Recent Books

Wayne Baker. 2014. United America: The surprising truth about American values, American identity, and the 10 beliefs that a large majority of Americans hold dear. ReadTheSpirit Books.

United America coverAmericans may seem to be hopelessly divided, but UNITED AMERICA shows that Americans are united by a set of 10 core values—values that are strongly held by a large majority, shared across demographic, religious and political lines, and stable over time. Based on four national surveys conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, these 10 values include respect for others, symbolic patriotism, freedom of expression, pursuit of happiness, and justice and fairness. The book is written in an accessible style for a general audience. Free discussion guides and other resources are available www.UnitedAmericaBook.com

 

John L. Campbell & Ove K. Pedersen. 2014. The National Origins of Policy Ideas: Knowledge Regimes in the United States, France, Germany, and Denmark. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

The National Origins of Policy Ideas coverIn politics, ideas matter. They provide the foundation for economic policymaking that in turn shapes what is possible in domestic and international politics. Yet until now, little attention has been paid to how these ideas are produced and disseminated, and how this process varies between countries. The National Origins of Policy Ideas provides the first comparative analysis of how “knowledge regimes”—communities of policy research organizations like think tanks, political party foundations, ad hoc commissions and state research offices, and the institutions that govern them—generate ideas and communicate them to policymakers.

John Campbell and Ove Pedersen examine how knowledge regimes are organized, operate, and have changed over the last thirty years in the United States, France, Germany, and Denmark. They show how there are persistent national differences in how policy ideas are produced. Some countries do so in contentious, politically partisan ways,
while others are cooperative and consensus oriented. They find that while knowledge regimes have adopted some common practices since the 1970s, tendencies toward convergence have been limited and outcomes have been heavily shaped by national contexts.

Drawing on extensive interviews with top officials at leading policy research organizations, this book demonstrates why knowledge regimes are as important to capitalism as the state and the firm, and sheds new light on debates about the effects of globalization, the rise of neoliberalism, and the orientation of
comparative political economy in political science and sociology.

 

Paul Burstein. 2014. American Public Opinion, Advocacy, and Policy in Congress: What the Public Wants and What It Gets. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

American Public Opinion, Advocacy, and Policy in Congress coverBetween one election and the next, members of Congress introduce thousands of bills. What determines which become law? Is it the public? Do we have government “of the people, by the people, for the people?” Or is it those who have the resources to organize and pressure government who get what they want? In the first study ever of a random sample of policy proposals, Burstein finds that the public can get what it wants – but mainly on the few issues that attract its attention. Does this mean organized interests get what they want? Not necessarily – on most issues there is so little political activity that it hardly matters. Politics may be less of a battle between the public and organized interests than a struggle for attention. American society is so much more complex than it was when the Constitution was written that we may need to reconsider what it means, in fact, to be a democracy.

 

Cedric de Leon. 2013. Party and Society: Reconstructing a Sociology of Democratic Party Politics. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Party and Society coverPolitical parties are central to democratic life, yet there is no standard definition to describe them or the role they occupy. “Voter-centered” theoretical approaches suggest that parties are the mere recipients of voter interests and loyalties. “Party-centered” approaches, by contrast, envision parties that polarize, democratize, or dominate society. In addition to offering isolated and competing notions of democratic politics, such approaches are also silent on the role of the state and are unable to account for organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah, and the African National Congress, which exhibit characteristics of parties, states, and social movements simultaneously.

In this timely book, Cedric de Leon examines the ways in which social scientists and other observers have imagined the relationship between parties and society. He introduces and critiques the full range of approaches, using enlivening comparative examples from across the globe. Cutting through a vast body of research, de Leon offers a succinct and lively analysis that outlines the key thinking in the field, placing it in historical and contemporary context. The resulting book will appeal to students of sociology, political science, social psychology, and related fields.

 

Pertti Alasuutari & Ali Qadir (Eds.). 2013. National Policy-Making: Domestication of Global Trends. Routledge.

National Policy-Making coverNotions of social change are often divided into local versus international. But what actually happens at the national level—where policies are ultimately made and implemented—when policy-making is interdependent worldwide? How do policy-makers take into account the prior choices of other countries? Far more research is needed on the process of interdependent decision-making in the world polity.

National Policy-Making: domestication of global trends offers a unique set of hybrid cases that straddle these disciplinary and conceptual divides. The volume brings together well-researched case studies of policy-making from across the world that speak to practical issues but also challenge current theories of global influence in local policies. Distancing itself from approaches that conceive narrowly of policy transfer as a “one-way street” from powerful nations to weaker ones, this book argues instead for an understanding of national decision-making processes that emphasize cross-national comparisons and domestic field battles around the introduction of worldwide models.

The case studies in this collection show how national policies appear to be synchronized globally yet are developed with distinct “national” flavors. Presenting new theoretical ideas and empirical cases, this book is aimed globally at scholars of political science, international relations, comparative public policy, and sociology.

 

Thomas Janoski, David Luke and Christopher Oliver. 2014. The Causes of Structural Unemployment. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

The Causes of Structural Unemployment coverThere is a specter haunting advanced industrial countries: structural unemployment. Recent years have seen growing concern over declining jobs, and though corporate profits have picked up after the Great Recession of 2008, jobs have not. It is possible that “jobless recoveries” could become a permanent feature of Western economies. This illuminating book focuses on the employment futures of advanced industrial countries, providing readers with the sociological imagination to appreciate the bigger picture of where workers fit in the new international division of labor. The authors piece together a puzzle that reveals deep structural forces underlying unemployment: skills mismatches caused by a shift from manufacturing to service jobs; increased offshoring in search of lower wages; the rise of advanced communication and automated technologies; and the growing financialization of the global economy that aggravates all of these factors. Weaving together varied literatures and data, the authors also consider what actions and policy initiatives societies might take to alleviate these threats. Addressing a problem that should be front and center for political economists and policymakers, this book will be illuminating reading for students of the sociology of work, labor studies, inequality, and economic sociology.

 

Thomas Janoski and Darina Lepadatu. 2013. Dominant Divisions of Labor. London: Palgrave-Macmillan. Pivot Series.

Dominant Divisions of Labor coverThe past century of production was dominated by Fordism and Taylorism, but how do we make sense of global production today? This book takes a panoramic view of the new theories of production: post-Fordism, flexible accumulation, McDonaldization, Waltonism, Nikeification, Gatesism and Siliconism, shareholder value, and lean production with Toyotism. The authors argue that lean production in a somewhat expanded version presents three variations: Toyotism (the full model), Nikeification (off-shored plants lacking teamwork) and Waltonism (the merchandising form that presses for off-shoring). While all three share strong elements of “just in time” inventory through supply chain management, they differ in how teamwork and long-term philosophies are valued. This critical review of dominant established theories shows how the contemporary division of labor is structured. The authors also preview the newly emerging “additive” or 3-D production process.

 

Jack A. Goldstone, Eric P. Kaufmann and Monica Duffy Toft (ed.).2012. Political Demography: How Population Changes are Reshaping International Security and National Politics. New York: Oxford University Press

Political Demography coverThis volume offers essays by expert demographers and political scientists advancing the new field of political demography. Essays examine the impact of aging in rich countries, the youth surge in developing countries, how age structure affects prospects for democracy, where changes in ethnic composition are causing shifts in party alignments in the U.S., the impact of differential fertility on democracy in Israel, the risks of ethnic civil wars in Africa; and how immigration is reshaping European religion and citizenship, among other topics. An ideal text for courses in political sociology seeking to show how various aspects of social structure are shaping political issues around the world.

 

Mark S. Mizruchi. 2013. The Fracturing of the American Corporate Elite. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

The Fracturing of the American Corporate Elite coverFollowing World War II, American business leaders observed an ethic of civic responsibility and enlightened self-interest. Steering a course of moderation and pragmatism, they accepted the legitimacy of organized labor and federal regulation of the economy and offered support, sometimes actively, as Congress passed legislation to build the interstate highway system, reduce discrimination in hiring, and provide a safety net for the elderly and needy. In the 1970s, however, faced with inflation, foreign competition, and growing public criticism, corporate leaders became increasingly confrontational with labor and government. As they succeeded in taming their opponents, business leaders paradoxically undermined their ability to act collectively. The acquisition wave of the 1980s created further pressures to focus on shareholder value and short term gain rather than long-term problems facing their country. Today’s corporate elite is a fragmented, ineffectual group that is unwilling to tackle the big issues, despite unprecedented wealth and political clout. Mizruchi’s sobering assessment of the dissolution of America’s business class helps explain the polarization and gridlock that stifle U.S. politics.

 

Simone Polillo. 2013. Conservatives versus Wildcats: A Sociology of Financial Conflict. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Conservatives versus wildcats coverFor decades, the banking industry seemed to be a Swiss watch, quietly ticking along. But the recent financial crisis hints at the true nature of this sector. As Simone Polillo reveals in Conservatives Versus Wildcats, conflict is a driving force. Conservative bankers strive to control money by allying themselves with political elites to restrict access to credit. They create new financial instruments in order to consolidate and reproduce their wealth over time, turning money into an instrument of exclusion, and couching their practices in ideologies of sound banking. Barriers to credit, however, create social resistance, so rival bankers—wildcats—attempt to subvert the status quo by using money as a tool for breaking existing boundaries. For instance, wildcats may increase the circulation of existing currencies, incorporate new actors in financial markets, or produce altogether new financial instruments to create change. Using examples from the economic and social histories of 19th-century America and Italy, two decentralized polities where challenges to sound banking originated from above and below, this book reveals the collective tactics that conservative bankers devise to legitimize strict boundaries around credit—and the transgressive strategies that wildcat bankers employ in their challenge to this restrictive stance.

 

Liliana Riga. 2012. The Bolsheviks and the Russian Empire. New York: Cambridge University Press.

The Bolsheviks and the Russian Empire coverA comparative historical and political sociology of the Bolshevik revolutionaries, this book offers a reinterpretation of political radicalization in the last years of the Russian Empire. Finding that two-thirds of the Bolshevik leadership were ethnic minorities—Ukrainians, Latvians, Georgians, Jews, and others—it explores shared experiences of assimilation and socioethnic exclusion that underlay their class universalism. It suggests that imperial policies toward the Empire’s diversity radicalized class and ethnicity as intersectional experiences, creating an assimilated but excluded elite: lower-class Russians and middle-class minorities universalized particular exclusions as they disproportionately sustained the economic and political burdens of maintaining the multiethnic Russian Empire. Political exclusions and quasi-assimilated social worlds enabled reinventions, as the Bolsheviks’ social identities and routes to revolutionary radicalism show how a class-universalist politics was appealing to those seeking secularism in response to religious tensions, a universalist politics where ethnic and geopolitical insecurities were exclusionary, and a tolerant “imperial” imaginary where Russification and illiberal repressions were most keenly felt.