Saturday, June 27, 2009

Michael Jackson is Not My Music

In the flurry of Michael Jackson stuff this week, I posted as a Facebook status that I was "impressed that Michael Jackson's death was so engrossing to the world that Google thought it was under attack. I still don't care for his music."

I have been surprised at the incredulous responses that the last admission has brought - especially from people younger than me. I think the Jackson 5 stuff is part of the pleasant Motown background music. His solo stuff, not so much. I thought the politics of "Bad" were interesting, but not the song. I thought the politics of "Billie Jean" sketchy. For the rest - I guess I was never in his target demographic.

So, who is Michael Jackson for?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Vindication of Adolescent Romance

The current New York Times Review of Books carries a lead review of Cristina Nehring's A Vindication of Love. It is a defense of passionate romance against boring marriage.

Against Nehring I argue that marriage is a social institution that is first about raising children. A good marriage depends on the relationship of husband and wife, of course, and they will be happier if they are passionately attached to one another. Most married couples are.

It is typical of adolescents to think that marriage is primarily about them. Actually, it is typical of adolescents to think that everything is about them. The view that what makes marriage great is the stormy passion might be forgiven in a 15 year old. It is harder to credit in a grown up mom - well, older woman with a baby - like Nehring.

This vindication of "love" has more in common with Twilight than with good marriage and family life.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

This Week's Family Values Hypocrite Scandal ...

is not as bad as last week's.

Mark Sanford's adultery is as awful as John Ensign's. And it does bring the pro-marriage movement that I embrace into disrepute.

But Mark Sanford did not engage in the same kind of criticism of other people's sexual morals as Ensign did. Thus, the hypocrisy is not as great.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Jon and Kate Put Show Before Family

I am not a regular viewer of "Jon and Kate Plus 8," but my students are. For anyone in the family business the tale of how a couple copes with eight kids and keeps their marriage together is an interesting topic. Putting all the daily challenges on television couldn't help but multiply the difficulties.

As it turns out, they are not going to keep the marriage together. They justify their separation for the usual wrong reason - the kids will be happier if we are happier.

What is saddest in this whole sad episode is that when Jon and Kate were faced with the choice of keeping their marriage or keeping the television show, they chose the television show. As Kate said, "the show must go on."

I am not an expert in what sells on TV, but I expect that the appeal of this show depended on showing the couple coping. No couple, no show. I think this will be the last season of "Jon +/- Kate Mess Up 8."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Classification Schemes of Class Classification Schemes: A Request for Help

I apologize for a long post today. The detail matters for the question I am asking you.

I am studying the different fractions of the college-going class.

I post all of this to ask your help in thinking about how, exactly, to classify all the occupations I have collected. I want to be able to test whether there really are differences in the way of life of the "corporate management" fraction and the "knowledge professional" fraction of the college-educated class. I use these terms not to presume the answer to the question I am asking, but to give you an idea of the distinction I am after.

As part of this research, I have surveyed some of the alumni in the Centre College. I asked them for their specific occupational descriptions (my example was "sociology professor at a small college"). I also know their household income, highest education level, the specific college (obviously) and graduate school they attended, and the same for their spouses. In an experimental question, I also asked them to place themselves using the categories Upper management, Middle management, Professional, Knowledge industry, Creative class, Entrepreneur, Artisan, Worker, Homemaker, Leisure.

I am drawing upon the previous work of Joseph Soares, Pierre Bourdieu, Michele Lamont, and Richard Florida. Soares made my immediate model for this survey. Bourdieu produced the larger theory I am testing. Lamont is the best effort to apply Bourdieu. Florida is an alternative theory.

Below is a summary of their four classification schemes, then the author’s examples.

Soares: Professional, top 10% of income vs. Non-professional, top 10% of income
Florida: Super-Creative Core vs. Creative Professionals
Bourdieu: Dominated fraction, dominant class vs. Dominant fraction, dominant class
Lamont: Cultural and social specialists in the public, nonprofit, private sectors (including profit-related occupations in the public and non-profit sectors) vs. Profit-related occupations, private sector (both salaried and self-employed).

Below are some details and examples.

Joseph Soares, in Power and Privilege, was obliged to use the fairly rough "professional/not" categories in the National Educational Longitudinal Survey. His studies of Yale and Wake Forest alumni are my immediate models for this study.

Richard Florida, in The Rise of the Creative Class (69ff), contrasts the "Super-Creative Core" -
Scientists and engineers; University professors; Poets and novelists; Artists; Entertainers; Actors; Designers and architects; Non-fiction writers; Editors; Cultural figures; Think-tank researchers; Analysts; Other opinion makers - who are “producing new forms or designs that are readily transferable and widely useful” with the "Creative Professionals" - High-tech sector; Financial services; Legal profession; Health-care profession; Business management; Technicians (borderline) - who “engage in creative problem solving, drawing on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems.”

Pierre Bourdieu, in Distinction (Appendix 1) contrasts a (dominant) class fraction made of Commercial and Industrial employers with another (dominated) class fraction made of Public-sector executives; Engineers; Private-sector executives; Professions; Secondary teachers; Higher-education teachers; Artistic producers.

Michele Lamont, in Money, Morals, and Manners, separates her upper-middle class sample thus:

Cultural and social specialists, public and nonprofit sectors
Public school administrator; Academic administrator; Earth science teacher; Minister; Museum curator; Artist; Science teacher; Social work professor; Theology professor; Recreation professional; Civil servant; Computer specialist

Cultural and social specialists, private sector, profit-related occupations, public and non-profit sectors
Applied science researcher; Human resources consultant; Psychologist; Hospital administrator; Statistics researcher; Computer researcher; Economist; Labor arbitrator

Profit-related occupations, private sector (salaried)
Investment advisor; Chief financial officer; Banker; Insurance company v.p.; Plant facility manager; Corporate attorney; Computer specialist; Marketing executive; Computer software developer

Profit-related occupations, private sector (self-employed)
Lawyer; Portfolio manager; Computer consultant; Realtor; Custom house broker; Wholesale distributor; Proprietary broadcasting company; Proprietary car leasing company.

In Lamont, the first two make one fraction, the second, another.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Do Women Actually Respect Domesticated Men?

My post last week on Sandra Tsing Loh's divorce has led to a lively exchange about women who say they want sensitive, housework-sharing men - but then leave them for more masculine "bad boys." This comment from an anonymous responder lays out the issue nicely:

As a guy growing up with many sisters who believed that women should be in corporate america, pulling down work equivalent to the male jobs of the 70's, I was taught that what women found sexy was a man who was sensitive and could cook.
My first marriage of 7 years ended in divorce (no kids thankfully) when she decided I wasn't "sexy enough" anymore. She *thought* she wanted a sensitive man, but she truly desired the manly man - she wanted to be submissive at home.

Spent many years being single, dating, trying to find another woman who was like my first wife. Found many, but noticed a similar pattern - women who said they wanted the sensitive man really still wanted the "bad boy". They would joke about it, but in truth, I think they really did mean it. Last few years of being single I decided to switch roles and do the more "traditional" male role. Found out that I attracted essentially the same population of women as before, but was given a lot more leeway to not be the cook or the domestic god. Am now three years into my second marriage and it seems to be working a lot better, even though I feel sometimes guilty for going against the advice that my mother and sisters told me when I was younger.

BTW, two sisters are having similar complaints about their domesticated husbands. One of them wonders if he's actually a repressed homosexual.
My guess about what is going on here: these women don't think these nice, helpful, sensitive, equal guys could protect them in a pinch.

And egalitarian feminism (vs. the difference feminism that I subscribe to) produces a cloud of ideology which makes it difficult for such women and men to know what they actually want.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I Am Hopeful About Iran Because the Regime Is Religious

This is a risky post to make, because it could be overtaken by events even as I write it.

Nonetheless, I am hopeful that the rulers of Iran will not stomach a stolen election and attacks on peaceful protesters because they believe that God will judge their actions. This is no guarantee of decency, of course - some of their fellow pious Muslims, of a quite different stripe, commit suicide attacks every day in the name of the same God.

Nonetheless, when I compare the protests in Iran today with those in China in 1989, I am more hopeful. I expected the Chinese Communist regime to attack the protesters. Power in this world is the only thing that really matters to them. The ayatollahs in Iran, on the other hand, hold themselves to a higher standard. Some of the religious authorities have criticized the government for attacking the protesters and resisting a clean election result. I have heard that some of these religious authorities have a higher religious status than the supreme leader Khameni, though he is a cleric, too.

Nothing is determined, and there is no way to tell ahead of time how a crisis will be resolved. All I can say is that I see signs for hope in this crisis.