Volume 11, number 2, 1999


CONTENTS

REVIEW ARTICLES

The Importance of a ‘Critical’ Sociology of Old Age, Jason Powell.

Working Class Mobilisation in the United States: A European Perspective, Peter Cook

 

REVIEWS

THEORY

Remaking Reality: Nature at the Millennium, Bruce Braun and Noel Castree (Alan Rudy).

The Myth of Social Action, Colin Campbell (Sven Bislev).

Making Natural Knowledge: Constructivism and the History of Science, Jan Golinski (Alan Rudy).

CULTURE AND COMMUNICATION

The Media Equation - How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media like Real People and Places, B. Reeves and C. Nass (Chris Brotherton).

The Social Faces of Humour: Practices and Issues, George E.C. Paton, Chris Powell and Stephen Wagg. (Sandy Hobbs).

Restoring the Kingdom: The Radical Christianity of the House Church Movement, Andrew Walker (Stephen Hunt).

COMPARATIVE

Along the Domestic-Foreign Frontier: Exploring Governance in a Turbulent World, James N.Rosenau (Peter Woodward).

The North American Trajectory: Cultural, Economic, and Political Ties among the United States, Canada, and Mexico, Ronald F. Inglehart, Neil Nevitte and Miguel Basañez (Hans Kraus Hansen).

Citizenship and Civil Society: A Framework of Rights and Obligations in Liberal, Traditional, and Social Democratic Regimes, Thomas Janoski, (Diane Lister).

The Sociology of Politics, William Outhwaite and Luke Martell (Stephen Hunt).

Redefining the State: Privatisation and Welfare Reform in Industrial and Transitional Economies, Nicolas Spulber (Sven Bislev).

The Sociology of the Military, Giuseppe Caforio (Peter Woodward).

The Capitalist Revolution in Eastern Europe, L. Czaba,

The Little Czech and the Great Czech Nation: National identity and the post-communist transformation of society, L. Holy, (Ludek Rychetnik).

Globalisation and the Third World, Ray Kiely and Phil Marfleet (Hans Kraus Hansen).

POLICY AND INTERVENTION

The Sociology of the Environment, Michael Redclift and Graham Woodgate

The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology, Michael Redclift & Graham Woodgate. (John Ferris).

Ageing Europe, Alan Walker and Tony Maltby.

Aging and Generational Relations Over the Life Course: A Historical and Cross-Cultural Perspective, Tamara K. Hareven (Jane Pilcher).

The Journey of Life: A Cultural History of Aging in America, Thomas R. Cole (Emmanuelle Tulle-Winton).

Understanding Crime Prevention: Social Control, Risk and Late Modernity, Gordon Hughes (Tina Hall).

Jigsaw: A Political Criminology of Youth Homelessness, Pat Carlen (Virginia MacNeil).

Random Violence: How We Talk About New Crimes and New Victims, Joel Best (Tina Hall).

Athletes and Acquaintance Rape, Jeffrey Benedict (Joel Nathan Rosen).

MANAGEMENT AND LABOUR

Doctors and Management the National Health Service, Gordon Marnoch (Alison Baker).

Enterprise and Culture, Colin Gray (Simon Down)

Labor and Politics in the U.S. Postal Service, Vern K. Baxter

New Deals: Business, labor and politics in America, 1920-1935, Colin Gordon

Citizen Worker, David Montgomery (Peter Cook)

 

REVIEW ARTICLE

The Importance of a ‘Critical’ Sociology of Old Age

Jason L. Powell

Liverpool John Moores University

 

Ageing and Social Policy in Australia, Edited by Allan Borowski, Sol Encel and Elizabeth Ozanne, Cambridge University Press, 1998, 337 pages, £45.00 hardback, £15.95 paperback.

Ageing and Popular Culture, Andrew Blaikie, Cambridge University Press, 1999, 247 pages, £40.00 hardback, £14.95 paperback.

The two books by Blaikie and by Borowski, Encel and Ozanne are important in illuminating ‘age’ as a significant variable in sociological discourse. They are part of a growing international literature on the sociology of age. The contextual backdrop that lies behind the acceleration of international publications such as these two books, concerns the historical invisibility of age in sociology and the rise and consolidation of medical knowledge about the processes of age.

Up until the 1990s, the dominant sociological triumvirate of ‘race’, class and gender were seen as major vehicles that mobilised major research funding opportunities and studies in the United Kingdom. Not only was age subsumed under ‘race’, class and gender, but the dominant explanatory framework concerning ageing came from outside of sociology: bio-medicine. The medical model was and is a global influence that perceive(d) old age, in particular, as related to physical, psychological and biological ‘problems’. Such ‘problems’ of old age were tied to very narrow individualistic explanations such as that older people’s bodies and minds ‘decay’ and ‘decline’. Coupled with this, the rise and consolidation of functionalist accounts of old age compounded such medical discourses. For functionalists in the USA during 1950s and 1960s, the purpose of old age was for older people to disengage from work roles and prepare for the ultimate disengagement: death. Old age then took on a problem focus. These perspectives held dominant ideas that helped shape and legitimise policies of retirement and subsequent inequality. Indeed, 'old age' throughout the twentieth century has been seen as a social and medical problem and this predominant perspective is evident through the language used by policy makers, mass media and the general public. The story of 'ageing' into old age still begins and ends with the thorny problem of economic, social and physical decline. In western culture the ageing body is the 'bottom line' - subject to relentless growth and 'decay'. Insofar as there is a history of ageing, there is also a history of governmental efforts to control and regulate older people. The grand medical and functionalist narratives of 'decline' of the body and mind, and ‘disengagement’ from work roles, for older people hides the location of complex intersections of negative ideas about ageing that comprise an ageing culture.

A significant contribution of sociology as a discipline has been to highlight how individual lives and behaviour which were thought to be determined solely by biological, medical and psychological factors, are, in fact, heavily influenced by social environments in which people live. However, it is quite astonishing that given the range and explosion of such sociological ideas that there was not, until recently, much consideration and application of such critical ideas to ‘age’. It was not until the 1980s that the major sociological influences of Marxism and feminism turned their attention to old age and the issues of employment, retirement, health and community care, and housing. Briefly in combination, such perspectives saw old age as a socially constructed variable mediated by social policies and gendered provision that benefitted neo-liberal political regimes around the world. The knock-on effect has been a literal ‘explosion’ in the west of the amount of sociological publications concerning the global effects of an ‘ageing population’. These publications have spanned the USA, UK, South Africa, Canada and Australia. This is significant, as it has put age on the sociological world map as a serious social issue of concern.

This sets the contextual backdrop for these two books: the two works are part of the metaphorical ‘explosion’ that has grabbed the attention of sociologists on all sides of the globe. Read together, these two books tell two stories. The Borowski, Encel and Ozanne edited volume analyses the prospect of an ageing population in Australia. The edited book includes 15 articles of critical research of the effects of social policies in Australia. The book excels in locating the determining explanatory factors in the structure of society and focuses upon welfare and its contribution to the institutional de-commodification of retired older people. For Borowski, Encel and Ozanne the Australian social policies that exist for old age and the associated impoverishment are best explained by the loss of social worth brought about by their loss of a productive role in an Australian society that puts premium on economic production. The authors’ work cites critical empirical studies on employment, legalism, ethnicity and age, gender and age, housing and income, education and community care. The book illustrates how social policies help perpetuate the social problems of old age through social practices embedded in institutional services: through lack of material resources via poverty, retirement policies, negative consequences of residential care, and passive forms of community care services.

Blaikie’s book looks again at the prospect of ageing populations in the UK but breaths postmodern theory through the analyses of old age. This book deconstructs biological classifications of old age and instead reconstructs the cultural implications of population ageing. It looks to the increased leisure opportunities associated with old age and questions whether consumer culture is breaking down dominant rigid stereotypes of marginalisation and medicalisation. Blaikie gives the reader a detailed overview of the dimensions of sociological and cultural ideas that have been formulated and used to understand old age and social relations. His work shows how these ideas have been continually fluid and contingent, a position that ties in with his postmodernism. This ontologically flexible account of ageing shows how age has been culturally reconstructed via better lifestyle opportunities to leisure activities. Blaikie gives the impression that increased leisure activity is breaking down rigid age classifications between mid-life and old age. To exemplify this, he uses vivid imagery in the form of some visual photographs. Arguably, the editorship by Borowski, Encel and Ozanne seems more sensitised to the cross-fertilisation of age with the variables of ‘race’, class and gender than does Blaikie’s book. However, both books are sensitive to not falling into the trap of homogenising older people into one undifferentiated category.

Demographics provide the background to the central puzzle: how could two volumes from the same publisher, on the same topic of ‘age’, attend so very differently to the analysis of the sociology of ageing? Thus, the books pose complementary challenges to each other: on the one side, and of greater interest in this review article, do the papers of Borowski, Encel and Ozanne miss something by their authors inattention to cultural studies and social theory? On the other, does the work of Blaikie include so much cultural theory at a cost of empirical investigation; does the theory distract him from the research scholarship in which Borowski, Encel and Ozanne excel?

There are very interesting and important aspects of ageing that come from these two books. A quote from Blaikie’s book sets the debate going: ‘The trouble is that old age is not interesting until one gets there, a foreign country with an unknown language’ (p.1). However, such a ‘foreign country’ is still interesting for those sociologists who are not ‘there’ yet, but are interested in exposing the divisive ageism that is deeply embedded in contemporary societies. This is addressed and answered by the Australian collection of papers via the impact of social policies on ageing. The coverage of empirical research investigates the relationship about growing and becoming old and the specific structural disadvantages that manifest against older people. Blaikie, on the other hand, is interested in demonstrating the breaking down of barriers between mid and later life by delineating focus on leisure opportunities that promotes self governance, and new opportunities and spaces of self regulation. This is known as ‘positive ageing’. However, whilst positive ageing is an important facet of Blaikie’s enquiry, there are naive gaps of issues of negative ageing. Indeed, is Blaikie offering not a stark comparison between neo-liberal discourses and the type of theoretical schema? Indeed, neo-liberal social policies continually pursue discourses of self-governance through self-examination, self-care and self-improvement to cut the cost of state resources. The tenets of neo liberalism shockingly exemplify the cultural theory of Blaikie: individuals, older people, should take responsibility to protect themselves from risk - not rely on the state. Is it not a novel web of regulation that gives the perception that older people are free to ‘choose’ leisure and lifestyle, but the structural reality is a freedom contingent on consumer sovereignty? Access to choice is contingent on the blurring of the lifecourse, of the variable of age articulated with class, ‘race’, gender, sexuality and disability; choice is contingent on structural factors that is overlooked in Blaikie’s work.

Whilst Borowski, Encel and Ozanne pay particular attention to economic costs of the state and the intended consequences of social policies, Blaikie underemphasises the rigidity of economic culture. It is part of the heart of contemporary understandings of ‘deep old age’: low pensions, decreasing retirement age cut off dates; poor housing and accommodation; and limited access to quality care. In the U.K and Australian contexts, private pensions are ways in which the state continues to rely on apocalyptic projections about ageing populations in order to justify cuts in public expenditure. The consequences of this are that people then have to rely on conceptual realities of self-help, self-governance and self-actualisation, as Blaikie theoretically hints at. Such an alarm about ageing populations reflects deeply embedded ambivalence towards older people, which can lead to an exaggeration of the size, and nature of resources required to meet their needs or of the sacrifice required by the age group 16-64. Hence, it is not simply that governments and researchers have belatedly recognised 'the greying' of the U.K and Australia and policy implications, it is that they continue to look for knowledge of ageing as the power to define old age as a social problem. Therefore, the global effects of a 'demographic time bomb' may have been grossly exaggerated. Such old age, therefore, has been perceived negatively via a process of 'ageism' - stereotyping older people simply because of their chronological age. Ageist stereotypes such as 'ageing populations' act to stigmatise and consequently marginalise older people and differentiate them from people who are not labelled 'old'.

In conclusion, the challenge of these two books has been set. Let us be grateful for them. Borowski, Encel and Ozanne provide a collection of what might be called caption statements of some brilliant sociological research. Andrew Blaikie looks forward to new theoretical problematics and new social formations that give ‘positive’ hope to older people. But hopes for future lessons - any attempt at cross fertilisation between these two books must be in recognition that the present differences are more than generational and geographical. There are real and critical differences about what old age is and can be, about old age as a theoretical topic, and about the kind of state structure we inhabit. The preface to the Borowski, Encel and Ozanne work has a timely ending quote that provides an impetus for a radical sociology of age: ‘… if people are to get the most out of their greater longevity we need to give new urgency to creating policies addressing positive ageing’ (p.xiv).

Jason Powell

Department of Sociology

Liverpool John Moores University

Top

REVIEW ARTICLE

Working Class Mobilisation in the United States: A European Perspective.

Peter Cook

Plymouth Business School

 

Pure and Simple Politics: The American Federation of Labor and Political Activism, 1881-1917, Julie Greene, Cambridge University Press, 1999, 293 pages, £35 cloth.

Comparing Policy Networks: Labor Politics in the US, Germany, and Japan, David Knoke, Franz Urban Pappi, Jeffrey Broadbent, Yutaka Tsujinaka, Cambridge University Press, 1996, 288 pages, £35.00 cloth, £13.95 paperback.

The Union Makes Us Strong: Radical Unionism on the San Francisco Waterfront, David Wellman, Cambridge University Press, 1994, 364 pages £29.95 cloth.

Manufacturing the Employee: Management Knowledge from the 19th to 21st Centuries, Roy Jacques, Sage Publications, 1996, 218 pages, £40.00 cloth, £12.95 paperback.

Visualizing Labor in American Sculpture: Monuments, Manliness, and the Work Ethic, 1880-1935, Melissa Dabakis, Cambridge University Press, 1999, 296 pages, £55 cloth.

Between 1945 - 63 one American worker in three was a union member; today barely 15% of workers are unionised and in the private sector it is nearer to 10%. It is the public sector where unionisation – mostly teachers and local government employees – is, at 35 per cent, relatively high and sustains the idea that unions may still be a significant force in American life. In the private sector union membership is concentrated in traditional ‘blue-collar’ industries in the east and the industrial mid-west. Strong pockets remain in the south and the far west, although they may be seen as historical residue (longshoremen for example), but for the most unionisation is very much a minority activity.

While corporate profits are at record levels, median male earnings have fallen as much as they have risen over the past decade and a half. In 1980 chief executives made 42 times as much as a factory worker; by 1996 it was 52 times more. There are signs that after twenty years of defensive leadership from the AFL-CIO and orderly contraction by individual unions that a belated understanding of the profound changes in the U.S. labour market holds out the possibility of some regaining of ground by organised labour. From the New Deal to the 1980s union leaders relied upon Congress to pass laws to boost recruitment or to maintain membership. The Republican dominance of first the White House and then Congress in the last twenty years has shown the weaknesses of organized labour’s approach to politics. What amounted to a strategy of incrementalism combined with complacency on the part of U.S. union leaders was historically contingent in its effectiveness. There have, though, been recent signs of hope – through union mergers, a more forceful and inspiring AFL-CIO leadership in the form of moderniser John Sweeney, and aggressive recruitment campaigns aimed at newer service sector employees like airline crews, the low paid and minority groups – that the U.S. labour movement may be experiencing a renaissance of sorts. But whether this reflects long term revival or a coincidence of events: propitious economic conditions with tighter labour markets, and the belated realisation by union leaders that they need to act if the movement is to survive, remains to be seen. The history of the U.S. labour movement, as Julie Greene indicates in her book Pure and Simple Politics, gives few grounds for optimism. The task is enormous, and the likelihood of success thin. As with Britain, for reasons both internal and external to the labour movement, U.S. unions have had to come to terms with the decline in predominantly blue-collar manufacturing and primary industries, the growth of temporary and part time employment, increasing female and minority labour force participation, and the birth and rapid expansion of information technology-based sectors. Above all though, organised labour in the U.S. has few friends in government or in the courts, and in contrast to most of Europe, faces employers who are overwhelmingly hostile to any notion of worker legal protection and who question the right of unions to exist at all.

For those who see a nation's working class as the natural force for what they regard as positive social and political change, the working class and the labour movement in the United States can only be seen as a great disappointment. The optimism for political radicals and revolutionaries which in the distant past was engendered by the rise of such organizations as the Knights of Labor (1869) and the Wobblies (1905 - 19), and such grassroots militancy as the sit-down strikes (1937), the Civil Rights movement, and consumer solidarity with farm and other grossly exploited workers through boycott has frequently been shown to be short-lived. Such movements or forces either whither through loss of grassroots support, state or employer oppression, or through self-destructive internal factionalism. Somehow, when it does survive at all, American labour and working class organization seems to gravitate naturally towards an institutionalizing process in which the predictable outcome is sectionalist rivalry, constitutionalism, and the containment of the very grassroots action which against enormous odds provided the original impetus to organization.

A case in point is that of the United Automobile Workers’ union. In 1937 this small union, led by skilled workers and political radicals, managed to bring the largest corporation in the world to its knees in Detroit and Flint through the military style organization of illegal plant seizures. With its victory the UAW achieved virtually 100% unionization in the motor industry, helped to establish the CIO and unionization in many other industries, made auto workers virtually the best paid manual workers, and was prominent in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s - contrary to the reactionary stance taken by unions like the Teamsters. The UAW in other words, appears to have been a paragon of labour progressivism and success within a society in which working class successes are few and far between. However, the UAW has also been a union which has expelled officials because of their left political affiliations, has organized strike-breaking groups on behalf of management against its own members who have acted because grievance procedures have failed them, or as a reaction to management high-handedness. Furthermore, the UAW has been party to 'concession bargaining' where it has 'negotiated' reductions in its members’ wages and conditions. The UAW’s reaction to General Motors and Ford shutting down jobs in Michigan while at the same time opening plants in ‘right to work’ (i.e. non-union) states in the South or in Mexico, has been only to seek to persuade through local press advertisements and the like workers in Tennessee and other states to join the UAW - that is, workers who have been recruited by the employers precisely because of their non-union attitudes. So compliant has the UAW become in its approach to the employers, that in the mid-1980s the Canadian affiliate departed - as shown in the award winning documentary film 'Final Offer'. In weakness the once mighty UAW has joined forces with the United Steelworkers and the International Association of Machinists to form a so-called 'superunion' of two million. In sum, the once militantly effective, socially progressive UAW appears in some respects to echo the old AFL craft unions - despised for their complacency and sectionalism by those who today echo the vision of the founders of the UAW and other CIO unions. Why is American labour so apparently ineffectual? We need to examine both the impact of labour processes as well as the contextual conditions which confront U.S. workers.

While the Knoke et al. and the Greene studies tend to focus upon the institutional and statist factors that have affected the fortunes and misfortunes of American workers, we should not overlook important causative processes at the point of production. These have helped to shape both worker and employer assumptions and aspirations. British and other European workers may be said to have had a 'scarcity consciousness’, and from which various restrictions evolved (relaxed pace, limits on apprentices etc.) that needed to be collectively defended. In a related way, American craftsmen have tended to behave differently. While their defence of their skills and their craft controls has been relatively weak, they 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 non-craft workers, an approach which at the end of the last century shifted the direction of the trade union movement as a whole, and which had profound consequences once mass unionization became more viable in the 1920s and 1930s.

The English speaking white male members of those traditional crafts that were either outside the main forces of Taylorite rationalization, or who had their skills diluted by it, formed the core of the AFL in the late 19th century. In this role and until the 1930s they acted as a bulwark for the employers against the occasional, rather spontaneous militancy and unionizing tendencies shown by the ethnically diverse factory operatives. Many of these were attracted to the I.W.W. precisely because of its inclusiveness, and because it rejected the compromises necessary for institutionalised bargaining relationships. Employers recognized 'craft' unions provided that no attempt was made to organize the bulk of workforces (Morris 1958, 28. Galenson 1960, 510 - 12).

Thus by the time Taylorism arrived, many American craftsworkers had already experienced skill eroding change. With their skills and work control diminished, they did nevertheless manage to establish niches for themselves, but largely on the employers' terms. Lacking an alternative, deeply rooted artisanal culture and the structural support of skill, so seniority, complex wage structures, and supervisory authority rewarded and kept 'craftsmen' quiescent while their workplace control and skills were eroded. Apart from limited resistance, most American craftsworkers in the larger workplaces became willing agents in the spread of the new methods ( Stark 1980, 110 - 15. Brody 1980, 57). 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 thus busied themselves as mere agents in the cartellization of labour markets and capitulated to the employers’ view of the world, 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 sit-down strikes and other events of 1936 -7. They were then forced to acknowledge the needs of the nine-tenths of American workers who were not unionized.

For three decades or so from the New Deal it appeared to many as if there had been a sea change in the fortunes of organised labour in the U.S. Notwithstanding the rarely acknowledged but pervasive issues of racism and sexism in workplaces, the American labour movement stood proud. It had a solid and expanding membership base, asserted itself to the extent that collective bargaining started to seem normal rather than an aberration, leaders like Walter Reuther, George Meany, and A.Philip Randolph were figures of popular and business media attention, and unions’ relationship with the Democratic Party appeared as if it could one day culminate in something akin to that in Britain between the Labour Party and the trade union movement. It was not to be.

As the internal weaknesses of the Taylorist paradigm became more apparent in the 1980s with the challenge from Japanese manufacturers and changed consumer tastes, so the mainstream manufacturing unions were forced into contraction and bargaining timidity. Once, powerful unions were able to force employers to share the material gains of Taylorism. Now, the international nature of large corporations, and the inherent weakness of organized labour in the American political and judicial systems, has meant that the costs of failure have borne disproportionately on the workforces of the 'Rust-belt' with few signs, until very recently, of compensating successes elsewhere.

Whilst focused upon the period 1881 – 1917, Pure and Simple Politics: The American Federation of Labor and Political Activism demonstrates the apparent lack of boldness in leadership which has more generally characterised organised labour in the U.S. More importantly though, Julie Greene’s study provides an analysis which convincingly explains the inherent weaknesses of organised labour, and hence the often appropriate timidity of its leaders. Samuel Gompers (1850 – 1924) was American labour between 1886 – 1924 when he presided over the A.F.L. He was described at the time of his death as "Labor’s Moses – forty years in the wilderness, its (the AFL’s) daily struggle for manna, its defense against inner rebellion and outer attack" (Stolberg 1925). The undecided question has been whether Gompers was a simple union bureaucrat - conservative, self-serving, and complacent, or a working-class hero – making the best of what was realistically possible for working people. Greene is unable to resolve this contradictory characterisation, nor could she be realistically expected to. She does though shed great light on the precarious position of organised labour in American society, and given that precariousness, the delicate balances which have needed to be made between unions and politics and the state. Both characterisations are plausible within Gompers’ own claim that the A.F.L. had to pursue a strategy of ‘pure and simple’ trade unionism. ‘Pure and simple’ meant, among other things, avoidance of left ideologies and direct participation in politics.

Julie Greene has examined the AFL’s (and because of his significance, Samuel Gompers’) notion of ‘pure and simple’, and challenges the popular idea that this meant non-political unionism in some absolute sense. The A.F.L. was political, but in its own way. It did believe in attempting to shape labour questions and issues within the political process – but only as applied to union members; it claimed non-partisanship, although was closely involved with the Democratic Party, especially at elections. What it also pursued, somewhat contradictorily, was a policy of anti-statism. It sought the freedom to organise and to bargain without state or judicial interference, rather than to pursue more ambitious social reforms of benefit to all workers. The AFL opposed eight-hour and anti-child labour laws for example. Gompers’ belief was that influence and persuasion within the political process was far preferable to direct access to power and the Faustian dangers the latter might entail.

‘Pure and simple’ sounds both noble and principled, but the Gompers’ strategy was shown to be both inappropriate as well as appropriate in a number of ways. Employers too were apparently anti-statist, but in practice they had few reservations in both denouncing state authority at the same time as they bankrolled congressional candidates and presidential hopefuls in order to get bills and judicial processes on their side. Employers’ anti-statism only approached consistency with their actions in the New Deal era. The AFL’s difficulties in the overt pursuit of political strategies and objectives should not be underestimated. The American working class was far more than today divided by race, gender, region, skill, and ethnicity. The A.F.L. largely represented white, skilled males – themselves divided politically into socialists, Democrats, Republicans, and a large number who rejected politics entirely. When the A.F.L. did advise its members to support the ‘natural party of labor’, the Democrats, the call drove as many A.F.L. members into the Republican camp, resentful of what they regarded as A.F.L. interference in a matter as personal and private to them as religion, as it gained support for the Democrats. For the same reason it was likely not possible for the AFL to successfully develop a Labour or Social Democratic party along European lines. It was because the A.F.L. was an elite labour organisation, and because it was unable to deliver votes, it was to remain a politically ineffective organisation. This is despite the fact that it was the only organisation which could credibly articulate ‘labor’s voice.’ It was this inherent weakness, the labour organisation which represented a privileged minority of the labour force in a society in which loyalties other than those of class predominated, which meant that the AFL’s shaping of political outcomes was consistently ineffectual. The situation largely remains the case today. A Democratic President in the White House has given little comfort to organised labour or to workers in general in terms of workplace advances. The state and legal protections which workers enjoy today are the result either of civil rights-inspired legislation from three decades ago, or New Deal legislation of six decades ago. This will remain the case as long as the union movement represents a clear minority of the labour force and is unable to mobilise its membership in a sufficiently partisan way. Compare this with Britain where the trade union movement experienced nearly two decades of Conservative economic and legislative onslaught. British unions have maintained a sufficiently robust membership base, achieved greater legitimacy by reforming themselves internally (assisted, ironically, by the Conservatives’ partisan legislation), and by retaining the link with an electable Labour Party which is delivering legislative rights for all workers – including the right to collective bargaining.

Pure and Simple Politics demonstrates that the A.F.L. was a political organisation, it attempted different political strategies with varying but often modest success, but it was forced to do so within the constraints of a very different state and social structure to those existing in Europe. In spite of this though, the study shows how ultimately disabling was the A.F.L.’s political vision. It was a limited political vision which reflected its own largely self-inflicted marginalisation within the American working class. When the A.F.L. attempted to persuade its members to vote for the Democrats it produced critical reactions from within. Further, it was unpopularly preoccupied with (albeit serious) issues like the injunction which was of relevance only to organised workers, and therefore easily dismissed by Democratic politicians as a ‘special interest.’ When the Democrats did finally dominate Congress and the White House in 1916 it was because working peoples’ interests were indeed at the core of the political agenda. But ironically, as Greene points out, the Democrats were successful precisely because their campaign "transcended the narrow outlook of Samuel Gompers and his pure and simple allies" (p.273). In the final chapter the analysis is extended to the Regan-Bush-Clinton years so that the study’s relevance to contemporary events as well as the past is well justified. Because the A.F.L. was perhaps unable, and certainly unwilling to develop an independent political voice, organised labour in America has tenuous influence and lacks control in the political arena. This is the legacy of Samuel Gompers and the craft union leaders who were content only to represent the most powerful yet minority section of the American working class.

Pure and Simple Politics is an accessible yet scholarly account of the formative years of organised labour in America. In this it should be a main text on any course in American labour or working class history. The only criticism might be that although we do need to avoid the ‘great man’ approach to history, nonetheless the towering presence of Samuel Gompers could have permitted a more personalised aspect to the study. It remains, all the same, a most relevant and timely book.

Samuel Gompers and the memorial erected to his memory in a Washington Park in 1933 is the subject of the final chapter in Melissa Dubakis’s Visualizing Labor in American Sculpture. This unusual and fascinating book focuses upon sculptural representations of the American worker, although the author’s analysis extends in part to paintings, posters, and other forms of representation. Dabakis’s main proposition is that visual representations of workers have both reflected and simultaneously shaped wider attitudes and perceptions of workers and their work.

Not surprisingly, the sculptural record permits (and presumably reflected) multiple perceptions of workers and labour issues. The first interpretation is essentially political. Chicago’s Haymarket Monument, erected in honour of the imprisoned and executed Haymarket anarchists, is an example of art in the service of progressive labour causes. Representing resistance to established power, the Haymarket Monument along with others acts as "markers of histories often erased by official repression" (p.4). On the other hand, other sculptures, usually commissioned by wealthy patrons or by civic authorities, have tended to portray workers as contributing to the common good, and at ease or compliant to the forces of industrial capitalism.

Throughout the period covered another theme is that of the kind of worker portrayed – in two senses. Invariably the most positive portrayal is that of the skilled worker. Embodying the values of dignity, morality, and diligence, such portrayals confirmed both the work ethic and individual achievement, but unintentionally or otherwise, confirmed too the type of worker represented in A.F.L. unions. Using examples of strenuous physical labour such as blacksmiths and riveters, such imagery also marked most work as masculine. A representation, which to a degree neutralised the class connotations contained within such imagery.

As the United States industrialised, a process accelerated by Taylorism and Fordism, so representations of labour portrayed the estrangement of those with as well as those without work. Thus the growth of factory systems, newer technologies and the concentration of capital, challenged Jeffersonian notions of self-reliant farmers and artisans. The response by some artists was to produce very different portrayals of the worker. Depicted on the one hand as a responsive casualty of oppressive industrialism, and as such representing the threat of industrial disorder (organisationally through the I.W.W.), and on the other, as a passive victim crying out for social reform measures.

The final chapter is on Washington DC’s Samuel Gompers memorial. The memorial, erected on federal land in 1933 and unveiled with President and Mrs Roosevelt in attendance, represents the key tenets of craft unionism. But it did so at the very moment the A.F.L.’s ordered and exclusive world was to be torn apart by the industrial unionism of the miners, steelworkers and autoworkers. However, while the memorial encapsulates an era in American organised labour which by the 1930s had become anachronistic, it portrays as well the solidarity and fraternity which is integral to skilled labour – the bedrock of the A.F.L.’s limited, but nevertheless undiminished achievements.

Too expensive for most individuals to purchase, Visualizing Labor in American Sculpture is nevertheless a book for libraries to stock. Accessible without being lightweight, it is a book which deserves a place on labour history syllabi as an interesting and enlightening parallel account which complements the more conventional histories of American labour’s most turbulent decades.

One pointer to the diminished state of U.S. organised labour is that of the relative success of American employers’ ability to establish their definitions and parameters of rights and authority in workplaces. The legitimacy of American managers’ authority has been far greater and the countervailing legitimacy of workers rights far weaker than in European societies. As a consequence American employers' ability to impose new working methods which challenged craft control, and technologies that eroded skill have been far more successful in this respect than their European counterparts. This was the case long before the ideas and methods of Scientific Management became widely known - itself regarded by many as a powerful legitimating force for management hegemony in its own right. American employers have also found it far easier, even with supposedly legal safeguards for workers, to destroy or emasculate any trade union worthy of the name. Employers have been more successful too in disseminating an industrial culture that instilled sobriety and other forms of social discipline in workers.

American employers have enjoyed advantages in comparison with their European, and especially British counterparts. Firstly, a cultural legacy of Jacksonian democracy which is antagonistic to socialistic ideas and guild-like traditions. This stemmed from the original rejection of all forms of collectivism and the paternalistic statism of European societies. In addition have been ethnic and racial divisions, and nativism; much larger markets which made labour-saving machinery and work rationalization more attractive, and a steady supply of fairly compliant immigrant labour. Lacking industrial skills and culture later immigrant labour could only be efficiently utilized if combined with sharp divisions of labour, semi-automatic machinery, and new training regimes. Thus employers felt the need to firmly challenge and break the resistance offered by native craft labour through its exclusive unions. American employers had the freedom to mobilize strikebreaking armies and to enlist the support of the forces of 'law and order'.

In spite of the considerable influence of British craftsmen in the establishment and running of early American craft unions, that country's artisanal and radical political traditions were, in the face of ethnic and other divisions and employer power, too weak to galvanize craft militancy into more general and effective working class dissent (Aronowitz 1973,178; Montgomery 1976,499; Yearley 1957, 49).

Two important elements of American exceptionalism which have operated to the disadvantage of organized labour have been the way in which liberty has been defined, and the early granting of the franchise to the artisan class. Regarding the latter, the Painite ideology in Europe was a particularly powerful mobilizing force because it combined the denial of political rights with artisanal pride and militancy. Workers in general became united behind a common political cause led by the most affronted members of their own class. In the United States the early granting of the franchise to white males and the initially weak non-oppressive nature of the state disarmed artisans as a political vanguard. This made working class political mobilization seem largely irrelevant to the most powerful group within the working class (Bridges 1986, 190 - 1). The restricted franchise was itself a reason why Gompers’ A.F.L. would indeed have been wasting its efforts had it attempted to mobilise much of the working class toward democratic politics.

A second important point is that of the early establishment of the American version of liberty and of rights. Liberty was established early on as freedom from government or eventually, freedom from any other collectivity - whether real, or as abstract as collective goals or loyalties. This has meant in practice that not only have Americans been less likely to mobilize behind movements for general transformation, but also they have been less likely to view legal or state impediments to collective action as amounting to the denial of rights (Flacks 1988, 108-110). The paradox therefore has been that while in most respects American workers have encountered state power as a benign force, it has been very readily and brutally applied as soon as workers have collectively challenged corporate power. Even so, in spite of the juridical or civic pretexts for partisan state intervention, disputes between organized labour and capital have continued to be seen as essentially private affairs, and not as struggles between workers and the state. The latter would have politicised industrial conflict to the extent that questions surrounding workers’ rights and protection would have needed to be addressed and legislated for.

Given the apparent totality of working class and labour organization failure in the United States, all of the above points to the attractiveness of analysis and explanation which amounts, as far as its working class and labour movements are concerned, to 'American exceptionalism’. In their different ways the books reviewed and other research does tend to support the unique nature of American development as seen from a European perspective.

Manufacturing the Employee is a discursive historical account of American management thought and practices as applied to employee-employer relationships. Twentieth century management discourse, often presented by managers, accepted by employees, and proselytised by management academics as ‘common sense’, has, according to the author, its origins in pre-twentieth century notions as well as in the profound changes in late nineteenth century economic and social life. The post-bellum developments in industrial organisation had their parallel in the expansion of the employee as a ‘disciplinary subject’ upon which management knowledge was applied and developed as ‘common sense’. This knowledge was eventually refined and codified as ‘objective’ knowledge in business schools and the like. Because, argues Roy Jacques, managerialist thought is now a ‘conceptualist prison’, managers are incapable of recognising let alone dealing with many of today’s organisational problems.

The discursive approach requires the recovery of the original, contextual, and misused meanings of the seminal texts of management thought. F.W. Taylor, D. McGregor, Adam Smith, E. Mayo, L. Gilbreth, H. Fayol, Henry Ford as well as many now-forgotten writers are used to demonstrate both discursive thought as insight into understanding management practice today, and the continuities in such thought. On the latter, Jacques provides many examples of so-called ‘new’ management ideas (‘learning’ organisation, TQM, Business Process Re-engineering) that have close antecedents seventy or eighty years ago. He is rightly and amusingly scathing of management academics and ‘gurus’ who merely recycle ideas, or more accurately, beliefs. Overwhelmingly, management knowledge as taught in business schools is revolutionary only in the facetious sense (p.155):

"In 1990 Oliver Williamson asserted that an ‘incipient science of organisation’ is beginning to emerge, but Freeman Hunt - writing in 1857" (p.186) shared Williamson’s view.

Various elements of management discourse are not only unrecognised, but are actually dysfunctional in the face of significant problems in the modern organisational world. Management discourse is essentially American management discourse; exported throughout the world in textbooks, ‘how to’ paperbacks aimed at harassed managers, and American-based global corporations. Within this discourse are the familiar Federalist themes of progress, order, character and an anti-intellectual belief in pragmatic action, the capitalising of time and activity, and the notion of a ‘frontier’ (p.147). ‘Progress’ has meant the disenfranchisement of non-North American peoples from their traditional cultures whilst offering them Big Macs and Marlboros; the ‘frontier’ mentality means resources prolifigacy in a finite world; ‘pragmatism’ has meant numeric disciplinary management practices which are incapable of acknowledging the importance of complex inter- and intra-organisational relationships that are increasingly necessary in knowledge intensive and ‘caring’ organisations.

The book is clearly written, contains welcome and witty debunking of what passes for knowledge in our business schools, demonstrates depth and breadth in preparation, and grapples with important if inadequately acknowledged contemporary issues. Much of the evidence presented will be familiar to those already versed in American history, although the precise interpretation or use to which it has been put can be challenged, as indeed can the accuracy of some detail (the IWW is not the Independent Workers of the World p.65). Describing Gompers-like AFL unionism as bureaucratic and then contrasting it with an earlier craft unionism is to misinterpret the A.F.L. unionism of earlier this century, but is a misinterpretation that supports the author’s thematic narrative. Similarly, some readers will be surprised to read the unequivocal, simplistic, misleading, but in terms of the author’s thematic position understandable statement that:

"The terror of the 1880s and 1890s was symbolized by the clash of capital and labor, but did not necessarily result from the malevolence of individual workers or capitalists. It was far deeper, more extensive and structural. The key axis of conflict was not capital against labor, but industrialism against Federalist society" (p.62).

This though appears to be a characteristic reflection if not problem of a discursive approach: that evidence and interpretation, whether analytical or empirical, is used and abused in order to force through the chosen narrative. More generally, it is a reflection of the use social scientists make of history. Where concrete historical analysis, contingent events and temporalities are subsumed or pressed into servicing the "historical movement in which the present is caught" (Dean 1994, p.8).

Thus, although a very readable study, Manufacturing the Employee should not be recommended as a main text to students of American social and labour history. Furthermore, because the author focuses largely upon sources which reflect elite or management interests and concerns, it lacks almost completely evidence or interpretation ‘from below’. It seems only credible from a discursive stance that a narrative of the thoughts and practices of those who dominate economic activity, which demonstrates continuity and change in the making of modern America, can do so without discussing the significance of gender, race, and working class organisation. It therefore remains a partial if nevertheless important contribution to our understanding of modern America and the forces and difficulties faced by ordinary Americans as employees and as consumers.

The degree and nature of United States’ ‘exceptionalism from a European perspective’ (begging the question of what is ‘European’?) is explored implicitly in Comparing Policy Networks. The book outlines labour policymaking in Germany, Japan and the United States during the 1980s by focusing upon ‘policy domain networks’ in order to reveal the differences in power structures and policy outcomes. The authors reject elite, pluralist, class and corporatist models of state-society power relations on the ground that the organisational state perspective has not been widely used for comparisons across nations. This approach, allegedly, helps to overcome the increasingly indistinct boundary between state and civil society and is, therefore, especially suitable to the study of German and Japanese contexts where advisory and quasi-official relations are especially relevant to policymaking.

The study is highly empirical and as well as producing comparisons of policymaking processes, is attempting also to validate the academic and methodological integrity of network analysis. In this the study is largely successful. Whether it tells us anything we did not already know though, is another matter. The complexity and wealth of raw data that is an inevitable part of such a study means that some exclusion of otherwise relevant factors has taken place. The working assumption that "the organizational state does not have a unified ideology" (p.8), and that "In order to concentrate on the critical labor, management, and government developments of the highest strategic and policy-making levels ... we forego inquiry into such specialised topics as industry collective bargaining, corporate personnel policy, and workplace relations" (p.35), will strike some readers as being unrealistically restrictive. The self-imposed limitations of the study include also exclusion of the important German labour law courts (Arbeitsgerichtsbarkeit). The significance of this omission is highlighted later in the study on the United States when reference to "several landmark cases involving hirings, promotions, pay equity and layoffs" has to be curtailed "because we did not collect comparable data about the judicial areas of Germany and Japan" (p.126). This seems to be inconsistent with the main measure of policy network participation in the three nations - labour legislation.

Standard summaries of the histories and nature of developments and forces appertaining to labour policymaking in the three nations is provided. Acknowledging that the existing literature does indeed indicate that the three nations exhibit major variations in historical and institutional conditions, the study then goes on to find, unsurprisingly, that compared to Germany and Japan:

i) US labour and business interests "often took opposite sides on policy events" and, "remained bitter antagonists across many policy fights" and "revealed pervasive and long-standing distrust and animosity between US labor and business interests" (p.149).

ii) In German and Japanese labour policy making "more accommodatist stances prevailed" (p.149).

iii) A more corporatist structuring of policy development in the US is unlikely because "the fault lines have solidified in an early-twentieth-century confrontational mode" (p.150).

iv) "The fundamental labour-capital conflict comprised the main axis around which other policy disputes were socially organised" (p.214).

v) The US policy domain may be characterised as "contentious", the Japanese as "coordinated", and the German as "collaborative" (p.220).

No surprises then. The more unfavourable climate in the US for labour, whether organised or unorganised, is confirmed. So too is the ineffectiveness of the state - polity and judiciary - when it comes to measures which might be beneficial to workers. Although not telling us much that is new about the contexts, mechanisms, and outcomes surrounding labour policies in the three nations, the study does nevertheless advance further a worthwhile, if overly-positivistic analytical framework.

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.

Unlike many American unions, the International Longshoremen and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU) 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 persistence of this oppositional dockworking culture is the main task David Wellman has set himself. The Union Makes Us Strong is a mainly ethnographic study carried out over a three year period by the author which both attempts to dispel some commonly-held beliefs about workers and unions in the United States, as well as commenting more generally on the longstanding dichotomy within the American labour movement 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, American unions consistently chose the direction of least resistance - politically, and as far as employers were concerned. The eventual consequence of this has been a movement consistently undermined by the limited nature of the relationship between unions and the rank and file.

The International Longshore Workers’ Union and the West Coast longshore workers have been portrayed as notable exceptions to the political and industrial conservatism of most American workers and unions. Wellman skilfully challenges this commonplace in a comprehensive introduction and first chapter. 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 about American labour relations in general.

The author argues his thesis in a number of ways, some more convincingly than others. Firstly and apparently reasonably, the point is made that most assessments of American workers and union radicalism are based upon European perspectives in which strong links exist or have existed between industrial militancy and left political mobilisation. The European assumption is that workplace conflict and consciousness is readily transposed into working-class political consciousness and action. That this has not happened in the United States should not be taken to mean, argues Wellman, that American workers are less militant or less class conscious than European workers are. The author rejects too the complementary claim that the militant insurgency of the 1930s was defeated or driven underground. The usefulness of a close study of what many have regarded as an untypical American union is not in buttressing claims of ‘exceptionalism’ - of the ILWU, the 1930s, or American workers and unions in general. Rather, study of the longshore workers and the ILWU allegedly demonstrates two important points: American workers and their unions have been misunderstood by both European and indigenous academics, and, that there is and always has been a radical and viable American alternative to ‘pure and simple’ trade unionism.

At a broad level the case is not fully made. With one or two rather dismal exceptions (Debs’ Socialist Party and Wallace’s Progressive Party) industrial aspirations and militancy have not been transcendent, have failed to be mobilised politically with the objective of affecting legislative and state outcomes. Politically American labour has been timid in aspirations and ineffective in achievements. However, at a detailed level Wellman makes a good case. The conventional wisdom is that the radical potential in terms of challenges to management control within the workplace was first mobilised by and then conceded by ‘contractualism’ in collective bargaining. The ILWU has (like most other unions) operated within the full gamut of collective bargaining - comprehensive contracts, arbitration, grievance procedures, etc. Wellman’s ethnography, in which the details and language in union-management and worker-union encounters is revealed and does indeed give much support to his claim (contrary to the ‘voluntaristic’ perspective of European observers) that ‘contractualism’ as an especially American framework for bargaining relationships does nevertheless contain both radical and conservative possibilities. The detail reveals how job control militancy is expressed and enacted through contract negotiations and implementation. Further, the indeterminate and ambiguous meaning of words like ‘safety’ and ‘onerous’ in the longshoremen’s contract gives these workers considerable scope for legitimate and successful expressions of shopfloor militancy - ‘defensible disobedience’. Indeed, one is struck by the extent to which within the supposed constraints of ‘contractualism’ that these American workers and their shopfloor representatives are so similar to shopfloor relations in Britain during the hey-day of steward-led militancy (albeit and importantly, that it was far more general in Britain).

The first criticism that can be made of this study is that although the ILWU’s radicalism is taken for granted very little is put forward which confirms that union’s or its members’ current political orientations. ‘Political’ that is, in the usually understood sense of ideologically-based transformational politics. The job control militancy of the longshoremen is clearly apparent, but their political radicalism is assumed rather than demonstrated. The study is to an extent therefore highlighting that which it is attempting to disprove: that longshoremen, as with the building trades that were the core of the AFL in the past, have simply greater opportunity to regulate internal and external labour markets and to control work. With the exception of reference to longshoremen’s actions in relation to cargoes from or to South Africa and Chile in the 1970s (p.308) the absence of the ‘political’ as actions and orientations in the study can mean that the ILWU after all, and less untypically, has practised ‘pure and simple’ Gompers’-like conservative syndicalism. Workplace militancy is only radical if informed by ideas and a programme of transformation which anticipates more general transcendence of workplace and other relationships.

A second criticism that can be made concerns gender. ‘Longshoremen’ is used throughout the book and apart from one footnote no indication is given that women are present or significant in any way on the waterfront. Even in the absence of actual women, there is still great scope in the study for discussion of gender and especially masculinity. The absence of gender sits somewhat incongruously with the use of the terms ‘selfhood’ and ‘personhood’ as politically correct but otherwise silly alternatives to manhood and a masculine view of what amounts to industrial citizenship.

A third criticism concerns skill. The book convincingly describes the existing and evolving skills of longshoremen, their tacit nature, and the way skill acts as the font of their workplace power and job consciousness. However, it is no longer necessary nor appropriate to do this by juxtaposing the simplistic accounts of deskilling of Braverman and Zimbalist.

The Union Makes Us Strong suggests that expressions of shopfloor militancy and challenges to management control within a contract may well exist in other work settings - only similar, ethnographically based studies can tell. Certainly the author is correct in claiming that analysts and historians of the labour movement have, frequently and ironically, pronounced upon the ineffectiveness of organised labour through the narrow agenda of collective bargaining. They have done so without acknowledging that their own analyses and methodologies have emanated from the same contractualist paradigm. Until similar studies of other workforces and their union-management relations inform us otherwise (for the UAW the film Final Offer is a useful step in this direction) we can probably safely assume that in spite of the labour contract, longshore workers and the ILWU are exceptional.

It remains the case that longshoremen inhabit a very masculine world in which physical toughness and danger remain key aspects of working and therefore foster a strong, assertive group identify. Also, and unlike the automobile and many other industries, the scope for employer-led rationalisation of labour processes is limited. Thus, the requirements for tacit skill and associated employer dependency are high. There is also limited scope for geographical relocation or the replacement of workforces and the expense and perishability of cargoes places longshoremen in an untypically powerful position. Whether this is expressed through European ‘voluntarism’ or American ‘contractualism’ is to a degree neither here nor there.

Wellman’s study remains nevertheless a clearly written account which has throughout a strongly argued and relevant theme. In this, and in the ‘fly on the wall’ accounts of day-to-day bargaining over the frontier of control, this study is a very useful contribution to debates on the past and future of American labour. In what are clearly difficult times for American organised labour, wider dissemination of the book outside of academia could mean that The Union Makes Us Strong can become inspirational as well as instructive. For the recent upsurge in American union membership and impact is as much a reflection of the insurgent, militant tactics of the AFL-CIO under the leadership of John Sweeney and the ‘New Voice’ campaign, as it is of economic buoyancy or labour’s fair-weather friends in Washington. If success is sustained, it will demonstrate that for organised labour to succeed it needs to return to its roots. That is, to organise on the ground, covertly, to rediscover the tactics of surprise, and to thereby persuade employers that orderly acceptance of labour’s demands for rights and dignity makes more sense than cowed compliance.

Peter Cook

Plymouth Business School

References

ARONOWITZ, S., (1973) False Promises, McGraw-Hill.

BRIDGES, A., (1986) "Becoming American: the Working Classes in the United States before the Civil War", in Working Class Formation, ed. I. Katznelson and A. Zolberg, Princeton University Press.

BRODY, D. (1980) Workers in Industrial America, Oxford University Press.

DEAN, M. (1994) Critical and Effective Histories: Foucault’s Methods and Historical Sociology, Routledge.

FLACKS, R., (1988) Making History: The American Left and the American Mind, Columbia University Press.

GALENSON, W. (1960) The CIO Challenge to the AFL: A History of the American Labor Movement, 1935-1941, Harvard University Press.

MONTGOMERY, D., (1976) "Workers’ Control of Machine Production in the Nineteenth Century", in Workers’ Control in America, Cambridge University Press.

MORRIS, J. (1958) Conflict Within the AFL: A Study of Craft Versus Industrial Unionism, 1901-1938, Greenwood Press.

STARK, D. (1980) ‘Class struggle and the transformation of the labour process’, Theory and Society, 9, 89-130.

STOLBERG, B., "What Manner of Man was Gompers?", Atlantic Monthly, 135, 1925, quoted in Stuart Kaufman (ed.), The Samuel Gompers Papers, Volume 1: The Making of a Union Leader 1850-1886, University of Illinois Press, 1986, p.XV.

YEARLEY, C. (1957) Britons in American Labor, Johns Hopkins University Press.

Top

 

REVIEWS

THEORY

Remaking Reality: Nature at the Millenium, Bruce Braun and Noel Castree (eds.), Routledge, 1998, 295 pages, £16.99.

Remaking Reality represents an important first step to relate, in some integrative or synthetic fashion, insights from ecoMarxists, constructivists and recent technoscience scholarship on the nature-society relation. In terms of the book’s structure and theoretical commitments, the editors’ introduction is key. Few edited volumes are as coherent and unified as this text, especially given the significant heterogeneity of focus and diversity of empirical concerns. The central commitment throughout the text is that "nature is something imagined and real, external yet made, outside history but fiercely contested." Further, "humanity’s relationship with nature, in all its permutations, is ineluctable and inherently subversive of the nature-society dualism." (pp.3-4) Most exciting about the volume is the commitment to the critical conceptualization of a socially produced, constructed and always already hybrid nature. In few other places have the political economy of environment, the social construction of nature and the material semiotics of technoscience been so productively juxtaposed.

In their Introduction, Castree and Braun suggest that Neil Smith’s (1984) ecoMarxist argument theorizing the uneven production of nature by capital rejects the idea and reality of pristine nature; stresses internal relations between society and nature; develops analyses of capitalism’s role in the re-construction of nature; and historicizes human relations with, and experiences of, nature. These four points are shown to have contributed to the emergence of the political economy of agriculture, third world political ecology, and environmental history. However, Castree and Braun note the need for more research within the ecoMarxist tradition into the discursive, political and technoscientific moments in nature’s production.

Turning to the "enframing," or the social construction, of nature, the introduction argues that what "counts as ‘nature,’ and our experience of nature (including our bodies), is always historical, [and] related to a configuration of historically specific social and representational practices which form the nuts and bolts of our interactions with, and investments in, the world." (p.17) Critical of idealist tendencies within constructivism, Castree and Braun emphasize the material "textuality" of knowing. They argue persuasively that human praxis depends as much on the material and spatial character of nature as it does on historical representations.

Like the production of nature arguments, constructivism disrupts reified ideas of the body and nature as immutable, controllable, and predictable. Modernist reifications reduce bodies and natures to passive objects, mistake (biological) science for the world, and veil the masculinist, heterosexist and ethnocentrist power relations which underlie much of ecology, biology and medicine. Drawing on Cheah’s (1996) critique of Judith Butler’s work, Castree and Braun argue that rather than privileging culture over nature – inverting the modernist dualism – constructivists should seek generative, interstitial spaces "between" nature and culture in order to move forwards. As means for reaching these spaces, Donna Haraway’s work on the material semiotics of nature, science, labor and culture is introduced. In Haraway’s world, bodies and natures are always already deeply cultural and are, these days, increasingly artifactual.

Following these critical affirmations of ecoMarxism and constructivism, Castree and Braun move to an exploration of the social studies of science, emphasizing the work of Haraway and Bruno Latour. The key ingredients that these works add to the production and enframing of nature are, first, an emphasis on the means by which technoscience renders nature intelligible and simultaneously generates manifold artifactual natures. Secondly, the argument is that nature represents an active heterogeneous moment in the collective process of technoscientific development. Nature, science and society are all viewed as flush with self-reflexive actors (subjects), reflexive actants (objects) and active processes (emergents). Nature and culture are presented as emergent networks of collectivities comprised of people, things, texts, machines and natures.

Castree and Braun emphasize Latour’s view that social nature emerges as a result of translations "in the middle," between nature and society. Modernism’s dualism denies, and makes invisible, the existence of this middle place/space. Latour argues, however, that the dualism has never held "true" and that modernist perspectives veil the increasingly artifactual character of the world. Modernist scientists and environmentalists understand artifacts, which are all there is in the world, as the result of illegitimate couplings of nature and society: they are viewed as "monsters."

For the editors, neither the essentialism and technophobia of romantic environmentalism nor the pragmatism and technophilia of environmental modernization are available to scientists, scholars and activists who take seriously the multiple productions, constructions and hybridities of social nature. For the latter type of people, a generative, discursive and necessarily democratic politics becomes possible. Responsibility, rather than reaction, becomes the order of the day for a transformative environmentalism.

Following the basic structure of the introduction, the chapters in the book are organized into two sections bracketed by the Introduction and an Afterward, by Neil Smith. The first section, "Capitalizing and Enframing Nature," is led off by Cindy Katz’s exploration of the kinds of natures being produced by corporate conservancies. Katz sees this tendency within environmentalism as an intensification of enclosure, which denies the historical production of nature, actively excludes the oppressed, and progressively extrudes the poor from social natural spaces. Emily Martin’s chapter on the rich and dangerous ambiguities of flexible and fluid bodies given corporate cost-cutting and globalization follows, and Hilary Rose’s chapter on the shortage of resistance, particularly within the UK, to the Human Genome Project, further explore the politics of these processes. Roger Keil and John Graham’s excellent chapter on the uneven "natural" redevelopment of Toronto explores the relation between the uneven production of urban nature and the emergent and partial construction of eco-social regulations.

Steven McCarthy investigates the manner by which the Wise-Use Movement in the Western US can be understood to be a product of the ideological construction of nature by romantic environmentalists. He delineates the populist self-construction of Wise-Users given their opposition to liberal environmentalism’s discursive preference for nature over society. Finally, Allan Pred’s chapter on the silence with respect to labor, nature and production within contemporary discourses on consumption explores the roots of this denaturalization in nineteenth century arcades and expositions.

The second section of the book, "Actors, Networks and the Politics of Hybridity," focuses on social studies of technoscience. David Demeritt suggests that, among the many kinds of constructivism, Sismondo’s "artifactual constructivism" provides the successful synthesis of the heterogeneous agencies and praxis-dependency of the technoscientific mediation of society and nature. Margaret Fitzsimmons and David Goodman look at the "incorporation" of nature’s agency in the political economy of food, suggesting that ecoMarxist and environmental historical perspectives fall short where actor-networks succeed in reaching the point where food and agriculture can be seen as nature-society hybrids.

Bruno Latour’s piece on political ecological movements points importantly to the ways that environmentalists mistake their project as one of speaking for nature, against society, rather than one which addresses what he terms "nature-society imbroglios." Michael Watts’ historical geographic article on Ken Saro-Wiwa and Orgoniland presents and critiques analyses of post-developmentalist social movements. Most importantly, Watts shows movements, knowledges and peoples to be refracted, ambivalent and never purely local in body or political vision. The point, for Watts, is to emphasize historical hybridity, artifice and artifactualism over locality, essence and nature. Harkening back to the Introduction and the chapters by Katz and McCarthy, Latour and Watts insist that ecological and social romanticism have no more place than does modernist dualism in a project dedicated to building "‘survivable futures’ for people and other organisms, predicated on social and environmental justice." (p.6)

Neil Smith’s Afterward brings the book full circle. Looking at the Sokal hoax/affair, Smith re-emphasizes the centrality of social labor to the production/construction of hybrid natures. In some of the most exciting passages in the book, Smith advocates a progressive re-enchantment of social nature – a re-enchantment where work is play and both embrace and survive the imaginary, the political economic and the technoscientific mediations of social natures.

The criticism I have of the volume’s organization is that the production, construction and hybridity of nature are treated more chronologically than synthetically. Hybridity and actor-networks are implicitly privileged because of their serial and not synthetic presentation. An important critique of Latour’s work begins with the imagery of betweenness and the emphasis on blurring boundaries. It remains unclear how betweenness overcomes the nature-society rather than asserting intermediateness, or a continua. Each of these images maintains dualistic polarities. Also, blurring boundaries without generating and defending alternatives only asserts permeability and haziness.

These issues of betweenness and boundaries raise theoretical questions about methods of abstraction and commitments to the differentiation of quantitative change (continuity in change) and qualitative transformation (change in continuity). For example, when do connections or relations become networks, when do networks change character, and by what method or theory are we to answer these questions? It is not only necessary to see scientific, social and ecological knowledge/objects as generated by situated researchers in their subject-objective locations, it is also necessary to situate this new knowledge and to responsibly theorize new forms of, and approaches to, categorization. There is a necessary dialectic of blurring and defining, of betweenness and elsewhere, that remains un-explored and not theorized by actor-networkers.

Here, Smith’s Afterward is of special importance in its stress on the manner by which social labour in production mediates, and rejects in a materially embodied way, the society-nature dualism. Smith’s place in ecoMarxist theory, with its commitment to the different dialectics of production and abstraction [see Ollman 1992], emphasizes forms and modes of cooperation at the heart of the production, construction and hybridity of social nature. The material-semiotic cooperative negotiation of our world demands environmental sociological theory, however non-totalizing, and abstraction, however material.

The book flows from the production of nature, through the construction of nature to the hybridity of nature, what remains is deeper explorations into the hybridity of production whether natural, scientific or economic. It is because this volume raises the possibility of such an enterprise that it is so important… the process has, in "fact" begun.

Alan Rudy

Department of Sociology

Michigan State University

East Lansing

Michigan

Top

 

The Myth of Social Action, Colin Campbell, Cambridge University Press, 1996, 199 pp., £30 cloth.

"This book is a critique of a critique; in other words a defense" is the opening sentence of Colin Campbell’s Myth of Social Action, a rigorous, carefully argued attack on the linguistic turn in sociology. Yes, attack – in social theory, it turns out, two negatives do not produce one positive. The two critiques do not sum up to one defence, and that is what one misses in a theoretical treatise that is otherwise very well researched and carefully argued: a convincing statement of the author’s own position and illustrations of its usefulness.

The book is about the concept of action and its place in sociological theory. The main culprit is what Campbell calls "social situationalism", those modern theories that emphasise the study of meaning and interpretation in social situations. This perspective, claims Campbell, excludes a crucial field of sociology – the study of individual’s actions in relation to their motives.

Campbell proclaims himself a Weberian; as such he has, like all other Weberians, to choose sides among the different possibilities inherent in Weber’s works. He does criticise others for not representing Weber adequately but also admits his own preference for parts of Weber’s works and world. And chooses to emphasise Weber’s interest in individual’s actions on individual motives – that is action, he says. Social action is a subcategory. The modern fashion of proclaiming all motives to be social, thus all action (i.e., motivated behaviour) to be social, too, he is against.

Individual actions have motives – actors do things for reasons. One major discussion in the book is about the possibility of knowing those reasons, the question of individuals’ accounts for their reasons, and the problem of those reasons being either the real motives for action, part of the total cause of the action, or being of another class.

Situationalism, Campbell contends, excludes the possibility of causal explanations of human conduct. All actions must be explained by the situation they occur in, making them part of the situation – or, paradoxically expressed, action is just part of the structure. What Campbell calls "situationalism" is one version of the attempts to explain people’s acts by something outside themselves – the "forces" and "mechanisms" of Durkheimian and Marxist sociology being translated into "rationalities" and "understandings". That translation happens in the "linguistic turn" in modern sociology. This is also criticised carefully by Campbell. He wants to study action, not just ideas about action; motives, not just motive talk; real action, not just constructions of it. He thinks that the linguistic turn – social constructivism, interpretivism, ethnomethodology, symbolic interactionism, the lot – excludes the possibility of doing something, changing the situation, accomplishing results. Or at least they exclude the possibility of studying such doings and changes and accomplishments.

This is no empty statement or analysis on Campbell’s side: he has researched the field, read theoretical works, studied dictionaries and paid extensive visits to the neighbouring fields of philosophy and psychology. The book has detailed discussions of such philosophical issues as the theory of "mental states" and the definition of an "act". The very thoroughness of Campbell’s work certainly deserves a deeper and more penetrating discussion than the present reviewer is able to provide. Still, after reading it, one misses not only the positive side of the author’s position, as already said. In the concluding chapter, he states his view of the task ahead as that of (re-)constructing an action theory as a third way between rational-choice decision theory and situationalist interaction theory. But the clues he gives are very abstract and seem to retain a taste of voluntarism in their stress on individual action.

One may also want, for inspiration and clarification, some sort of relating the discussion to society, to social problems and issues. First, on the place and role of sociology: there is a "slippage", Campbell says, in sociological terminology from "action" to "social action" as the crucial concept. That could very well be seen as an attempt to distinguish the field of sociology from psychology - the individuals’ choice of actions, their creative and voluntary dispositions, may have interesting psychological explanations. Sociology, however, is concerned with the possible social factors at work – the actors’ place in the social structure, their view of the social world, interrelations with other actors and with social institutions and processes.

Secondly – what type of problems do we want to study? What are our theories meant for? Campbell criticises the concept of "all action being social, because all meaning is social (because all human is social)," pointing out that our existence and experience is structured along a conception of humans as individuals. Social is something we sometimes are and sociality something we experience from time to time. Still, one might entertain the idea that sociology was about the social. Now, does that exclude our understanding of a process where some individual changes the world – a Hitler or an Einstein? No, because a lot of societal factors enter the explanation. The psychological make-up of the Führer or the genius, however, may not be a sociological issue. What about the individual decisions of his followers to participate – in destruction or creation? We may be interested in their social contingencies; the individual decisions, however, we might regard as idiosyncratic and inaccessible to sociological analysis.

There may be good reasons for trying to retain the concept of individual action at the centre of sociology. Campbell has good and extensive critiques of those that do not, but some readers, habituated to the modern way of doing sociology, may miss something more. They will appreciate the conceptual groundwork laid out, but still miss his explanation of what sort of problems his action theory is good at explaining.

Sven Bislev

Copenhagen Business School

Top

 

Making Natural Knowledge: Constructivism and the History of Science, Jan Golinski, Cambridge University Press, 1998, 236 pages, £13.95 paperback.

Making Natural Knowledge is written to show historians of science the usefulness of constructivist forms of the sociology of science. The book provides a coherent, if not comprehensive, overview of the constructivist impulse since the publication of Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Most important to Golinski is: (1) the constructivist critique of "whiggish," progressivist, or empirico-positivist tendencies of conventional science studies; (2) an emphasis on Barnes and Bloor’s Strong Programme, with its stress on impartiality, analytic symmetry and researcher reflexivity; and (3) the richness of constructivist attention to culture, class, gender, and hermeneutics in science. The problematic moments in constructivism are seen to lie in 1) a tendency of some practitioners to identify material activity with natural agency; 2) a tendency to give short shrift to questions of audience and discursive strategies in and for scientific publications; and 3) a preference for laboratory, field, museum, and network analyses and a lack of interest, since Kuhn, in macrohistories of science..

The book starts with an overview of constructivism, which stresses the importance of the Strong Progamme, Bruno Latour’s actor-network studies and recent work by Andrew Pickering. In the Strong Program, impartiality and symmetry are intended to characterize the researcher’s relation to the relative (ir)rationality of scientific practice and outcomes. Reflexivity is to characterize the researcher’s own research and writing practices. The presentation of Latour’s work stresses 1) the means by which scientific instruments mediate the nature-scientist relation, 2) the active character of natures, instruments and texts in the generation of technoscience, and 3) the centrality of power and various forms of social capital in the construction of scientific networks. Pickering’s work on the "mangle of practice" stresses the dialectics and contingencies of enablement and constraint within and between active natures and agential researchers. Overall, Golinski appears to be seeking a synthesis between Barnes and Bloor’s Strong Programme and Pickering’s "mangle of practice."

Golinski makes significant space for an elucidation of the socio-cultural character of constructivism and for distancing it from strong relativism. It is clear from the text that Golinski finds constructivism, done properly, to be a means for increasing the objectivity, depth and scope of the history of science. In support of this general position, the book explores constructivist and historical insights focused on the emergence, generation, or manufacture of scientific identities and disciplines. Most important here is Shapin and Shaffer’s work on Hobbes, Boyle and the separation of politics and science and Foucault’s analyses of discipline and disciplines as power-laden means of social and scientific control. Further deepening constructivism, Golinski then looks at constructivist explorations of 1) laboratories, whether into the social relations or instruments; 2) fieldwork sites; and 3) museums where laboratory and fieldwork research is translated for the lay public.

The second half of the text looks at the development and diversity of rhetorics of nature and the role of semantics, semiotics and narratologics employed within science, between scientists and between scientists and the public. That these rhetorics are dialectically tied to 1) the instruments of science and their manufacture; 2) the objectification of nature and its construction; and 3) the representational technologies strategically deployed by scientists is then laid out. Finally, Golinksi explores the complex and uneven spread of scientific cultures across the globe.

In the book’s Coda, "The Obligations of Narrative," Golinksi emphasizes the concerns constructivist historians of science must have with the discursive character of their accounts. Golinski finds the romantic, comedic and tragic forms of previous historical narratives to have been superceded by ironic and satirical narrative strategies. Irony and satire fit best constructivist emphases on the multiple actors and agencies within science and the self-reflexive writing practices of science studies scholars. This sort of writing seeks to show that both historical and scientific knowledge is constructed but that neither are idealist nor objectivist at root. Scientific knowledge, historical knowledge and the history of science, in this perspective, are derived from the practical, and indeterminate, interplay of an active natural reflexivities, instrumental ensembles, and self-reflexive human networks. This approach clearly enables the development of future generations of rich, increasingly complex, accounts of science and scientific practice.

There are a series of problems in Golinki’s text. First and foremost is the contradictory desire for constructivist macro-histories of science and scientific culture. Secondly, Golinksi consistently underplays the importance of divisions of scientific labor to class, gender and race relations. This leads to a third problem, the silence around standpoint epistemologies and the research connected to such constructivist perspectives. Lastly, Golinksi, against the grain of constructivism, shows an ongoing commitment to contemporary disciplinary boundaries. All of these problems are connected to the silence around the work of Donna Haraway in the text. It is important, here, to acknowledge that Golinski indicates in his first chapter that his is a partial vision, one with which not everyone will agree. However, I feel the critique remains important.

Golinksi hopes that constructivism will allow historians to join social scientists in "the hermeneutic enterprise of ‘reading’ human cultures" and to start to develop "an understanding of science in general." (166) He suggests that what "is needed is to widen the optic, to… try to map the large-scale networks in which practitioners of the sciences are involved, which extend much further than those exploited by the members of many other human cultures" (172). (The term "culture" is used very widely throughout the text and includes sub-disciplinary scientific cultures, the culture of science in general, national cultures and indigenous cultures.) Yet, the constructivist impulse has explicitly eschewed macro-narratives as part of its commitment to post-structuralist analyses.

I would argue that the large-scale networks which involve practitioners of the sciences are sufficiently diverse that political economic theories of uneven development – hardly constructivist enterprises – are at least a key component to the generation of the kinds of perspectives necessary for the analysis global science. Whether one stresses ecological degradation, health issues, or cultural commodification, far more than science and the culture of its practitioners is at stake in the globalization of science. More importantly, constructivists and realists have argued that the uneven and combined development of capitalism/science makes it impossible to write overarching or totalizing stories without compressing local cultural differences. I agree that macro-histories and theories have their place, and Golinksi is correct that their mesh with constructivism and science studies remains to be developed. What he fails to address is the reasons, within constructivism, for that underdevelopment.

This raises the second issue noted above. Golinksi underplays the co-evolution of science, technology and capitalism – the connection between scientific and industrial divisions of labor. If scientific practice has become paradigmatically routinized and normalized to the point where it can be said to have been proletarianized, how did that emerge and what did and does it mean for the practice and practitioners of science? Clearly the demographics and practices of waged and salaried scientists needs to be studied in the present – where each lab and network culture will be different – and subordinate, manual workers need to be studied in the past. This movement away from the study of heroic scientists suggests that Kuhn’s macrohistoricism itself is deeply problematic. It certainly is not the route to such macro-perspectives.

Golinski does argue that the industrial revolution made innovations in scientific instruments possible but does not address the kinds of new scientific priorities and social consequences tied to science’s facilitation of commodity production. He asks, "what capability does machinery itself have to ‘discipline’ its users and change its practices?" (139), but does not ask about the correlation between the technical demands and choices of capital as relates to their need to discipline labour – much less labour’s cultures and practices of resistance. A focus on these issues is necessary if the history and sociology of science is going to move away from its whiggish past.

The sociologist of science Golinski is most critical of is Bruno Latour, one who takes the politics of his work very seriously. Further, it is a concern with politics and evaluation that Latour and Haraway stress so much in their work. Whereas Golinski repeatedly stresses that historians of science must be aware that interests, motives, and social cohesion and differentiation are a key component of scientific action and practice, he demands that historians of science remain impartial and evaluatively symmetrical. This sort of approach has been deeply problematized, as a God-trick, by Donna Haraway and other standpoint epistemologists who take the partiality of all perspectives to heart. The key for Haraway is to take responsibility for one’s situation, politics, partiality and theoretical commitments. Under these conditions, evaluations and political choices can be presented, acknowledged and made available for evaluation… completing a hermeneutic circle in a manner, which engages multiple agencies. Haraway’s larger corpus, including uncited material on the social construction of museums and above and beyond the cyborg metaphor to which Golinski refers, represents the greatest silence in the text and an engagement with it would, I believe, have produced quite a different book.

The importance of standpoint epistemologies and the acknowledgment of partial perspective lies in part in its roots in Marxist feminism and the commitment to subaltern studies, whether connected to gendered, racial, sexual or anti-colonialist lines. While Golinski makes repeated reference to issues of gender, the references are not followed by an examination of scholarship on science and gender in history – much like the coverage of class issues. The constructivist impulse has been driven greatly by a concern for those left out of conventional histories, particularly those of macro-historical scope. Almost all of the references Golinski provides are to scholarship connected to leading scientific actors and controversies. Similarly, Golinki’s desire for a renewed research program striving for macro-histories of science veils the differences between the manifold kinds of practices, cultures, controversies and contexts of different sciences, their applied extension and political economic contexts.

In the end, it is hard to know what to make of Golinski’s text, for the reasons just reviewed and one more. The intent of the book is clearly to introduce sociological insights to historians of science – to blend the disciplines, or at least inform one with the other, just as he indicates historians of science do with history (usually situated within the humanities) and the sciences (pp. 1-3). However, at different points, Golinski emphasizes the differences between, and different goals of history and sociology. For example:

"The historian’s interest is not, of course, the same as the sociologist’s. The latter may see his or her task as the opening of black boxes, the recovery of social processes that contribute to their closure. The historian may wish to explore quite different narrative options, involving some kind of accomplishment of closure: to show how a working instrument was made at a particular time, for example, or to examine its function in an unfolding investigative program. In its most narrowly conceived form, the history may comprise a story of the creation of a specific phenomeno-technique, that is, the achievement of a stable and reproducible coupling of phenomenon and instrumentation – an embodiment of knowledge in hardware. (140-1)

Here, despite his repeated disappointment with the micro-historical bent of the sociology and history of science, the kind of history he speaks of as most appropriate for historians is a narrowly-conceived micro-history. If constructivism raises the question, and it is in some ways a Marxist question, about the scientific character of every human activity – or, more gently put, of the very human character of science and the not superhuman character of science and scientists – then real questions are generated about the meaningful differentiation of history and sociology. This is especially true when so much of the sociology of scientific knowledge is historical in character.

Overall, Golinski’s book provides an informative, if incomplete, assessment of constructivism and the history of science. The eschewal of the political character of constructivism lies at the root of the incompleteness.

Alan Rudy

Department of Sociology

Michigan State University

East Lansing

Michigan

Top

 

CULTURE AND COMMUNICATION

The Media Equation - How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media like Real People and Places, B. Reeves and C. Nass, Cambridge University Press, 1997, pp.305, £19.95 hardback.

What would a reader expect in a volume published by Cambridge University Press? Might it be expected to transmit scholarly values of a high order? What would a reader expect of two researchers employed by the foremost computer software company in the world? Might it be expected that there would be a presentation of penetrating analyses of the impact of their products? What would a reader expect when Bill Gates, who leads the foremost computer software company gives personal endorsement to a book? Might it be expected that a strong case was being endorsed? The Media Equation raises all of these expectations. How well does the book meet them?

Perhaps the first point to note for readers of 'Reviewing Sociology' is that The Media Equation came to this reviewer after the notable and scholarly sociologist first selected to review felt that the book had more to concern a psychologist. This psychologist finds it necessary to conclude that professors of communication - which is what Reeves and Nass are - must talk of sociology to psychologists and of psychology to sociologists, and of Bill Clinton amongst themselves. On their presentation the study of communication meets few if any of the criteria set by the major disciplines of social science. Certainly psychology receives considerable attention in this book. Sociology is much less in evidence.

The central tenet of the media equation is that individuals' interactions with computers, television, and new media are fundamentally social and natural, just as with the interactions in real life. Reeves and Nass argue that in a prototype of their work on the media equation they are entitled to say that if the authors call you on the phone to ask how well you liked this book, you would likely be polite and say that it was fine. But if someone else were to make the same phone call the evaluation might be less positive. This they say is an example of a social rule: People are polite to those who ask questions about themselves:

"We found that this same rule applies to media. When asked to evaluate the performance of a computer, people gave more positive answers about how well a computer performed if it asked questions about itself than if a different computer asked the same questions. People are polite to computers too. The same equation - media = real life - works for pictures as well. For example, in the real world, motion demands attention, especially if what moves is coming towards us. This is a simple natural rule. The presence of motion determines how attention is allocated, and ultimately what is remembered about an experience. We found that this rule applies to media as well ...." (p5).

Well, this reviewer reaches for his first year social psychology text at this point and quickly is reminded that some eighty studies of the effects of moving pictures on attention and memory demonstrate a much more complex picture. The producers of moving pictures, my social psychology text reveals, believe that because our attention span has limitations no scene should last for more than 30 seconds. Observational studies of young children watching television and movies reveal that they remember little of stories based on moving pictures because the shifting scenes often fail to convey a comprehensible theme. Context plays an important role in the memorisation of moving pictures. Whilst parental reinforcement and general interaction plays a vital role in the way television is responded to by young children it also is important in the way adults interpret many of the features of presentation. The entire complexity of the relationships between viewers and their attention and memory spans and television demands more space than a short review can allow. Yet no complexity at all is admitted by Reeves and Nass. They reduce everything in The Media Equation to the most basic denominator. Social psychology and sociology hold similar views about how meanings are socially constructed in media processes. Reeves and Nass ignore both positions. My esteemed colleague who first attempted this review from a sociological point of view was right to find Reeves and Nass unsatisfactory. Unfortunately, she felt that the problem might lie with the psychology of the media. It does not. The difficulty lies with Reeves and Nass formulation of the equation. From a scientific point of view the equation is naive -conceptually, methodologically, and in application.

Reeves and Nass adopt a methodological approach that would have first year tutors of practical classes in any social science discipline despairing for the future of those they instruct. Let this reviewer take just one example.

"We invited twenty-two people to a laboratory and told them that they would be working with a computer to learn various topics. We told them that at the end of the work session we would ask them to evaluate the computer they used. They would have to tell us how they felt about the computer and how well they thought the computer had performed during the session..."

Twenty facts were presented in each session. Here is an example: "According to a Harris Poll, 30% of all American teenagers kiss on the first date." After the presentation of each fact, the computer asked the users if they knew anything about the fact they had just read ... (The participants responded on a 3 point scale) ... Participants were told that a computer would provide some additional facts based on how much they said they already knew. In reality, however, everyone received the same information presented in the same order.

After the participants finished hearing the facts, the computer gave them a test and then told the participants which answers were right and which were wrong. Then the computer told each user what it thought of its own performance; in all cases, the computer said that it had done a great job.

The participants were divided into two groups to evaluate the computer's performance. Half were assigned to the evaluation questions on the same computer that had just praised itself. The other half answered the identical questions on a different computer located on the other side of the room.

In the evaluation, participants were asked how well different adjectives described their session with the computer. The adjectives were chosen to capture how well each person thought the computer performed, as well as how much they liked their interaction. Twenty-two adjectives were used to evaluate the computer, including accurate, analytical, competent, fair, friendly, and helpful." (p 22-23)

This review presents a lengthy quotation so that the reader may evaluate Reeves and Nass' study for themselves. Reeves and Nass say that they are following the procedures of psychological experimentation. Psychologists, just as would sociologists, report the biographical details of the subjects. Psychologists and Sociologists have a theory that leads to the testing of hypotheses; they present statistically analysable results. They discuss them in terms of the clarification and advance on understanding. As readers of "Reviewing Sociology" see from the presentation of the extended quotation, Reeves and Nass do none of these things. Neither, it seems to me, does their selection of adjectives adequately operationalise politeness. Consider too the demand characteristics of the situation presented to the participants of the Reeves and Nass study. The task first of all threatens to expose a level of self-disclosure by the participants. In the situation described the most likely participant strategy would be to dismiss the task questions and not allow self-disclosure. This is not politeness - it is justifiable avoidance. The study also relies upon an element of deception. This runs counter to all of the ethical codes of psychologists across the world. But what may be concluded from this highly irregular study? Reeves and Nass conclude that people are polite to computers too. This then allows the media equation to be formulated on the premise that computers are social actors. Readers of this review do not need to be told that this is gross over-interpretation. I do so only to make the point that psychologists are as sensitive on this issue as are sociologists.

The Media Equation has twenty-three chapters. Politeness, Interpersonal Distance, Flattery, Judging Others, Personality, Media and Emotion, Social roles, Form - including image size, fidelity, synchronicity and so on. The reader may be assured that methods, theory and interpretation in all of the studies presented in these chapters have the same characteristics as the study from which I have quoted at length. The summation of this activity is that all of my expectations, as well as those of my colleague reviewer in sociology, have not been met. All of the issues drawn from psychology and from human-computer interaction that have been subjected to the Reeves and Nass treatment are, in their original literatures highly contested areas. Reeves and Nass, for example, equate the personality of media with the dimensions known as "the big five" (those dimensions that have most consistently been found in large numbers of analyses of personality, i.e. dominance, submissiveness, friendliness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness). People, say Reeves and Nass, are expert at quickly pinning down these traits in people we meet. Therefore, they feel that it is right to ask children to rate television personalities on the same dimensions. So "media personalities are not unique" and "media might not be as special as we often assume". Care with the literature on personality, care with the design of the study, care with the interpretation and so on are not Reeves and Nass' strong points. This enables the over simplified media equation to proceed unhindered by contrary studies that demonstrate the lack of consistency of the big five dimensions as well as discrepant findings on the objective measurement and subjective assessment of personality traits and characteristics. Even as a psychologist with a research involvement in psychological tests I am in print as saying that I find the study of personality to be pre-scientific in the sense defined by Thomas Kuhn. Reeves and Nass' are not even positioned so as to appreciate the subtlety of this point.

Reeves and Nass would have us believe that "Media are treated politely, they can invade our body space, they can have personalities that match our own, they can be a team mate, and they can elicit gender stereotypes. Media can evoke responses, demand attention, threaten us, influence memories, and change ideas of what is natural. Media are full participants in our social and natural world ... Knowledge of how media work with people is knowledge of things social and natural." (pp. 261-256). Well, "yes" and "no" to many of these issues. In the end, the conclusion is unexceptional - but what is its point? How has this book advanced our understanding? Has the media equation really got a message or is it implicit in this very exercise?

One of the pre-publication reviewers of this book states that "The Media Equation" might be one of the most startling discoveries of the recent era. I find the handling of scientific issues in this book frighteningly poor. I fail to see its contribution to the social understanding of the media. I am alarmed that the book has the personal endorsement of Bill Gates. I trust that sociologists in the next decade will not find that they are addressing media phenomena developed on the simplistic premises advanced here. Readers of Reviewing Sociology expect more care in dealing with the social world.

Chris Brotherton

Professor of Applied Psychology

Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh

Top

 

The Social Faces of Humour: Practices and Issues. George E.C. Paton, Chris Powell and Stephen Wagg (eds.), Arena, 1996, 367 pages, £35.00 cloth.

"Printers know how to laugh; it is their sole occupation". Thus wrote Nicholas Contat in 1762. But why only printers? Does not joking show itself as a major feature of the life of many social groups? As Richard J. Alexander suggests in this book: ‘Given the pervasiveness of the phenomenon of a sense of humour in human societies... it can be concluded that it has a valuable role to play on social interaction’ (p.69).

Yet if humour does indeed permeate society, why is it not studied more widely by sociologists than it is?

In 1988, Chris Powell and George Paton published a collection of papers by various authors under the title, Humour in Society: Resistance and Control. The editors stated that it was a "first broad attempt to collate a representative sample of current work in the sociology of humour" (p. xxi). In addition to papers on specific topics such as political jokes, Playboy sex cartoons, racist humour on British television and humour in police work, there were more general pieces by the editors, Powell offering a phenomenological analysis of humour and Paton a short "sociobibliography".

The Social Faces of Humour is in effect a sequel to that volume and thus, as well as judging the contributions on their own merits, we mighty hope that it may provide an opportunity to consider what has happened to the sociology of humour in the intervening period.

As with the previous volume, the authors are predominantly British, teaching in university departments of Sociology or in related fields such as media and business studies. This might lead the reader to expect a certain homogeneity of outlook. However, other than the fact that they consider humour in relation to some other aspect of society, such as censorship, work, the police or sexuality, there is little else which appears to unify the authors. There are few common reference points. One writer, Christie Davies, who is also a contributor to both volumes, is mentioned in seven out of the fourteen. One of the editors, George E. C. Paton, is mentioned in five, Freud and Goffman are each mentioned in four of the articles. No other person or work achieves even this level of mention. Thus it is clear that any common theoretical framework does not unite the authors.

Many of the individual essays have the feel of "work in progress" rather than the end product of sustained scholarly effort. For example, the opening chapter, "The politics of laughter" by Arthur Asa Berger, might have had the words "Notes on..." added to the title. Jason Rutter's "Stepping into Wayne's World: Exploring postmodern comedy" also illustrates this sense of the preliminary sketch found in the book. Rutter's essay contains four rather haphazard figures. Figure 2 (page 301) is entitled "References feeding into production history". At its centre stands the phrase "Production History" from which emanate a number of arrows pointing at other words and phrases. Surely references "feeding into" something are conventionally represented by arrow pointing towards the object. One arrow points to Genre from which other arrows run to Comedy, Cult Movies and Stand-up Routines, but also Film Semiotics. Is "Film Semiotics" a genre? And why do some elements in the diagram, such as "Star Trek", have no arrows leading either or two or from them at all? It is surprising that the editors did not seek to refine this rough and ready effort.

One piece, Stephen Wagg's "Everything else is propaganda: the politics of alternative comedy", seems to amount essentially to intelligent journalism, which would be more at home in The Guardian than between the covers of a text in the series, Popular Cultural Studies.

The most successful contributions to the book are those, which benefit from covering a systematically collected body of data or which depend on a relatively precise methodology. For example, Stephen Hester's "laughter in its place" illuminates some organisational features of laughter by applying two ethnomethodological techniques, conversation analysis and membership categorisation analysis. Pamela Cotterill's "'It's only a joke': The role of humour in mother-in-law relationships" is based on 115 interviews with mothers-in law, daughters-in-law - and men.

Chris Powell's study of police humour is based on a sample of cartoon appearing in Police Review during the period 1979 to 1993. He concludes that the humour there "primarily functions to promote a positive public image of the police as industrious, virtuous and realistic" (p. 155). Another valuable paper is Christie Davies's "critical historical" account of the censorship of comedy by the BBC. This is based on an examination of documents in the BBC archives. Davies stresses that:

"Comedy can not be reduced to a single serious message and arguments about the "real" meaning of a humorous element or about its "serious impact and effect on an audience are very largely futile." (p. 50)

Related to this is Christie Davies's argument on page 49 that "comedy is especially ambiguous and quite unreliable as a vehicle for making a didactic point".

At first sight, there would appear to be a direct conflict here between Powell’s confident statement of the function of the Police Review cartoons and Davies’s stresses on ambiguity. Unfortunately the format of the book does not allow the exponents of apparently contradictory views an opportunity to confront each other in debate. The conflict may be open to resolution. The fact that the Police Review has a relatively homogeneous readership may reduce cartoons' ambiguities and increase their didactic force.

This book's main merit is in the questions it raises rather than any answers provided. The development of a coherent sociology of humour is a worthy enterprise but, judging from this book, and despite the years, which separate it from its companion volume, it is a movement, which has not yet emerged from its infancy.

Sandy Hobbs,

University of Paisley

Top

 

Restoring the Kingdom: The Radical Christianity of the House Church Movement, Andrew Walker, Guildford, SY, Eagle, 1998. pp.416, £9.99.

Originally written in 1984, Restoring the Kingdom has been through numerous reprints before its recent revised addition (1998). The book had previously enjoyed wide acclaim not only because of its impressive fieldwork (the original work having been carried out in 1982-5 and subsequently, updated with a survey conducted between 1996-7), but because of its thoroughness in detailing the growth, consolidation and ultimate decline of one of the most significant forms of New Religious Movements in Britain; Christian Restorationism. This includes a reflection on how the various strands involved have moved steadily away from sectarian structures to become the so-called "New Churches".

The book is all the more welcomed since there are pitifully few accounts, either sociologically or historically of Pentecostalism, especially within the British tradition, and practically nothing concerning Restorationism that emerged in the mid 1960s alongside Charismatic Renewal in the mainstream churches. The topic of cultural factors shaping contemporary Christianity and, to a lessor, extent the matter of religious abuse are major concerns of the book although it should essentially be judged by its own merit. It is, in many respects, a classic of its kind in the exploration of a movement, which not only denotes the breadth of the Christian Church but the theological and ecclesiastical diversity encompassed by this distinct brand of neo-Pentecostalism.

To some Restorationism pre-dated Renewal but, unlike its mainstream cousin, it went largely unnoticed until the huge "Bible weeks" of the 1970s and '80s that attracted many thousands of people from the newly established independent and "house churches" that formed its institutional basis. Such events revealed the scale of the movement while the dogma espoused displayed the distinctiveness of its theology. With the catch-phrase of "the abomination of the denomination" many of the earliest Restorationists were insistent that Christ's commandment was to build God's Kingdom, not an institutionalized Church. The self-designated mission of Restorationism therefore, was to denounced the spiritlessness and worldliness of the denominations. At the same time, Restorationism in Britain also embraced what Walker calls an "eschatological imperative". Restoring the Kingdom took the postmillenarian requisite of building God's Kingdom before the Second coming of Christ. Integral to this has been the mission to bring as many converts into what amounted to a theocracy with a strict hierarchy and authority structure.

Two-thirds or more of the revised edition remains largely unchanged. The new material comprises much of the Introduction and Part Three of the book, as well as being re-worked into first chapters of the original edition. The sensitive approach to the Restorationist movement is supplemented by the willingness to tackle controversial issues such as the "heavy shepherding" practices embraced in the earlier stages of the movement’s growth. Indeed, one of the most intriguing chapters (chapter 13) examines the more controversial aspects of the movement including the way it undermined Charismatic Renewal, "sheep (member) stealing" from other churches, the possibility that Restorationists are "doctrinally deviant" and even self-deluded. Case studies of internal conflicts and the stories of disenchanted rank and file members illustrate many of these critical points.

The first part of Restoring the Kingdom (chapters 1-5), gives a definitive description of Restorationism and then traces the origins, early development of the movement, and its extension from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s. In the early chapters Walker works with an "ideal type" to distinguished between the two strands of Restorationism which were visible from its formative stage; "Ri" which constituted a loose confederation of churches. These two strands were differentiated largely by the more conservative orientation of the former, and the more fragmented and less sectarian nature of the latter.

Part two, which has a further eight chapters, amounts to an evaluation of the movement until 1985. It overviews the distinctive theology of restorationism; its post-millennialism and emphasis upon "restoring the kingdom", and its optimistic hope of world revival. A fascinating aspect of this is a survey of Restorationist literature, which shows the movement as perceiving itself as the True Church of Christ, restored and after centuries of nominal Christianity. In turn, the early Restorationist saw themselves perfecting the "truer" forms of Christianity advanced by, among others, Methodism, the Salvation Army, the Brethren movement, and Pentecostalism. Part two also examines the organizational structure of Restorationism; its essential ecciesiology, the role of apostles, the various charismatic ministries embraced, spiritual authority and the implications of the shepherding practices, the role of women and the local church structure. There is also a chapter entitled the "Kingdom Tour" through which participant observation and interviews allow a subjective view of the rank and file members inside the movement.

There is room in Part Two for Walker to addresses the vexed question as to whether Restorationism, ironically, has itself developed into competing denominations. Calling upon the sociological theories of Weber and his student Troetsch of how sects develop, over generations, into church structures, Walker suggests that after Brethrenism and Pentecostalism, the Restorationist are the third "restorationist" sect to emerge in Britain over the last 150 years. Like these earlier revivalists’ movements, late 20th century Restorationism has also come to form denominational structures. Indeed, Walker takes Bryan Wilson's view that the whole process of the sectenominational process is speeding up in the contemporary world as a result of a variety of social and cultural factors. Other interesting insights in this second section of the book includes a consideration of why Restorationism has continued to be comprised of largely middle-class congregations, and the strong attraction it also has for those seeking a sense of community and purpose, notably the socially isolated and unemployed. Walker also notes other attractions of the movement by way of its distinctive music, signs and wonders, and challenging demonology.

Part Three of the book, which is entitled "The Breakdown of the Kingdom 1985-90", charts the beginning of the decline of Restorationism, the changing character of the "Ri" axis, and the developments within that which have led to the transformation of the earlier Restorationist churches into the "New Churches". Walker suggests that by the mid 1980s both strands were making very few converts (indeed in earlier editions he had substantially reduced what he approximated as the total membership of Restorationism). He estimates that while "Ri" (virtually the only remaining core of true Restorationism) is no longer of any great significance, - it has in its combined fellowships over 200 churches and some 200,000 members. These are not impressive figures and the "New Churches" have done little to reverse the decline of general church attendance in Britain.

Walker concludes that "Ri" has become less exclusive and more world-accommodating. This is not to say that "Ri" has not made some concessions to the modern world. This includes a notable influence of the Faith ministries from the USA, internal reorganization, and flirtation with Christian TV. However, it is "Ri" which has undergone the more revolutionary transformations. This includes a considerable softening of shepherding practices, a greater reflection of criticisms, the application of modern business in relation to their church growth strategies, a flirtation with environmentalism and a greater willingness to interact with other Christian traditions.

Walker concludes that the Restorationist movement continues to develop and fragment. Pockets of Restorationism have survived. However, many "apostolic networks" have either disbanded or become less doctrinaire. Moreover, Restorationism has become part of the wider story of the British and even global charismatic movement; that of collaborative evangelistic endeavours, new alignments, the prophetic movement and involvement in the so-called Toronto Blessing. Walker suggests that there has been a loss of momentum rather than total extinction. However, the future of what he regards as the most significant movement in the British Church in the second half of the 2Oth century remains far from certain.

Stephen Hunt

Department of Sociology

University of Reading

Top

 

COMPARATIVE

Along the Domestic-Foreign Frontier: Exploring Governance in a Turbulent World, James N.Rosenau, Cambridge University Press, 1997, xvii + 467 pages, cloth £50, paperback £17.95.

This is a very challenging book for all students of politics. While it appears in the Cambridge Studies in International Relations series, its central message is that for most effective purposes it is no longer possible to isolate foreign and domestic politics; instead a porous political space has evolved encompassing elements of both which Rosenau calls the ‘Frontier’. The term political space indicates that the Frontier is not simply territorial but exists on many planes, including cyberspace. What its identification does, according to Rosenau, is to force international relations thinking in particular to move beyond the familiar paradigms of realism, neorealism, liberalism etc into a search for a new world view of which the Frontier is an important dimension.

After introducing the Frontier, the second part of the book is concerned to develop its conceptual characteristics in a global context. Amongst these, two are of particular importance: 'turbulence' and 'fragmegration'. The end of the Cold War and the growing reality of a post nation state view of international politics has produced an era which is not only dynamic, but also extremely turbulent at all levels, to a point where Rosenau appears to be approaching chaos theory. At the same time developments on the Frontier contributing to turbulence work largely in two very different directions. Some work to integrate the world more closely, such as economic globalization, new technologies and global norms; but others contribute to fragmentation, such as calls for decentralisation and the growth of various particularisms. The outcome of these crosscutting forces is a complex situation, which he calls 'fragmegration'. The often-competing processes of 'fragmegration' in turn effect the spheres of authority (SOAs) which operate on and across the Frontier. While some, such as the nation state, may appear to be weakening, others such as NGOs, policy networks and transnational coalitions appear to be strengthening. All this puts great strains on systems of governance, defined as mechanisms 'for steering social systems towards their goals' since the numerous issues of all kinds have to be steered by different organizations on so many political levels from local government to international agencies. At the same time the multicentric world which results, and which has increasingly replaced the statecentric world, is itself a major contributor to the turbulence within which the various levels of governance have to operate.

Having developed the global context for the Frontier, the book then moves to the societal contexts, which are dealt with much more briefly. Sovereignty is clearly not what it was, but then it may never have been what we thought it was. Within whatever state system is evolving constitutions are developing in interesting and increasingly internationally-influenced ways. And elections are becoming international as well as domestic defining moments in that process.

Part IV is more substantial and looks at a range of individual and collective actors which are 'central to world affairs': these include 'publics', 'leaders', as well as various organizations up to and including the United Nations. The aim of this somewhat discursive section is to consider their contribution to life on the Frontier.

The final part of the book consists of some tentative conclusions about democracy, war and governance in this turbulent evolving world in which the Frontier is of growing importance; and the result is cautiously optimistic on all counts. The contribution attempted by the book to this optimistic outcome is to have stretched the imagination of specialists in international relations, and to have liberated them from old paradigms into a more complex, dynamic, flexible and adaptable world.

Coming from a background in Third World and area studies rather than from traditional international relations, I had little trouble with accepting Rosenau's premises. It has always been necessary in these fields to combine international and domestic politics to make any sense of developments, and some of Rosenau's attempts to conceptualise this in the early part of the book were helpful. However the 'global context' of his discussion is generally more fully considered than the 'societal', which is also prone to lapse into occasional stereotypical ideas on 'anarchy' drawn from the American media, and much discredited in recent years in more penetrating area studies. His development of the Frontier and concluding cautious optimism are very different from that other widespread discussion of recent years, Huntington's writings on the possible clash of civilisations which receive passing reference here. This is generally far too predictive for Rosenau, as well as underestimating the importance of the political space of the Frontier with all its possible implications for the future.

In all this is a challenging book, which as Rosenau is well aware is a beginning rather than an end; but a beginning which will prove stimulating, in parts at least, and of whose conceptual ideas we will probably hear more.

Peter Woodward

University of Reading

Top

 

The North American Trajectory: Cultural, Economic, and Political Ties among the United States, Canada, and Mexico, Ronald F. Inglehart, Neil Nevitte and Miguel Basañez, Aldine de Gruyter, 1996, 199 pages, DM 38 paperback.

"And how important is God in your life? Please use this card to indicate – 10 means very important and 1 means not at all important." As part of the 1981 and 1990 World Values Surveys, this question and other hundreds concerning political, religious, economic and social issues were asked to more than sixty thousand respondents in forty-four countries. The surveys make up the basic data of the book, which concentrates on analyzing values and value changes in Mexico, the United States, and Canada, with a specific view to the North American process of integration. The results of the surveys are presented in a clear and understandable way, and the discussions are well written. However, what one really misses in the book is critical reflection on the methodological limitations of the study. For example, do questions like the above really capture the complexity of the issue under scrutiny? It is on the basis of answers to such questions that a number of core assumptions made in the beginning of the book are verified throughout the chapters: a value change has taken place in Mexico, the United States and Canada, which has shaped the politics of North American integration in important ways. The conceptual pivot of the study is Karl Deutsch’s theory on the dynamics of integration. Successful integration is based on similarity in orientations toward democracy and compatibility of economic perspectives. This theory is complemented with the modernisation thesis that a decline in traditional values is strongly linked with economic growth.

The book briefly describes how Mexico, Canada and the United States have gradually been moving towards continental economic integration since the mid-1980s. Throughout, the process involved much public controversy – a fact that the book could have analysed in more detail to complement the picture it presents of North American values and value change - but it finally culminated with the creation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. It is pointed out that neo-classic economists would see the arrangement as a logical extension of the patterns of closer commercial co-operation that emerged in the 1950s. When establishing NAFTA, the member countries – or rather, their elites - were doing precisely what would be natural from an economic point of view: they enhanced their access to larger markets in order to stimulate free trade and economic growth within a frame of global regionalisation. But neo-classical economists fail to address the crucial question: why are the three countries pursuing free trade and economic integration now and why didn’t they do so decades ago? Here, the authors make a strong point by emphasising that the timing and nature of economic integration cannot be answered by means of economic analysis alone. Public debates about economic integration show that when political and social perspectives are added to the economic arguments, the issue turns extremely complex. This fact reflects the importance of values in processes of integration. Thus, national value differences should be taken into consideration when accounting for the rather late process of economic integration in North America, as compared with the European experiment. But it would be a mistake to see such differences as frozen, historical givens - argues the book - even though the national histories of the three countries are grounded in variations on a common theme: exceptionalism. The Mexican and Canadian nation-building projects were forged against the background of American influence, and the United States always made a case of distinguishing itself from Europe. But the very fact that these very different countries have now agreed on economic integration makes it necessary to move the issue of ‘mass values’ from a marginal position to the centre of the analysis (p.3). In other words, changes in values can explain the changes in cross-national relationships.

Against this background, the results of the surveys are no surprise. It is concluded that the three publics have been undergoing far-reaching changes since the early 1980s, and that they are now converging in a number of important ways. Politically, there is a common trend towards increasingly democratic and participant political systems. This development is most noticeable in Mexico, where a public who wants democratisation is gradually eroding the once one-party state. In the three countries, there is also a tendency towards less confidence in governmental institutions. This tendency does not reflect passive or uninvolved publics, but an increasing interest in politics through issue-oriented forms of participation. Economically, the three publics now show very little support for state ownership. Again, the major change is found in Mexico. The centralised economic system dominated by the state is being replaced by a market-oriented type of regulation, which puts Mexico on the trajectory that the United States and Canada have been following for years.

The increasing political and economic comparability is stimulated by a convergence in 'basic values', most notably concerning family, religion, and sexual norms. There is a trend towards broader acceptance of divorce, abortion and homosexuality, as well as an increasing emphasis on individual autonomy, in contrast to acceptance of elite authority. Feelings about national identity, about trust, and about the balance between the material and non-material aspects of life have changed in all three countries. People have now a more cosmopolitan sense of identity, nationalism seems to be declining, and the historically unprecedented levels of wealth have given rise to a shift from scarcity norms to postmaterialist values which underscore the quality of life and self-expression - although, as "one might expect, the peoples of Canada and the United States are well ahead of the Mexican public on this dimension" (p. 167). In general, the trend towards convergence of the three countries on almost all of the dimensions included in the study is such that in 1991 a "significant proportion" of Canadians and Mexicans are even prepared to do away with the borders separating them from the United States (p.171). It is several times stressed in the book that the convergence and similarity in values do not mean that Canadians and Mexicans are becoming ‘Americanised’. What the three countries are moving toward "is not Americanization: the United States is changing like other societies. They are moving toward something new, something that in the long run may provide a global cultural consensus within which a variety of cultures can coexist harmoniously." (p. 133).

What is meant by ‘Americanization’ is not clearly defined in the book, and it remains an empty concept. Notions such as ‘global cultural consensus’ give the reader a feeling of the level of generalisation on which this study is moving. As an overall observation, the totalising conclusions made in the book appear to reflect the ambitious attempt to combine large-scale (if not mega-scale) quantitative social science with modernisation theory. The data collected in 1981 and 1990 are seen as "representative" and "reliable", and almost all of the value changes that the study claims to document conform to a "predictable pattern", i.e. they are in principle deducible from the 1981 baseline study. The authors do not hesitate to characterise their results as "encouraging to those who believe that with a sufficient investment of time and resources, social science can develop into a predictive science." (p.131). Unfortunately, this rather odd celebration of quantitative methodologies translates into not only a lack of systematic discussion of their weaknesses, but also into a total absence of reflections on alternative approaches to the exploration of values, culture and difference. According to the authors, what one can learn from such approaches is little: previous studies on cultural differences have relied largely on "impressionistic evidence" which is neither "systematic nor reliable; for every brilliant insight, one can find scores of misperceptions." (p.48). However, one may wonder whether the evidence presented in this study is ’reliable’ in more than a traditional statistical sense. It is remarkable that the authors do not offer a single critical word about standardised survey questions which, for example, seek to capture people’s religious values on a scale from one to ten. If the idea is to understand values as something that has to with people’s own frame of reference, the answers to such simplifying questions will not bring us very far. If they do bring us somewhere, we should indeed be careful drawing causal conclusions from such phenomenological correlations. My aim here is not to attack the relevance and legitimacy of quantitative social science. On the contrary, It is often – though not always - useful to acquire knowledge about the frequency and extension of material objects and of perceptions of social phenomena. But questionnaires alone cannot but provide us with superficial pictures, simply because they are not able to capture social phenomena, in this case values and value changes, as these are played out in specific cases of social interaction and conflict. Documentary research, thorough analysis of public debates, qualitative interviews, etc. could have complemented, nuanced and called into question some of the totalising conclusions made in this book, which should, nevertheless, be critically read by people interested in processes of integration and globalisation.

Hans Krause Hansen

Associate Professor, Ph.D.

Department of Intercultural Communication and Management

Copenhagen Business School

Top

 

Citizenship and Civil Society: A Framework of Rights and Obligations in Liberal, Traditional, and Social Democratic Regimes, Thomas Janoski, Cambridge University Press, 1998, 316 pages, £40.00 hardback.

Citizenship rights and obligations are familiar issues and have been commonly addressed in a proliferation of publications since T H Marshall's original analysis in 'Citizenship and Social Class' (Marshall, Sociology at the Crossroads, Heinemann, 1963). The prevalence of disputes about citizenship rights and obligations serve to demonstrate the relevance but also reveal the limitations of entrenched views. The competing claims of citizenship keep the heated debate alive yet fail to address key issues about the principles of citizenship. Consequently, much of the existing literature on the subject is limited by a failure to develop an adequate theoretical framework in which to examine citizenship per se, nor do some publications recognise that an examination of specific groupings in advanced industrial democracies is an inadequate starting point for analysis. This is where Janoski's analysis of citizenship transcends much of the existing literature on the subject by providing a thorough exploration of these neglected issues.

Citizenship and Civil Society inevitably has its roots in the arguments originated by T H Marshall in 'Citizenship and Social Class' which describes the development of citizenship rights over the past three centuries, however, Janoski re-visits these familiar issues and offers new perspectives and insights into well established arguments. Janoski expands Marshall's theory, and indeed other citizenship theories, by including participation rights alongside civil, political and social rights and also examines rights and obligations across three regime types (Traditional, Social and Democratic) as opposed to narrowing the focus to one particular type of society, or one specific group in society. Janoski also attempts to 'operationalise' civil society by examining the relationship between four spheres of society (private, public, market and state) and then connects the debates between civil society and citizenship. Janoski avoids providing a merely descriptive account of citizenship and civil society by using a theoretical framework established in chapter 2 as an analytical tool in order to examine regime types and the four spheres of society which he identifies.

In the introduction Janoski should be applauded for making a simple, but rarely acknowledged, point that the contentious nature of citizenship rights and obligations makes 'understanding the rights terrain so difficult'. To this end the book is an attempt to simplify the confusion's inherent in such an analysis by providing an overarching theory to bridge the gap between the individual and society. Janoski goes on to ask the question: 'Why is there no adequate theory of citizenship?' and identifies 'three major problems [which] need to be addressed to advance a theory of citizenship' These 'problems' are, firstly that 'rights and obligations are not adequately grounded,' secondly 'the balancing of rights and obligations has been totally ignored,' and thirdly 'the development of citizenship rights and obligations needs to be formulated at both the macro and micro-levels'. Finally, Janoski states that 'to be a general theory, the hypotheses of these three areas need to be put together into an overarching framework.' Consequently, the book is concerned with establishing a theory of citizenship by clarifying rights and obligations; examining how societies and citizens balance rights and obligations and showing how variables can be operationalised and hypotheses tested. The objective of the analysis is based upon making a contribution to 'efforts to build a theory of citizenship by contributing to the three areas listed above that prevent current work from becoming an adequate theory of citizenship.'

Although Janoski states that he does not attempt to cover all areas of citizenship in his analysis, his stated objectives are ambitious and wide-ranging and I wondered after reading the introduction whether these objectives would be adequately addressed and fulfilled. However, I was not disappointed with what I read. Essentially the book is divided into 3 parts. Chapters 2, 3 and 4 focus on the basic framework of rights and obligations. Chapter 2 establishes a framework of rights by re-examining and looking at the principles behind Marshall's three strand analysis of the development of citizenship rights over time (Marshall, Sociology at the Crossroads, Heinemann, 1963) whilst, importantly, including participation rights within this contemporary analysis. Chapter 3 reflects on the interesting; yet neglected question of why obligations are to a considerable extent ignored in social science research. Chapter 4 performs a dual function, examining the basic features of restricted and generalised exchange as a way to approach the variable aspects of organising rights and responsibilities and, alongside chapter 5, provides an examination of the balance of citizenship rights and obligations at the theoretical macro and micro-levels. Chapters 6 and 7 focus upon the development of citizenship rights, including participation rights and obligations over both centuries and decades across differing social and political regimes.

Throughout the book the emphasis is upon the processes of citizenship and the interactions and inter-connections between spheres of society and how individuals and differing regimes are enmeshed in, and involved in, these processes which inevitably change over time. Although the book is ambitious and sets out with a number of objectives Janoski succeeds in analysing complex issues in the context of a clear and lively discussion and adding new dimensions to the citizenship debate. Janoski achieves his aim of providing an 'adequate theory of citizenship' and does even more by offering a comprehensive and systematic analysis of key issues. It is important that a book like this should be available at the present time. This well written, clear and insightful work marks a milestone in the citizenship debate and takes the debate forward into the twenty-first century.

Citizenship and Civil Society can be recommended to a broad readership and is of relevance to those interested in the competing claims of individuals and the interacting spheres of society. It will appeal to academics, researchers and students, particularly those who need to move beyond traditional conceptions of citizenship debates in search of a more detailed theoretical framework. Students of Social Policy, Sociology, Politics, and Philosophy who already have a grasp of key concepts in citizenship debates will find it an authoritative, accessible and comprehensive text which will guide them through the intricacies and often confusing maze of citizenship issues whilst also providing a critical re-assessment of T H Marshall's work. The presentation and analysis of issues is straightforward and unusually devoid of the complexities, which the citizenship arena presents to both writer and reader.

Diane Lister

Department of Social Policy & Social Work

University of York

Top

 

The Sociology of Politics (3 volumes), edited by William Outhwaite and Luke Martell, Edward Elgar Publishing, 1998, 1,934 pages, £425 cloth.

In this three volume compilation the editors, William Outhwaite and Luke Martell, bring together seventy scholarly texts relevant to the broad field of political sociology. As might be expected of a reader on this scale, the works included range considerably from the classics of Marx and Weber, to those representative of the major topics of analysis throughout the twentieth century including political systems, political parties, ideologies, revolutions and other social transformations, and contrasting accounts of the modern state.

If written some three decades ago these volumes would undoubtedly have constituted a much shorter edition. The breadth of work since that time, both theoretically and empirically, is indicative of the ever-expanding scope of political sociology into new areas. The analysis of different structures of power, the matters of citizenship, the vast socio-political changes in the Third World and the ever altering political scene in Europe, have all added to the range of concerns which are covered in this reader. At the same time, the mass of publications produced in political sociology over this time marks the increasing tendency for the discipline to cross the boundaries with other specialisms, notably constitutional issues which were once the preserve of political science. In addition, the volumes are rendered even more extensive by the inclusion of the state of the art theoretical discussions on such themes as globalization which are deemed likely, by the editors, to provide important intellectual resources for the future writings in the early decades of the next century.

While not an entirely satisfactory division, the three volumes of the reader focus fairly coherently upon distinct topic areas, although they do vary somewhat in the extent to which this is achieved, as well as the quality of publications included. Volume 1 offers an overview of the sociological approach to the concept of power and the state. A great deal focuses upon the analysis, especially from the 1970s, of the modern state and includes both Marxist and pluralist perspectives. As might be expected, the emphasis is primarily upon the former. This ranges from earlier accounts such as Lenin's rhetorical State and Revolution, to the numerous complex studies of the contemporary capitalist state encompassing, among others, the work of Louis Althusser, Steve Lukes' Power and Authority, E.P.Thompson's The Secret State, and the renowned debate between Nicos Poulantzas and Ralph Miliband. There is also room in the volume for Thelda Skocpol's excellent work on social revolutions and her critique of both Marxist and pluralist view's of the state. In particular, that they fail to take into account its internal dynamics and organization - whether in the initiation of policy or in increasing the susceptibility of societies to revolutionary challenge. Skocpol's unique contribution is represented here with Bringing the State Back In (1985).

Another reason for the expansion of political sociology, certainly since the 1970s, was an increasing preoccupation with the theme of power in all its obvious and less obvious guises, be that political, social or economic. While the more obvious analysis of political power was focused upon the State, one of the major overlaps between the contrasting perspectives of Marxist and pluralist analyses was increasingly a more society-centred approach. This was matched by the emergence of feminist theory that ranged much further to examining hidden aspects of power at every social level (considered in volumes 11 & 111). Congruent with these developments was the highly acclaimed work of Foucault who referred to the microphysics of power: power exercised throughout the pores of every human society, the power of all over all. Some of Foucault's ideas are discussed in with his Two Lectures (1980) which focus fairly stringently upon the relationship between power and knowledge. More recent contributions offered in this volume trace the development, in the previous two decades, of the shift of political power from the State to other areas of society, the issue of citizenship, and the welfare state. Here the work of Ira Katznelson (1988) and Pierre Rosanvallon (1988) on the welfare state are particularly noteworthy, as is Brubaker's impressive piece on immigration, citizenship and the State in France and Germany (1990).

Volume 11 centres on the most important political formations and processes in the creation of modern nation states, namely, democracy, totalitarianism, and revolution. As far as the latter in particular is concerned, there are many excellent historical works included on the concept and reality of revolution in Europe, and increasingly in the rest of the world, from the eighteenth century onwards. The Russian Revolution provides the dominant reference-point for thinking about revolutions in the twentieth century, as did the French revolution throughout the nineteenth century. The Bolshevik revolution and its consequences therefore, are given a fair amount of attention. This includes extracts from David Lane's sociological analysis of Leninism, a contemporary reaction by the socialist theorist and militant, Rosa Luxemburg, and a cogent attempt to draw comparative lessons from the French, Russian and Chinese revolutions through another contribution by Skocpol (1979). There is also an emphasis upon comparative issues with the inclusion of outstanding work on state socialism in Eastern Europe in the second half of the forty-year period of communist rule, including Hannah Arendt's Ideology and Terror.

The section on democracy, as might be anticipated, ranges widely from Robert Michels' classic on organizations and elites, to Rokkan's historical account of voting and political participation in western democracies. Rowbotham’s Feminism and Democracy, which epitomises feminist theory, complement these works. In directing attention to grass-root patriarchal power within the private sphere, Rowbotham calls into question some of the basic assumptions of contractual and democratic political theory. In addition, this volume allows room for a discussion of the development of western democracy and its concomitant political party system. This is particularly relevant given that the future of all the traditional political groupings are uncertain, not least of all the prospects for the Social Democratic and neo-liberal parties in the West.

Volume 11 also looks at political processes outside the North American and West European tradition. The much heralded triumph of democracy, however ambiguous its form in many parts of the world, is brought into sharper focus by examining the totalitarian regimes of the mid-twentieth century in the form of Nazi Germany or the Stalinist USSR. These regimes remain crucial site for understanding the interrelations between political and other processes, and types of political ideology and ritual which are also present, in less obvious forms, in democratic processes. The collapse of Soviet style communism and its implications is covered here in contributions such as Halliday's The End of the Cold War (1990).

Finally, there is an overview of political developments in non-industrial societies and recent historical and sociological analyses of global political systems. Undoubtedly, the effects of globalization will be a major premise of all thinking in political sociology. Most institutions, economic, political, cultural or educational have yet to feel the full impact. Whatever the future of the nation-state form in various parts of the world, it cannot operate in isolation from increasingly powerful worldwide political and economic influences. David Held's work on national sovereignty and globalized politics, in the context of pre-industrial and non-industrial societies, stands for much of the academic work being advanced in this area. The theme of globalization also dovetails with recent concerns with the politics of identity, both in the 'identity politics' of some of the new social movements (also discussed in vol. 111) and in the concerns of post-colonial theory. Wedded to these concerns is North-South relations, which will become an ever-prominent theme. The implications are, rather restrictedly, discussed in this volume in Wallerstein's influential work (1986).

Volume 111 offers analyses of the principal political movements and ideologies of the twentieth century. As far as political movements are concerned, the emphasis is upon the social bases of politics such as classes and elites, ethnicity, gender and religion etc, but also extends to accounts of military power. The influence of social class, and so on, sometimes operates in covert ways on political processes, but they may also be the focus of explicit and organized social movements, most importantly, the labour movements which dominated the late nineteenth and twentieth century politics across Europe and to a considerable extent elsewhere. Relevant to a discussion of the social bases of politics are Dearlove and Saunders on voting behaviour (1991), Olin Wright on social class and political participation (1993), Floya Anthias on ethnicity (1992), and Vicky Randall on women and political elites (1987).

The inclusion of works on military power should certainly be welcomed. Military might and violence, as Anthony Giddens (1985) has pointed out, has been neglected in most sociology, including political sociology. Even at the height of the Cold War, with nuclear destruction potentially close, most sociologists associate the term 'conflict' with domestic processes of social class or industrial struggle, and gender and ethnicity, rather than its global potential. At the same time, there has been a general failure to give adequate attention to the military regimes, most dictatorial, in the Third World countries. The difficulty of categorizing military regimes in conventional political ways or in terms of social class interests, is just one of the complex relations between social stratification and politics and is covered in this volume by Morris Janowitz (1976).

In some respects the study of ideologies has gone out of vogue. However, a discussion of the various ‘isms’ in this reader is constructive. Recognizing the complexity of the subject matter, the scope of the contributions is wide. Hence, there is room for the dissection of the origins and functions of political doctrines as typified by Karl Mannheim’s study in 1925 of the early history of German conservatism and the link between doctrine and social base. Specific ideologies involve Adam Przeworski's work on the history of social democracy (1985), Martin Kitcher on fascism (1987), and Peter Marshall on the history of anarchism (1992).

While, throughout the course of the twentieth century, some ideologies have suffered demise, others refuse to go away. Left-wing anarchism and centrist federalism are currently more significant as intellectual than as practical political movements, although federalism has a significant institutional presence in the politics of the European Union. Of the principal political forces of the twentieth century, Marxism-Leninism and fascism seem definitively discredited, although neo-fascist movements are strong in many countries and some reshaped communist parties currently enjoy considerable support in both East and West Europe. There have also been a number of transformations within the major ideologies of western democracies. Social democracy seemed beleaguered in many parts of Europe in the 1980s, with the intellectual high ground captured by neo-liberalism in the politics of the Republicans in the United States and conservative parties in Europe. These are themes taken up by Adam Przeworski's Social Democracy as a Historical Phenomenon (1985) and D.S.King's Liberalism, Conservatism and the New Right (1987).

Any reader with a title of The Sociology of Politics is bound to be all embracing and ambitious in its scope. Despite the impression in places that everything remotely relevant is thrown in, the volumes largely work. At the same time it is probably inevitable that some works are excluded and some themes insufficiently covered. More could have been dedicated to topics derived from developments and likely developments in The Third World - not least of all environmental issues and the prospects for those nations left out of the promotion from the poor to the rich nations. In a discussion of political processes and revolutions it would have been cogent to see an inclusion of Barrington-Moore's work on the alternative roads to modernization. But, one could go on listing preferences. All in all, the reader is a must for the enthusiastic although, given the price, one would have to be very enthusiastic to opt for a personal copy of the volumes.

Stephen Hunt

Department of Sociology

University of Reading

Top

 

Redefining the State: Privatisation and Welfare Reform in Industrial and Transitional Economies, Nicolas Spulber, Cambridge University Press, 1997, £30.00 (US$ 39.95) cloth.

Professor Spulber is emeritus professor at Indiana State University, an economist who has written several books about economic policies, developments and institutions in capitalist and communist (now: transitional) economies. This volume is clearly marked by the profound experiences of an author deeply versed in empirical methods, historical perspectives, and policy problems. No smart and easy market mechanism tricks and assumptions here, no technocratic wishful thinking or ignorant shrouds of ceteris paribus. Instead, a massively empirical history of economic policies and institutions in West and East, from the beginning of the 20th century to the end. The book follows both the expansion of the state in the early parts of the century, where state functions are developed to serve the expanding economies, and the attempts, since the late 1970’s, to retrench the state, roll it back and redefine its functions. The empirical materials are mostly Russian and American, but solid comparative sections trace the parallel and contrastive developments in major Western and eastern countries.

Spulber's main interest is in the organisation of the economy – the ownership of enterprises, the allocation of capital, the institutions for distribution and redistribution of incomes; and the functions of the state, in providing economic policies and infrastructures. In the book's first section, he traces those phenomena in the West and the East, giving a good overview of most and especially a rare combination of those developments. The weakness of the book, however, already appears at this point: having such a broad agenda, the choice of perspective, of empirical coverage and of conceptual approach, becomes decisive. And here the book avoids a clear position – no reasons are given for the particular choice of periods, countries and institutions. No theory of the state - no definition for example; and yet, the book is called 're-defining' the state.

Eclectic empiricism is only a mortal sin in the eyes of purists of some theoretical denomination. But of course, the story told in a text is as convincing as the arguments chosen. And a narrative covering a highly theoretisised area, like economic policies and institutions, is open to dispute from many sides, especially if it does cover many sides of history.

The book's second part tells the stories of redefining – or remodelling, as it is now called - the two state forms, the Western and the Eastern. Again, the author is well versed in his material, both the Reagan/Thatcherite convulsions of Western state retrenchments, and the two phases of Eastern reform: pre-1989, with gradual and superficial changes, and post-1989, a revolutionary and chaotic period. In this part, the Western story continues to be comparative, while the Eastern is only about Russia. And again, the criticism has to be that the lack of a theoretical framework leaves cohesion and relevance at sea: there is an obvious and interesting parallel between state restructuring in the eighties and nineties in the two areas, a sort of convergence that ends up with glaring contrasts. But the conclusions to the two chapters in Part 2 are completely different stories, told in a fashion that does not relate them to each other. One interesting reason for that is the huge difference in source materials between the two regions (earlier, we would have called them 'systems'). The Western material is the usual stuff – official statistics, state-financed social science – solid and systematic, biased only by being part of its own story. Much of the material about Russia, in contrast, rests on guesswork, authoritative observation, informed opinion, etc. Much, much more subjective and structured in a totally different fashion conceptually. This is the fate of all analysts in this area, and professor Spulber is an extremely careful and reliable analyst. But he never reflects upon the consequences it has for his comparative endeavour.

Part III announces comparisons within broader frameworks – again, note the plural: we are given two different comparisons. And the frameworks are empirical: to the Western group Japan is added, and the framework becomes G7. Russia is compared to Eastern European countries. The Western story is about, first, some quantitative measures of state sizes – fiscal and employment figures. Secondly, a sketch of procedures of privatisation and a few non-committal remarks about the results of privatisation. There is very little to surprise the average economist. The Eastern story is more interesting: it is a comparison of the privatisation programs of the post-soviet states and their growth trajectories. Significantly, the two 'truncated' states of Russia and Yugoslavia are doing worse than the others, with more chaos and corruption and more economic decay. There is an indication here of the role of the state in relation to national identities, and perhaps also some deeper cultural features that affect the fates of Russia and Serbia. For the occasional observer, at least, it often appears as if the stranger and more obscure the cultural stories about Russia and Serbia, the better their value in prediction and explanation in social matters.

The conclusions to Part III attempt to draw together the two strands of the story; the lack of a theoretical framework leaves us with institutional description and common-sense reasoning – which does not mean that it is uninteresting: Spulber points to the very different roles played by privatisation and state retrenchment in the two regions – in one region, they are intended to repair sclerotic state functions; in the other, they are thought to be the beginnings of the construction of a totally new state. Revolutionary chaos, however, reigns in the countries most deeply affected. No capitalist institutions are yet stable, and the social, ethical and legal orders are still in flux, the outcome unpredictable.

The final Part IV dares to present an 'Outlook for the Twenty-first century', focusing on the sources of uncertainty in the two regions. The main point regarding the West, also presented in earlier chapters, is that convergence towards a single type of economic system (institutions and policies) seems unlikely, and that the era of rolling back the state may not last, despite the still high level of state intervention. The social, economic and political uncertainties may still create needs for state interventions, and the neo-liberal political consensus has already disappeared. The East, as Spulber notes, is subject to uncertainties of a more profound nature, regarding the very fabric of society. His final chapter contains some comparative perspectives on the role of the state - reflections on the possibilities of expansion and contraction, and a little on the political circumstances of state interventions.

In earlier attempts at very broad and comparative studies of 'the state', the emphasis has been on a theoretical definition of the subject. Either from a political science perspective, detailing the state as the meeting-ground of interests and political processes. Or from a legal-institutional point of view, where the state is defined by the organisational features that separates it from 'private' organisations. Nicolas Spulber approaches the subject as broadly as did Max Weber, Barrington Moore, Nicos Poulantzas, Theda Skocpol and the rest; but he does it without a clear theoretical framework. That the perspective and focus are economic, is stated in scattered places in the book, but mainly appears through the lack of more deep-reaching analyses of the political aspects of the state. A more insistent treatment of politics would have brought sharply into focus the vast differences of his two systems. Still, the two stories do exist rather separately from each other, and the multiple elements of the whole – many of them very instructive, richly empirical and interesting in their own right - do not always relate in an obvious fashion.

Sven Bislev

Copenhagen Business School

Top

 

The Sociology of the Military, Giuseppe Caforio (ed), Edward Elgar, 1998, xxvi+667pp, £150 cloth.

This is a very full collection of articles on the sociology of the military. Giuseppe Caforio acknowledges that as a specialised area of research this subject has grown up largely over the past half century and in the United States in particular. Nevertheless it has important antecedents on which he has drawn at the start of the collection, including discussion of Spencer, de Tocquville, Marx and Weber.

The second part of the collection is on 'The American School'. The Second World War gave American sociologists grounds for concern with the development of a large standing military at the centre of American life. The war itself had given rise to attitudinal work on the military at all levels, but discussion also developed about the larger picture of the military and society, often of a comparative character. Major figures in the ensuing debates presented here include Robin Williams, Lasswell, Perlmutter, Janowitz and Aron.

The major part of the collection is on the 'Worldwide Sociology of the military', and the growth of writing in the field especially in Europe, Israel and Australia. The first section is on the search for a comparative model and focuses particularly on institutional/occupational debates regarding the analysis of the armed forces. The next section is about the military as a profession and includes articles by Huntington, Van Doom, Boene and Harris-Jenkins, before concluding with pieces resulting from research interviews with European military officers. The section on the military and society begins with a number of general theoretical pieces; while the other major theme of the section concerns survey work undertaken in Europe and America on public opinion and the military. Amongst the contributors here Luckham and Lissak are particularly prominent, while Caforio himself contributes on Italian attitudes towards the military. The final section of this part of the collection looks at the new missions for armed forces, particularly with the end of the Cold War. After years of discussions of the growth of armed forces in the context of global confrontation by two superpowers, the issues of the 1990s are very different and give rise to considerable uncertainty. New roles such as peacekeeping, and perhaps even peace-making are discussed; increased military cooperation between states arises; there are also questions of downsizing and the balance between traditional wings of the armed forces as well as their relations with one another. At the same time many societies are expecting to enjoy the benefits of lower military expenditure. However, perhaps because these are comparatively new themes, the section is relatively short. Amongst the contributors, James Burk and David Segal are particularly prominent.

The conclusion of the collection points to the incorporation of the study of the military as a specialism within the mainstream of sociology, but one which suffers still from problems of access when compared to other areas of research.

My own view is that in spite of its claims to present a 'world-wide sociology of the military' this remains a very Eurocentric view of the subject, and that for all its length it scarcely does justice to the military globally, especially in the Third World. There still remain unaddressed questions of the contrasting experiences of the development of military-society relations in Latin America and the Middle East. Successful revolutionary armies and their positions once in power, as in places as far apart as Ethiopia and China, is another area in which I was disappointed. While military rule and state collapse in Africa is as significant for study as possible outside intervention for peacekeeping purposes. Above all, a further examination of the military in relation to politics in what is often supposed to be an era of global democratization would have been useful. Overall an effective collection of articles as far as it goes, but I doubt that it goes far enough.

Peter Woodward

The University of Reading

Top

 

The Capitalist Revolution in Eastern Europe, L. Czaba, Edward Elgar, 1995,x+342 pp., £49.95 cloth.

The Little Czech and the Great Czech Nation: National identity and the post-communist transformation of society, L. Holy, Cambridge University Press, 1996. x+226 pp., £50 cloth.

The author of the first book has been involved in studying East European economies throughout his dual professional career, as an economic analyst at Kopint-Datorg Inc. and as a professor at the Budapest College of International Trade. The book represents one of the first attempts to look critically at the economic and social changes in Eastern Europe from a theoretical point of view: what has been the contribution (positive or negative) of economic theory to the process and what has theory learned from the experience? After three years of publication it can still be read as a penetrating discussion of the issues involved, providing the reader has some familiarity with the events and controversies, or is willing to learn about them from the references provided.

The text is divided into thirteen chapters grouped into six parts. In the first introductory part the collapse of socialism in 1989 is labeled as a bourgeois or capitalist revolution, which was directed against hierarchic-bureaucratic system of state rule in favour of individual human rights and entrepreneurship. (Observe that the element of national liberation from the Russian, Soviet domination does not seem to be recognised here.) The author notes that since then, after four years of

Economic hardship for the 'man in the street', disillusion has spread and an absence of a more universal unifying vision is felt. Most of the first generation of rulers was voted out of power. The author formulates his task as a search for a broader theoretical perspective to approach questions stemming from unfulfilled expectations. Mancur Olson formulated the basic question in a straightforward manner (1992, abbreviated): 'The scaling down of government control over the economy in the ex-communist countries was expected to improve economic performance. This has not been experienced. Why?'

Part II ('Environment') surveys the "prehistory" of the changes, the eclipse of the Soviet Empire, and the initial conditions and long-term constraints, both cultural (e.g. atmosphere of negligence and indifference developed during the communist era) and those imposed by limited theoretical understanding of the new situation. From a historical point of view the task facing postcommunist societies is described as a 'belated modernization on the ruins of the Soviet Empire'. It is a specific case of modernization; it involves systemic change, a multidimensional

'transformation' of the economy and society. The author considers the often-used term 'transition to the market' as too narrow and simplistic to express this complex process. Additionally, most of the economies suffered from hidden or open inflation. In an innovative chapter 4 of this part II; the author assesses two schools of thought available in 1989, Sovietology and economic stabilization theory, from the point of view of their suitability for designing relevant policies at the time. He argues that neither school was fully adequate for the simultaneous but substantively different tasks of systemic change and stabilization, and, moreover, their respective recommendations often clashed.

The next part III ('Salient features of systemic change') brings the main theoretical argument of the book. The author recalls that Hayek identified capitalism as a spontaneous order, and surveys the decision-makers' dilemmas of how to introduce it by design. He argues that 'social engineering' cannot be 'but poor economics'; that all so popular schemes of a 'quick fix' were based on a fundamental misapprehension of the nature of systemic change. A journey to a civilized market economy involves a time consuming process of institution building, accepting and internalising appropriate behavioral and normative patterns. He demonstrates his claims in a chapter on economic policy by looking at lessons from empirical evidence. As an example he takes privatization as one of the crucial policies aiming to accomplish systemic change, and concludes that 'more radical projects of mass privatization (as the voucher scheme) have not resulted in a faster roll-back of state involvement' in the economy. 'As a matter of fact, the louder the ideological fanfare, the smaller the progress in enterprise restructuring ... due to constraints inherent in the economic conception.'

The next part (IV) includes two transformation case studies: Hungarian 'gradualism' and Russian 'failed shock therapy'. The author argues that Hungary proceeded rather by default than by intentional gradualist strategy and that 'the policies geared towards transformation underperformed when measured against the potential ... available under the given constraints'. As regards Russia, he disagrees with the diagnosis of some analysts (such as Åslund) who blamed switches to 'gradualism' for the failure of the originally designed shock therapy, and suggest that what 'was truly missing ... was a vision, a platform, on the base of which strategic rather than improvised compromises could have been struck'.

In part V, chapter 11 the author turns to the challenge the collapse of the Soviet Empire and the ongoing transformation poses for European integration. He discusses the association agreements of the EU with the transforming Central European countries and the threats of and alternatives to integrating them. Chapter 12 offers observations on the prospects of the various postcommunist countries. The concluding Part VI is stimulating. It reviews some of the previous arguments and steps 'towards a theory of transformation'.

The book is not an easy read. The ambiguous and often controversial nature of the subject matter has made it difficult to impose on it a firmer framework. Nevertheless it offers thoughtful reflections on the unprepared state of theory in the face of an urgent need for better understanding of the various, and sometimes disparate, social and economic processes in the diverse parts of the postcommunist world. The situation has not improved much since the time of writing. However the author's suggestions of the multidimensional nature of the ongoing processes and of the necessity of a multidisciplinary approach to them lead in a promising direction. Also, his insights and judgments have often been vindicated. The author suggests that 'in five years or so a further attempt will be due' at a comprehensive approach to the political economy of systemic change. Let us hope that he will return to the task. In the optimal case responding to the urgent need, he would not only be able to report on the emergence of sufficiently general and also more solid theoretical frameworks but also, he would find that better theoretical understanding has contributed to a more rational public discussion of practical policies. Though one can doubt whether history has ever followed an optimal route, the task of theory should be to try to advance rationality.

Ladislav Holy has written a penetrating study of Czech national culture and an interpretation of the Czechoslovak 'velvet revolution' and the main political developments that followed it till the dissolution of the country by treating politics as 'an aspect of the overall cultural system'. His book complements Czaba's analysis by the national liberation and collective identification and symbolic elements missing in the political economic, utilitarian, approach. Both books, read together, give a better understanding of the changes in Central Eastern Europe of early 1990s, and demonstrate the value of a multidisciplinary approach recommended by Czaba.

Holy briefly outlines his approach of cultural anthropology in the Introduction. He defines culture as 'a system of collectively held notions, beliefs, ideas, dispositions, and understandings.' They are 'embodied in shared symbols which are the main vehicle through which people communicate their world view, value orientations, and ethos to one another' (page 2). Although he does not suggest any structuring within the cultural system at this introductory point, later in application, he identifies 'basic premises' and 'symbols and key metaphors through which Czechs make sense of the world' (page 200). They would correspond to the 'deepest', unconscious level of shared meanings, within a multi-level framework (e.g. Schein 1992). In this the book uncovers the nucleus of national culture, the 'shared core of basic assumptions about the world' (page 13).

Symbols are used to arouse emotions and enthusiasm for politics. They 'are the main means by which people make sense of the political process, which presents itself to them primarily in symbolic form.' Holy concentrates 'on the myths, symbols and traditions which make possible the identification of people as members of the Czech nation and form Czech national consciousness' (page 3). The author's main analytical unit is 'discourse', a socially constituted communication which leads to the production of a corpus of 'texts'. The latter are elementary units, discussions of particular topics in an area of social concern, taking various (spoken, written, iconic, musical) forms. Political action is primarily seen as symbolic interaction of political elites with the public. It is used to bolster the rulers' authority and assert the legitimacy of power.

In the first three chapters he starts with the analysis of public demonstrations against the communist regime, seeing them as expressive rather than instrumental actions. His discussion is based on symbols used both by the communist authorities and the demonstrators, and the images implied by the symbols, sometimes shifting their meaning. Throughout he returns to Czech understanding of equality and freedom, and the relations between the individual and collective, the nation and state. The book's title refers to the paradox of Czechs considering their nation as consisting mostly of 'little Czechs', average people with more negative than positive character traits, while at the same time, they see the same nation as a supraindividual entity, perpetuating its admirable traditions of humanism, democracy, and respect for education and culture.

In chapter 4 two conflicting, and complementary, ideologies, images of the Czech past are outlined. A nationalistic ideology sees Czech history as a glorious humanistic drive to and struggle for freedom and democracy, punctuated by often long periods of defeats, failures due to being spiritually too ahead of the environment and neighbours. The nation is an active subject of history. The non-nationalistic ideology understands the nation as an object of history. It sees history as continuous, and accepts it into the 'national tradition' non-selectively as a whole. Historical defeats are attributed to the nation or elites not appreciating the world realistically enough.

Chapter 5 describes how the images of the democratic and well-educated Czech nation became the effective force for political mobilisation of the masses during the 'velvet revolution' and in support for the radical economic reform after it. Chapter 6 concentrates on the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1992. It identifies the core of Czech national culture, its basic premises as the duality between natural development and artificial deliberate human design, and the guiding idea of the centre or of a cultivation of harmonious balance between the naturally constituted and the consciously created. It shows how these ideas were invoked by the political elite to make palatable for the Czech population the dissolution of the Czechoslovak state and the establishment of the Czech Republic.

As a native Czech myself I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and found its analyses innovative and illuminating. For my political economic background, its anthropologic method of providing evidence appears too ‘soft’ nevertheless, though I have never felt the author's argument as overstretched. I would like to learn more about the distribution of attitudes, either in opinion surveys or in the author's own interviews or other evidence. I feel the Czech culture may be more homogeneous than that of many other nations, and the author gives some reasons for it, but I would be more satisfied if I could see it documented. The stratification may be social and regional as well. The regional distribution by religion may indicate other cultural differences (the share of agnostics in Southern Moravia was 27% while in Northern Bohemia it was 55% in the 1991 census).

I would appreciate more thought to be given to the comparative aspects of national culture, to which the author briefly alludes in the first few paragraphs of the book. Several important traits of Czech national culture, as he identifies them, are either shared by other Central European nations or seem to be common features of mass culture emerging at a certain stage of modernisation. The natural - artificial duality is used by Austrian F. A. Hayek as a key idea in his politological analysis of market order (1973-79). That may be why his thought became so influential among the Czech radical reformers. Another task would be of interdisciplinary nature; to start to connect the analyses of various disciplines into a more complex picture of the post-communist transformation. However these are rather 'tasks for further research'.

Ludek Rychetnik

Department of Sociology,

The University of Reading.

 

References

Hayek, F. A. (1973/79), Law, Legislation and Liberty, Routledge & Kegan Paul.

M. Olson: 'Preface', in C. Clague, G.C. Rausser (Eds) 1992 The Emergence of

Market Economies in Eastern Europe, Blackwell.

E. H. Schein (1992), Organizational Culture and Leadership, Jossey-Bass.

Top

 

Globalisation and the Third World, Ray Kiely and Phil Marfleet (eds.), Routledge, 1998, 226 pages, £16.99 paperback.

Ray Kiely and Phil Marfleet’s Globalisation and the Third World is an anthology consisting of eight chapters and an introductory chapter. In the Introduction, Kiely sets out the main ambitions of the book: not to examine globalisation as a new theory, but as "an agenda for concrete empirical research." (p.2). In contrast to much of the recent literature on development and globalisation inspired by poststructuralism, this book views the ‘Third World’ as an important and appropriate descriptive term. The perspective is critical: What is particularly interesting about globalising processes is their uneven character, the way they are linked to relations of power, as well as the degree to which they are differently experienced throughout the world. Following the instructive Introduction, and the account in chapter 1 of theories of development (also by Ray Kiely), each of the following seven chapters take up a concrete issue that cut across nations and regions: TNCs, migration, health, sustainable development, ethnic identity, the music industry and religious activism. The book offers many useful and well-written sections on a large number of themes relevant for cross-disciplinary university courses on ‘development’ and/or ‘globalization’. However, it suffers from the typical shortcoming of anthologies: the lack of coherence and a final concluding chapter, in which the diverse implications of the different chapters are summarised and discussed.

Chapter 2 by Ray Kiley discusses the role and impact of Transnational Companies (TNCs) in the Third World. It makes the case that the extreme globalisation thesis - the idea that the nation-state is largely becoming superfluous due to the hyper-mobility of economic capital - is seriously wrong. Flawed is also the liberalisation thesis that all participants in the global economy can benefit equally from global market forces. Capital flows continue to concentrate in established regions of accumulation. What counts for TNCs is a large internal market, competitive skills and infrastructure - conditions that are absent in most developing countries. On the other hand, the low wage costs characteristic of many Third World countries is a prime advantage for TNCs, as well as for the Third World, only within certain sectors. As to the highly discussed thesis that TNCs are agents of cultural imperialism, the author makes the claim that it is difficult to decide in advance what is good and what is bad for the developing countries. The consumption of the products of TNCs "operates in a particular social context " (p.62) that has to be taken into account; local states fail to regulate the behaviour of TNCs and TNCs are only one part of the social context:

"If we regard consumption as a social activity, then the critique of cultural imperialism becomes less a critique of TNCs themselves, and more one of the social context in which they operate." (p.62).

Chapter 3 by Phil Marfleet analyzes the topic of the rapidly increasing migration from the South to the North. He argues that the current pattern of migration is closely related to profound changes in the world economy. However, most global theorists, in attempting to depict the world as a single interconnected place, have neglected a number exclusionary mechanisms. Many Third World countries have become more integrated in the world system of financial transactions. But at the same time they have experienced a decrease in investments in infrastructure and industry. They are therefore now more exposed to economic and political fluctuations than ever. At the same time, the states of the Third World have become ‘internationalised’. IMF-imposed policies and the attempts to reduce radically the state’s involvement in the economy have undermined already crippled structures of authority, leading in several cases to severe social crisis:

"The limited authority of the state is undermined and sections of the state apparatus disintegrate, leading to increasing repression, factional conflict and sometimes to huge population movements." (p.73).

When people finally leave their homes, they are faced with obstacles to the free movement of people from the South - such as the sealing of borders that many countries in Western Europe have practiced and institutionalized, in part through supranational agreements such as the Schengen treaty. So while the Third World states in many cases have been internationalised and undermined as nucleus of authority, First World states are as vital as ever. This chapter is excellent in pointing to the contradictory character of globalisation, as well as the human possibilities and costs related to the ‘uneven development’ which the author sees as a major component of ‘globalisation’.

In chapter 4, Maureen Larkin provides a sketch of health and health policy in Third World countries, applying a ‘global perspective’. On the one hand, there is evidence that the capacity to affect decision-making in the procurement and allocation for resources for health has been displaced from the local and national communities, leading to new patterns of interests and conflicts:

"Policies and funding for health are also caught up in a variety of global processes and activities and conflicting interests...In this sense health and health policies have become highly contested and these conflicts are increasingly played out at an international level through a variety of strategies and vocabularies which are not easy to penetrate. " (p.94).

On the other hand, there is the increasing insertion of Western medicine into the institutional and cultural context of Third World countries, through transnational pharmaceutical companies (TNPCs). This mainly Western medicine is being appropriated within complex cultural and healing systems at a local level. Thus ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ forms are melted into a "pharmacological syncretism" (p.101). But the melting process also has another, more commercial dimension, as it feeds into and is powerfully shaped by the marketing activities of the TNPCs. Against this backdrop, the author concludes that orthodox notions of drug regulation and control is problematic. It is indeed necessary to regulate the spread and use of drugs, but since the patterns of commercialisation and appropriation, as well as the conditions affecting national and international decision making have changed, this is not going to be easy. It is therefore necessary to build up new alliances to improve prospects for health.

Global environment problems, including the increasing global awareness about them, is the subject of chapter 5. Suzanne Biggs explores the political issues around the Convention on Biological Diversity which was established in the UN Conference on the Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. She claims that the Convention, in spite of its ambition of being a ‘global framework’, is not capable of furthering sustainable development. This is because it was conceived too narrowly within the European tradition and emphasised environmental concerns at the expense of economic and developmental needs. In other words, it did not take into account the interests involved in utilising the biodiversity located in the Third World: the TNCs and the national governments in the North. Biggs then describes how TNCs have tried to acquire recognition of Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights, which would provide them with the ownership of newly isolated genetic material used in their products. This monopolistic situation would make it difficult for ‘sustainable’development to take off at the global level, because the developing countries will not be able to participate fully in the new biotechnologies; TNCs can prevent a country developing similar technologies, and inhibit other countries moving in with similar imports by taking out a patent. The chapter concludes that in the face of the free market ethos which is emanating from the developed world, and which is dominating the international institutions, the political will to turn into reality the global and much celebrated vision of sustainable development is very limited.

Chapter 6 explores the questions of ethnic identity and deterritorialisation - i.e. the ways in which cultural forms and identities have "migrated as a result of globalisation from their original place and reconstituted themselves in new contexts as diasporic forms." (p.142). In this chapter Vivian Schelling investigates the nature of local responses to globalisation, with a specific view to how the interaction of global and local properties have given rise to new forms of ethnic identity in Brazil and Mexico. Schelling shows that the development of black identity in the north-eastern city of Salvador, Brazil, was a struggle emerging as a response to the transformations taking place throughout the 1970s and 1980s, as Brazil went from military to civilian rule and became to increasingly affected by structural adjustment programs. But the very meaning of this identity was transformed as it was inserted into the global discourse of ‘consumerism’, connected in particular to the music and fashion industries. The use by young Bahian blacks of US-dominated styles of blackness (i.e. hip-hop and black ghetto fashion) has contributed to the growth of a local Bahian identity which comes about in the global ‘world bazaar’ of cultures as deterritorialised and many ways depoliticised ‘difference’. In the brochures produced by local authorities, a taste of ‘Otherness’ is being offered to global consumers. In this material, the memory of slavery has been diluted if not eliminated altogether. A similar figure of global-local dynamics and ambiguities is at stake in the case of artisans in different communities in Mexico. As in the Brazilian case, ethnicity appears as a "contested terrain" (p.158). The artisans’ affirmation of their ethnic identity and tradition was used as a means of achieving more local control of the economic dynamics of globalised handicraft production.

In Chapter 7, David Desmondhalgh discusses another dimension of the relationship between ‘globalisation’ and ‘culture’: the cultural imperialism thesis (CI), which is discussed against the background of the case of the music industry. The traditional way of handling this subject is by focusing on the ways in which Third World music is appropriated in the First world. But Desmondhagh chooses to focus more on the distribution and reception of First World music in Third World contexts. In line with the rest of the contributions of the book he emphasises the uniqueness of the local context - the meaning of music will vary from place to place. Yet capitalism shows an inherent tendency to produce unequal access to the distribution and promotion of particular artists. There is therefore some moment of truth in the cultural imperialism thesis, claims the author: "A stress on the value of musical interaction and hybridity is clearly preferable to the latent cultural purism of some thinking influenced by CI. But the CI model might still be useful in drawing our attention to important criticisms which need to be made of the capitalist production of culture as a whole: the role of musical commodities as part of wider patterns of change in leisure and entertainment, and the continued dominance of certain forms of music which, although the link between culture and territory might be growing more complex, are still linked to particular regional identities." (p.179).

In the final and longest chapter of the book, Phil Marfleet explores the link between ‘globalisation theory’ and ‘religion’. This chapter is valuable in its combination of theoretical discussions of the globalization concept - e.g. its resemblance to modernization theory, its underlying ‘unicity’ thesis and homogenising functionalism - with an empirical exploration of the rise of Islamic activism and Liberation Theology. Each of them have their highly localised specificities - their similarity is that they have both emerged as ‘struggles of the dispossessed’. The major difference between them is the attitude to mass self-activity, "with the Latin American case showing a much fuller popular engagement than the halting, more authoritarian examples from the Middle East." (p.209) The major point made by the author is that most globalization theory operates at a too abstract level to account for the local specificity of social and cultural phenomena, including those aspects that point to the agency of religious movements: "Globalist theory will not assist our understanding of such movements. Its unified world model will provide no explanation for their vigour or for the anxiety they create among rulers and the dominant world powers. It will in fact deny the efforts of the dispossessed to change the relations of inequality which shape their lives - to seek a role in the making of their future." (p.210).

At this point, any reader of this thought-provoking book will probably appreciate Marfleet’s insightful conceptual discussions of global theory, while asking why this discussion taken in chapter 8 has not been more consistently developed and integrated in the Introduction and Chapter 1, which concentrates heavily on the ‘development’ concept. The book would also have benefited from a concluding chapter, in which the theoretical accounts of ‘globalisation’ and ‘development’ could be revised and discussed against the backdrop of the many insightful empirical analyses presented by the authors of the book. One underlying thematic feature of the book is the question of ‘governance’ in a global context. Many of the chapters refer to the changing patterns of local, national and global governance - the First World national state has become somewhat modified, international organisations play a more and more important role globally, and the Third World state has become internationalised while the local level seeks to gain influence. The book would have benefited from a more comprehensive discussion of this underlying theme, either in the form of a separate chapter, or as part of a conclusion or afterword.

Hans Krause Hansen

Associate Professor, Ph.D

Department of Intercultural Communication and Management

Copenhagen Business School

Top

 

POLICY AND INTERVENTION

 

The Sociology of the Environment, Michael Redclift and Graham Woodgate (eds.), Edward Elgar, 1995, 3 vols. 1,948 pages, £415 cloth.

The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology, Michael Redclift and Graham Woodgate (eds.), Edward Elgar, 1997, 485 pages, £95 cloth.

The editors of these books have set out on mission impossible. It is a heroic mission because they are right to argue that sociology as an academic discipline has generally, compared with other social science disciplines, been shy of environmentalism. The reasons for this, as Redclift and Woodgate argue in their introduction, have their roots in the foundations of the subject. The mission is impossible because study of the environment is inherently interdisciplinary and the emergence of the `environment’ as a special focus is part of the ongoing process of redrawing the boundaries of academic disciplines that has been paralleled by the critiques of grand narratives from post-modernism. As in nature so in society; evolutionary change is built in. Nevertheless Redclift & Woodgate have been able to bring together a body of material that does provide a useful starting point for teaching and researching environmental issues in Sociology. It is now clear that positivistic environmental science approaches are a necessary but insufficient basis for environmental knowledge and policy formation. It is the claim of Sociology as an academic subject that it can offer societies and cultures a means of self-knowledge and therefore the opportunity to learn and change.

The three volumes of The Sociology of the Environment reproduce key articles and excerpts from environmentalist texts in a form that can be readily accessed by teachers and students. In volume I there are two main sections headed `Foundations’ and `Marxism & the Environment’. There are a total of twenty-nine chapters. The selection is weighted towards what the editors call a structuralist perspective, of which Marxism is `probably the foremost example’ (pp.xvi) In volume II there are three sections headed Neo-Malthusianism and Environmental Determination, Biocentric Theories: Deep Ecology, Gaia , Ecofemimism, Radical Ecology. This consists of a total of thirty-four chapters. This volume contains what might be described as the core `green’ perspectives which are distinctly anti-industrialist and positions that reject `modernity and enlightenment’ although each of these sections contain leftist critiques of these positions In volume III the editors bring together the material that is more likely to seen as already within the parameters of mainstream sociology, albeit in different packages. There are four sections headed Scientific Enquiry and the Environment, International Perspectives, Social Movements and the Environment, post-industrial Utopianism. There are thirty-four chapters.

This particular collection was the first in what was intended by the publisher to be a series covering the spectrum of contemporary sociology from development through to gender relations. Overall some sixteen titles are promised the series editor is Professor Howard Newby. The title of the series is the International Library of Critical Writings in Sociology, a title that has echoes of the Routledge International Library of Sociology that some may nostalgically recall as the `golden age’ of sociology between 1940 and 1970. This series however reflects the more recent priorities of the post-Thatcherist publishing and managerialism as well as clever niche marketing. It is not aimed at gentlemen scholars and students with money to spend and the time to read. It is targeted at academics and librarians faced with year on year cuts in the journal budget and `new’ universities who have to build library stocks quickly to meet teaching quality criteria. It also fits well with ten-week modular courses. The cost of library resources for a new elective module on The Sociology of the Environment we may surmise is now around £400. It is a pity that a collection with this ambition lacks a Series Editors preface setting out the objectives of the series as a whole. The editors’ introduction, which provides some background to selection criteria, is only four thousand words long for a text approaching one million words. This seems to this reviewer penny pinching in the extreme. We are not told for example whether some publishers refused to grant copyright permission so we are unable to say whether items that are widely regarded as classic are missing because of editorial bias/ignorance or because they were not available. This is especially regrettable in a new field like the sociology of the environment where the boundaries are uncertain and a clear and impartial map of the terrain is badly needed.

Redclift & Woodgate are clearly aware of the dangers of the selection minefield they face as editors. They are candid in acknowledging that the environment presents a serious challenge for academic sociology in a variety of ways. How can there be a `sociology of the environment’ when the environment is literally the container of all human activities? Moreover, the ‘activists and popular gurus’ (vol.I. pp.xiii) who have defined the field in the absence of sociologists have done so holistically and willfully ignored academic boundaries. Many of these ‘gurus’ and activists have seen science and academia as a part of the problem rather than a source of solutions. The editors do admit their bias in their brief introduction by owning to a structuralist position, which they clearly regard as primarily Marxist. There is no reference to structural functionalism or systems theory although these have in fact been influential in ecological thought. see for example Niklas Luhmann in German sociology. (Luhmann, 1989) The editors seem not to have made selections that are directly or explicitly critical of the structuralist neo-Marxism they espouse. Again, we can turn to German sociology for examples. Helmut Wiesenthal & Claus Offe in their work on new social movements identified the ‘black hole’ character of structuralist and systems thought which left no room for ethical choice or agency.

As the new social movement literature has demonstrated, it was precisely the epistemological constraints imposed by structuralist and systems modes of thought that opened the door to the methodological individualism and turn to rational choice of 1980’s social science as well as the turn to ‘new age’ modes of thinking and acting; what anarchist Murray Bookchin polemically called ‘eco- la- la’ in his war of words with deep ecology. The structuralist and system modes of sociological thought that became fashionable during the 1970’s did not seem to leave much room for agency. The ecological social movements that emerged during the late seventies and increasingly influenced policy during the eighties owed very little to sociology, which had become the social science of constraints. This must be an embarrassment for those wishing to develop leftist critical perspectives in environmentalism as Redclift & Woodgate clearly do.

While this very substantial collection of articles and excerpts cannot be said to have given us a flawless map of the sociology of the environment, it is the best we have had to date. This is in part due to the paradoxical fact that the editors have been obliged to include a great deal of material that does not have sociological origins. It will undoubtedly be very useful for those wishing develop courses in this area. Although £415 does seem to be a lot of money to pay for three books it would be necessary to spend a lot more on library resources to start new sociology of the environment programmes. Even though this collection was published in 1995 one of its merits is that it includes a range of historical material from Malthus, and Engels as well as more contemporary historical articles from the sixties; Garrett Hardin – The Tragedy of the Commons, Glacken -By a Rhodian Shore; also seventies material, Schumacher – Small is Beautiful, Hirsch – The Social Limits to Growth, Ivan Illich – Tools for Conviviality, Arne Naess – Deep Ecology , Enzensberger – Critique of Political Ecology. The strongest area of the selection is the attention given to international perspectives, with a wide range of excerpts and articles from the field of development studies. The sections on New Social Movements and Science were a disappointment to this reviewer, precisely because these are areas where sociology has made a real contribution to modern environmental studies, this may be due to publishers’ refusal to give copyright permissions, although we are not told that this was a constraint. The section on biocentric theories and deep ecology could have been stronger and shown to have played a more influential role than that which is implicit in this collection. The strongest challenges to human centred values have emerged from these circles and consequently have played a very innovative role in environmental ethics and our thinking about nature. With reservations then we can say that those wishing to strengthen environmental studies library resources and those wishing to develop new courses in the sociology of environment should seriously consider The Sociology of the Environment.

In many ways The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology is a more authentic sociology-based collection than the volumes referred to above. Most of the thirty contributors were commissioned by the editors to write for this collection. It is also much less of an introductory collection and would appear to offer more to graduate or advanced students in environmental sociology and related subjects. It is, as the publishers blurb claims, interdisciplinary in spirit. This is a collection that can be used by other social scientists, for example in politics and geography. In Part I, which is headed ‘Concepts & Theories in Environmental Sociology’, there are eleven commissioned essays, which cover a spectrum of perspectives in this emerging field. Riley Dunlap, who has been researching and publishing in the field for more than twenty years provides a useful history and assessment of North American experience. Fred Buttell, another American sociologist who is one of the pioneers of environmental sociology provides a challenging chapter arguing the case for a synthesis of the biophysical and social dimensions of environmental change. Given the history of sociology and its difficulties with `naturalism’ this kind of reconciliation of the symbolic with the material worlds, if persuasive, would provide a very fruitful path for future research. Wolfgang Sachs provides a stimulating critique of the concept of sustainable development, which he regards as something of an oxymoron. Arthur Mol from the Nederlands provides a good summary of the debates around the concept of ecological modernisation. This concept seems to some social scientists to offer a plausible reconciliation of the economic and ecological spheres and the possibility of genuine technical solutions to environmental problems. It will certainly enliven the debates between ecocentric and humanistic perspectives. Overall the theoretical section is illuminating and has the merit of representing distinct angles of vision.

Part II addresses a range of substantive issues from Gender & the environment through to the entanglement of ecology and nationalist ideologies in Eastern Europe. There are also contributions on science and the environment from Stephen Yearley as well as Karl Werner-Brand on post materialist values. Part III deals with international perspectives on the environment. It really is comprehensively international with only Australasia and North America omitted from the contributions. North America is well represented with the essays in Part I by Dunlap and Buttell. It is a pity that there are no contributions from Australian scholars who have certainly made a notable contribution to the development of environmental theory and practice over recent decades. At £95 this collection is expensive. It would undoubtedly be a very useful addition to university and college libraries as a reference text. This reviewer would like to see this collection published as a paperback at a price that non-institutional book buyers could afford. This volume does somehow seem to transcend the realist/ materialist bias of the Sociology of the Environment collection. While it is still early days for environmental sociology this collection does seem to this reviewer to mark a coming of age for the sub-discipline. Redclift & Woodgate have edited a number of books together and this is the most successful to date in this reviewer’s opinion.

John Ferris

Centre for Environmental Management

University of Nottingham

Top

 

Ageing Europe, Alan Walker and Tony Maltby, Open University Press, 1997, 149 pages, £14.99 paperback, £45 hardback.

Aging and Generational Relations Over the Life Course: A Historical and Cross Cultural Perspective, Tamara K. Hareven (ed.), Walter De Gruyter, 1996, 533 pages, no price given.

As the twenty-first century begins, concern over the ageing of the population, and its effects on individuals, families, the provision of pensions, health care and social care, and the nature and quality of relationships between age groups, is set to heighten ever further. The two books reviewed here very firmly set themselves within the context of the widespread debate over the consequences of an ageing population. Each provides a wealth of detailed evidence which can be used to temper some of the more irresponsible and irredeemably negative depictions of the twenty-first century where older people are set to be a burden on society's resources', and where 'increased generational conflict' is guaranteed.

A volume in the Open University Press's series, 'Rethinking Ageing', the main purpose of Ageing Europe is to make available the findings of unique research' conducted under the European Union Programme of Actions on the Elderly. Specifically, the book reports on data gained from the Observatory of Ageing and Older People (set up between 1991 and 1993 to analyse the impact social and economic policy had on older people within the then twelve member states of the European Union) and from the 1992 Eurobaro meter survey, which provides data both on public attitudes toward older people, and the attitudes of older people themselves. There are eight chapters, including an introduction and conclusion, and topics covered include intergenerational relations and social integration, pensions and living standards, employment and older workers, health and social care, and the politics of ageing societies. Throughout the book, comparisons are drawn between the twelve member states in terms of contrasts and similarities in policy and provision, and the status and position of older people themselves. However, extended treatment of the British context is provided, particularly in terms of the employment experiences of older workers and the provision of health and social care.

The evidence presented by Walker and Maltby allows for optimism about the quality of relationships between the age groups in the context of an ageing society, but also concern about the economic marginalisation of the growing numbers of older people. The early chapters present the optimistic case. For example, attitudinal data discussed in the third chapter of the book shows that, across Europe, contact between older and younger people is frequent and valued. Moreover, there is a high level of consensus that older people should have a decent standard of living, supported through taxes or other payments made by individuals in employment and distributed by the state. For Walker and Maltby, such findings show an absence of conflict between younger and older people and suggest that relations between the generations (sic) are in good health (1997:31). Evidence that older people are well integrated within informal relations of family and locality, and are themselves active in providing services and care through involvement in voluntary organisations, further encourages a sense of optimism about the future. However, the remainder of the book is concerned to draw a contrast between, on the one hand, the healthy quality of the relationship between older and younger people, and the close integration of older people with family and local community, and, on the other, their continuing exclusion from key formal institutions in society, especially paid work.

In the concluding chapter, Walker and Maltby argue that the findings from the European research reveal a policy deficit' between the needs and demands of older people, supported by the general public, and the social and economic policies of governments in many European Union countries. Older people continue to face barriers to social integration, arising from insufficient incomes, age discrimination, and inadequacies in the organisation and delivery of health and social care, and fear of crime (1997:125). For Walker and Maltby, these are the priority areas for policy making in our ageing European society. Further, since the research findings show that older women, especially widows, represent some of the poorest and most socially excluded groups within the European Union (1997: 44), the social and economic position of older women must be a central focus in future policy.

Given that it is the first book to make available the findings of the large scale European research programme on older people, Ageing Europe is a useful addition to the literature on later life and relationships between age groups at the close of the twentieth century. It is written in an accessible style and will prove useful to students and others interested in the position of older people in Europe and their prospects over the next few decades. At times, however, the book read as if the research findings were being padded out' with discussions of other material. For example, I felt that rather too much detail was given on the Observatory itself (seven pages in length). Similarly, some of the chapters were a little thin, drawing together material that did not quite fit elsewhere. Chapter Seven entitled 'The Politics of Ageing Societies' particularly disappointed: it is only ten pages long and three full pages are taken up with bar graphs. Finally, as I have noted in my reviews of other books that appear in the same series, at £14.99 for only 126 pages of main text, Ageing Europe is massively overpriced.

In contrast to the brevity of Ageing Europe, the volume edited by Hareven is a very weighty tome. Comprising twenty-four chapters, and with forty-two contributors, it is the result of an International Conference on Aging and Generational Relations held at the University of Delaware, USA in 1992. The focus of the volume, as described by the editor in her introduction, is 'one of the crucial social issues of our times: the supports that older people receive from their adult children and other kin' (1996:1). Geographical coverage is heavily European, with additional chapters discussing generational relations in the United States, Japan, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand. The emphasis of the volume is historical, with a particular focus on the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth century, although a number of chapters do deal with generational assistance in contemporary society and the concluding chapter speculates about generational relations in the future.

The essays in Aging and Generational Relations Over the Lifecourse are argued to help redress some of the 'misconceptions and myths' about generational assistance, by providing a picture that is more accurate historically and cross-culturally. In part, they do this through utilising a life course perspective, which provides a dynamic approach to understanding earlier life antecedents of generational supports', in contrast to analysis based on evidence from surveys and censuses that are limited to one point in time (1996: 2). One of the myths that the contributions to the volume effectively challenge is that the past was a golden age for intergenerational support. A reoccurring theme is that generational assistance has long been the outcome of strategies, such as the parental generation using material reward (inheritance) as a guarantee that their offspring will not abandon them in their old age. Several chapters share a concern with examining patterns of residence between older people and their offspring, in particular the interrelations between co-residence, marital status and gender. In an interesting discussion of care for the aged in rural Iberia, Brandes examines practices of ‘rotational care’, where widows, in particular, spend a month at time at each of their children's house, especially those of their adult married daughters. A further theme addressed by several contributors is the impact of social change on patterns of intergenerational support. Thus Guinnane examines the impact of the Old Age Pensions Act of 1908 on generational assistance in rural Ireland, arguing that it significantly increased the income of the aged. It did not, however, greatly effect the tendency for the aged Irish to live with their kin: as a consequence the well-being of both parents and offspring was increased.

Social change of another sort is featured in the chapter by Hogan and his colleagues, in their nuanced discussion of the consequences of increased longevity for transitions in generational relations. Advances in medicine now enable more and more people to survive to advanced old age. Consequently, the shift in people's generational positioning is delayed: individuals remain a ‘child’ with responsibilities to aged parents, whilst simultaneously being parents and grandparents to their own offspring and their children. The prolonged transition in generational relations becomes especially problematic if the aged parent suffers ill health, placing their children under a range of pressures, not the least of them financial.

I hope I have illustrated that there is much of value in Aging and Generational Relations Over the Life Course. The contributions together represent an important collection of evidence on generational assistance and therefore a useful resource for scholars of family relationships and the status of older people within kinship groups. However, this is a most unruly book. Given its length and the number of essays it contains, the absence of numbered chapters is frustrating and makes navigation of the book harder than necessary. Moreover, a book with twenty-four chapters would really benefit from division in to thematic parts. As it is there is no internal sectioning and no obvious rationale for the organisation of the contents. For example, Guillemard's reflections on the nature of equity between generations is a discursive essay, which appears after a chapter on family relationships in Italy and before a discussion of widows in turn of the century Texas. In general then, I think this book would have greatly benefited from more rigorous editing. At the least, some contributors should have had their number of tables and figures curtailed. The chapter by Tedebrand on Sweden is short, at only nine pages, but is accompanied by twenty-two pages of figures and tables! Several other chapters were similarly overprovisioned.

Finally, whilst the back cover claims that the book has implications for contemporary public policy, this aspect is insufficiently to the fore both within individual chapters and within the editor's introduction. This is a book which could have been so much better. It is a pity that its unruliness to some considerable extent detracts from the central message it shares with Ageing Europe: that relationships between generations have always been, and will continue to be a key social issue, of fundamental importance to individuals, families and society as a whole.

Jane Pilcher

University of Leicester

Top

 

The Journey of Life: A Cultural History of Aging in America, Thomas R. Cole, Cambridge University Press, 1997, vii-xxxv + 260 pages, £7.95 paperback.

This book is a critique of the rational, medicalized approach to later life, which characterises contemporary understandings of the latter stages of the lifecourse and which has its roots in the Victorian period.

This striking book fills a real gap in socialgerontology. As its name indicates it is a cultural history of aging. It is a genealogy of the meaning of old age - not only as a referent filled with cultural meaning but also as the framework for the experience of becoming and being old. The author states of his genealogy that it "follows two motifs - the ages (or stages) of life and the journey of life - which have provided the basic musical phrases for those who would sing about aging. In one sense, the book results from my own engagement with these motifs, my personal and intellectual grappling with their significance. I invite the reader to do the same"(p xix). So on the one hand the book deals with the conditions for the emergence of knowledge and truth about the life and late life - a very Foucauldian project. It is also an invitation to search for more humane and richer ways of imagining late life in contemporary Western societies. The book also deals with the gendered experience and construction of later life as it emerges.

This is a very rich book, rich in purpose, detail, illustrations and lessons for us all as we grow older. Interestingly enough it is not an ethnographic portrayal of the lived experience of ordinary men and women. The analysis is located in America, although I suspect that for the most part the author means New England. It would be interesting to ponder on the applicability of New England culture to the experience of those living out West. The book starts with a very personal account of the life and death of very close relatives. These biographical details are used to convey the poignancy of being old and near death in contemporary America (and most of the Western industrialised world) which is attributed to the paucity of the cultural referents we have at our disposal, to cope with declining physical and mental ability. The book attempts to recreate the cultural (discursive?) framework in which old age and the lifecourse have been understood, from the writings and pronouncements of prominent figures of the successive historical periods the author identifies as significant, as well as symbolic representations of the whole life (rather than of old people). The Return of Rip Van Winkle and T. Cole’s (any relation?) The Voyage of Life were such notable pictorial representations. Cole’s cultural history is mostly an analysis of the impact of religious movements and interpretation on understandings of the lifecourse and the control of individual conduct. Although this is not explicitly expressed, we assume that this is because religion provided the main source of reference until the emergence of biomedicine. It is unclear to what extent these pronouncements were appropriated in practice by ordinary working class people. What drives the whole book is the search for a spiritual dimension which, it is argued, has been lacking in our understanding of ourselves as we travel through time until we become old, since the Victorian period. Cole argues that old age should be the culmination of a spiritual search for self-understanding, rather than merely the end point of a productive and active life. This implies that we need to find ways of reintegrating old age into the lifecourse, rather than excising it as is currently the case.

His quest starts with an analysis of the legacy of Antiquity in the construction of the Western lifecourse. The action moves to the New World on p.32 and stays there for the remainder of the book. The story retold by Cole is in three parts: Part I deals with the emergence of the ideas of the lifecourse and the ages or stages of life in Western culture and its reappropriation in American culture, Part II deals with the Victorian construction of the lifecourse as a dualism, and Part III deals with the medicalization and the scientific management of old age and old people. The narrative ends with an epilogue, which outlines the opportunities given by postmodernity and the deconstruction of the scientific paradigm and rationality for a reconstruction of the lifecourse, and later life, which liberates us from its spiritual desert. The account is chronological, although it is not necessarily linear. There is so much detail that it would be impossible to summarise this book. I will therefore outline below a few key ideas gleaned in the book which have caught my attention. I am therefore assuming some prior knowledge in the reader of the basics of gerontological theory.

In this book we learn about the emergence in the western tradition of the idea of the old and of the life. As far back as Antiquity, and for this we can also, of course, consult Foucault’s History of Sexuality, the life is understood as following a variety of stages, which are subjected to normative prescriptions and expectations of behaviour and conduct, derived from contemporaneous discourses- either medical or cosmological. The problematic of old age as spiritual achievement or physical decline was posed then, especially in response to Aristotelian philosophy, which conceived of the lifecourse as ascent towards maturity followed by descent. In this instance bodily failure was given primacy over other dimensions of the life experience. This is contrasted with other philosophical and theological currents, which placed a premium on a spiritual dimension, which could continue to develop and enrich the life beyond physical decline.

Christian theology reappropriated and developed these important themes about the direction of the life, its meaning and purpose, the relationship to the Deity, and of course, conduct. The Medieval period saw the emergence of a conception of the life led as a pilgrimage to a powerful God, punctuated by successive stages taking one nearer to death and rebirth. Cole also identifies a range of other factors which led to the reconfiguration of the human life course, neatly summarised by Elias as the civilizing process.

The migration of Puritans to the New World in the 17th Century had a fundamental impact on the ways in which the lifecourse was imagined in American culture. For readers who were not brought up in Anglo-Saxon culture, the detail provided by the author is illuminating. The terms of the religious debate, which these pilgrims took with them and with which they made sense of their new lives in a hostile environment, forced them to be creative when trying to cut a path into their future, not just as individuals but also as viable communities. Freed from papal and priestly authority, pilgrims relied on self-control, self-examination and the maintenance of social order to ‘progress’ in their new surroundings and along the life path. One of the key texts that Cole refers to in this section is Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Here he shows how the text acts as a symbol of life’s trials and tribulations in a hostile environment and of a search for fulfillment and individual growth. He also argues that the values displayed in this account are a precursor to the distinction between spiritual achievements and bodily weakness. Each subsequent major religious group contributed to the debate on the meaning of old age and the purpose of life.

The Victorian era proved to be a very active and fertile period for pronouncements and pictorial representations of all sorts on the subject of old age. Religious thinkers, well-meaning public figures (which included men and women), painters, writers, and doctors, were all engaged in constructing old age. The 19th Century saw the publication of the first American manual of old age. This was followed in the US and elsewhere by the publication of several such manuals purporting to offer advice on proper conduct in old age, but also on how to prepare for old age and death. The dominant theme of the 19th Century was the dual lifecourse: the active and influential young adulthood, the useless and powerless old age. This approach to the lifecourse became currency alongside the emergence and consolidation of capitalism and of the modern Protestant ethic, which proved unfavourable to physical decrepitude. Old age was confounded with death. Ill-health and obsolescence in old age were both feared and seen as preventable, primarily through temperance in adulthood and the maintenance of activities appropriate to later life. Nostalgic and sentimental views of old age were disseminated widely, but belied the reality of growing old in materially precarious conditions, which was the experience of most Americans who survived that far. Part III curiously deals with the medicalisation of old age separately from the cultural context in which it was embedded.

On the whole this is a book worth reading. However the author should perhaps have defined his use of the cultural, as well as given credit to a range of famous sociological analyses linking Protestant theology, the rise of capitalism and the commodification of the lifecourse. I note also that no recognition is given to influences other than those of the dominant cultural group and whilst this might be appropriate, a note of caution should be given and the title reflect this - hence I feel that the book is a cultural and religious history of ageing in white Protestant America.

Emmanuelle Tulle-Winton

Glasgow Caledonian University

Top

 

Understanding Crime Prevention: Social Control, Risk and Late Modernity, Gordon Hughes, Open University Press, 1998, 179 pages, £45 cloth, £14.99 paper back.

Crime prevention has increasingly become a ubiquitous term in relation to the criminological literature over the last two decades. So much so that today nearly all criminologists are writing about it, reading about it, talking about it, or at least thinking about it at some stage in their research. Similarly, its usage by practitioners, within the field of crime, has multiplied and grown beyond what anyone could have ever imagined, to emerge into a huge industry with limitless boundaries. The plethora of literature upon this topic is becoming a vast terrain, and for those students wishing to embark upon such a journey, knowing where to start may prove to be somewhat problematic. To this end Gordon Hughes’ book Understanding Crime Prevention may offer some kind of haven to those students, providing a map and tracing the journey of how this term has emerged and developed through time to debunk the myth of ‘crime prevention’ being a new concept, and to show instead that as a term it has been around for longer than we care to imagine.

Through seven chapters and a postscript Hughes provides a comprehensive and broad sociological analysis of these developments, which chronologically weaves in and out of various theoretical perspectives. He shows how crime prevention has been utilised, to varying ends, by these different stances and where the journey has reached today.

Through the first few chapters Hughes provides a historical account of how crime prevention has been used in the theoretical thought of Classicism. Here he breaks new ground by arguing that crime prevention was embedded in the notion of reform and deterrence – the tenets of classicism. Its major intellectual rival Positivism, which focused upon rehabilitation and treatment, was also aligned with this discourse of prevention. The book then moves on to what we would commonly association with the discourse of crime prevention - situational crime prevention – and of how target-hardening and surveillance have been used as preventative techniques against crime.

Chapters 5 and 6 provide a more up-to-date focus to look at the issue of the multi-agency partnership approach to crime prevention through the discourse of managerialism, and the emphasis has shifted from a total state crime control approach to more localised attempts to manage crime. Communitarianism and its impact upon crime prevention is outlined in chapter 6, and of how varying communitarian strands have impacted upon and brought the notion of community onto the crime prevention scene.

Hughes rounds his journey off with an analysis of late modernity and the emergence of what many have termed ‘the risk society’ and its impact upon the prevention of crime. He then offers three possible future models of crime prevention which he terms privatism, social exclusion, and authoritarian communitarianism.

In the preface to this book it is stated that the intention is not to give an account of all the work within this area but to provide a broad overview – some food for thought. To this end the book has reached what it aimed to set out to do. This text is ideal for undergraduates studying in the field of criminology, it will provide them with the skelton to which they have to add the meat. However, I think that beyond this undergraduate level this book may be rather too overly simplified. Nevertheless, the author has broad aims and in attempting to deal with all of these issues will undoubtedly produce a piece of work that only begins to scratch the surface.

Tina Hall

The Centre for Criminal Justice

John Moores University

Liverpool

Top

 

Jigsaw: A Political Criminology of Youth Homelessness, Pat Carlen, Open University Press, 1996, 162 pages, £14.99 paperback.

This is a cleverly constructed book, which examines the complex relationship between the young homeless and the British systems of justice and welfare. The ‘Jigsaw’ of the title refers to the state's illogical, uneven and often downright unfair distribution of rights, responsibilities and retributions to young people. Carlen calls the book a ‘political criminology’ because it sets out her thesis that young people are both victims and survivors of policies on housing, welfare and criminal justice and as such have been targeted for close surveillance, regulation and punishment. Her evidence for this is based on ethnographic research, which she conducted during the period from 1992-4. The book contains such a wealth of thoughts, information, theories and discourses about homelessness, that writing this 1,000-word review has been an extremely challenging exercise.

The book is divided into five chapters. The first chapter sets out the aims of the book and its theoretical and conceptual underpinnings: Carlen uses the theory of state/citizen reciprocity on which to base her main argument. This is essentially that an understanding of the relationship between the homeless, crime, punishment and lifestyles can be informed by an understanding of the relationship between punishment and politics. Lifestyles are imposed upon us through economic and social policy and reinforced through legislation and regulatory bodies. They are based on the notion of family and address, and so those living outside the prescribed norms cannot rely on the same little legal protection against crime. However, it is worse than this because they are punished for their lack of conformity. In the book, Carlen explains how young people cope with this as she visits and revisits the key theme of survivalism.

The next few chapters chart the historical and political development of the concept of homelessness since the time of the 15th century vagabond. Our society has always attached enormous importance to residency; and concerns about displacement and unemployment have resulted in legislation confining and curbing the activities of homeless people, especially the young. As Carlen discusses the regulation and management of young homeless people, she pays particular attention to the effect of the individualistic, anti-welfarist Thatcher years. Personal security and physical home comforts are dependent on having a place to stay and social policy is rooted in the idea that young people should live within the family until they are economically self supporting. An address is a prerequisite for employment and access to benefits, which is why young people without accommodation may need to give fictitious information to gain access to either, thus laying themselves open to criminal charges. Carlen challenges the notion of reconciliation enshrined in the 1989 Children Act. She explains that home is not always the most appropriate place for a young person to be, and the following couple of chapters concentrate on the nature of survivalism, the precipitating events and underlying causes which can lead to homelessness, and the rules, regulations and petty bureaucracies which hinder access to welfare benefits. Carlen portrays the young homeless people as outcasts from society. The young people featured in this book talk of being in a 'no-win' situation, and indeed, as a group they are not only ostracised by mainstream society but also live in an environment where they are also fearful of their own kind. They engage individually in lawbreaking activities in order to survive in a world where they need to rely on their own resourcefulness, risking violence from their contemporaries and police intervention.

In the final chapter Carlen reproduces some of the interview transcripts, thus allowing the young people to speak for themselves. As they describe the events and pathways that led them to the state of homelessness and its stigmatising effects, Carlen points out that young people on the so-called 'margins' have the same aspirations and ideals as the rest of us. They have grown up during the materialistic 1980s' and 1990's, but their sense of isolation from mainstream society is overwhelming, as they, out of necessity, use their initiative in foraging for themselves. But if we consider the energy invested by the authorities in the detection of lifestyle crimes such as drug taking, begging and prostitution, which are committed by these young people, we can surely see that this is disproportionate when compared to the effort expended in pursuing the perpetrators of some of the crimes committed against these young people, some of whom have experienced serious sexual and physical abuse. However in spite of their circumstances and experience of public regulation, these young people are still optimistic of the future, they are planning careers, further education, and to become members of the society which has rejected them.

This book is a delight and worthy of a wide audience. It is truly a richly layered work with an enormous range of ideas, insights and perspectives, all jostling for the reader's attention. My only criticism concerns the explicit distinction the author makes between homeless youth and the homeless as a group. Although the one can be regarded as a subset of the other, I believe that many of the points she makes about the young can quite legitimately be applied to all. However young people are rarely given such an opportunity to tell their own stories and voice their own views, so criminologists should find it a fascinating piece of qualitative research, in stark contrast to the more familiar, positivist approaches to the study of youth and justice. Social science undergraduates can read it as a straightforward introduction to the different explanations for homelessness and social exclusion. Further, all those with an academic interest in British social policy will find it absorbing and thought provoking, as will any student of ethnographical or qualitative research methods.

Virginia MacNeill

Department of Social Policy & Social Science

Royal Holloway College

Top

 

Random Violence: How We Talk About New Crimes and New Victims, Joel Best, University of California Press, 1999, 211 pages, £35 cloth, £13.95 paperback.

Issues relating to crime have captivated the attention of a plethora of professionals over the last hundred years, from academics to practitioners, from those working within the media to those writing fiction, and beyond. Under the broad rubric of this concept the questions which have been raised have emanated from concerns around the causes of crime, those who are more predisposed to commit crime, which areas and which victims are most at risk from crime, and so forth. This has in turn fed into a multiplicity of theories about how crime may be reduced or, more ambitiously, how it can be eradicated.

However, what has not been as prevalent within this literature are analyses of crime that seek to deconstruct it as a conceptual device in order to understand the processes whereby some acts become labelled as crimes yet others die and fade away without ever becoming enshrined into legislation. In addition to this, victimology has also insufficiently analysed why we see the emergence of a plethora of different types of victims, all of whom have various labels attributed to their experiences which advocate specific types of help. What are the underlying processes that have caused the ‘victim industry’ to become so vast? These questions become quite pertinent in light of the fact that different crimes and different victims all have their own advocates and critics; so why has the notion of random violence and victimisation emerged and grown to such extremes? In this light Joel Best’s book, Random Violence: How We Talk About New Crimes and New Victims, is a welcome addition to a limited literature. Through eight chapters and an appendix, Best attempts to get to grips with and analyse these neglected issues. The author looks at how 'random violence' and 'new victims' are socially constructed through intricate processes and how they are shaped by various institutions. Two of the themes running through this book are 'fear' of crime and 'language': the way in which new forms of violence are fed by and feed into our fear of crime; and how also the melodramatic use of language in relation to crime, is a determining factor that shapes the way we fear crime. Thus, the way language is used helps to create, shape and label problems.

In chapter one Best criticises the notion that society has become increasingly characterised by random violence. Violence, he argues, is never random but always has an underlying pattern. Indeed, sociologists have always argued that social processes are not caused by random forces but are patterned in specific, if not immediately knowable, ways. 'Random' is thus a melodramatic notion that distorts the reality of crime and creates moral panics around new crimes. Chapter two cites two examples of random violence - ‘wilding’ (a label ascribed to a group of strangers attacking and terrorising strangers) and ‘freeway violence’ (shootings of people on the freeway). It seeks to describe, understand and explain the way these acts become amplified into social problems - media attention is central to this process. However, these two examples cited were relatively short lived due to the temporary interest in such a story for the media because of the limited number of new victims. Thus the media quickly moves onto the next newsworthy 'problem'. For 'social problems' to become institutionalised into crimes they have to undergo and outlast a complex and dynamic process. This is discussed in chapter three, whereby two more examples, ‘stalking’ and ‘hate crimes’, are described. The ‘Iron Quadrangle’ of institutionalisation, whereby the media, activists, experts (e.g., criminologists), and the Government, become interlocked in a quadrangular process, is central to the process. As such, it is only when an act becomes locked in this process that it becomes institutionalised as a crime. Chapter 4 concentrates upon the importance of culture to this process.

Chapters 5 and 6 change the focus to look at the contemporary ideology of victimization. How do we think about new victims? Why have we seen the emergence of and what factors are integral to the emergence of the victim industry? What is the influence of and what is to be gained by various sectors - such as law, medicine, education, academia, and the mass media - and their claims in such an industry? Best illuminates how the growing victim industry has resulted in new and old victims being given a new founded status which has been relatively unchallenged. He problematises the way in which a wide variety of victim experiences are homogenised under specific labels, which may result in the same kind of action for a wide range of experiences.

Chapter seven shifts to an examination of the analogy of war in relation to the fight against crime. War implies that you either lose or win, however, problems are never this clear cut and wars against crime has never been 'won'. The final chapter rounds up his argument, and states that we need to look at issues around crime and victims in a holistic manner. If we fail to do this we then fail to see the bigger picture whereby crime and victimisation emerge out of specific social contexts, embedded in culture. He terms these ‘Master Frames’, which are broad orientations between diverse movements – such as ‘random violence’ and ‘victimization’ – which will aid our understanding of these parallel processes.

Taken together, this text will provide readers, from lecturers to undergraduate students, with an excellent book that is extremely readable, insightful, and coupled with plenty of illustrative examples. This book is an important addition to the literature because of the way that it challenges the idea that we live in a society that is increasingly characterised by random violence. However, as with any reviewer's job, there are criticisms which can be made. One of these is the lack of analyis of ‘race’, class, gender, sexuality, age, disability, and other sources of inequality, and how these impact upon a person's status, be it as a victim or as a criminal. The way in which these interconnect and intersect with each other in the process of criminalisation and victimisation, as so many criminologists have historically demonstrated, is absolutely central. To leave this out is therefore a glaring omission. As such, this creates not so much a gap in his work but a central tension to his analysis. The other criticisms that I could make are relatively minor, but nevertheless important. For example, I feel he over-estimates the positive changes that have been gained in rape trials and the power that victims have within the court process. Nonetheless, this does not detract from the fact that this book is a welcome addition to sociological and criminological literature and will hopefully provide the impetus for work to build upon his arguments.

Tina Hall

The Centre for Criminal Justice

John Moores University

Liverpool

Top

 

Athletes and Acquaintance Rape, Jeffrey R. Benedict, Sage, 1998, 96 pages, £30 cloth, £12.99 paperback.

Having just completed Benedict’s Athletes and Acquaintance Rape, I have concluded that the author: a) hates sport and b) is more than a tad ambiguous about sex whether consensual or not. Other than that, I found this work to be a rather unbalanced leap of faith which simply adds fuel to the popular images of male athletes of all ages, races, or talent levels to be somehow inherently out-of-control, especially in terms of matters of sexual propriety. Of course, this is nonsense.

Beyond the statistical analysis of the rates with which athletes are charged with violent crime, numbers which roughly mirror the rate in which non-athletes are charged, there is almost no evidence available to suggest anything other than that these seemingly constant streams of attacks on male athletes and propriety are anything more than spurious and agenda laden. But Benedict goes beyond this in his attempt to further the vilification of the male-dominated athletic world. His overall assumption appears constructed on the premise that by attacking athleticism while identifying an insidious hyper-masculinity component within, society may some day be able to cope with masculinity and its attributes after all. What transpires, however, is far removed from its moorings with Benedict coming off sounding less the critic, and more the jealous school boy unable to move on from the teasing incurred at the hands of bigger and more skilled playground superstars.

Plotting out some basic truths about the lives of professional athletes is not too difficult in this most highly public of forums. It is obvious to most that today’s athletes have become the social equivalent of rock stars and screen legends, with throngs of adoring fans willing to do almost anything for the chance to get closer to their heroes and their fame, power, and money. And to be sure, stories abound regarding the sexual proclivities and appetites of famous athletes, but this does not necessarily make them bad guys or, in the words of today’s discussion, sexual predators. The glaring Victorianism in Benedict’s depiction of athletes and their reported drives suggests that their sexual mores differ radically from the norm, and that somehow, in addition to their skills and value as both entertainers for the general public and cash cows for sport management, that they owe the world at large their chastity too. But I am not convinced on either count. Public figures in a sense owe us nothing, unless of course their public bearing is the result of our having voted them into the positions they occupy. Hiding behind the role model issue or the ‘what will the kids think?’ dynamic does not have any relation to the notion that ultimately athletes are still workers, albeit well paid ones, and should not be brow-beaten into social piousness simply because they make more money than we do, a point apparently lost in Benedict’s investigation.

The author seems content to work from the faddish assumption that all sex is rape, and while sensitivity to the continued exploitation of women in the contemporary world remains a perfectly legitimate road, more often than not the particular direction Benedict chooses ends up reducing women to mere receptacles and ultimately victims of their own sexuality and make-up. Contrary to traditional and, sadly, contemporary imagery, women can and do have enjoyable sex without having to re-evaluate whether or not they have just been raped. Furthermore, the women who do place themselves in what can be construed as all-too-typical situations that give others the upper hand (and as presented throughout this text), must too be held accountable for the situations that occur. Otherwise, they aid further in their degradation as conscious human actors, giving more credence and legitimacy to the state’s continued intrusion into their rights, i.e. the trend in law to disallow the dropping of charges in domestic violence cases and so forth.

Benedict’s ability to sift through volumes of court documents, briefs, and popular essays in pursuit of his analysis is to be commended, but his overall disregard for contemporary behaviors exposes him to charges of rush to judgement and the reading of history backwards. As he writes in the introductory chapter, his driving motivation behind this work was "because most of the literature treating the subject of athletes and sexual assault suffers from an absence of primary data." (xii) His presentation of primary data, however, comes with an inclination to massage the numbers and to redirect written testimony to fit his thesis rather than letting the data tell the story for him, leaving lingering doubts as to the salience and relevancy of his work.

The question of whether or not some women are abused at the hands of men, and, further, whether or not some of these men are athletes, remains pretty self-explanatory. But should infrequent charges of sexual abuse levied against an athlete warrant wholesale condemnation against the entire sports world? As is usually the case in this realm of social science, the baseline of the discussion comes down to money and power, and Benedict certainly plays this card effectively and often in his conclusions, but at what cost? For example, he finds favor in assigning comparable, if not ultimate, blame to those on the periphery of this debate such as sport management. This is because of their role in developing a culture of coddling and placating star athletes and creating in turn a gender hierarchy that ignores women. Again though, the realities of the sports world might suggest otherwise. The line between the pretense of equity and the need to keep one’s job indeed poses a challenge to even the most ethical coach or manager in this highly competitive, "what have you done for me lately" milieu, but the assumption of impropriety far and away belie the truth of the coach-athlete/athlete-management relationship. The high performance expectations inherent in these relationships often translates into low tolerance, and even if it is simply a matter of an individual’s training regimen or the more ubiquitous issue of being "bad for the team", we are still talking about an environment and a culture not known for its acceptance or tolerance of many behaviors, let alone those that run afoul of the law. And yet Benedict reminds us, frequently, that the problem of athletes and acquaintance rape is widespread, epidemic, and possibly even culturally predictable, which speaks volumes about where the work moves on from there.

Benedict doesn’t merely stop at athletes, coaches, and management in his condemnation of everyone’s role in this debacle. The general public too bears responsibility as well:

"Ultimately, it is the public—the consumers who finance the salaries of high-priced athletes—who have the most influential power to curb athletes’ violence against women. Money is the engine driving professional sports. In order to change behavior and attitudes, the millions of American spectators must give sports leagues an incentive to take action against abusive players. But Americans are complacent when it comes to watching criminal athletes as long as they perform adequately on the field…"(96)

So to clarify, in addition to an apathetic justice system, maniacal coaches and managers, and the over-rewarded athletes themselves, it is we, the general population of spectators, who allow for these continued abuses by virtue of our own widespread moral negligence. Apparently, it has been a while since Mr. Benedict tuned into a sports broadcast or read a popular commentary!

Joel Nathan Rosen

University of Kent at Canterbury

Top

 

MANAGEMENT AND LABOUR

Doctors and Management the National Health Service, Gordon Marnoch, Open University Press, 1996,130 pages, £14.99 paperback.

A book about doctors and management in the NHS written before the most recent White Paper: The NHS Modern, Dependable, must raise the question of whether it has been overtaken by events. The White Paper marks a major shift in the relation between doctors and management. It introduces the concept of clinical governance, which integrates clinical practice with the quality assurance and risk management processes, which have been widely introduced across the health service. Adverse incidents, such as the case of the paediatric heart surgeons in Bristol, have given added urgency to this issue.

Marnoch's book, however, illuminates some of the critical issues which are emerging under the new arrangements. In particular it makes a significant contribution to our thinking about clinical governance, although the terrain had not been introduced when the book was published. It offers a number of perspectives on the ways in which doctors have been involved in management in the NHS and by looking at the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches, gives valuable pointers to the way in which the new thinking might develop. He argues that the internal market did not provide the stimulus to clinicians to get involved in organisational change, which has been led by managers. However, only clinicians can exploit medical innovation in a way which reconciles the interests of patients, professionals and the wider society. This, he suggests, involves a" re-invention of the relationship between the profession and the management process." His book analyses the way this relationship has evolved in the past and offers much insight into how it may develop in the future.

Marnoch starts from the premise that it is politicians who have initiated the process of managerial reform in the NHS. In saying this, Marnoch may have underestimated the role which doctors have played, both as a powerful pressure group and as key players in delivering services. Changes in the way in which doctors are trained, and that the agreements about junior doctors hours have had profound effects on the way in which hospital services are organised.

Much of the NHS managerial agenda since the 1980s has been concerned with bringing clinical practice under managerial control. Doctors are major consumers of resources, not only through their use of drugs and technology but in the way in which they call on the skills of other staff. If managers wish to assume a proactive role in shaping the nature of healthcare organisations they need to be able to influence the way doctors carry out their work. Politicians, although setting an agenda of organisational change, have been noticeably reluctant to support managers' attempts to engage doctors in discussions about their role in health care organisations.

Marnoch argues that a great deal of doctors' work might be described as management, for example, co-ordinating resources, deploying staff; planning care and decision-making. However, doctors have not perceived their work in this way and prefer to see these activities as an intrinsic aspect of medicine. The absence of an ideology of management, which is acceptable to clinicians, has hindered the development of organisational structures for involving clinicians in management. The professional view that medicine must be practiced by autonomous clinicians, subject only to peer review, has reinforced this.

Marnoch identifies a number of ideal types of medical management. In doing so he argues that much medical work is not dominated by genuinely autonomous professionals but is controlled by standardisation and much of the work is routine and repetitious. He suggests that the internal market in the NHS perpetuated organisational forms rooted in professional and administrative tradition.

Marnoch deliberately pitches his analysis at the level of organisational change and the way this is worked out between doctors and managers rather than at the more formal level of legislation and health service directives. He sets his discussion in the context of developments in management thinking and organisational design which have thrust operational management decisions much further down the organisation and have made managers more dependent on the know-how and commitment of staff across the organisation.

The role of management in the health service has become a subject of considerable media interest and the media have readily adopted a view of grey-suited bureaucrats whose only interest is in reducing costs, whatever the damage to clinical care. Politicians have also readily latched onto this image. It is a pity that Marnoch also occasionally falls into this trap, as for example when he talks uncritically about performance driven managerialism which alienates health professionals.

Marnoch rightly recognises that by no means all health care is delivered in hospitals, but his treatment of primary care is very much more superficial than that of the secondary sector. In future, some of the most complex relations between doctors and managers will be played out in primary care. Under the GP fundholder scheme and in its successor arrangements, Primary Care Groups, GPs have been able to directly relate clinical choices to a budget which they control. This has produced a new breed of practice and fund managers, whose relations with doctors are not explored in the book. In fact, Marnoch has a tendency to treat health service managers as a homogenous group, when in fact they have very different backgrounds and professional allegiances.

Marnoch argues that the introduction of the internal market required some corporate responsibility on the part of doctors, but no systems to achieve this were in place. No fundamental shift has taken place at national level but in many hospital trusts doctors are participating in clinical directorates which represent new management structures which have not been rigorously evaluated. These may provide a non-threatening way of controlling clinicians or they may be a means of devolving the management of the health service much closer to the operational, clinical area and allowing a diversity of structures to emerge.

Different professional relationships and accountabilities have arisen within different NHS trusts. These may prove to be a convenient way for government and mangers to pass on difficult decisions about, for example, rationing services, or may represent creative new management systems which will produce a new management culture and supporting skills. Managers have a long tradition of turning barely formed policy into workable arrangements which then in turn feed back into the next policy development. Any study of health service organisations needs to be sensitive to the wide variations in the way professional roles are defined locally and the inter-professional accommodations which are worked out on the ground.

Marnoch does not explore the powerful ideologies of medicine which are inculcated through medical education, and supported through the apprenticeship system, which makes junior doctors particularly distrustful of managers. Nor does he look at the issues of skillmix and workforce planning which are also a managerial tool for using medical resources more effectively. Management in the health sector is increasingly not about management of a pyramid organisation but about alliances and collaboration across sectors and organisations: involving clinicians in this type of management may prove to be even more difficult than involving them in traditional management structures.

The subject of self-regulating professions and their relation to bureaucracy in the Weberian sense has been regularly addressed in sociology texts. The topic has been given new relevance as we see the concept of self-regulation challenged, not only in the case of doctors, but also of lawyers, teachers and other professional groups. Professions are being required to reinvent themselves in ways which are better adapted to a society where access to specialist information is much easier, where there are new patterns of education and training, and where the role of the consumer, particularly the consumer of public services, has been markedly changed. There is a whole range of key sociological concepts which can be explored through studies such as this one. The book may find a place on courses in the sociology of organisations, of work and of power relations besides being of particular interest to students of the health services and of public services management.

Alison Baker

Royal College of General Practitioners

Top

 

Enterprise and Culture, Colin Gray, Routledge, 1998, 207 pages, £45.00 cloth.

Starting this book I had high expectations. It is an important statement by Colin Gray, who has for some time been one of the more thoughtful scholars within the fragmented field of small business studies and should be read by all those interested in SMEs. I did, however, expect more. Gray’s purpose in writing this text was ‘to examine to what extent public policy can influence or shape popular attitudes and cultural values concerning work and such personal matters as ambition, expectations and business behaviour’ (p.1). The book begins with a broad ranging discussion of the politics and underlying philosophies of the ‘enterprise culture’ (chapters 1 and 2), which was the name assigned by Tory governments between 1983-91 to a range of policies aimed at regenerating the British economy. He then evaluates the empirical record of small enterprise more broadly, and the specific policies of the enterprise culture aimed at small enterprise (Chapters 3 and 4). This provides the business undergraduate, graduate and research reader with a useful source of current statistics. Gray then introduces a theoretical discussion of alternative development models (i.e. behaviourism, Marxism and others) (Chapters 5 and 6) before expanding upon his own ideas centering on the importance of culture and individual psychology of small enterprise owners (Chapters 7 and 8). Finally Gray ponders the implications for the future of small enterprise development (Chapters 9).

Early on in the book Gray uses the story of successful entrepreneur Roger McKechnie (of the Phileas Fogg crisps fame) to illustrate his contention that enterprise culture policies of the 1980s and early 1990s were aimed at the wrong people (McKechnie had worked successfully in corporate environments prior to his starting his own company). The stated aim was to support existing and generate new entrepreneurial small firms; in fact, it merely provided an enterprising rhetoric for a generation of the rapidly expanding self-employed. Gray exposes the labour casualisation inherent in the enterprise culture policies, which in reality attempted to replace the lost stable and full-time manufacturing employment with grey, black and other forms of marginal employment. Claims that the enterprise culture has brought about a net expansion of entrepreneurial, compared with all small firms are refuted: ‘as the number of small firms has grown, their average size has decreased, suggesting that the proportion of entrepreneurial small firms in Britain has been declining despite overall impressive growth in the sector’ (p.38, emphasis added). Gray concludes that the 10-25 employee size firms have the most growth potential (p.43-4). Interestingly, in the light of current managerial, training and growth-oriented policies forty-four per cent of the fastest growing firms are in London and the South-east. This suggests that if the present government were exclusively interested in supporting growth firms, they should direct their resources to these areas. Thankfully, or perversely (depending on your view on these matters), government policy has other socially and employment-oriented objectives too.

The book therefore successfully de-bunks many aspects of policy towards small firms. Underlying the enterprise culture is the central theme of policy innovations based on improving the efficiency of the capitalist system. Gray rightly points out that this does not mean accepting ‘the currently prevailing neo-classical model of economic and individual behaviour’ (p.6). Gray then questions the usefulness of the obsession with entrepreneurism. He feels that ‘this line of inquiry is almost impossible to operationalise in research terms because it reduces to a rather meaningless search for the "correct" bundle of traits or regular behavioural features’ (p.21). In other words this type of analysis constricts our understanding of the enterprise founding processes, where ‘skills in managing social relations are the key to business success and that entrepreneurs can have legitimate personal aims other than profit maximisation’ (p.16). Thus, the individual entrepreneurial profit maximisation motive of neo-classical economics is also judged lacking in analysing the behaviour of small firms and as a base ideology for a truly enterprising culture.

Gray then expands upon the personal and socially inclusive nature of entrepreneurs by incorporating the collectively oriented theoretical alternatives of Marx and Schumpeter. This is perhaps the most useful of the myriad of different theoretical analyses in the book. It is also good to see an established business and management scholar not running scared from Marxist analysis into the arms of the type of philosophical hallucinations favoured by post-modernism. In applying Marxist analysis he states insightfully that;

‘Enterprise culture policies appear to be designed more for sustaining capitalism’s "reserve army of labour" (pre-capitalist remnants, blue-collar unemployed and the lumpen proletariat) and the distressed "petit bourgeoisie" (the self employed, white-collar unemployed and small business owners) than for encouraging new capitalists’ (p.84).

In using Schumpeter’s definition of an entrepreneur - ‘a person who initiates some form of change in order to gain an advantage over the competition’ (p.88) - Gray stresses the importance of personal motivation and the interaction of economic and social/cultural aspects, whilst identifying ‘clear criteria for identifying entrepreneurial behaviour’ (p.91). Having successfully demonstrated the reductionism inherent in the enterprise culture and the neo-classical economics upon which it is loosely based, Gray then elaborates upon the individual, social and cultural aspects of entrepereneurial behaviour in chapters six to eight. These chapters (entitled The Importance of Culture,The Small Enterprise Owners and The Entrepreneur: Nature of Nurture?, draw upon a complex and eclectic discussion of culture, class, family, motivation and learning. Gray concludes that the solutions to creating greater entrepreneurial behaviour in Britain are to be found in: ‘long-term, innovative social and educational policies aimed at fostering an enterprising and cooperative culture rather than short-term, limited management skills training courses and advertising slogans aimed at promoting an individualistic culture of the entrepreneur’ (p.171). Therefore, Gray favours certain aspects of the current collectively oriented ‘network approach’ (p.185) which emphasises management and human resource development, whilst cautioning against being over-optimistic about enterprise training.

Dick Hobbs has written of the enterprise culture that: ‘It is ironical that this reviewer sat down to confront his task just as British enterprise culture was discovered floating belly up in the Atlantic’ (1992, p.303). This raises the question of why Gray is writing about the enterprise culture if it has mostly been written before? I don’t believe Gray adds any fundamentally new insights. This is not to say that the magpie-like use of theories and ideas from an impressively broad range of social science disciplines are not interesting, or that there is not much with which to agree and build upon. Gray should perhaps have concentrated on more contemporary and less moribund policy targets: the final chapter is frustrating in that he notes the usefulness of his analysis to the current situation, but fails to expand upon it. He states himself that the book is a first step (a well trodden one perhaps?). I look forward to reading a subsequent text which expands upon where we are going, not where we have come from.

There is also an inherent flaw in Gray’s argument. He seems to assume that government had (and was able to act upon) some sort of grand plan based on a consistent ideological base. This is overstating the case. In the case of the Enterprise Allowance Scheme for instance, a crisis of unemployment led to practical policies. It was not derived from the ideology but fashioned in the image of it. Gray claims that the enterprise culture was ‘an attempt at social engineering’ (p.19). Yet he later acknowledges political expediency as a starting point when he suggests that ‘to many observers ... the underlying policy target was a net reduction in the massive unemployment spawned by the collapse of large manufacturing industries’ (p.27). The intention of purpose inherent in a policy designed to socially engineer a population does not sit well with reactive and event-contingent reality of political expedience. The enactment of policy must surely be more complex, confused and multi-dimensional. There are numerous reports and articles which have demonstrated the vacuity and error of the Conservative government’s persistence with voluntarist and individualist policies (Curran and Blackburn, 1991 and Coffield, 1992 for instance). If the enterprise culture was so clearly an ill-founded idea and failed to achieve its stated goals, why bother writing another book about it? Enterprise Culture is a very elegant and well-engraved hammer to crack a rather large but hollow nut. Nevertheless, Gray’s analysis is streets ahead of the usual small business fare and is an important contribution to the field.

Simon Down

University of Plymouth Business School

 

References

Coffield, F. (1992) ‘Training and Enterprise Councils: the Last Throw of Voluntarism?’, Policy Studies, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp11-32.

Curran, J. and Blackburn, R. A. (Eds.) (1991) Paths of Enterprise: The Future of the Small Business, London: Routledge.

Hobbs, D. (1992) ‘Review article: Enterprise culture’, Work, Employment and Society, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp303-308.

Top

 

Labor and Politics in the US Postal Service, Vern K. Baxter, Plenum Press, 1994, 275 pages, $47.40 cloth.

New Deals: Business, labor and politics in America, 1920-1935, Colin Gordon, Cambridge University Press, 1994, 329 pages, £40 cloth, £15.95 paperback.

Citizen Worker: The Experience of Workers in the United States with Democracy and the Free Market during the Nineteenth Century, David Montgomery, Cambridge University Press, 1994, 189 pages, £27.95 cloth.

New Deals: Business, labor and politics in America, 1920-1935 reinterprets the ‘New Deal’ in terms of its origins, intentions and effects. Using Mancur Olson’s The Logic of Collective Action and John Elster’s Ulysses and the Sirens Colin Gordon draws heavily upon the conceptual approaches offered by rational choice and collective action theories.

Businessmen, of course, will espouse the market at the same time as they are doing everything in their power to limit its effects upon themselves. According to the author the decade or so after the First World War saw American business interests attempting to establish frameworks of private regulation in order to avoid the full ‘beggar thy neighbour’ consequences of unfettered competition. These efforts, which included private welfare plans, co-operative labour relations (usually company unions) and trade organisation, collapsed in 1929 with the onset of the Great Depression. Even without 1929, all such efforts were in any case doomed to failure because of their self-contradictory nature. The search for competitive order instead of competitive uncertainty within sectors was constantly thwarted by the self-interest of the participants. There was always an opportunity for the ‘free rider’. At the macro-economic level the need to raise consumer demand was contrary to the wage-cutting practices of most employers. The failures of the various management initiatives left a major policy vacuum which, in a more ad hoc and timid manner than has often been portrayed, enabled the Roosevelt administration to initiate a federal alternative with its National Recovery Act of 1933. Although much of the New Deal legacy survives, the competitive federal nature of the United States and economic globalisation has meant there have been major obstacles to sustaining and extending it.

Colin Gordon has written a thoroughly researched study which throws light on the antecedents of the New Deal and which is rightly critical of its widely held achievements. Although good scholarship (notwithstanding repetition of the common error of describing the IWW as the International Workers of the World [p.125]) this is a book which adopts a tightly circumscribed perspective and which needs to be read along with a more comprehensive account.

The main criticism is in essence with the full plausibility of Gordon’s thesis and his marshalling of evidence such that his enterprise is in danger of seeming teleological. The main example is that of workers’ right to organise and to then oblige employers to conduct collective bargaining. The granting of union organising rights in section 7a of the 1933 National Industrial Recovery Act for example, in spite of the section having been written by business representatives and understated in its intentions and effects by Roosevelt and NRA officials, was nevertheless seen by millions of workers as the "Magna Charta of Labor" (Bernstein p.349). The vociferous opposition to section 7a from many employers may be an indication that there was indeed, albeit unintended even-handedness in New Deal legislation and practice. There is in any case insufficient acknowledgement in the book of the ways in which workers acting collectively established their own definitions of legislative intent. Understated also is the role of politics as something which can make a difference, which can be visionary as well as pragmatic, and in the case of the New Deal was invigorated and emboldened by the popular mandate.

We can reasonably exclude from Gordon’s thesis Henry Ford with his pathological hatred of unions and fear of government. In the cases of General Motors and Chrysler, both examples of ‘rational’ corporations, there was little indication that they considered unionisation as a way of stabilising costs across the industry or that they welcomed government initiatives in this direction. It was one thing for GM executives like William Knudsen and Alfred Sloan to hypothesise (and for posterity) that they could live with collective bargaining and that they would prefer industrial to craft unionism, and even to have occasional polite but inevitably fruitless discussions with AFL leaders. This though was far from accepting let alone encouraging the possibility of collective bargaining in their factories at any time. Like almost all other American employers GM executives were determined that they would avoid unionisation at almost any cost. Section 7a, supposedly meaning different things to employers and employees, was taken by many workers to mean, as the Steel Workers’ Organizing Committee claimed, that: "The President Wants You to Join the Union" (Bernstein p.454). Many employers anticipated the difficulties which section 7a would mean for them and were powerless in the face of raised worker expectations, which culminated in a national wave of sit-down strikes. The outcome of the best known sit-down at General Motors, was, according to Gordon, that "compelling business considerations pressed GM to settle quickly" (p.233) - but after six weeks, "quickly"?

It was the case that GM and many other employers developed a ‘civilized relationship’ with unions where agendas were tightly circumscribed on company terms (Serrin, 1970). However, within the tenets of American capitalism in which business interests have had ready access to a sympathetic judiciary and to state violence, the imposition of collective bargaining on firms by workers was highly significant. It was so in terms of industrial citizenship, an enormous achievement on the part of many union and workplace leaders (and as we know from the efforts of employers to de-unionise) something which most employers want to avoid. General Motors did not give in to union recognition in 1937 because it could see the "regulatory benefits of union wages"; it was forced to if its shareholders were to get dividends that year. GM’s long term relationship with one of America’s most effective unions reflects capitalist hegemony on the one hand, and on the other the willingness of workers to unite and make themselves felt outside the ambit of the state. There is scant recognition of the latter in this otherwise informative and very readable book.

In a more focused study David Montgomery in Citizen Worker shows how the greater democratisation of government in the United States, with the extension of the franchise and the development of a culture of mass politics, was not accompanied by greater control over market forces and their effects. The dismantling of personal forms of subordination in the ante-bellum period was accompanied by the creation of new forms of domination. Although iterated as freely contracted, market and familial relationships were conducted largely on terms which reflected the interests of the powerful, and did so increasingly through agencies (police, courts, militia) not subject to democratic accountability. Workers’ access to political power often challenged, but rarely defeated elite power. The interests of the latter were often (and in the post-bellum period increasingly) embodied in laws relating to vagrancy and employment. The interpretation, application, and enforcement of such laws amounted to a "discourse of power" (p.9) beyond democratic control. This extended into employers’ rules and practices, which in effect became law through their endorsement by the courts.

The new industrial and urban moralities which were so much part of employers’ quest for greater regulation of workers at work and influence over their behaviour outside of it and as consumers, were forged by reform agencies, temperance societies and the like, in conjunction with state and local government initiatives. The establishment of social and industrial discipline clashed with more popular aspirations for democratic control. The latter was to a degree tempered by a professionalising process which practically and ideologically removed control agencies beyond the reach of popular influence:

"The capacity of the state to govern had been greatly increased where it mattered most: in the suppression of popular behaviour that disrupted the mastery of society by capitalist markets" (p.71).

As the awesome power of industrialists increased in the latter part of the nineteenth century, so in parallel judicial enactment skewed the law more in employers’ favour and further removed its effects from democratic control. Although the extended franchise assisted the "destruction of onerous forms of personal subordination", this influence was usually of little effect in areas of pressing relevance to working people - housing, poor relief, employment and law enforcement. The privatisation and professionalisation of social regulation which impinged so directly on working people’s lives, meant that little was altered by the election of pro-working class mayors and officials. In disputes between employers and workers which spilled over into the public domain, the police and National Guard invariably acted to further employers’ positions, even to the extent of suppressing public demonstrations over employers who blatantly ignored employment laws. Thus throughout the nineteenth century state authority was, paradoxically, partisanly fashioned in the midst of high electoral participation. At the same time, the state also managed to extricate itself from a significant role in the regulation of the economy.

David Montgomery provides a useful and brief account of an important aspect of the making of modern America and its working classes. His account is not the worse for omitting discussion on the nature of the state or the extent of ‘American exceptionalism’. Covering a wide range of government activity in relation to working people over the course of a century, Citizen Worker is commendably concise. At the same time the author has developed the somewhat topical focus upon legal discourse as power along with the extent to which professionalising processes are able to neutralise oppositional discourses.

Given the focus upon the state in the books cited above, it could be useful to examine the employment and labour process implications of public sector productive activity in the United States. Labor and Politics in the US Postal Service is a study of technological development and associated change in work place relations in America’s largest civilian employer. The author traces the history of the Postal Service and in doing so emphasises the technological aspects and the associated effects upon workplace relations and the experiences of postal workers. Technological developments are strongly linked to the Postal Service’s political context as a public service on the one hand, and the significance of its corporate customer base in determining levels and pace of automation. The thematic core of the historical narrative is that of the mobilisation of political forces, both within and outside of the Postal Service, in order to drive a Tayloristic process of organisational and technological change.

This comprehensive study covers the organisational evolution of the Postal Service and describes in useful detail the nature and limitations of postal mechanisation and automation. Using interviews as well as conventional archive and other sources, it also examines senior-level management strategies upon employees as individuals. The study usefully analyses the political process at work within Postal Service management and the political context within which this state-owned business has to operate. Especially useful are the descriptions and analysis of technological change. Such change is closely related to the evolution of Postal Service technology per se and the influence of major business users on technology viability (whether bulk mailers are prepared to adopt a longer ‘zip’ code for example). Also significant is the extent to which management views technological innovation as part of a consistent, long-term allegedly Tayloristic strategy of workplace control. It is in this last area that the study is weakest. The author states that his perspective is "strongly influenced by Marxian political economy and labour process theories" (p.10) and, that "postal operations are an uncertain outcome of class conflict" (p.7). What is meant by "class", other than as a term to capture long-standing workplace conflict, is not sufficiently spelled out. The emphasis upon the Tayloristic nature of management leans too heavily on an outdated and uni-directional Bravermanian approach, although the potential skill-enhancing nature of technological change is acknowledged.

"Class conflict" and "Scientific Management" are in this study portmanteau terms which include all that managers wish to do and every kind of workplace disruption. This is a pity, for as good a study that this is with its account of change and history in an important organisation, a pertinent question which the study fails to address is the extent to which there are distinctive state or public sector labour processes. Given the author’s stated debt to Marxian political economy, the absence of discussion of surplus value, labour and the ‘valorisation process’ within Marxian terms is an important omission. Such a discussion could have enhanced the author’s own analysis of Postal Service management, its objectives, and indeed clarification of the Service’s purposes. In this respect (and again, what is meant by a key concept - Scientific Management - is not spelled out) Postal Service management may be more accurately conceived as simply authoritarian rather than Tayloristic, and more recently assertive in the face of right-wing administrations and the general retreat of organised labour. Conceptual development and clarity could therefore have made this study a more important contribution than it is to current debates on the nature and determinants of labour processes in general, and on the under-studied American public sector economy in particular.

More specific criticisms are that, firstly, the chapter on workplace violence is superfluous. Attempting to connect the Postal Service labour process, "workplace resistance", and the murder of colleagues by an employee at the workplace reduces rather than enhances the book’s overall credibility. Secondly, this book is in need of more careful editing. There are numerous typographical errors (p.132, 137, 140) and a block of text is repeated (p.159).

Peter Cook

University of Plymouth Business School

 

References

Bernstein, I., Turbulent Years, 1965, Houghton-Mifflin.

Serrin, W., The Company and the Union: The ‘Civilized Relationship’ of the General Motors Corporation and the United Automobile Workers, 1970, Knopf.

Top