Mangla, Akshay. 2021. “Social conflict on the front lines of reform: Institutional activism and girls’ education in rural India.” Public Administration and Development. https://doi.org/10.1002/pad.1959. How do states realize social reforms for marginalized groups in settings of entrenched inequality? This article argues that reform implementation is a conflict-ridden process driven by the institutional activism of street-level bureaucrats. Through an ethnographic case study of Mahila Samakhya, a novel government program for women’s empowerment in Uttar Pradesh, India, I find that local fieldworkers committed to reform promoted girls’ education by mobilizing marginalized citizens and mediating local conflicts. Organizational processes of gender-based training and deliberation enabled fieldworkers to challenge village patriarchy and exclusion and forge programmatic ties with lower caste women. By altering rules to address the practical needs of households, fieldworkers effectively integrated disadvantaged girls into the education system. Institutional activism also engendered conflicts over rules within the bureaucracy, prompting senior officials to advocate for marginalized groups. The findings suggest that institutional commitment to activism is critical for agencies working on the front lines of reform.
Hironaka, Ann. 2017. Tokens of Power: Rethinking War. Cambridge University Press. War presents a curious paradox. Interstate war is arguably the most carefully planned endeavor by states, yet military history is filled with disasters and blunders of monumental proportions. These anomalies happen because most military history presumes that states are pursuing optimal strategies in a competitive environment. This book offers an alternative narrative in which the pillars of military planning – evaluations of power, strategy, and interests – are theorized as social constructions rather than simple material realities. States may be fighting wars primarily to gain or maintain power, yet in any given historical era such pursuits serve only to propel competition; they do not ensure military success in subsequent generations. Allowing states to embark on hapless military ventures is fraught with risks, while the rewards are few.
Garrido, Marco Z. 2019. The Patchwork City: Class, Space, and Politics in Metro Manila. In contemporary Manila, slums and squatter settlements are peppered throughout the city, often pushing right up against the walled enclaves of the privileged, creating the complex geopolitical pattern of Marco Z. Garrido’s “patchwork city.” Garrido documents the fragmentation of Manila into a mélange of spaces defined by class, particularly slums and upper- and middle-class enclaves. He then looks beyond urban fragmentation to delineate its effects on class relations and politics, arguing that the proliferation of these slums and enclaves and their subsequent proximity have intensified class relations. For enclave residents, the proximity of slums is a source of insecurity, compelling them to impose spatial boundaries on slum residents. For slum residents, the regular imposition of these boundaries creates a pervasive sense of discrimination. Class boundaries then sharpen along the housing divide, and the urban poor and middle class emerge not as labor and capital but as squatters and “villagers,” Manila’s name for subdivision residents. Garrido further examines the politicization of this divide with the case of the populist president Joseph Estrada, finding the two sides drawn into contention over not just the right to the city, but the nature of democracy itself. The Patchwork City illuminates how segregation, class relations, and democracy are all intensely connected. It makes clear, ultimately, that class as a social structure is as indispensable to the study of Manila—and of many other cities of the Global South—as race is to the study of American cities.
Clemens, Elizabeth. 2020. Civi Gifts: Voluntarism and the Making of the American Nation-State. University of Chicago Press. In Civic Gifts, Elisabeth S. Clemens takes a singular approach to probing the puzzle that is the United States. How, she asks, did a powerful state develop within an anti-statist political culture? How did a sense of shared nationhood develop despite the linguistic, religious, and ethnic differences among settlers and, eventually, citizens? Clemens reveals that an important piece of the answer to these questions can be found in the unexpected political uses of benevolence and philanthropy, practices of gift-giving and reciprocity that coexisted uneasily with the self-sufficient independence expected of liberal citizens Civic Gifts focuses on the power of gifts not only to mobilize communities throughout US history, but also to create new forms of solidarity among strangers. Clemens makes clear how, from the early Republic through the Second World War, reciprocity was an important tool for eliciting both the commitments and the capacities needed to face natural disasters, economic crises, and unprecedented national challenges. Encompassing a range of endeavors from the mobilized voluntarism of the Civil War, through Community Chests and the Red Cross to the FDR-driven rise of the March of Dimes, Clemens shows how voluntary efforts were repeatedly articulated with government projects. The legacy of these efforts is a state co-constituted with, as much as constrained by, civil society.
Janoski, Thomas, De Leon, Cedric, Misra, Joya, & Martin, Isaac William. (Eds.). 2020. The New Handbook of Political Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. How will political sociology help us discern and analyze such changes now and in the next few decades? The future of politics is as uncertain as ever, but a brief overview of the history of political sociology may offer some clues to the theoretical challenges and opportunities ahead. For convenience, we divide the recent history of political sociology into three periods, suggesting that the field is now entering a fourth period with an expanding focus.