Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sociology is Phronesis

Sociology is phronesis (practical wisdom) of how philosophy is turned into institutions.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Placebos Work Because Doctors Show That They Care


Hidden Brain has a wonderful podcast on why the placebo effect works.  Placebos often show strong medical effects.  Even in surgery, and not just with drugs.  Even in "open label" experiments, in which the patients know they are being given a placebo.

The reason seems to be that when we know that someone listens to our problem and cares about our suffering, it helps us mobilize our own hidden resources for healing.

To me, this reinforces the basic premise and endless finding of sociology:  we are social beings, who flourish when we invest in one another.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

The "Self-Governing Class" Splits Off in Early Adolescence, and Almost Nothing Can Induce the Rest to Join Them Thereafter



Markus Prior, a distinguished professor of politics at Princeton, has tried to figure out why some people (like me and, presumably, Professor Prior) are extremely interested in politics, and most people are not.  He shares the fruits of his research in Hooked: How Politics Captures People’s Interest (Cambridge University Press, 2019).  I read this work with great interest, as my ongoing project is to try to get more students to be active "polis makers."  Prior does clear out most of the popular explanations offered by political science.  In the end, though, he only deepens the mystery.

Below is my review for Choice, which summarizes the problem. 

About 10% of people are extremely interested in politics, and another 25% are very interested.  These constitute the “self-governing class,” which does the vast bulk of political actions of every kind, including voting.  Political interest is very stable over the life course.  Established in early adolescence, interest level solidifies in early adulthood. People who are more curious, open to experience, smarter, and from higher SES families are more likely to be highly interested in politics.  Prior (Politics, Princeton), turned to three massive panel studies, in Britain, Germany, and Switzerland, to try to answer the question “Why are some people highly interested in politics, and some are not?”  Ultimately, he could not answer the question.  The tree seems to fork in early adolescence, before most surveys begin.  The bulk of the book is given over to niceties of technical method. He clears out a number of possible explanations, showing that events, personal or political, do little more than create a small, temporary bump in political interest.  Having gone as far as survey methods are likely to go, this vital question needs qualitative work with children to get to an answer.

Friday, February 15, 2019

In Types of Communication, Transmission = Report, Ritual = Rapport?

Jay Rosen has interesting series of tweets about "transmission" vs. "ritual" communication.

The upshot is that some kinds of communication are meant to transmit information, while others are meet as a ritual of sharing to affirm our solidarity.

This seems to me to match Deborah Tannen's insight that a standard male form of communication is to "report" -- transmitting information, expecting the transmission of information back. 

By contrast, a standard female form of communication is designed to establish "rapport" - the sharing of experiences and feelings about them, meant to establish that we are similar.


Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Right is Moved By Wounded Status

The right hates the elite most of all, from a feeling of wounded status.  That is also the source of their racism.

They oppose "government" not from a theory of what makes society work better, or even what makes the capitalist economy work better.

They hate the government because it is run by people who think they are better than the right. 

To make things worse, the government elite helps people get ahead who the right thinks are beneath them or behind them in line.