Central Banks, Technocratic Power, and the Fear of Democracy

Photo Shape Editor: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/shape-toolJacqueline Best has an interesting new article that starts with catchy and provocative analogy and then presents thought-provoking discussion and arguments:

What do border guards and central bankers have in common? Both operate, on a day-to-day basis, in political spaces exempt from many of the norms of liberal democratic politics and yet have the power to define and constrain them. In order to understand the role of such routine suspensions in the norms of liberal politics, we need to move beyond analyses that focus narrowly on security exceptionalism or emergency-management and pay attention to the practices of technocratic exceptionalism. Drawing on Foucault’s lectures on biopolitics, I examine the ways in which economic theory and practice has sought to resolve some of the central tensions in liberalism by protecting the market from too much democracy—a kind of exceptionalism exemplified by the doctrine of central bank independence.”

In the course of the paper Best infers that:

“[Ordoliberal and neoliberal economists’] theories retain a rather conservative skepticism about the democratic process… Through their efforts, pockets of technocratic exceptionalism have been integrated into the rhythm of everyday political-economic life, suspending democratic oversight over certain economic decisions.”

Open access to this worth-reading paper: Best, Jacqueline. 2018. “Technocratic Exceptionalism: Monetary Policy and the Fear of Democracy.” International Political Sociology https://doi.org/10.1093/ips/oly017

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B&B: Herbert Marcuse // The Adjunct Crisis // Against Capitalist Orthodoxy // Gender and finance // History of taxing the rich // (Im)mobility in the rural America // Inventing Thanksgiving

This time, especially worth reading  and sharing articles:

> Herbert Marcuse on how the Frankfurt School reevaluated Marxism following the failure of crises to destroy capitalism, the philosophical roots of the student rebellions of the 1960s, and more — in a 1977 interesting video interview with Bryan Magee

> The adjunctification of the Professorial Class. The biggest problem with organizing around labor issues in academia is that academics are loath to see themselves as labourers; but intellectual work and teaching are labour — by Nair Yasmin

> The fundamental problems of capitalism are: weak and unstable growth; stagnant living standards and rising inequality; and environmental risk. Which economic ideas can successfully tackle these challenges today? — by Michael Jacobs and Mariana Mazzucato 

> Gender power relations and financial governance: reflections on the position of women within broader class struggles regarding finance and money in the history of the modern state — Adrienne Roberts elaborates on Samuel Knafo’s The Making of Modern Finance

> Analyzing two centuries’ history of progressive taxation in the US, Canada and Europe. Christopher May reviews Taxing the Rich: A History of Fiscal Fairness in the United States and Europe, by Kenneth Scheve and David Stasavag

> Moving no longer means social mobility; staying no longer means immobility. As America’s rural communities stagnate, what can we learn from one that hasn’t? — by Larissa MacFarquar

> Commercial invention of tradition: How businesses and advertising shaped Thanksgiving as we know it — by Samantha N. N. Cross

economic sociology

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Economics as Religion


(Photo courtesy of  Jodi Beggs – Everglades, Florida, USA, 2013)

I rest my case 😉 

Or, at least, Max Weber could be assigned to teach it… 🙂  

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The Melodramatic Side of Political Economy

Oscar Wilde

Miss Prism: “Cecily, you will read your Political Economy in my absence. The chapter on the fall of the Rupee you may omit. It is somewhat too sensational. Even these metallic problems have their melodramatic side.
Cecily [Picks up books and throws them back on table]: 
Horrid Political Economy!…


(The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde, 1895)

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Sociology Journals and Network Proprieties of the Matthew Effect

by Luca Carbone*

Science is a political field. As Bourdieu peremptorily said “the scientific field is the locus of a competitive struggle, in which the specific issue at stake is the monopoly of scientific authority (1975: 19).
Shifting a little the focus, sociologist Robert Merton tackled in his seminal Science article (1968) the issue of how this authority is acquired looking at the “ways in which certain psychosocial processes affect the allocation of rewards to scientists for their contributions” (p 56). These processes are not only crucial for the ways ideas and findings spread in the scientific community, but are also the product of individual and structural characteristics of the system in which scientific practices are embedded in. The main point in Merton’s article was showing that a basic mechanism through which scientists acquire credits for their work depends on the class system “based on differential life-chances which locates scientists in differing positions within the opportunity structure of science” (p. 57). This is the Matthew effect, for which “eminent scientists get disproportionately great credit for their contributions” (p. 57).
Using bibliometrics data, I have explored one of the possible ways in which this phenomenon unfolds, looking at the citation patterns that sociological journals followed in 2017.
Table 1 shows the 26 journals, selected among those common in three web archives (Scimago, Scopus and Incites), that constitute the nodes in the network. The edges could be conceptualized as the number of times in 2017 journal A has cited an article published in journal B in all the possible years in which journal B could have published an article. Nodes have different weights, computed as linear sum of the indicators used to quantify the impact of a journal (this choice is due to the intrinsic limits of the Impact Factor (IF), as presented by Larivière and Sugimoto (2018)but also due to the consideration that these metrics measure different aspects of a journal), and edges have different sizes (according to the number of times each journal cites the others).
Journal in the network
Looking at the characteristics of this network at the nodes level, three concepts are particularly important: degree, betweenness, and eigen centrality. Overall, most of the nodes have a degree centrality above 20 (on a scale up to 35), which means that journals often have links with many other journals; secondly, those in the very center of the graph, with a higher degree centrality and hence more connected with the overall network, are in general those journals with a higher impact.
Another important nodes’ feature is betweenness centrality, which indicates on how many paths between other nodes each node is positioned (measuring how much information they are able to gather). One journal in particular, Social Science Research, places itself in between a great variety of patterns. This means that publishing in that journal allows the authors to be in between other journals’ patterns, both in terms of citing, they cite more often other journals, and in terms of being cited, this journal is cited by a more diverse set of journals. The rest of the network is consistently at the edge, indicating a low overall level of betweenness centrality. Figure 1 shows the distribution of journals in terms of betweenness centrality.


Betweenness Centrality

Figure 1: Betweenness Centrality. The more yellow the node, the higher the weight; the closer the node to the center, the higher its betweenness centrality (i.e. advantage in acquiring information).

To have an idea about the journals’ prestige also in terms of citations (and not only weights), the concept of eigencentrality is particularly helpful. It describes the degree of centrality of each node, taking into account the centrality of their neighbors. In this network, the most important journals in terms of weight have also a better position in terms of visibility. In fact, the nodes at the center of the graph are mostly light and closer to the yellow part (indicating a higher weight). This is shown in Figure 2.


Figure 2: Eigencentrality. The more yellow the node, the higher the weight; the closer the node to the center, the higher its eigenvector centrality (i.e. the more central neighbors that node has).

Because this is a direct network, it is important to evaluate which ties are better able to spread the information around the network, for which two measures are particularly explicative, authority and hub. An authority is a node with many other nodes linking to it, and Figure 3 shows the distribution of authorities in this graph as nodes’ size. As shown for the nodes, most of the authorities are high-ranking journals.


Figure 3: Authorities. The bigger the node, the higher the authority (i.e. the higher the number of incoming links by good hubs); the thicker the link, the higher the n° of citations

The second concept, that of hub, refers to the ability of one node to pointing to many authorities, allowing in this way a trustworthy selection of the information it transmits. Translating this concept from the information theory to citation patterns, good hubs are journals that cite other journals considered as good authorities due to the impact of their works. Figure 4 shows that good authorities are also good hubs. American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, American Behavioral Scientist, Social Science Research are among the most impactful journals, and always among the top authorities and top hubs.


Figure 4: Hubs. The bigger the node, the larger the number of citations to authorities; the thicker the link, the higher the n° of citations

An interesting fact emerges when the authority and hub graphs are compared. One journal, in particular, pays a high wage in being in this network, namely European Sociological Reiview. In 2017 it has received 0 citations from the other journals (indeed it is at the outskirt of the authorities’ network), but it figures among the strongest hubs. This means that not only high-ranking journals constitute an impermeable clique, but they are also supported by other journals which do not gain nothing in exchange.
Borrowing from recent works on web dynamics on social networks such as Facebookthese results could suggest the existence of an echo-chamber effect, where certain kind of information continuously circulate within close circles. And this effect could be conceived as one instance in which the Matthew Effect continuously reproduce itself.
Additional hints in this direction are provided looking at the whole network. Figure 4 shows the cliques in the network. This concept indicates particular subgroups in the network in which nodes cite each other more often than with other nodes. Three major cliques for this network are detected, mostly overlapping except for two nodes in each clique. To have a view of which journals belong to which cliques, Figure 5 shows two of the three major cliques. From this plot, it could be assessed that most of the high ranked journals (American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, American Behavioral Scientist, Social Network, Sociology of Education) belong to both the cliques, indicating once more some evidence of an echo-chamber effect.


Figure 5: Cliques. The bigger the node, the higher the weight; the thicker the link, the higher the n° of citations.

These analyses have depicted a fairly well connected network of journals in the field of sociology, with some evidence that more impactful journals maintain their weight also because information resonate within circles of mutual reinforcement (echo-chamber effect). This study, though, addresses the topic of the rewarding system using a single year of reference. Dynamic networks should be employed to further deepen the struggles intrinsic to the political field of science.
Luca Carbone is Research Master student in Sociology at Tilburg University, NL. His research interests lie at the intersection between historical and cultural sociology, employing social network analysis, archival research, and scientometrics tools to study the many facets with which science and society bicker.

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B&B: Gendered economics // Social drinking // Competition amok // Neoliberal beliefs vs. neoliberal reality // Do protests work? // Business’ counter-mobilization // Pro-poor market

This time, especially worth reading  and sharing articles:

Women economists are forced to conform to research interests and publishing habits of male economists. Gender discrimination in economics has various facets — by Giulia Zacchia

> Social drinking: How one hundred years ago, Britain nationalized hundreds of pubs and invented a better drinking culture — by Phil Mellows

Neoliberalism perceives society-as-a-whole as one big competitive arena. How did competition and competitiveness become justifiable and acceptable — by Will Davies

Neoliberal beliefs vs. neoliberal reality: Inequality is getting worse, but the percent of people across the world who say that their society is a meritocracy is increasing — by Jonathan J.B. Mijs

Do protests work? Is ‘folk politics’ of marches, petitions, and strikes more habit than solution, and a distraction from the structural nature of problems? — by Nathan Heller

Protest culture and business’s counter-mobilization in 1960s–80s: The personal, the political and the profitable — by Benjamin C. Waterhouse

Value chains for development: Pro-poor market interventions and the moral dilemmas they bring up for the the organisations implementing them and for the communities impacted by them — by Dena Freeman

neolibaralism inequality

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Did Neoliberalism and Austerity Cause Brexit? Yes.

While the Brexit process is underway and UK politicians are tearing themselves apart over this overwhelmingly and multidimensionally complicated  issue, an economics professor from Warwick University Thiemo Fetzer provides ample and comprehensive evidence that the austerity-induced withdrawal of the welfare state brought about by the Conservative-led coalition government from late 2010 onwards are key to understanding how pressures to hold an EU referendum built up and why the Leave side won.
In his new research paper “Did Austerity Cause Brexit?” Fetzer convincingly shows
and asserts that various welfare cuts and neoliberal reforms (such as the abolishment of council tax benefit, the so-called ‘bedroom-tax’, and the squeeze of disability living allowance) have been a strong driving factor behind the growing support for the populist Ukip party in the wake of the EU referendum, contributed to the development of broader anti-establishment preferences and are strongly associated with popular support for Brexit.
See the abstract of this very interesting, important, well-researched and well-written paper, and also find below an open-access link to the paper itself:

“This paper shows that the rise of popular support for the UK Independence Party (UKIP), as the single most important correlate of the subsequent Leave vote in the 2016 European Union (EU) referendum, along with broader measures of political dissatisfaction, are strongly and causally associated with an individual’s or an area’s exposure to austerity since 2010. In addition to exploiting data from the population of all electoral contests in the UK since 2000, I leverage detailed individual level panel data allowing me to exploit within-individual variation in exposure to specific rules-based welfare reforms as well as broader measures of political preferences. The results suggest that the EU referendum could have resulted in a Remain victory had it not been for a range of austerity-induced welfare reforms. These reforms activated existing economic grievances. Further, auxiliary results suggest that the underlying economic grievances have broader origins than what the current literature on Brexit suggests. Up until 2010, the UK’s welfare state evened out growing income differences across the skill divide through transfer payments. This pattern markedly stops from 2010 onwards as austerity started to bite.”  

Neoliberalism caused Brexit

Fetzer, Thiemo. 2018. “Did Austerity Cause Brexit?” Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy’s working paper series, Department of Economics, University of Warwick.

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C. Wright Mills on Knowledge, Power, and the Moral Duty of the Intellectual

An eminent and brilliant sociologist C. Wright Mills (1916-1962) was deeply concerned with the responsibilities of social scientists in the post-World War II (American) society. Therefore he advocated for engagement of intellectuals in public life in contrast to merely conducting distant observations. Mills’s research and writings had a significant impact on the Left and social movements of the 1960s.

“As a type of social man, the intellectual does not have any one political direction, but the work of any man of knowledge, if he is the genuine article, does have a distinct kind of political relevance: his politics, in the first instance, are the politics of truth, for his job is the maintenance of an adequate definition of reality. In so far as he is politically adroit, the main tenet of this politics is to find out as much of the truth as he can, and to tell it to the right people, at the right time, and in the right way. Or, stated negatively: to deny publicly what he knows to be false, whenever it appears in the assertions of no matter whom; and whether it be a direct lie or a lie by omission, whether it be by virtue of official secret or an honest error. The intellectual ought to be the moral conscience of his society at least with reference to the value of truth, for in the defining instance, that is his politics. And he ought also to be a man absorbed in the attempt to know what is real and unreal.” (1967: 611)

Mills, C. Wright. 1963. “On Knowledge and Power.” Pp. 599-614 in Power, Politics and People: the Collected Essays of C. Wright Mills, edited by Irving Louis Horowitz. Oxford University Press.

C. Wright Mills

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Great academic opportunities: 15 calls for papers, 4 postdocs, 3 jobs, 2 visiting positions, 2 PhD stipends, winter school, and PhD course

Dear ES/PE community member, see below an abundant list of great call for papersacademic opportunities: 15 calls for papers for conferences and workshops (some are fully or partially funded), 4 post-doc and temporary positions, 3 job openings, 2 visiting positions, 2 doctoral fellowships, a winter school, and a PhD course — in various areas of economic sociology, political economy, and related fields, with August 5 – September 30 deadlinesShare this post with your colleagues and students. Good luck!

Calls for Papers:

> CfP: “Global Labor Migration: Past and Present” conference, The International Institute for Social History, Amsterdam (The Netherlands), June 20-22, 2019. The keynoters: Donna Gabaccia and Bridget Anderson. DL: August 15

> CfP: The 4th International Conference on Labor Theory of Value and Social Sciences, University of Brasilia, Brasilia (Brazil), 18 – 19 October 2018. DL: August 27

> CfP: “Uneven Development, Inequalities and the State“, the 4th Role of State in Varieties of Capitalism conference, Central European University, Budapest (Hungary), 29-30 November 2018. The keynoters: Robert Wade and Henk Overbeek. DL: August 31

CfP: “Gender and Labour Disputes: Perspectives Past and Present” conference, University of Erlangen – Nuremberg (Germany), 21-22 March 2019. DL: August 31

> CfP: “Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity” conference, Erasmus University Rotterdam (The Netherlands),  November 29-30, 2018. DL: August 31

> CfP: “Governing Markets as Knowledge Commons: The New Entrepreneurial History of Shared Social Infrastructures“, an edited volume and symposium in Spring 2019, Arlington, VA (USA). Authors will be reimbursed for their travel and accommodation costs. DL: August 31

> CfP: “Futures of finance and society“, Finance and Society Network’s conference, University of Edinburgh (UK), 6-7 December, 2018. The keynoters: Donald MacKenzie, Annelise Riles, Gillian Tett. DL: September 1. Recommended!

> CfP: “Debt, Freedom, and Development: Insights from Asia” conference, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, 15- 16 January 2019. The organisers will provide accommodation and/or a contribution towards airfare. DL: September 10

> CfP: “Knowledge Society and Sustainability” conference, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain), October 17‐20, 2018. DL: September 10

> CfP: “The Transmission of Financial Knowledge in Historical Perspective, 1840–1940” conference, German Historical Institute (Washington, DC, USA), March 8-9, 2019. Travel and accommodation costs will be covered. DL: September 4

> CfP: “Gender, Race, Class and Crises: Pluralistic Approaches to the Economic Issues of our Time“, the International Confederation of Associations for Pluralism in Economics conference, Agnes Scott College (Atlanta, GA, USA), January 3, 2019. DL: September 4

> CfP for special issue: “Informal economy and digital labor in the cashless society“, Sociologia del Lavoro journal. DL for abstracts in English: September 15 

> CfP: “Economic Activities and Archival Practices in Europe between the 12th and the 21st century” workshop, Hamburg University (Germany), 4-5 April 2019. DL: September 30

> CfP for edited volume: “Alternatives to the Theory of the Firm / Alternative theories of the firm“, an Edited Volume to be published in Humanistic Management Series, Routledge Publishers. DL for abstracts: September 30

> CfP: The Historical Materialism Sydney conference, University of Sydney (Australia), 13-14 December, 2018. No attendance fee. DL: September 30

Job openings:

Professor in Sociology, especially in Work, Economy and Organization (permanent, full-time), Uppsala University (Sweden). DL: September 1

Faculty member specializing in work and organizational issues, MIT Sloan School (Cambridge, MA, USA). DL: September 14

Assistant or Associate or Full Professors in Social Inequality, Sociology Department, Yale University ( New Haven, CT, USA). DL: September 15

Post-doctoral and Temporary positions:

Lecturer in Comparative Political Economy and Development (temporary, full-time), King’s College London (UK). DL: August 8

Lecturer in Political Economy of Inclusive Development (temporary, full-time), King’s College London (UK). DL: August 8

Lecturer in the Social Science of International Development (temporary, full-time), King’s College London (UK). DL: August 8

> Post-doc Research Associate in a project on the impact of technology and digitalisation on work and employment in the logistics sector, at “Work, Organisation and Employee Relations” Centre, Sheffield University (UK). DL: August 27

Visiting opportunities:

International Scholar in Residence Program (8-12 weeks) for junior faculty and PhD students in the field of antitrust, by American Bar Association’s Section of Antitrust Law, Washington, D.C. (USA). DL: August 31

> Junior and Senior fellowships (6-7 months) in “Labour as a Political Category” and “Political Economy of Growth and Distribution” themes at The M.S. Merian – R. Tagore International Centre for Advanced Studies in New Delhi, India. Stipend, housing, and travel costs will be granted. DL: September 15

PhD Fellowships:

PhD  scholarship in  historical / economic sociology, with a focus on the tensions between religious imaginaries and economic rationalities, Dept. of Management, Politics and Philosophy at Copenhagen Business School. DL: August 5

Fully Funded PhD studies in “New Political Economy of Europe”, University College Dublin (Ireland). DL: August 25

PhD Course and Winter School:

> CfA: “Development, Democracy and Conflict” Interdisciplinary Winter school, Dept. of Sociology, South Asian University, New Delhi (India), 26 November – 1st December, 2018. DL: August 22

> CfA: “Markets and Governance in a Post-secular Society: an Introduction to Economic Theology“, a course for PhD students only, Copenhagen Business School, 6-8 November, 2018. DL: September 26

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The Sociology of Quantification: Seeing like Numbers

Elizabeth Popp Berman and Dan Hirschman have recently published in Contemporary Sociology a worth reading review essay called “The Sociology of Quantification: Where Are We Now?” In this article, which is definitely more than a ‘regular’ review, they Sociology of Quantificationdo not just discuss several books and depict a genre of researches, but elaborate a series of topical and programmatic questions in respect of what might be perceived as a consolidating subfield — Sociology of Quantification.

“While the sociology of quantification may lack a well-defined object of study, shared theoretical concepts, and an agreed-upon methodological toolkit, studies that touch on quantification nevertheless cluster around four broad questions, which we use to orient our review.. First, what shapes the production of numbers?… Second, when and how do numbers matter?.. Third, how do we govern quantification? How should we govern quantification?.. Fourth and finally, how should scholars study quantification?” (p. 258)

Berman and Hirschman think about these essential questions through observant reading eight very interesting new books — that lack a coherent terminology and a shared framework — but all of them grapple with the power of numbers in various contexts and point out “to a vibrant conversation about quantification happening across many different fields”.
Summarizing their illuminating essay, the authors emphasize that:

“Studies of new quantified phenomena help to sharpen our conceptual categories for thinking about what quantification really is. Quantification is not a single, unified process. Work that explores the boundaries of numbers, data, and measurement helps to flesh out our vocabulary—from indicators and rankings, to models and algorithms, and now big data and biosensing, and so on. Indeed, one of the clearest takeaways from these books, read as a group, is the blurriness of “quantification” and the need for conceptual categories that will help us unpack it… The qualitative study of quantification may, at the moment, be producing a significant body of new work. But for producing a coherent sociology of quantification, we have a long way to go.” (p. 266) 

One may find this conclusion disappointing; I find it scholarly encouraging.
Read here the full (open-access) essay :
Berman, Elizabeth and Daniel Hirschman. 2018. “The Sociology of Quantification: Where Are We Now?” Contemporary Sociology  47 (3): 257 – 266.

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