Saturday, September 05, 2015

Our Taste Shows More in the Categories We Value Than in the Goods We Choose

I have begun a research project looking at the coherence of our tastes.

Today we beta tested the interview with two couples I know well.

As the conversation developed, the main subject of our concerns was more about how our values shaped our lives.  Our tastes appeared not in particular objects, but more in which categories of objects or practices we thought represented important choices or tradeoffs of values, and which were more utilitarian.

I think we will still be able to pursue our ultimate, Bourdieuian, objective in exploring the relationship between class fraction and taste.  I think people in different places in the class and status structure will value different categories of goods and practices differently.  Which specific goods they choose, though, will probably turn out to be of secondary importance.

Friday, September 04, 2015

There Are More Trees in the U.S. Now Than There Were 100 Years Ago

Because we burn less wood, and because we manage forests that we do use better, there are more forests, and more trees, than there were a century ago.

This is very good news for a variety of reasons, not least for fighting global warming.

Our better forest management is also a good example of public/private partnerships.  Governments created useful standards for how best to manage forests.  Many private landowners planted trees on previously cleared land, or just let it revert to nature.

Much of this macro-level improvement is the result of many micro-level decisions. There are as many good unintended consequences as bad ones.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Positive Sociology - The Last Two Points

These are points six and seven of my seven-point Positive Sociology Manifesto

The previous points are here: Other points are here: 1234, 5.

Positive Sociology teaches a sense of proportion about the groupings in society.  A sense of proportion - of whether my bubble is common on unusual, whether my sense of the sacred is widely shared or only in a small group - is essential, because ...

Positive Sociology appreciates that competition for the social sacred is not a war, but the workings of a never-ending ecological process.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Positive Sociology Humbly Accepts That More Complex Social Phenomena Emerge

       Point Five of my seven-point Positive Sociology Manifesto.

Other points are here: 123, 4.

Positive Sociology humbly accepts that more complex social phenomena emerge as we move from the micro to the meso to the macro levels of society, which are increasingly difficult to study and understand.

That more complex social phenomena emerge at higher levels of social organization is an idea that all kinds of sociology should embrace.  This is our bulwark against many kinds of reductionism, which not only miss the forest for the trees, but levels the forest in the process.

Positive sociology can humbly accept the idea of emergence, because finding what makes for a happy society gets exponentially harder as we move to each higher level of social organization.  As much as we owe to Positive Psychology for exploring individual and small group happiness, we cannot replicate their success simply by replicating their methods with larger groups.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Positive Sociology understands that well-functioning institutions are necessary to a happy society

Point Four of my seven-point Positive Sociology Manifesto.

Other points are here: 12, 3.

Happy individuals are not enough to make a happy society. 

Social institutions provide the structures that foster, or hinder, a happily functioning society – including the environments in which individuals can live more or less happily.

Of social institutions, the ones that seem to have the greatest impact on people working together to do meaningful work are families, religious communities, and voluntary associations.  Happiness, and the virtues that conduce to it, seem to depend more on the institutions of soft power than on the hard power of the political economy.

In a larger view, though, the good interaction of all institutions is necessary to a happy society.  Which takes us from the meso to the macro.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Positive Sociology Builds on the Micro Foundations of What Makes Most People Happy

Point Three of my seven-point Positive Sociology Manifesto.

Other points are here: 1, 2

Positive Psychology has done a generation of fine research and practical applications to identify what makes individuals and small groups happy.

In essence, when people have basic security in their finances and health, what makes them happy is to build good relations with their families, co-workers, and neighbors, to engage in meaningful work, and to work with others to serve a cause larger than themselves.

There are many exercises that help people develop the habits of gratitude for what they have, and the desire to work with others for the common good. 

Positive sociology can embrace these findings and practices wholesale.  This is the part that most people care about in their daily lives.  Building positive individual and small-group practices helps build the happy society incrementally.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Positive Sociology Asks Us to Be Willing to Accept Good News

Point Two of my seven-point Positive Sociology Manifesto. 

The other points: 1

When Steven Pinker started lecturing on The Better Angels of Our Nature:  The Surprising Decline of Violence, he spent half his time answering his audience's disbelief that violence was declining.  They were so entrenched in the view that things are bad and getting worse, they wanted to reject evidence that the very things they wanted to improve were, in fact, improving.

The world is getting better in many respects.  The world gets better for the good reason that we want to solve problems, and often do.  To be sure, new problems arise.  Some problems are the fruits of new conditions; some are the unintended consequences of prior solutions.  But human being are ingenious in figuring things out, including good things.

Positive sociology asks us to start with a commitment to look for good news, to seek out improvements, and to be willing to accept them when we find them.