Saturday, August 29, 2015

World Getting Better: Female Genital Mutilation Banned in Nigeria

Nigeria banned female genital mutilation, also called female circumcision, in May.  The law was passed under the former Christian administration, and has come into enforcement under the new Muslim administration.

While the practice is not specific to one religion, it is more common among Muslims.  Some extreme Muslims promote it as a religious practice, which is part of the reason that it has spread from East Africa into Nigeria and other West African countries.

Nigeria is the biggest country in Africa and the potential super-power of the continent.  It is being torn by an intense Muslim-Christian conflict that is just short of civil war.  If Nigeria can enact this law, and really enforce it, amidst such a conflict, then there is great hope for banning the practice in Africa altogether.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Ashley Madison's Millions of Fake Women

The hacking of the adultery website Ashley Madison found that men's accounts outnumbered women's by about five to one.  This is not surprising.

What is more interesting is that the great majority of women's accounts on the site appear to have been fakes, many of them created by the company itself.  One of the striking findings from Gizmodo's analysis of the accounts:

Out of those 5.5 million purported female users, [Gizmodo analyst] Newitz says that only 1,492 had ever checked their inboxes.
Women do commit adultery.  But not for the same reasons as men.  Men are much more likely to wish to have sex with other women besides their wives, even though most of these men also want to preserve their marriages.

Women, by contrast, tend to use adultery to explore a potential new mate.  Women rarely want novel sex just for the novelty - or the sex.  Men do.

Men signed up for Ashley Madison by the millions.  Most probably got no further than the fantasy of adultery.  Women, it seems, only signed up by the thousands, at best. And very few used it to pursue an affair with a stranger.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Positive Sociology Begins with a Change of Perspective

My seven-point Positive Sociology Manifesto. 

1. Positive Sociology begins with a change of perspective

Many sociologists are first introduced to the discipline through C. Wright Mills’ The Sociological Imagination. From the very first, Mills defines sociology negatively:

Perhaps the most fruitful distinction with which the sociological imagination works is between ‘the personal troubles of milieu’ and ‘the public issues of social structure’. … An issue is a public matter: some value cherished by the public is felt to be threatened. (8)

Consider, therefore, the difference it would make if, instead, we started from the distinction between ‘the personal blessings of the lifeworld’ and ‘the good order of social structure’.

In every sphere, for each application of the hermeneutics of suspicion there is a counterpart application of the hermeneutics of appreciation.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Donald Trump as "Republican" Front-runner Would be Like Kanye West as Democratic Frontrunner.

Republicans, please take back your party!

The Republican Party has, historically, been a party of actual governance.

The Tea Party, by contrast, is a party against government.

The alliance with the Tea Party has caused more harm to the Republican Party than good.

It has opened the door for Donald Trump to be the "Republican" front runner, though he is even farther removed from any kind of governance than the Tea Party is.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Positive Sociology and a Proportionate View of Inequality

I got to take part in a panel at the American Sociological Association meeting on “Towards a Positive Sociology”.   I told the story of how I have been developing my “Happy Society” class.  I offer a seven-point “Positive Sociology Manifesto”, which I will share with Gruntled Center readers hereafter.

One issue that I have been wrestling with is that sociology as a rule is overwhelmingly concerned with unearthing inequality, which we often assume is a bad thing as such.  I think this view of inequality, and its presumed moral meaning, often cuts our investigations short, and makes sociology less useful to society.

I have therefore been wrestling with this proposition:

Negative sociology takes equality as a natural state, which is distorted by social practices.  Positive sociology takes inequality as a natural state, which is balanced by social practices.