On occasion, I find myself engaged in a conversation with a complete stranger—in an airport, on the bus, or in a bar. More often than not this stranger is demographically similar to me, white, college educated, and male. These discussions generally start off with greetings, introductions, and a conversation about what each party does for a living. Once the stranger learns that I am a sociologist who studies labor markets, work, and organizations, I can be fairly certain that the topic of race, employment, and Affirmative Action will soon ensue.
The OOW team is delighted to welcome a new regular contributor, Kevin Stainback, Associate Professor of Sociology at Purdue University.
Kevin has published leading research on inequality, work, and organizations. His recent book Documenting Desegregation (2012 Russell Sage), with Don Tomaskovic-Devey, explores changes in racial and gender segregation in Private sector U. S. workplaces since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In his first post, soon to be up, Kevin exposes the “myth of reverse discrimination” and discusses how the narratives underlying this belief function to maintain individual identities in ways that reinforce racial hierarchy.
This month I completed what the Australians call a ‘FIFO’ – a fly in, fly out visit to London. I was there to participate in a review of the ESRC-funded research centre SKOPE, based at Oxford University. The visit coincided with the funeral in London of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Reading through the UK press obituaries, I think that a fair summary of Thatcher political life was that while she loved Britain, she loathed the British. It’s interesting that if, as many of the right-wing commentators claimed, she changed Britain for the better, her offspring now live in the US and South Africa and also flew in for the occasion.
John F. Padgett and Walter W. Powell. 2012. The Emergence of Organizations and Markets. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Innovation in the sense of product design is a popular research topic today, because there is a lot of money in that. Innovation, however, in the deeper sense of new actors—new types of people, new organizational forms—is not even much on the research radar screen of contemporary social scientists, even though “speciation” (to use the biologists’ term for this) lies at the heart of historical change over the longue durée, both in biological evolution and in human history. Social science—meaning mostly economics, political science and sociology—is very good at understanding selection, both at the micro level of individual choice and at the macro level of institutional regulation and lock-in. But novelty, especially of actors but also of alternatives, has first to enter from off the stage of our collective imaginary for our existing theories to be able to go to work. Our analytical shears for trimming are sharp, but the life forces that push up novelty to be trimmed tend to escape our attention, much less our understanding. If this book accomplishes anything, we at least hope to put the research topic of speciation—the emergence of new organizational forms and people—on our collective agenda.
Amy J. Binder and Kate Wood. 2013. Becoming Right: How Campuses Shape Young Conservatives. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
For more than half a century, critics located in right-leaning think tanks, foundations, and the media have championed the cause of conservative undergraduates who, they say, suffer on college campuses. In books with such titles as Freefall of the American University and The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, conservative critics charge that American higher education has become the playpen of radical faculty who seek to spread their anti-religious, big government, liberal ideas to their young undergraduate charges. In this portrait of the politicized university, middle-of-the road students complacently consume their professors’ calculated misinformation, liberal students smugly revel in feeling that they are on the righteous side of the political divide, and conservative students must decide whether to endure their professors’ tirades quietly or give voice to their outrage, running the risk of sacrificing their grades. Administrators, according to the critics, do little to stop the madness.
To mitigate the effects of what they perceive to be an overwhelmingly liberal environment, conservative organizations such as the Young America’s Foundation and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute have sprung up to help right-leaning students. Yet over the period of time that these organizations have flourished, scholars have taken little systematic notice. In Becoming Right: How Campuses Shape Young Conservatives, we fill this gap. Our book—a comparative case study of “Eastern Elite Univerity” and “Western Public University”—covers several themes, including the demographic background characteristics of today’s conservative college students, the organizations that have worked for the past 50 years to mobilize and fund conservative students’ activities, an account of how young women on different campuses vary in their “conservative femininity,” and an analysis of students’ own thoughts about liberal bias.
Total national income can be divided into two halves: the wage share and the profit share. As sociologist Tali Kristal showed in a 2010 article in American Sociological Review, the wage share of national income has declined since the 1980s in the Anglo-Saxon countries, Continental Europe, and even Scandinavia. On average across 16 OECD countries, “labor’s share declined by almost 9 percentage points since the early 1980s, from 73 percent in 1980 to 64 percent in 2005.”
Sophisticated statistical research by heterodox macroeconomists – those who work outside of the mainstream based on theories developed by Marx, Keynes and Polish macroeconomist Michael Kalecki – has found that declining wage shares lead to lower GDP growth. In other words, if more national income was shifted from profits to wages, GDP growth would improve.
Where such a relationship holds true, growth is said to be “wage-led” – reducing the wage share generates slower growth; increasing the wage share would improve growth. If a reduction in the wage share did not result in reduced growth, then growth is “profit led,” meaning that investment demand offsets any decline associated with the reduced wage share.
A new report for the International Labor Organization has now shown that the G20 countries – which account for 80% of Gross World Product – as a whole are wage-led. In short, planet earth is wage-led.
In this post I briefly elaborate how these findings relate to the sociology of work before turning to explain the Kaleckian macro models in a bit more detail.
The latest issue of the academic journal Human Relations (Vol. 66, No. 4) is a special issue on the topic of “Understanding job quality.” The issue was guest edited by sociologists Patricia Findlay, Arne L Kalleberg and our own regular blog contributor, Chris Warhurst. The publisher, SAGE, has made the issue Free to the public until April 23, 2013. The full issue can be accessed here.
The special issue includes an intro by Findlay, Kalleberg and Warhurst, and additional articles on:
-Direct participation at work among British workers by Duncan Gallie
-Variation in job quality across Europe by David Holman
-Rural work in Newfoundland and Ireland by Gordon B Cooke, Jimmy Donaghey, and Isik U Zeytinoglu
-The extent to which North American workers are working full-time, contract, or part-time by choice or not by Catherine Loughlin and Robert Murray
-Job quality for university graduates in the UK by Belgin Okay-Somerville and Dora Scholarios
-The growth of bad jobs in the US by Matt Vidal