It contains the Table of Contents and a few sample pages.
The PAPERBACK VERSION became available in early August 2010.
Check it out / order here
The book has received Honorable Mention in the 2011 best book competition of the Political Economy of the World-System section of the American Sociological Association.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
The EU as an Object of Critical Historical-Geopolitical Analysis // Az EU mint a kritikai történeti-geopolitikai elemzés tárgya
Saturday, April 20, 2013
Now that's not only interesting; it is something that sociologists ought to be able to say something about. As it turns out, they have. So, let's take the problem apart for a moment.
First, the implication in emphasizing this seems to be that this makes him somehow different from the rest of us. As it turns out, having fewer and fewer friends is a generic problem that plagues US society. Those of us who don't know this from their immediate experience have surely had a chance to learn about it from Robert D. Putnam's widely celebrated book, Bowling Alone. Here the author claims that the interpersonal density of social life of in the USA is waning. In his words, "we sign fewer petitions, belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often." In other words, the alleged Boston bomber may not be all that different from the rest of us in this regard. Most Americans don't have many American friends.
Second, there is a very large and distinguished literature on the social networks of immigrants. Two themes seem relevant to this issue. First, immigrants often experience sociality as it exists in the United Stats difficult to interpret, as it is mis-aligned with their "cultural" understandings. In-depth interviews conducted by Elizabeth Gareis, for instance, suggest suggest that "all informants struggled with cultural differences concerning friendship formation. Most prominently, the different category width of the word 'friend' and the extent of public and private personality layers in the two cultures caused confusion and misunderstandings." In other words, what the accused, now dead Boston bomber might have meant when he was not a bomber yet may have been a reflection on this cross-cultural mis-match. We don't know.
In a context that is often un-decipherable to them, immigrants often tend to rely on co-ethnic networks. Work on migrant informality and the social embeddedness of migrant economic action constitutes the classics of the sociology of migration. Taken together, the ties that bind immigrants to local society are important determinants of the character of the context of reception that determines, in turn, a huge part of the migrant experience, not only in a narrowly economic sense, but also in terms of psychological well-being and emotional stability. All those points seem directly relevant to the Boston case.
Finally, work on the discrimination and segregation to which African Americans are still subjected in the United States, has uncovered, approximately one generation ago, that social networks play a significant part in the preservation and inter-generational transmission of disadvantages. William Julius Wilson has suggested, for instance, that "Social isolation deprives residents of inner-city neighborhoods not only of resources and conventional role models, whose former presence buffered the effects of neighborhood joblessness, but also of the kind of cultural learning from mainstream social networks that facilitates social and economic advancement in modern industrial society." (The extent to which the US is an "industrial society" is somewhat questionable, but that's beside the point, as it stands even more for the post-industrial service economy that the US has evolved.)
It is not possible to talk about sociality, friendship and informal ties in the United States without these insights. And that is exactly what the meanstream media (pun intended) does. I wonder why.
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Here is a link to the audio recording. (The actual conversation begins at around 9:30.)
Monday, March 4, 2013
1. It is really unfortunate that there is no author attribution: I can't tell my students _who_ is speaking. The links that appear briefly at the end of the video and underneath the video window on the youtube site don't do the job. This is a real problem, imho: When somebody speaks to me, in this voice over mode, I would appreciate an opportunity to know who they are.
2. The narrator refers repeatedly to "socialism" in a really inaccurate and misleading way. Full equality, or even the demand for a full equality, in the sense in which it is depicted on the screen (every percentile of the population getting the exact amount of money, etc.) was never a tenet of "socialism", as practice or as theory. In fact, the famous socialist slogan "from each according to ability, to each according to need" actually explicitly declares that full equality ought not to exist (since there are differences in both abilities and need). More broadly, the reference to "socialism" (let alone such a vulgar, misinformed one) is logically unnecessary for the argument the video puts forth.
3. Perhaps worse yet, the makers of the video shy away from references to the rest-of-the-world. That's truly a pity, since the USA--the focus of this project--is somewhere between 5th and 15th in the global per capita income scale (depending on your method of estimation), and pretty much all of the comparably well-to-do or even wealthier states in the world have a more equitable distribution, in many cases: strikingly less unequal distribution, of income and wealth than the USA. In other words, the institutional invention of state regulated (welfare or even post-welfare) capitalism, a la Norway, Sweden, even Germany, etc., is entirely left out of the picture.
Why does this matter?
It matters because all that makes it look, for a vast majority of the viewers--I suspect including most students I encounter in my undergraduate classes, for instance--that "inequality is bad but nothing can be done about it," short of "socialism," (which is "bad" and/or "impossible"). I think that is truly unfortunate, and reveals something about the character of public discourse in the United States today. /1/ Critique is there, but it is entirely inward-looking; /2/ discussions on collective solution are politically self-disabling.
Friday, November 9, 2012
I agree with Eichengreen that the EU's inability to grow is a huge political risk. And it is a global risk, given the deep historical linkedness of west European societies to the rest-of-the-world.
The trouble is, setting Europe on a course of economic growth may not be possible. As historical evidence indicates, a chronic inability to grow has been the EU's curse throughout its existence. Managing the problems of geopolitical power arising from this chronic size-impairment is, as I have documented in my book, in fact the main rationale for the EU's creation. It is this chronic inability to grow beyond a certain global share that the EU's repeated enlargements were designed to mask, and they did so with remarkable effectiveness--until recently.
However, masking is not the same as fixing. Enlargements only swept historical structural issues under the rug. I have made this argument several times; last time using this graph:
In the graph, EU-enlargements appear as the upward-pointing "jumps" in the line representing the EU's share in gross world product. More important, we see a clear downward-sliding tendency during the years that did not involve enlargements.
A somewhat more puzzling question is why we talk so much about the EU's lack-of-growth nowadays. I can think of two, more or less simultaneous, reasons. First: The EU is pretty much running out of credible "accession" candidates, given the criteria for admission (having a particular kind of political system, predominance of a "European identity", whatever that means, etc.). This is especially the case for states the EU needs most--i.e., ones that are large enough to provide more resources--i.e., most important, cheap, qualified labor--for economic growth.
Second, all this is hitting the EU at a time when its longue-durée objets-de-désire and geopolitical nemeses--especially China, India and Russia-- (as well as such other, not-so-tiny societies as Vietnam, Indonesia and Brazil) are growing remarkably fast, much faster than 'Europe', wherever one might want to draw its boundaries, or even "the west" (e.g., see the direction of the line representing the US in the graph above). In other words, west European capital's (and, hence, by political extension, west European populations') shares in the global pie are slowly and, as far as I can see, unstoppably, shrinking. And along with those declining shares in global value added, we see the erosion of west European influence over the global system as a whole. (Hence, e.g., the psychosis about "China's meddling in Africa.") Part and parcel to all this is western Europe's growing economic dependence on these societies, not just for raw materials, energy and labor, as throughout the history of capitalism, but also for affordable finished products and services. These are the principal processes that create the current concerns--which are, hence, obviously about much more than small technical issues of "European growth" and domestic politics in the less-well-off European states.
The current discussion about "European growth" is, thus, about the character of the emerging, new global order in the most profound sense of the word.
There is of course a solution: a slow and resolute process of cultural change whereby European societies would gradually learn to live at less than 3 times the world average per capita GDP and not treat the rest of the world as their own private corporate playground. But that of course would require "soft power" and "civilization" on part of the European states and the European Union--the two things their political systems sadly lack, in spite of all the rhetoric to the contrary.
Friday, November 2, 2012
But the US is by far not the only such case. By the same token, China, India, Russia, Germany, Britain, France, not to mention the supra- and pseudo-state of the EU itself, are all political powers that have a decisive influence on the world. Come to think of it, even small(er) size may not prevent states from influencing life for huge numbers of people beyond their borders.
But even that's not all. States (and the EU) are not the only large actors with a global impact. Corporations have, clearly, a similar impact, especially if they are large, if they have unique technologies that are in great demand (e.g., pharmaceutical molecules), if they are able to control important resources (from oil through gas and, increasingly, drinking water), or if they are able to influence people's ways of thinking without most of them even noticing, like the media, especially the commercial visual media, or (what is increasingly overlapping with the former), the entertainment industry.
I hate to say this: I have no idea how to fix these concentrations of power with no public supervision.