Volume 11 Number 1 1998
Understanding Later Life (Jane Pilcher)
THEORY and METHOD
Sociology Explained, Andy Barnard and Terry Burgess.
Introductory Sociology, Tony Bilton et al.
A-Level Sociology:Patterns and Trends, Paul Selfe (David Harris)
A History of Sociological Research Methods in America,1920-1960, Jennifer Platt (E. Stina Lyon)
Rediscoveries and Reformulations:Humanistic Methodologies for International Studies, Hayward Alker (Ken Dark)
Bureaucracy and Public Economics, William Niskanen.
Bureaucracy in the Modern State, John Pierre.
The Spirit of Capitalism and the Protestant Ethic:An Enquiry into the Weber Thesis, Michael Lessnoff (Steve Molloy)
CULTURE and COMMUNICATION
Consumption in the World of Affluence:The World of Food, B. Fine, M. Heaseman and J. Wright (Steve Conway)
Australian Television and International Mediascapes, Stuart Cunningham (Meryl Aldridge)
Information Technologies and Social Orders, Carl Couch (Kenneth Levine)
Sport, Economy and Society in Britain,1750 - 1914, Neil Tranter (Jonathan Magee)
Audience Analysis, Denis McQuail (Meryl Aldridge)
GENDER and SEXUALITY
Erotics and Politics:Gay Male Sexuality, Masculinity and Feminism, Tim Edwards.
Understanding Masculinities:Social Relations and Cultural Arenas, Mairtin Mac-An-Ghaill (Anne Goldthorpe)
God’s Daughters:Evangelical Women and the Power of Submission, R. Marie Griffith (Carole Williams)
The Underdevelopment of Development:Essays in Honor of Andre Gundar Frank, Sing Chew and Robert Denemark (Peter Woodward)
Managing in the Corporate Interest:Control and Resistance in an American Bank, Vicki Smith (Peter Cook)
Stalinism & Nazism:Dictatorships in Comparison, Ian Kershaw and Moshe Lewin (R. J. Ward)
Citizenship and Democratic Control in Contemporary Europe, B. Einhorn, M. Kaldor and Z. Kavan (Richard Bellamy)
Reds or Rackets?:The Making of Radical and Conservative Unions on the Waterfront, Howard Kimeldorf (Peter Cook)
POLICY and INTERVENTION
The Sociology of Medicine, William Cockerham (Kathy Kendall)
A Tale of Two Cities:Global Change, Local Feeling, and Everyday Life in the North of England. A Study of Manchester and Sheffield, Ian Taylor, Karen Evans and Penny Fraser (Peter Bramham)
Improving Poor People:The Welfare State, The ‘Underclass’, and Urban Schools as History, Michael Katz (Stephen Sinclair)
The Journey of Life:A Cultural History of Aging in America, Thomas Cole (Debra Turner)
Search and Destroy:African-American Males in the Criminal Justice System, Jerome Miller.
Compelled to Crime:The Gender Entrapment of Battered Black Women, Beth Richie (Tina Eadie)
THEORY and METHOD
Sociology Explained, Andy Barnard and Terry Burgess, Cambridge University Press, 1996, 488 pages, £16.95 paperback.
Introductory Sociology (3rd edn), Tony Bilton, Kevin Bonnett, Pip Jones, David Skinner, Michelle Stanworth, and Andrew Webster, Macmillan, 1996, 681 pages, £14.99 paperback.
A-Level Sociology: Patterns and Trends, Paul Selfe, Macmillan, 1993, 342 pages, £9.99 paperback.
These texts follow closely the formal and hidden curricula of A-level Sociology, but vary considerably in the extent to which they aim at fostering understanding of the subject. Selfe’s book is designed to help students pass the various tests they will encounter, while the other two attempt to contextualise some of the more syllabus specific aspects of the debates. In general, all three of them expose a familiar dilemma for the teacher: how to help students survive and pass, while resisting a fully reductionist and instrumental approach. Rather than offering a quick overview of whole books (and these books must be familiar anyway) in this short review, it seems acceptable to focus upon this dilemma in several areas: discussions of standard topics like ‘theory and methods’ and ‘social stratification’, and more generally of the newer issues for the A-level (variously indexed as ‘culture and identity’, ‘globalisation’ or even ‘postmodernism’ ).
Barnard and Burgess can be taken as a kind of ‘normal text’, with many common features. They signal the arrival of the newer issues in their chapter on culture and identity (and globalisation appears in the chapter on developmental sociology). There is a substantial section on postmodernism in the chapter on organisations, and a good review of the more theoretical aspects of the debates about sociology (well, Marxism at least) and postmodernism in the excellent Postscript. However, these topics are still dealt with in a rather traditional framework (or added on rather at the end of the book), and the rest of the text offers the more traditional discussions, no doubt focused rather tightly on the syllabi. Chapter 2 (on culture and identity), for example, treads the familiar ground of accounts of socialisation in different traditions, sticking to the old ‘structure/action’ split, and contrasting functionalist and Marxist accounts (the latter represented by a Birmingham CCCS effortlessly triumphing over an elitist Frankfurt School, represented as ever by one concept from Marcuse). There are some distinctive glosses: an attempt to work in Freud as a theorist worthy of attention by sociologists, for example. Students have to wait until the Postscript to encounter the more challenging ‘post’ work on culture and identity. This is a problem with the conservatism of the syllabus, of course, not the writers: Barnard and Burgess, and indeed Bilton et al, seem to write with a new vigour when they are allowed to discuss recent trends.
Students are introduced to the debates in Sociology via a rather conventional chapter on theories and methods (we must not assume real students would actually read this first chapter first, of course). After a warning that it is no longer acceptable (to Examination Boards) to divide up sociological work too easily into ‘perspectives’, the authors proceed to do just that, by and large. The main split turns on the curious terms ‘positivist’ versus ‘phenomenological’ perspectives, and in the debates that follow, Marxist and ‘action’ approaches seem to do quite well. Agendas are set and students pointed in the right direction with references to Parsons’ work as ‘bland and fruitless’ (p.6), as opposed to the ‘richly creative’ work of Marx (p.7), for example. The methods section is also familiar: there is a general rejection of claims that data can be ‘objective’, for example, because of such inevitabilities as ‘interviewer bias’ (rather than offering any detailed examination of the ways in which ‘interviewer bias’ might have been controlled in any sense in actual studies). ‘Positivism’ is discussed in the familiar terms of the ‘battles of the schools’ of the seventies: in ‘positivism’ individuals become ‘slavish automatons’ (p.36), or ‘people cannot be treated like microbes in a test-tube (p.37). After this sort of ritualistic discussion, the authors seem to turn with relief to more recent issues, ending with stronger sections on the connections with social policy, the current political unpopularity of Sociology and the effects this has had on research.
It is always interesting to see how such gestural anti-positivism fares with discussion of the more substantive topics. Barnard’s and Burgess’s chapter on social stratification cheerfully cites empirical data to defend their view that social divisions are still powerful in our society, with little hint of the scathing condemnations of Chapter I (except, maybe for a joking reference to ‘number-crunching positivists’ in connection with the Oxford Mobility Survey (p.78). Instead, there is a much more pragmatic discussion of matters like the various schemes used to classify occupations. There is such an old-fashioned air to the debates on social class, however (Bilton et al are better). Marx simply had a two-class model which is naively determinist, for example, and no neo-Weberians seem to have contributed to the debates. Each subsection seems to have a separate agenda too - feminist critiques seem to be given their own section, so to speak, and tried out as critique only when debating social mobility (a similar tacit division of labour affects Selfe too).
‘Race’, age and disability are dealt with in an open and lively way, but the same pluralism dominates. These seem to be merely additional axes or new areas. To be fair, at least they make an appearance in a chapter on stratification, and there are hints of a critical relation with the other main axes of stratification. Yet students are largely invited to collect and list these ‘dimensions’ of stratification, rather than doing anything more ambitious like evaluating or comparing them systematically and critically: no doubt there is no time on the A-level, but it must look like a rather arbitrary business to the newcomer.
Bilton et al have rewritten their famous work quite extensively in this edition. There is some substantial discussion on the new topics, on modernity and globalisation, and this is sustained in several chapters. The Preface and the Introduction makes a clear case for such material, and the authors demonstrate their own street credibility by citing their own Web page and offering a URL for on-line support services. Even here, though, there is an unevenness: ‘post’ critiques first make an appearance as dealing merely with ‘the role of language in human life’ (p.95), merely putting ‘language, texts and discourses. . . at the top of sociology’s agenda’ (p.97).
It is not until Chapter 19 that the case for the end of sociology is drawn from Baudrillard and Lyotard, (after some necessary ground clearing in the previous two chapters) and even here comfort is soon offered to the reader (and to colleagues?): ‘ Sociology. . . is a discourse well worth saying [containing]. . . truth claims which cannot be dismissed’ (p.648). Organising and contextualising non-academic commentary also helps: students are told that the case against human agency in such work is ‘difficult and unconvincing’ (p.649), for example, or that ‘the stance of poststructuralism and postmodernism. . . has been rejected by many recent theorists’ (my emphasis) (p.640). Earlier, the discussion of changes in ‘modernity’ introduces a range of new concepts and issues - but we are reassured at the end that ‘we need sociology more than ever’ (p.49). Whether we need A-level sociology is not debated, though.
Here and elsewhere, Giddens seems to structure the discussion, and there are interesting and engaging examples of his material on living in modernity (the title of Chapter 2), and on globalisation and modernity (Chapter 3). Readers get a stimulating discussion and sociology comes out of the museum at last - but there is still the drag of the syllabus as a rather conventional ‘founding fathers’ section is grafted on to the end of the piece on globalisation: readers go on to examine classical theories in a rather safe way, as some sort of innocent historical exercise in the emergence of sociology, and thus any messiness is avoided by compartmentalisation. The pedagogic tensions are also evident in the contrast between the discussion in the text and the rather superficial quick-fix definitions in the margins or in the Glossary (a feature common to other texts, of course). The discussion of social class is conventional but thorough and professionally done, though perhaps it is a little too technical. There is a slight tendency to try to rescue social class as a master concept, with the case against slightly muted, but the closing section is thoughtful.
There are no such discussions at all in Selfe’s work. This text is an expertly devised A-level crammer, and as such it has its uses (and its fans, I understand), although combining it with one of the other texts seems wise. The piece begins with a section on approaching the main task in hand - passing the examination. Students are told some of the details of the operations of the Examination Boards, their marking schemes and the advice and warnings they issue to candidates and markers. Selfe describes the types of assessment on display, takes us through a suitable answer (although he says his text is not about model answers as such and warns against the technique: several sets have been published, of course). Some rather good ideas are presented for course work and projects, and students are offered an excellent list of research techniques. Study techniques are linked to the actual tasks presented by ‘data response’ or ‘picture’ questions, and each chapter ends with a list of possible questions (and some ‘self-test’ questions too). Even the material in the chapters on substantive topics is organised around actual examination questions. In the opening chapter on theories and methods, arguments are presented in a very minimalist style, as lists of points for and against approaches (three ‘criticisms’ and three ‘strengths’ for Marxism (p.5) for example), or as lists of bullet points. Kuhn’s work becomes five bullet points, for example, Weber gets four and Meade [sic] two.
The chapter on social stratification offers the student charts of different classificatory schemes as well as the usual lists. Everything is cheerfully operationalised and reduced, with very little debate in fact, despite the stress in the opening. Students are offered brief summaries with almost no context, so that Lockwood on the blackcoated worker appears as an apparent (real, later) opponent of Braverman, or Sennett and Cobb’s US study just ‘adds’ to the list of British work on class. The Marxist perspective (just the one) is, of course, simple economic reductionism and Selfe further reduces it himself - to one column on p.90.
All this is justifiable, no doubt, as a quick reminder for the revising student, but it is possible to doubt the approach even as a crammer. Are endless and rather arbitrary lists of points really the best way to manage the material? Can students possibly know the work of Marx and Weber (let alone Schutz or Dahrendorf) well enough to pass an A-level from the quick list, the one-sentence summary and then a reference to the originals? (Most of the introductory texts have huge gaps in the reading like this, of course - one sentence on Habermas, say, followed by a reference to his Theory of Communicative Action). Selfe’s lists are puzzling, on occasion, and students might find them off-putting if they do not agree with their notes from other sources. I also found it hard to actually do some of the self-tests in a way that agreed with the right answers. Selfe seemed able to ‘read’ the rather general question on class and gender (p.93), for example, as a cue to talk mostly about the specific debates about women and social mobility, which seems to be some sort of agreed procedure at A-level, as we noted with Barnard and Burgess. Since he is the expert, I must assume I would have done rather badly on that question at A-level. Despite all attempts to develop a ‘technical fix’ to pass the exam ( via a kind of pedagogic Taylorism in this case), it seems that ‘answering the question’ involves the same old shared tacit understandings.
As the discussion on stratification indicates, Selfe is firmly located in the museum, where, for example, Schutz offers a ‘recent perspective in sociology’ (p.14). There are no references to modernity or postmodernism in the Index, and only one to globalisation (where, in the section on developmental sociology, we read that this ‘could become the fundamental unit of analysis in the future’). Doubtless, when it does, Selfe will devote a short list of bullet points to it, along with all the other topics he has processed.
University College of St Mark and St John
A History of Sociological Research Methods in America 1920-1960, Jennifer Platt, Cambridge University Press, 1996, 333 pages, £40 cloth.
This book presents an impressively comprehensive history of US sociological research methods between 1920 and 1960. It provides much detailed evidence from a range of archival and documentary sources, including textbooks, monographs and general histories of the discipline, its institutions and practitioners. A sample of sociologists associated with research methods, research units and graduate schools and active before 1960, were interviewed. For those who were students in the 60s like myself, it provides an intellectual trip down a memory lane rich in writings on the methodological essence of this "unbounded" discipline. Though Platt emphasises her unwillingness to focus on those specialists only, who in retrospect have been elevated to the "great and the good", the list of interviewees reads like the exhibition catalogue for a sociology hall of fame. What an interesting time she must have had visiting and talking to them all: Whyte, Coleman, Strauss, Becker, Blalock, Blumer, to name but a few. The bibliography of this book will in itself provide an excellent resource for sociological historians, methodologists and practitioners alike. "Methodological writings" are defined as independent intellectual products, the more important functions of which are those of identifying, labeling, elaborating, and formalising existing practices. She is concerned both with inventions and with the systematisation and routinisation of ideas and their justifications, of each of which there are numerous examples.
The period under scrutiny is one in which American, or more appropriately US, sociology became dominant in the development of both quantitative and qualitative methods. Its significance to European sociology is undoubted, if only for the many strong reactions against it. Platt’s key aim is to provide a new and broader perspective on the history of methods, and methods writings, away from the history of sociological theory more generally, and to question the assumption that only theory determines and summarises practice. Our "collective diciplinary memory" is, as she argues, in need of rectification by more systematic historical work, detached from the urge to legitimate current practice in theoretically fashionable shrouds. As such, the book is an important plea for research methods writings to be given the same intellectual legitimacy in sociological discourse as theory. Given the international standing of the American "giants" she writes about, this is perhaps more of a British assumption than a universal one, and her arguments at times seem a bit parochial. The book is also an extremely interesting search for "proximate causes" amongst the social, institutional and practical contexts and constraints within which this growth and diversification of sociological research methods took place.
The rich empirical material is approached through a series of broad themes: the role of "scientism" as slogan and reality, the relationship to funding bodies and its consequences for the development of techniques, the significance of social groupings and "schools", and the significance of strategically placed individuals and their personal contributions. She also traces changing patterns over time and their possible explanations. The evidence leads her to some surprising answers. There is well founded criticism of the assumption that the 50s and 60s were dominated by scientism alone. Up until the war, the qualitative/quantitative, humanistic/scientistic controversy dominated the field. After 1945, quantitative survey methods came to the fore through a combination of factors: the growth of government during the depression, mobilisation and war leading to the creation of challenging large data sets across a range of areas; growing commercial interests in polling techniques; and the leadership of men like Stouffer and Lazarsfeld. If the pre-war period had focused on how to collect data, so the post-war period came to focus on how to analyse data, drawing boundaries and giving names to different methodological activities. But though the case study method, uses of life histories and personal documents saw a decline, they were replaced by newer concepts such as participant observation and other forms of qualitative research spawned on the ground by varieties of community activism. The survey domination was not uncritically accepted within the discipline, and even Stouffer, the director of the path breaking project The American Soldier and leading developer of quantitative techniques, expressed fears of their potentially dangerous influence if treated as "ideal". The multiplicity of audiences amongst social workers, community leaders, philosophers and politicians, fostered a continuation of a multiplicity of perspectives across the humanistic/scientistic divide. Platt shows how derivative sociology has been of other disciplines, including practical ones such as social work, and shows how this has been underplayed in collective discipline memory. One of the consequences of this has been the exclusion from discipline accounts of many of its women contributors.
Funding does not appear to have been as important in determining change as previously thought. The reasons for the growth in writing on methods lay not only in the growth of funding, but also in the growth in students, universities, courses, departmental diversifications and the entrepreneurialism of men such as Lazarsfeld within them. But more important, she argues, was the need for intellectual justifications for changing practices in an increasingly differentiated and specialised discipline. Many modes of data collection can be understood as much by what they were reactions against, as in what they were trying to achieve. The more diversity was created, the more opportunities for controversy arose, and the greater sophistication, the more complex the criticisms. Alongside the evidence of funder’s own pragmatic interests, there is plenty here about the capacity of social scientists to manipulate access to funds in their own specialist domains.
Despite the amount of material presented, certain important themes are less prominent than one might have wished. The confrontational politics of the period, starting with the New Deal and culminating with the anti-communism of the cold war, is treated as a bit of a side issue, as are issues of gender and race, illustrating the academic institutional orientation of the book. Platt’s passionate commitment to empirical scrutiny and detail in pursuing her themes, and not to narrative history as such, does also at times make the book a hard read for those not immediately involved in the field. The "voices" of those interviewed sadly do not shine through enough, and a sense of the spirit of the times is missing. One can only hope that her files are full of more personalised accounts of the period in question, accounts which the present, more formalistic, research project prevents her from putting to rewarding use, except in a large number of interesting footnotes. There is material for another book in these often wry and amusing detailed snippets of the personal side of academic life, as ever characterised by personal and institutional competition, gossip and political infighting. The vision of the famous Chicago sociology department in the ’30s, organising its baseball sides on the basis of methodological preferences, (case study versus statistics), and of poor Goffman being so unappreciated there as a student (and getting such bad grades), that he left for Edinburgh, puts a human touch on methodological conceptualisations made even drier than usual by being considered away from the substance of their applications.
Then, as now, individual reputations had greater chances of survival if their holders possessed the right personal style, operating from the right structural and institutional location. Then, as now, changing conceptions of science set the framework for where moving boundaries between quantitative and qualitative perspectives were drawn. And then, as now, funding structures were as manipulated by academics as they themselves were manipulated. But in the ultimate analysis, the key finding of this important book lies in the evidence it provides of the continuing need for intellectual justification of changing practices, and of the significance of critical analysis for methodological advance in a discipline, which despite recent myths to the contrary, is here shown to be cumulative in the best sense of the word.
E. Stina Lyon
South Bank University
Rediscoveries and Reformulations: Humanistic Methodologies for International Studies, Hayward R. Alker, Cambridge Studies in International Relations, Cambridge University Press, 1996, 464 pages with 24 figures, £55 cloth, £18.95 paperback
This is a densely argued book, written by a major American scholar of International Relations, in a prestigious and well-respected series. It is well produced and generally clearly written, if somewhat jargon-laden in places. That the writer can say (albeit when summarising a quotation): ‘In more homely English, recognising the practical domain of interpretable human action within experimental enquiry rehumanizes the communicative experiential foundations of causally oriented natural sciences’, gives some hint of the style!
In my view, the most valuable aspect of the book is its general premise that International Relations, as an academic discipline, should ‘rediscover’ its place in the humanities. This is a view which I think many scholars of International Relations (hereafter ‘IR’) would applaud. However, this book also embarks upon a much more ambitious, but also far more problematical project.
The basis of this project lies, admirably, in reconciling intradisciplinary conflict. This is no small task in IR, as this subject has long been characterised by deep-seated theoretical differences. From the Idealist: Realist debate of yesteryear to the Neo-Liberals and Neo-Realists of today, the history of IR theory is a history of theoretical controversies. This book is, therefore, unusual in a subject not known for its willingness to combine theoretical perspectives, because it attempts to synthesise two analytical traditions into a single approach. This is even more surprising because the approaches concerned represent the very epistemological limits of the discipline: positivist mathematical empiricism and post-modernist interpretative relativism. Alker rightly sees these as opposed branches of IR theory, but (unlike most IR theorists) he does not see them as theoretically irreconcilable.
Thus, the basic argument of this work is that these contrasting perspectives can be synthesised into a sort of postmodern empirical approach. This, it is claimed, supersedes the shortcomings of each theoretical stance, so producing a new methodology for the study of world politics. In order to attempt this work of synthesis, Alker conducts both a theoretical discussion and analyses a series of case-studies. His analysis is very wide-ranging, drawing on a wide range of what he sees as classic theoretical studies. This includes work by Aristotle, Thucydides, Marx and Machiavelli, but also that of a few twentieth century IR theorists, such as Deutsch and Bull.
The overall approach is certainly novel, and the analysis ranges across fields as diverse as structuralist literary theory and behaviouralist social science. However, the case is not convincingly presented, even aside from the somewhat eccentric choice of ‘case-studies’ and some significant problems in discussing these. Even without further examining these case studies here, it can be seen to be fundamentally flawed on two grounds. First, reconciling post-modernist contextualism and empiricist validation is rendered impossible by the irreconcilable epistemological positions underlying these opposing theoretical positions. It is simply not possible, for example, to mathematicise structuralist literary theory in the way attempted here, while retaining the epistemological critique upon which it is founded. Second, this book also presents the reader with a ‘binary opposition’, between positivist empiricism and relativist postmodernism. Other theoretical positions in IR are mentioned, but the depth of their theoretical and methodological bases (which lie between these two extremes) is inadequately explored. This creates a false dichotomy, which leads to the serious neglect of alternative, ‘humanistic’, methodologies, which are already current in this discipline. Consequently, one would gain scant impression from this book of the multi-disciplinary eclecticism, which might be considered to characterise IR theory and methodology. Notable in this respect, is the absence of extended discussion of what is probably the most widely employed methodology used in IR. This is neither formalism nor post-modernism, but a historical, or ‘historical sociology’ approach.
From this book, however, we do not get an adequate impression of the historical methodologies frequently employed by IR scholars. For example, those used by both Structural Realists and Neo-Liberals (let alone Marxists) when debating issues such as the ‘level of analysis’, the changing role of international organisations, or the origins of war. Yet such debates, and these theoretical schools, are not marginal within the discipline.
Of course, there are many notable exceptions to the employment of ‘humanistic’ approaches derived from historiography and sociological theory. There are both formalists and post-modernists in IR, and some of these are major scholars in the field. However, the prevalence of historical and sociological, rather than formalist or post-modernist, methodologies is largely neglected here.
The consequences of this characterisation for the argument presented are serious. By creating such a false dichotomy, an equally false methodological problem is manufactured. That this book addresses that problem, rather than building on IR’s historiographical and sociological aspects to rediscover its place among the ‘humanities’, is a fundamental failing.
Dr. Ken Dark
Department of Politics
University of Reading
The Spirit of Capitalism and the Protestant Ethic, An Enquiry into the Weber Thesis, Michael H. Lessnoff, Edward Elgar, 1994, 160 pages, £29.95 hardback
Bureaucracy and Public Economics, William A. Niskanen Jr., Edward Elgar, 1994, 298 pages, £45.00 hardback.
Bureaucracy in the Modern State, Jon Pierre (ed.), Edward Elgar, 1995, 240 pages, £45 .00 hardback
At first sight, these three books appear to have a common ancestry in the work of Max Weber. Two of them, concerned specifically with modern bureaucracy, promise to be closely related to Weber’s work. However, considering the three as an entity tells us less about Max Weber and modern sociology than about the extent to which family rifts within the social sciences have if anything widened since Weber’s own time.
According to the author of his Forward, Niskanen corrects earlier conceptions of modern bureaucrats as the selfless servants of democratic government, which emanated from "naive sociological scribbling by Max Weber". The same author suggests that the falseness of these theories has been demonstrated theoretically by Niskanen and empirically "by the collapse in 1989 of the evil empire of the USSR."
Niskanen himself is not particularly concerned to extend Weberian scholarship or Weberian analysis, but he avoids such ludicrous caricatures of either Max Weber’s ideas or the course of modern history. This particular book offers a very useful collation of Niskanen’s leading contribution, over more than two decades, to the development of a formal economic theory of how and why the rational self interest of bureaucrats, often grounded in the interests of the bureau itself, subvert their masters’ intentions and the process of representative government more generally.
Overall, he advances a powerful anti-state polemic of the Thatcher-Regan type and times, of potential interest to all types of social scientist and their students. However, judgements on its accessibility and validity will have to be addressed more generally to the style of formal economic analysis which Niskanen applies to the problem. Social scientists may divide quite sharply on the issue of how much the overall thesis is supported by the algebraic and graphical tools of Niskanen’s trade.
The essays edited by Jon Pierre also tend to take Weber as little more than a point of departure, this time for an introduction to the modern field of Comparative Public Administration. The collection is offered by political scientists and is directed primarily towards their colleagues and students. As a source of middle range theories for future comparative studies, it provides interesting and accessible essays on the UK, USA, France, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Kenya, and Tanzania. Pierre’s own introductory and concluding essays are concise and helpful guides to scholars and students in these fields. Where Niskanen’s book will interest mainly economists, and Pierre’s will interest mainly political scientists, the latter is accessible, interesting and extremely useful to all social scientists with interests in this field. Weber is mentioned only three times in the index, a fair indication of how little concerned this volume is with an assessment of the continued value of Weber’s own work to this field.
Lessnoff’s contribution is quite differently intended as an explicit contribution to Weberian scholarship and Weberian analysis. He occupies the extensive and often barren territory of "Weber and his Critics" on the economic ethics of ascetic Protestantism in the 16th and 17th centuries. As Lessnoff notes, the quality of debate on the value of Weber’s thesis has in general been abysmal, usually because so much of it, from within sociology as from without, has been conducted in a state of witless or willful ignorance of Weber’s own work.
Lessnoff’s study is based on a reading of Weber’s own seminal essay and an original if sometimes rather idiosyncratic use of historical materials. A focal point is a detailed analysis of the eighth commandment of the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster assembly, in relation to no less than 143 similar catechisms consulted by the author. His claim seems to be that the former’s extremely influential but very distinctive (even in its own time) transposition of "thou shalt not steal" into "we should not impair our own or our neighbour’s estates, but as far as we can procure the good of both", is actually the closest that official Calvinist doctrine ever comes to endorsing the continuous and unlimited pursuit of material gain, to which Weber assigns significant causal efficacy in the emergence of a modern capitalist spirit.
This analysis is typical of an engaging and worthwhile contribution. Lessnoff brings to his task of evaluating the Weber thesis a terminological precision, and an awareness of the Scottish dimension, that one might expect from a philosopher of social science at the University of Glasgow. He suggests that Weber and his critics have all failed to distinguish precisely between a work ethic, a profit ethic, and a profit-seeking ethic. The former is grounded in the Protestant calling to worldly activity. It takes its Calvinistic turn from a view that "good works" might be seen as sign of one’s own salvation. The second is a claim that worldly success can be seen as a sign of salvation. The third is an injunction to accumulate more and more wealth as a religiously valuable end-in-itself.
This may not do full justice to Lessnoff’s own conceptual apparatus but it shows what he is about. He seems to conclude that with the benefit of these distinctions Weber is probably more correct on more points than most of his critics have allowed. He also offers what he thinks is a more convincing account than Weber’s own, of the logical and theological relations between ascetic Protestantism and its work and profit ethics, and attempts to show that Weber neglected important sources of the capitalist spirit in more secular applications of Calvinist thought in contemporary social and economic thought.
For this reviewer, the distinctiveness and value of Lessnoff’s approach is somewhat impeded by a lack of significant engagement with more of Weber’s works and with those few modern contributors to the debate, Gordon Marshall, Brian Turner, and Randall Collins for example, who are worthy of the effort. This is why, in the last analysis, it might be argued that Lessnoff adds more to an understanding of the inadequacies of earlier exegesis than he does to Weberian scholarship and analysis in modern sociology. I am not sure that appreciation of the so-called "Weber Thesis" is furthered quite so much as Lessnoff suggests by the terminological subtleties he introduces into Weber’s own, relatively simple proposition, that Puritan preachers, rather than Calvinist doctrines per se, suggested to their flocks that if the accumulation of wealth through godly conduct was a sign of salvation, then the more one accumulated, the more one might feel saved. Nonetheless, Lessnof’s study takes one back to durable debates with renewed interest and fresh questions. Weber himself asked for no more than that!
Leeds Metropolitan University
CULTURE and COMMUNICATION
Consumption in the Age of Affluence: the World of Food, B. Fine, M. Heaseman and J. Wright, Routledge, 1996, 305 pages, £16.99 paperback
Prior to reading Fine et al’s text, my motivation for writing this review was because I thought the book title and the fact it was on offer from a review journal for sociologists meant that it was concerned with the sociology of food consumption. In short, I thought the book would provide another variation on the ‘"you are what you eat" school of thought. In broad terms, the sociology of consumption takes inspiration from two sources. First, much of it draws on figures like Bourdieu (Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, Routledge, 1986) and Veblen (Theory of the Leisure Class, Dover  1994), following their writings on such matters as emulation and status display as a means of gaining social distinction. Second, there is also recall to the argument that a focus on consumption rather than production provides sociologists with a key to the intelligibility of the present. This latter argument being associated with postmodern social theory. My view is that both of these sources have been influential.
After reading the book, however, my motivation for doing this review has changed. Fine et al’s text is not a sociology of food book and it does not belong to that popular ‘new’ literature on consumption. In many ways, these, I feel, are the major plusses of the text for sociologists. It has two major strengths. First, because it is not written by sociologists, it is not biased towards current fashions and fads, particularly the emphasis on food at the level of consumption. Second, and in a related vein, it makes a refreshing alternative because of the very strong emphasis given to the mutually constitutive relationship between food production and consumption. For those who still dispute the Baudrillardian claim that symbolic exchange has replaced commodity exchange as the core motor of the social order, this is a book which provides valuable ammunition for such a counter argument.
The downside is that it is predominantly written in a language which a non-economist may find hard going. However, the positives far outweigh the negatives. The analytical thrust of the book sets production in the context of political economy which, in turn, is linked in with underlying social and economic processes and institutions; these are linked together in a relational chain that brings the reader right up to the point of consumption. Each separate food needs to be looked at as belonging to a ‘food system’ which has a ‘sequentially ordered set of structures’ linking production to consumption.
In a practical context, Consumption in the Age of Affluence provides clear evidence to support the argument that health policy on diet and agricultural policy should not be addressed as distinct and separate areas. For example, as pointed out in a very detailed analysis of the ‘UK sugar system’, the message of healthy eating seems to have got through to the population in that the consumption of packet sugar has fallen dramatically. However, massive amounts of sugar are still produced and consumed as an additive to other foodstuffs. UK sugar production has increased by 1 million tonnes from the early part of this century to 2.3 million tonnes. Towards the end of the 1950s sugar entering the food supply peaked at a massive 52.4 kg per person, per year (115.5 lb.) (p.104). In 1990 sugar entering the food supply is a staggering 40.41 kg per head of the population (p.114). Why is this, then? How come so much is produced and consumed when there is clear evidence to link sugar with illness and disease?
Put simply, Fine et al offer four main explanations. All are grounded in political economy. First, sugar production developed in the UK initially from the exploitation of colonial sources of raw sugar. As a consequence, UK refining and production capacity developed considerably. Second, this massive industrial capacity which arose from the exploitation of colonial power has been increasingly subjected to a concentration of ownership and control. Two companies have dominated the sector, Tate and Lyle and the British Sugar Corporation. Third, official policies from the UK state and more recently from the EU have represented the interests of sugar producers rather than health education. Fourth, because of the organic properties of sugar (as a food additive it improves palatability and can also increase shelf life), its main use is now as a food additive rather than a separate product. By 1988-9, of the sugar being produced which was equivalent to 40.81 kg, per person, 72% of this ended up as a food additive in industry sectors producing things like soft drinks, chocolate confectionery and sugar confectionery (50%), bakery and bakery sundries (10.6%), biscuits (7.7%), preserves (5.6%), cereals (2.8%), milk products (2.5%) and even pharmaceutical (2.1%) (p.114).
In overall terms, Fine et al use four analytical themes throughout the book which, I feel, are employed in a rigorous and innovative fashion in their discussion. First, the consumption of food is determined by a complex set of activities. Second, the impact of any determinant depends on its interaction with others. Third, there is a need to distinguish between different food systems because each have unique characteristics. Fourth, because of its organic nature, food systems are different from other systems of production.
In terms of structure, the book is divided into 5 parts. Parts 1 and 2 serve as an introduction to the area and to the methodology employed in the writers’ analysis of food consumption. I found this section to be a little hard going because of its abstract nature. Part 3 comes to the rescue with some excellent applied analysis in chapters 5 and 6 on the UK sugar system and the increasing input of sweetness generally into the food supply. In my view, these are the strongest chapters in the book and should be read first. Part 4 applies the methodology to an analysis of the consumption of other foodstuffs, including meat and dairy products. The data used here is drawn from the UK Government’s National Food Survey. Finally, part 5 contains a succinct summary of the arguments and ideas that run through the book.
In my judgement, Fine et al’s book is a valuable resource for the sociologist for four reasons. First it sticks to its guns. It does exactly what it says it is going to do; that is, it makes the link with production and consumption. Second, it is inclusive, in that it draws on ideas and arguments which take on board the political economy of food and it gives recognition to the value of sociological and anthropological approaches. Third, it makes a good number of incisive and useful points. Production and consumption are mutually constitutive. The organic nature of food makes it unique as a product for consumption. Its organic nature influences production and consumption patterns and processes. Producers seem to be involved in a ‘zero-sum game’, where existing production and distribution capacities are satisfied by dealing with reductions in demand for certain foodstuffs (eg sugar and milk fat) by using them as additives in the production and industrial processing of food. Healthy eating and the regulation and control of food should not be thought of as distinct policy making areas. Fourth, very sophisticated theoretical discussion and analysis are applied to substantive examples including sugar and data from the National Food Survey.
Perhaps the book is a little bit heavy on economic theory for a sociologist, but the overall argument is sound. Consumption patterns are important, but forget the role of production in the shaping of consumption at your peril.
Department of Applied Social Science
University of Lincolnshire and Humberside
Australian Television and International Mediascapes, Stuart Cunningham and Elizabeth Jacka, Cambridge University Press, 1996, xix + 284pages, £37.50 cloth, £13.95 paper.
We all know that film and television are intensely competitive for-profit industries, yet most of the struggle takes place well away from the public gaze. Popular debate, criticism and academic discourse further obscure this reality, by focusing on the text and its consumption rather than the hard facts of producing and selling it. Cunningham and Jacka’s excellent book illuminates how television (and, to a lesser extent, cinema film) ‘product’ is financed and traded. In so doing they provide a sophisticated but completely accessible account of media globalization in action.
Most of the book is taken up with case studies: of the structure of the Australian television production industry, including detailed histories of some of the most prominent companies in the field; of the penetration of Australian programmes into the UK, Europe (sic), the US/Canada, East Asia, New Zealand, New Guinea and the South West Pacific, and the audience response to them. Although these chapters are necessarily full of descriptive detail, the authors have a well-developed theoretical theme running through. Chapter ll ‘Theoretical Perspectives’ reviews the debate on globalization, the nation and culture, rejecting both utopian and dystopian models and endorsing Ang’s (1994) argument that, despite the spectacular possibilities of new service delivery platforms like satellite, national and regional cultures are both more fragmented and more resistant to televisual domination that has been assumed.
The authors set out to develop an explanation of the success (or otherwise) of television product ‘that is situated between political economy and micro-situational reception studies - that looks at the broader context of viewer reception set by the television ecology; professional practices of trading in, marketing and scheduling programs; and the strategic role played by the gatekeepers of the television industries’ (p.22). ‘Television ecology’ addresses the way in which cultural specifics like patterns of work, leisure and family life pose different challenges in attracting the audience: ‘the propensity of the Spanish to go out of the house late at night means that scheduling television in Spain is a different task from that in Germany’ (p.l7). One of the case studies, for instance, is a detailed consideration of why The Flying Doctors has had its greatest success in the Netherlands. Headed ‘Social Values in a Serious Culture’, the section concludes that ‘a sense of community, lack of competitiveness, violence, tragedy or threatening models of masculinity ... resonate with the Dutch viewing public’ (p.l67).
The book also reveals many aspects of the functioning of television as an industry: regulation and cultural policy; patterns of ownership; geographical concentration; what happens at sales conventions; and illustrations from the trade press (‘Heartbreak High - 26 HOT ONE HOURS READY FOR YOU’ p.32). The interpenetration of finance, culture and politics is nicely demonstrated by the explanation of co-production as an important aspect of national cultural policy. If, as has long been recognized, successful cinema films can have positive effects on a nation’s trade (p.247), presumably the same is true of television programmes. But what image does the nation want to project? Should the outback continue to be ‘a metonym for Australia’ (p.248)? Crocodile Dundee had a ‘significant effect on international tourism to Australia’ (p.247) but, the authors write, many Australians are uneasy about this ‘crocs and rocks’ image for a modern multi-ethnic society. At the other extreme, which of us could correctly identify Green Card as part Australian financed? Was the investment therefore wasted?
Cunningham and Jacka’s book is a major achievement. It is simultaneously scholarly and absorbing; it is written with wit and clarity; important theoretical ideas are interrogated through the use of empirical data - rather than by brandishing alternative theorists. This is a source with many uses. The early chapter on globalization will be valuable in undergraduate teaching, while the detailed case-studies provide material on an under-analysed aspect of the media industry for researchers and students across a wide range of disciplines. What better exemplar of media theory-in-practice than Neighbours?
Unfortunately, the book’s great strength it also its weakness: so much precision about ownership, prices, and specific programmes will make it date very quickly, thus weakening its impact. One can only hope that both publishers and authors will see updating it as worthwhile, but the task will be formidable.
According to Cunningham and Jacka ‘It is in the areas of sport, nature documentary/natural history, some children’s programming, and magazine-style science and high-tech that global television seeks sufficient purchase in universal thematics ...to offset the discount of cultural screens’ (p.250). Read this book now and amaze your friends with your devastating analysis of the Teletubbies’ march towards world domination.
Ang, I (1994) ‘Globalisation and culture’, Continuum, 8, 2:323-5
School of Social Studies
University of Nottingham
Information Technologies and Social Orders, Carl J. Couch, Edited with an Introduction by David R. Maines and Shing-Ling Chen, Aldine de Gruyter, 1996, 272 pages, DM 48 paperback.
Carl Couch, who died in 1994, was sometime President of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction and the founder of the New Iowa School of Symbolic Interaction. His last work, which was almost finished but untitled at his death, is a study of the reciprocal connections between information technologies and social relationships. The book is written simply and lucidly and with the possible exception of some denser sections introducing Iowa symbolic interactionism in Chapter 1, quite accessible to first year undergraduates.
Couch was concerned principally with the ways technologies of information storage, retrieval and transmission interact with, and assist or retard the development of, institutions like occupational elites, bureaucracies, markets, and broadcasting networks. He explicitly recognized the continuity between his theme and the work of scholars such as Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, and Walter Ong.
Couch approached the social relationships side of his interests with an overarching interactionist framework, within which social interaction is co-ordinated by the exchange of evocative and referential symbols, through which individuals can co-ordinate conduct and establish co-orientations to salient aspects of their environment.
On the technology side, the book adopts a loose ‘epochal’ categorization to examine a sequence of technologies against the backdrop of the structural contexts in which they initially developed and were subsequently exploited. The main technologies discussed are oral forms (like sagas and poetry); body adornment and other two dimensional decoration; time-keeping, calendrical and counting devices; books, newspapers and printing; recording techniques and broadcasting; telecommunications and computer-mediated knowledge retrieval in the contemporary world.
The combination of an interactionist approach to institutional developments, and a somewhat hard to pin down developmental approach to technology, results in open-textured narrative rather than formal and systematic theoretical analysis. Couch was especially sensitive to the fact that the same technologies may be exploited in a very different manner in different settings, but this unfortunately results in a lack of sufficiently detailed and nuanced examinations of specific cases and an over-hurried alternation between illustrations derived from very disparate cultural worlds. Thus, pages 24-5 deal in succeeding paragraphs with Plato as a bridge between orality and literacy, oral storage of information among the Sumerians and old Kingdom Egyptians, Julius Caesar’s comments on specialist rememberers among the ancient Britons, and summary comments on Chimu and Inca non-literacy.
Partly because Couch literally covered a great deal of territory, he failed adequately to reflect views in opposition to those of his main sources for each epoch. To take the advent of written communications as a case in point, Couch fully endorsed the Havelock/Lord/Goody and Watt line on the consequences of widespread phonetic literacy in classical Greece. He wrote, "A concern with truth, however, emerged among the Greeks as phonetic writing replaced orality. A concern with truthfulness requires the adoption of an analytical attitude toward information that is more likely to emerge in literate societies than oral ones"(p.26). Even though he also considers some contemporary anthropological material, the well-developed critical opposition to the idea that wholly oral cultures have difficulty formulating and applying abstract concepts like ‘truth’ is unacknowledged.
The book contains some instances of injudicious and sweeping statements that seem curiously ahistorical and at odds with Couch’s recognition of the cultural specificity of technological implementations. There are assertions, highly reminiscent of both Innis and McLuhan writing in their soothsayer mode such as, ‘The perfection of mechanical measures of duration allowed for the emergence of a new form of production: the assembly line’ (p.59).
In Information Technologies and Social Orders, Couch had embarked on an ambitious project, perhaps too ambitious for any single volume study. Because it starts from somewhat idiosyncratic and unfamiliar premises, there could be a danger of forgetting that the broad thrust of his analysis is in line with much current thinking, which also acknowledges that communications technologies all present a range of possibilities that different institutional settings and social groups will exploit and develop in quite different ways. Nevertheless, it is not easy to accept that his interactionism, though interesting and undoubtedly deserving of wider application, was the ideal conceptual equipment with which to analyse the mutual connections between information technologies and institutional forms. A structuration theory, à la Giddens, is an illustration of a framework that would seem to be better suited to this task.
Dr Kenneth Levine
School of Social Studies
University of Nottingham
Sport, Economy and Society in Britain, 1750 -1914, Neil Tranter, Cambridge University Press, 1998, 112 pages, £19.95 cloth, £6.95 paperback.
At the outset, I had my doubts of how a book of this size ( 112 pages) could make a contribution to the subject area, but this publication is a must for teachers and students concerned with studying the development of modern sports in Britain. From the beginning, the author acknowledges the need for more research to substantiate and lend weight to his arguments, but this does not devalue the book. Rather, it lays the basis for a fuller understanding of the subject and sets an agenda for future research. It is from this premise that the book should be considered.
By way of introduction, the book places the role of the need for physical recreation as part of human life. Background to the sporting world of 1750 is provided so as to give a contextual location for the key focus of the book: to summarise the ‘revolution’ in sporting culture. This is done by paying attention to key issues which are explored in individual chapters and in such a way that the book follows a smooth and consistent passage. These chapters are enlightening, well researched and summarised, and probe the reader’s mind to the extent that the sporting ‘revolution’ is a more complex subject than first assumed.
The first issue (in Chapter 2) considered is "the effect of economic and demographic change on the extent of sporting activity among the working classes, in the period between the late eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries" (p.3). Within this, the focus is on whether this period was one of growth or decline for popular sport, and relevant literature is assessed to support each view. For those writers who argue for a period of decline, factors which aided this decline - such as the unwillingness of working class people to participate in sport - are examined, as are the folk-to-urban changes, like factory changes and longer working hours, and the effect of urbanisation on reduced space. However, Tranter questions the effect of the decline on popular working class sports and argues that the decline forwarded by such writers is not representative of sport at the time, particularly as too much attention is given to the decline of brutal working class sports. Rather, Tranter argues, and supports his view with secondary referencing that, at worst, popular sport stabilised and did not decline in this period. This moves the author to assess whether popular sport grew during this time, and he considers the twin processes of accelerated population growth and rapid urbanisation. Within this, Tranter questions the validity of the argument that the withdrawal of the aristocracy and gentry damaged working class sport and argues that the working class had the ability to retain sports of their choice. Thus, sport was common to all social classes with the likelihood that sport was actively encouraged among the working classes. Tranter acknowledges the need for more empirical research to support this view but, in the main, this chapter is a useful, generic summary of whether popular sports experienced growth or decline during this period.
In Chapter 3, the ‘revolution’ in sport is the key concern. The transformation in the development of sport in Britain from 1850 - 1914, particularly the scale and nature of sports, is accepted as a period of ‘continuity’. However, Tranter concentrates on the debate over which influences were most responsible for the dispersion of new forms of sport as part of this continuity. In particular, Tranter expresses the view that "the sharpness of the contrast between the sporting cultures of the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries is...blurred" (p.15). Commercialisation, codification, and institutionalisation were, Tranter argues, in existence prior to 1850 and thus to locate them solely within the sporting culture of the late nineteenth century is not entirely correct. However, the author does acknowledge the dramatic increase in the pace of change in this sporting ‘revolution’. The establishment of governing bodies and their influence on local, regional and national sport is discussed, as is the formation and role of individual clubs. It is concluded that club formation varied from sport to sport and evidence is provided to support this. A significant amount of attention is also given to the "downwards social diffusionist model" (p.26) to explain the spread of codified sport from public schools to more modest schools. This model is explored thoroughly and after detailed examination of its limitations, Tranter concludes that this model is too restrictive to be forwarded as "an adequate description and interpretation of the spread of organised sport in Victorian and Edwardian Britain" (p.31). As such, the debate surrounding the dispersion of sport needs more research to provide the relative significance of the many factors involved in this sporting ‘revolution’.
The next chapter (Chapter 4) is a detailed examination of the "mix of forces which made it possible for a new sporting culture to emerge" (p.32). This chapter does not provide any new evidence, or indeed question any existing evidence, but draws from a wide range of sources to present a clear and concise summary of all the factors involved in this sporting culture. Factors such as rising standards of nutrition, growing availability of land, and increase of ‘leisure’ time are examined, but Tranter argues that the main reasons for the popularity increase of sport were the improvements in industrial technology, methods of transport, and the decline in the working work. Also, the emergence of disposable income and the expenditure on leisure and sports forms are touched on but, because of the lack of evidence, can not be measured with any precision. Tranter concludes that, following some serious discussion regarding "the socially stabilising powers of bourgeois forms of sport" (pg.45-46), the ‘revolution’ in sport cannot be seen solely as the search for social harmony by society’s elite, despite the popularity of this view among some writers. Other reasons for the development of sport need to be considered and applied when considering the development of modern sport.
Having established the range of factors for the development of modern sport, Tranter devotes Chapter 5 to an exploration of whether sport was "for health, profit, or prestige ?" (p.52). This chapter deals with the conflicting reasons for sports enjoyment eg. gambling, camaraderie - and is non-committal and generic in its assessment. The importance of physical, mental and moral well-being, particularly for a fit workforce and ensuing Empire, are identified as key factors but not central ones. Sport and prestige also has some credence, as does the role of profit in sporting involvement. In a sense, Tranter argues that, in this period, investment in sport was more for prestige than profit, although he does acknowledge that from 1890, the role of profit became a more important issue in sport, particularly with the advent of professionalism. The author calls for more research into the levels of profit generation in the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries, which will further develop and substantiate the subject.
Almost as an add-on, Tranter discusses the role of females in this "male phenomenon" (p.78). Tranter begins by focusing on the role of sport for working class women and provides limited evidence to indicate that working class females had some form of access to sport, albeit a restricted one. Participation barriers for working class women in sport are discussed, and Tranter argues that increased female participation in sport was restricted to the middle classes. The factors behind organised physical recreation for women in the late nineteenth century are identified, as are the range of sports available to females. In general, Tranter acknowledges that it is impossible to be precise about the magnitude of change regarding female participation in sport and concludes that "the scale and character of female sport during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were too limited and too conservative to do more than nibble at the fringes of established gender roles" (p.92-93). As such, one can use Tranter’s work as a historical account of the beginnings and development of feminine participation in sport.
Finally, Chapter 7 - ‘Agenda for Research’ - calls for the urgent need for more research and Tranter provides a list of questions for future work which may help to fill in the "serious gaps" (p.97) he identifies. However, Tranter acknowledges that this list is "daunting" (p.96) and never likely to be completed. Despite this, Tranter can challenge others, particularly historians, to fill the ‘gaps’.
This book is lucid, informative, well-written and for me, as a former student and now teacher in the area, particularly welcome as it questions the levels of legitimacy one can attribute to the existing literature. This tends to paint a picture of a ‘glorified’ era and a smooth journey of sporting development in modern Britain.
Jonathan D. Magee
University of Brighton
Audience Analysis, Denis McQuail, Sage Publications, 1997, 166 + x pages, £36.00 cloth, £13.99 paperback.
Suddenly everyone is interested in the audience again. As with previous waves of intellectual activity (catalogued very effectively by McQuail himself in 1994) the trigger has been a step-change in communication technologies, offering new opportunities for influence and for profitable exploitation. Given the financial stakes, McQuail observes, much audience research has been commercially driven. The accumulated knowledge is therefore `trade secrets’ and not within the public/academic domain.
Research on the audience is a sprawling field both in its objects of study and its fiercely competing methodologies. McQuail’s project is to explain and typologize these research traditions and topics rather than theory-build. His own theoretical position remains largely implicit, although on pp 76-78 he sets out a ‘pragmatic’ sociologically-informed model of media choice, which aims to reflect the complexity of intrapersonal, group and social structural variables which feed into that process. The book is organized around concepts and methods, rather than particular media. The author’s social science orientation, however, leads to an empirical emphasis on ‘news’ media - particularly television, radio and the press - but he also alludes more briefly to cinema film and other forms.
The book opens with a brief history of the audience, reminding us that it includes those present at religious, state and popular entertainment occasions back to the Roman games. McQuail then describes the motivations and styles of audience research, principally in psychology, sociology, cultural studies and market research. Chapter 3 discusses typologies of audiences, focusing on the relationship between varieties of media and the functioning of the audience as a group, either aware of itself or not. The author them moves on how audience ‘reach’ is measured, with its all-important implications for ‘ratings’. In turn this leads to the problem of what the audience makes of the message and why they choose the media they do. Inferences about this inform highly commercial activities like television and radio scheduling.
Paradoxically in contemporary society, media have enabled members of the audience to act in isolation (as they watch television or play recorded music) while at the same time making media use a major basis for interpersonal communication - classically the discussion of soap operas or of tabloid newspaper revelations.
Sections of the book also cover how media communicate directly with their audience and the shared medium/audience norms that help to frame media outputs. Finally McQuail considers new media technologies and the multiplication of media channels. Will the power of the message-sender be reinforced through global coverage, or will the audience ‘escape’ as the sheer range of choice defies surveillance?
McQuail has a long and distinguished career in research and teaching on communications. Although now retired, he remains an active international academic, attached to departments in both the Netherlands and the UK. Perhaps it is this very breadth of vision that has produced, ironically, an audience problem for this book. The author clearly intends it to transcend national boundaries and to facilitate the study of a wide range of media. No doubt, too, the publishers were very anxious that its ‘reach’ should be as great as possible, and that it should not date too quickly. The outcome is a lack of specificity which robs the book of maximum impact. For instance McQuail remarks that ‘Concentration of ownership and of editorial organization have often diminished the genuinely local character of local newspapers’ (p.28). Quite, when the Nottingham and Derby evening papers are printed in Derby so early in the day that ‘breaking news’ is a problem. A page later he mentions that in Holland ‘broadcasting is provided by several independent, voluntary, non-commercial associations with their distinctive political, religious or cultural leaning.’ For a UK reader this sounds fascinating, but what does it mean? Examples of programming and of media concentration would have made these issues come alive, rather than causing the book to age prematurely.
Nor is the aim of a complete conspectus fully achieved. A number of key debates in the study of contemporary culture (whether from a literary or social science tradition) are touched on only briefly or not at all. McQuail mentions ‘fandom’ and the potential for media consumption to define sub-cultures but does not pursue this into a discussion of the extent to which media consumption is constitutive of post-modern identity/identities, through, for example popular music genres. Advertising is not discussed at all, nor is the intensely contested intellectual territory of interpolation and the psychodynamics of identification with the image. Even if not articulated theoretically, magazine niche-marketing, newspaper (re)design and soap opera plotlines are all ‘desperately seeking the audience’ in more complex ways than simply tracking the expressed preferences of consumers. And then there are questions of the regulation of media, and of the link between public service broadcasting and national identity. The concept of the UK as ‘audience is said to have saved the BBC from complete privatization.
Despite these limitations I imagine that many will be able to make use of this clearly written and well set out text in the way that McQuail intends: as a broad organizing framework to underpin more elaborated theoretical understanding and into which empirical examples can be placed. Beginning students will need active help in ‘grounding’ the general in specifics; those more familiar with the issues will find it valuable as a map of the territory into which their own experience and other more specialized sources can be integrated.
McQuail, D. (1994) Mass Communication Theory: an Introduction, (second edition), Sage.
School of Sociology and Social Policy
University of Nottingham
GENDER and SEXUALITY
Erotics and Politics: Gay Male Sexuality, Masculinity and Feminism, Tim Edwards, Routledge, 1994, 208 pp, £37.50 cloth, £12.99 paperback.
Understanding Masculinities: Social Relations and Cultural Arenas, Mairtin Mac-An-Ghaill, Open University Press, 1996, 240 pp, £40 cloth, £12.99 paperback.
For this reviewer, reading and thinking about these two books was a thought provoking and challenging experience. The definition and usage of the term ‘masculinity’ is shown to be complex, if not to say confused: reading these texts then should impress upon any teacher the importance of being very careful about using both the word itself and the concept which it has seemed to embody when used to describe intimate relations between the sexes and their linked social consequences.
Edwards’ book is a detailed and graphic account, written with academic integrity as well as deeply felt and communicated first hand knowledge, of problems and definitions of gay white male masculinity/sexuality. It deals mainly with America and Britain. He states clearly that he is not dealing with lesbian issues, or with black experience, nor is he going to look at the whole area of sexual violence. Given these disclaimers the book needs to be seen for what it does cover, and this is both serious and broad enough to fill one relatively short book. He looks at a wide range of issues and problems in both intimate relationships between men, and the ways in which gay male sexuality has been and is defined both by gay people themselves and by the state. He covers what he defines as the politics of identity, the need for ‘coming out’ as a personal statement and a significant fact in the formation of a gay community. There are chapters about some practices among that community - sado-masochism, pornography, intimate relationships between men of different generations, and the strategies employed by men in the public arena to meet with sexual partners. In all these he shows how the emphasis on the assertion of homosexuality has been a positive assertion of ‘gayness’ as a legitimate and yet oppressed section of society. The championing of a new positive sexualised gay identity is thus explored throughout the book. Indeed, the concept of a ‘gay individual’ , a separate and specific type of person is one which he is concerned with throughout. However, if there were any emerging self-confidence in the gay community, it has received a severe shock with the onset of AIDS, and whatever the medical and epidemiological origin and dissemination of the disease, the effects on individual homosexual men and their partners has been profound.
Edwards’ exploration of the underlying significance of these matters points to the sexist implications of such assertion of gay yet intensely masculine attitudes and behaviours - the seeking after casual sex encounters, the exploitation of younger men, the aggressive assertion of masculinity in dress, and above all, the concentration on sex rather than on love or commitment to another person. His personal accounts of his own experience show them to have been deeply unsatisfactory since his own ‘coming out’. A chapter on ‘private love’ states clearly that there is little research into the nature and ethnography of stable, non-exploitative domestically based partnerships between gay men, and that this is an area which could well show a very different experience of homosexual relationships.
The reader edited by Mairtin Mac An Ghaill, is a very useful collection of articles, mainly based on research but including a valuable introduction by the editor and, in the final section of the book, two critical reviews of the current state of thinking about the whole issue of masculinity. Many of the research findings are concerned with particular circumstances where a specific form of ‘masculinity’ becomes the accepted mode of behaviour - as in the ways in which masculinity is understood and developed through family upbringing, the perceptions of fatherhood of those men affected by the workings of the Child Support Agency, and the attitudes associated with work and unemployment.
The second part of the book is concerned with the embodiment of these socially engendered ways of thinking within individual consciousness. The articles in this section deal with the cultural arenas in which masculinity is expressed and made public in action. One such arena gives an account of ‘story-telling’ in prison and the ways in which this may establish a particular approved identity. Other contributions deal with the culture of fighting and drinking in working-class masculinities, attitudes to the body in sport and physical activity, the biography of Mike Tyson, and the tensions and contradictions in relation to attitudes to sex and the HIV epidemic. All are revealing examples of the ways in which men can talk about their own experiences and biographies. One area which is lacking, however, ( which would have appeared strongly in a similar book about women) was mention of domestic or household life. There is an article about the Child Support Agency and the ways in which many men have seen this as attack on their fatherhood responsibilities and their capacity for managing their own affairs. Apart from that, domesticity/household/family seems to be equated with patterns of parental upbringing. The article about heterosexual sex shows how discussions about sexual relationships have been seen in the light of the impact of AIDS, and not to have led to the critical assessment of heterosexual masculinities and power relationships which might have been expected (p.170).
In Edwards’ book, use is made of personal accounts which set the scene for each chapter that follows. In this reader there are a number of poems which perform something of the same function. It is perhaps precisely because these areas are so important to real people in the real world, that academic language alone cannot fully express the full significance of these areas of experience. Thus implicit throughout is the awareness that previously masculinity was an unquestioned word for a complex of areas of experience and feeling. In one of the final chapters Jeff Hearn points out, however, that the recent move to plural concepts of masculinities may in fact have drawbacks too. What indeed a lot of this discussion shows is that societal arrangements frequently privilege one group over another, and that this can easily be rationalised by describing one group or the other in terms of assumed innate or learned characteristics. So masculinity has been a term which has been used to describe a multiple set of behaviours and attitudes, some of which are now unpicked by the kind of research we can read about in this book. For some men these expectations are at odds with how they feel about and think about themselves - this is one message that emerges from Edwards’ book. Hearn seems to be saying that maybe the unpicking is now complete, and that what is wanted now is work that will enable women and men to relate to each other in non-power based interaction. He calls for masculinity to be used with reference to a precise context, possibly to drop the term altogether in favour of talking about ‘men’ - men’s practices, men’s social relations and so on, and to develop concepts that "more accurately reflect women’s and men’s differential experiences of men" (p.214).
These two books are valuable in different ways. Erotics and Politics can be shocking and reads very much as a cri de coeur - a cry for men, and gay men in particular, to change attitudes and behaviour to each other and to women. Understanding Masculinities is much more academic, contains fascinating and valuable material, and in the introduction and in the final chapters poses many questions about possible future directions, both for research and action.
Bradford and Ilkley College (retired)
God’s Daughters : Evangelical Women and the Power of Submission, R. Marie Griffith, University of California Press, 1997, 304 pages, £19.95 cloth.
This is a well written work which focuses on the "Women’s Aglow Fellowship", (W.A.F.), which is the largest Christian women’s evangelical organisation in the world. It attempts to use ethnography and history to explore generalisations made about "spirit-filled" Christian women, and claims to demonstrate connections between Aglow members, and the feminists with whom they may appear to have little in common. In particular, the author attempts to understand the doctrine of female submission to male authority – a doctrine which is frequently adopted by this group of Christian women, and suggests that such submissive women achieve non-obvious power and liberation.
The research method involved the author attending over 100 W.A.F. meetings at several chapters, attending an international W.A.F. conference, and examining organisational archives – during which time she made notes and tape recordings of events. At the outset, she quite rightly highlights the fact that as a 25 year old woman in the midst of what is primarily a middle aged women’s organisation, she was hardly inconspicuous, and that this non-conformity may have influenced the behaviour she observed. Such obvious separation of the researcher from the group, might limit the nature of researcher-group interaction, and thereby hinder the building of empathy with the world views of the studied group. This in turn may blunt the precision with which the researcher can explore the underpinnings of the behaviours of interest. Participant observation was not achieved, nor could it be by any researcher who did not share the religious philosophy of the group. This being so, the observation is not from the inside, out, but from the outside, in, and how far ‘in’ the observation penetrates will determine the usefulness of any insights gained.
The focus was placed on two central themes : potentially radical renegotiations of power in networks of praying women; and the reshaping of personal identity that results from such shifts – and the illumination of these themes was pursued from a variety of interrelated perspectives.
Chapter one sets the scene, documenting the evolution of the pentecostal movement, charismatic movement, and fundamentalists, followed by the recovery movement and therapeutic culture. Into this context is placed the inception of W.A.F., wherein the "God ordained roles of wife and mother" were emphasised. Initially, women brought their friends and neighbours. The author does not make much of this, yet the fact remains that despite these women coming from many Christian denominations they were not a ‘random selection’ of members from those denominations. Rather, they were ‘like minded’ and relatively narrow in their views. Subsequently, other women were recruited with the intention of making them "like us…", i.e. this was not a forum for open discussion and free exchange, but a single shoe into which all feet were made to fit. The author recognises and documents various mechanisms with which dissent and non-conformity were quashed. However, more emphasis could have been given to the fact that these women are one particular subset of Christian praying women, and are not necessarily representative of Christian praying women, or religious praying women as a whole.
Chapter two considers how the espoused spirituality of the women was put into practice. The author documents a host of interesting contradictions, e.g. W.A.F. stated that "the only requirement for membership"…..suggesting that the organisation was wide open to a multitude of women….."is an openness to the gifts of the Holy Spirit"..which is actually defined quite narrowly as believing that the Holy Spirit enters the body in a ‘baptism’ witnessed to by "speaking in tongues". In addition, there is an interesting discussion of the desired locations and designs of meeting places, within which the core of every meeting is prayer. The author interprets these prayers as vehicles which permit the reinterpretation of painful events into vessels of meaning, wherein are contained lessons about the love of God for the believers. While this is a reasonable interpretation, alternative views are not explored. This may lead the reader to surmise that for the believers there is one form/type of prayer, which appears to have one generalised function. In fact, a multitude of forms of prayer have been documented, and for any given prayer form, a range of interpretations is possible – although, as in this case, one interpretation may seem to dominate.
The next three chapters deal with the "cultural motifs" of W.A.F. spirituality. Under the general heading of ‘healing and transformation’ many accounts of healing within the group are retold, the most significant choice in the healing process being documented as "recognition of ones own sinfulness and profound need for mercy and forgiveness". The recorded narratives of transformation are seen as depictions of cycles of repression and renewal, accompanied by an ever present hope of permanent change. Once again, while this appears to be an accurate, and insightful documentation of behaviour within this group, it is not qualified with a reminder that this group is a self-selecting subset of the larger body of Christian praying women – many of whom may hold a different view of things.
The idea of bringing into the light that which has been in darkness has been represented across a wide range of cultures, from the beginning of documented history to the present day. These themes of "secrecy, openness and intimacy" are repeatedly found by the author in the stories told by W.A.F. members about their healing and redemption. However, in contrast to the life experiences of people at large, W.A.F. members’ narratives always end in victory – which it is suggested may indicate that events are sometimes knowingly misinterpreted to fit group expectations. The issue of sincerity is also examined in connection with mass "shouts of joy", and "copious weeping" – which apparently serve as an infallible sign of grace for the group. Interesting contradictions are once again highlighted by the author, for example, while shouting and weeping in concert, (i.e. apparent closeness), is valued; potentially more meaningful bonds and closeness between members have been termed "spiritual lesbianism", and eschewed.
The themes of discipline, authority and sacrifice are frequently present in religious discourse, and the W.A.F. discourse is no exception. However, while the ultimate focus of such themes is commonly the ongoing spiritual maturation of the believer, the author notes that in W.A.F. there are some concerns which are more earth bound. For example, the news sheet has contained articles about overeating, and condemning the fulfillment of "lusts of the flesh". In addition, the author suggests that funds have been sought by emphasising the theme of sacrifice through the strategy of guilt, and/or the promise of reward. "When a woman gives money to W.A.F., she can expect a miracle in return…" Apparently, the conflict this might present for W.A.F.’s matronly, expensively-dressed leaders, is not openly acknowledged, although it is recognised by some members. Thus rather than being primarily tools for spiritual growth, the themes of discipline, authority and sacrifice are shown to serve to constrain the organisation’s boundaries of proper/acceptable belief and behaviour.
In chapter six, the apparent reinvention of Christian womanhood is documented. This begins with the earlier requirement for women to submit their wills to "God’s hierarchy of earthly representatives" – especially clergy and husbands. This view was supported by narratives, (many of which are documented in some detail), which said that if a marriage was in trouble, the path of healing required the woman to offer a prayer of surrender – which would result in "joyful wifely submission". Hence, the key to ending family disharmony was documented as a return to "God ordained roles". However, over time, the idea of submission is seen to broaden to include concepts of mutual submission, and the concept of submission itself is re-evaluated to interpret submission as : a means of women asserting power over bad situations; a sphere within which women can be protected and so enjoy the full range of their creativity; and the key to better relationships – which is seen as benefiting women. The author notes that some writers have gone as far as to suggest that surrendering oneself to "sacred housework" can be a source of esteem.
Interestingly, these benefits and sources of esteem do not appear to have extended to all W.A.F. members. W.A.F. members with troubled family backgrounds were compared with similarly troubled women who professed no religious belief, and no differences were found in levels of depression, self-blame and distrust of others. The author suggests that "some patterns are simply too deep for religious faith to erase….". However, this assertion has merit only if W.A.F. members can be taken as indicative of the religious community in general – which is unlikely to be the case for such a tightly constrained, self-selecting subgroup. At best, we might say that this particular group, (W.A.F.), does not appear to have conferred hoped for benefits upon certain troubled members.
The author notes an equally interesting phenomenon of two lines of concurrently existing discourse, which may seem contradictory if prayer is viewed as any one given form of activity. On the one hand, prayer is seen as leading to joyful submission within the home, while on the other hand prayer as the weapon of spiritual warfare against "Satan" emphasises female power and authority in the ‘front line’, rather than meek surrender. In trying to reconcile these roles, the author reaches her conclusion.
The work has highlighted, via a succession of personal narratives, the renegotiations of power within this particular network of praying women, and the resultant reshaping of personal identities. It suggests that rather than focusing on the differences between W.A.F. members and feminists, we might consider that they share the premise that "social and cultural tasks, traits and affinities traditionally coded as ‘female’ or ‘feminine’, ought to be accorded greater respect and value than they have in the past..", and from this platform begin to move boundaries to share obvious common ground. The author suggests that while W.A.F. members may lose as much as they gain by their membership, despite their "prayer, love and support", the hope which is generated may have a value which outsiders cannot calculate.
Overall, this is a scholarly work which may interest ethnographers, those involved in womens’ studies, clerics, and theologians of all persuasions. It courageously treads the minefield wherein is located ‘the role of women in religious practices’, and does not flinch from reporting behaviour, and suggesting underlying motivations, which are ‘bound to upset someone’ – given that views relating to the topic under scrutiny are often firmly and fervently held. The paths leading to the interpretation of observed behaviour are clearly laid out for the reader to follow, and are never unreasonable, although perhaps in need of some qualification.
This is a study of one particular subset of Christian women, who do not represent the diversity of Christian women ‘as a whole’; nor can this subset be held to represent the broader community of ‘religious women’. For the members of W.A.F., their Deity appears to have ‘male’, dictatorial overtones, and to require a retrospective, "recognition of ones own sinfulness and profound need for mercy and forgiveness" in order to bring into play the healing process. Prayers focused to meet this requirement may be unduly dominated by self-deprecation, ultimately destroying self-worth, and encouraging rigidity in prescriptions for behaviour, wherein members attempt to ‘get it right’ thereby bringing down the ‘healing balm’. In contrast, if the Deity is viewed as requiring the acknowledgement of mistakes, but emphasis is placed on looking forward towards the desired goal, behaviour need not be defined by rigid prescriptions and consequences – and the believer is more likely to be ‘lifted up’ than ‘put down’.
Thus, a subset of religious people is defined, not so much by its members, but by its conception of the Deity it worships – this conception in turn determining the nature, and expected consequences of prayer. The group’s conception of the nature of their Deity was not fully explored. Insofar as this conception may prescribe behaviour, influence expected prayer outcomes, and determine the perceived legitimacy of evolving power relationships, it is an avenue which deserves further exploration. Perhaps there will be such a sequel ? If so, I look forward to reading it.
Plymouth Business School
University of Plymouth
The Underdevelopment of Development: Essays in honor of Andre Gundar Frank, Sing C. Chew and Robert A. Denemark (eds.), Sage, 1996, 448 pages, £42.50 cloth, £19.50 paperback.
Andre Gundar Frank has been a totemic figure for three decades now. When development seemed an inevitable and irresistible force in the 1960s, with the final collapse of the old European empires and academics were turning out volume after volume on modernization, Frank created a sudden red light. What if the conditions being combatted by development and modernization were not aspects of primordial backwardness, but in fact themselves essentially the product of the impact of the West? What was being called development was in reality underdevelopment Frank told us, and many became believers. Later Frank was to expand into other areas, especially taking a world systems approach far further back than Wallerstein’s school, from 500 years to 5,000. This collection by his disciples and his peers ranges over all of Frank’s career.
Part I is on ‘Development and Underdevelopment’ and includes an anthropological perspective by Eric Wolf and another on culture and geography from Philip Wagner. More direct appreciations are supplied by Samir Amin on the concept of development, Otto Kreye on debt and Herb Addo on ‘developmentalism’. Part II is on Peripheral Regions, and Frank made his name with his critique of economic development in Latin America. Theotonio Dos Santos discusses this region and reminds us that there was a critical literature in Spanish before Frank’s arrival. George Aseniero considers Asia and rightly recalls that Frank and others have been placing Asia in the world system long before modernization theorists discovered Newly Industrialising Countries. Samir Amin also includes an overview of Africa affirming, if it was needed, that more is required than structural adjustment. Part III is on the later Frank of world systems. Barry Gills, who collaborated with Frank in this latter area, writes in defence of the thesis for 5,000 years of cycles of accumulation; while Christopher Chase-Dunn offers a discerning voice. William McNeill is as always thought-provoking, admitting to having moved beyond civilizations towards world systems, but not all the way preferring something slightly less systematic which he labels ‘communications nets’. Albert Bergesen is also stimulating in sketching links between world systems and art history. Part IV is on ‘Social Movements and Social Justice’ and is something of a return to the impact of Frank in earlier decades.
The corollary of his assault on the development of underdevelopment was, of course, to encourage opposition movements. If Marcuse had inspired Western students against their own societies in the ‘60s, it was Frank who provided the bible for supporting the mobilisation of the Third World. Much of this seems rather dated from the perspective of the 1990s, but the ground is re-trod nevertheless. Gerrit Huizer gives an overview, while Pat Lauderdale contributes a wide-ranging discussion of justice, and Virginia Vargas looks at the place of women. These seem necessary contributions because of the impact of Frank, rather than as central to his core intellectual contribution, but this is more than compensated at the end of the section which has a piece by Wallerstein. Wallerstein, generally seen as the founder of the modern world systems view, still holds to the belief that the capitalism which emerged 500 years ago is qualitatively different from the cycles of accumulation of the previous 4,500 years. He still believes that the system is doomed, though does not say why, beyond commenting that all cycles and systems have collapsed in the end, and suggests what might be done to assist. In the short run we have to struggle in our daily lives. In the medium term the logic of the system, freedom etc, must be used to the point of overload, exposing its real shortcomings. In the long run we have to engage in ‘utopistics’- the collective definition and implementation of a better system.
There is no doubting the impact of Frank during his lifetime of prodigious output translated into numerous languages. This book reflects his concerns, though inevitably in one volume it is a rather thin and sketchy reflection. But some will query how solid was the contribution? Frank was a counter-blast to development, modernization and all that. But it was a highly ideological counter to what was a highly ideological position, and increasingly in recent years we have been looking beyond underdevelopment as well as development. In some cases this has encouraged more empirical regional studies, in which themes of underdevelopment and dependency are but one dimension. In other cases, like Frank, it has been a move into a much longer history and world systems. There is intellectual importance in both moves, but perhaps less of the drama and excitement of the earlier impact of Frank’s prolific exposition of the fraud of development and the reality of underdevelopment.
Department of Politics
University of Reading
Managing in the Corporate Interest: Control and Resistance in an American Bank, Vicki Smith, University of California Press, 1992, 245 pages, $14.00 paperback.
Workers in the financial sector have conventionally been perceived to be privileged compared to those in manufacturing. The increasing scope and diminishing cost of information technology, and the deregulatory consequences of Right economic policies which foster insecurity and the erosion of internal labour markets, has though focused researchers’ attention on labour processes in services. Managing in the Corporate Interest examines the roles and responses of middle managers to corporate restructuring in a large Californian bank. The study focuses upon middle managers as simultaneously objects as well as agents of corporate reconstruction. In so doing it offers both an effective critique of popular management theorising, as well as pointing to the conceptual weaknesses of labour process writing which are rooted in blue-collar work settings (p.51).
Notions of ‘flattening the organisation’, ‘removing bureaucracy’, ‘empowerment’ and the like are now the mainstream of modern management discourse and business school teaching, but through her case study approach and direct observation the author shows that the liberal progressive rhetoric of such ideas is not matched by the consequential experiences of middle and lower level employees. As usual, and despite the ideological support provided to senior executives by the management school gurus, the price of corporate failure falls on workers and middle managers who are forced into concessions on pay, security, and workload. What the study shows very clearly is the ways in which middle managers are forced to refashion their social relationships with their subordinates. In this they both implement new corporate control strategies, but they also act to some degree as a buffer to protect their own subordinates from the more draconian aspects of restructuring.
The recent, apparently progressive rhetoric and ideology of entrepreneurial management is shown in this clearly-written study to be a smokescreen for the imposition of otherwise unpopular structural changes, to cope with the strategic failures of senior managers. The new management gospel usually means the opposite of what it claims: decentralising means passing responsibility and the costs of change downwards, but at the same time retaining or enhancing senior management control with ever more sophisticated information technology as the tool. The term the author uses to describe this process, ‘coercive autonomy’, amounts to enlarging the responsibility and discretion of lower managers only in the stressful areas of work intensification and dismissal. Labeled ‘management strategy’, what amounts instead to ‘coercive autonomy’ supersedes bureaucratic control systems with their stress on growth, career ladders, and labour as a quasi-fixed cost. The individualising rhetoric, middle management insecurity, and stress on cost cutting rather than growth, means also that ‘coercive autonomy’ as a concept addresses the limitations in analyses of Braverman, Edwards and others with their focus upon lower level manufacturing workers. The study demonstrates very clearly that conceptually middle management is problematical and that more practically, it is responsible for, but also interprets and shapes strategy from above, and that managers’ relationships with subordinates involves ambiguity, negotiation and reciprocity. The study shows too, that the shift from bureaucratic to individualised management affects very much the organisational legitimacy of middle managers. In this way the pursuit of low trust, antagonistic relationships with employees, not only means the proletarianisation of middle managers, with likely eventual and appropriate responses, but other than in the short term, it serves to obscure rather than solve the inadequacies of strategic management.
This is a concise, clearly-written and argued study which can be included in syllabi concerned with management strategy, labour process debates, and courses concerned with stratification in advanced societies.
University of Plymouth Business School
Stalinism & Nazism: Dictatorships in Comparison, Ian Kershaw & Moshe Lewin, eds., Cambridge University Press, 1997, 296 pages, £45 cloth, £15.95 paperback.
Scholarly and popular interest in the two regimes studied in this compendium remain as intense as ever. The recent BBC TV series on Nazi Germany, in which Ian Kershaw was heavily involved, was deservedly successful, demonstrating for even the most jaded palates that new testimony and new revelations can still be unearthed, whilst the scandals of Nazi gold have generated renewed interest in the Holocaust and its sequels. In Russia, Gorbachev’s glasnost created archival opportunities which were seized upon avidly by Western scholars. If this flow is somewhat abated, we now await the judgements of a new generation of Russian scholars, reflecting on the Soviet experience. None of this should surprise. As the joint editors of the work under review state, these two regimes - the Nazi and the Stalinist - represent ‘the most violent and inhumane epoch in modern European history’.
This book is the product of an international conference held in Philadelphia as long ago as 1991. The inordinate delay between conference and publication may, in part, be explained by the decision of the editors to ask selected contributors to revise their papers and to solicit additional contributions. This was done in an attempt to achieve coherence around three major themes: the leadership cults of Stalin and Hitler; the war machines; and shifting interpretations of these regimes produced by the successor generations faced with the problems of coming to terms with the historical experience of Stalinism and Hitlerism - ‘two of the most terrible regimes ever experienced’. This brief was fairly loosely interpreted by the twelve different scholars, from America, England, Germany, and France, who contributed thirteen chapters. The two distinguished editors, Ian Kershaw and Moshe Lewin, themselves contribute one and two chapters respectively, introduce the whole, and finally top it off with their ‘Afterthoughts’.
The editors claim that the assembled work represents a ‘variety of new and unique approaches to the joint study of Nazi and Stalinist regimes’. This is true only up to a point. Several contributions offer expert analysis of the current state of scholarship rather than anything startlingly new. Some are comparative in approach: others focus exclusively on one or other of the two regimes, offering parallel rather than comparative perspectives. But, whether offering authoritative judgement on the current state of scholarship or new insights, there is no doubting the wealth and depth of scholarship arrayed in this work. For specialists in the area, especially historians and political sociologists, it will be essential reading. Essential too, for research students in search of topics in this area of study and very useful for teachers of modern European history. Whether it is suitable for undergraduates or for ‘a general read’, however, is doubtful. To appreciate much of the work here deployed, readers would need a fair degree of knowledge of these two regimes. Even then it represents a demanding read.
The Introduction by Kershaw and Lewin represents an eloquent justification of the comparative method and indicates areas of common experience between the two regimes which are worth exploring. Conscious that they are following in the footsteps of totalitarian theorists, they are anxious to distance themselves from any determinist intentions. While recognising that the word cannot be eliminated from the political dictionary or from common parlance, they dismiss the ‘totalitarian syndrome’ as having little or no explanatory power and as representing a particular phase of thinking about authoritarian regimes, influenced by Cold War ideology. Their common ground approach, by contrast, is based not on forced comparisons but on recognition of crucial differences, which may be at least as salient as common features. The editors having pinpointed what they consider to be the significance of each, the thirteen contributions then follow.
A not unreasonable assumption is that research into Nazi Germany has been better informed than research into Stalin’s Soviet Union which, hedged around by archival restrictions and ideological buffeting, has been forced to be more intuitive and hence more controversial. The first two contributions, however, exemplify the excellence of much Western scholarship on the Soviet Union despite the handicaps. Ronald Grigor Suny provides a masterly brief analysis of Stalin’s rise to power and of the nature of his regime and Lewin achieves the near-impossible by making the Soviet bureaucracy seem both comprehensible and interesting. He explores the sometimes murderous tensions between bureaucracy and despotism and shows how, with the death of Stalin, the way was clear for the bureaucracy to become a ruling class - an important insight into the politics of the post-Stalin USSR. The piece is characteristic of much of Lewin’s work: depth of knowledge, freshness of approach, enthusiasm - what an inspiration he must be to research students. His second contribution, ‘Stalin in the Mirror of the other’, is by contrast pedestrian and uneasy, a compendium of thoughts on Stalin blunted by the unfamiliar task of comparing him with Hitler. Hans Mommsen and Ian Kershaw then seek to do for Hitler what Suny and Lewin have done for Stalin. Mommsen authoritatively presents a familiar picture of an anti-state propelled by internal contradictions towards self-destruction. Unimpressed by comparisons, he presents the Hitler state as sui generis, having little in common either with Communist or Fascist states. Kershaw, too, is strong on contrasts, discerning little in common between Hitler and Stalin. Hitler’s complete lack of interest in the machinery of state led bureaucrats to interpret his wishes as a guide to policy making, hence ‘working towards the Fuhrer’ in the absence of direct control. A carefully composed piece by Michael Mann completes this section. He takes up the theme of bureaucracy which he sees as the most problematic feature of despotisms. Both regimes he characterises as revolutionary, but in different ways. While the Hitler regime was ‘nation-statist’, Stalin’s was class-driven. The extremism of the former created against itself a coalition dedicated to its destruction, while the latter proved more pragmatic and capable of compromise.
Regimes such as these generated high levels of conflict both within and across frontiers. The theme of war and organisation for war is the focus of the subsequent four contributions. In an interesting piece, Bartou analyses the myths and images which have accumulated around the notion of blitzkrieg. He argues against the view that it was a method of war forced on the Nazi regime in the light of domestic considerations - fear of a public backlash which might follow the heavy losses of a total war such as that of 1914-18. There was no such fear: blitzkrieg succeeded spectacularly in the West but faltered in the East. Germany then reverted to total war, which it was incapable of winning. But such a war was in no way uncharacteristic of the regime which was dedicated to ‘total domination and ruthless extermination’.
Bernd Bonwetch, in ‘ Stalin, the Red Army and the Great Patriotic War’, explores the familiar paradox of 1941 - a Soviet Union which had long been preparing for war, but was taken by surprise on 22 June. Just as much of the explanation for defeat lay in the complex mind of Stalin, so the turning of the tide came when he ceased to interfere constantly in military decisions. In 1943 more rational decision-making at last prevailed, but Stalin’s continued ferocity and indifference to human life meant that the Soviet Union suffered hugely disproportionate losses. Bonwetch’s study is complemented by Jacques Sapir’s chapter on the Soviet War economy, in which he explores the relationship between the economic system and military strategy. Victory in World War Two, so dearly bought, became a vital part of the legitimating myth of Stalin. Mark von Hagen explores the erosion of this myth as Stalin’s mistakes were revealed from the time of Khrushchev’s speech to the Twentieth Party Congress in 1956 onwards. The ‘Great Fatherland War’ is now more commonly treated in less grandiose terms as the Second World War.
The ferocity and destructiveness of these regimes have imposed a burden of guilt and incomprehension on subsequent generations. The final theme explores the ways in which Germans and Russians have tried to come to terms with this legacy. In an erudite piece, George Steinmetz explores the much discussed theme of Germany’s special path to modernity - Germany exceptionalism. Were the distortions afflicting German regimes caused by the survival of pre-modern features? Steinmetz explores the various versions of the theory, expresses scepticism, but concludes that it should be re-defined in the context of Nazi Germany rather than abandoned. Mark von Hagen explores a similar problem in the context of Russian society. He detects an intellectual vacuum caused by the fact that most of those now recalibrating the past were themselves the paid hacks of Soviet society. But, as a new generation of intellectuals emerges, one can anticipate a ‘rich and innovative’ literature on Stalin. Mary Nolan’s piece, ‘Work, gender, and everyday life in twentieth century Germany’, seems rather anomalous and is not paralleled by similar material on Russia, in spite of a growing amount of scholarship in this area. Perhaps it should be placed in the category of new perspectives, with the editors of this rich symposium thinking ahead to the agenda of their next conference.
R. J. Ward
Department of Public Policy
University of Central England
Citizenship and Democratic Control in Contemporary Europe, B. Einhorn, M. Kaldor and Z. Kavan (eds), Edward Elgar, 1996, 256pp., £39.50 cloth.
At the start of the 1990s, the concept of citizenship enjoyed a brief period of popularity amongst both left and right to signal a shift in their respective ideologies. On the one hand, a decade of Thatcherism had begun to raise doubts, even on the right, about a purely market led libertarianism, in which the individual was everything and society nothing. Public and private corruption, from sharp salary increases for the managerial ‘fat cats’ in the utilities, to insider trading in the City, suggested that the invisible hand could not always be counted on to lead self-interested individuals to support the rules and obligations, on which free and fair dealing depends. The temptations to free ride are simply too great. Rising poverty amongst the bottom ten per cent of the population revealed that there were some parts of society that the Heineken of market capitalism failed to reach. The related social problems, such as rising crime rates and homelessness, combined with a growing insecurity amongst the middle classes, as they too were hit by declining public services and economic recession, led to a reappraisal of the dismissal of the welfare state and social solidarity as premature. Douglas Hurd and Chris Patten, amongst others, dusted off their Burke and began to talk about the importance of people being neighbourly and socially responsible. They acknowledged a commitment on the part of the state to regulate, if not necessarily manage, certain privatised services and to ensure tax payers and consumers got value for money. Back to Basics and the Citizen’s Charter respectively, were supposed to embody these ideas, and mark the passage from Thatcherism to Majorism.
On the other hand, the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1989 and the fact that certain New Right themes clearly had popular support, had caused the left to rethink traditional socialist commitments in their turn. A number of New Right arguments reinforced New Left criticisms of the paternalist and potentially oppressive character of a top down state socialism, managed by experts - views that drew additional support from the manifest shortcomings of the former regimes of Eastern Europe. The renewal of democracy came in this way, to be linked with any revival of the role of the state in social and economic life.
Although both right and left employ the same term, it is clear that they propose very different views of the citizen. The former hold a predominantly `private’ view, in which citizenship is identified with either voluntary social action, such as joining neighbourhood watch schemes or looking after elderly parents, or the individual consumption of services currently or formerly provided by the state, such as education or water. The ‘public’ dimension consists merely of setting the boundaries to whom obligations are owed, namely members of the political community. The latter possess a largely ‘public’ conception, stressing participation in the political sphere and a role in the making and delivery of state policy.
The essays in this volume explore this contrast. Whilst written from the perspective of the second position, they are largely forced to admit and rail against the rise of the first. Different chapters focus either on developments in various countries in Eastern Europe or on the European Union, and bemoan, in each case, the preponderance of the market over democracy. As Peter Holmes and Crescy Cannan note, for example, although the status of European Citizenship was introduced with the Maastricht Treaty, it mainly concerns the already existing economic rights related to the single market, rather than new political ones. Moreover, many of the novel measures that accompany this new status, serve largely to exclude would be immigrants and EU residents who are not nationals of the member states, from the benefits of the Union. Likewise, in Eastern Europe a concern with market competitiveness has led to the erosion of the social benefits that the former socialist regimes regarded as rights of citizenship. As Barbara Einhorn and Jenny Shaw note, this shift is particularly striking and damaging so far as women are concerned.
This book emerged from a Sussex seminar series in 1989 and is largely written by members of that University. Whilst the chapters are all worthy and interesting in their way, I doubt if anyone conversant with the relevant literature will learn much that is new. Certainly I found those on the EU, where I can lay claim to a limited expertise, rather general and a little out of date. Most striking is the absence of any comment on the degree to which the left, if New Labour still deserves the label, has moved towards the right’s position over the past two years, echoing both its back to basics and its citizen-consumer concerns. Above all, the book suffers from a sustained theoretical elaboration of the more active conception of citizenship it largely endorses, and in particular an attempt to discuss its feasibility or likely popularity in the contemporary world. A decidedly thin introduction and Mary Kaldor’s opening chapter partially address these issues, but not in any real detail. As Oscar Wilde famously quipped, the trouble with socialist citizenship is that it takes up so many evenings. I see little popular enthusiasm for enhanced political involvement, just a desire for well run and efficient services and an insurance against old age, ill health and the like. Old style paternalist welfare may have had its faults, but I suspect that updating Beveridge might prove a better, and in the current climate more radical, proposal than calls for us to go down the agora.
Department of Politics, University of Reading
Reds or Rackets?: The Making of Radical and Conservative Unions on the Waterfront, Howard Kimeldorf, University of California Press, 1992, 242 pages, $13.00 paperback.
Studies of organised American labour tend to focus upon the institutional and statist factors that have affected the fortunes and misfortunes of American workers, and to overlook important causative processes which have helped to shape both worker and employer assumptions and aspirations at the point of production. It can be claimed in general that American workers have been less prepared than European and Australian workers to defend their skills and their craft controls, but have often acted with determination to defend their employment conditions and their job rights. They have done so usually in an exclusionary fashion in relation to less organisable workers, an approach which at the end of the last century shifted the direction of the trade union movement as a whole through the American Federation of Labor (AFL), and which had profound consequences once mass unionization became more viable in the 1920s and 1930s.
Denuded of skill and its artisanal counter-culture, AFL unions succumbed fully to the employers’ view that labour was after all just a commodity, and like any commodity, could be transacted through contract. The AFL unions in the main thus behaved as mere agents in the cartellization of labour markets, and capitulated to the employers’ view, summed up in their proud boast that they practiced only ‘pure and simple trade unionism’. Self-satisfied and opposing anything which hinted at class unity, AFL members complacently enjoyed their privileges until the late 1930s when industrial workers struck and organised. The great strike and unionising wave of 1936-7 and the consolidations of workers’ rights and union representation of the wartime and 1950s seems in retrospect to have been more a fortuitous conjunction of forces, events, and personalities than ‘Labor’s Giant Step’. There remain, however, industrially militant and (sometimes) politically radical areas of ‘job control’ union organisation within the American labour force. Longshore workers along with virtually all other workers, have faced militantly anti-union employers, unfavourable economic conditions, legislation and the courts. They have though, exceptionally, managed to retain wide and effective bargaining agendas with employers and as such might be thought to offer lessons for other workers.
Reds or Rackets? is a study of longshore workers on the East and West coasts of the United States. The author attempts to explain why workers performing the same work in the same industry, should in fact differ so much in their political orientations and in the nature of their trade unionism. The East Coast longshoremen have been politically conservative, and have tolerated and sustained (in the International Longshoremen’s Association - ILA) what was at best an ineffective trade union in terms of what it managed to achieve for its members, and at worst a union which suffered gross corruption from employers and from organised crime. The International Longshoremen and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU) on the other hand has stood as a beacon of uncorrupted job control trade unionism, and has reflected also the strong left political orientation of the West Coast dock workers. Attempting to explain the origins and persistence of these two very different dockworking political cultures is the main task the author has set himself and in this he has provided us with a convincing and clearly argued account. Over-ambitiously though, Kimeldorf has attempted to use also the clear political and organisational contrasts in this industry to throw light on the long-standing dichotomy within the American labour movement in general, as between job control and economic self-interest trade unionism. In this way, he suggests that the decline of American trade union membership and influence may be seen as the eventual outcome of the narrow, apolitical, ‘bread-and-butter’ economism pursued by a movement which at crucial times (the two wars, the New Deal and low unemployment post-WW II period) faced the opportunity to pursue an alternative strategy. With few exceptions, the ILWU included, American unions consistently chose the direction of least resistance - politically, and as far as employers were concerned. The eventual consequence of this, argues Kimeldorf, has been a movement consistently undermined by the limited nature of the relationship between unions and the rank and file.
Kimeldorf criticises Lipset’s theory of the ‘isolated occupational mass’ by demonstrating that in the case of dock workers there has in fact been an inverse relationship between radicalism and isolation. The conservative New York dockers were insulated from the larger progressive forces, both political and trade union. The relatively less isolated West Coast dock workers, on the other hand, were in ‘left’ terms way ahead of the communities of which they were a greater part. The author argues that the reasons for the differences are not to be found in the conventional and simplistic explanations of organisational manipulation, social isolation, good and bad contracts, or the relative chairmanships of New York’s Joe Ryan and San Francisco’s Harry Bridges. Kimeldorf’s analysis stresses instead the historical importance of production and work experience on the one hand, and the role played also by human agency at crucial moments.
Employer concentration and low industry fragmentation in the West meant employer unity to initially and strongly resist unionisation. As with the highly concentrated automobile industry, eventual employer capitulation meant also comprehensive and stable collective bargaining. On the East Coast the industry has been more fragmented in terms of ownership as well as markets. Opposition to unionisation was therefore more fragmented and recognition was tempered by the corruption of opportunistic union officials. The other important structural difference between the two coasts which accounted for the different union political cultures in the organising years of the ’thirties and ’forties was the composition of the respective labour forces. On the West Coast the dockside labour force was recruited disproportionately from seamen and loggers - groups which were more likely to hold syndicalist ideas and believe in the tactical effectiveness of militancy. The main union presence prior to the ILWU was not surprisingly, therefore, the IWW, although the idea that the ‘isolated mass’ hypothesis may be partly vindicated one stage removed is not explored. On the East Coast the greater fluctuation in employment levels and recruitment from immigrant and other unskilled and disproportionately Catholic populations, inhibited worker solidarity and encouraged the ‘kick back’ and other forms of corruption.
Although somewhat journalistic in exposition, compared to many such studies, Kimeldorf’s book is an example of the ‘new social history’. That is, it focuses upon the interaction of employment experience and local culture at the point of production. Attempting to extrapolate the clearly different union bargaining strategies of the East and the West Coast dock workers as a model of alternatives and therefore lost opportunities for the rest of the American labour force is not as convincing. It does seem clear that one lesson for American unions is that (as with the ILWU) there is a need for the transcendence of economism in union policy and bargaining in order to bind unions more to the rank and file. However, industry or employer-specific factors, as well as the legal and political climate in America, has meant, as the Wobblies demonstrated, that job control unionism as such is either very localised or invariably temporary. Longshore working along with mining, logging and maritime work has tended to foster a uniquely American post-frontier syndicalism, which is typically both aggressive and ruggedly individualistic. On the latter point we should not under-estimate the importance of leadership, and in the case of the ILWU, the pivotal role played by the legendary Harry Bridges.
The International Longshore Workers’ Union and the West Coast longshore workers are rightly portrayed as notable exceptions to the political and industrial conservatism of most American workers and unions. The extent to which this reflects notions of masculine identity held by these workers and the nature of their work is, however, a major factor not explored in the study. In important respects, however, the main body of the study demonstrates that the ILWU is indeed ‘the exception which proves the rule’, and which, therefore, tells us little in general about contemporary American labour relations.
University of Plymouth Business School
POLICY and INTERVENTION
The Sociology of Medicine, William C. Cockerham (ed.), Edward Elgar, 1995, 656 pages, £130 cloth.
In the introduction to this collection of previously published papers, editor William Cockerham states that his intent is ‘to provide a contemporary overview that illustrates both the scope and depth of the subdiscipline’ (p.xiii). Cockerham has been very successful in meeting this objective as he has brought together a range of articles which demonstrate the richness and diversity of research and theory currently within medical sociology. As part of the series entitled ‘The International Library of Critical Writings in Sociology’, the book furthermore highlights the intellectual and practical importance of international and comparative work.
The book is comprised of thirty-eight chapters, divided into ten parts, encompassing a range of themes including ‘sociological theory and health’, ‘social stress’ and ‘alternative medicine’. As with many readers of this type, the downside of such a disparate collection is a lack of cohesion. While in the introduction the editor attempts to make some connections between papers within each of the sections, he does not offer an account of the linkages amongst the various parts. As a consequence, although the book offers an excellent introduction to medical sociology and overviews many of the key issues and debates within the field, it fails to provide a framework through which to understand the relationships among the various topics and approaches. This may be somewhat frustrating for undergraduate students or others new to the area. Similarly, the brief mention given to the historical development of medical sociology, could have been usefully extended to an account of the tensions which have existed between ‘sociology in medicine’ (sociological research which meets the interests and needs of medicine) and ‘sociology of medicine’ (sociological research which is more critical of medicine) (Strauss, 1957). Such a discussion would have helped to contextualise the papers.
Although it is impossible to cover all of the themes currently addressed in medical sociology, the near absence of work on sexism, racism and heterosexism, and sexuality is surprising. When these issues are addressed in individual papers, the approach is largely superficial, lacking the critical reflexivity currently characterising many other sub-disciplines within sociology. While such reflexivity may not be representative of medical sociology, there are important examples, such as Ahmad (1992, 1993) whose work has elucidated the ways in which racist assumptions are often embedded in medical and sociological research. Indeed, inclusion of such a critique would have assisted the reader in critically assessing the collection. Perhaps some of the ten parts could have included fewer articles in order to have made room for these issues. For example, there is some repetition among the eight chapters in the section entitled ‘Health Professions and Occupations’. Likewise, Ritzer and Walczak’s paper on ‘Rationalisation and the Deprofessionalisation of Physicians’ reiterates a great amount of the discussion on formal and substantive rationality earlier addressed by Cockerham, Abel and Luschen (ch.2) in their examination of formal rationality and health lifestyles.
Despite these limitations, the book nicely demonstrates the range of methods which are effectively used in medical sociology. For example, Winkleby, Jatulis, Frank and Fortmann (ch. 5) employ survey data in their analysis of health and socioeconomic status; Hanna and Fitzgerald (ch. 6) use questionnaires in studying reported health symptoms in Somoan communities; Sharma’s study on alternative therapies is based on interviews (ch. 22); and Conrad (ch. 27) examines medical school from the perspective of insiders by examining first-hand account publications of those who attended it. A number of chapters also highlight the important contribution that cross-cultural studies can make to sociology. In demonstrating the similarities and differences between the medical profession in Singapore and other countries, Quah (ch.30) illustrates the dangers in generalising theoretical accounts from one location to others. Similarly, in their survey of Japanese physicians regarding the patient’s right to information, Hattori et al. (ch.31) emphasise the ways in which the medical profession in Singapore is both alike and distinct from the profession elsewhere. They point to the need for researchers to recognise the relationship between medicine and other cultural practices. The chapter by Gallagher (ch. 32) on medical education in Saudi-Arabia takes this point further. He challenges the dominant assumption that developing countries have adopted Western models of education, by demonstrating how practices both correspond to and diverge from Western patterns.
The piece by Paget (ch. 21) is an especially strong contribution as it demonstrates the kind of reflexivity I mention earlier. The author writes of her experience researching medical errors while discovering that she herself had been the victim of medical mistakes, which may have contributed toward the development of her own cancer. This experience helped her to gain insight into the research, while the research assisted her in coping with the cancer by bringing sociological understanding to the situation. Porter’s study (ch. 33) on the gendered nature of nursing also reflects the value that lived experience can make to the research process. He notes how his prior employment as a clinical nurse assisted him in defining the direction of the research, in carrying out his research observations and in gaining access to his subjects. The article could have been further developed, however, with an acknowledgment of the limitations posed by an insider’s perspective.
As well as illustrating the diversity of methods within medical sociology, the book provides the reader with an overview of the varied theoretical perspectives adopted by those working in the area. Indeed, part one, aptly titled ‘sociological theory and health’, specifically explores this. The most comprehensive chapter in this section is by Gerhardt (ch. 1), who uses the example of chronic illness to examine the relevance and application of different theoretical perspectives. Drawing upon work ranging from Weber to Turner, the author demonstrates the importance of classical sociology to the development of contemporary theory. The contribution of sociology toward an understanding of medicine, health and illness, is perhaps best articulated by Waitzkin (ch.3). He demonstrates this by showing how the sociological imagination - linking the ‘microlevel’ processes to the ‘macrolevel’ structures in society - provides unique and critical insight into the doctor-patient relationship.
Overall, this book will be a valuable resource to those working in the area. Despite a lack of any clear coherence among the different parts and its failure to substantially address racism, sexism and sexuality, it does offer an accessible and interesting overview of many key issues and debates within medical sociology. It furthermore familiarises the reader with the range of theories and methods used in this sub-discipline and illustrates the importance of comparative work. The real strength of the book appears to be its ability to interest readers from varied perspectives and thus provide them with an opportunity to consider how they might contribute themselves to the development of the field.
Ahmad, W.I.U. (1993) ‘Race’ and Health in Contemporary Britain , Open University Press.
Ahmad, W.I.U. (1992) ‘Is Medical Sociology an Ostrich? Reflections on ‘Race’ and the Sociology of Health’ Medical Sociology News, 17, 2: 16-21.
Strauss, R. (1957) ‘The Nature and Status of Medical Sociology’ American Sociological Review, 22: 22-204.
University of Reading
A Tale of Two Cities: Global Change, Local Feeling and Everyday Life in the North of England, a study of Manchester and Sheffield, Ian Taylor, Karen Evans and Penny Fraser, Routledge, 1996, £60 cloth, £17.99 paperback
The short literary title and the extended sociological subtitle provides the reader with a very clear guide as to what this book is about. There is also a map of each of the cities on the cover and inside the preface. It is not London and Paris but Manchester and Sheffield. The word tale suggests we should expect some kind of postmodern narrative. To quote David Harris (From Class Struggle to the Politics of Pleasure,1992,Routledge):
‘These conventions...concern being able to tell a story as if it were a natural account, to maintain a position, to defend it against likely criticism, to win over and involve different audiences, to create an impression that something has been revealed or learned, whilst not offering too radical a challenge to familiar and existing knowledge’ (p.2).
The authors dutifully argue for the need to integrate the local and the global by studying how people live in particular cities. The book itself grows out of an ESRC bid to research ‘the public sense of well-being: a taxonomy of public and space’ by comparing Manchester and Sheffield and local production in the two cities.
In the preface the authors acknowledge their theoretical debt to the cultural geography of Peter Jackson and particularly to Raymond Williams’ concept of ‘the structure of feeling’. This is class-based, embedded in everyday practices and in place, and to quote Alan Warde (1989) "the substance of a locality be considered as routinised relations, reproduced over time, because of the dependency of actors condemned to geographical immobility" (p.14). It is also grounded in Ian Taylor’s own biography, in that he has lived in the two cities, albeit separated by a spell of eight years in Canada.
The book itself is divided into unequal parts - the last part is a short conclusion, with the weight of the discussion and empirical material carried in Part Three. Part One of the book explores the past and the contemporary contexts of the two ‘Dirty Old Towns’. Part Two is entitled ‘Getting To Work and Getting About’. Part Three, ‘It Takes All Folks’ examines the different publics within the city - the unemployed, gays, women, ethnic minorities, the elderly and youth. The research aims to explore issues of class, race and gender in relation to transport, shopping and sexuality. It stresses the need to recognise local difference and also acknowledge that social formations have continuities and discontinuities.
So what are the continuities? Stated simply, the local structure of feeling is a product of local class structures and hegemonic masculinities - but these are changing and contested. What are the discontinuities - the collapse of mass manufacturing in the North? Yet, Manchester has diversified into a ‘headquarters’ service-sector city for multinational corporations, whereas Sheffield is trapped within its proletarian past, despite substantial investments in mega- events such as the World Student Games. Both cities then have ‘local growth coalitions’ which aim to regenerate them. Manchester’s policy-makers are embracing ‘the postmodern’, looking forward to Post-Fordism, whereas Sheffield has more of a rescue squad, aiming to conserve a utopian socialist past and protect the city from further decline.
How does one set about researching life in a Post-Fordist city, given the eclectic themes and structural processes confronting the authors? Does one choose a sociology of the postmodern or a postmodern sociology? Their research strategy is one of listening to diverse local voices - in this case 27 focus groups (constituting 174 people) and to 89 school children from three schools in Manchester and from two schools in Sheffield.
The book presents its own research as a realist sociology of everyday life, drawing on the routinised phenomenology of everyday life and Giddens’ work on the recursiveness of everyday life. The chapters examine the journey to work and shopping, drawing upon data from a street survey conducted in August 1992, which generated 1825 respondents - 8 categories of ‘users’ and 6 categories of ‘non-users’ of city space. These categories became the basis for organising the diverse focus groups, but they are named and relegated to the notes at the back of the book, along with other rich sources of data and discussions which are not developed fully in this text.
The authors suggest that their findings constitute a micro sociology of the city - exploring public spaces, bus routes, shopping locations, mental maps, and routes through the city. However, the major problem that confronts the authors is one both of presentation and representation: how does one do justice to the wealth of rich data collected and what precisely is the relationship between the focus groups, the research team and the claim to provide a micro sociology of the city? To offer just one example, the researchers discuss the "sense of the North as a residual and subordinated region...now in danger of further marginalisation by the demise of its manufacturing basis, was fundamental: so obvious it did not always need to be said" (p.18). Is this silence grounded in biography, the experience of running the focus groups and what implication does it carry for their emergent micro-sociology of the city?
The heart of the book provides a kaleidoscope of insights about traveling, working and shopping in the two cities - the impact of deregulation in public transport, the fear of unemployment, the shopping developments and centres, the landscapes of fear in public spaces. There is also a brief and interesting chapter about gay sexuality in Manchester, based on the discussion group of eight respondents (men). The authors point out (if one assumes that Kinsey Report’s statistic of one in ten of the population’s sexual preference) one is writing about a gay population of 180,00 in Greater Manchester and of 35,000 in the city of Sheffield.
The Gay Village in Manchester is followed by a chapter entitled ‘White City’, which touches on ethnicity and racial difference. For some, Moss Side is equated with the US cities, a ‘racialised other’ of gangs, drugs, deprivation and violence. This theme is further explored in the penultimate chapter, which explores the ‘urban other’, mainly children and young men, colonising urban space, permeated with a profane culture of routine subordination, of the ‘townie’, a survival street-wise culture. Sandwiched in between are two chapters about women and the elderly and their cautious negotiation of space within the city.
In the preface the authors start by apologising to professional sociologists and geographers about whether they have sufficiently theorised their different empirical materials satisfactorily. A book on the Post-Fordist city is just waiting to be written, yet, it is no small task to think about and to research. Experts on Manchester and Sheffield will be concerned about the detail and those interested in comparative analysis will be unhappy about the lack of theoretical direction in the comparisons. Those interested in race, the elderly, and women will equally demand more theoretical and empirical discussion. For them, the definitive book on the Post Fordist city has yet to be written. This book represents a start in the right direction and the authors have considerable empirical data at their disposal to continue the journey.
Leeds Metropolitan University
Improving Poor People: The Welfare State, The ‘Underclass’, & Urban Schools As History, Michael Katz, Princeton University Press, 1995, 179 pages, £18. 95 cloth.
Any text which commences by describing itself as the product of ‘almost thirty years of work’ (p.ix) might reasonably induce some foreboding in the reader. Nevertheless, what Michael Katz provides in Improving Poor People is both an accessible survey of the history of poor relief in America dating back to the colonial period, and an interesting account of his own career in studying the ideologies and policies which have characterised what he describes as this distinctive ‘Semi-Welfare State’.
According to Katz, the American state welfare system is incomplete, which accounts in part for the persistence of poverty in the world’s richest society - including infant mortality ratios within sections of the Afro-American population which are comparable to those in the developing world (p.27). The key and recurring questions which he sets out to examine are, ‘What accounts for the inability of the people of this rich, inventive country to create and implement policies that adequately support with dignity those among us in need’ (p.21), and ‘Why has this irrational and unsatisfactory system proved so resistant to change?’ (p.28).
His answer is that the evolution of welfare provision in America reflects a combination of three factors which have shaped and inhibited its development: its historic purposes, the ideas which underlie it, and the interests which it has served. These factors have led to a welfare system which ‘has misdiagnosed the issues…[and] deflected attention from their structural origins’ (p.4). Reformers have attributed poverty to the alleged defects of the poor and ‘emphasized individual regeneration’ (p.3), and the policies which they have devised have concentrated on removing suspected pathologies . In short, then, ‘this book explores attempts to improve poor people during the last two centuries’ (p.3).
Education has had a ‘starring role’ in this strategy of changing the allegedly deviant and self-destructive behaviour of poor people: a constant theme throughout the history of American welfare reform has been the endeavour of ‘molding character, and imparting useful skills’ (p.4). The contemporary and British relevance of what might be called this Blairite or Fieldian approach to social policy is obvious and, as such, British readers might find that Katz’s third and penultimate chapter on the history of public urban schooling in America contains many points of interest, despite its ostensibly narrow focus on educational reform in Chicago.
The preceding chapters deal, respectively, with a general overview of Katz’s subject matter and his approach to the issues (Introduction); the development of poor relief in America concentrating on the ‘Poorhouse Era’ of the nineteenth century and the ‘Construction Of The Semi-Welfare State’ under the New Deal (Chapter 1); and the continuing discourse of the undeserving poor and ‘underclass’ throughout the history of state welfare development in America (Chapter 2). This chapter draws on work already published in Katz’s earlier collected volume The ‘Underclass’ Debate: Views From History (Katz, M. (ed), 1993, Princeton University Press). The final chapter shifts the focus to consider the issues from a bottom-up perspective, ‘and asks how poor people have survived poverty’ in the earlier part of this century (p.22).
Although Katz disavows the construction of any systematic theory of welfare, he does nevertheless offer a methodically ordered approach through the ‘untidy’ history of this wide-ranging set of issues (p.5). In chapter 1, for example, he documents the six ‘structural features,’ five ‘purposes’ or ‘historical goal[s]’, and four ‘elements’ which have shaped American state welfare provision (pp.28-30), and therefore provides a well-ordered route through the halting development and increasing professionalisation and bureaucratisation of American welfare.
Each chapter also contains a brief autobiographical sketch which describes Katz’s personal involvement in thess issues under discussion. The last few pages of the introductory chapter, for example, describe the development of Katz’s academic career and his interest in an interdisciplinary approach to the study of welfare history (pp.11-18). ‘This book’, he points out, ‘synthesizes some of these [earlier] explorations’ which are referred to frequently throughout the text (p.18). Chapter 2 opens with a brief account of Katz’s experience in the early 1990s as part of the Governor of Pennsylvania’s Task Force on Reducing Welfare Dependency (pp.19-21), and the third chapter describes his experience as the archivist of the American Social Science Research Council’s study of the urban ‘underclass’ (pp.60-63). Katz provides these sketches on the grounds that, ‘All written history is part autobiography’ (p.10). He expressly commits himself to deconstruct the ‘conventional boundaries of scholarship’ and raises questions about the dividing line (which he problematizes and sees as indistinct) between ‘passion and professionalism’ or history and advocation.
Two themes in particular preoccupy Katz throughout the text and are also served by these personal histories. There is, firstly, the relationship between theory and practice; secondly, there is the relevance of historical analysis to an understanding of contemporary issues. The Introduction ponders on what Katz describes as the ‘unresolved tension between activism and scholarship’ (p.3), but he does not profess to reach a final or satisfactory resolution of this relationship. Nevertheless, one lesson which Katz does draw from his consideration of this ‘tension’ is that, despite the seeming intransigence of negative views of the poor, questioning and reframing the issues is always necessary and worthwhile (p.4). One positive effect of the historical analysis of social policy is that it can validate the views and activities of those on the ground: ‘give them ammunition…[and] help them avoid blaming themselves, by giving them the information to understand their situation better’ (p.8). By this means, scholarship can play a part in what Foucault described as the endeavour to ‘refuse what we are’.
It comes as no surprise that a social historian should be a strong advocate of a historical perspective on current policy issues, but Katz’s case against policy practitioners ‘whose relentless presentism views historians as of little use other than as entertainment’ (p.3) is well made. One example in particular illustrates the benefits of an awareness of the historical background to contemporary debates. This is the refutation of ‘mythical images of a golden era of voluntarism’ which underlie recent American reform efforts (p.21). Katz’s work is able to demonstrate that despite this myth, ‘Public poor relief… is one of America’s oldest traditions,’ being brought to the New World by English colonists in the seventeenth century (p.23). Katz is critical of social scientists who have often lent credence to ideas of a bygone age of self-help and voluntarism: ‘historians have underestimated the scope and role of relief during the last two hundred years… by often taking voluntary agencies at their own word, historians have overemphasized their importance…[and] have reinforced the myth of voluntarism’s potential for solving America’s social problems’ (p.56).
However, another apparent lesson of history is that there has been little change in either popular or policy makers’ ‘understandings’ of poverty and the (alleged) characteristics of the poor. It would appear that the real ‘cycle of poverty’ is in the lack of imagination of American policy makers and their perpetuation of false images of the poor. Nevertheless, Katz retains his faith in the role which the study of history can play in helping to overcome such ideological predispositions: ‘if the history of social policy has a moral, it lies in the realization that policies and institutions that appear oppressive today are built in significant measure of human agency and choice’ (p.8).
As Katz points out, ‘American debates and policies often paralleled those in Britain’ (p.2). Initially this meant that American provision adopted British practice (such as the institutionalisation of the ‘undeserving’ poor in poorhouses - p.32), or echoed British debates (such as that instigated by the Charity Organisation Society over outdoor relief - p.38). In more recent years, however, the traffic in ideas and lessons seems to be flowing from America to the UK, as testified to by the number of British visitors inspecting the ‘tough love’ welfare reforms in such places as New Jersey and Wisconsin. Despite the ocean between them, there are sufficient parallels between British and American welfare development to interest a British readership in Katz’s historical analyses. Those interested in such matters as the discourse of the ‘underclass’, the social division of welfare, the role of private, voluntary and business organisations in the evolution of ‘welfare capitalism’, or the continued distinction between the so-called ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor will find much to interest them in this text.
As Katz observes, there is no need to use the past tense in summarising nineteenth century views of the poor, which ‘traced extreme poverty to drink, laziness, and other forms of bad behaviour’, and which sought to ‘improve the character of poor people rather than to attack the material sources of their misery’ (p.3). Although he deliberately side-steps the ‘ "last chapter" problem’ by disavowing ‘clear lessons’ for policy (p.7), nevertheless, Katz retains an optimism about the potential efficacy of social history and social policy analysis, to inform policy debates in the formulation of policy assumptions about social problems and the characteristics of those in poverty. However, while one might applaud Katz’s achievement in this text and admire his optimism, Improving Poor People documents over 200 years of blaming the poor for their condition, and offers no indications that this tendency is likely to be confined exclusively to the history books.
School of Community, Health, and Social Studies
Anglia Polytechnic University
The Journey of Life: A Cultural History of Aging in America, Thomas R. Cole, Cambridge University Press, 1997, 304 pages, £7.95 paperback.
Thomas Cole's fascinating book The Journey of Life began as a dissertation at the University of Rochester in the later 1970s and offers an American historical interpretation of ageing. This book contributes to the growing public dialogue about the meaning and significance of later life. Essentially, it is a genealogy that traces the long term transition from existential to scientific tonalities in cultural compositions of ageing. The book follows several subthemes that amplify the historical overtones of the major motifs: death, generation relations, attitudes toward old age and older people, gender and the role of science. The contents of the book are the result of the author’s own engagement with these motifs, and his personal and intellectual grappling with their significance.
Following an introductory chapter in which the author sets out the key influences on the book. The remainder is organized into three parts; ‘The ages of life and the journey of life: transcendent ideals’, ‘The dualism of aging in Victorian America’, and finally, ‘Science and the ideal of normal aging’. Chapters two through to ten move us firmly into three specific ideals of ageing and later life held by middle class Americans since the seventeenth century. These chapters bring together some very complex ideas, introducing the reader to ideals such as; ‘late Calvinist’, ‘civilized’ or ‘Victorian’, ‘normal’ or ‘successful’ .
Part one provides the reader with an introduction to the field of transcendence, and consists of three important chapters dealing with essential background for understanding the direction and pattern of change in American ideas on ageing. Here the author demonstrates how several learned and folk versions of life's ages and its journey passed from ancient authors into medieval Christianity. Presentation of these terms are in a form that is both understandable and greatly challenging. In particular, for me, these discussions provided background knowledge and stimulated the desire to seek out further information about, for example, Nathaniel Emmons and his Calvinist ideal of old age. Nathaniel Emmons taught theology, helped found the Massachusetts Missionary Society, and commented freely on public matters; he had a long and lasting career and achieved considerable renown. My fascination for Emmons is the way in which he preserved the fashions of his youth, fighting the impact of ‘old age’ to the very end. As Cole suggests, ‘As if he were the Gray Champion of Hawthorne’s tale, boys flocked after him through the streets of New England town, with his three-cornered hat, bright buckles on shoes and knees, and long white hairflowing down around his shoulders’ (p.59). One minor criticism with the author’s approaches to Emmons is that I found it to be short and insufficient. More information about his life, his works and his influences would have enriched the chapter, and perhaps provided the reviewer with a great amount of pleasure.
The four chapters comprising Part two describe the ideals of mortality, which articulate social behaviour considered necessary for a ‘good old age’ and its religious rewards. The contents of these chapters are both exciting and thought-provoking, introducing us to virtues of Victorian morality such as independence, health, and success. This part of the book provides a clear and concise interpretation of how New England Puritans constructed a dialectical view of ageing and later life. It emphasizes how with both the losses and decline of old age is the inevitable hope for life and redemption. Here Thomas Cole considers in more detail how the Calvinist's ideal of old age (which continued to persist in some areas into the middle of the nineteenth century), normally consisting of mental, physical, moral deterioration and chronic disease was part of man's punishment for the sin of Adam. Cole's basic point here is that during this period of history ‘prolongation of life and usefulness into later life constituted a distinguishing favor, a rare exemption from the ills of un-renewed human nature granted by an inscrutable God’(p.231). Put in simpler terms: Cole is suggesting that to become ‘old’, with all its ‘faults’ and ‘frailties’, was a constant reminder of the limits of self control. The decaying and ageing body signified what the bourgeois culture wanted to avoid - disease, failure, and dependence.
In the concluding section, the third part of the book, the author invites the reader to consider the implication of ‘normal’ ageing that seeks to maximize individual health and physiological functioning in old age through scientific research and medical management.
Chapter ten, perhaps the most interesting chapter in part three, is a discussion of G. Stanley Hall and ‘The prophecy of Senescence’, and the reconstruction of old age. Here, Cole explores how Hall the professional psychologist and the founding president of Clark University sought the most authoritative and normative ideas of both life and death in the study of biology. Hall's synopsis of insights from religion, philosophy and history aimed to prove that intelligence and conserved senectitude serve very important social functions in the world. The result was ‘Senescence, The Last Half of Life’ a prophetic book (which the author refers to as an ‘aging manual’ (p.213). Whose visions of old age reveal large debts to Hall’s Puritan ancestors and his rural mid-Victorian childhood. What I found of interest was Cole’s description of the ‘aging manual’: ‘Senescence is a rambling, often confusing text and yet its confusions and contradictions are also revealing’(p.214). What I particularly like about this section was the way the author referred to Hall's own declining age, his declining influence, and the way he sought to retain disembodied control. However, I do have one minor disappointment with chapter ten. Even though Cole confessed to finding the 'manual' revealing, he still failed to expand more fully on the contents of Hall's 'aging manual'. For me, Cole's description of the book was far too brief; I would have welcomed further pages on the reconstruction of old age.
In addition to the well-written text the use of attractive illustrations and prints of ‘the ages of life’ enlivens the book, and provides a visual account of typical sixteenth and early seventeenth century stereotypes of the ageing body.
The presentation and structure of the book are clear and precise, and it is most helpful to follow the chapter sub-headings. However, much as I enjoyed the content of The Journey of Life a minor criticism of the book is the chapter structures. I would have found it most helpful to have summaries at the end of each chapter providing brief outlines of the most important concepts and ideas, together with a list of suggestions for further reading. These are, in the main, minor points, as my overall impression of this book is that the author deserves credit for constructing an excellent read.
Overall, this is a very comprehensive and well-balanced text on the cultural history of ageing in America. The strength of this book is the breath of issues covered. Different needs are catered for and this makes the book highly suitable to a wide range of readers who are sure to find many pieces of thought-provoking information. I suggest both British students and academics will find it invaluable, interesting, and greatly stimulating. I commend this book as an informative guide. Thomas Cole’s book succeeds in introducing the reader to American attitudes towards ageing, and provides the reviewer with a book that is enjoyable to read and easy to comprehend. At the mere price of £7.95 with 304 pages, it is well within the reach of students wanting a readable and comprehensive introduction to ‘A cultural history of ageing in America’.
University of Lincolnshire & Humberside
Search and Destroy: African-American Males in the Criminal Justice System, Jerome G. Miller, Cambridge University Press, 1996, 242 pages, £30.00 hardback.
Compelled to Crime: the gender entrapment of battered black women, Beth E. Richie, Routledge, 1996, 164 pages, £37.50 hardback, £l2.99 paperback.
These two books share a specific perspective: that African-American men and women in the USA are still having to contend with negative pressures arising from their unique racial and cultural history, and that incarceration is becoming the end result for many. Both authors had direct experience of the penal environments which provided the context for their books: Jerome G. Miller, appointed by the federal court in the Middle district of Florida to monitor jail overcrowding in Duval County from 1989 to 1994, had unique access to written police summaries of arrests, individual criminal histories, and opportunities to interview male prisoners. Beth E. Richie, prior to conducting her life-history interviews with women detainees, spent five months involving herself in the life of the women inmates in the Rose M. Singer Center at Rikers Island Correctional Facility and worked as a consultant to another study, interviewing women as they entered the jail. Both Miller and Richie challenge the current political focus on personal responsibility, arguing that socio-economic factors existing in the structures and fabric of society, contribute far more to individuals’ life chances and subsequent experiences.
Beyond this, any similarity ends; Miller focuses on the criminal justice system and the ways in which the processing of African-American males within the system works to their disadvantage. He uses his own experience and observations of social and penal policy in the USA to question his country’s increasing reliance on the criminal justice system as the preferred means of dealing with a wide range of vexing social, economic, and personal problems, arguing that this has contributed to racial and social instability. Richie develops a theory of gender entrapment, appropriating the meaning of her theory from the legal notion of entrapment - a circumstance whereby an individual is lured into a compromising act. She uses her model of gender entrapment to develop an alternative means of explaining women’s illegal activities: women who are marginalized in the public sphere because of their race/ethnicity, gender, and class, and are battered by their male partners, can become caught up in the criminal justice system as both victims and perpetrators of crime.
Miller’s work in Duval County led to his increasing concern that the criminal justice system seemed to be disproportionately concentrating its power on African-Americans charged with relatively minor offences. Drawing on both theoretical and statistical data, he questions the perception that violent crime and drug offences (both associated in the public’s mind with young black men) were out of control in the 1980s, and attempts to track racial bias in the system. Miller challenges the presumption that so many African-American young men are incarcerated because they are the ones committing the crimes. His own perspective, that the numbers provide "a sharper picture of who is at the bottom of the socioeconomic heap or on the political outs at that given time" (p.49), is a refreshing contrast in the current climate.
Miller continues his theme of structural as opposed to individual causes of crime, in his exploration of unanticipated consequences of the criminal justice system. He argues that criminal procedures associated with the war on drugs, actually intensified violence in the inner cities at a time when violence among African-American males had stabilized or was at least subsiding. He condemns police practices of using informants, which inevitably stirs up distrust amongst communities, and of arresting young boys and charging them with petty offences which creates a criminal record and the associated discrimination and disadvantage which will follow them for the rest of their lives. As a former senior probation officer and current educator of probation officers, I was particularly struck by Miller’s criticism of probation/parole officers; he refers to a 1994 national survey of criminal justice agents which revealed that probation/parole directors were the least likely to want alternatives to incarceration implemented in their jurisdictions, and he quotes the motto mounted on the wall of one of California’s chief probation officers: "Trail’em, Surveil ‘em, Nail ‘em, and Jail ‘em" (p.131). With the Probation Service in England and Wales being constantly told to toughen up, it has to be hoped that it will not mirror all of the latest developments of its American counterpart.
Any examination of the criminal justice system in the USA in the l990s would not be complete without reference to the influence of James Q. Wilson and Charles Murray. Not surprisingly, Miller is no great fan of theirs. Focusing on the politics of crime, the development of the increasingly punitive political ideology in which criminal justice policies are made is reviewed. It is noted that the ‘Weed and Seed’ policies of the Bush administration were felt to be aimed more at ‘weeding out’ violent criminals, particularly in non-white communities, than at ‘seeding’ communities with expanded educational opportunities, social services and jobs. With imprisonment now regarded as the optimum means of dealing with problem individuals and communities, Miller believes the likely result is an exacerbation of the social, economic and personal difficulties which produced the problem behaviour in the first place.
Reviewing the historical development of biological theories of crime, Miller demonstrates how genetics and the concept of the ‘born criminal’ is once more gaining widespread support, despite being discredited in the last century. Miller leaves the reader in no doubt that the acceptance of genetic and implicitly racial explanations for socially unacceptable behaviour, coupled with statistics which suggest that three out of every four black American males will be arrested, jailed, and acquire a criminal record by the age of 35, is a recipe for disaster. Miller’s conclusion is no less pessimistic, despite his editor insisting that he include suggestions for future policy. Whilst these have been included, Miller has already made it clear to his reader that he does not believe his proposals have any chance of being taken up in the current political climate.
Richie’s approach to the plight of African-American women is a very different research enterprise; she seeks to demonstrate that certain African-American women are likely to experience gender entrapment more than other African-American women and white women. Using a life-history approach, she undertook 37 interviews with women detainees - 26 with African-American women battered by their partners, 5 with African-American women who had not been battered, and 6 with white women who had been. Like Miller, she refuses to pathologise the women, arguing that it is the degree to which their lives are stigmatized and marginalized which is extreme, not the women themselves. The women’s problems should be blamed on the flaws in society - structural and situational. It is these social arrangements which, she argues, must change.
After introducing her theory of gender entrapment, placing it within a penal and social context, and reviewing the methodology which informed her approach to the research, Richie divides the analysis of her interviews into three themes: the development of gender-identity in childhood, the management of violence in intimate relationships, and the women’s participation in illegal activities. These form chapters 3-5 and demonstrate the interaction of gender, race/ethnicity, violence and crime in the lives of these women. Richie develops the interesting hypothesis that it is the African-American women who were ‘special’ and given some sort of ‘privileged status’ in their households of origin who were left vulnerable to abuse as adults. She suggests that, having experienced limited opportunities for black women in the public sphere, they turned their energy and ideals to the private sphere where they were determined to be, and be seen to be, a success. This, Richie argues, made it harder for these women to leave when the battering began; African-American women with a less idealized notion of romantic love were more likely to leave as soon as a man became abusive, and white women in violent relationships were better placed structurally to make use of public agencies offering help. The determination to maintain their relationship, come what may, then resulted in the African-American battered women allowing themselves to be coerced into undertaking illegal activities.
Richie’s theory is at its strongest in the fifth chapter - outlining six ways in which the women became involved in crime. These included being implicated in a child’s death, attacking men who threatened them, becoming involved in crimes associated with illegal sex work, arson and property crimes, economically-motivated crimes and drug offences. Richie emphasises that the ‘six paths to crime’ are presented from the women’s own points of view, consistent with the case-history approach, so that the crimes they were arrested for do not necessarily represent how they describe their involvement. The women’s stories are at their most poignant here: Sebina, a thirty-two year old African-American woman battered by her husband for four years was charged with second- degree homicide for failure to protect her child. She states, "One day we were all hungry, and my son was crying. He beat him so badly I was really scared. He tied him up and made me have sex while my son was under the bed. When it was over, I rushed to get my son, but he wasn’t breathing." (p.106).
Another, Carolyn, jointly charged with her husband for homicide in the first degree following the death of her son, even though she was asleep at the time, describes how she continues to be assaulted by other women detainees for failing to protect her child. She states, "The only reason I don’t hate myself is because I don’t even exist anymore after twelve years of being abused" (p.108).
Particularly tragic is the view of a number of the women that incarceration is a relief and an escape from the constant, inescapable abuse experienced prior to their arrest. Some of the stories in this chapter link with those of women who have killed abusive partners - their inability to escape the abusive partner through any other means. Their plight is beginning to be recognised and the Judge presiding over the appeal of Emma Humphries in Britain in 1995 referred to the ‘cumulative provocation’ she had endured over the years. Similarly, Richie’s theory of gender entrapment moves us on from the concept of diminished responsibility, which only serves to continue the pathologising of women.
There is an interesting sub-theme running through the book and one that links with Miller’s subject; it concerns the reluctance of the battered African-American women to involve criminal justice agencies following their partners’ abuse of them. Richie states that the women’ s awareness of the system’ s bias and the disproportionate incarceration rates of black men influenced their response to the abuse. She also suggests that the African-American men used the fact of their overrepresentation in the criminal justice system and other racial rhetoric, to strike a chord of sympathy with the African-American battered women - so the women felt it should be them, not their male partners, who became actively involved in criminal behaviour or took the rap. She uses this to reinforce her argument that African-American battered women are particularly susceptible to gender entrapment.
Whilst both books make for disturbing reading, Richie’s is the more compelling; Miller’s work is full of worthy but highly complex debates, of relevant but over-detailed theoretical arguments. The reader is left exhausted and depressed by his predictions rather than energised and provoked to take action in the light of this tragic indictment of US penal policy. Richie’s book, albeit based on a small sample of women, represents a valuable contribution to the sparse literature on the social construction of the African-American woman in the context of the violence she experiences in her everyday life. There is clearly a need for more research studies into what is happening to African-Americans and why, and more action to confront a public which prefers to turn its back on complex social phenomena.
School of Social Studies
University of Nottingham