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Milking the classics

Tuesday, August 29, 2006 by Jeff

If you were the head of a university press, notoriously known as they are for slim profit margins and small batch printing, and you learned that one of your out-of-print books has increased in value by more than 280%, would you consider reprinting it? What if you then learned that another university press has preempted your move by releasing a new and improved version of your product? Well, you'd be wise to become a used book seller.

Right now you can pick up a used copy of Hannan & Freeman's classic Organizational Ecology (1989) through Amazon for only $737.60! Not satified with just one copy? Order the second and only remaining copy for an additional $2,088.29!

Oh, and these are paperback editions. "Condition: Good."

So, does anyone out there have a copy of this that they'd care to sell? The bidding starts here (with a trivial commission for the host).

Update (9/6/06): You missed the cheap copy. The remaining copy is now up to $2,262.14. Aren't you just kicking yourself for not buying in earlier?

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Heaven help us

Friday, August 25, 2006 by Jeff

A national poll conducted this week by SurveyUSA shows that a whopping 42% of Americans (± 2.4%) believe that we're heading toward World War III! And if that isn't discouraging enough, an additional 20% assert that it's already begun. So which party do you think will run on the "Victory in III" platform?

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Bowling Everywhichway

Thursday, August 24, 2006 by Jeff

Tomorrow our department's brownbag lecture will be given by Stanford wiz kid, UA job candidate, and Mormon missionary look-alike, Dan McFarland, and is entitled "Bowling Young" (presumably not a great-great grandchild of Brigham Young). The awkwardness of that title will not seem so awkward to those familiar with Robert Putnum's much touted book Bowling Alone, remembered for its Chicken Little cries of declining civic participation in the U.S. A cursory search of Sociological Abstracts reveals something interesting. The word "bowling" has appeared in Sociology paper titles as many times in the 6 years since the publication of Bowling Alone (in 2000) as in the 35 years preceding it. The titular gymnastics is amusing: Post-Bowling Alone

  • Bowling Alone, but Online Together? Virtual Communities and American Public Life (2005)
  • 'Bowling Apart?' Four Questions on Poor-Rich Contact in Dutch Sports Clubs (2005)
  • No Bowling at All: Television, the Vita Inactiva, and Social Capital (2004)
  • Why Should We Be Bowling Alone? Results from a Belgian Survey on Civic Participation (2003)
  • Finding a Bowling Partner: The Role of Stakeholders in Activating Civil Society in Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom (2002)
  • Bowling with our Imaginary Friends (2002)
  • Bowling Together? The Role of Political Conflict in Strengthening Community Action and Civil Society in Northern Ireland (2002)
  • Bowling Alone, Policing Together (2001)
Pre-Bowling Alone
  • Cultivating Friendship through Bowling in Shenzhen (2000)
  • Bowling in the Bronx: The Uncivil Interstices between Civil and Political Society (1999)
  • Bowling with Tocqueville: Civic Engagement and Social Capital (1999)
  • Developing Civil Society: Can the Workplace Replace Bowling? (1998)
  • Burgers, Bowling, and the Myth of Americanizing China (1998)
  • "Thunder Is When the Angels Are Upstairs Bowling": Narratives and Explanations at the Dinner Table (1994)
  • The Interdependence of Structural Levels and Performance in Bowling Teams (1970)
  • A Reply to Kooy's Reply: The Rules of the Bowling Game (1965)
Who knew we were so tied to our bowling?

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Transgressing or reaffirming?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006 by Jeff

After a week of hobnobbing and listening to fellow sociologists at the annual meetings of the American Sociological Association I'm confronted once again with the diversity of perspectives found among the roughly 14,000 it claims as members. We take pride in that diversity, in fact we want more! As is evident in the conference theme, "Great Divides: Transgressing Boundaries," what pleases us most is the unity and inclusiveness we find in that diversity.

As geeky academics moved from presentation to presentation, event to event, each saw a tiny fraction of the thousands of conference attendees. We met with others specializing in our brand of sociology who, depending on how finely you want to draw those distinctions, may number fewer than ten or as many as several hundred. Like people outside the discipline we are drawn to likeminded others and prone to dismiss or even overlook those who differ. Black sociologists talk with other black sociologists; gay sociologists with other gays; women with women; men with men; marxists with marxists; liberals with liberals. With so many boundaries implicitly drawn between us, how unified and inclusive can we really claim to be?

Sometimes the boundaries between sociologists are brought into stark relief, as is visible in this post (and subsequent comments) that uses mockery and derision to suggest what counts as good sociology. Here you'll find sociologists resistant to the incursion of animals in sociological analyses as well as a more general angst about the blurring of science and politics (the latter also clearly expressed in the ongoing brouhaha over "public sociology").

Sometimes those boundaries escape our attention. One of the most provocative speakers I heard at the conference was Indiana's Tom Gieryn whose twenty-plus year search for the social boundaries of Science has recently led him away from the question of why boundaries change to asking why they don't. He contrasted two buildings: one, a drab, box-like federal building in which a judge heard arguments for and against the inclusion of Intelligent Design in the science curriculum, and the other, Stanford University's Bio-X research facility whose avant-garde design embodies an ethic of collaboration and openness with its open laboratory space and walls on wheels. Gieryn's elegant contrast between the fixed architecture of the courtroom and the fluid design of Bio-X showed, ironically, that the social boundaries of Science are most structured (in the sociological sense) precisely where they are most taken-for-granted.

Meetings such as this highlight the shared vision and experiences of professional sociologists and reestablish our solidarity in a common enterprise. But they also reaffirm the divisions among us. Are we content to praise this as an effective "division of labor?" Or, should we be concerned that we are reproducing the familiar inequalities we study?

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My first 500 page book in years

Thursday, August 03, 2006 by Jeff

For fun this summer I picked up Sophie's World, a 1991 book by Oslo native and former high school philosophy teacher Jostein Gaardner. I finished it tonight after a couple-day marathon session to reach the end. It pulled me in. Subtitled A Novel About the History of Philosophy, it's a fictional account of a 15 year-old girl, Sophie, who begins receiving mysterious packets in the mail containing philosophy lessons. Cloaked in mystery, this private philosophy course takes her from prehistoric myths through Greece, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and Existentialism and little Sophie is in no uncertain terms blown away - quite unlike any college student I've so far taught - by what she learns. Gaardner playfully toys with his readers and his characters by introducing fantasy and magic with little guidance to distinguish what is real and what is fantasy. At heart Sophie's World paints an colorful picture of Western thought with broad strokes and language even a 15 year-old can understand. If you've studied philosophy and already know what Aquinas, Augustine, Spinoza, Hume, and Kierkegaard said, then don't bother. This is really for those of us who've never had a philosophy course and who may know a little about some of these folks but nothing about the "big picture." The back story - that is, the parts that aren't exegeses of Western philosophy - is slow until the mid-point, and the writing in those parts could be better. On the whole, though, it's a great book to cruise through if, like me, you feel guilty reading throwaway novels that teach you nothing. Now I'm ready for the grown-up version that Heather has been simultaneously reading, The Passion of the Western Mind.

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Jeff A. Larson
Sociologist, Arizona.


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