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Wiley: The British Journal of Sociology: Table of Contents

“You have to do something”: Snoring, sleep interembodiment and the emergence of agency

 

Abstract

Although the sociology of sleep is a growing subfield, little is known about agency in the context of sleep. This article contributes to the sociological literature by showing how different types of agency emerge as a result of sleep interembodiment (i.e., experiencing sleep partners’ bodies as intertwined). The study draws on qualitative data generated through in‐depth interviews with 70 snorers and 20 sleep partners of snorers. Interviews were conducted in Israel and were analysed following constructivist grounded theory principles. Results indicate that two types of agency coexist and, in fact, co‐constitute one another: The first type, herein termed material agency, reflects the post‐humanist tradition, which conceptualizes agents as entities (whether human or nonhuman) that alter a state of affairs by making a difference in another agent's action. This type of agency exists in both wakefulness and throughout periods of sleep, as the snorer’s body acts and interacts with a partner's body in ways that engender significant change in their lives, relationships, and actions. In contrast, the second type, herein termed reflexive agency , reflects the humanist tradition, which regards agency as individuals' creative and assertive capacities motivated by intentionality and reflexivity. This type of agency declines significantly during stages of deep sleep but re‐emerges in response to partners' actions. The article adds to the literature by refining the concept of agency and elucidating its relationship to both accountability and interembodiment. In addition, the article provides much‐needed empirical evidence showing how “personal responsibility” for health, as required by neoliberal discourses, is invoked within families, specifically with regard to sleep. This study therefore shows how certain macro‐level structures of neoliberalism are enacted and reinforced within micro‐level interactions.

 

7 July 2020, 5:40 pm
Hollywood experts: A field analysis of knowledge production in American entertainment television

 

Abstract

How can we make sense of numerous instances of experts in politics, law enforcement, national security, military defense, fire arms, public health, culture, and history working closely with creators of scripted television series in the USA today? Why do TV makers need them? Why and how do these experts come to Hollywood? In order to answer these questions, I carried out a Bourdieusian field analysis of contemporary American TV series production, with a focus on how knowledge about political and social issues is produced and used in the TV industry. I identify four major expertise providers—the state, social movements, research organizations, and independent experts—and build a macro model of expertise exchange in the field of Hollywood TV. I argue that expertise in Hollywood is a form of capital which Hollywood professionals exchange for symbolic capital within the industry and in the field of power; it is also a form of capital that agents of the state, social movements, and research organizations exchange for symbolic capital in the field of power; and finally, independent experts trade their knowledge to accumulate economic and symbolic capital within the industry. This model is based on the analysis of data I collected during fieldwork in Los Angeles over 10 months in 2017–2019, which includes 159 interviews, 7 observation sessions, and archival materials.

 

3 July 2020, 1:30 am
Max Weber’s antinomies of the Fall: Paradisiacal ethics and the populist Zeitgeist

 

Abstract

This article points out that the way the biblical myth of the Fall has been interpreted in the Judeo‐Christian tradition is a crucial heuristic in the works of Max Weber, an assessment that hitherto largely remained unnoticed. Nevertheless, Weber's understanding of everyday action is closely related to the various religious interpretations of what deprivations were suffered by humanity as a consequence of Adam's original sin and the paradisiacal yearning for salvation it engenders. Moreover, Weber's interpretation of the Fall is characteristic for his tragic sociology in the sense that it guarantees the freedom to subjectively create self‐conscious meaning that is, however, no longer embedded in a context of common knowledge. His solution to this epistemological problem involves a Nietzschean heroic existentialism whereby individuals give personality to one's character by freely choosing their own values. Yet, he also realizes that many will not be able to choose by themselves and, therefore, will be attracted by charismatic leaders that can invoke a paradisiacal community of choice. Weber's modern antinomical interpretation of the Fall is still relevant today because it provides insight in the epistemological underpinnings of the contemporary populist Zeitgeist.

 

2 July 2020, 8:51 pm
The contextual effect of trust on perceived support: Evidence from Roma and non‐Roma in East‐Central Europe

 

Abstract

In recent years, trust has been conceptualized as an important source of social capital, setting off cross‐disciplinary research on both the benefits and predictors of trust at the individual and contextual level. In this paper, we turn to the individual outcomes of living in a trustful context, and explore the relationship between trust, itself one of the main components of social capital, and social support, seen as one of the most important effects of social capital. In particular, we ask how social capital—and the relationship between trust and social support—functions in the context of unequal societies. We model perceived support as an outcome across three levels, from no support to proximate to distal support, and using a cross‐national study of Roma and non‐Roma across 12 European countries, we track the relationship between trust and support across both mainstream and marginalized populations. Our findings suggest that living in contexts with more trust has protective effects particularly for members of marginalized groups: the Roma are more likely to have distal support in contexts with higher trust. We conclude that contextual trust helps to broaden the circle of support beyond family and friends; thus, trust can indeed be a synthetic force that binds individuals together in broadened structures of support.

 

26 June 2020, 8:24 pm
“Involved in something (involucrado en algo)”: Denial and stigmatization in Mexico’s “war on drugs”

 

Abstract

This article responds empirically to the question posed by Stan Cohen about “why, when faced by knowledge of others’ suffering and pain—particularly the suffering and pain resulting from what are called ‘human rights violations’—does ‘reaction’ so often take the form of denial, avoidance, passivity, indifference, rationalisation or collusion?”. Our context is Mexico's “war on drugs.” Since 2006 this “war” has claimed the lives of around 240,000 Mexican citizens and disappeared around 60,000 others. Perpetrators include organized criminal gangs and state security services. Violence is pervasive and widely reported. Most people are at risk. Our study is based on qualitative interviews and focus groups involving 68 “ordinary Mexicans” living in five different Mexican cities which have varying levels of violence. It investigates participant proximity to the victims and the psychological defense mechanisms they deploy to cope with proximity to the violence. We found that 62 of our participants knew, directly or indirectly, one or more people who had been affected. We also found one dominant rationalization (defense mechanism) for the violence: that the victims were “involved in something” (drugs or organized crime) and therefore “deserved their fate.” This echoes prevailing state discourses about the violence. We argue that the discourse of “involved” is a discourse of denial that plays three prominent roles in a highly violent society in which almost no‐one is immune: it masks state violence, stigmatizes the victims, and sanctions bystander passivity. As such, we show how official and individual denial converge, live, and reproduce, and play a powerful role in the perpetuation of violence.

 

9 June 2020, 3:00 am
Agricultural capitalism, climatology and the “stabilization” of climate in the United States, 1850–1920

 

Abstract

Drawing from theory on the “co‐production” of science and society, this paper provides an account of trajectories in US climatology, roughly from the 1850s to 1920, the period during which climatology emerged as an organized branch of meteorology and government administration. The historical narrative traces the development of climatology both as a professional/institutional project and as a component of a larger governmental logic. Historical analysis of climatologists' scientific texts, maps, and social organization within government provides a sociological explanation for the emergent “stabilization” of climate as a geographic‐statistical category. Climatic stability , defined by the view that climate is unchanging, was advanced over this period in a way that linked the interests and practices of climatologists to actors invested in facilitating and administrating commercial agriculture and trade. I position the logic of climatology and the discourse of climatic stability historically, with reference to prior concern with climate change and, in recent decades, efforts to govern global warming through geoengineering climatic stability.

 

2 June 2020, 1:57 am
Underground testing: Name‐altering practices as probes in electronic music

 

Abstract

Name‐altering practices are common in many creative fields—pen names in literature, stage names in the performing arts, and aliases in music. More than just reflecting artistic habits or responding to the need for distinctive brands, these practices can also serve as test devices to probe, validate, and guide the artists’ active participation in a cultural movement. At the same time, they constitute a powerful probe to negotiate the boundaries of a subculture, especially when its features are threatened by appropriation from the mass‐oriented culture. Drawing evidence from electronic music, a field where name‐altering practices proliferate, we outline dynamics of pseudonymity, polyonymy, and anonymity that surround the use of aliases. We argue that name‐altering practices are both a tool that artists use to probe the creative environment and a device to recursively put one’s creative participation to the test. In the context of creative subcultures, name‐altering practices constitute a subtle but effective form of underground testing.

 

1 May 2020, 3:00 am
Testing planets: Institutions tested in an era of uncertainty

 

Abstract

Prior accounts of the experimenter’s regress in laboratory testing are set against the background of a relatively stable institutional context. Even if the tools are new or the object of investigation is unknown, participating entities are named, a certain degree of funding is presumed, and an organization exists to conduct the test. In this paper, I argue that this background assumption obscures the importance of institutional and organizational context to the sociology of testing. I analyze ethnographic data gathered among a NASA team whose funding is uncertain, whose mission organization is not yet established, and whose object of investigation is inaccessible. In what I characterize as “ontological flexibility,” I reveal how scientists shift their accounts of object agency in response to changes in their institutional environment. As they describe the moon as “uncooperative” or “multiple” while they make appeals to institutions at various stages of support in their exploration projects, this reveals the presence of an “institutional regress”: a previously overlooked aspect of the sociology of testing.

 

1 May 2020, 3:00 am
What’s on trial? The making of field experiments in international development

 

Abstract

In the last 20 years, the drive for evidence‐based policymaking has been coupled with a concurrent push for the use of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) as the “gold‐standard” for generating rigorous evidence on whether or not development interventions work. Drawing on content analysis of 63 development RCTs and 4 years of participant observation, I provide a rich description of the diverse set of actors and the transnational organizational effort required to implement development RCTs and maintain their “scientific status.” Particularly, I investigate the boundary work that proponents of RCTs—also known as randomistas —do to differentiate the purposes and merits of testing development projects from doing them, as a way to bypass the political and ethical problems presented by adopting the experimental method with foreign aid beneficiaries in poor countries. Although randomistas have been mostly successful in differentiating RCTs from the projects evaluated, I also examine cases where they were not able to do so, as a means to highlight the controversies associated with implementing RCTs in international development.

 

1 May 2020, 3:00 am
What the pregnancy test is testing

 

Abstract

Is the test result positive or negative? Tests that occur in labs and doctors’ offices pose specific questions to try to obtain specific information. But what happens in the social world when these tests never see the inside of a lab or doctor's office, and instead they are used in a house, in a Walmart bathroom, or in a dormitory bathroom stall? Putting the diagnosis aside, what does the presence of these tests do to social life? This paper examines one such test, the home pregnancy test, and specifically, its use in contemporary intimate life of people who do not want to be pregnant. Pregnancy tests test for pregnancy. But what else is the pregnancy test putting to the test? To investigate this, I spent 8 years studying American pregnancy tests using a qualitative mixed methods approach. This paper draws on some of my research materials, specifically, 85 life history interviews. Each participant was asked to recall, in full, all of their experiences with home pregnancy tests throughout their lives, resulting in well over 300 narratives of home pregnancy test usage which I qualitatively analyzed. I find that more than just a test for a pregnancy, the use of the home pregnancy test is a test of roles, relationships, and responsibilities in social life. These findings suggest implications for social life as more biomedical tests move out of the purview of the medical establishment.

 

1 May 2020, 3:00 am
What do stress tests test? Experimentation, demonstration, and the sociotechnical performance of regulatory science

 

Abstract

After their successful introduction during the 2007–2009 financial crisis, central bank stress tests were adopted as a fixture of international banking supervision. However, in recent years a new normal has emerged where banks are expected to pass the tests, raising questions about the tests’ usefulness and legitimacy. Combining a dramaturgical interpretation of regulatory science with the idea of performativity in the sociology of finance, this article understands stress tests as a sociotechnical Goffmanian performance. With a focus on the Bank of England’s program, the paper argues that the Bank’s decision to make their tests “predictable” is an attempt to shore up central bank legitimacy by constraining regulatory discretion. This is accomplished through the use of calculative and procedural stage management techniques which allow the Bank to control the contingency of the testing process while demonstrating its objectivity. Nevertheless, the conclusion suggests that in the context of low levels of trust in central banks, routine declarations of “all clear” may undermine public confidence in the tests’ credibility and necessity. The study draws on 20 interviews with high‐level regulators, financial practitioners and other stakeholders in the Bank of England’s stress tests.

 

1 May 2020, 3:00 am
Issue Information ‐ Toc

The British Journal of Sociology, Volume 71, Issue 3, Page 417-418, June 2020.

1 May 2020, 3:00 am
Prototyping public friction: Exploring the political effects of design testing in urban space

 

Abstract

The use of prototypes as testing instruments has become a common strategy in the innovation of services and products and increasingly in the implementation of “smart” urban policies through living labs or pilots. As a technique for validating hypotheses about the future performance of products or policies, prototyping is based on the idea of generating original knowledge through the failures produced during the testing process. Through the study of an experimentation and prototyping project developed in Santiago de Chile called “Shared Streets for a Low‐Carbon District,” I analyse the technique of prototyping as a political device that can make visible (or invisible) certain entities and issues, determining what the experimental entities can do and say. I will show how the technique of prototyping defines modes of participation, what is visible and thinkable, what can be spoken and what is unspeakable. In this sense, I examine two ambivalent capacities of prototyping: as a mechanism of management and enrolment that seeks to prescribe normativities (problem‐validating prototype) and as an event that can make frictions tangible, articulating matters of concern and ways to open up alternative scenarios (problem‐making prototype).

 

1 May 2020, 3:00 am
Preface to a special issue on the sociology of testing

The British Journal of Sociology, Volume 71, Issue 3, Page 420-422, June 2020.

1 May 2020, 3:00 am
Put to the test: For a new sociology of testing

 

Abstract

In an age defined by computational innovation, testing seems to have become ubiquitous, and tests are routinely deployed as a form of governance, a marketing device, an instrument for political intervention, and an everyday practice to evaluate the self. This essay argues that something more radical is happening here than simply attempts to move tests from the laboratory into social settings. The challenge that a new sociology of testing must address is that ubiquitous testing changes the relations between science, engineering, and sociology: Engineering is today in the very stuff of where society happens. It is not that the tests of 21st‐century engineering occur within a social context but that it is the very fabric of the social that is being put to the test. To understand how testing and the social relate today, we must investigate how testing operates on social life, through the modification of its settings. One way to clarify the difference is to say that the new forms of testing can be captured neither within the logic of the field test nor of the controlled experiment. Whereas tests once happened inside social environments, today’s tests directly and deliberately modify the social environment.

 

1 May 2020, 3:00 am
The red and the black: China’s social credit experiment as a total test environment

 

Abstract

China's social credit system is an unusually explicit case where technology is used by multiple actors to turn human behavior into a test object on behalf of the state's goal of modifying the larger social environment, making it an intriguing setting for thinking about the new sociology of testing. This article considers how China's search for a usable “credit” score to both allocate financial resources and explicitly measure a citizen's trustworthiness creates an emergent experimental system of governance similar to, yet not quite captured by, the kinds of experimental processes observed in literature on the platform as a form of market‐based governance. As a site where “seeing like a state” and “seeing like a market” converge, the social credit system is a vantage point for observing the changing relationship between moral and economic domains in an era of digital platforms. The article highlights the experimental quality of the system and its emerging system of governance structured around reward and punishment and argues that strategic ambiguity, institutionalized through the affordances of digital platforms, is an important part of the design of this large‐scale social experiment.

 

1 May 2020, 3:00 am
Co‐existence or displacement: Do street trials of intelligent vehicles test society?

 

Abstract

This paper examines recent street tests of autonomous vehicles (AVs) in the UK and makes the case for an experimental approach in the sociology of intelligent technology. In recent years intelligent vehicle testing has moved from the laboratory to the street, raising the question of whether technology trials equally constitute tests of society. To adequately address this question, I argue, we need to move beyond analytic frameworks developed in 1990s Science and Technology Studies, which stipulated “a social deficit” of both intelligent technology and technology testing. This diagnosis no longer provides an effective starting point for sociological analysis, as real‐world tests of intelligent technology explicitly seek to bring social phenomena within the remit of technology testing. I propose that we examine instead whether and how the introduction of intelligent vehicles into the street involves the qualification and re‐qualification of relations and dynamics between social actors. I develop this proposal through a discussion of a field study of AV street trials in three cities in the UK—London, Milton Keynes, and Coventry. These urban trials were accompanied by the claim that automotive testing on the open road will enable cars to operate in tune with the social environment, and I show how iterations of street testing undo this proposition and compel its reformulation. Current test designs are limited by their narrow conception of sociality in terms of interaction between cars and other road users. They exclude from consideration the relational capacities of vehicles and human road users alike—their ability to co‐exist on the open road. I conclude by making the case for methodological innovation in social studies of intelligent technology: by combining social research and design methods, we can re‐purpose real‐world test environments in order to elucidate social issues and dynamics raised by intelligent vehicles in society by experimental means, and, possibly, test society.

 

1 May 2020, 3:00 am
State work and the testing concours of citizenship

 

Abstract

Anyone trying to be a citizen has to pass through a set of practices trying to be a state. This paper investigates some of the ways testing practices calibrate citizens, and in doing so, perform “the state.” The paper focuses on three forms of citizenship testing, which it considers exemplary forms of “state work,” and which all, in various ways, concern “migration.” First, the constitution of a “border crossing,” which requires an identity test configured by deceptibility. Second, the Dutch asylum process, in which “being gay” can, in certain cases, be reason for being granted asylum, but where “being gay” is also the outcome of an examination organized by suspicion. And third, the Dutch measurement of immigrants’ “integration,” which is comprised of a testing process in which such factishes as “being a member of society” and “being modern” surface. Citizenship is analyzed in this paper as accrued and (re)configured along a migration trajectory that takes shape as a testing concours , meaning that subjects become citizens along a trajectory of testing practices. In contributing both to work on states and citizenship, and to work on testing, this paper thus puts forward the concept of citizenship testing as state work, where “state work is the term for that kind of labor that most knows itself as comparison, equivalency, and exchange in the social realm” (Harney, 2002, pp. 10–11). Throughout the testing practices discussed here, comparison, equivalency, and exchange figure prominently as the practical achievements of crafting states and citizens.

 

1 May 2020, 3:00 am
The social stratification of time use patterns

 

Abstract

Time use is both a cause of social inequality and a consequence of social inequality. However, how social class stratifies time use patterns is seldom studied. In this paper, I describe the time use patterns in the years 1983 and 2015 by social class, and gender in the British context. Using sequence analysis methods, I show how the diversity of time use patterns in British society is socially stratified. I find that 13 clusters capture the heterogeneity of time use patterns and that these clusters are associated with social class, gender, and day of the week. These clusters capture patterns of paid and unpaid work schedules, as well as leisure patterns. The results show that men have experienced a reduction of the standard Monday to Friday 8‐hr working day, while women have experienced a general increase in this type of schedule. On the other hand, patterns of domestic working days have reduced for women and increased for men. Important differences exist in paid and unpaid work patterns between social classes. Working‐class women have experienced an important increase in shift work on weekends. They are also much more likely to be doing unpaid work on weekdays compared to upper‐class and middle‐class women. Working‐class men are more likely to experience non‐working days and leisure days on both weekdays and weekends and are more likely to be doing shift work. They are also more often doing unpaid work on weekdays compared to men in upper‐class households. Patterns of childcare indicate that all families have increased their childcare time. Men in upper‐class households in particular have experienced an important growth in childcare time between 1983 and 2015. I conclude by discussing how time use can further our understanding of social stratification.

 

29 April 2020, 8:01 pm
Occupational inequalities in volunteering participation: Using detailed data on jobs to explore the influence of habits and circumstances

 

Abstract

In this paper we present empirical results that show that detailed occupations have distinctive patterns of association with voluntary participation. We draw upon data from four secondary survey datasets from the UK (coverage 1972–2012). Occupations are shown to link to volunteering in a wide range of scenarios and in individual, household, and longitudinal contexts. We argue that these linkages provide insight into social inequalities in volunteering, and that they can help us to understand the relative influence of “circumstance” and “habits” in enabling or inhibiting voluntary participation.

 

20 April 2020, 2:42 am

British Journal of Sociology

British Journal of Sociology is published on behalf of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) is unique in the United Kingdom in its concentration on teaching and research across the full range of the social, political and economic sciences. Founded in 1895 by Beatrice and Sidney Webb, the LSE is one of the largest colleges within the University of London and has an outstanding reputation for academic excellence nationally and internationally.

Mission Statement

• To be a leading sociology journal in terms of academic substance, scholarly reputation , with relevance to and impact on the social and democratic questions of our times

• To publish papers demonstrating the highest standards of scholarship in sociology from authors worldwide;

• To carry papers from across the full range of sociological research and knowledge

• To lead debate on key methodological and theoretical questions and controversies in contemporary sociology, for example through the annual lecture special issue

• To highlight new areas of sociological research, new developments in sociological theory, and new methodological innovations, for example through timely special sections and special issues

• To react quickly to major publishing and/or world events by producing special issues and/or sections

• To publish the best work from scholars in new and emerging regions where sociology is developing

• To encourage new and aspiring sociologists to submit papers to the journal, and to spotlight their work through the early career prize

• To engage with the sociological community – academics as well as students – in the UK and abroad, through social media, and a journal blog.

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