought by the culture and politics
of neoliberal globalization to the achievement
of equality. Bringing together previously published journal articles, she uses empirical
research as well as intellectual work produced in the global metropole and periphery
to analyze the intersections of gender, knowledge production, and globalization in the era
of neoliberalism, meaning free enterprise, free
competition and self-reliance.
Confronting Equality covers a wide spectrum: the question of neoliberalism as a
gender-neutral principle, the role of the family in neoliberal regimes, and education or
more generally knowledge acquisition in
neoliberalism. One can initially struggle to
figure out the overall argument of the book
and how the chapters link with one another.
It is a wide reaching book best described as
a social scientific examination of knowledge
acquisition in the contexts of economic globalization and political neoliberalism. Its
major contribution is its illustration of the
inequalities embedded in knowledge acquisition, which Connell sees as exacerbated
by the economic principle of neoliberalism.
The inequalities of knowledge acquisition
are imposed in manifold ways including in
the workplace, family, schools, and discipline of sociology.
In the first two chapters, Connell calls our
attention to how the principle of neoliberalism in global and state governance advances
the post-feminist ideology of gender neutrality, which is an ideology that she rightfully
links to the celebration of the individual
and self-reliance in neoliberalism. In her discussion, she asserts that the advancement of
gender equality has been wrongfully pursued under the guise of gender neutrality,
leading to positive and negative results but
ultimately resulting in the denial of gender
differences. Gender neutrality, for instance,
can result positively in the destigmatization
of stay-at-home fathers but it can negatively
result in downplaying the persistence of gender inequalities. It can also absolve the state
of needing to ensure gender equality thereby
becoming complicit in the maintenance of
gender inequalities, including for instance
dealing with sexual harassment at schools.
In Chapter Three, Connell provides a case
study of gender neutrality and an illustration
of how the principle of neoliberalism transforms social realities. She looks specifically
at the case of parenting and the division of
labor in the family. It is in this chapter that
Connell finally provides us with a working
definition of neoliberalism, which she sees
as ‘‘the project of transformation under the
sign of the free market that has dominated
politics in the last quarter-century’’ (p. 41).
Drawing from multiple studies on the family,
Connell observes that neoliberalism promotes de-gendering but that this process neither eliminates nor exacerbates gender divisions—instead it configures gender. These
configurations lead to new anxieties about
masculinity, redefine mothering for both the
working and middle class, and involve great
tensions. Connell does not offer a conclusion
about parenting but steers scholars to reckon
with market forces when examining the family today.
In the next two chapters, Connell turns to
previous studies to examine the politics of
neoliberalism in education. The discussion
moves away from gender and the analysis
of neoliberalism’s advancement of gender
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
70 Reviews
neutrality. In these chapters, she instead pays
closer attention to class inequities, looking at
the schooling of working-class families in
New South Wales, Australia and the case of
teachers. What we learn from these chapters
is the exacerbation of class exclusion in global neoliberalism, the standardization of education and the lesser flexibility given teachers—realities that potentially hurt the
learning environment of poorer students.
In the latter portion of the book (Chapters
Six to Nine), Connell embarks on a discussion
of the sociology of knowledge. Chapter Six
looks at ‘‘intellectual workers,’’ Chapter Seven at sociology as a discipline, and Chapters
Eight and Nine at the knowledge produced
by two social theorists Paulin Hountondji
(from the global South) and Antonio Negri
(from the margins of the global North). These
last chapters are best described as an examination of the valuation of knowledge in our
global society and provide a critical reading
of the constitution of inequality in this valuation. In Chapter Six, Connell explores the
character of intellectual work in neoliberalism and the labor process of knowledge production, questioning the notion of a ‘‘free’’
thinker and calling attention to the hierarchies of knowledge sources. In Chapter Seven, she continues to establish the existence
of a ‘‘metropolitan hegemony.’’ In the next
two chapters, she highlights the works by
two marginalized knowledge sources, Hountondji from the global South and Negri from
the subjugated class of the global North. She
pushes readers to utilize the noncanonical
perspectives of these theorists and credits
Hountondji for calling to question Eurocentric knowledge production and Negri for
his critical reading of world capitalism that
comes from his perspective ‘‘below.’’ She
then ends with a semiautobiographical chapter in which she reflects on her own social
activism, calling for a critical need for publicly-engaged intellectual work in the era of
neoliberalism, the need for intellectual work
to engage a vast range of inequalities, and
the need to blend practicality and utopianism
in the construction of knowledge.
Confronting Equality is best described as
a sociological query into the ethos of neoliberalism and its relevance to our understanding of inequality. There are two
significant strands to Connell’s discussion
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
of neoliberalism. In the first part of the
book, she explores the heightening of gender
neutrality in neoliberalism and in the second
part she addresses the inequalities that underpin the sociology of knowledge. This is
a thought-provoking book that I recommend,
written with political urgency, which advances our core understanding of inequality.
Renewal in the French Trade Union Movement:
A Grassroots Perspective, by Heather
Connolly. New York, NY: Peter Lang, 2010.
248pp. $60.95 paper. ISBN: 9783034301015.
Mount Holyoke College
[email protected]
It is not news that unions are in trouble
throughout the Western world. Buffeted by
the onslaught of neo-liberalism and privatization, unions face an uncertain future at
best. So what should they do to regain
strength in this illiberal era? Heather Connolly explores how militants in one union
in France, the railway workers of the Fédération des Syndicats Solidaries, Unitaires et Démocratiques (SUD), have attempted to revitalize worker activism.
France has always been an interesting case
for the study of union activism, for it has
combined radical ideas, from communism
to revolutionary syndicalism, with a history
of strikes, yet exceedingly low rates of union
membership. Current trade union membership is under 10 percent of the workforce,
and over half of union members are concentrated in the public sector, in protected
nationalized industries like the railway and
the post office. Unions have progressively
lost members throughout the years. Yet
union membership has never been high in
France, in part because collective bargaining
covers 90 percent of workers, whether they
are unionized or not. In this context, unions
have historically relied on a core of activists
rather than mass membership.
Connolly engages in ethnographic research
to examine how the SUD-Rail is responding to
the enormous challenges that it faces. Her specific focus is on the role of these union activists
in constructing and sustaining collective interests and solidarity among workers. She draws
Reviews 71
on sociological theories of framing to explore
how activists create ways of understanding
and interpretation that promote workingclass interests. She finds that union activists
are indeed important in framing the interpretation of injustice among workers, encouraging group cohesion and identity, and inciting
and legitimizing collective action
SUD militants are but the latest group of
worker activists upset with the seeming
inability of French labor organizations to
promote radical social change. The French
labor movement has been characterized by
rivalry between competing unions for workers throughout much of its history. The SUD
emerged in the late 1980s in opposition to
what its members considered to be the
reformism and bureaucratization of the two
major French labor unions, the Confédération
generale du travail (CGT) and the Confédération Francaise Démocratique du Travail
(CFDT). The SUD grew fairly rapidly after
its formation in 1988, wishing to remake
the confrontational identity of French unionism. It adopted a federal structure organized
on the basis of occupation or company, while
emphasizing local union activism, as did the
revolutionary syndicalists. The union criticized the privatization craze as a movement
away from a public sector ethic focused on
what is best for society towards a consumerist approach concentrating solely on profits.
The SUD has also attempted to forge links
with other social movements, such as the
social justice movement, to integrate the
demands of labor into a broader context.
Connolly focuses specifically on the activities of militants in the SUD-Rail union. Railway workers have traditionally been among
the most highly unionized sectors of the
French labor force, and among the most militant. SUD-Rail activists have tried to revive
the spirit of early twentieth century French
revolutionary syndicalism, by emphasizing
direct action, a strong working-class identity,
a suspicion of political parties, and participatory democracy and agency at the local level.
While the movement has been partially successful in resurrecting languages of class
struggle and direct action, and organized
some previously unorganized workers, on
the whole the SUD-Rail is struggling with
membership crises, as are the other French
labor organizations.
These militants attempted to implement
direct action at the local level, but confronted
a number of problems familiar to anyone
who studies union activism. They faced tensions between worker participation and
maintaining organizational efficiency and
a clear decision-making process. There were
also tensions between attempts to represent
the particular interests of workers and wider
working-class claims for social change.
The most interesting part of the book, and
the most distressing, is Connolly’s study of
the discourse and actions of working-class
militants. SUD-Rail activists were very
aware of the problem of bureaucracy, and
often discussed ways that they could avoid
becoming bureaucrats. They often discussed
how to promote strikes and worker demonstrations, while also looking for new activists
who could bring in novel ideas for the union.
They truly believed in the power of grassroots unionism and participatory democracy,
self-consciously constructing their identities
as union activists in opposition to the reformism of the CGT. Yet they ultimately failed to
attract a mass membership. Tensions
between old and new generations of activists, and between those committed to local
action and those militants more responsive
to national trends, contributed to this problem. Pressures on the union to negotiate
with the state, and the seemingly inevitable
process of the professionalization of the
union leadership, were also factors. But ultimately, Connolly writes, workers were just
not interested in joining the union. She cites
the famous free rider problem as a major reason for the lack of participation, for workers
benefited from the actions of the unions,
whether they were members or not.
It is hard to say if Connolly contributes
much to our knowledge of trade unions,
beyond some ethnographic data on the
beliefs of activists. She recognizes that a study
of workers who are not leaders, and how they
approach union activism, could contribute
much to our understanding of the fate of workers in France. Finally, the book reads much like
a dissertation, and could have benefited from
a rewrite and attention to editing.
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
72 Reviews
The Economics of Enough: How to Run the
Economy As If the Future Matters, by Diane
Coyle. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Press, 2011. 346pp. $24.95 cloth. ISBN:
Dalhousie University
[email protected]
A series of crises now confronts many contemporary societies: climate change and ecological unsustainability, growing public debt
in the wake of the financial crisis and bank
bailouts, socially corrosive inequalities, and
the depletion of trust and social capital.
Diane Coyle sees a common theme tying
together these challenges: the need to ensure
that our actions today do not come at the
expense of the future.
Coyle, a Harvard-trained economic consultant, proclaims that, ‘‘We’ve reached the
point of Enough.’’ She highlights the way in
which the United Kingdom, United States,
and other nations are living beyond their
means environmentally and financially, leaving the bill for today’s consumption to those
who follow. Solutions, she argues, require
new social norms and institutions that
embody a longer-term view. They also
require reforms to increasingly dysfunctional political systems that seem incapable
of solving any of the core problems or of
engaging citizens in informed debate about
the difficult decisions ahead.
Despite the book’s title, Coyle does not
actually believe that we can ever have
enough in one important sense—that is,
with regard to economic output. She rejects
the new ‘‘conventional wisdom’’ that GDP
growth and happiness are unrelated in
already-affluent societies. Coyle draws, for
example, on recent studies concluding that
a link is still evident between happiness
and GDP (in logarithmic form) in most countries—although not in the United States,
where increasing inequality has excluded
so many people from the benefits of growth.
Coyle concludes decisively that growth and
happiness are linked, but this is unlikely
to be the last word on that debate.
There remains considerable evidence that
income has diminishing marginal utility in
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
improving well-being, while many other factors have more powerful impacts than
income on happiness. (See, for example, the
2012 World Happiness Report, edited by John
Helliwell, Richard Layard, and Jeffrey
Coyle likewise attacks the increasinglyprominent argument that environmental
challenges can be addressed by turning
away from economic growth without reducing well-being. Instead, she asserts that the
growth we need, which until now has been
unsustainable, will have to be sustainable in
the future, through measures such as green
taxes that incorporate environmental externalities into prices and better statistical measures that capture the depletion of ‘‘natural
capital.’’ This has been the mainstream view
since the 1987 Brundtland Report on sustainable development; however, Coyle does not
engage with the data, produced by environmental sociologists and others, showing the
inadequacy to date of this project of decoupling growth from environmental impacts.
In light of such evidence, it seems unwise to
dismiss, as Coyle does, the idea that a turn
away from prioritizing growth might be
The idea of ‘‘Enough’’ notwithstanding,
there are few limits to the range of issues
that Coyle addresses. For example, a chapter
on ‘‘Trust’’ manages, within a few pages, to
touch on the flawed institutions of global economic governance, the importance of face-toface contact in cities, racial diversity and
affirmative action, and whether governments should collect taxes via payroll deduction. Some readers might find this breadth
impressive; others will find themselves wishing the author had shown greater restraint
and focus. Prospective readers should also
be aware that the book does not provide original scholarship, but rather reviews the available literature—at times quite thoroughly—
in building her argument.
The book is at its strongest—or at least
most in line with this reviewer’s ideological
predilections—in its denunciation of growing inequality, the ‘‘social contagion’’ of
excess incomes in the economy’s upper reaches, and the ‘‘sham’’ of bonuses with no
identifiable link to individual performance.
Coyle identifies two main, standard explanations for rising inequality: globalization and
Reviews 73
technological change. She adds that we do
have a choice in how to respond to these
forces—some countries, including Germany,
France, and Denmark, have seen reductions
in inequality since 1990. However, a tension
exists between her suggestions to limit these
inequalities by reining in excess at the top
and her call to scale back social entitlements,
such as public pensions, to strengthen governments’ long-term budgetary pictures. Indeed,
she seems to buy into some of the more alarmist claims about the sustainability of public
finances, quoting a bond trader on the growing reluctance in the markets to purchase
U.K. and U.S. debt, and implying that these
two countries face fates similar to Greece,
Spain, and Portugal. In fact, markets continue
to snap up British and American bonds at low
short- and long-term interest rates.
The book concludes with a 30-page ‘‘manifesto,’’ which is unlikely to inspire the
masses to take to the streets. Its mildly
reformist proposals not only aim to give
greater weight to the future, but also to
‘‘strengthen the moral dimension of capitalism.’’ Perhaps most significant, although
not original, is the call to supplement GDP
with new statistical indicators that measure
wealth more comprehensively. Another proposal with the potential to shift political
debate and priorities—by providing a counterweight to short-term political pressures—
is the creation of institutions with a duty to
give voice to the interests of future generations. Coyle also emphasizes the need to
encourage savings over current consumption—especially high-carbon consumption.
While some of her proposals are sensible,
others are bound to cause some head-scratching, such as: ‘‘Make the old-fashioned virtue
of public service a priority in implementing
the inevitable cuts in public expenditure and
reforming the provision of services’’ (p. 295).
Coyle believes the pendulum has swung
too far in a market fundamentalist direction,
but she is quick to warn against a return to
the statism of 1970s Britain, and ultimately
does not stray far from economic orthodoxy.
Indeed, there could be greater acknowledgement of the role that mainstream economics
has played in the various crises she highlights.
The Economics of Enough is an ambitious,
thought-provoking, but uneven book. Sociologists may find it to be a useful overview
of recent economic thought on a wide range
of issues, even if it does not provide fully satisfying answers to the question, outlined in
the sub-title, of ‘‘How to Run the Economy
As If the Future Matters.’’
Transatlantic Conversations: Feminism as
Travelling Theory, edited by Kathy Davis
and Mary Evans. Burlington, VT: Ashgate,
2011. 237pp. $99.95 cloth. ISBN: 97807546
Graduate Center, CUNY
[email protected]
Kathy Davis and Mary Evans conceived this
collection of essays as a natural outcome
from their role as editors of the European
Journal of Women’s Studies—which was
born as an attempt to counter-act the overspread dominance of U.S. feminist theory
amid the field of women studies. From the
very introduction, the editors acknowledge
that the book’s underlying framework is
(and despite their best intentions) Eurocentric and Anglo-centric, as it mostly
resulted from conversations held between
the United States and the United Kingdom.
Central to their main approach lies the issue
of translation: the fact that the official language in the ‘‘global North’’ is English makes
even more evident the uni-directionality that
privileges Anglo-spoken countries, with the
United States in the lead, as the mainstream
intellectual force.
Halfway between a self-reflexive analysis
and a conceptual undertaking, the writers
in this volume map out their evolving feminist voices through multi-theoretical and
empirical layers of meaning across the Atlantic. And the strength of this book precisely
rests on its authors’ attempts for translation
toward building accountable scaffolds to
make sense of their personal and geographical realities. By no means this volume aims at
universalizing its scope; on the contrary,
Davis and Evans invite us to ask: what is
unique to European feminism(s) and, at the
same time, shared with women academics
in the United States? Is there anything distinctive in European feminist scholarship?
How to bring the commonalities among
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
74 Reviews
women’s different voices in the United States
and Europe?
Sixteen succinct and powerful essays by
writers from different disciplines, generations, and locations joined the editors in
devising a challenging, and accomplished,
book project. Although not all chapters are
as successful in providing powerful takehome messages, the collection overall succeeds in offering a multi-vocal feminist quilt
for the expression of women’s academic
and political voices across the Atlantic. The
writers in this volume build upon their intellectual and professional trajectories that
place themselves somehow between the center and the periphery of feminist scholarship.
In doing so, this collection concocts a pristine
kaleidoscope that reveals the enduring differences within and across nation states. Situated in different geographical sites (from
Western to Eastern Europe) the authors’ narratives show dissimilar, albeit complementary, standpoints that make this volume
Divided into three inter-connected themes,
the book’s first part follows the biographical
trajectories that led the contributors to define,
and become, feminist scholars in complex
ways. While the editors, and many of the
authors, acknowledge that the core of mainstream feminist paradigms have mostly traveled from the United States to Europe (with
little circulation of European ideas back to
the United States), this does not mean that
those on the European side have had their
voices subsumed to American scholarship.
Under the spells of European thinkers from
Julia Kristeva to Simone de Beauvoir, to critical theorists including Althusser, Gramsci,
and Poulantzas, the chapters’ eclectic agendas are not absent of critiques of the West.
Therefore, it is not surprising to learn how little is known in the United States about the
contributions of women from the other sides
of the world on gender theory, third-world
feminist contributions, and political practice.
Grounded counter-narratives to the ‘‘global womanhood’’ mantra in this book are
uttered by those at the European borders, as
in Andrea Petö’s essay that retraces her intellectual path, initially as an historian, while
growing up in the 1960s in communist Hungary, and later becoming a feminist scholar in
Germany. The essays’ common tropes of
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
contextualizing (namely translating to American scholars) what is specific about their
‘‘exotic’’ areas of the world include critiques
on the U.S. lack of analysis of the global
struggles for reproductive freedom and
social justice movements outside its frontiers.
The chapters also reflect upon the contributions to social theory on both sides of the
Atlantic, including the pluses and minuses
of each region regarding the advancement
of specific political and intellectual agendas—from queer studies to gender equality
and racial justice. For example, renée hoogland’s essay conspicuously observes that
while the field of racial and ethnic studies is
more accepted as a prism for the examination
of gender inequalities in the United States
than in Europe, European scholars are more
eager to embrace broader advocacy agendas
in support of queer studies and gay civil
The authors’ political engagement towards
pursuing a feminist standpoint, both within
and outside the academy, is the main topic
of the second part of the book in which critical
theory is framed by empirically-grounded
research and political platforms in support
of gender equality and social justice. For
instance, Ann Phoenix’s striking essay revisits her own contradictory path towards
becoming a black British feminist. The
broader East-West racial conversations are
germane to her political involvement with
both U.S. black feminist writings and ‘‘third
world’’ discussions on social and racial (in)
justice in the United States.
Throughout the book, a few of the chapters
revisit the uneven ways through which their
authors’ feminist trajectories actually suffered from the contradictory processes, and
ongoing struggles, involving the fights for
gender equality in their countries of birth.
For instance, the striking essay by Maria Garcı́a de León reveals, in first person, the dramatic sociopolitical transition that took place
in Spain (beginning in the mid-1970s)
between the conservative Franco’s government and the subsequent progressive Spanish era that welcomed principles of gender
equality amid women’s rising professional
careers. In this vein, Gul Ozyegin retraces
her family history in Turkey, where she
grew up under the spells of Western modernization and ideals of gender equity in the
Reviews 75
labor force, amid a patriarchal upbringing in
which women were supposed to be domestically caste and submissive. Veronica Pravadelli, who was born to a traditional Italian
family, portrays a similar trend by revealing
the tensions of coming of age in a country
where gender clashes are the norm, with
women becoming pioneering subjects in the
public world albeit remaining as subsumed
(and sexualized) objects in the social imaginary, including the national media. The challenges exemplified by these authors also
speak to existing gendered tensions between
the domestic and public spheres both in
Europe and in the United States. For instance,
Kelly Coate’s essay challenges the dual
meaning of ‘‘writing in the dark’’ both as
a metaphor of working on marginalized
(feminist) topics in American academia,
and as a claim for finding one’s own time to
The third and final part of book explores
the transformations of theoretical concepts
across the Atlantic, including the conundrums involving the ‘‘big three’’ (i.e., gender,
race, and class) in different locations. In
a way, terms that were initially framed in
the United States have achieved both global
and localized meanings that differ from the
ones with which they were originally crafted.
In the end, this book offers women’s real stories eager to enchant the reader with their
personal telling of their coming-of-age as
professional women, feminist scholars, and
advocates. Far from providing a ‘‘one-sizefits-all’’ recipe, the book offers a provocative
lens with which to explore the authors’
multi-locality while reflecting on their own
struggles toward finding their unique (and
shared) conceptual voices.
Tacit Subjects: Belonging and Same-Sex Desire
among Dominican Immigrant Men, by Carlos
Ulises Decena. Durham, NC: Duke
University Press, 2011. 309pp. $23.95 paper.
ISBN: 9780822349457.
Tulane University
[email protected]
Scholars interested in intersections of race,
class, sexualities, and migration will be
rightfully engaged by Carlos Decena’s Tacit
Subjects, a much awaited and formidable
addition to this nascent field of research.
Decena’s book is divided into three main
sections, the first focusing on the participants’ moves to New York City and their
ongoing connections to the island. In the second section, Decena focuses on the importance of the body as a tool used for communication, legitimacy, and boundary work,
while the final section focuses on sexual
practices and contested relationships within
the activo/pasivo paradigm (Almaguer
1993) and, more generally, within an ideology of machismo. Each section begins with
a short auto-ethnographic vignette in which
Decena shares with the reader pieces of his
own life as a Dominican gay immigrant
man and, thus, connects his experiences
with those who participated in his study. In
so doing, Decena provides a rare and deeply
personal account of the ways in which he, as
researcher and participant, interprets the
related findings.
Decena begins by revisiting the concept of
a sujeto tacito or a tacit subject, that which
remains unspoken albeit understood, which
he previously outlined in an earlier article
(Decena 2008). In this book, Decena expands
upon this concept, noting that tacit subjects
helped these men maintain connections
with their families through a mutual understanding that sexual matters were private
and not to be discussed in a familial setting.
Decena cautions that tacit subjects are not
equated to or read as an individual’s sexual
repression, but rather should be seen as taking ownership of one’s own sexuality and
determining the means by which sexuality
is discussed within the family. By establishing the aforementioned differentiation, this
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
76 Reviews
pivotal chapter becomes the point of departure for the remainder of the study.
Decena pays an extraordinary amount of
attention to language in his book, making it
initially clear that language is never transparent, neither his nor that of his participants.
The author demonstrates an astute ability
to unpack language, both in English and in
Spanish, paying meticulous attention to the
multiple and myriad meanings behind his
respondents’ words and the ways in which
the limitations of language can, at times,
truncate understanding. Decena fluctuates
frequently between the two Spanish-language forms of the verb ‘‘to be’’ (ser and
estar). The verb ser translates more literally
into an English version that implies a stable,
unchanging, and invariable constant. Estar,
however, is not as easily or directly translated into English. While also meaning ‘‘to be,’’
estar subtly implies a way of being that is not
permanent or static. Decena uses estar often
in the work to evoke the essential idea of
identities in transit. The distinction between
these verbs, although often difficult to establish in English-language translations, is both
vital and rich in meaning. It reminds the
reader of movement as a recurring theme
in the book, particularly reminiscent of the
participants’ moves, before and after migration, in and out of Dominican worlds, heterosexual worlds, gay and bisexual worlds,
and worlds of family. Decena himself moves
fluidly back and forth between English and
Spanish. While he consistently provides
translations, it is unfortunately likely that
much of the richness with which he manipulates language will be lost for the monolingual reader.
Another important theme explored in
Decena’s work is ‘‘the straightjacket of masculinity.’’ The author recounts the constraints
felt by those he interviewed to perform masculinity as a means for financial survival.
Decena notes how the straightjacket of masculinity also shaped the sexual exchanges
and intimate friendships among his study
participants. He contrasts what he refers to
as the serious, masculine image these men
give off in public spaces with an image of
effeminacy which they sometimes evoke
with one another as a way of creating intimacy and proximity. At this point, Decena provides an analysis of the nuances of code
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
switching, a way for participants to communicate as they move throughout the different
worlds they straddle. Sexual practices
became one of the places in which Decena
notes that the participants challenged masculinity. He relays their distancing from Dominicanidad and the machismo attached to it
by establishing a precedent for sexual reciprocity and equality in bed. He also points
to the racist stereotypes met by most men in
the United States which scripted them as
the Dominican macho and, regardless of
desire, shaped their sexual negotiations.
Decena’s work is a provocative scholastic
piece which pushes the boundaries of academia to include more ‘‘tacit subjects’’—both
ideological and human. Decena is bold, in
that he does not apologize for the frank
image his participants depict of their fellow
Dominicans or the hierarchies they create to
distance themselves from others whom
they perceive to be undesirable. Rather,
Decena unpacks the meanings behind the
boundaries and links created by those in his
study, focusing on their perceptions of other
Dominicans in relation to their own positions
as marginal, working-class, immigrant people attempting to advance based on a social
status hierarchy in a host country. Tacit Subjects is clearly a must read for any scholar
interested in race, class, sexualities and
Almaguer, Tomas. 1993. ‘‘Chicano Men: A Cartography of Homosexual Identity and Behavior’’
Pp. 255–73 in The Lesbian and Gay Studies
Reader, edited by Henry Abelove, Michele
Aina Barale, and David Halperin. New York,
NY: Routledge.
Decena, Carlos U. 2008. ‘‘Tacit Subjects.’’ GLQ: A
Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 14: 339–59.
Reviews 77
Divided by Borders: Mexican Migrants and
Their Children, by Joanna Dreby. Berkeley,
CA: University of California Press, 2010.
311 pp. $24.95 paper. ISBN: 9780520260900.
Pennsylvania State University
[email protected]
Migration from Mexico is a perpetually
salient public issue on both sides of the border. The Mexico-born population in the United States is 11–12 million persons, including
5–6 million undocumented migrants who
send billions of dollars ‘‘home.’’ However,
the story of this migration must go beyond
counts of the individuals per se to the families in which they are socially embedded.
The prevailing social science narrative starts
with a description of migration as a strategic
decision that reflects the interests of families
in spreading economic risks by sending
members abroad. Families are also vital for
marshaling resources that surmount barriers
to both leaving home and maintaining transnational relationships that can pave the way
for those who might follow in the footsteps of
pioneer migrants.
This narrative misses the human drama in
families that is created by tensions between
aspirations, emotion-laden bonds, and
expectations about fulfilling responsibilities
to others from afar. Joanna Dreby’s Divided
by Borders: Mexican Migrants and Their Children is a compelling ethnographic investigation that re-focuses attention on this
drama, especially on parent-child relationships. Based primarily on fieldwork conducted with undocumented Mexican adults
in New Jersey and the children of migrants
and their grandparent caregivers in Mexico,
this study provides an intimate portrait of
how the costs of living apart unfold over
time. This is the story of what happens
when married and single parents migrate,
and when children are asked to join them.
The book is structured around chapters
that offer case studies and chapters that pursue analytic themes. For example, the initial
case study suggests that lengthy separations
create mismatches between how mothers
and their children remember one another.
Poignantly conveyed by the reproduction of
a family portrait taken in New Jersey with
an out-of-date picture of a Mexico-resident
child ‘‘pasted in,’’ migrant mothers remember their children as they were and miss seeing them change in real time. Because routine
phone calls home are poor substitutes for
continuous contact, some children may create emotional distance from absent mothers
who yearn for closeness. Of course, such
experiences are not limited to mothers. Corroborating video evidence of this account of
the malaise accompanying out-of-synch lives
can be found in an interview of a migrant
father in the documentary Farmingville. He
describes himself with sadness as a ‘‘blind
man’’ because of his inability to visualize
a growing son in Mexico from his voice on
the phone. The passage of time at different
speeds for those who lead different lives in
different places is not emotionally neutral.
This description alludes to the primary
objective of elucidating how various inequalities affect family relationships. Specifically,
expectations about parents’ responsibilities
to children are structured around gender.
Migrant fathers must provide financially
and those who are either unable or unwilling
to send money home may withdraw from
their children’s lives. As the socio-emotional
anchors of families, mothers carry a heavier
‘‘moral burden’’ to be with their children.
Migrant mothers must manage guilt about
leaving children who may resent them for
doing so and inflict emotional pain by calling
their grandmother caregivers ‘‘mama.’’
Those who separate from their husbands or
who start new families abroad are in an
even more difficult position when dealing
with children who may fear the loss of emotional commitment from competing loyalties. When separation occurs, some fathers
may take advantage of the opportunity to
fill the resulting vacuum (at least until forming a union with another woman who can
pick up the slack).
Although even familiar descriptions of
gendered parenting dilemmas will resonate
with many readers, Dreby’s attention to
children’s perspectives is particularly fresh.
Children’s views are structured less around
gender than age. Children apparently shift
from an attitude of indifference to an attitude
of resentment toward migrant parents as
they get older. Because this adds to the
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
78 Reviews
emotional baggage migrant parents must
carry, children have some leverage in dealing
with them. Older children also have greater
freedom under the supervision of grandmother caregivers who typically are careful
not to undermine the child’s parents and
are often lax in monitoring. This lack of
mooring increases the chance that children
will become ‘‘troubled youth’’ who perform
poorly in school. Still, perspectives mature
during the transition to young adulthood as
children accumulate experiences in their
own romantic relationships and come to
understand their responsibilities as men
and women. Young men who are less successful in school realize that migration is
a route to employment. Young women
increasingly realize that it is a viable option
in the context of marriage. Thus, the migration cycle begins anew.
Divided by Borders offers important
insights into the ongoing costs of migration
for fathers, mothers, and children. The
implication that the costs for parents evolve
over time, partly in response to the stance of
children, exposes models of the migration
process which assume that different family
members have the same interests, the same
costs, or that costs are static. In this vein, it
is hard to walk away from this work
without realizing how sterile commonlyused analytic terms like ‘‘costs’’ are when
a richer language exists for capturing the
psychological downside of migration.
This study is also praiseworthy for evidentiary reasons. Less ambitious undertakings
might have focused solely on parents in
New Jersey, but the adoption of an origindestination research design that includes
children in Mexico provides a necessary vantage point for developing an understanding
of how lives are affected by geographic separation. Moreover, some ethnographies that
are primarily narratives in the investigator’s
own words require considerable trust on the
part of the reader. This is not an issue here.
Dreby is able to maintain the reader’s trust
by liberally showcasing her subjects’ voices
as evidence, despite the obvious challenges
of doing so when respondents refuse to be
Several limitations that reveal avenues for
future research should be mentioned.
Although insights are generated from
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
a multi-faceted data collection strategy
involving in-depth interviews, in-school surveys, and interviews with school personnel,
this effort better illuminates the possible
channels through which some problems
may emerge than their prevalence because
of the research design (e.g., only 12 families
were followed over time). Moreover, an original research design that excludes nonmigrants cannot show that children’s problems there are due to migration. Collectively,
these issues make it difficult to evaluate
claims about the inadequacies of perspectives which draw attention to processes associated with cultures of migration and familism. Lastly, a secondary goal was to reveal
the human impact of immigration policies.
It is hard to separate the effects of immigration from the effects of immigration policies
described as ‘‘exacting an unbearable toll
on families.’’ Nevertheless, such characterizations will resonate with the already converted—those who favor a more humane
approach to immigration policy. They will
fail to move those who focus selectively on
evidence of the resiliency of families, or
who feel that angst among the undocumented population is in the national interest if it
increases the likelihood of eventual family
reunification in Mexico.
In closing, this exceptional study reveals
the complexities of undocumented migrants
as humans who are more than ‘‘arms’’ for
digging ditches and carrying someone else’s
kids. Divided by Borders will likely serve as
a touchstone for future research on families
with children who are both here and there.
Corporate Wrongdoing and the Art of the
Accusation, by Robert R. Faulkner. New
York, NY: Anthem Press, 2011. 192pp.
$32.95 paper. ISBN: 9780857287946.
University of Texas, Austin
[email protected]
This book is a very original study of public
accusation. By using sundry media sources,
LexisNexis, and Dow Jones interactive corporate archives, Robert R. Faulkner generates and analyzes an impressive data set consisting of over a thousand public accusations
Reviews 79
of corporate malfeasance made over two decades. These charges are about the business
transactions of more than 400 high-capitalization companies in the United States.
Faulkner usefully differentiates among
four types of announcements of wrongdoing:
innuendo, admonition, accusation, and
indictment. Despite their different logics,
these types are often interconnected by distinct social processes. Accusation is defined
as a ‘‘publicly expressed and perspicuous
statement of alleged wrongdoing that affixes
blame on the supposed offender’’ (p.7).
According to Faulkner, accusations play an
essential function in economic markets insofar as they constitute initial public warning
signals about transgressive business conduct.
The author convincingly argues that accusation is a social form with an autonomous
logic. It is not simply a response to a transgression. This is why Faulkner stresses the
symbolic work underlying the production
of an accusation—hence the title of the
book. According to him, the art of producing
a public allegation entails: ‘‘(1) focusing on an
explicit market-based tie, (2) stripping away
connotations that are favorable and nuanced,
(3) abbreviating or leveling the public denunciation into concise message, and (4) attributing or casting explicit blame’’ (p. 9). Faulkner
then embarks on a quantitative study of the
different market-ties that corporate accusations involve. He differentiates among the
following types of accusations: (1) accusations of wrongdoing in and around the corporation; (2) accusations involving rivals,
industry peers, and competitors; (3) accusations involving suppliers of resources, goods,
services, and commercial banks; (4) accusations involving buyer of products, customer
of resources, clients of services, and investors
in securities and pension funds; (5) accusations involving investment banks, analysts,
advisers, rating agencies, and the Registered
Investment Community; and (6) accusations
involving government officials and federal,
state, and local regulators.
Corporate Wrongdoing and the Art of the
Accusation says very important things about
the multiple meaning and uses of accusations in different contexts and their frequency. Here are some of the interesting findings.
Despite the high-level publicity that the fifth
and sixth types of accusations usually
obtain, they are statistically, relatively speaking, not very frequent. In Faulkner’s data set,
45 percent of the accusations implicated only
one-fifth of the companies. Despite the high
number of accusations collected by the
author and their seeming heterogeneity,
closer analysis reveals that they involve
only three principal themes: misrepresentation, misdirection, misuse, or circumvention
of government processes and procedures.
Public charges of corporate wrongdoing
often cause more moral outrage than convictions. Faulkner argues that ‘‘in white-collar
and corporate crime, by the time the sentencing arrives, the aura of gravitas and moral
seriousness is exhausted’’ (p.10). Finally,
this book makes a signal contribution to
the study of opportunism insofar as it
emphasizes the supply-side of ‘‘interestseeking with guile,’’ while most social scientists and commentators tend to make
demand-side arguments on this topic.
As Faulkner compellingly argues, corporate accusations have their own logic and
sociological patterns. But his book does an
equally good job of analyzing how the
denunciatory disclosure of corporate wrongdoing also reveals quite a bit about the culture and moral order of capitalism. The
transgressions of market rules throw into
full relief the implicit, taken-for-granted presuppositions of action in the economic
world. Furthermore, Faulkner successfully
shows that corporate scandals are often not
only about straightforward illegal acts but
also about broken promises and other violations of social expectations.
This book should be of great value to economic sociologists, criminologists, and sociologists of culture. Anyone interested in conflict or the seamy side of American capitalism
would also learn much from it.
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
80 Reviews
Are Muslims Distinctive?: A Look at the
Evidence, by M. Steven Fish. New York,
NY: Oxford University Press, 2011. 385pp.
$27.95 paper. ISBN: 9780199769216.
Lehigh University
[email protected]
Are Muslims Distinctive? addresses the
deceptively simple question of how Islam
affects individuals and societies. Are Muslims more personally pious than others?
Are they more tolerant of crime or corruption? Do Muslim societies treat women less
equally? Are they less democratic? The premise of M. Steven Fish’s book is that most work
focused on such questions brings more heat
than light to these issues, selectively culling
data that fits preconceived notions of Islam
rather than a dispassionate and comprehensive survey of the available information.
This book is an attempt to provide such a survey, through attitudinal data coupled with
a wide variety of country-level data drawn
from many sources. Six substantive chapters
focus on a particular area in which there
exists significant public discussion of how
Muslims might be distinctive: personal religiosity and views toward religion in politics,
social capital and tolerance, corruption and
crime, large-scale political violence and terrorism, social inequality, and democracy.
Some of these questions are explored at the
level of individual attitudes. Contrary to
stubborn stereotypes, Fish finds little evidence that Muslims differ much in their attitudes toward the separation of religion and
politics. He also finds that they are no more
religiously devout than members of other
faiths, and they are just as likely to be members of voluntary associations as anyone
else. They are less tolerant of atheism than
non-Muslims, but also less tolerant of political corruption. Consistent with other stubborn stereotypes, Muslims do exhibit more
sexist views toward women.
Other questions are explored at the societal
level, comparing predominantly Muslim
and non-Muslim countries. Muslim countries, he finds, enjoy about the same overall
level of social capital as the rest of the world,
and suffer from about the same amount of
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
corruption and large-scale political violence.
Both economic inequality and violent crime
are less prevalent in Muslim countries than
they are elsewhere. On the other hand, the
social conditions for women are poorer in
Muslim countries than in non-Muslim countries. Muslim countries are also more likely
to be home to authoritarian political regimes.
And the majority of most deadly terrorist
attacks are committed by Islamists (and most
of those who die in such attacks are Muslims
in predominantly Muslim countries).
The general analytic strategy of each chapter follows the classic pattern of most quantitative journal articles: present the data, show
bivariate relationships, explain multivariate
statistical models, and provide a short discussion of the results. Fish is a careful methodologist who clearly explains the measures
he uses at the beginning of each chapter,
including both their strengths and weaknesses. A key strength of the book is his multivariate approach, including regular use of
multi-level modeling. For each topic, he
takes into account a wide array of potentially
confounding independent variables. So for
example, he begins Chapter Two by documenting that far more Muslims consider
themselves a ‘‘religious person’’ than do
non-Muslims, but that this difference largely
disappears once age, gender, education level,
and the overall proportion of religious people in the society are accounted for. Muslim
countries may appear to have more corruption than non-Muslim countries in bivariate measures, but this pattern is entirely
explained by their lower overall levels of economic development in the multivariate model. Fish tests the robustness of his findings
with alternate measures and data sources in
many places throughout the book. Overall
he devotes far more space to issues of data
availability, data quality, the range of available measures, and model specification
issues than do most monographs. Fish also
displays a magisterial command of the literature on his topic. Each of the chapters contains extensive citations to work in that
area, and he carefully parses it all to identify
the key debates and potential hypotheses
about the role of Islam.
As the author acknowledges several times,
the book is almost entirely descriptive. The
goal is to identify patterns using robust
Reviews 81
statistical analysis, rather than explain the
causes of those patterns. Fish shares some
of his explanatory hunches in each chapter,
but does not explore them in any systematic
way. In several places he looks for differences
between the Bible and Quran that might
explain the divergence between Christians
and Muslims on topics such as personal religiosity and gender equality (he finds none).
The discussion of his finding that predominantly Muslim countries have significantly
less open political systems is perhaps the
most interesting of the book, as he explores
many possible reasons for the pattern and
ultimately finds no evidence for any of
them. It is a refreshingly honest analysis—
both devastating to many extant explanations for authoritarian Muslim states yet
open about the lack of any plausible alternative explanation.
It is a bit disappointing that Fish relies
exclusively on quantitative data. The patterns he identifies might be fleshed out
more with the inclusion of some other data
sources, including the numerous ethnographies and interview-based studies that exist
on the different topics he covers. Inclusion
of such data would not only enrich the findings, it would allow him to overcome some of
the limitations in the measures he uses in the
quantitative models.
The intended audience for the book is
also not completely clear. The book argues
convincingly that more basic quantitative
descriptive data on the role of Islam in the
world is needed. For social scientists, though,
the descriptions of the data and methods will
seem too basic. For interested readers outside
of the academy, on the other hand, the careful
attention to data measures and statistical
models will seem tedious.
But both of these points are minor quibbles. Overall the book is packed with carefully developed and described empirical results
that will serve as important baseline reference material for a wide variety of scholars.
It is a valuable set of analyses for those working on issues of religion and Islam as well as
the broader issues of inequality, social capital, democracy, and violence.
Race and Justice: Wrongful Convictions of African
American Men, by Marvin D. Free, Jr., and
Mitch Ruesink. Boulder, CO: Lynne
Rienner Publishers, 2012. 333pp. $68.00
cloth. ISBN: 9781588268105.
Texas A&M University
[email protected]
In this original and interesting book, Marvin
Free and Mitch Ruesink provide an important compendium of 343 known wrongful
conviction cases involving African American
men over recent decades. While a few other
recent books (Alexander 2010) have examined the extensive racialization of the U.S.
criminal justice system and its intentional
focus on black men, no book yet has focused
so centrally on the wrongful convictions of
black men.
The authors here use a narrative method to
examine in some detail many actual cases of
wrongful convictions (with an appendix listing all cases), thereby providing very useful
accounts not only for those teaching about
the treatment of African Americans in the
criminal justice system but also for future
researchers seeking important data to develop a broader conceptualization of these cases
than the authors provide here.
Drawing on multiple databases—such as
those connected with various innocence and
justice legal projects—they examine known
wrongful convictions overturned by new evidence or DNA testing, not by legal technicalities. For each case analyzed in some detail,
they examine what factors were important
in generating the wrongful conviction, with
a recognition of the likelihood of multidimensionality. They accent the factors of witness error, police and prosecutorial misconduct, informants with an incentive to lie,
forensic errors, insufficient evidence, and
perjury by criminal justice officials.
In their interesting descriptive data tables,
the states with the most known wrongful
convictions are the large population states
of Texas, Illinois, Ohio, Florida, New York,
and California, although as the authors point
out these are also states that have generally
gotten more attention from the media and
organized groups working on wrongful
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
82 Reviews
convictions. The most common offenses
alleged in these wrongful conviction cases
are actual/attempted murder and actual/
attempted sexual assault (including rape).
They provide substantial chapters with
numerous narrated examples of these two
main types of cases, as well as additional
chapters on cases involving wrongful convictions in regard to drug offenses, robbery, and
other offenses. Their descriptive breakdowns
of the dimensions of these wrongful conviction cases should be of interest to many social
scientists and policymakers.
One interesting finding in their review of
cases of those wrongly convicted for actual
and attempted murder is that the most common problem is witness error. They also
found that the murder victims in these
wrongful conviction cases were much more
likely to be white than for all murder cases
involving black men.
The authors provide a short and somewhat
disappointing final chapter that assesses too
briefly the sociological and policy implications of their findings. With an eye to the
issue of reducing wrongful convictions,
they offer a savvy but terse summary of the
absence of black prosecutors and other prosecutors of color, as well as of lawyers of color,
in the criminal justice system. And they note
how the use of peremptory strikes and other
means of exclusion intentionally keep many
blacks from serving on juries. They briefly
revisit other inadequate or discriminatory
policing and court practices—including
poor witness identification procedures, the
use of ‘‘snitches’’ inclined to lie, and problematical defense counsels. A few important
policy and research recommendations are
made: more centralized data collection sources, preserving data on wrongful convictions, looking at wrongful convictions for
less serious violations, and a study of convictions of black women.
In their opening chapter, Free and Ruesink
discuss the limitations of their data and
explicitly say they will not examine the ‘‘larger issues of institutionalized racism’’ because
that would require an historical and sociological overview of racial relations and criminal
statutes in the United States. Still, a few more
pages in their concluding chapter on the subject of systemic discrimination and malpractice in the criminal justice system, with
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
some modest links to the relevant social science literatures, would have strengthened
the book and its conclusions. In my view
that addition would also have made it more
useful for criminology and racial relations
Thus, in this last chapter they revisit the
‘‘war on drugs’’ that emerged in the Reagan
era, yet offer little sociological assessment of
the relationship of the extensive and intentional racialization of that so-called war—
and the consequent expansion and reworking of the U.S. criminal justice system—to
the pattern of many wrongful convictions of
black men. They provide a brief discussion
of racial profiling in connection with wrongful conviction cases, but again do little linking of that racial profiling to the larger context
of systemic racism. One does not need to do
a large-scale theoretical analysis to make
these important interpretative links, especially given the substantial extant social science
literatures on systemic racism they could
have used in setting their important data in
that larger context.
For example, their data show how often
a white racial framing of black men is central
to the discrimination against them in the
criminal justice system. This racial framing
is periodically demonstrated in their data
for white witnesses and jurors, and even
more importantly for the key white actors
and agents in the criminal justice system.
Since there are few blacks among the prosecutors, other key attorneys, senior police officers, and other important criminal justice
decisionmakers, the dominance of the old
white racial framing of black men as likely
criminals, inferior, undeserving of legal protections, or in need of social control is not surprising. The role of these important white
actors and agents in the creation and perpetuation of a systemically racist criminal justice
system is made clear in their data.
In my view these white actors and agents
need to be named as such and intensely analyzed for their actual and possible racial
framing and discrimination. As the authors
periodically suggest, the issues their wrongful conviction narratives raise are much larger than the troubling particular cases, and
now it is well past time for social scientists
and other researchers to take the analytical
step of assessing in empirical and theoretical
Reviews 83
detail why and how the construction and
operation of the criminal justice system itself
is centrally white-crafted and fundamentally
Alexander, Michelle. 2010. The New Jim Crow. New
York, NY: New Press.
Inside Muslim Minds, by Riaz Hassan.
Carlton, AU: Melbourne University Press,
2008. 380pp. $45.00 paper. ISBN: 97805228
University of Tunis
[email protected]
The review of Inside Muslim Minds is timely
after the 2011 Arab Spring and September
11, 2001. Riaz Hassan presents a cultural and
social psychological profile of Muslim minds
and behaviors in seven Muslim countries:
Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Turkey. He deals with several major themes in the book’s ten chapters:
Islamic consciousness, patterns of religious
commitments, jihad and conflict resolution
in Muslim societies, political order and religious institutions, expressions of religiosity
and blasphemy, veiling, patriarchy and honor killing, globalization and Islamic Ummah
(worldwide Muslim community), philanthropy and social justice, Islam and civil society and mutual suspicions.
Three streams of Islamic consciousness are
identified: the Apologetics who resist the
destructive effects of modernity and Western
knowledge monopoly, Wahabism which is
a religious movement of the eighteenth century desirous to rid Islam of all corruptions
and aberrations, and Salafism which has
been often used interchangeably with
Wahabism. Salafism calls upon Muslims to
return to the original textual sources of the
Hassan has surveyed 6,300 respondents
from the seven countries. This is probably
the first attempt to map quantitatively the
different aspects of Muslim religiosity. This
constitutes the main contribution of his
book. Methodologically, he relies on the analysis of the Berkeley Research Program in
Religion. The principal thesis of this work
stresses that a religious renaissance is taking
place or has already done so in these Muslim
societies. The author points out that Muslim
piety is socially constructed which explains
well why it differs in these societies. For
instance, Muslim piety in Kazakhstan is
very different from the rest of the other countries (p. 96).
Hassan explores the relation between
Islam and politics. He found a range of political systems: military dictatorship, communism, monarchy, theocracy, national secularism, and democracy. In contrast to the
common view in the West, the author
presents an argument in favor of democracy
in Islam. Democracy is an appropriate system for Islam because humans enjoy the status of God’s vicegerency and at the same
time Islam deprives the state of any divinity.
Thus, Islam locates ultimate authority in the
hands of people (p. 130). The massive popular political upheavals of the 2011–2012 Arab
Spring called for democracy as a priority. So
the Islamist parties who won elections in the
Arab countries would not have the peoples’
support if they marginalized democracy.
After the political mind, the author turns
to the Muslim mind and institutions: ‘‘I was
particularly interested in exploring differences in attitudes towards key Islamic institutions and the sociological factors producing
these differences’’ (p. 131). He discovered
the armed forces to be the most trusted in
the public mind in Malaysia, Pakistan, and
Egypt (p. 136). As to trust in religious institutions, he makes two major conclusions: trust
increase in religious institutions is often associated with increased trust in institutions of
the state in all seven countries, and the integration of religion and the state might not
always be in the best interests of Islamic institutions and the religious elite. Consequently,
trust in religious institutions might also be
eroded (p. 149). This remark appears to contradict the famous orthodox contention of
Islam: ‘‘Islam is deen wa dunia = Islam is a religion and a way of life.’’
Veiling, patriarchy, and honor killing are
underlined. Hassan stresses what he calls
misogynist attitudes in Muslim culture (p.
175). He makes a historical social analysis of
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
84 Reviews
conditions leading to these phenomena. He
concludes that these conditions have affected
the Muslim consciousness about the status,
the role, and position of Muslim women. In
the first two centuries of Islam, the Qur’anic
injunctions did not prevent women from
praying with men. They were expected to
dress modestly, yet they were not asked to
wear veils. However, by the end of the second century of the Muslim calendar, women
were forbidden to pray in public assemblies
and over time mosque attendance became
male dominated (p. 182).
The author explains the strict cultural values and rules towards women because they
are perceived as the embodiment of sexuality
itself. In his view, veiling, honor killing, and
patriarchy could be interpreted as the outcome of mismanagement of sexuality in
Muslim societies (p. 215). Personally, I was
a witness of strange behavior implicitly related to the mismanagement of human sexuality in rural Tunisian communities: daughters
and sons were not supposed to hold their
babies/children or talk to them in the presence of their fathers in particular (patriarchy). However, change is taking place in
rural Tunisia in favor of more relaxed attitudes towards sexuality.
The prevailing attitudes of the surveyed
Muslim countries are not identical toward
veiling, patriarchy, and honor killing. The latter is more widespread in the Middle East
than in North Africa and it is practiced also
among Arab Christians in Egypt, Jordan,
and the Palestinian Territories. Thus, honor
killing is rather a cultural value. The author
believes that the general trend of change in
the Muslim world will have its impact on
veiling, the seclusion of women, and patriarchy (p. 216). Yet, Islamic revivalism with the
Arab Spring is likely to slow this change.
The concept of ummah in the globalization
age is expected to lead to the strength of
Islamic ummah in the future, not as a unified
and unitary community, but as a differentiated one consisting of separate ummahs that
represent different Islamic regions. Five centers are identified: Arabic Middle Eastern
Islam, African Islam, Central Asian Islam,
South-East Asian Islam, and the Islam of
the Muslim minorities in the West. This
development might give legitimacy to the
emergence of regional ummah poles which
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
will chart their own patterns on distinctive
religious, political, economic, social, and
cultural orientations appropriate to the history and temperament of their people
(p. 230).
Distributive justice in Islam is raised in the
book as both an economic and spiritual act.
Some see zakat as a conservative measure
of the redistribution of wealth, while others
interpret it as a symbol for the creation of
ideal ummah: a fellowship of shared faith
and the belief that doing good things does
matter (p. 247).
As to the idea of civil society, the author
concludes that movements toward a civil
society are gaining momentum in the Muslim world (p. 263). The Arab Spring impact
is likely to encourage the processes of
civil society in societies calling for more
The book ends its study by indicating the
presence of equal mutual suspicions between
the Muslim world and the Christian West.
Yet, he fails to show that Muslims are more
prone to dailogue than Western Christians,
because Muslims know Western languages
and believe in Christianity more than Westerners know the native Muslim languages
and believe in Islam. The partial and the
full sharing of these two cultural symbols
between peoples are seen as green visas for
societies and civilizations’ dialogues.*
* Dhaouadi, M. 2010. ‘‘The Arab-Muslim World
Set to Dialogue and to Clash with the West: A
Cultural Perspective,’’ Dirasat: Human and
Social Sciences, 37(2): 523–29.
Reviews 85
Over There: Living with the U.S. Military
Empire from World War Two to the Present,
edited by Maria Höhn and Seungsook
Moon. Durham, NC: Duke University
Press, 2010. 453pp. $29.95 paper. ISBN:
Washington State University
[email protected]
Maria Höhn and Seungsook Moon have created a unique and splendid volume. They
advance a provocative claim: the United
States has created and continues to maintain
a global empire. Through a network of military bases, the United States has unmatched
global reach. For host (occupied) nations,
the impacts of bases are pervasive, extending
to the most intimate social relations. This
claim is provocative because it flies in the
face of U.S. self-perception as being a singularly benign world power. This claim is also
provocative for sociology. If Höhn and
Moon are correct, sociology (and related disciplines) have been remiss. Instead of examining this global empire to understand
impacts on U.S. society and on host (occupied) nations, sociologists have treated these
bases as local anomalies (or have ignored
them altogether). Höhn, Moon, and contributors provide compelling evidence to support
their claims.
Edited volumes typically exhibit unevenness in focus and quality. Over There is the
exception. In addition to their co-authored
introduction and conclusion, Moon and
Höhn authored six chapters. Moon’s essays
examine: (1) the regulation of sexuality
(U.S. military and Korean sex workers)
from 1945–70, (2) the contradictions and tensions between U.S. and Korean soldiers as
reflected in the discourse of Korean soldiers,
and (3) contemporary abuse and violence
against transnational camptown women
(perpetrated by U.S. soldiers and by Korean
business owners). With a focus on Germany,
Höhn examines: (1) sexuality, soldiers, and
policies in postwar Germany, (2) changes in
German perceptions of U.S. soldiers over
time, and (3) the manner in which U.S. racial
politics and racism of the 1970s played out in
the sexuality and politics of troops stationed
in Germany. Höhn and Moon thereby provide a context that integrates the remaining
essays which cover a range of locales, issues
and historical periods.
Michiko Takeuchi examines postwar Japan
(1945–1952), focusing on the intersection of
the sexual aggression of occupying military
forces and racial, class, and above all, gendered inequalities in Japan. To avoid a harsh
occupation and to protect ‘‘good’’ Japanese
women (i.e., women from elite families)
from the sexual advances of GIs, the leaders
of postwar Japan ‘‘gave’’ the American occupiers thousands of comfort women (i.e.,
women from disprivileged classes and strata). Takeuchi provides a nuanced account
that documents the agency of sex workers,
the contradiction of U.S. policy regulating
the sexuality of GIs, and comparisons with
the colonial sex policies of occupying forces
in Europe and Asia before and after World
War II.
Donna Alvah focuses on U.S. military families. At the end of the Cold War, military
planners displayed greater acceptance of
families on military bases. These shifts have
had contradictory results. Some military
planners believe that having families with
troops boosts morale. Moreover, it reduces
the need for the U.S. military to participate
in procuring sex workers to satisfy the sexual
appetites of hyper-masculinized soldiers.
Other military planners express concern
that family-centered overseas military bases
have resulted in less effective and less aggressive military forces; they advocate a remasculinization of the military.
Robin Riley discusses the ‘‘hidden soldiers’’ of the 1990s and 2000s—women
employed to manufacture weapons in the
U.S. defense industry. These war-workers
disassociated the products they manufactured from the grisly carnage these weapons
produced (stressing instead their contributions to ‘‘national defense’’). They also
emphasized that paid employment allowed
them to care for their children and other
dependents. Thus, their identities centered
on caretaking, not warmaking.
Two chapters draw on ethnographic fieldwork. Christopher Nelson focuses on Okinawa, specifically on the artistic and cultural
representations of and resistance to U.S.
occupation. Chris Ames explores the dreams
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
86 Reviews
and struggles of Okinawan women involved
with GIs. Throughout decades of occupation,
these relationships have been discouraged,
at times formally and, at all times, informally.
Many Okinawans assume that these women
are on a continuum with sex workers; the
U.S. military places institutional barriers to
such relationships. Ames examines strategies that Okinawan women have used to
navigate marginality in their own culture
and in the military organization.
Jeff Bennett examines the abuse and torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib (Iraq)—abuses based on a highly gendered and sexualized degradation. By situating these abuses
in the context of aggressive sexuality, masculinity, and conquest that permeate U.S. occupying forces, Bennett links these contemporary tragedies to the experiences of nations
that the United States has occupied since
World War II.
This is an outstanding collection, it can
enrich a wide range of graduate and upper
division courses. It would be a lost opportunity were this book pigeonholed and restricted to research and pedagogy focused on the
military and peace studies. This book makes
a novel and compelling claim that the
dynamics at overseas military bases reflect
the contours of U.S. politics and culture—if
in a distorted fashion. The United States
fought wars in the name of democracy; its
overseas empire was also justified in these
terms. But U.S. foreign policy condoned
authoritarianism at the national level. In the
vicinity of its bases, the U.S. military assisted
and supervised the recruitment, commodification, and regulation of sex workers. These
policies reflected patriarchal, homophobic
and racist fault-lines in U.S. society. Over
There does not treat these issues in a one-sided manner, with the United States imposing
its will on complacent and passive victims.
Rather, these essays provide a textured
examination of the interplay and negotiations between an occupying army and an
occupied land and people.
In an era of globalization, sociology has
moved beyond assuming static and freestanding nation-states. Now, increased
emphasis is being placed on the permeability
of borders and flows of people and goods. To
fully understand the global order and global
processes, it is also necessary to come to
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
terms with the empire that the United States
built and continues to maintain.
Where Are All the Good Jobs Going?: What
National and Local Job Quality and Dynamics
Mean for U.S. Workers, by Harry J. Holzer,
Julia I. Lane, David B. Rosenblum, and
Fredrik Andersson. New York, NY: Russell
Sage Foundation, 2011. 212pp. $24.95 paper.
ISBN: 9780871544582.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
[email protected]
Unemployment and the lack of jobs have
dominated policy debates in recent years in
the United States. Nevertheless, concerns
about the quality of work remain a source
of distress for millions of people, especially
those who are trapped in low-wage jobs.
There has been no shortage of speculation
about what is happening to job quality, ranging from those who maintain that good jobs
are disappearing, to scholars who argue
that the United States does not have enough
good workers to compete in the global economy and to create broadly shared prosperity.
In Where Are All the Good Jobs Going?, four
economists provide empirical evidence that
sheds light on many aspects of the debate
about job quality in the United States. They
address critical questions such as: what are
the trends in the availability of good jobs?
Which workers are more likely to get—and
lose—good jobs? And, how do trends in
job quality differ by time period and local
labor markets? Their answers to these questions are based on a unique and massive
data set on firms and individuals, the Longitudinal Employer Household Dynamics
(LEHD) data compiled by the U.S. Census
Bureau. Their analysis covers individual
workers and their employers in a variety of
industries in twelve states over a period of
twelve years (1992–2003).
The authors’ analyses of the correlates and
trends in job quality rely heavily on the estimation of ‘‘fixed effects’’ for every firm and
every worker. Their measures of job quality
are estimates of the wages that a firm pays
the average worker (controlling for workers’
individual skills and characteristics), while
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indicators of worker quality are the market
value of the skills and other attributes that
workers can take with them as they move
from one firm to another. The authors divide
these estimated firm- and person-fixed
effects into quintiles: firms in the top quintile
have good jobs and those in the bottom quintile have bad jobs; while workers in the top
and bottom quintiles of person effects are
the most and least skilled, respectively. Estimating these fixed effects enables the
authors to assess changes in job quality
from the points of view of both employers
and individual workers.
Analyses based on these estimates of firm
and individual worker fixed effects yield
a number of important results. The authors
find that good jobs did not disappear
between 1992 and 2003, though their character and location have changed: there are now
fewer good jobs in manufacturing and more
in professional services and finance. There
has also been a growing polarization between
good and bad jobs, with jobs in the middle
growing more slowly than those at the
extremes. Polarization in job quality was
greatest in metropolitan statistical areas
(MSAs) with one million or more residents,
which is likely due to the expansion of both
high-quality professional and low-paying
service jobs (which are often filled by lowskilled immigrants), in larger MSAs. Moreeducated workers are better able to obtain
well-paid jobs, supporting the view that having good skills is increasingly necessary in
order to obtain good jobs. When less-educated workers lose good jobs involuntarily, they
are now less able than in the past to obtain
jobs of comparable quality.
The authors’ empirical findings underscore the necessity for policy interventions
to focus on both the demand and supply
sides of the labor market. Addressing problems of low-wage employment requires economic and labor market policies that create
good jobs directly through the use of various
‘‘carrots’’ (e.g., subsidies to firms that provide more training or upward promotion
paths) and ‘‘sticks’’ (e.g., raising minimum
wages and/or benefits); as well as the implementation of more active labor market policies that enhance the education and skills of
workers so that they are able to fill the good
jobs that become available.
The authors’ empirical results rely on various assumptions regarding the estimation of
fixed effects. Many of these are technical
points but some have important substantive
implications. In particular, as the authors
point out, estimating fixed effects from panel
data depends mainly on individuals who
change firms, a difficulty that is exacerbated
by the relatively short time periods analyzed.
Moreover, fixed-effects estimates would not
explain why a worker’s wages would change
other than attributing it to their changing
firms. To illustrate, consider a situation
where firm A promotes skill acquisition
among its workers, perhaps through an
extensive training program in which workers
participate as they progress upwards on job
ladders within the firm. This increase in skills
is not recorded as skill acquisition, however,
unless the worker moves to firm B and takes
with them the skills acquired in firm A. Furthermore, any increase in this worker’s skills
is assumed to result from the actions of firm
B, not A, since firm B is paying the worker
the higher wages. Hence, firm B may be
more likely to be regarded as a ‘‘higher job
quality’’ employer than A, despite the fact
that A boosted the worker’s skills. Similarly,
it is challenging to disentangle factors that
might enhance a person’s skills while working for a particular employer (such as continuing education or better developed network contacts) from practices that the firm
itself may use to develop a worker’s skills.
In addition, these heavily data-driven
analyses do not specify in much detail the
social and economic forces that generate the
changes in job quality that the authors
observe. Their fixed-effects estimates are
‘‘black boxes’’ that need to be unpacked in
order to understand more precisely the
mechanisms that underlie the dynamics of
employment and labor markets. This represents a pressing challenge as well as great
opportunity for sociologists to contribute to
the debate over job quality by identifying
the institutional and organizational factors
that may account for firm effects, and the
social forces that contribute to workers’
acquisition of human and social capital. Sociologists’ (and economists’) efforts to address
a variety of timely and urgent issues related
to organizational inequality and labor markets will find much to learn from this book’s
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
88 Reviews
valuable empirical intervention into the topic
of job quality and the gold mine of data represented by the LEHD.
Disability and the Internet: Confronting
a Digital Divide, by Paul T. Jaeger. Boulder,
CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2012.
225 pp. $55.00 cloth. ISBN: 9781588268280.
City University of New York
[email protected]
In this very well-researched book, Paul T.
Jaeger argues that access to the Internet is
no less than a human and civil rights issue.
While the Internet and its related technologies hold the potential to be tremendous tools
of inclusion, Jaeger cites that people with disabilities access and use the Internet at rates
that are half of the general population. His
reasoning, perspectives, and examples prove
thorough and compelling.
While highlighting different facets of the
digital divide, each chapter adds to Jaeger’s
case detailing the systematic societal exclusion of people with disabilities. On one
hand some of these trends stem intuitively
from the data: Internet access is largely tied
to socioeconomics, and people with disabilities statistically have higher levels of unemployment and lower levels of education than
the general population. But people with disabilities prove dissimilar from other Internetdisadvantaged demographics. For people in
rural areas, for example, special programs
may be enough to bridge the gap. For people
with disabilities, barriers of cost and access
are magnified by technological barriers built
into the Internet and its related systems.
Jaeger explains the aspects of exclusion
and segregation that result: without the Internet people with disabilities are limited in
terms of interactions related to their personal
and social lives, commerce, communications,
government, employment, and education.
Through this lens, Internet access for people
with disabilities is tightly connected to social
justice concerns about their participation in
broader society. Jaeger’s authorial voice,
impassioned and political, gives these rolling
claims an edginess and punch.
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
Written for a largely academic audience
who may be already familiar with using
web-based interfaces, Disability and the Internet readers will surely discover new information thanks to Jaeger’s detailed description of the many issues. One interesting
section on e-government (Chapter Three)
describes the impact of the U.S. federal government as the largest producer of online
content in the United States. Yet most of
the federal websites violate accessibility
guidelines. The digital divide becomes
a democratic divide when people with disabilities are cut off from civic participation,
social services, and information needed for
daily living.
Other discussions of interest include relevant laws, international efforts toward
access, social networking and gaming,
course management software, and the history and role of public libraries providing
accessible materials and online services. Jaeger also breaks down how Internet-related
technologies affect people across the gamut
of disability labels. Not unlike conflicts in
the built environment, features like touch
screens that provide access to some people
may inhibit access for others. As such,
a decentralized disability community does
not come together for advocacy about particular access issues. Unfunded government
mandates and the low statistics on usage by
people with disabilities all contribute to the
dilemma being described. These sections
depict a complex, avoidable situation. Bornaccessible technologies incorporated during
the design phase would cost nearly nothing
compared to modifications made later on to
rapidly changing systems.
Disability and the Internet includes much of
the information a reader would expect in
terms of issues relating to technology. But
unexpected are the interspersed treatments
of disability history, the disability rights
movement, and Disability Studies frameworks. Jaeger’s deftly-handled synopsis of
theoretical perspectives, including the medical, social, postmodern, minority group and
diversity models, provides a good standalone overview for a reader unfamiliar
with disability issues. The inclusion of theory strengthens the book’s social justice
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Because there is so much content, this book
would benefit from being broken down into
shorter chapters that hold together more
tightly. As the book arduously makes the
case for access, Jaeger poses counterarguments, but these anti-Internet moments register as missteps. He posits that increased
presence online may result in people with
disabilities having decreased visibility in
society, which in turn could actually erode
efforts toward integration. The author also
mentions that excessive use of the Internet
has been linked causally to a variety of
But in terms of teaching, these thematic
tensions could spark meaningful class discussion. This book is meticulously cited yet
not overtly complicated or technical, and
inherently interesting to many a webaddicted college student. The title would be
well placed on an undergraduate syllabus:
our students will be the ones to design future
technologies. Change in this sector begins
with them.
As disability affects the general population
increasingly with age, baby boomers who utilize technology presently may also find this
topic important. This point is one major triumph of the book: Disability and the Internet
thoroughly discusses its subject and makes
a case for its relevance to most any reader.
Educators, employers, government officials,
technologists, designers, researchers, policy
makers, and Internet users with and without
disabilities all have something to contribute
to advocacy. Jaeger’s urgent claim is clearly
expressed again at the conclusion of the
book: people with disabilities are in a civil
rights moment not unlike previous efforts
for equal access to education and employment. Until the Internet and related technologies are fully accessible, people with disabilities will be excluded from the Internet
The Sociology of Architecture: Constructing
Identities, by Paul Jones. Liverpool, UK:
Liverpool University Press, 2011. 195pp.
$39.95 paper. ISBN: 9781846310775.
Georgia State University
[email protected]
In The Sociology of Architecture: Constructing
Identities, Paul Jones makes the case for
thinking about architecture as a politicized,
commercial, symbolic project that demonstrates a range of cultural ideologies and conflicts. Jones presents an alternate view of the
built environment from what practitioners
and historians of architecture tend to promote, in which architecture is seen as a series
of timeless works of artistic genius. In Jones’
words: ‘‘The highly aestheticized discussions
that characterize much of the symbolic capital at stake in architectural theory and practice can lead to an apolitical vision of architecture in which a disconnect exists between
architectural form and wider social questions’’ (p. 21). He seeks to address this
Jones recounts several architectural ‘‘case
studies’’ that feature ‘‘starchitects’’ engaging
with state, public, and corporate interests—
and the resulting ‘‘iconic’’ structures that
have and have not emerged from these negotiations. The projects Jones considers include:
London’s Millenium Dome Project by
Richard Rogers, Daniel Libeskind’s Ground
Zero Master Plan, Will Alsop’s design for
a landmark building in Liverpool, Rem Koolhaas and Jean Nouvel’s European Union’s
Brussels Capital of Europe project, and Norman Foster’s reconstruction of the Reichstag
in Berlin. Jones documents how conscribed
architects are because they have to appease
and appeal to various stakeholders in order
to obtain the capital necessary to accomplish
their art. Jones situates the stories of these
projects within a broader socio-historical
account of iconic European and American
architecture that goes back to the Victorian
Era. His accounts demonstrate how political
ideologies—ranging from imperialism to
multiculturalism—get debated, sensationalized, and represented in the stories of these
landmark building design projects.
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
90 Reviews
The book is exceedingly well researched;
clearly Jones immersed himself in the literature and theory of the fields he discusses
(art and architectural history and theory).
He also draws on popular critical responses
and journalistic accounts of the cases he
describes, but not enough to make the stories
as engaging as they might be. More behindthe-scenes information and more biographical detail would have spiced up the drier bits.
Jones’ critical approach reiterates many of
the theoretical tenets of Howard S. Becker’s
Art Worlds (2008 [1982]), but that work is
not referenced here. It was also surprising
not to see mention of recent works on the
politics of public art and architecture, such
as Alison Young’s Judging the Image: Art, Value, Law (2005) and Cher Krause Knight’s
Public Art: Theory, Practice, and Populism
(2008). But as far as I know, there is no other
book by a sociologist that discusses recent
and current architecture in these terms.
Jones interrogates the institutional structures of architecture some ways, most notably in terms of class-based power relations,
but not others. His analysis could have
reached out in more sociological directions.
For instance, discussion of the institutional
production of elite and non-elite architects—how architecture schools feed elite
firms—would have provided useful knowledge of the field as an occupational hierarchy
comparable to other elite professions that
pervasively impact social life. Jones makes
no mention of the race or gender of starchitects, who are nearly all white Western
men. An analysis of race and gender politics
within the field of architecture would have
been worthwhile.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, starchitects often
come across as slick, elitist, egotistical operators who craft what they say to win politicians’ and competition judges’ favor, as they
jockey for large-scale commissions. Rem
Koolhaas (whose buildings I love) sounds
particularly self-aggrandizing and craftily
competitive. Ought one love buildings any
less upon learning their creators are arrogant
capitalist accommodators who want to be
celebrities? (I guess not?) Jones does not
take up this issue; as mentioned, he does
not focus on the architects’ private lives. He
is concerned with their public words, and
how what they say exemplifies the
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
institutional interactions that shape public
space (and produce such self-presentational
tendencies among architects).
Jones also could have revealed more about
his own views of the architects and buildings
he writes about; he tends to draw heavily on
the work of other scholars to critique specific
projects, and to save his moralizing for the
field in general. Jones’ strongest recommendation is this: ‘‘A shift away from the architectural object at the centre of critique, to be
replaced with engagement with the social
function of architecture —including its wider
politics and economy—would pave the way
for a more critical architecture that, connected to wider social and political realities,
could contribute to social action that challenges existing social relations rather than
assisting in the legitimation of their reproduction’’ (p. 166). Jones is prone to longwindedness and vagueness of this sort.
How to accomplish this shift remains unclear
and difficult to envision, especially given the
global capitalistic power dynamics Jones
has chronicled throughout his book. He
shows that architecture is an elite enterprise
embedded in the intersections of several elitist institutions, and unraveling this power
structure seems far more complicated than
wishing it were not so.
The Sociology of Architecture will be a useful
resource for scholars interested in the politics of art (architecture in particular), in
how cultural and social change affect the
built enviroment, and for anyone engaged
in the creation of public art or architecture.
NAFTA and the Politics of Labor Transnationalism, by Tamara Kay. New York, NY:
Cambridge University Press, 2011. 310pp.
$29.99 paper. ISBN: 9780521132954.
City University of New York
[email protected]
The U.S. labor movement was born as an
immigrant workers movement, but despite
this, and despite a number of successful
cross-border collaborations over the years,
mainstream unions were mostly antiimmigrant and nationalist for much of the
twentieth century. For example, as late as
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1986, the AFL-CIO supported the Immigration Reform and Control Act which established sanctions for employers found hiring
immigrant workers.
This history might suggest that the emergence of the North American Free Trade
Agreement (NAFTA) in the late 1980s would
lead to a vocal and hostile campaign on the
part of U.S. unions against Mexican workers
and unions. As Tamara Kay shows in NAFTA
and the Politics of Labor Transnationalism,
that did not quite happen. Instead, NAFTA
created a ‘‘Transnational Trade-Negotiating
Field’’ (p. 22) which led to an increase in collaboration between U.S., Mexican, and
Canadian unions. A number of unions
worked together across borders first in
a (failed) attempt to defeat the bill, and
next in their efforts to influence the president’s ‘‘fast-track’’ authority and to include
a side agreement covering labor rights in
the agreement. Kay says that the Transnational Trade-Negotiating Field helped constitute transnational actors and interests.
The labor side agreement to NAFTA, the
North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC), went into force along with
NAFTA in 1994. The NAALC included 11
core labor principles along with new institutions and mechanisms for dealing with violations of those principles. Although most
observers agree that the mechanisms created
via the NAALC are ineffective, Kay argues
that the process created a ‘‘Transnational
Legal Field’’ (p. 22), ‘‘a North American labor
rights regime’’ (p. 100), and new legal mechanisms that furthered the transnational relationships between certain unions.
Kay argues that while some U.S. unions
failed to take advantage of the opportunities
created by the NAALC or relied on racist
arguments in an effort to defeat NAFTA,
others were able to build new relationships
and create new openings for organizing
through the side agreement. Unions worked
together across borders to file complaints to
the respective authorities created under the
NAALC. In some cases unions worked
directly to assist each other’s organizing
efforts or even work on joint projects. Furthermore, in the late 1990s and early 2000s,
the AFL-CIO went on to an historic shift in
its position on immigration and orientation
toward globalization. Kay sees a direct link
between this shift and the relationships built
through the work around NAFTA and the
According to Kay’s findings, unions that
were more vulnerable to foreign trade may
have been more likely to build transnational
relationships in the fight around NAFTA;
also, unions with ‘‘progressive leaders’’
were more likely to build transnational relationships even if their unions were not vulnerable to foreign trade. Yet one union that
stands out for its racist campaign against
NAFTA was the Teamsters, which at that
time was under the leadership of the progressive reformer Ron Carey. Kay discusses this
complicated case and notes that while Carey
and the Teamsters leadership worked to promote an internationalist view that did not
scapegoat Mexican workers, others saw the
Teamsters rhetoric as among the most racist
among the labor movement. Kay then characterizes the Teamsters in the United States
as one that did not have progressive leadership. The Teamsters have had a history of
contentious internal politics, with sharp divisions between the ‘‘reformers’’ and the ‘‘old
guard,’’ and the Carey years were no exception. Although Carey won the presidency,
‘‘old guard’’ Teamsters were still in charge
of large Locals, and also still held some staff
positions. This makes it difficult to measure
what counts as a ‘‘progressive leadership.’’
Furthermore, union leaders might be ‘‘progressive’’ on broader social justice issues,
but authoritative and hierarchical in regards
to internal union democracy. But if ‘‘progressive leadership’’ is a key variable in explaining unions’ willingness to build transnational relationships, is there a role for rank-andfile union members, particularly those in
a hierarchical union?
While Kay’s cases are instructive, the
implications for current trade agreement
negotiations are not as clear. The United
States has passed a slew of trade agreements
since NAFTA, and is currently pushing one
of the most ambitious regional trade agreements ever—the Trans Pacific Partnership
(TPP), with very little apparent opposition
or intervention from the U.S. labor movement despite grave concerns from some
unions in partner countries. Does this suggest that even the U.S. unions with progressive leaders have concluded that there is little
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
92 Reviews
space to influence such agreements without
a fight over fast-track authority, or that the
openings created by the NAALC or other
labor standards offer too little benefit? Is
there something unique about NAFTA and
the relationships created with neighboring
countries, as opposed to potential union
partners in TPP countries?
In any case, the questions raised by Kay’s
research are as relevant today as they were
when NAFTA was first negotiated. Unions
must resolve how to work together in a global
economy if they are to survive, and the lessons here are vital. Social movement scholars
will also benefit from Kay’s nuanced analysis
of the impacts of globalization. Not all unions
are the same, and not all international agreements create the same kinds of openings.
This book offers a number of key insights
for labor and social movement scholars, as
well as activists. The cases here show that
globalization and trade do not have to necessarily pit workers against workers, or unions
against unions, but can in fact create new
spaces to organize. Kay also makes the case
that we cannot evaluate NAFTA in a simplistic way, but need to examine the complex
impacts on union organizations over time.
Muslims in Motion: Islam and National Identity
in the Bangladeshi Diaspora, by Nazli Kibria.
New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University
Press, 2011. 167pp. $24.95 paper. ISBN:
Binghamton University, SUNY
[email protected]
The end of the twentieth century has
brought a significant intensification in what
scholars such as Nevzet Soguk and Saskia
Sassen have called ‘‘global migrancy.’’ Migration of human beings is of course not new, but
as Stephen Castles has pointed out, unlike
earlier moments of large-scale human movements across state borders, this new phase
has engulfed the entire world. A significant
portion of trans-border migration now
occurs within the global South, and not just
from the South to the more conventional destinations of the wealthy North. Nazli Kibria’s
book on transnational migrants from
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
Bangladesh looks at these different patterns
of global migration by focusing on both the
long-term permanent settlement of Bangladeshis in the United Kingdom and the United
States and the more recent movements of
temporary contract workers from Bangladesh to the Gulf Cooperation Council
(GCC) countries and Malaysia.
Kibria is also interested in the ‘‘surge of
religiosity’’ and ‘‘the expansion of Islamic
movements’’ that she sees sweeping ‘‘across
the Muslim world’’ since the late twentieth
century. The main stated focus in her book
is the interaction between these two elements: ‘‘global migrations’’ on the one hand
and ‘‘Islamic revival’’ on the other, and
she approaches this complex topic through
‘‘a study of movements from the Muslimmajority country of Bangladesh to different
parts of the world. . .’’ (p. 1). More specifically, Kibria looks at how diasporic Bangladeshi
Muslim families ‘‘organize their community
life and make sense of their place in the
world’’ with ‘‘particular attention to the
dynamics of Muslim identity’’ among them
(p. 2). There is a third theme in Kibria’s study:
the effect of diasporic life experiences of her
subjects on what she describes as ‘‘the religious landscape of Bangladesh today’’ (p. 3).
The book consists of seven chapters. The
introduction situates Kibria’s research within
larger questions of contemporary discourse
on Muslims and Islam in the West, and the
location of Bangladesh in a global hierarchy
of states. The second chapter offers a brief
overview of the history and politics of Bangladesh that Kibria argues is important to
understand ‘‘the migration experience’’ of
Bangladeshis. In the following four chapters,
Kibria takes up her three main case studies:
long-term Bangladeshi migration to the United States and Britain, and temporary contract
migrants in the GCC countries (Bahrain,
Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the
United Arab Emirates), and Malaysia. Some
two hundred in-depth interviews with Bangladeshi (im)migrants and their families, as
well as her many insights from extended participant observation among diasporic Bangladeshi communities, constitute the core of
the empirical material that Kibria considers
in these central chapters. In the concluding
chapter, Kibria briefly addresses the question
of the impact of return migration on
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contemporary Bangladeshi society, especially on changing ideas about religiosity.
Two key constructs form the bulwark of
Kibria’s analysis of Bangladeshi transnational migrant experiences: the relations between
the sending and receiving countries, and
what she calls the ‘‘global national image’’
of the sending country. The latter, Kibria suggests, ‘‘can be a vehicle of racialization, or the
ongoing construction of migrants as different
and inferior in an intrinsic sense. . .[in] the
receiving society. . .’’ (p. 8). It can also have
serious implications for how migrants from
any destination society are viewed in terms
of ‘‘their perceived potential for effective
incorporation into it’’ (pp. 5–6). One of
Kibria’s key contentions in the book is that
the negative global national image of Bangladesh evokes specters of ‘‘poverty, political
invisibility, and corruption’’ (p. 42). And
this, according to Kibria, is a reason why
immigrants, especially in the second generation, turn to Islam as a source of pride and
affirmation. However as she usefully
observes, while Islam serves as a refuge for
the first generation Bangladeshi immigrants
both in Britain and the United States, for
the second generation it can be either a basis
for alternative ‘‘political and social integration,’’ as in the case of the United States
(pp. 78–9), or a resource to fight back against
the dominant racist ideology of the receiving
society, as it obtains in Britain (pp. 105–6).
This study is valuable in terms of the
wealth of information it presents and the
insights that the ethnographic material
yields. Of particular interest in this respect
are Kibria’s discussions of the sharp fall in
professional status, the loss of family social
capital, and leveling of social class that
many middle-class Bangladeshi migrants to
the United States routinely experience (pp.
36–41), the growing significance of religion
as both a resource against majoritarian racism and a source of intergenerational tensions, especially as it begins to challenge
the primacy of kinship in organizing diasporic sociality (pp. 104–112), and the difficulties that short-term contract migrants
face in relating their often desperate and precarious life experiences while abroad to family and kin in Bangladesh (pp. 139–141).
And yet for all its promises, and perhaps
because of them, the book seems to suffer
from an unresolved tension resulting from
the author’s decision to emphasize the question of Islamic revival and Muslim-ness
among Bangladeshis abroad, while relegating global migration to the status of context.
It is understandable why Kibria wants to
write about a topic as important as Islam
and its impact on diasporic populations,
but the empirical material Kibria presents
in her book speaks far more insistently to
issues of migration. Even her two key analytical constructs—‘‘global national image’’ and
‘‘inter-state inequality’’—relate to the problems of being Bangladeshi, not Muslim, in
a more affluent receiving context.
It also bears noting that constructs such as
‘‘global national image’’ and ‘‘interstate
inequality’’ are too broadly and imprecisely
defined to have much traction in explaining
the specific forms of discrimination faced
by Bangladeshi migrants in different receiving contexts. Consequently, we are left with
questions about how Bangladeshi Muslim
experiences are substantively different from
experiences of migrants—permanent and
temporary—from other non-Western locations, who face discrimination based on class,
ethnicity, gender, sexuality, even if not Islam/
religion. Minimally we need some discussion
here of the specific mechanisms/institutions
that mediate between these large constructs
and their effects on migrants.
The book also remains largely descriptive
in its scope. Kibria does have insights—at
times excellent ones—that hint at larger theoretical implications of her study, but she does
not distill them adequately for her readers.
For instance, she mentions the different uses
of religion by the second generation in the
United States and Britain, but she does not situate them explicitly within the debates over
assimilation versus pluralism that are commonplace within the literature on migration.
Or, for instance, she mentions the kinds of
prejudice that second generation Bangladeshis sometimes demonstrate against new
arrivals from the homeland (p. 91), but she
does not comment on the internalized racism
and explicit modernizationist discourses that
clearly underpin these attitudes. Similarly,
her brief comparison of the Bangladeshi diasporic communities in the United States and
Britain (pp. 111–112), while rife with promises,
does very little justice to a complex question.
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94 Reviews
The book focuses overwhelmingly on the
problem of how Bangladeshis think they
are being constructed and how they fashion
their identities in response to these perceptions. While there is undoubtedly much that
is useful and defensible in these perceptions,
analysis of empirical evidence, other than the
interviews with migrants themselves, might
have enriched the study considerably. Wherever the book departs from its specific preoccupation—for instance, in the brief historical
account of migration from Sylhet to Britain in
Chapter Five, or in the discussion of the conditions in which temporary contract workers
in the GCC countries and Malaysia must
function—the book gains welcome breadth
that helps contextualize issues of identity
Finally, a word about method: as mentioned already above, Kibria presents an
impressive amount of ethnographic material. While this is clearly the principal strength
of the book, it is hard not to wish for a closer
reading of the texts, and greater self-reflexivity about the situated-ness of the knowledge
being produced through these interviews.
For instance, in the preface, Kibria very
astutely points out that her family connections ‘‘opened doors to people and places’’
(p. xiii). However, in her analysis she does
not reflect on the dialogic contexts of her
interviews or the situated-ness of the knowledge they produce. As qualitative researchers have often pointed out, interviewees
can over-align themselves with what they
perceive as the interviewer’s positioning.
While Kibria is surely aware of this contingency of ethnographic research, a little discussion about the process, not just in the field
but also at the moment of writing, would be
a welcome addition.
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
Restoring Democracy to America: How to Free
Markets and Politics from the Corporate
Culture of Business and Government, by John
F.M. McDermott. University Park, PA:
Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010.
481pp. $69.95 cloth. ISBN: 9780271037240.
University of Toronto
[email protected]
During the formative decades of sociology in
the nineteenth century, social inequality was
its dominant topic. The turbulence of that
century, as well as the apparent success of
the natural sciences in finding ‘‘laws’’ led early sociologists from Comte, Spencer, Sumner,
and Durkheim, to look for determining technical, biological, or functional causes which
could explain social inequality as a natural
and beneficial feature of all societies. The
unspoken corollary was that there was no
point in looking for alternative forms of social
organization and distribution. Even Marx,
for all his calls for class struggle, felt the
need to enlist historical necessity as a midwife
to assist the birth of a communist society.
These ideas left an enduring mark of subsequent sociological work.
John McDermott’s book departs from this
tradition. It begins with a critical historical
outline of the growth of capitalism and
democracy from the nineteenth century to
the late 1960s. This period of ‘‘the great
advance’’ combined increasing economic
prosperity with the growth of middle-class
cadres, and with substantial gains in working-class political participation. But it also
saw the beginning of trends that would herald its end: the emergence of large corporate
conglomerates which eventually invaded
former state monopolies such as postal services, prisons, military contracting, and financial services. The cadres now joined with
elites to consolidate their privileges and
became more conservative. Elections increasingly produced semi-representative bodies
guided by corporate objectives which they
could at best modify and make less socially
toxic. By the 1970s, the consolidated interests
of corporate elites, governments, and managerial and administrative cadres had produced a new ‘‘intersection society’’ which
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dismantled post-World War II social policies,
stifled the protest and liberation movements
of the 1970s, and reduced the power of workers and unions.
Part Two of the book analyzes this intersection society more closely. McDermott argues
that it is becoming more integrated and hierarchical and exerts increasing administrative
and ideological influences over less powerful
segments of society. Classes are replaced by
hierarchically structured life courses which
channel different social groups into prescriptive templates of employment, income, consumption, and cultural and political participation. These differ from careers in that
they cover the entire life span and have distinct entry points, income stages, and socialization and education periods for workers,
middle management, and corporate executives. Opportunities for choice and for
upward movement for working-class children exist but decline significantly after the
school years. These formalized life-course
patterns are in turn based on an unequal distribution of ‘‘socially potent assets’’ such as
wealth, family position, social connections,
and education. These assets allow competing
elites to form elite sub-societies which stabilize their position and keep out mutual
rivals. Their shared interests arise less as
advance plans than as fluctuating ‘‘precipitates’’ of internal conflicts and of opportunities to impose costs on weaker third parties.
Their largest and most powerful members
provide institutional and ideological guidance to which lower levels generally defer.
Their interests also become embedded in
the government: policies which contravene
their goals are defined as ‘‘controversial,’’
and popular demands and feedback are
poorly transmitted. A simplistic populism
provides a democratic veneer that legitimates elite privileges and mobilizes popular
The stability of elite networks is enhanced
by rings of defense: social inertia, accommodation structures which suggest that elites
work on behalf of at least some interests of
lower groups in society, and ideologies and
media images which portray alternative
social structures as dangerous steps into
anarchy while creating ‘‘socially induced
superstitions,’’ such as the infallibility of
markets and the ‘‘private sector.’’ As a last
resource, elites rely on force, a ‘‘police-industrial complex’’ of public and private security
forces which, in the United States, has grown
to twice the size of its armed forces, and to
nearly half the pre-Iraq War defense budget.
The third and longest part of the book
offers proposals for disentangling this
‘‘hyperdysfunctional’’ intersection of economic and political power. McDermott suggests that this can only be achieved through
basic political, social, and economic reforms
which can bring about long-term change.
These include the creation of a formal ‘‘organizational infrastructure’’ of activists and
experts who define common purposes,
work toward democratic projects, and act
as a counterweight to increasingly ineffectual partisan politics. He also suggests reforming an increasingly militarized police by
bringing its operations under the control of
a civilian-dominated board chosen by jury
selection instead of election or administrative appointment. McDermott’s most interesting proposals concern the restructuring
of corporations, employment and political
process. He suggests replacing a corporate
model that is still based on control by a single
private owner with a fundamentally different organization which recognizes the
increasing interdependence of private and
public spheres of business, and the need for
participation by employees, government,
consumers, and environmental organizations in corporate decisions. A corporate
charter of social responsibility could reconcile interests of owners, employees and public and, by including environmental concerns, of future generations. It would be
administered by a board of directors, half of
whom consist of public representatives
selected by a jury panel process, the other
half of a licensed professional management
trained in both technical and ethical issues.
Firms would have to file corporate impact
statements about their activities, and compliance would be enforced by courts, not governments. McDermott suggests equally fundamental employment reforms. Unions
should be organized along vocational lines
and should move beyond wages and hours
toward a more comprehensive interest in
workers’ lives from first job to retirement,
including vocational training and counseling, and assistance in planning children’s
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education and career. Low-wage and franchise workers should be organized by
town, city, and county to increase their bargaining power to pressure local government,
schools and employers. Pools of day-work on
demand could offer a liveable wage that
replaces welfare and food stamps. McDermott’s final proposals concern reforming
international and national economic and
political institutions, including a transnational economic parliament, and replacement of
the current elected U.S. Senate with one
appointed by a jury system to make it more
representative and resistant to private pressure groups and lobbies.
This is a wide-ranging and stimulating
book, although it gets occasionally lost in
arcane details and in McDermott’s reminiscences of his 1960s history as a political activist and union steward. His suggestion that
current social divisions are based on the possession of socially potent assets and are
reflected in distinct life course patterns goes
beyond the concept of social capital as
a generic functional resource, and is confirmed by life course research which shows
the early branching and the progressive constriction of opportunities for entire segments
of the population. McDermott also grapples
with the theoretical question of contingency
and intent in the growth of elite networks,
and of functional and harmful consequences
of their actions. This is an important problem,
though it is not entirely resolved. He is at
pains to avoid conspiratorial views of elites
and elite power, but describes corporate networks in other passages as having a ‘‘profound and continuing (influence over) cultural change.’’ Similarly, McDermott sees
elites as basically necessary because they perform essential organizational and leadership
tasks for which their privileges ‘‘constitute
a recompense.’’ But he also maintains that
the gap between what they give and take
can get too large, and that their influence
can become ‘‘harmful.’’ Even if McDermott’s
book does not resolve these issues, it identifies important problems that are frequently
overlooked in the study of inequality: the circuitous route that brings elites to power,
the ethical and political consequences that
follow from an accurate accounting of
the reasons for their ‘‘success,’’ and the
more general question of what and who
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
contributes to collectively-achieved results,
and how these results should be distributed
among those involved.
The same holds true for McDermott’s suggestions for reform. It is not often that a book
offers a comprehensive, detailed and well
thought-out vision of new ways of organizing production, administration, and distribution. Some of these are already successfully
practiced in other parts of the world: the German co-determination system, to mention
just one, incorporates many of McDermott’s
ideas for employee involvement in industrial
governance. Apart from their specific merits,
these proposals counteract what is perhaps
the most basic presumption of all inequality
structures: that the current order of things is
the only feasible way of organizing the society in which we live.
Instrumental Community: Probe Microscopy
and the Path to Nanotechnology, by Cyrus
C. M. Mody. Cambridge, MA: The MIT
Press, 2011. 260pp. $36.00 cloth. ISBN:
Jacksonville State University
[email protected]
Nanotechnology has become a watchword
in many scientific circles, including the
social scientific circles that resolve themselves to keep close tabs on the frontiers of
the interfaces of science and society. The
term is a catchall that has come to encompass
any research or engineering that operates in
the scale of nanometers (in increments of
one billionth of a meter). Nanoscale research
has been both celebrated and vilified for its
potential applications. Nanotechnologies
that could be used to treat disease at the cellular level, for example, could conceivably be
converted into stealthy and deadly weapons
in the wrong hands. Instrumental Community
is simultaneously a history of this consequential new field, and an attempt by Cyrus
Mody to contribute to sociological theories
of science and technology.
As Mody explains, the science of the very
small predates the coinage of the label ‘‘nanotechnology’’ (among crystallographers, for
example), though its current formulation
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has been shaped by the invention and applications of probe microscopy. The dizzying
variety of probe microscopy variants and
spinoffs (which Mody handles deftly)—scanning tunneling microscopy, atomic force
microscopy, Kelvin probe force microscopy,
and so on—have in common a physical probe
that scans the surface of a sample, producing
nanoscale images, and in some cases yielding
atomic resolution. The development of the
scanning tunneling microscope, the first
probe microscope, earned Gerd Bining and
Heinrich Rohrer the Nobel Prize in physics
in 1986. Instrumental Community is largely
a history of probe microscopy (as the book’s
subtitle suggests) and how its practitioners
forged both the instruments and the networks that gave rise to nanotechnology.
That the developers and early practitioners of probe microscopy had to build
machines and networks of people to use
them is the source of Mody’s concept of
‘‘instrumental community.’’ To Mody,
instrumental communities are networks of
scientists who are connected by their common interest in an instrument that has
potential applications for their research.
Instrumental communities both develop
technologies and develop research agendas
derived from those technologies. Hence,
the technologies become instrumental to
research programs, and the ‘‘instrumental’’
in instrumental communities takes on a double meaning: a network of researchers who
develop a technology (i.e., an instrument),
and who also come to depend on that same
technology to do meaningful research in other substantive areas (i.e., the technology
becomes instrumental).
While Mody’s assessment of early probe
microscopy as an instrumental community
is compelling, the extent to which it adds
to sociology’s understanding of scientific
research is questionable. ‘‘Instrumental communities’’ are defined similarly to what sociologists have conceptualized as scientific
specializations for decades. However, while
sociologists have tended to focus on the
social dynamics of the development and
institutionalization of research topics broadly defined (making few theoretical distinctions between applied and basic research),
Mody places particular emphasis on the
relevance of probe microscopy as an
instrument, arguing that the applicability of
this technique to myriad research programs
is what accounts for the characteristics of
its network of scientists as simultaneously
innovators and adopters of probe microscopes. But it is unclear whether, and to
what extent a research community organized around a technology differs in structure or function from a research community
organized around a theory or idea, or even if
the two can be distinguished either empirically or theoretically. Mody seems to imply
that they cannot, stating that probe microscopy ‘‘blurs any distinction between science
and technology’’ (p. 6), but if this is the case,
then the emphasis that he places on it as an
instrument (assumedly in contrast to an
idea or a theory) is dubious. It may be that
Mody would consider scientific communities organized around a theory as similarly
‘‘instrumental,’’ in both senses that he uses
this term, but he does not say this. In any
event, his claims that an instrumental community ‘‘is a network of individuals who
view their involvement with a particular
type of instrument and/or instrumentality
as ratifying their connection to other nodes
in the network’’ (p. 10), and that probe
microscopists ‘‘saw themselves as doing
something in common with other probe
microscopists around the world’’ (p. 10) is
a basic assumption made about scientific
specializations by sociologists, and does
not contribute substantively to our understanding of their dynamics.
However, Mody makes a more specific
claim about the contributing factors to the
success of scientific specializations which
are a welcome corrective to recent research
on scientific ‘‘movements’’ (Frickel and Gross
2005; Parker and Hackett 2012) that claims
their success is a function of the extent to
which these communities can create consensus and stymie outside perspectives challenging this consensus. These studies tend
to focus narrowly on the earliest stages of
development of specializations and ignore
processes of diffusion after basic premises
have been institutionalized. In contrast,
Mody demonstrates that the success of probe
microscopy was tied directly to its flexibility.
Probe microscopy became standard fare in
many different sciences, not because there
was wide consensus as to how to use it or
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even what it produced, but because scientists
in other specializations could adapt it to their
own needs, and assign to it their own meanings as they saw fit. This highlights the fact
that scientists partake in multiple specializations simultaneously, and these inherent
overlaps, and the inter-network connections
that they imply, must be accounted for in
any study of what contributes to the continued success of specializations beyond their
fragile early stages. Proponents of actor-network theory (some of whom Mody cites but
does not discuss in detail) have studied how
facts and artifacts are adopted and adapted
according to users’ interests, but this literature (usually associated with explaining the
social construction of scientific facts) is seldom connected to the fate of scientific specializations. Mody provides a tantalizing
link between these two literatures, but his
failure to engage them leaves the task of integration to future researchers. If anyone
proves up to the challenge, Instrumental
Community will be essential reading.
Frickel, Scott, and Neil Gross. 2005. ‘‘A General
Theory of Scientific/Intellectual Movements.’’
American Sociological Review 70(2): 204-232.
Parker, John N., and Edward J. Hackett. 2012.
‘‘Hot Spots and Hot Moments in Scientific Collaborations and Social Movements.’’ American
Sociological Review 77(1): 21-44.
Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the
Fight Against Medical Discrimination, by
Alondra Nelson. Minneapolis, MN:
University of Minnesota Press, 2011. 289pp.
$24.95 cloth. ISBN: 9780816676484.
Brown University
[email protected]
Body and Soul is a vivid look at the relationship between health, politics, and race
through an insightful exploration of the
Black Panther Party’s health social movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Alondra Nelson’s original analysis disrupts staid notions
of inequality and its discontents by showing
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
how Party members responded to medical
discrimination by actively fighting for biomedical integration, alternative knowledge
paradigms, and equitable healthcare. Just as
the Panther’s novel epistemologies and
research frameworks brought light to the
systematic embeddedness of black bodies
and souls in their communal, institutional,
and political economic contexts, Nelson’s
analysis of this unique brand of health activism not only locates the Party’s strategies and
challenges in its vibrant historical context but
also advances our understanding of how the
production of knowledge and identity is
always situated in interlocking processes of
racism, structural violence, and biomedical
inequalities. Body and Soul shows that, far
from being an essential biological condition,
health is a prism for shifting dynamics of
power and resistance.
The book opens with a look at a 1972 conference in which the Black Panther Party
drove home their commitment to serving
the black community body and soul. This
meeting, at the apogee of the Party’s existence, had Panthers engaged in everything
from food and clothing distribution to scientifically characterizing violence and poverty
as fundamental health issues. In fact, the Party conducted a wealth of independent biological and social research in the areas of epidemiology and preventative medicine. Nelson
uses its organizers’ cry for universal free
healthcare and its implementation of sickle
cell anemia screens as a window into the
Party’s dual emphasis on revolution and
medical activism. For the Panthers, selfdetermination went hand in hand with
a deeper engagement of the biomedical
Nelson goes on to make a number of key
empirical interventions, by showing that
the Black Panther Party was a part of a larger
movement toward medical civil rights. The
Panthers drew on a legacy of health activism
forged within slavery and Jim Crow to develop strategies for institution building, integration, and the generation of authoritative
knowledge. The Party also synced with global discourses that framed health as an
inalienable right, as in the World Health
Organization’s 1948 charter. The Panthers
sutured these discourses to fight for universal healthcare and an antiracist social order.
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Following in the footsteps of movements like
the United Negro Improvement Association
and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Party spawned
self-made and self-run medical facilities,
spearheaded policymaking and litigation to
integrate the medical workforce, and created
national health awareness programs that
would empower laypeople to become
experts over their own health. Nelson’s treatment of these movements illuminates the full
scope of their interwoven genealogies, which
stretch from pre-Antebellum to contemporary years.
Body and Soul then moves on to reveal the
never before examined organizational
dynamics of the Party’s clinical domain.
Inspired by revolutionaries like Mao Tse
Tung, Frantz Fanon, and Che Guevara, the
Black Panther Party made health praxis central to their social justice platform. It propagated community service centers as an alternative to the Afro-nationalist and War on
Poverty agendas that did nothing to subvert
the capitalist underpinnings of the medicalindustrial complex. The Party mobilized
against medical exploitation with a coalition
of contemporary movements, such as the
Young Lords Party. Nelson carefully demonstrates that the network of free clinics they
established implemented the Party’s national guidelines, while remaining committed to
local divisional politics. Clinics also embodied the nested principle of health and humanity by offering meals and holistic healthcare
in conjunction with political training.
Finally, Body and Soul details how the
Black Panther Party created a robust health
science to counteract what members saw as
medical genocide on blacks and the poor.
In their sickle cell disease campaign, the
Panthers made strides in clinical care while
arming community members with better
understandings of genetics and disease.
Their efforts not only provided richer
knowledge about the genotypic and phenotypic nature of diseases that disproportionately affected the black community, but
also shifted the balance of power from scientific to lay expertise in fighting such diseases. In the Party’s campaign against
a UCLA ‘‘biology of violence’’ center that
promised to target racial minorities in genetic and therapeutic research, it created an
oppositional scientific discourse based on
sociological reasons for violence. Forming
a legal plenary with other ‘‘rainbow coalition’’ organizations, the Panthers successfully barred the center’s establishment and
drew public attention to the medicalization
of behavior.
Nelson frames these interventions as
a response to social movements scholarship.
She uses novel readings of civil rights literature and ethnography of ‘‘trusted experts’’
to critique analysts who have depicted the
civil rights movement as separate from
health social movements. She asks sociologists to instead unearth the alternative
healthcare systems and knowledge bases
that oppressed communities have generated
in response to their conditions, and to analyze these responses in terms of their linkages
to broader social justice struggles. Relatedly,
Nelson urges sociologists to consider the
impact the Black Panther Party has had on
the emerging health social movements of
the 1970s and 1980s and subsequent health
justice frameworks. The Panthers would
become an essential foundation for the ‘‘tacit
coalition’’ of experts and activists that successfully compelled the U.S. federal government to mandate the inclusion of women
and minorities in all public agencies and
publicly-funded research.
It is from this critical vantage point that
Nelson offers the theoretical gem of the citizenship contradiction: the process by which
formal rights fail to bear substantive gains
in an unequal society. Nelson argues that
when institutions, elites, and gatekeepers
prevent minorities from access to the basic
rights and resources that are needed to obtain
equal standing, formal rights like enfranchisement are not enough to bring racially
subordinate groups to full citizenship. More
theoretical speculation along these lines
would have been helpful. The book’s findings could have been read along the grain
of the sociology of race and gender, thereby
leading to contributions regarding classification and identification processes in the battle
for health equality. How did the Party’s own
classification processes and strategic essentialisms impact the character and status of
its knowledge? Also, given that women
were the backbone of clinical efforts, how
did different subject positions or identity
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standpoints affect the proliferation of scientific alternatives? The book also could have
been more deeply analyzed in terms of the
sociology of science, knowledge, and technology. In notes, Nelson gestures toward
a key finding regarding the ‘‘biomedicalization’’ of society. The Party’s ‘‘brokering’’ of
science and healthcare suggests that biomedicalization in the form of bodily optimization and health-centrism has a longer durée
than heretofore acknowledged. More explicit analysis of self-determined empowerment
through healthcare would do much to draw
out the broader implications of the Party’s
actions. Despite these remaining questions,
the book is full of deft analyses and bold
linkages between domains too often examined separately: race, science, and social
movements. Body and Soul is sure to become
required reading in all these areas, and to
spawn further research that takes seriously
the interdependence of health and politics
in an unequal society.
Taxing the Poor: Doing Damage to the Truly
Disadvantaged, by Katherine S. Newman
and Rourke L. O’Brien. Berkeley, CA:
University of California Press, 2011. 212pp.
$21.95 paper. ISBN: 9780520269675.
University of California, San Diego
[email protected]
It does not come as news to sociologists that
fiscal policy is one of the most important
influences on the incidence, depth, and
severity of poverty. Until now, however, the
sociology of poverty and public policy has
focused on spending policy. Poor people
pay taxes, too, of course; and with Taxing
the Poor, we finally have a worthy sociological study of the impact of tax policy on the
lives of the poor.
Katherine S. Newman and Rourke L.
O’Brien document regional differences in
tax policy regimes in the United States, and
argue that these differences help to explain
regional differences in the incidence of poverty-related hardship and social problems.
The core hypothesis of the book is that taking
money away from poor people harms their
well-being. The centerpiece of the book is
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a series of regression models that test this
hypothesis by measuring the effects of changing state tax and local policies on mortality,
property crime, violent crime, high school
dropouts, births to unmarried mothers, and
obesity, all measured annually at the state
level. The authors compute the taxes owed
by the poor, and show that increases in these
tax obligations are associated with small but
nontrivial increases in every poverty-related
social problem on their list. The causal mechanism is simple: taxation deprives poor people of resources that might allow them to protect their health, stay in school, and avoid
These models are carefully specified, and
the causal inferences are generally persuasive, though there is plenty more qualitative
and micro-level quantitative work to be
done filling in the picture. Some of the variance that is here attributed to punitive tax
policies might be attributable to punitive
shifts in welfare policies that happened in
the same times and places, but this is a question for future research. Specialists will want
to inspect the details for themselves. In any
case, anyone who believes that taxing the
poor is harmless now has to shoulder the burden of proof.
Another great contribution of this book is
to refocus the attention of sociologists on persistent regional disparities in poverty and
suffering. Many late-twentieth-century classics in the sociology of poverty concern the
northern, urban poor—Newman and
O’Brien’s subtitle alludes to Wilson’s celebrated study of poverty in rust-belt cities—
but it should come as no surprise to sociologists that the highest rates of poverty, the
highest rates of poverty-related hardship,
and the most punishing tax policies faced
by the poor are in the American South, especially in rural places.
The book includes an excellent historical
overview of how this pattern evolved. The
authors show that southern states introduced regressive tax policies after Reconstruction ‘‘in order to force blacks to go to
work for wages rather than engage in selfsufficient farming’’ (p. 12). The regressivity
of southern tax systems was then compounded by state sales taxes introduced during the Great Depression, and by tax preferences for business meant to lure industry
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south after the Second World War. Once put
in the place, regressive tax policies tended
to stick, because southern states instituted
constitutional limitations on the taxation of
property—in some cases, fully a century
before the better-known property tax revolt
of the 1970s—and constitutional supermajority requirements that were intended to protect the privileged by making it difficult for
the majority to raise any taxes on income or
This chapter could stand alone as a concise
introduction to the literature on the history of
taxation in the American states. It is critical
for the argument of Taxing the Poor because
it lends plausibility to the assumption that
regional differences in tax policy are exogenous causes of contemporary problems. We
can be pretty sure that hardship is responding to tax policy and not vice versa, because
the relevant tax policies are unresponsive to
contemporary conditions. They are in the
grip of the heavy hand of the past.
The book concludes with a call for the federal government to take over the financing
and administration of TANF and Medicaid,
and for states to reform their tax systems for
the benefit of the poor. The authors reject
the argument that progressives in the United
States ought to aim for a Swedish-style combination of heavy taxes on consumption
and generous social spending; they are skeptical of such arguments because, they write,
‘‘we don’t believe the guarantee of progressive spending as an antidote to new consumption taxes is ironclad enough’’ (p. 156).
Certainly in the current American political
climate it is hard to imagine a grand bargain
that would couple heavy consumption taxes
with increases in social provision. It is also
hard to imagine welfare spending becoming
fully nationalized. In the short run this book
is unlikely to change policy.
But it may have a salutary influence on
sociology. Students of poverty in our discipline, with a few exceptions, continue to
focus on just a few politically salient programs on the spending side of the budget.
This focus is myopic. To offer one illustrative
example: if ‘‘welfare’’ is the colloquial American English word for means-tested cash
assistance, then the largest welfare program
in the United States is not Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), it is the
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). In the
last ten years there have been at least a halfdozen sociology dissertations concerned
with TANF, and, to the best of my knowledge, none on the EITC. And this, as Newman and O’Brien point out, is the tax policy
that has received the most attention from
scholars of poverty!
In short, Taxing the Poor is pathbreaking
and, more of us should follow that path to
find out how far it will take us. There is
much more we need to know about how taxes affect the lives of the poor for good and ill.
Immigration and Women: Understanding the
American Experience, by Susan C. Pearce,
Elizabeth J. Clifford, and Reena Tandon.
New York, NY: New York University Press,
2011. 309pp. $26.00 paper. ISBN: 978081
University of Michigan
[email protected]
To this day, the predominant image of
the immigrant is that of a male pauper.
Thus, Immigration and Women is a welcome
opportunity for Susan Pearce, Elizabeth Clifford, and Reena Tandon to contribute to our
knowledge of the gendered nature of migration through interviews. Pearce, Clifford,
and Tandon engaged in a mixed-method
quantitative and qualitative study: a demographic description derived from the Census
and American Community Survey regarding immigrant women, and in-depth interviews (with some participant observation)
of immigrant women. The authors derived
their sample carefully. The women they
interviewed were adults who were at least
18 years of age when they immigrated to
the United States. This age cutoff was
a wise choice because those who immigrate
at younger ages resemble the native-born
in values and attitudes, since (depending
on their actual age and circumstances at
the age of migration) they are re-socialized
in the new society to which their families
migrated. Adult immigrants, however,
were completely socialized in another country and another culture and bring those
experiences and values with them to their
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new home. These they partly retain and
partly shed, as their interviews show. They
both assimilate to their new home and new
culture, while they retain some ties to the
In creating their sample, Pearce et al. made
another wise choice. Since there have always
been two immigrant Americas—one working-class and the other professional—the
researchers also chose to interview women
who exemplified both. Contemporary migration involves a larger professional, well-educated component than in the past, but both
types of jobs are represented. The researchers
interviewed 89 immigrant women: domestic
workers, entrepreneurs, professionals (such
as lawyers, doctors), artists, activists, and
those in what they call atypical occupations.
Still another wise choice in creating their
sample was that the researchers interviewed
women who came through regular (legal)
means as well as women who came through
irregular (illegal) means; those who followed
their husbands and families as well as those
who could only be said to be ‘‘gender pioneers’’; those who left their countries to better their economic situation as well as those
who left as refugees, looking for freedom.
Gathering the data on the women’s immigrant lives (before arriving to this country
and while already here), the authors focused
on the structural causes of migration as well
as on the agency of the immigrants themselves. As I tried to underscore in the past
(Pedraza 1991), both gender and migration
are topical areas through which sociologists
can try to link structure and agency, macro
and micro. Yet it remains true that the sociological tradition has been better at highlighting structural constraints than at explaining
agency. Pierce et al. define agency not only
as resistance (as is usually the case) but also
expand the notion to encompass creativity,
relocation, reinvention of the self, leadership,
and responsibility for relationships. This
makes for a welcome addition to our understanding of agency.
Another wise choice in creating their sample was that they sought women (through
snowball and convenience sampling) who
represented the ethnic groups that were concentrated in particular places—such as Mexicans and Iranians in Los Angeles, Vietnamese in Houston, Haitians and Cubans in
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
Miami. The interviews were conducted
face-to-face and respondents chose to give
the interview with their real name or with
a pseudonym. This mix of ethnicities, locales,
and occupations makes the interviews they
gathered particularly valuable. In addition,
at the end of each thematic section, the
researchers made the effort to extrapolate
from the interview data its policy implications—their contribution to public sociology.
Immigration and Women has both strengths
and weaknesses—empirically and theoretically. Empirically, a major strength is that
the interview materials are rich, have a great
deal of depth, and are well presented. The
authors write simply and well, engagingly;
they allow their subjects to speak while
weaving their quotes into the larger points
they are making. This way of presenting
the interviews follows from the interpretive
tradition of the social sciences that focus on
the subjective, intended meaning of the people whom one is trying to understand. At the
same time, they are careful not to speak
‘‘for’’ them, but as they put it, ‘‘to help
amplify voices and to illustrate their heterogeneity’’ (p. 12). This they do well.
Many of the issues the researchers tackle in
this book are illuminated by these in-depth
interviews. For example, Pearce et al. use
the interviews to show that the difference
between documented and undocumented
immigrants is at times not as stark as many
imagine it to be; rather than two different
groups of people, they are often the same
people at different stages of their process of
migration. While the point has been made
in the past by other researchers, the authors
show it through the interviews: women
who lose their legal status (e.g., having been
students with a visa), becoming undocumented; women who did not have a legal status (e.g., border crossers) and become legal,
through marriage to a U.S. citizen or an
employment-based visa. Likewise, it has
long been known that the root problem with
establishing small businesses where immigrants can become self-employed is the problem of capitalization. Pearce et al. show this
through their interviews the creative ways
in which these immigrant women made
good on their culture, their know-how, and
their values as resources to become selfemployed, contributing to the sharp increase
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in self-employment among women. Even
more, their focus on women artists is valuable. Sociologists have never regarded the
content of artwork as data on the social processes they study. Pearce et al. show that it
is also a form of data, as we can see in the
pieces that they include and analyze. These
are the strengths of this work.
The work, however, is not without its limitations. Its claim that the gendered nature of
migration has not been studied is overstated.
When I first collected that literature over 20
years ago, that was the case. But since then
the study of women and migration has mushroomed, as a generation of historians and
social scientists recorded and analyzed their
lives. The literature review of this work
does not capture it well. Moreover, while
the authors stress ‘‘the feminization of migration’’, missing from this work is the recognition that some migration flows are femaledominated (e.g., the Irish over the course of
the nineteenth century), others are maledominated (e.g., that of Italians then and
Mexicans always, as befits a labor migration),
and others are gender-balanced (e.g., the
family migration of refugees, whether Jewish
or Cuban). Such recognition needs to be both
theoretical and empirical.
Theoretically, to answer the question of
why the Irish exodus of the nineteenth century was dominated by women one needs to
read the work of Hsia Diner, who tells us
why Ireland became a country that turned
its back on its women, and why the kin chain
migration progressively became a female
chain of mothers, daughters, sisters, and
cousins. This was due not only to the devastating famine at mid-century but also to the
late industrialization of Ireland, in comparison to other European countries, together
with a cultural pattern of late marriage,
high rates of celibacy, and an inheritance system where only the oldest male could inherit
land. Empirically, to understand the feminization of migration we need to have more
than descriptive, easily available data from
the census; we need to have a demographic
analysis of individual-level data that establishes the incidence of the feminization
among various immigrant groups, as just
noted, asking and answering questions to
which the data can reply.
Still, while these are not small problems,
Immigration and Women brings rich interview
materials for us to consider and a broader
definition of agency than was available. As
a result, it contributes a great deal to our
deeper understanding of the gendered nature
of migration, as well as the ways in which
human beings marshal their personal resources to reconstruct their lives. I recommend it.
Pedraza, Silvia. 1991. ‘‘Women and Migration: the
Social Consequences of Gender.’’ Annual
Review of Sociology 17: 303–25.
Queer Company: The Role and Meaning of
Friendship in Gay Men’s Work Lives, by Nick
Rumens. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011.
205pp. $99.95 cloth. ISBN: 9781409401919.
University of Windsor
[email protected]
This well-written and insightful book positions itself as part of a research literature
that seeks to move beyond sociological preoccupation with couples and families in order
to bring relations of friendship to the scholarly table. Male friendship as a cultural ideal in
English society seems to have foundered in
the eighteenth century with the elevation of
the heterosexual couple and a concomitant
homophobic policing of male bonding as it
began to fall under suspicion of ‘‘sodomy.’’
In our era, the iconic emotionally-crippled
male has dominated a great deal of research
on men in relationships. Now of course the
space of male intimacy is largely governed
by the ‘‘gay’’ label in advanced industrial
societies, so gay men provide a particularly
valuable vantage point for the rediscovery
of male friendship. As the author notes,
friendship can play a particularly large role
in the lives of gay and lesbian people, especially when families of origin are rejecting
or uncomprehending.
A lot is squeezed from this qualitative
study of 33 men in middle- and workingclass occupations in the United Kingdom.
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All but one is white; racialization is
addressed in terms of friends and workmates
of the interviewees. Overall this study shows
a great diversity of workplace friendships
and few dominating themes. Separate chapters are devoted to the friendships of gay
workers with heterosexual men and women.
Perhaps not surprisingly, these relationships
are typically the most important workplace
relationships, if only because they dominate
the work milieu. Occasionally relationships
with heterosexual men and women even
stray into the sexual realm. This study
explores and troubles the popular literature
on the supposedly easy and natural link
between gay men and straight women,
where ‘‘gay men are positioned as sexually
neutral observers and gender representatives speaking for and of the category of
‘men,’ a position that is deeply problematic’’
(p. 115). Particularly interesting are the
instances where it is not the impact of the heteronormative organization on gay men that
is most noteworthy, but rather the apparent
permission that the presence of gay men in
the workplace gives straight men to expand
the boundaries of expressive masculinity,
sometimes to the surprise and even discomfort of their gay colleagues.
There are instances of conflict and truculence in the workplace, particularly when
heterosexual men refuse the authority of
women or gay men in management positions, but overall it may be indicative of the
current state of lesbian, gay, and bisexual
relations in the United Kingdom that little
overt discrimination emerges in this portrait
of the workplace. At the same time, there are
a number of indicators of the ways in which
often ‘‘gay-friendly’’ organizations nevertheless reproduce an organizational heteronormativity that constrains gay and lesbian
workers. In some instances, gay workers
report feeling pressure from employers to
live up to a newer stereotype of being witty,
charming, and creative—qualities that may
even be marketed to clients. This new construction of gay workers as a particular
kind of asset, especially in industries where
taste and esthetics are marketable commodities, seems to be an emergent demand of the
twenty-first century workplace.
One chapter treats the friendships of gay
workers with other gay men at work,
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
a relatively uncommon occurrence given
that most gay workers find few if any gay colleagues in their immediate surroundings. In
many cases, gay workers must look elsewhere for gay friends and potential romantic
attachments. Those who do find gay colleagues, it seems, have a wide range of relationships from the solitary to the competitive.
Much has been garnered from this book’s
33 interviews, but the evidence is stretched
too thin when dealing with the lesbian
friends of gay men in the workplace, as it is
based on a single case. This kind of relationship is framed largely in terms of the need
to remedy the sexism of gay men, without
much of a foundation for genuine friendship—this treatment does not begin to get at
the real diversity of friendships that can and
do exist between lesbian and gay co-workers.
Finally, the book invokes the utopian
promise of gay men’s friendships ‘‘as a discursive schema for remodelling depersonalized male-to-male relations in the workplace’’ (p. 154), even as it is clear-eyed about
the less-than-utopian practices of everyday
workplace friendships recounted in an interview as ‘‘gay men’s identities are divided and
multiple, with many gay men choosing to
disassociate themselves from other gay men
in the workplace’’ (p. 151). Work and home
are largely presumed to be opposing categories, but this book brings to light the very
human relations that emerge in the workplace and contribute to our understanding
of the nexus between sexuality, intimacy,
and friendship on one hand—and the workplace on the other.
The African American Struggle for Secondary
Schooling, 1940–1980: Closing the Graduation
Gap, by John L. Rury and Shirley A. Hill.
New York, NY: Teacher’s College Press,
College of the Holy Cross
[email protected]
John L. Rury and Shirley A. Hill use a wide
array of qualitative and quantitative data to
provide a sweeping account of African
American efforts to improve secondary
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education within their own communities,
challenges they faced, and the long-term
improvements in educational and socioeconomic attainment that resulted. Encapsulating forty years of educational progress in
the United States, zeroing in on the South
and then shifting to the North, where the
urban educational drama would gain so
much attention, the authors are attuned to
differences in social class, gender, and the
urban/rural divide that not only account
for differences in attainment but also shape
demands for education. Throughout the
book, the power of black communities in
broadening their children’s educational
opportunities features prominently.
Addressing the United States as a whole,
with a particular emphasis on the South,
Rury and Hill combine a vast array of qualitative and quantitative data to provide a holistic
account of black education during this fortyyear period. The authors integrate findings
from yearbooks, black newspapers, and oral
histories from archival repositories around
the country with interviews and IPUMS
data, to present regression models comparing factors predicting black and white high
school attendance and completion. Although
a bit unclear how the specific archival sources
and cities were chosen, the multitude of
empirical sources used to generate a deep
understanding of the experiences with segregation and efforts to improve education during these decades is a clear strength of the
The expansive review of educational conditions in southern schools highlights both
the substandard facilities in rural areas and
the ‘‘good schools’’ in urban ones. Integrating existing literature with primary source
data reveals anew for readers familiar with
these problems the extent to which black students in the rural South contended with
crumbling buildings, a lack of facilities such
as toilets or running water, a lack of qualified
teachers and administrators, and schools
held in shacks or homes, churches, and businesses, with two-year secondary schools
often grafted onto existing elementary
schools. Urban schools, though considerably
better than rural schools, with expansive curriculums, highly qualified teachers and
administrators from the black middle class,
were nevertheless inferior to those of whites.
Segregated urban black schools lacked furniture, laboratory equipment and textbooks, or
received them second-hand from white
schools, and were overcrowded due to the
many rural families who sent their children
to live with urban relatives for a chance at
a better education.
After documenting the educational conditions facing black high school students on the
eve of World War II, Rury and Hill describe
extensively the equalization and integration
campaigns that occurred throughout the
South. These efforts significantly improved
the quality and quantity of educational
opportunities for many rural black children,
by building new facilities, upgrading existing ones, decreasing class sizes, expanding
curricular offerings, creating regional high
schools with busses to collect students, and
elongating the school year. Yet true equalization in spending or opportunities compared
to those available to white students never
occurred, especially since many schools continued to lack accreditation. With Brown v.
Board of Education looming large, attention
shifted toward court-mandated integration.
Although beneficial for black students seeking to gain access to quality education, black
communities lost longstanding schools featuring caring teachers with high academic
standards who imparted knowledge necessary to gain access to colleges and succeed
in a racist society. Transferred to formerly
all-white schools, black youth encountered
segregated extracurricular activities, racist
teachers, tracking systems, and rising disciplinary rates that maintained privileges of
whiteness in ‘‘integrated’’ schools.
Highlighting the impact of the great
migration on education, Rury and Hill document the urban schools’ inabilities to provide
adequately for the dramatic increase in black
high school students seeking to avail themselves of better educational opportunities in
Gary, Chicago, Los Angeles, Newark, Cleveland, Baltimore, and New York. Integrated
schools located between black and white
neighborhoods and those in the heart of
black neighborhoods quickly became overcrowded, and existing whites used transfer
programs designed to integrate schools to
create all-white educational enclaves.
Throughout the book, the authors describe
protests by whites seeking to curtail African
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American enrollment in schools, and black
efforts to gain access to white schools and
improve resources within them. Shedding
light on protest by whites in the North is
a welcome addition to the literature that
largely focuses on the virulent racism faced
by highly public integration efforts in the
South. In addition, Rury and Hill describe
protests by black students in the North linked
to the larger civil rights movement that
sought both equal resources in their schools
alongside culturally relevant curriculum
and more black teachers and administrators.
For scholars looking to develop more indepth examinations of these protests, as is
deserved, the footnotes will be a treasure
trove of data with which to begin.
Perhaps most enlightening is Rury and
Hill’s succinct and well-argued critique of
the ‘‘urban crisis’’ (as well as ‘‘stay in school’’
campaigns) in education that obscured the
dramatic increases in educational attainment
leading to the significant growth of the black
middle class. Highlighting that this term
came into use only when black students
entered the schools, the authors reveal this
political language as a tool used by whites
to impede integration, particularly given
the empirical evidence showing African
American graduation rates increasing during
this time, and steadily converging with
whites. This discourse of crisis justified the
increase of black students’ punishment in
the form of suspensions and expulsions
and reinforced beliefs about blacks’ intellectual inferiority and violent tendencies, and
subsequent abandonment of many urban
schools by boards who believed black students neither willing to work for, nor deserving of, an education equal to whites.
Rury and Hill’s data throughout the book
demonstrates the structural factors of
poverty impacting African American attainment and how, through their own efforts,
African Americans nevertheless dramatically increased their access to educational
opportunities and attainment. Indeed,
when compared to white students with
both parents in the home and those who
owned their own homes, African Americans
graduated at rates similar to, or greater than,
whites. And among those in poverty, African
Americans were more likely to graduate than
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
Closing with the 30-plus years after the end
of the focus of the book, the authors briefly
address changes in economic structures that
have led to the continued decline in quality
of urban education and educational stagnation for black students. Noting the irony of
integrated schools being more prominent in
the South and segregation the largest problem in the North, they advocate community-based programs to address the multitude
of factors impacting educational attainment.
In addition they return to the power of black
communities to promote social change, the
determination of black students who sought
quality education in the face of considerable
obstacles, and the centrality of improvements
made during the integration era to the development of the black middle class.
This book is destined to become the reading list for social scientists, historians, and
educational scholars and policy students
interested in African American secondary
education and minority education broadly.
It is also essential reading for graduate or
undergraduate courses in these fields, or
for those readers simply interested in learning as much as possible about the history
of black secondary education from only
one book.
The Production of Modernization: Daniel Lerner,
Mass Media, and the Passing of Traditional
Society, by Hemant Shah. Philadelphia, PA:
Temple University Press, 2011. 218pp.
$69.50 cloth. ISBN: 9781439906248.
University of Pennsylvania
[email protected]
Widely known as ‘‘the Bible of modernization theory,’’ Daniel Lerner’s 1958 book
The Passing of Traditional Society: Modernizing
the Middle East, continues to haunt academic
and political debates. In The Production of
Modernization: Daniel Lerner, Mass Media,
and the Passing of Traditional Society, Hemant
Shah explains why that is the case, in an
account grounded in thorough and extensive research, drawing on a variety of institutional, archival, and personal sources.
The book is well written and clearly organized. Four chapters tackle Lerner’s ideas
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and work in the various institutional settings
of his career, with Chapter Two exploring
Lerner’s work at the Psychological Warfare
Division, Chapter Three his work at Stanford,
Chapter Four his tenure at Columbia, and
Chapter Five his years at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology. The concluding and
sixth chapter explains the remarkable longevity of Lerner’s ideas. The book’s central
contribution is its deep and nuanced telling
of ‘‘how Passing of Traditional Society came
together—historically, intellectually, geopolitically, culturally—. . . and then considers
the extent to which Lerner’s ideas influenced development communication as an
academic field’’ (p. 8).
Based on approximately three hundred
surveys conducted in 1951 and 1952 in each
of Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and
Syria, Lerner elaborated a social-psychological theory of modernization in which people
were classified in one of three categories: traditional, transitional, and modern. In this theory in which being modern is tantamount to
adopting Western values and behaviors, the
mass media play a critical role because by
triggering empathy, a key concept for Lerner,
they were the motor of the modernization
Shah identifies three forces that shaped
Lerner’s thesis: Cold war geopolitics provided funds for Lerner’s project because it could
help fend off the appeal of communism in the
countries under study. The surveys were
funded by Voice of America with the objective of mapping radio-listening habits in the
Middle East to better counter Radio Moscow.
Lerner’s theory, then, is best understood as
a product of the Cold War and superpower
rivalry in what was then called the Third
World. Liberal democracy and market economics were the bedrock of Lerner’s theory—‘‘the ability to buy things and vote were
among the clearest indicators of a modern
nation’’ (p. 4).
The rise of behavioral science in America in
the inter-war years (1919–1938) encouraged
social-scientific studies of social and cultural
patterns, with communication emerging as
a central concern. If early American social scientists were perceived to be irrelevant to public issues, then contributing to (first the war
effort against the Nazis) the Cold War would
burnish their credentials and cement their
respectability in society at large. These social
scientists, by developing notions such as
‘‘Third World,’’ or ‘‘new nations,’’ also set
the ground for a consideration of the world
as a non-differentiated Other.
Finally, Lerner was influenced by racial
liberalism—as Shah underscores, Lerner’s
was one of the very first theories of social
change grounded in ‘‘mutable cultural characteristics rather than immutable racial
ones’’ (p. 4), making The Passing of Traditional
Society a progressive work for its period.
And yet, to contemporary ears Lerner’s dictum that ‘‘what the West is, the Middle East
seeks to become’’ is unequivocally ethnocentric. In this regard it is useful to recall that
according to Lerner, the media compelled
Middle Eastern Muslims to chose between
‘‘Mecca and mechanization,’’ in a battle
that he saw Mecca losing and mechanization
winning (how would Lerner have reacted to
the Islamic mobile phone, which rings at
prayer times and has a compass pointing to
Mecca!). The notion of empathy, and the traditional-transitional-modern trichotomy in
themselves are not necessarily problematic.
They basically say the same thing that
some transnational cultural studies scholars
say about media and the imagination. They
also echo much contemporary advertising
and marketing lingo about the power of
the ‘‘aspirational’’ in luring the consumer
to products. It is rather the directionality of
empathy, the one-sidedness of the way that
the imagination is supposed to work, that
is objectionable.
Lerner’s focus on culture, rather than biology, as a shaper of human behavior echoes
what Gunnar Myrdal euphemistically called
the ‘‘American dilemma,’’ in which he
referred to the clash between American
ideals of equality and American racist practices. A paternalistic liberalism that called on
whites to help their black brethren achieve
their full potential was proposed as a remedy.
In international relations scholarship of the
era, ‘‘brown’’ peoples of the Third World
were substituted for the American Negro,
mutatis mutandis, and the West took the place
of liberal whites in offering a helping hand
that would lead non-Western people to
modernity, the passport to access being the
adoption of putatively Western values and
practices. It is useful here to recall the
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fundamental contradiction inherent to neoconservative understandings of the Arab
world. On the one hand, Arabs only understand the language of violence; on the other
hand, they are deserving of democracy. In
Shah’s words, Lerner’s book ‘‘in some
ways epitomizes these American trends in
racial thinking’’ (p. 23).
With a publication date of April 2011, Shah
must have read the final proofs of his book
months before the beginning of the Arab
uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria,
and Bahrain. The resonance of Western
media coverage of the uprisings with Lerner’s ideas would not have escaped Shah,
who noted the eerie resonance of George W.
Bush’s Greater Middle East initiative with
Lerner’s ideas—and subtitle: ‘‘Modernizing
the Middle East.’’ Reading Shah’s book as
the Arab uprisings continue to unfold, one
cannot fail to appreciate how Lerner’s ideas
continue to inform Western understandings
of socio-political change in the Middle East,
in which information technology, Western
influence and Islam, rather than human
agency and local struggles, predominate.
September 12: Community and Neighborhood
Recovery at Ground Zero, by Gregory
Smithsimon. New York, NY: New York
University Press, 2011. 285pp. $24.00 paper.
ISBN: 9780814740859.
Graduate Center, CUNY
[email protected]
Gregory Smithsimon has produced a compelling ethnographic account of how residents of Battery Park City in lower Manhattan came together to heal and rebuild their
community after the attack on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. His book is commendable as a community study of a very
particular type of urban place, and it achieves
an extremely important goal of such studies:
it becomes a primary historical document in
the growing literature about responses to
the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history. In
doing so, it takes a place with other community studies that have endured, like Middletown and The Urban Villagers, and which continue to inform new generations of scholars
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
who seek to know what it was like to live
and work in an historically important community when new social forces were suddenly reshaping the city.
Beyond its value for future generations,
however, the book is also a measured critique
of the urban planning policies that create
heavily subsidized luxury high-rise cities
within the city. Since this genre of development, which Smithsimon addresses as
a form of suburbanization within the city, is
occurring throughout urban America, the
book provides insights into how such places
work as communities and what their consequences tend to be for social relations and
class inequality in the larger city.
With a population of about 12,000 residents and still growing, Battery Park City is
a mixed-use community area located along
the Hudson River above Battery Park. At its
center is a commercial node of high-rise
office buildings, the World Financial Center.
The community was physically joined to
the World Trade Tower complex by large
footbridges that crossed West Street, a continuation of Manhattan’s old West Side Highway which effectively separates Battery
Park City from other downtown areas,
although not from adjoining Tribeca. Smithsimon reviews the tendentious history of Battery Park City’s creation as an isolated
‘‘urban fortress,’’ of the type so cogently criticized by Jane Jacobs and defended by financiers like David Rockefeller and mega-planner Robert Moses. The story is complicated
and as Smithsimon tells, it has a lot to do
with the politics of social class, which
ensured that the community would be largely homogeneous and upper middle-class or
rich (although these terms are difficult to
define in a city where the average two-bedroom apartment costs well over a million
dollars). As a result, the experience of residents with the 9/11 attacks is not addressed
until Chapter Four. The wait is made worthwhile by the high quality of the ethnographic
material the author presents in that chapter,
and in his subsequent analysis of how residents and community leaders dealt with
the disaster.
Damage was severe in the community. Toxic smoke kept many away from their apartments for months, and the disruption to community organizations and informal groups
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was even worse—it has lasted for years while
the 9/11 memorial, the new office tower, and
many buildings of Battery Park City itself
including the Winter Garden where many
community cultural events are held, had to
be rebuilt. The majority of residents never
returned; newcomers have largely replaced
them by now. But in some ways, Smithsimon’s informants tell him, the tragedy
helped strengthen their attachments to each
other and to the place itself. The availability
of parkland and commons of different kinds
in the enclave also encouraged a renewed
sense of community. ‘‘Both the already-existing urban quality and the exclusive aspect of
Battery Park City,’’ Smithsimon writes, ‘‘contributed to a sense of community space that
residents valued in their recovery and during
the reconstruction of their community (p.
At this writing, the new 1 World Trade
Center (once called the Freedom Tower) is
rising quickly above the memorial to victims
of 9/11. A major new transit hub, designed to
replace the subway station that was also
destroyed in the attack, is ready for use. A
difficulty Smithsimon faced in the writing,
which he deals with quite gracefully, is that
some of the story of rebuilding community
in Battery Park City remains to be told. As
he conducted interviews and made observations at innumerable community meetings,
the residents were still facing serious disruption in their daily lives while the construction
and re-construction was taking place around
them. How the new buildings and rebuilt
facilities will alter their community’s life
remains an open question, but Smithsimon
cannot be faulted on this score because he
has left few stones unturned in his effort to
present a balanced and nuanced account of
community building as it is occurring in
this fascinating part of the city.
Smithsimon brings a welcome evenhandedness to his research. ‘‘I had begun,’’ he
admits, ‘‘with the intention of writing a critique of it [Battery Park City] as a privatized
space and faux-urban citadel, expanding on
the postmodern urbanists’ critique with
observations from an in-depth study of the
place.’’ As often happens among ethnographers who practice their craft and science,
his perspectives changed in the field. As he
got to know the residents more personally,
‘‘the aggressiveness of the critique became
both less supported by what I learned and
more difficult to level at a social structure
that was composed of actual people I knew
and liked and whose opinion mattered to
me.’’ He realized as well that ‘‘ethnography
had almost always been used by urban sociologists to study disadvantaged people they
wished to valorize, not privileged people
they sought to criticize, and for good reason:
such an intimate method is ill-suited to
invective’’ (p. 31). Readers are fortunate
that these lessons have helped Gregory
Smithsimon produce an outstanding book
about affluent people in an exclusive urban
enclave that they share with the greater public as well. His account renders them in their
particular time and place, without pandering
to their sense of entitlement or to their entirely human complaints and conceits.
Disciplining the Poor: Neoliberal Paternalism
and the Persistent Power of Race, by Joe Soss,
Richard C. Fording, and Sanford F.
Schram. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago
Press, 2011. 368pp. $25.00 paper. ISBN:
Queens College, CUNY
[email protected]
‘‘Neoliberalism’’ and ‘‘paternalism’’ are two
terms that are not often paired together.
Most scholars have conceptualized neoliberalism as a rolling back of the paternalist, welfare state. By contrast, in this book Joe Soss,
Richard Fording, and Sanford Schram argue
that neoliberalism and paternalism emerged
together in American politics and promote
a shared disciplinary project. They contend
that rather than retreating, the state under
neoliberalism is marked by expansions of
social programs targeting the poor.
The authors see what they term the ‘‘new
paternalism’’ informing poverty governance
as distinct from earlier forms including slavery and colonialism. The new paternalism is
rooted in a language of rights and emphasizes civic obligations as the basis of an egalitarian political order. It is a variant of neoconservatism, finding solutions to perceived
social disorder in directive social programs
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that foster individual competence among the
poor. The aim of the new paternalism is to
produce new kinds of self-regulating subjects
that can integrate individuals into the
Welfare is not done away with by the neoliberal state, rather it is reshaped to encourage welfare recipients to become self-reliant
market actors and consumers. Vouchers
and choice programs reposition citizens as
consumers who seek goods from other providers rather than trying to improve societal
The other central theme of this book is the
importance of race as a key resource in the
disciplinary turn. Given that overt racial
prejudice has become illegal and racial
minorities have entered the middle class,
the authors argue that racial schemas provide powerful cognitive structures that
guide perception and choice. They develop
a model called the Racial Classification Model (RCM) that they test in a range of contexts
to show how racial disparities emerge in differential ways depending on the specific configurations of decision-making, policy targets, and political-organizational structures.
One of the main case studies explored in
the book is that of the Florida Welfare Transition (WT) program. The authors explain that
it was not selected because it typifies neoliberal poverty governance, but rather because
it demonstrates how all of the elements of
neoliberal paternalism operate together.
Florida has led the way in devolving policy
control to the local level, outsourcing service
provision, using information systems to
track welfare recipients, and enforcing penalties for noncompliance. The authors focus
on patterns of sanctioning and clearly demonstrate how these patterns have been highly
responsive to unemployment and seasonal
demands for cheap labor in the tourism
One of the strengths of this book is the
diverse range of methodologies that it combines in the study of neoliberal paternalism.
Soss, Fording, and Schram have carried out
national and state level analysis through
the use of public opinion surveys, program
data, and administrative datasets. This statistical analysis is combined with three years of
qualitative research in the WT program,
including in-depth interviews, observations,
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
attendance at training sessions, and analysis
of documents. They also carried out an original statewide survey of WT managers. The
varied backgrounds of the three authors
which include public policy, political science,
and sociology also bring interdisciplinarity
to the study which is indispensible for its
broader goals.
Taken as a whole, the book shows the crucial importance of both statistical and interpretive methods for the study of poverty
governance. The statistical and quantitative
work helps draw a portrait of the bigger picture, while the textured qualitative descriptions fill in the frame by showing how individual case workers, welfare clients, and
administrators respond to and negotiate the
programs. The ideas could have been
brought to life even more strongly through
deepening the portrayals of individuals
operating within the matrix of neoliberal
paternalist regimes (it would seem that the
authors certainly had the material from their
many years of exposure to the WT system in
Florida) but perhaps that is a project for
another set of scholars to undertake.
Soss, Fording, and Schram conclude this
ambitious volume by anticipating how the
current poverty governance regime might
shift. Disciplinary governance itself came
into being through political struggle, and
they argue that it will take either convulsive
politics such as during the 1930s or 1960s to
enable another shift, or a long-term vision
forged over time. One wonders how the
authors might view the current global convulsions that began with revolts in Wisconsin
and the Middle East, and inspired the Occupy movement in the United States. Might
these movements have the longevity and
traction to bring about another shift in poverty governance, particularly given the focus of
the latter on unemployment, economic
inequality and social injustice? Regardless,
change depends on understanding the forces
that produce regimes of power and inequality, and in this book Soss, Fording, and
Schram have given us an excellent elaboration of those forces.
Reviews 111
The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class, by
Guy Standing. New York, NY: Bloomsbury
Academic, 2011. 198pp. $29.95 paper. ISBN:
Griffith University
[email protected]
Guy Standing employs a large canvas and
broad-brush strokes in this latest examination of work and employment in the era of
contemporary globalization. The Precariat
takes up the impacts that globalization
is having upon labor markets, the structuring of work and the populations that are
charged with carrying it out—although the
author’s remit extends beyond these items
to also consider the social and political ramifications of globalization. The central thesis
of the book is that the globalization of economic life is rapidly giving rise to a new
social class—a class in the making—that
Standing calls the precariat. This term
derives from the noun proletariat and the
adjective, precarious, so a literal translation
would be that the book is about those who
are subject to insecure, precarious employment conditions. However, Standing
appears to be unhappy with this translation.
Consequently, the precariat is not simply the
lower end of the working class, or a new
underclass, or for that matter, dispossessed
former members of the middle class. Rather,
for Standing, the precariat is a distinctive
new global class, which has yet to attain recognition of itself. The book may be seen as
part of a project whereby this class in the
making becomes a class for-itself with a progressive political agenda.
Standing defines the precariat in terms of
basic forms of security, or more to the point,
in the absence of such securities in everyday
life. Thus, the precariat lacks labor market
security (adequate income earning opportunities), employment security (protections
against arbitrary dismissal), job security (stability in the practice of a given occupation),
work security (OH and S protection), skill
reproduction security (training and apprenticeship opportunities), income security protection, and finally, representational security
through collective bargaining and union
recognition. As a result, the precariat has
only thin attachments to work and to the
political identities that ensue from it.
Members of the precariat may be found
among the ranks of temporary and parttime workers in both the private and, increasingly, within the public sector. They may also
be found within new occupational groups
such as call center workers or the growing
groups of para-professional employees in
such fields as law. The precariat is also well
represented in certain demographics, including youth, which Standing sees as part of the
core of this new formation, and retirees who,
either by choice or compulsion, return to the
labor force. Other members include visible
minorities, the disabled who are forced into
employment as a condition of receiving
social benefits, an ever-increasing criminalized population, migrants who are prevented
from practicing their occupations due to host
country licensing restrictions, and women
employed in the numerous export processing zones around the globe. For Standing,
the precariat is a product of the quest for
numerical and functional flexibility on the
part of firms and now the public sector. Privatization, outsourcing, and casualization
are the main culprits behind the formation
of this new global social class. Other precariat
traps are related to the commercialization of
education and the ensuing debts accumulated by young people who then graduate into
labor markets which may not require years
of education.
Ultimately, Standing is concerned with
understanding the political implications
that accompany this new class in the making.
He puts forward two stylizations in the last
chapters of the book: a dystopian ‘‘politics
of inferno’’ and ‘‘a politics of paradise.’’ The
former is a society organized around the control of the precariat through technological
surveillance, crude forms of behavioristic
social policy, and the stigmatization of the
precariat or at least certain elements of it
(migrants, minorities, etc.). Combined with
the short-term time frames that precarian
existences are organized around, this makes
for an ugly future complete with a politics
of divisiveness and the threat of neo-fascism,
which Standing already sees emerging.
Counterpoised to this scenario, Standing
presents his alternative, which is founded
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upon a basic cash income for each citizen,
along with quick transition from ‘‘denizenship’’ to full citizenship rights for all members of the precariat including migrants.
Such security would permit social actors to
engage more fully with work as opposed to
labor and would see more time devoted to
constructive interactive leisure as opposed
to passive play.
The book takes the form of an extended
essay, consisting of seven chapters. It culls
secondary data, mainly published statistics
and polling data from around the world,
which are used to bolster the theoretical
arguments that are being made. The breadth
of empirical examples—from Europe, America, China and India—that the author
deploys is one of the identifiable strengths
of the book, although it is necessary to
emphasize that this material is used for
descriptive purposes rather than a serious
testing of the ideas that are being put forward. The other identifiable strengths consist
of prescient descriptions of the precarian
condition especially among youth, and
intriguing theoretical distinctions in the analysis. On the former point, consider Standing’s critique of multi-tasking, a requirement
for many precarians as a lifestyle ‘‘without
control over a narrative of time use, of seeing
the future and building on the past’’ (p. 130).
With regards to theoretical contributions,
distinctions between work and labor and
work-for-labor and work-for-reproduction
provide possible openings for further
However, it is in the use of new theoretical
constructs that Standing runs into trouble.
Many, beginning with the notion of a precariat, are underdeveloped. For instance, it is
not clear what is to be gained by substituting
a notion of the precariat in place of examining the remaking of working classes on a substantially different basis to those conditions
that were offered as part of the post-World
War II Fordist accord. Aggregating all of the
groups that Standing places in the precariat
(youth, women of the Third World, para-professionals, etc.) does a disservice to political
analysis, notwithstanding acknowledgment
that the precariat is a heterogeneous formation. In a similar vein, asserting that the era
of globalization came to an end with the
GFC (pp. 26, 58) or that neo-fascism is
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
a current alternative in Western societies
(p. 148), strike me as misdiagnosed. One is
left wondering what has replaced globalization, or how polities with an independent
judiciary and periodic elections can be characterized as ‘‘neo-fascist’’?
While The Precariat suffers from numerous
theoretical ambiguities, it does provide considerable food for thought and as such,
deserves to be read, discussed, and
Ethnographies of the Videogame: Gender,
Narrative and Praxis, by Helen Thornham.
Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011. 207pp.
$99.95 cloth. ISBN: 9780754679783.
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
[email protected]
Sociology has been slow to take videogames
(and gaming more generally) seriously. It
does not, however, have the excuse of not
having forbears who have treated games
sociologically. There is, after all, Roger
Caillois. But his bona fides as a sociologist,
admittedly, are at the very least debatable.
Ludology, the study of games that has come
in the wake of Johan Huizinga’s important
work, is an interdisciplinary endeavor
including historians, anthropologists and,
more recently, media scholars—but not so
much sociologists. Hence, Ethnographies of
the Videogame is a welcomed sign of the discipline coming to grips with contemporary
social realities.
Games, and specifically videogames, can
no longer be treated parochially. While ‘‘the
gamer’’ was in the mainstream viewed as
a socially marginal figure, and thusly elided
with ‘‘the geek,’’ the rising availability of personal computers and mobile technologies,
and the lowering cost of these devices, in
today’s digitized world with games integrated into our social networks and mobile
phones, prove empirically that videogames
cannot be ignored within the discipline.
Indeed, part of Helen Thornham’s project
is not only to bring videogames to the forefront of sociological thinking, but also to
argue that the practice of gaming is inherently social. Going against the grain of much of
Reviews 113
videogame theory which according to Thornham, overprivileges the game, she argues
that gaming is not a solitary experience but
is a social activity. Her central argument
then is that ‘‘gaming needs to be reconceptualized, not in relation to what the game
offers the gamers, but as a gendered, corporeal and embodied activity, framed by,
and deeply contingent on, techno-social experiences’’ (p. 1). In other words, her project is to
decenter the game in studies of gaming.
Yet a crucial question then emerges: how to
study videogames beyond, as Thornham puts
it, ‘‘the immediate moment of gameplay’’?
This of course is a matter of both theory and
method. Theoretically, she draws heavily
from feminist media theory, cultural studies
and new media theory, mainly in order to suggest that videogame theory has not sufficiently taken into consideration what Thornham
refers to as ‘‘the lived relations of gaming’’
(p. 9). This includes ‘‘conversations about
gaming, the practices of gaming, and reflections on gaming’’ (p. 8). Her aim is to broaden
the focus of scholarly research on games; they
are not played in a vacuum.
In order to study these lived relations,
Thornham uses an ethnographic approach
called ‘‘interpretative ethnography,’’ which
she, interestingly, associates with the work
of cultural studies scholar Ien Ang. She investigates non-familial gaming households
across the United Kingdom that play communally in the living room on a central gaming system, not alone on the PC. But she adds
an interesting modification to her ethnographic method. She interviews and observes
the subjects, and she also videotapes them.
She does so in order to view how bodies are
implicated in the social gaming experience,
and also to play the video recordings back
to the subjects to see how they narrate what
they are seeing. The social performance of
gaming, she suggests, reflects the desire of
gamers to ‘‘normalize gaming within their
lives through a specific mode of telling which
figures it as always-already an intrinsic part
of their identities’’ (p. 21). Weaving between
‘‘experience and explanation,’’ this method
allows her to explore ‘‘gamers and their habits’’ within the context of relations of the
body, technology and place.
A privileged theme throughout the study
is gender, which she pays attention to via
the interpretive lens of ‘‘ontological narrative.’’ Influenced by the theories of Paul Ricoeur and Teresa de Lauretis, Thornham
argues that ‘‘the stories gamers construct’’
(the way in which they narrate how they first
became gamers, or how often they game, or
what they do when they game) ‘‘position
them well within a masculine tradition of logic, reason and causality’’ (p. 20). Women
gamers thus have an additional burden in
this regard. This is particularly acute in the
articulation of pleasure. As she notes, during
interviews with the women of gaming households, ‘‘female gamers’’ (her term) tend not to
stake a claim in the gaming but situate themselves as ‘‘simply’’ joining in. This Thornham
calls a ‘‘position of exclusion.’’ Therefore
gaming is ‘‘a terrain on which a certain kind
of gender is produced, but also. . .a place
where masculinity and femininity is managed and negotiated’’ (p. 48).
While many of the chapters provide stimulating theoretical discussions and novel
empirical data, the strongest is Chapter
Four, ‘‘The Practices of Gameplay,’’ where
Thornham moves beyond the basic ethnographic method of participant-observation
and interviews to employ her videotape
method. The analysis she provides of the
recordings of gameplay ‘‘shift the focus
from what is said about gaming, to the actions
of gaming,’’ bringing to light issues of the
body in particular (p. 77). Her theory of the
gaming households’ formulation of ‘‘the
social’’ as physical co-presence, not gaming
or talking about gaming but rather being
there, is especially useful here.
There are some points of minor weakness.
First, while there are some quick asides critiquing videogame theory, especially its rather limited understanding of gender, there is
very little taking-up of authors such as Alex
Galloway, McKenzie Wark, and Lisa Nakamura. A full chapter devoted to this would
have substantiated her claim. Additionally,
while the use of narrative theory and its connections to sociology in the writings of
Anthony Giddens and Pierre Bourdieu is
quite unique, it deserves greater explication.
These are slight quibbles, as the scope of
Thornham’s study is specific to gaming.
Lastly, while this book aims to contribute to
the study of the cultures of gaming and
move beyond the gamer, it seems the most
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114 Reviews
glaring omission (at least in the United
States) would be the area of sports games,
especially as the heart of Thornham’s project
is to argue for the social nature of videogaming today. Although her location in the United Kingdom may be the reason for this, the
world of sports-oriented videogames, especially the Madden franchise, deserves some
sort of mention.
Ethnographies is a book of strong arguments made with the rare combination of
theoretical deftness and empirical rigor,
and should be thought of as a model for
future sociological scholarship in videogaming. It will appeal to students and scholars
alike of media, videogame theory, and
Unlikely Friends: Bridging Ties and Diverse
Friendships, by James A. Vela-McConnell.
Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2011.
240pp. $29.95 paper. ISBN: 9780739148754.
Stanford University
[email protected]
In his book about unlikely friendship patterns, James Vela-McConnell manages to
bring new material to the debate about social
boundaries and network homophily. He
does so via illuminating insights of how
race, gender, and sexual orientation organize
and structure individual identities. Do we
become friends with people who are like ourselves or do we become friends with people
who populate the same social spaces we
live in? And how salient are social boundaries in shaping individual identities? These
questions are at the center of the book and
Vela-McConnell goes after them by using
qualitative interviews with people who
have been able to construct, by choice or by
fortuitous circumstance, friendship ties
across cleavages. The unit of analysis for
the data Vela-McConnell collected is the
dyad, rather than the individual.
The use of qualitative tools with network
concepts is quite fascinating and one of the
book’s main strengths. Indeed, given the
salience of the questions the book aims to
investigate and consequently, the vast literature that exists (mostly based on the use of
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
quantitative tools, though), the insights we
get from the interviews presented in the
book are remarkable. As a network analyst,
I almost always infer individual motivations,
beliefs, and behavior using reference categories such as race or gender. Yet, VelaMcConnell shows that the connection between
a categorical identity and an individual’s values and beliefs is a construction not just on the
part of society, but also on the part of people
studying society like, for instance, me.
Indeed the book offers several examples of
friendships across boundaries. VelaMcConnell follows a very analytical framework for organizing his qualitative data,
something that makes the overarching argument of the book easy to follow. The heart of
the book is Chapter Two, where the bulk of
the data gets sliced according to the different
boundaries each couple of friends crosses:
status, gender, age, race, and sexual orientation lines. This is also the most interesting
chapter of the book because it contains most
of the interviews. The next chapter was
more problematic (Chapter Three: ‘‘Social
Boundaries in the Context of Friendships’’).
The goal here would have been to show
how these unusual couples navigate the complexity of their relationships and redefine the
meaning of (society-defined) boundaries.
What Chapter Three misses, and consequently one of the shortcomings of the
book, is an analysis of the institutions that
make ‘‘unlikely friendships’’ possible. These
institutions are often mentioned in the interviews (a local church, the family, etc.) but
Vela-McConnell does not incorporate them
seriously in the thread of his theoretical argument. In a sense, he remains a bit too close to
his dyadic data to support an argument
about the sociological significance of boundary reinterpretation through the experiences
of unlikely friends. Not engaging with the
role of institutions reduces this chapter to
psychological processes occurring within
each couple.
Part of the reason that the author did not
consider institutions more deeply resides in
a sort of normative argument weaved
throughout the book—that the friendships
the author analyzes are not just ‘‘unlikely,’’
they are also ‘‘desirable.’’ The normative
argument runs hidden through the book,
sometimes in parallel and sometimes
Reviews 115
intersecting the book’s main argument. The
points of intersection create tensions however, as for example in the section that covers
the sense of dissonance with the reference
community (gay or African American) that
some of the respondents experienced. Here,
Vela-McConnell quickly moves the argument
to individual psychological factors rather
than using the sense of dissonance to say
something more about those communities.
The normative argument also emerges
clearly in how the author constructed the
sample of couples to interview. He used
a snowballing network approach to populate
his analytical dichotomies. Yet, he started
the sample from his immediate circle of
friends—from the vantage point of somebody who is consciously making crossboundary friendships. While this is obviously
an advantage given the topic under investigation, Vela-McConnell seems to ignore the fact
that some of his interviewees clearly stylized
their lives so that they had ‘‘unlikely friends.’’
To his credit, the author is very well aware of
potential selection bias and in general, of the
methodological limitations of his analysis.
His upfront discussion of how he created
the sample of couples, along with the methodological appendix, was quite refreshing
and a useful read for people interested in
learning about qualitative methods.
Overall, the shortcomings in the book’s
data selection and argument are much outweighed by the quality of the interviews
and the clarity through which the author
guides the reader through the argument.
For people interested in how to reconcile network ideas with qualitative methodology,
this will be an important read. Equally relevant, the book talks to people interested in
how social boundaries reinforce individuals’
identities. To both audiences I would recommend reading this book carefully.
Generations at Work and Social Cohesion in
Europe, edited by Patricia Vendramin. New
York, NY: Peter Lang, 2010. 324pp. $59.95
paper. ISBN: 9789052016474.
York University
[email protected]
While there is a wide body of research examining changing patterns of work in the early
twenty-first century, little attention is paid to
the ways in which such patterns have differential effects across generations. Understanding the generational implications of
workplace and labor market change—particularly the spread of precarious employment,
increasing levels of unemployment, and neoliberal approaches to labor market policy—is
the aim of Generations at Work and Social Cohesion in Europe, a collection edited by Patricia
Vendramin. In addition, the text also questions the impact of such changes on broader
forms of social cohesion, as the contributing
authors query whether growing insecurity
in labor markets may provide a recipe for
generational tension and conflict. The empirical research for the book was carried out by
researchers from six European countries
between 2006 and 2008, who undertook individual narrative and group interviews with
respondents from three age cohorts (under
30, 30–50 years old, and over 50). This highly
detailed text is well suited for advanced
researchers studying the generational
impacts of changing labor markets, as well
as those interested in the social dynamics
of European employment patterns.
The text is divided into three sections. Part
I provides an overview of key sociological
concepts to the study of generations and
work, and identifies major patterns of workplace and generational change in the European context. In the opening chapter, Patricia
Vendramin and John Cultiaux note that growing unemployment and employer demands
for flexibility are common experiences across
many European labor markets, meaning that
work patterns are destabilized and in flux.
Young workers, who are increasingly well
educated, face prospects of employment that
do not fully reflect their credentials, while
older workers face growing precariousness
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due to the erosion of longstanding forms of
stable employment. Recognizing the central
role that work has played historically in providing meaning to peoples’ lives, Lucie
Davoine and Dominique Méda examine the
ways in which these forms of workplace
change have instigated a shift in the value
placed on work. They find that while work
remains an important and valued part of life
for most, this is less so among younger generations. Moreover, a significant number of
Europeans are expressing a desire that work
should occupy a less central role in their lives,
quite possibly due to the erosion of job security and working conditions, as well as the need
to create a balance between work and nonwork spheres of life.
Part II of the book examines these issues
through six country-specific studies. In
a study of Belgium, John Cultiaux and Patricia Vendramin note extensive differentiation
in attitudes and relationships to work both
across and within generational groups. In
particular, conditions that may be quite disruptive for older workers (e.g., insecurity)
are considered much more normal by younger workers. A noted commonality between
generations, however, is an increasing
demand for greater balance between work
and life outside of work. Götz Richter uses
results from both a series of existing surveys
and the project interviews to suggest that
there is ‘‘no explicitly generational consciousness’’ in Germany (p. 125). Nevertheless, the younger generation expressed
a strong desire for the attainment of a high
degree of social security, while the older generation not surprisingly expressed a strong
orientation toward retirement. Presenting
a French perspective, Béatrice Delay, Dominique Méda, and Marie-Christine Bureau
discuss the benefits of inter-generational
cooperation, particularly through older
workers aiding newly hired younger workers with integration into a workplace. Nonetheless, they also identify the potential for
conflict between generations, particularly
when younger workers are not given sufficient autonomy. Katalin Füleki, Orsolya Polyacskó, and Júlia Vajda contextualize their
Hungarian case study in relation to the
changing political regime at the end of the
Cold War. Through this transition, older
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
workers found themselves in a situation
where the knowledge and experience they
gained in the communist era no longer had
the same relevance, while younger workers
were more suited to the emerging economic
practices. All generations faced the prospects
of rising unemployment and insecurity, however. Looking to Italy, Adele Lebano, Maria
Teresa Franco, and Silvana Greco describe
the labor market situation as a competition
between younger and older workers. During
the 1990s, the experience held by older generations gave them an advantage, while in
more recent years, the ‘‘flexibility’’ of younger workers, as well as their willingness to
accept a lower wage, made them more preferable to employers. Finally, a study of Portugal by Ana Margarida Passos, Paula Castro,
Sandra Carvalho, and Célia Soares notes
that employers often view older workers as
experienced but inflexible, while younger
workers are perceived as more likely to promote innovation. Overall, these country-specific studies provide a highly detailed examination of national trends that are well
situated within a broader European context.
The final section of the text will be of interest to policymakers as well as academics, as it
raises policy solutions to both address growing labor market insecurity and promote
inter-generational social cohesion. Looking
at the European level, Marina Monaco identifies the need to combine an employment
strategy that promotes full employment
and high quality work with policies that foster cooperation between generations, for
example through mutual learning in the
workplace and lifelong learning through
education and training. Finally, Anna Ponzellini suggests that this process will require
stronger policies to facilitate transitions from
school to employment, welfare state provisions that promote ‘‘flexicurity,’’ and investments in human capital that support workers’ transitions between different career
stages. With this emphasis on the central
role of labor market institutions in shaping
the experience of work, the text offers concrete measures through which governments,
employers, and unions may each play an
active role in addressing the growing labor
market insecurity faced by workers of all
generations in contemporary Europe.
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Coming of Age in America: The Transition to
Adulthood in the Twenty-First Century, edited
by Mary C. Waters, Patrick J. Carr, Maria J.
Kefalas, and Jennifer Holdaway. Berkeley,
CA: University of California Press, 2011.
242pp. $24.95 paper. ISBN: 9780520270930.
The Pennsylvania State University
[email protected]
Have you finished school? Do you have
a full-time job? Do you no longer reside
with your parent(s)? Are you married? Do
you have children? Fifty years ago, many
Americans in their early twenties would
have answered ‘‘yes’’ to all of these traditional benchmarks of adult status. The transition to adulthood was early and compact,
and typically followed a neat progression
from school completion to career acquisition, and then to residential independence
and family formation. Yet, in Coming of Age
in America, we learn that twentysomethings
today follow a much slower and more
winding path to adulthood. In 2005, for
instance, less than 20 percent of Americans
in their late twenties had completed school,
acquired a full-time job, moved away from
their parent(s) home, married, and had children. Only one third of 30- to 34-year-olds
had experienced these ‘‘big five’’ markers
of adult status. Why does it take so long in
this day and age to become an adult?
In this terrific edited collection by Mary
Waters, Patrick Carr, Maria Kefalas, and Jennifer Holdaway, we hear the voices of young
adults from diverse backgrounds who are
coming of age in different parts of the
country. Their voices do not fit the stereotype
of ‘‘slacker,’’ ‘‘twixter,’’ or ‘‘adultolescent.’’
They have not retreated to their parent(s)
homes because they are unwilling to grow
up and accept the responsibilities that come
with full-time work, partnerships, and parenting, nor are they skirting obligations and
age-normative commitments because they
want to keep searching for the right college
major, job, or partner. Instead, we hear stories of how young people are actively striving to establish themselves as adults in
a changing landscape. For instance, the
decline in labor market opportunities for
low-educated workers and the increasing
demand for technically-skilled employees
has prolonged schooling and delayed career
attainment. Dramatic increases in the cost of
post-secondary education and housing, as
well as the growing acceptance of cohabitation and out-of-wedlock childbearing, have
diversified pathways of residential independence and family formation. These are
just some of the structural and cultural
changes that have made it increasingly difficult to attain the big five markers of adulthood at an early age, and rattled the once
normative script of an orderly transition to
To understand how contemporary young
people perceive and manage this turbulent
time of life, interviewees were drawn from
three existing longitudinal studies: The Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study, the
New York Immigrants Longitudinal Study,
and the Youth Development Study. Interviews took place in New York City, Saint
Paul (Minnesota), and San Diego, as well as
in ‘‘Ellis’’ (a renamed town of 2,000 inhabitants in rural Iowa). A total of 437 in-depth
interviews were conducted from the spring
of 2002 to the spring of 2003, and all followed
the same interview schedule.
Several themes emerged from the interviews: first and most importantly, orderly,
compact, and early transitions to adulthood
were the exception. Typically, the march to
adulthood was disordered and prolonged:
work coincided with school, marriage followed parenthood (if it occurred at all), and
some young adults moved back into their
parent(s) home after the completion of school
or when unions dissolved. Second, local context was key in shaping the timing and
sequencing of adult transitions. In rural
Iowa, for instance, respondents promptly
left the family home to either pursue higher
education or to start their own families and
continue working in the jobs they held as
teenagers. In New York and San Diego,
fewer respondents left the family home due
to the high cost of housing. Third, childhood
advantages had a long reach into adulthood.
Successful young adults spoke of how they
went to good secondary schools with small
classes, and how their parents encouraged
them to do well in school, attend college,
and prepare for a high-paying career; others
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talked of how significant others in the wider
community made them feel special and destined for greatness.
The chapter by Richard Settersten in particular, is excellent, for he drew upon interviews from all four sites to determine when
young people started feeling like adults.
For some, the subjective progression to
adulthood is gradual, as the feeling of being
an adult becomes more realized as experiences and adult transitions accumulate. Other
young adults identified marriage and parenthood as key turning points that solidified
their adult identity. Respondents also spoke
of how they felt less like adults when they
spent time with parents and siblings or
when they stayed out late with old friends.
The interviews show that attaining the
markers of adulthood does not necessarily
make one feel like a full-fledged adult.
They also show how experiences such as voting, volunteering, care giving for elders,
owning a car, and sitting at the ‘‘adult table’’
at family holiday parties can lead to subtle
shifts in viewing oneself as an adult.
While reading the chapters, I kept thinking
that surely the transition to adulthood is different now. After all, the interviews were
completed in 2003, long before the recent economic recession. In the concluding chapter,
Kefalas and Carr speculate on how scripts
regarding the transition to adulthood may
be changing in the post-recession world.
For instance, parents may be providing
more scaffolding for their adult children
who face limited job prospects and high levels of school debt. Thankfully, the interview
schedule is included in the appendix so other
researchers in new contexts can use it.
This edited collection is one of the first to
document the subjective experience of young
adulthood. It shows how the script for passing from teenager to adult has changed. It is
more disorderly and uncertain, and young
people feel that it is OK if some of these transitions occur at older ages, such as career
acquisition, marriage, and parenthood. Will
the ages of these big five transitions continue
to stretch further into the fourth decade of
life? We will see. But even with ever-older
ages of these adult transitions, as Settersten
points out, ‘‘chronological age eventually
becomes a sufficient condition for adult status’’ (p. 176).
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
The Politics of Child Sexual Abuse: Emotion,
Social Movements, and the State, by Nancy
Whittier. New York, NY: Oxford University
Press, 2011. 260pp. $21.95 paper. ISBN:
University of Delaware
[email protected]
Nancy Whittier’s The Politics of Child Sexual
Abuse: Emotion, Social Movements, and the
State describes thirty years of advocacy
against child sex abuse. The book delivers
a valuable challenge to explanations based
in moral panic that devalue both the existence of the problem and the efficacy of those
who have organized against it. Whittier
gives voice to brave women and men who
have insisted on their value, and who have
rejected excuses for child sexual abuse. Politics will be appreciated by scholars in gender
studies, deviance, and law and society.
The account of how child sexual abuse
became and has remained such a salient concern for culture and politics has been told
before, but not through this kind of detailed
interview and archival data. While past analyses have explained the uneasy coalescence
of conservative family value movements
with feminist and child protection advocacy,
Whittier’s data allow more nuanced understandings of the many groups, goals, successes, and co-optations that characterize
the social movements against child sexual
abuse from 1970 through 2000. Politics is
organized around Whittier’s identification
of five phases, which present rich new views
of advocates who have been criticized for
losing their critical edge. Instead, Whittier
shows that the various groups worked
with the available cultural discourses, and
a selection process (p. 15) determined which
tactics received widespread attention. In
particular, feminist critiques of patriarchy
and other structural arguments lost out to
the pathologizing and criminalizing that
had greater resonance with politics and other public priorities.
In the feminist phase (1970s-1980), feminists ‘‘sought cultural change through the
creation of new knowledge about sexual
abuse’’ (p. 7) that fed into a feminist self-help
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phase (1980–82) which challenged professional therapy and popularized therapeutic
tools. These foundational phases are important to distinguish from the single issue selfhelp phase (1981–92) which was roundly criticized in the wider culture and within feminist and other scholarship for its perceived
over-reliance on recovered memory. This
spawned the countermovement (1992–2000)
which will be familiar to many in the academy and which threatened to undo much of
the movement’s credibility and impact. But
the post-countermovement phase (late
1990s to the present) is marked by a continued politics of visibility (Chapter Seven,
especially pages 167–169) as well as a wing
of the movement directly involved in state
practices, including service provision.
The author’s forty interviews with advocates form the core of the book and, combined with the theoretical tools that examine
social movements and the therapeutic state,
provide a significant contribution. From
a work of sociology, readers would expect
more explanation of the sampling frame,
including a justification of the author’s contention that her subjects are representative.
Readers will also notice the lack of discussion
of the author’s subject position, including
any potential biases she may bring to the
research and analysis. This is an unfortunate
absence, since the book’s largely optimistic
view of movement efficacy may be related
to the inclination to empathize with the
impressive interview subjects, perhaps leading to a confirmation bias.
Clearly, much has changed. However
whether there is a causal link between the
particular advocacy she describes and the
salience of child victimization remains
unclear, especially given the historical evidence showing that such concerns, although
varying in their details, have driven law and
shaped culture for decades, if not centuries
(p. 7; see also Leon 2011). It would also be
interesting to examine whether the overall
drop in reported child abuse bears any relationship to the social movements, a drop noted but not examined in this book (p. 216 n. 1;
Finkelhor and Jones 2006)
In general, Politics highlights the need for
a systematic analysis of movement ‘‘success’’ and its definitions. The book begins
with sweeping claims, and does provide
convincing evidence of political and attitudinal change. But these do not entirely support
the broad claims. Within the text, success is
sometimes measured as increased awareness, including the achievement of recognition of male victims. But as the conclusion
discusses, this success is complicated by
the gender privilege and homophobia that
have prioritized male victims of Catholic
priests, for example. Other markers of success include increased access to treatment
from professionals who approach survivors
with empathy, and new laws and policies
that aim at child protection.
But we should not celebrate for long:
despite the intense awareness of child sexual
abuse that certainly characterizes the current
time, little evidence shows headway in
addressing the pervasive myth of stranger
danger. Our continued assumption that the
biggest threats to our children are unknown
monsters prevents the kind of mobilization
we must take as a society to insist that our
government invests deeply in truly preventative efforts, which would include empowering and aiding families, challenging patriarchy and the valorization of aggression,
and combating sexism and sexualization of
youth by our media.
Finkelhor, David, and Lisa Jones. 2006. ‘‘Why
Have Child Maltreatment and Child Victimization Declined?’’ Journal of Social Issues 62
(4): 685-716.
Leon, Chrysanthi. 2011. Sex Fiends, Perverts and
Pedophiles: Understanding Sex Crime Policy in
America. New York, NY: New York University
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
120 Reviews
Poor and Homeless in the Sunshine State: Down
and Out in Theme Park Nation, by James D.
Wright and Amy M. Donley. New
Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers,
2011. 323pp. $39.95 cloth. ISBN: 978141
University of Cincinnati
[email protected]
When people think of Florida, images of
sand beaches, sun-fueled outside activities,
and limitless orange groves immediately
come to mind. When one’s thoughts turn
more directly to the Central Florida region,
anchored by the city of Orlando, their minds
wander into the realm of the ‘‘most magical
place on earth’’ and a longing for the type
of weather that makes one yearn to spend
their retirement years in an area that rarely
experiences cold weather. This imaginary
world of never-ending joy and happiness
constructed by visitors to Orlando stands in
stark contrast to the real world everyday
experiences of many of the region’s twoand one-half-million residents. While the literal distance between the Walt Disneyinspired American playground and fantasyland, and the region’s poor and homeless is
relatively short, the figurative distance
between the two can be measured in light
years. Poor and Homeless in the Sunshine State
is a direct, thoughtful, and potentially policy-impacting examination of the experiences
of the poor and homeless in a region long
touted as being the ‘‘happiest place in the
world.’’ By placing the experiences of the
region’s most economically vulnerable population at the center of their analysis, James
Wright and Amy Donley provide an opportunity for a group often spoken about, but
not spoken to, to present first-hand accounts
of their conditions.
This book is a positive contribution to the
discipline for a number of reasons. First,
this project offers first-hand accounts of the
poor and homeless on the specific conditions
impacting their lives in a methodical,
detailed and insightful manner. From addiction to gender differences to racism to
notions of what defines true masculinity
and to the possibility of overcoming personal
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
failings, the authors allow in a very fluid
manner the poor and homeless to provide
context and humanness to this very important issue, for which they are impacted but
rarely have any opportunity to influence (at
least in a positive manner). In so doing, a second contribution of this project is that its presentation of the qualitative research methodology employed carefully balances the
typical academic articulation of the collection of data with an effective ‘‘how to conduct qualitative research using in-depth
and focus group interviews’’ in such a manner as to teach while informing the reader.
Not only does one learn about the condition
of the poor and homeless, they are offered
guiding points on how to engage in qualitative research while effectively teasing out
data making this book suitable for upper level undergraduate as well as graduate students. The last, and perhaps most important,
contribution of this book is its potential
impact on public policy with regard to the
poor and homeless. So often our elected
(and unelected) officials propose, develop,
and enact policies directed at politically vulnerable groups such as the poor and homeless without having gained a firm understanding of who these people are, how they
arrived at this point in their lives, and how
scholarly research on the topic can help in
the development of effective public policy.
In short, policy makers would be well served
to take into account investigations like this
when developing legislation and/or programs so that they may have a more holistic
understanding of the topic. The tradition of
conducting research that may be used for
social or public policy purposes by interested
non-academic parties dates as far back as W.
E. B. Du Bois’ works at Atlanta University
and Charles S. Johnson’s activities at Fisk
University. The authors are following this
tradition and this book provides an excellent
opportunity for politicians, policy makers,
and stakeholders to make informed decisions on the poor and homeless, especially
in the state of Florida.
The topical foci of this book are the poor
and homeless. However, its potential reach
includes those interested in urban sociology,
research methods, and public policy. This
book can be a useful tool in urban sociology
courses as it provides first-hand accounts
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and perspectives that are often little discussed, even in this topical area. While the
authors offer excellent insight into the everyday lives of its subjects (including a contemporary and timely discussion on military veterans) and provide insight into research
methods, the authors should be commended
for their ability to weave into their narrative
a review of the literature that makes even
the most novice expert in the field believe
they are up-to-date on the major research
findings in the area.
In many ways the poor and homeless are
often reduced to numbers and percents,
and portrayed on television within very narrowly constructed stereotypes. By filling
their book with the voices of Central Florida’s poor and homeless, Wright and Donley
afford them the opportunity to challenge
and dispel myths associated with poverty
and homelessness while potentially, and circuitously, influencing public discourse and
social policy. In short, the authors provide
a platform for a group of people who are
most informed, yet politically vulnerable,
on how policies directed at them actually
impact them. Many of us are hopeful that
more scholars will follow this model.
The City as Fulcrum of Global Sustainability, by
Ernest J. Yanarella and Richard S. Levine.
London, UK: Anthem Press, 2011. 285pp.
$99.00 cloth. ISBN: 9780857287724.
Institute for Technology Assessment and
Systems Analysis, Karlsruhe, Germany
[email protected]
Usually, political science and architecture
are separate fields in modern universities,
arranged in different faculties and departments. Research and academic exchange
across the borders of these disciplines is by
far not self-evident. Ernest Y. Yanarella, professor of political sciences, and Richard S.
Levine, professor of architecture, both at the
University of Kentucky, describe the beginning of their common and interdisciplinary
work: they crossed paths on the main campus of their university and started a conversation about the idea of sustainable cities.
This happened in the early stages of the
debate on sustainability, more than twenty
years ago by bringing together utopias and
ideas underlying their different disciplines,
such as the polis model of Greek political philosophy, and the ideal of a medieval Italian
hilltown, leading to a fruitful exchange
over decades. The main result of their common activities, to which the foundation of
the Center for Sustainable Cities at their university belongs, and their joint research are
collected in The City as Fulcrum of Global Sustainability, which can, in this respect, be
regarded as an interim harvest.
The point of departure is quite clear and
not surprising. It consists of two branches:
the global sustainability movement on the
one side including its well-known obstacles
and hurdles, and the ongoing global urbanization on the other. While urbanization frequently is seen as a threat, at least a challenge,
to a more sustainable development, the
authors regard urbanization also as a chance
in this respect. Their overarching objective is
to bring together the normative leitbild of sustainable development and the empirically
continuing process of urbanization, including issues of architecture and urban planning, governance structures, and technology.
Most of the chapters, in particular the more
theoretical and conceptual ones, are reprints
while others are original publications. The
introduction describes concisely the line of
argumentation and gives a brief but excellently written overview and insight into the
way of thinking of the authors. In particular,
the key message is presented and explained:
currently most of the sustainability activities
and measures are of the type ‘‘picking the
low-hanging fruits’’ which they regard as
absolutely not sufficient and even counterproductive (Chapter Five). On the contrary,
they propose the more ambitious path to
global sustainable development as ‘‘taking
the road less traveled.’’ At the heart of this
alternative path they see the concept of sustainable city-regions which is explained conceptually and illustrated by several cases.
The chapters are arranged within two
parts. Part I, ‘‘Strategic Considerations,’’
includes the theoretical and conceptual
work of the authors. Starting by scrutinizing
the very idea of sustainable development
and presenting their self-developed operative approach in this field (Chapter One)
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
122 Reviews
this concept is then applied to the field of cities leading to ‘‘The Sustainable Cities Manifesto’’ (Chapter Two). One of the messages
is that sustainable development should not
be restricted to environmentalism but must
include issues of social justice, the way of living and quality of life (Chapter Three). This
argumentation is in line with ongoing theoretical developments in the field of sustainability where the environmental aspects are
more and more regarded only as being part
of a much broader picture including not
only social and economic but also ethical,
cultural and political dimensions which
have to be considered in an integrative way.
The place of integration is, according to the
authors, the city, or, more accurately, the cityregion. The frequent restriction on cities in
their administrative extension is proved to
be not adequate in analysing sustainability
issues because of the interactions of cities
with regions. Therefore the authors propose
to regard city-regions as the smallest units
of sustainability considerations and offer
a ‘‘yardstick’’ to measure and to assess their
situation with respect to sustainability: the
Sustainable Area Budget (Chapter Five).
In this way, the ground is prepared for Part
II, dedicated to ‘‘Sustainable Cities Around
the World.’’ Case studies include North American cities such as Chattanooga in Tennessee,
Okotoks in Alberta, and the Austrian capital
of Vienna regarding the railway station plans
complemented by considerations on the actual situation, current developments, and perspectives for sustainable city-regions in China.
In the last chapter the authors extract the
essence of the previous chapters and draw
conclusions for the road ahead to sustainability. They regard the usual incremental
approaches, which are mostly restricted to
‘‘greening’’ this or that detail, as not appropriate for really meeting the sustainability
challenge. The ‘‘less-travelled road’’ they
propose relies on a strong understanding of
sustainability, the city-region approach and
a broad and integrative interpretation of sustainable development involving also social
issues. Two appendices include the Charter
of European Cities and Towns Towards Sustainability and the description of Emerald
City: A Role-playing Sustainability Game,
which was presented in Chapter Six. The
appendices nicely complement the book.
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
The book is well structured and well written in accordance with the highest standards
of the American tradition of scientific writing, being simultaneously precise and understandable. Jargon has largely been avoided,
and disciplinary borders of scientific language do not hinder the readability. The
authors note that their work was, up to
now, better received in Europe and Asia
than in the United States. They hope that
this book might improve the situation—and
I hope that their hope will be fulfilled.
In general, the book is a ‘‘must’’ for further
work on sustainable development in the field
of cities and urbanization, but also beyond. In
particular, the conceptual work on sustainable development will be of high value in other fields of sustainable development, too.
And, last but not least: the ceterum censeo of
the book, ‘‘do not restrict yourself to picking
the low-hanging fruits’’ should be taken seriously in many other fields for shaping our
common future.
Religion in China: Survival and Revival under
Communist Rule, by Fenggang Yang. New
York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2012.
245pp. $24.95 paper. ISBN: 9780199735648.
University of Southern California
[email protected]
Religion in China is a political economic/
sociological study of the post-1949 communist Chinese state’s ‘‘failed’’ attempt to wean
the Chinese people away from religion, and
of its subsequent attempts to regulate and
control the spread of religion in China. As
such, it is noteworthy for its institutional history of religious regulation under communism (p. 65ff.), and for its typology of the
multiple forms of atheism (militant, enlightenment, and mild) (pp. 45–46 and 62) that
have characterized periods in which the
intensity of state regulatory measures has
varied. It also provides excellent coverage
of the debates on the role of religion in society
that took place in the Chinese academy in the
1980s, the so-called ‘‘new opium war’’ (pp.
49ff. and 53). Was religion merely an ‘‘opiate
of the masses,’’ destined to wither away in
the face of modern science-based secular
Reviews 123
society, or did it have something positive to
contribute which might lead to its persistence? But the book is not an analysis of the
content of Chinese religion, its system(s) of
belief, cosmology, structure, or practice, and
anyone seeking such material would be
advised to look elsewhere.
Nevertheless, Fenggang Yang’s approach
is somewhat innovative insofar as he
employs a market perspective to analyze
the features of state-religion relations in China, and characterizes that market as tripartite, consisting of red, black, and grey markets. The red market refers to the five stateapproved religions under the control of
‘‘patriotic’’ associations—Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, and state-approved Protestantism and Catholicism. The black market refers
to churches and religious activities banned
by the state: underground pro-Vatican Catholics for a long period (p. 99ff.), and the house
churches (p. 102), as well as a variety of
‘‘superstitious’’ practices. The grey market
refers to spiritual organizations, practitioners, and religious practices with ambiguous legal status, which may be construed as
‘‘cultural’’ (pp. 54ff. and 112), ‘‘folk religious,’’ or ‘‘popular religious’’ (p. 23) in
nature, and thus escape to some extent the
heavy hand of the state.
This tripartite approach encompasses the
landscape of Chinese religious practice, and
therefore is initially appealing, and Yang
argues that these triple religious markets
may also be found in other nations where
conditions are similar—the free market
for religion is restricted, and the black market repeatedly and rigorously suppressed
(p. 160ff.).
Yang goes on to understand the ‘‘economy’’ of Chinese religion as a ‘‘shortage’’ economy, characterized by an artificial scarcity,
the result of state restrictions on the opening
of new religious sites, churches, and temples.
In a shortage economy, consumers must wait
for supply, queue up for goods when they
become available, and often settle for substitutes in the interim or when supply runs out
(pp. 124–5 and 139–40). Under heavy state
regulation, the supply of religion in China
is suppressed, resulting in ‘‘over-crowded
churches and temples. . .filled beyond capacity’’ (p. 144), and the proliferation of substitute ‘‘grey market’’ folk-religious practices,
and healing cults (qigong) (pp. 139–40 and
112ff.), all of which would seem to characterize accurately contemporary Chinese religious behavior.
Yang argues that the Chinese religious
landscape is one of state-imposed oligopoly
in which the five religions mentioned above
are recognized as legitimate. For Yang, recognition of the phenomenon of oligopoly constitutes an advance beyond sociological
investigations of religion in the modern
world, which have tended to dichotomize
the universe of state-religion relations as
either monopolistic or pluralistic (p. 160).
Yang then makes the somewhat questionable
claim that ‘‘The global fact of religious oligopoly makes it necessary to rethink and
reconstruct theories of church-state relations’’ (p. 166). Perhaps. . .but only in the
most superficial sense.
Yang argues that ‘‘the triple market theory
shows that market forces are at work’’
(pp. 122 and 178) in the sphere of Chinese
religion. But triple market theory assumes
that market forces are at work. It uses the
metaphor of the market to describe religious
participation in society. And yes, as Yang has
shown, the metaphor does work insofar as
its three ‘‘markets’’ are exhaustive of Chinese religious practice, and the characterization of the behavior one might expect to find
under conditions of shortage is certainly apt.
However, here Yang mistakes his metaphor for reality. Does it really make sense to
analyze religion and religious participation
in terms of markets? Why call these red,
black, and grey sectors of the religious
administrative landscape markets at all?
Are they markets in anything other than
a metaphoric sense? A slightly different perspective might describe them more appropriately as spheres of administrative enforcement. In this era when ‘‘rational choice’’
theories abound in the social sciences, it may
be fashionable to characterize the practice of
religion in market terms. But this exercise is
less than satisfying. While the model (or metaphor) ‘‘works,’’ we do not accomplish anything other than describing what exists, without actually explaining what is occurring.
Rather than applaud this expansion of the
scope of rational choice theory to include the
sphere of religion, we question whether we
learn anything new in the process.
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
124 Reviews
And finally, one minor point, on page 110,
there is a typo which only a handful of illuminati who had conducted research there might
notice—the city of Jinhua in Zhejiang province, the site of a new Huang Daxian temple,
is rendered as ‘‘Jianhua.’’
In general, for those who might not share
my skepticism regarding the characterization
of religion in market terms, the book presents
a novel approach to the study of state policy
with regard to religion in China that would
be a useful addition to syllabi for undergraduate or graduate seminars in Chinese or comparative politics, and to a lesser extent for
courses on Chinese religion. In either case, it
would need to be profusely supplemented
with additional texts.
The Politics of Belonging: Intersectional Contestations, by Nira Yuval-Davis. Thousand
Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2011. 252pp.
$46.00 paper. ISBN: 9781412921305.
University at Albany
[email protected]
The Politics of Belonging is about the ways in
which national identity and citizenship
have been undercut and crosscut in recent
years by other sorts of identities based on
gender, religion, ethnicity, locality, cosmopolitanism, and more. Nationalism, as the
author rightly reminds us, is itself a fairly
new concept. Until a few hundred years
ago, people were subjects not citizens, and
had little sense of or loyalty to the political
unit of which they were nominal members.
Rulers expected little of their subjects and
offered almost nothing in the way of rights
or benefits. If and when people were asked
who they were, or to what group they
belonged, their answers highlighted kin,
locality, or religion. Thus the era of nationalism, which many authors take as the norm, is
in fact from the long perspective of world
history a two or three century anomaly
which now may be coming to an end and at
least is being transformed.
Nira Yuval-Davis’ book therefore is welcome and needed. She has read widely and
in addition cites lectures and conferences
she has attended. Unfortunately, readers
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1
who are not already well acquainted with
the literature will have trouble following
and appreciating her insights into other
authors, which at times are cryptic or presented in passing. This is a book for those
who already are steeped in these debates.
Less knowledgeable readers will not gain
much sense of the logic and terrain of competing arguments. The lectures are mentioned more to pay tribute to colleagues
than to convey to readers what was said. In
any case, few of those lectures can be
accessed with the author’s references, some
of which are to websites that were taken
down before this book was published.
Yuval-Davis makes the important point
that individuals and social movements do
not select identities based on a single characteristic; rather they construct or interpret
themselves (and are constructed and interpreted by others) in the intersections of a complex of gender, race, class, nation, religion,
kin, and locality. Yuval-Davis goes beyond
the mere invocation of intersectionality to
show how categories are combined to assert
rights, to draw contrasts with or exclude
others, and to make claims on states or international bodies. This book is strongest in the
many moments when Yuval-Davis brings
insight to the ways in which such intersectional links are constructed and deployed.
Her discussions of indigenous peoples’
claims are especially insightful in showing
how they define land and property in very
different ways from nationalist ideologies,
and in showing how such claims can be egalitarian or elitist, inclusive, or racist, depending on their context. Similarly, Yuval-Davis
brings her deep knowledge of feminist
debates and theory, to which she has been
for decades a key contributor, to show how
feminist commitments to caring could
become a foundation for a new progressive
politics, even as it has been used on other
occasions to justify individualistic claims.
The author often is content to present logical possibilities for how identities can be
constructed, combined, and used to define
and challenge others. Yuval-Davis mixes
concrete examples with speculations on possible future identities (especially in her chapter on caring). As a result, readers will have
a hard time gaining a sense of historical
change from this book. Yuval-Davis has
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more to say about when theoretical arguments emerged than she does about when
the social movements, political entities, or
everyday practices those theories are supposed to explain themselves developed.
Readers are not offered justifications for
why Yuval-Davis focuses on certain locations, groups or events to study.
Yet, the bases for a more historicallygrounded account of how people’s senses
of belonging have changed, and how they
might change in the future, are scattered
and under-theorized in this book. YuvalDavis is concerned mainly with how people
think about and construct their identities
and then derive claims from their senses of
belonging. What is missing is an attempt to
address the objects of these claims. We read
about social movements, but they come
across mainly as places and occasions for
asserting identities and creating feelings of
Yuval-Davis’ analysis would have been
strengthened by more attention to the interaction between social movements and the
powerful actors and institutions against
whom those movements struggle. Just as
the national identities of the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries were created, and can
be understood only in relation to the aristocracies, corporate groups, kin networks,
churches, and imperial powers that were
attacked and destroyed by various nationalist movements, similarly we will gain a fuller
understanding of the new religious identities, and of the extent to which cosmopolitan,
indigenous, or caring identities develop, by
tracing the interactions of those social
movements with the institutions from
whom they seek liberation or upon whom
they make demands and extract concessions.
Yuval-Davis’ welcome and sophisticated
analysis of the intersections among identities
needs to be joined with a study of the interactions between challengers and incumbents,
between movements and institutions. States
remain the object of many if not most
demands, and nations still are the terrain
on which many social movements recruit
adherents and engage in politics.
How can we make sense of the causal relationships between the individuals and
groups that are creating and recasting their
identities and senses of belonging, and the
terrains on which they struggle, and the institutions in which identities are recognized
with social benefits and obligations? We can
best do that through historical analysis. We
see the effects of struggle, and of efforts by
the powerful to impose themselves on the
lives and identities of the rest, by tracing
change. The identities that Yuval-Davis enumerates exist in certain times and places. We
need to understand when and how they
emerge, change in their salience, and lose
Finally, we need to understand that not all
potential identities and collectivities are
equally viable. Utopias are fun to envision;
but both our sociological analyses and our
political efforts will be more fruitful if we
can place future possibilities in the context
of the actual trajectories of past historical
development. Yuval-Davis contributes to
the conceptual endowment we need to
engage in that historical analysis.
Contemporary Sociology 42, 1