Social Mobility and Transfer of Privileges

In its report Going For Growth 2010, the OECD examines intergenerational mobility across its member countries. It also provides a good definition of intergeneration mobility:

Intergenerational Mobility - OECD

So, how do OECD countries fare when it comes to the transmission of privileges (and disadvantages) and intergenerational mobility?

Intergenerational Mobility OECD Graph1

So, the UK, Italy, US and France are the countries with the least amount of intergenerational mobility and persistence of earnings across generations whereas Nordic countries tend to have more mobility.

As Filip Spagnoli notes, these data (and others that can be found in one chapter of the Report, which is to be fully published in March) debunks the myth of the efficiency and openness of the Anglo-Saxon model of public policy as opposed to the continental (or mainland, as Spagnoli calls it) model based on stronger social safety net:

The neoliberal framing of public policy has worked as the continental model is believed to be less efficient, less motivating (“why would people work hard if they are going to pay taxes to support welfare-dependent deadbeats?”), more flexible (FSM knows neo-liberals love flexibility!) and that inequality is a reflexion of individuals’ work ethics and motivation and a small price to pay for the freedom to succeed.

Data such as those above are not new but they do highlight how simplistic these beliefs are. As Spagnoli notes,

Actually, as The Spirit Level notes, high inequality is bad for society, even when accompanied with economic growth in affluent countries. And as Lane Kenworthy has noted as well, the often-mentioned trade-offs to greater equality are weak to non-existent once one looks at the data.

Actually, I would argue that if we truly believed in meritocracy, we would ban inheritance so that everyone truly starts with an economic blank slate and provide education to provide equality of opportunity on the social and cultural capital fronts.

The Patriarchy Continuum – Variations on a Theme

By now, you probably have read Jessica Valenti’s piece in the Washington Post, along with the myriad of sexist comments that prove her point: that  gender equality is far from established in the United States:

I argued here before that the patriarchy is a cultural and structural continuum: and that what Valenti writes about is, in essence, no different from this:

To pretend that there are essential differences between the physical and structural violence depicted by Valenti and the excerpt above is a neat ideological construct that Western patriarchal systems and proponents use to stifle demands for equality whereas to emphasize the continuum nature of the patriarchy emphasizes the “work-in-progress” nature of the struggle for equality, culturally and structurally. And the angry and sexist reactions to pieces such as Valenti’s speaks volume of the strongly internalized nature of patriarchy as ideology.

Similarly, this familiar story is part of the same continuum:

I should add that I have issues with this instrumental view of girls’ education (“let your girl go to school and the return on investment will be greater!”) or that somehow, once educated, girls have a responsibility for the development of their country. I never see such expectations mentioned when it comes to boys.

In a more humorous fashion, Abstruse Goose captures the same idea:

Unemployment Round-Up

The news is not really good:

The stories are devastating and clearly point to the urgency of labor policy.

Over at The Baseline Scenario, James Kwak has a series of graphics that give some nuance to unemployment data, especially on long-term unemployment. Click on the image for a larger view.

Needless to say, our social structures are not designed for long-term unemployment (and the dominant ideology is merciless on this front, especially when it comes to minorities). The looseness (to use a kind word) of the safety net in the US makes it even harder for a lot of people to weather the recession, and, by extension, will delay recovery. This is where public policy should kick in but probably won’t.

Tout Augmente, Même La Misère

Title shamelessly borrowed from Gianni Silei.

Click on the image for humongous version.

What is the Basic Capabilities Index?:

In greater details:

The Failures of the Global Financial Architecture with Flash Animation

This is a must-read by Social Watch:

This is one of the smartest explanation of the global governance system and its systemic failures. This slide is unsurprising but still needs to be noted as a systemic feature:

This one is equally well-known and lip service is often paid to “reform”:

Bringing Power and Dominance Back into The Network Society

According to this article in El País (in Spanish), this is is what Manuel Castells does in his latest book Communication Power but it does not mean that he has given up on the emancipatory potential of the Internet:

Read the whole thing.

Although I would argue that power was not as absent of The Information Age as the article makes it sound. Castells made it very clear that the Network Society produces winners and losers (the usual suspects, labor for instance). And the conflict dimension was more thoroughly addressed in the other volumes of the Information Age.

Needless to say, that book is in my to-read ever-growing pile. Castells is in line for my sociologist of the semester category.

Google Buzz and The Surveillance Society

After reviewing the various privacy issues relating to Google Buzz, Christian Fuchs argues that Buzz is only the latest tool used by Google to exercise economic surveillance and that we should worry about such developments for the following reasons:

When thinking about the surveillance society, it is common to assume that the deepest mechanisms of surveillance come from the government in the age of the war on terror. I would argue that there is as much to fear from economic surveillance from corporations. And Fuch’s list above only confirms such problems with corporate economic surveillance beyond obtainment of more and finer data.

Oh, and I could not help note the irony at the bottom of Fuch’s post:

No Racial Profiling at All… Nothing to See… Moving Right Along…

Paging Todd Krohn, my favorite critical criminologist, about this:

Let us review: Blacks and Hispanics may show up in higher proportion in crime statistics NOT because they commit more street crimes, but because they are subjected to police scrutiny to an extent disproportionate to their proportion in the general population. If cops were constantly monitoring us white folks that way, the crime statistics would look different.

The constant stopping and frisking of certain segments of the population also generates resentment in said population and lowers the respect they have for police officers perceived as harassing them. Hence, community – police interactions are also more likely to be conflictual.

For Pete’s sake, don’t they read The Saints and the Roughnecks in criminal justice programs anymore?

Saints and Roughnecks Excerpt

A Sociology of Global Chaos?

The dominant mythical narrative of globalization (a la Tom Friedman) is one where the Global North is politically stable, economically prosperous and culturally modern as opposed to an overpopulated, politically corrupt, economically under-developed and socially chaotic Global South. As such, the Global North could dictate economic policies to the Global South through institutions of global governance such as the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO. With the US and European-led recession and the collapse of Greece, it might be time to revise that narrative.

Will Hutton:

Immanuel Wallerstein:

Is it any wonder that the neoliberal state is largely a repressive and war-making state “thriving” in the global risk society.

A Unique and Centralized ID Device… What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

At face value, something like this may seem practical:

However, in the context of identity fraud and the surveillance society, this is worrisome as well. The idea of complete centralization of information on individuals has the potential for so much damage and risks (in Beck’s sense) that such a device could only work with an army of precautions.