A Decade in a Handy Chart

Via the New York Times (click on the image for larger view):

Graphs like these are fun (like all the “bingos” variety) but they have a “flattening” effect. Each item is presented as as important as the others. In this case, even though there is a “fad” row, the entire chart has a fad quality.

When Good Policy Based on Legitimacy and Respect Loses Out to Bad Policy Based on Fear and Force

Via Laurent Mucchielli:

Behold the Sarkozy doctrine at work! It plays so much better with the compliant media to speak about taking out the vermin than engaging in long term policies. Never mind that community policing (or “proximity policing” in French), albeit not a panacea, has a better track record than just send Starsky and Hutch wannabes, all guns and sirens blazing. Of course, it also works best and plays well in the media when these hit and run policies are applied against a stigmatized population already perceived as incorrigibly delinquent (and not even really French!).

Policing sociology Christian Mouhanna outlines the stupidity of this antagonistic form of policing in a short paper that traces this freeze on community policing back to 2003 when Sarkozy declared that police officers were not social workers (how ironic considering funcing for local social workers were cut as well) and the security against urban violence (read: against youth of North African ancestry living in housing projects) would be the name of the game.

As Mouhanna notes, in this administration, there are only two types of police: a “cosmetic” one (community policing) and the “real” police, the one that kicks ass and takes names. The cosmetic one takes resources away from “operational” (in Sarkozy language, that means “real”) units. And as Mouhanna states:

Community Policing

This reflects an ideological positioning where police is expected to act against target populations rather than protect them. Control without dialogue. As Mouhanna notes, community policing is not a magic bullet but it is a small step in the direction of sensible policing where policing actually means stable police forces that are trained to reduce tensions and resolve conflicts through  extensive knowledge of the areas and legitimacy and respect from the population. When the population only encounters police forces through raids, mass ID checks and mass arrests for petty offenses, the results in terms of volume of criminality are just not there.

And let me just translate Mouhanna’s last sentence: “It seems that current political leaders prefer to not have police personnel who think too much, but rather who apply more or less realistic and appropriate directives straight from big bosses disconnected from field realities.”

And as mentioned, the media will be more than cooperative in making it look like these policies are actually adapted to a degrading urban reality where the population is a hostile force to be tamed.

The Photo of the Year

A Palestinian boy from Gaza flinches as other boys scare him with toy guns. Compare the level of media attention given to the assault on Gaza by the Israeli army to that of the repression of the movement in Iran.

See the whole collection here. As with the Boston Globe year in photos, a lot of natural disasters and low-attention conflicts as well as attention to indigenous peoples.

Being Vegetarian Turns Japanese Men into Girlie Eunuchs… Or Something Like That

That’s the gist of this ridiculous article from the Guardian from someone who, apparently, has not read a thing regarding the social construction and enforcement of gender.

So, what are the “grass eaters” like? Let me count the ways (and the stereotypes):

I’m curious as to where the line is between appropriate concern for appearance and “too much”. But let’s move on:

Wait… they do not have material aspirations but go on shopping trips like girls?? Let me see. According to this article, real men drive fast cars, drink, are interested in sex or food (but grass eaters are not but they dine out, go figure) and don’t take baths.

And my favorite:

HA! What a bunch of wusses! Real men bang left and right until they find the right female to settle with and pass their corporate warriors genes to their offspring.

And now, a little bit of fact-free drive-by stigmatization disguised as quote:

Funny how neither “traditionalist employers” nor “some women” are actually interviewed and how the author does not note that the Japanese birthrate has been very low for quite some time.

What a load of drivel.

Just a touch of sociological analysis would have noted that gender roles tend to be rigidly enforced and any gender deviance is met with social disapproval and stigma (hence the nickname “grass eater”). Research has also shown that there is a clear relation between food and gender, ever since Lévi-Strauss and the raw and the cooked. Meat eating is clearly associated with strong masculinity and so vegetarian and vegan men are a clear threat to traditional masculinity. Vegan men are often perceived as deliberately (and shamefully) renouncing their masculinity by rejecting meat (and other stuff but mostly meat), especially when such veganism is based on animal rights concerns (rather than just dietary health, for instance). Hunting and killing animals is the ultimate mark of masculinity as well.

But rather than examining gender roles in Japan, the article preferred to just reflect the “grass eaters are sissies” trope.

Disposable Americans

Louis Uchitelle‘s book, The Disposable American – Layoffs and Their Consequences is one of the best books I have read on the state of America’s labor force. Last week, he had an good article in the New York Times on the rise of potentially permanent temporary workforce:

According to Uchitelle, we are not in a situation where firms hire temps now and will give them full-time jobs once the economy picks up:

As they say, go read the whole thing.

The Visual Du Jour – Human-Induced Climate Change Consensus

Via Information is Beautiful, several different visuals but my favorite is this one:

And when one distinguishes by scientific discipline even further:

Good question. And for those of us who are regular readers of PZ Myers’s Pharyngula, we remember that quite often, creationists claiming a scientific background are often engineers. So, indeed, why do many engineers?

After Racist Computers, Misogynistic iPhone Apps

Is this stupid decade over already? Via Alex DiBranco over at Change.org:

Linking to a hall of shame over at Salon, by Jessical Roy:

Equality / Inequality

Social inequality is a central topic in sociology, which is why it comes up often on this blog. See, for instance, my reviews of Egalitarian Capitalism and The Spirit Level which directly deal with this topic. Sociology tends to focus not just on the descriptive side of inequalities (how extensive inequality is in a given society) but also focuses on impact (the mostly negative impact inequalities have on societies on multiple levels) and possible remedies (both books address that).

What is essential is that sociological research shows how much social inequalities are a product of social structures and processes and not individual innate abilities or failures. As always, structural issues require structural solutions. This is what Filip Spagnoli addresses in this recent blog post:

There is no real way around these things. Reducing inequalities involve redistribution. At the same time, since a lot of wealth is inherited and not earned, it is completely logical to tax it for redistributive purposes as such inheritance goes against meritocratic mechanisms. However, income inequalities are only one form of inequality.

Broadening the discussion, Philip Golub and Noelle Burgi, in the Social Europe Journal, think it is time to rebuild the social contract that was shattered by 20 or so years of neoliberal dominance, politically, economically and ideologically. And doing what Spagnoli suggests above implies the following:

Note that the authors speak of equality of outcomes, as opposed to equality of opportunity. Equality of opportunity (the Kenworthy view, if I may be so bold) is the soft version of egalitarianism, the one acceptable to American liberals. The idea is to remove obstacles to let everyone compete “fairly”, give everybody a fair chance. This is what non-discrimination policies are about. For instance, the Civil Rights struggle was about equality of opportunity. But, of course, this tends to minimize structural forces and opens to the door to neo-racist interpretations: if, even with civil rights, African Americans do not reach equality with whites, then it definitely means that are inferior.

Equality of outcomes (the Wilkinson approach) is much more radical. It is not “making everybody the same”. Equality is not the same as sameness and uniformity. What it means is to remove mechanisms of structural inequality and discrimination. This is much more controversial. Think affirmative action. Equality of outcomes means much more proactive policies to achieve equality at the end point (income, education, etc.) rather than at the starting point (equality of opportunity).

It is a testimonial to the success of neoliberal ideology that only equality of opportunity is allowed in polite conversations especially in the US.

A tall order but a necessary starting point that is a prerequisite to what Spagnoli suggests.

This does not mean that the neoliberal order is not suffering from its own crisis of legitimation, especially after the financial collapse and the exposition of the sociopathy of the financial class and its grip on the political class. But at this point, neoliberal power is micropower embedded in a multiplicity of institutions and organizations (including the media, for instance) which makes it harder to uproot or to simply challenge.

The Visual Du Jour – Global Recession Status

Click on the link below for a much larger and interactive map:

Certainly, Southeast Asia distinguishes itself. As for the recovering regions, this does not indicate how long this recovery is supposed to take or whether these countries are out of the woods yet. People who have been consistently correct in their economic predictions, like Ian Welsh, have warned that there might be another wave of foreclosures. And, of course, the US economy is dragged down by the ever increasing costs of health insurance.

Similarly, these visuals are frustrating because they are broad brushes. “Recovery” for whom, which categories of the population? (The same goes for the other categories as well) “Recovery” as in “back to square one” or something different? And, of course, the map is based on narrow economic measures that have been contested for their lack of specifics and nuances by none other than the Stiglitz panel. They are not social measures.