Tag Archives: social theory

Getting Ready for “Ten Books that Influenced Me”

I had some money to spend.  A co-author mentioned Neil Fligstein’s new book, A Theory of Fields. So, I decided to get that book.  Then, I started looking at my wishlist and my recommendations.  I a few more items popped up.  Then, I wondered, “Well, what have been some influential books in social science or social theory recently?”

This led a google search, of course.  First stop, the ASA’s theory division.  They have a page of award winners.  Not very impressive.  While many great sociology or org theory blogs are out there, the official organs of professional associations (speaking of my experience with EGOS, AOM, ASA, and INSNA) have lagged, although EGOS and INSNA do better.  The ASA theory division award pages has many holes in it!  For example, it does not  the 2010 best article.  Was one not awarded?  The 2009 winner article is not hyperlinked.

But, there is good news!  Apparently, among blogging social scientists, there is a viral type of post: “My top 10 most influential books…”  I found several examples and I look forward to crafting my own.

Here is my list of others’ posts.

Ten Influential Books
http://asociologist.com/2010/03/21/ten-influential-books/

Ten Influential Books
http://crookedtimber.org/2010/03/20/ten-influential-books/

Books which have influenced me most
http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2010/03/books-which-have-influenced-me-most.html

Ten most influential books
http://jacobtlevy.blogspot.com/2010/03/ten-most-influential-books-see-tyler.html

Influential (Actually Published, Actually Read Cover-to-Cover During College or Graduate School) Books

http://inmedias.blogspot.com/2010/03/influential-actually-published-actually.html

My Top 10 Most Influential Books:

Finally, in assembling this, I found a book I had not heard of, Required Reading: Sociology’s Most Important Books It is from 1998, so it will not have any great books of last ten years.    Still, I am curious to see what it says (and which I have read or not!)

I know my own initial list of books I have read and which  find my mind turning to again and again include:

  • The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism
  • Castells’ The Information Age Triology
  • Berger and Luckmann’s Social Construction of Reality
  • Geertz’ Interpretation of Culture
  • Watts’ Six Degrees

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Filed under Books, organization theory, social theory, sociology

The end of history, again

When the Berlin wall fell, and then the Iron Curtain, and then the Soviet Union dissolved into national tribes pursuing free market economies, the academic conservatives were gleeful.  “The End of History” was the zeitgeist text and meme that Fukuyama penned.  The metanarrative debate and power struggle about the role of government at “the commanding heights” was over.  Government had little role in the economy.  She could (and the female pronoun is very apt) nurture the children and clean up the messes, but had to stay in the private sphere of domestic concerns and stay out of the public sphere of productive work and economics.

With the tectonic shifts in the last two weeks, leading to today’s headlines about a massive bail out of the bad debt and paper by a government agency; with the infusion of something like $300 billion Treasury dollars into Bear Stearns, the FMacs, and AIG; with monetary policy at  the bottom of the tool box with only a few thumbtacks left (the key T billrate dropping to essentially zero), I suggest its the end of history, again.

There are no Unicorns, and there can be no totally free markets.  The Fed and Treasury had to step in and take direct action, in the spirit of Keynes, because they had no other choice to avoid a massive, 1932-esque economic collapse.

The debate is on again about the role of government, law, policy, and institutions in managing the economy and how to achieve a more just society.

I am not going to even respond to any neoliberals or other market ideologues until they acknowledge that the Reagan-Thatcher revolution has come to a grinding end.  The overall governing philosophy that “markets are always better and government must be progressively marched to the sidelines of the economic game” is dead, dead, dead.  When real people had to make real decisions over the last two weeks, that world view came up empty of ideas and solutions.

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Filed under macroeconomics, Political Economy, Politics, Power, Activism, social theory

Summer Reading List

OK, I leave for five weeks in a week. Its mostly vacation, but I am looking forward to spending some time reading some of the dense social theory or social science books that I rely on, but have never finished or even read (ouch, hurts to admit that in print). I’ll probably get drummed out of the bidness (its like our omerta) for saying this, but when you read lots of journal article,s you start to know what are the foundational texts and how they are used. Its like seeing the shape of a plane by its shadow. Foucault, is, I think a classic in this regard. Everyone cites, few have actually read (beyond strategic skimming). And Weber. (Although I did take a grad school seminar where we did nothing but read Economy and Society. That’s a story for another time).

Anyway, for the sake of _actually_ reading some of these from my ever-expanding list of books, I am limiting myself to two. So, this is the fun part, like choosing courses from a stellar menu. Which two?

Possible summer reading list (In Progress):

  • Identity and Control by Harrison White
  • Sociology of Philosophy by Randall Collins
  • Constitution of Society by Anthony Giddens
  • Volumes 2 and 3 of The Information Age by Manuel Castells
  • The Hacker Ethic By Pekka Hinamen
  • something by Bourdieu…
  • Brokerage and Closure by Ron Burt
  • Something by Charles Tilly, Big structures, large processes, huge comparisons or Identities, Boundaries and Social Ties
  • Code v 2.0 by Lawrence Lessig
  • The Hacker Ethic by Pekka Himanen (for  teaching really).

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Filed under Books, Castells, New Projects, organization studies, organization theory, Orgs Stuff (theory, science, studies), Social Networks, social theory

Critical Realism and Network Theory

SOCNET brouught this symposium across my screen.

“Against The Flow: Critical Realism and Critiques of Contemporary Social Thought.”

Too bad it is in the UK.  :<(

I would particualrly liked to have seen :

Jonathan Joseph,
“A Critique of Networks and Flows”

AND

Nick Hostettler,
“Dialectical Critical Realism, Marxism and Critiques of Network theory: On Continuity and change in the theory and reality of civil society.”

Maybe I can hassle authors for papers.

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Filed under Networks, Research, Social Networks, social theory, sociology

The Information Society and Terrorism

I am deep into editing a paper about looking at terrorism from the perspective of OT and organizational studies.  Its been fun and allowed me to go back to the more recently resurgent grand theorizing of the likes of Manuel Castells, Charles Tilly, Ulrich Beck, and Anthony Giddens.

My initial reaction is that many of the themes of the grand social theory have been discussed and applied to terrorism. These include the idea that Islamic terrorism is very much a globalization phenomenon; the leaderless, self-organizing organizational structure of terrorism;  the shifting nature of identity in the information era.  There are more for sure.

I am not sure anyone has connected all the dots between the big picture of the theory of the network society and the multi-dimensional reality of Islamic terrorism (especially Al Qaeda).    One research task, it seems to me, to confirm that Al Qaeda is not so unique is to look at how “old line” terrorist groups are adapting (or not) to the contours of th enetwork society.   It may be that this ork has already been done and i just haven’t found it yet.  Suggestions are welcome, of course.  :<)

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Filed under Network Society, organization studies, Research, Social Networks, social theory, Terrorism

One more social theorist to check out

Reading a book about Castells, (by Fleix Stalder), I uncoverd this nugget by Scott Lash (whose name I have beeb seeing referenced for years).

“what is characteristic about the second modernity is the emergent demise of the distinction between structure and agency altogether” (Stalder 184).

Given the tag line of this blog, seems like I gotta check this out.  Who is Scott Lash?

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Filed under social theory