Popular Posts

Caveat Emptor

The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Friday, 25 June 2010


I gather my old LSE colleague Catherine Hakim is raising a few hackles with her latest European Sociological Review article  'Erotic Capital'. There is a nice Times interview here with Kate Spicer. My take is that she has written a brilliant example of what the French would call a provocation. In plain English she is yanking the chains of the gullible, cocking a snook at a part of the British sociological establishment and reaping a windfall of publicity. If I'm right, then good luck to her. 
Consider the evidence. The main claim of her article is that sexual attractiveness is a resource that women (and men) can and do use to their advantage. If Ladbrokes were offering odds on that I'd have a flutter. Consider an employer that had to choose between two job applicants who were equivalent on all characteristics that could predict  productivity. Why would they not choose the more attractive? It won't be better for their business but it might make work marginally more pleasant. What better way to make fools of your adversaries than get them all hot and bothered over a statement of the blindingly obvious. Masterly (or mistressly(?)).
Of course in reality it is rare in job hire situations to find that the ceteris paribus clause is satisfied and that, taken with significant heterogeneity in taste, leads me to believe that the premium to eroticism will be relatively small. But of course it is an empirical issue, so get writing those research grant applications. I should think a within subject design might be a good place to start with each subject being their own pre botoxed and boob-jobbed control.
The real clue though that Hakim has her tongue firmly in her cheek is the use of the word "capital". It's a surefire giveaway of her satiric intention. Why else would she use this sociological pseuds corner way of referring to what you and I would simply call a resource that people can use to their advantage? It really hits the spot though  and sucks in the  intellectually insecure Francophone snobs of  the British sociological world. Congratulations Catherine, you've hit the target again!

No comments: