Against Essentialism presents a sociological theory of culture. This interdisciplinary and foundational work deals with basic issues common to current debates in social theory, including society, culture, meaning, truth, and communication. Stephan Fuchs argues that many mysteries about these concepts lose their mysteriousness when dynamic variations are introduced.
Fuchs proposes a theory of culture and society that merges two core traditions--American network theory and European (Luhmannian) systems theory. His book distinguishes four major types of social "observers"--encounters, groups, organizations, and networks. Society takes place in these four modes of association. Each generates levels of observation linked with each other into a "culture"--the unity of these observations.
Against Essentialism presents a groundbreaking new approach to the construction of society, culture, and personhood. The book invites both social scientists and philosophers to see what happens when essentialism is abandoned.
Much of what we currently know about the ancient Maya concerns the activities of the elites who ruled the societies and left records of their deeds carved on the monumental buildings and sculptures that remain as silent testimony to their power and status. But what do we know of the common folk who labored to build the temple complexes and palaces and grew the food that fed all of Maya society?
This pathfinding book marshals a wide array of archaeological, ethnohistorical, and ethnographic evidence to offer the fullest understanding to date of the lifeways of ancient Maya commoners. Senior and emerging scholars contribute case studies that examine such aspects of commoner life as settlement patterns, household organization, and subsistence practices. Their reports cover most of the Maya area and the entire time span from Preclassic to Postclassic. This broad range of data helps resolve Maya commoners from a faceless mass into individual actors who successfully adapted to their social environment and who also held primary responsibility for producing the food and many other goods on which the whole Maya society depended.
India’s global success in the Information Technology industry has also prompted the growth of neoliberalism and the re-emergence of the middle class in contemporary urban areas, such as Bangalore. In her significant study, BITS of Belonging, Simanti Dasgupta shows that this economic shift produces new forms of social inequality while reinforcing older ones. She investigates this economic disparity by looking at IT and water privatization to explain how these otherwise unrelated domains correspond to our thinking about citizenship, governance, and belonging.
Dasgupta’s ethnographic study shows how work and human processes in the IT industry intertwine to meet the market stipulations of the global economy. Meanwhile, in the recasting of water from a public good to a commodity, the middle class insists on a governance and citizenship model based upon market participation. Dasgupta provides a critical analysis of the grassroots activism involved in a contested water project where different classes lay their divergent claims to the city.
In Border Citizens, historian Eric V. Meeks explores how the racial classification and identities of the diverse indigenous, mestizo, and Euro-American residents of Arizona’s borderlands evolved as the region was politically and economically incorporated into the United States. First published in 2007, the book examines the complex relationship between racial subordination and resistance over the course of a century. On the one hand, Meeks links the construction of multiple racial categories to the process of nation-state building and capitalist integration. On the other, he explores how the region’s diverse communities altered the blueprint drawn up by government officials and members of the Anglo majority for their assimilation or exclusion while redefining citizenship and national belonging.
The revised edition of this highly praised and influential study features dozens of new images, an introductory essay by historian Patricia Nelson Limerick, and a chapter-length afterword by the author. In his afterword, Meeks details and contextualizes Arizona’s aggressive response to undocumented immigration and ethnic studies in the decade after Border Citizens was first published, demonstrating that the broad-based movement against these measures had ramifications well beyond Arizona. He also revisits the Yaqui and Tohono O’odham nations on both sides of the Sonora-Arizona border, focusing on their efforts to retain, extend, and enrich their connections to one another in the face of increasingly stringent border enforcement.
Leinaweaver provides insight into the emotional and material factors that bring together and separate indigenous Andean families in the highland city of Ayacucho. She describes how child circulation is intimately linked to survival in the city, which has had to withstand colonialism, economic isolation, and the devastating civil war unleashed by the Shining Path. Leinaweaver examines the practice from the perspective of parents who send their children to live in other households, the adults who receive them, and the children themselves. She relates child circulation to international laws and norms regarding children’s rights, adoptions, and orphans, and to Peru’s history of racial conflict and violence. Given that history, Leinaweaver maintains that it is not surprising that child circulation, a practice associated with Peru’s impoverished indigenous community, is alternately ignored, tolerated, or condemned by the state.
Economists celebrate the market as a device for regulating human interaction without acknowledging that their enthusiasm depends on a set of half-truths: that individuals are autonomous, self-interested, and rational calculators with unlimited wants and that the only community that matters is the nation-state. However, as Stephen A. Marglin argues, market relationships erode community. In the past, for example, when a farm family experienced a setback—say the barn burned down—neighbors pitched in. Now a farmer whose barn burns down turns, not to his neighbors, but to his insurance company. Insurance may be a more efficient way to organize resources than a community barn raising, but the deep social and human ties that are constitutive of community are weakened by the shift from reciprocity to market relations.
Marglin dissects the ways in which the foundational assumptions of economics justify a world in which individuals are isolated from one another and social connections are impoverished as people define themselves in terms of how much they can afford to consume. Over the last four centuries, this economic ideology has become the dominant ideology in much of the world. Marglin presents an account of how this happened and an argument for righting the imbalance in our lives that this ideology has fostered.
For more than twenty years, Povinelli has traveled to the social worlds of indigenous men and women living at Belyuen, a small community in the Northern Territory of Australia. More recently she has moved across communities of alternative progressive queer movements in the United States, particularly those who identify as radical faeries. In this book she traces how liberal binary concepts of individual freedom and social constraint influence understandings of intimacy in these two worlds. At the same time, she describes alternative models of social relations within each group in order to highlight modes of intimacy that transcend a reductive choice between freedom and constraint.
Shifting focus away from identities toward the social matrices out of which identities and divisions emerge, Povinelli offers a framework for thinking through such issues as what counts as sexuality and which forms of intimate social relations result in the distribution of rights, recognition, and resources, and which do not. In The Empire of Love Povinelli calls for, and begins to formulate, a politics of “thick life,” a way of representing social life nuanced enough to meet the density and variation of actual social worlds.
Contributors. Eve Darian-Smith, Howard J. De Nike, Elizabeth Faier, James M. Freeman, Robert T. Gordon, Carol J. Greenhouse, Nguyen Dinh Huu, Carroll McC. Lewin, Elizabeth Mertz, Philip C. Parnell, Nancy Ries, Judy Rosenthal, Kay B. Warren, Stacia E. Zabusky
In the 1930s, George Herbert Mead and other leading social scientists established the modern empirical analysis of social interaction and communication, enabling theories of cognitive development, language acquisition, interaction, government, law and legal processes, and the social construction of the self. However, they could not provide a comparably empirical analysis of human organization.
The theory in this book fills in the missing analysis of organizations and specifies more precisely the pragmatic analysis of communication with an adaptation of information theory to ordinary unmediated communications. The study also provides the theoretical basis for understanding the success of pragmatically grounded public policies, from the New Deal through the postwar reconstruction of Europe and Japan to the ongoing development of the European Union, in contrast to the persistent failure of positivistic and Marxist policies and programs.
The Mongol conquest of north China between 1211 and 1234 inflicted terrible wartime destruction, wiping out more than one-third of the population and dismantling the existing social order. In the Wake of the Mongols recounts the riveting story of how northern Chinese men and women adapted to these trying circumstances and interacted with their alien Mongol conquerors to create a drastically new social order. To construct this story, the book uses a previously unknown source of inscriptions recorded on stone tablets.
Jinping Wang explores a north China where Mongol patrons, Daoist priests, Buddhist monks, and sometimes single women—rather than Confucian gentry—exercised power and shaped events, a portrait that upends the conventional view of imperial Chinese society. Setting the stage by portraying the late Jin and closing by tracing the Mongol period’s legacy during the Ming dynasty, she delineates the changing social dynamics over four centuries in the northern province of Shanxi, still a poorly understood region.
Winner, Humanities Book Prize, Mexico Section of the Latin American Studies Association, 2018
Many scholars believe that the modern concentration camp was born during the Cuban war for independence when Spanish authorities ordered civilians living in rural areas to report to the nearest city with a garrison of Spanish troops. But the practice of spatial concentration—gathering people and things in specific ways, at specific places, and for specific purposes—has a history in Latin America that reaches back to the conquest. In this paradigm-setting book, Daniel Nemser argues that concentration projects, often tied to urbanization, laid an enduring, material groundwork, or infrastructure, for the emergence and consolidation of new forms of racial identity and theories of race.
Infrastructures of Race traces the use of concentration as a technique for colonial governance by examining four case studies from Mexico under Spanish rule: centralized towns, disciplinary institutions, segregated neighborhoods, and general collections. Nemser shows how the colonial state used concentration in its attempts to build a new spatial and social order, and he explains why the technique flourished in the colonies. Although the designs for concentration were sometimes contested and short-lived, Nemser demonstrates that they provided a material foundation for ongoing processes of racialization. This finding, which challenges conventional histories of race and mestizaje (racial mixing), promises to deepen our understanding of the way race emerges from spatial politics and techniques of population management.
Institutions and Economic Performance explores the question of why income per capita varies so greatly across countries. Even taking into account disparities in resources, including physical and human capital, large economic discrepancies remain across countries. Why are some societies but not others able to encourage investments in places, people, and productivity?
The answer, the book argues, lies to a large extent in institutional differences across societies. Such institutions are wide-ranging and include formal constitutional arrangements, the role of economic and political elites, informal institutions that promote investment and knowledge transfer, and others. Two core themes run through the contributors’ essays. First, what constraints do institutions place on the power of the executive to prevent it from extorting the investments and effort of other people and institutions? Second, when are productive institutions self-enforcing?
Institutions and Economic Performance is unique in its melding of economics, political science, history, and sociology to address its central question.
Ireland in the World Order examines Ireland’s development from the medieval to the modern era, comparing its unique trajectory with that of England, Scotland and Wales.
Maurice Coakley focuses on key elements that contributed to Ireland’s development, examining its bloody and violent incorporation into the British state, its refusal to embrace the Protestant Reformation and failure to industrialise in the 19th century. Coakley considers the crucial question of why Ireland’s national identity has come to rest on a mass movement for independence.
Cutting through many of the myths – imperialist and nationalist – which have obscured the real reasons for Ireland's course of development, Ireland in the World Order provides a new perspective for students and academics of Irish history.
Since prehistoric times, Andean societies have been organized around the ayllu, a grouping of real or ceremonial kinspeople who share labor, resources, and ritual obligations. Many Andean scholars believe that the ayllu is as ancient as Andean culture itself, possibly dating back as far as 6000 B.C., and that it arose to alleviate the hardships of farming in the mountainous Andean environment.
In this boldly revisionist book, however, William Isbell persuasively argues that the ayllu developed during the latter half of the Early Intermediate Period (around A.D. 200) as a means of resistance to the process of state formation. Drawing on archaeological evidence, as well as records of Inca life taken from the chroniclers, Isbell asserts that prehistoric ayllus were organized around the veneration of deceased ancestors, whose mummified bodies were housed in open sepulchers, or challups, where they could be visited by descendants seeking approval and favors. By charting the temporal and spatial distribution of chullpa ruins, Isbell offers a convincing new explanation of where, when, and why the ayllu developed.
The shifting meaning of race and class in the age of Trump
The profound concentration of economic power in the United States in recent decades has produced surprising new forms of racialization. In Producers, Parasites, Patriots, Daniel Martinez HoSang and Joseph E. Lowndes show that while racial subordination is an enduring feature of U.S. political history, it continually changes in response to shifting economic and political conditions, interests, and structures.
The authors document the changing politics of race and class in the age of Trump across a broad range of phenomena, showing how new forms of racialization work to alter the economic protections of whiteness while promoting some conservatives of color as models of the neoliberal regime. Through careful analyses of diverse political sites and conflicts—racially charged elections, attacks on public-sector unions, new forms of white precarity, the rise of black and brown political elites, militia uprisings, multiculturalism on the far right—they highlight new, interwoven deployments of race in the ascendant age of inequality. Using the concept of “racial transposition,” the authors demonstrate how racial meanings and signification can be transferred from one group to another to shore up both neoliberalism and racial hierarchy.
From the militia movement to the Alt-Right to the mainstream Republican Party, Producers, Parasites, Patriots brings to light the changing role of race in right-wing politics.
Risk is a part of life. How we handle uncertainty and deal with potential threats influence decision making throughout our lives. In The Risk Society Revisited, Eugene A. Rosa, Ortwin Renn, and Aaron M. McCright offer the first book to present an integrated theory of risk and governance.
The authors examine our sociological understanding of risk and how we reconcile modern human conditions with our handling of risk in our quest for improved quality of life. They build a new framework for understanding risk—one that provides an innovative connection between social theory and the governance of technological and environmental risks and the sociopolitical challenges they pose for a sustainable future.
Showing how our consciousness affects risk in the decisions we make—as individuals and as members of a democratic society—The Risk Society Revisited makes an important contribution to the literature of risk research.
The contributions to this volume attempt to apply different aspects of Ilya Prigogine's Nobel-prize-winning work on dissipative structures to nonchemical systems as a way of linking the natural and social sciences. They address both the mathematical methods for description of pattern and form as they evolve in biological systems and the mechanisms of the evolution of social systems, containing many variables responding to subjective, qualitative stimuli.
The mathematical modeling of human systems, especially those far from thermodynamic equilibrium, must involve both chance and determinism, aspects both quantitative and qualitative. Such systems (and the physical states of matter which they resemble) are referred to as self-organized or dissipative structures in order to emphasize their dependence on the flows of matter and energy to and from their surroundings. Some such systems evolve along lines of inevitable change, but there occur instances of choice, or bifurcation, when chance is an important factor in the qualitative modification of structure. Such systems suggest that evolution is not a system moving toward equilibrium but instead is one which most aptly evokes the patterns of the living world.
The volume is truly interdisciplinary and should appeal to researchers in both the physical and social sciences. Based on a workshop on dissipative structures held in 1978 at the University of Texas, contributors include Prigogine, A. G. Wilson, Andre de Palma, D. Kahn, J. L. Deneubourgh, J. W. Stucki, Richard N. Adams, and Erick Jantsch.
The papers presented include Allen, "Self-Organization in the Urban System"; Robert Herman, "Remarks on Traffic Flow Theories and the Characterization of Traffic in Cities"; W. H. Zurek and Schieve, "Nucleation Paradigm: Survival Threshold in Population Dynamics"; De Palma et al., "Boolean Equations with Temporal Delays"; Nicholas Georgescu-Roegin, "Energy Analysis and Technology Assessment"; Magoroh Maruyama, "Four Different Causal Meta-types in Biological and Social Sciences"; and Jantsch, "From Self-Reference to Self-Transcendence: The Evolution of Self-Organization Dynamics."
Since the 1980s, society's wealthiest members have claimed an ever-expanding share of income and property. It has been a true counterrevolution, says Pierre Rosanvallon--the end of the age of growing equality launched by the American and French revolutions. And just as significant as the social and economic factors driving this contemporary inequality has been a loss of faith in the ideal of equality itself. An ambitious transatlantic history of the struggles that, for two centuries, put political and economic equality at their heart, The Society of Equals calls for a new philosophy of social relations to reenergize egalitarian politics.
For eighteenth-century revolutionaries, equality meant understanding human beings as fundamentally alike and then creating universal political and economic rights. Rosanvallon sees the roots of today's crisis in the period 1830-1900, when industrialized capitalism threatened to quash these aspirations. By the early twentieth century, progressive forces had begun to rectify some imbalances of the Gilded Age, and the modern welfare state gradually emerged from Depression-era reforms. But new economic shocks in the 1970s began a slide toward inequality that has only gained momentum in the decades since.
There is no returning to the days of the redistributive welfare state, Rosanvallon says. Rather than resort to outdated notions of social solidarity, we must instead revitalize the idea of equality according to principles of singularity, reciprocity, and communality that more accurately reflect today's realities.
Winner of the 2022 Catholic Media Association Award in Theology
A new ethics for understanding the social forces that shape moral character.
It is easy to be vicious and difficult to be virtuous in today’s world, especially given that many of the social structures that connect and sustain us enable exploitation and disincentivize justice. There are others, though, that encourage virtue.
In his book Daniel J. Daly uses the lens of virtue and vice to reimagine from the ground up a Catholic ethics that can better scrutinize the social forces that both affect our moral character and contribute to human well-being or human suffering.
Daly’s approach uses both traditional and contemporary sources, drawing on the works of Thomas Aquinas as well as incorporating theories such as critical realist social theory, to illustrate the nature and function of social structures and the factors that transform them. Daly’s ethics focus on the relationship between structure and agency and the different structures that enable and constrain an individual’s pursuit of the virtuous life. His approach defines with unique clarity the virtuous structures that facilitate a love of God, self, neighbor, and creation, and the vicious structures that cultivate hatred, intemperance, and indifference to suffering. In doing so, Daly creates a Catholic ethical framework for responding virtuously to the problems caused by global social systems, from poverty to climate change.
Healing roles and rituals involving alcohol are a major source of power and identity for women and men in Highland Chiapas, Mexico, where abstention from alcohol can bring a loss of meaningful roles and of a sense of community. Yet, as in other parts of the world, alcohol use sometimes leads to abuse, whose effects must then be combated by individuals and the community.
In this pioneering ethnography, Christine Eber looks at women and drinking in the community of San Pedro Chenalhó to address the issues of women’s identities, roles, relationships, and sources of power. She explores various personal and social strategies women use to avoid problem drinking, including conversion to Protestant religions, membership in cooperatives or Catholic Action, and modification of ritual forms with substitute beverages.
The book’s women-centered perspective reveals important data on women and drinking not reported in earlier ethnographies of Highland Chiapas communities. Eber’s reflexive approach, blending the women’s stories, analyses, songs, and prayers with her own and other ethnographers’ views, shows how Western, individualistic approaches to the problems of alcohol abuse are inadequate for understanding women’s experiences with problem and ritual drinking in a non-Western culture.
In a new epilogue, Christine Eber describes how events of the last decade, including the Zapatista uprising, have strengthened women's resolve to gain greater control over their lives by controlling the effects of alcohol in the community.
Stephen presents new information about the weaving cooperatives women have formed over the last two decades in an attempt to gain political and cultural rights within their community and standing as independent artisans within the global market. She also addresses the place of Zapotec weaving within Mexican folk art and the significance of increased migration out of Teotitlán. The women weavers and merchants collaborated with Stephen on the research for this book, and their perspectives are key to her analysis of how gender relations have changed within rituals, weaving production and marketing, local politics, and family life. Drawing on the experiences of women in Teotitlán, Stephen considers the prospects for the political, economic, and cultural participation of other indigenous women in Mexico under the policies of economic neoliberalism which have prevailed since the 1990s.
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