Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What Top Level Sociology Looks Like

I read the devastating review of Erik Olin's latest book, Envisaging Real Utopias. That motivated me to watch his video on his latest book, and it contains anecdotes supporting his vision of people working in the Marxist ideal: "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need". To highlight he's in the mainstream, here's Lane Kenworthy, a sociologist at the University of Arizona, arguing we need more welfare of all sorts. There's a simple, egalitarian theme to their findings. They give a good example of what top-level sociologists are doing

Olin notes Wikipedia is based on his ideals and works, ergo...I guess, why not have General Motors and Google run that way! He's a fan of neighborhood participatory budget assemblies, as local communities serve the commonweal without the inefficiency and duplicity of Washington. He didn't mention it, but as he's a good liberal (Marxist, actually) I'm sure he's against states' rights, or cutting state taxes to replace with local property taxes, and for all sorts of Federal regulations. See the PowerPoint slides here. I generally find the highly abstract, and parochial proofs in economics to generally be a waste of time, yet they are superior to theories presented as a flow chart.

He's the president of the American Sociological Society. I'm sure he's a smart, thoughtful guy. He's just worked himself into an intellectual cocoon where his silly talk seems respectable. As a 'scientist', he presumes his simple biases are actually fact-based, but he is so selective in his view of the data, it highlights that education mainly allows us to articulate our prejudices better. He highlights that one can be an intellectual, respected by one's peers, have an esteemed affiliation, and be totally clueless.


michael webster said...

Eric, I am uneasy about your review of a review. I have liked your particular observations on risk.

This coarse attack by dissentmagazine is grade school stuff - nothing really to it, but clever and nasty sound bites.

You are not making it easier to accept your thesis on risk, which is more than controversial as it flies in the face of 200 years of risk research.

Don't make it easier for people to dismiss you, by siding with cheap attacks outside your field of competence and interest.

Eric Falkenstein said...

Well, first, people are multifaceted, often good at some things bad at others. So, my incompetence in X is only a weak signal of my competence in Y. Kary Mullis, after all, believes in astrology, but also created PCR.

But, what, specifically, do you think is incorrect with my review? That his Real Utopias are feasible? Inspiring? Well documented? That Olin is not respected? not deluded?

Ian said...

I found the review interesting. This is a blog, I dont want it to be a 100% about the risk premium. But 80% seems like a good mix

Anonymous said...

That review was fun. Thanks for posting it.

Anonymous said...

Excellent review!

Anonymous said...

Sociology is a soft science. Nothing but theory.

Although Erik Olin might be a very educated person, in the photo on that link he looks as down right loopy as Theodore Kaczynski.

Anonymous said...


Since colleges have dropped hard science course requirements in favor of black history, women’s studies and sociology, it is not surprising to see a work force pool made up of people who are Underachievers And Proud Of It.

Thank you for helping to point this out.

Anonymous said...

After your mention, I started reading his book(some chapters are free on his site) and I have to say the review is completely off the mark. It is very cogently book with a lot of supporting data.