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

Friday, 6 December 2013

Bourdieu, BSA and Class

Sorry to see that the BSA's Bourdieu Study Group seems to have suffered a severe irony breakdown (thanks to MP for the tip-off). Oxford Sociology wishes them a speedy recovery of their rational thought processes (though I'm not holding my breath).

The report on their meeting: Measuring Social Classes: Bourdieusian Approaches  appears under the delightful Bourdieusian appercu that serves as the running head for their blog:

“I often say sociology is a martial art, a means of self-defense. Basically, you use it to defend yourself, without having the right to use if for unfair attacks.”

This elevating thought doesn't seem to have informed the attitude of one of the speakers for Dr Will Atkinson is reported as opining:

"Anything that challenges the 'strangle hold' of the Nuffield theory of class can only be good."

Great to see that  the tradition of measured, reasoned debate (preferably with a few arguments) lives on in Bristol.

On the other hand, one should perhaps spare some sympathy for Dr Will, for in the next sentence his sideman, attempting to explain his arcane reference to the uninitiated,  lets him down:

"This of course referred to the well-established Goldthorpe class schema which dates back to the early 1960s and has become a standard approach to classify class in Western sociology. "

Whoops. No. You are in the wrong decade. The first publications using the Goldthorpe class schema  appeared in the journal literature in 1977 and the book in 1980. I know British sociology prides itself on being weak on quantification, but now it seems that basic bibliographic technique is going out of the window too.

Condolences Will. You just can't get the staff these days.

At the same gig Professor Savage performed his usual set, though this time with an intriguing variation (if the report is to be believed).  We are told that:

"One of the problems and the ‘Achilles heel’ of the project [the GBCS] was that the working class were not representative, even through 13,000 people in that category completed the survey. However, the nature of the skewed sample was a finding in itself and will be built on in the research teams next phase of their work to unpick power and privilege."

If this is an accurate report (it may not be) then the good professor can give us all a lesson in how to turn necessity into a virtue by setting the knowledge bar so low that everything qualifies as a finding, no matter how banal. There's chutzpah. I've now seen the future and it is impact, impact, impact!

Turning to more cheerful news, the journal Sociology has now accepted (fair do's to them) my radically shortened critical comment on the Savage et al. GBCS article with no comments from either of the referees: make of that what you will. You can find the original long version here and I'll post the new version on my website until it goes live in the journal's online first section. The latter may take some  time. For most articles the time between acceptance and appearance in the online first section appears to be roughly 7-12 months, unless, that is, you have an inside line, then you get 2 months from acceptance to publication in the print version. Say after me: impact impact, impact!

You've got to laugh, so for all you German speakers here's Hape Kerkling as Professor Evje van Dampen: Liebe ist Arbeit, Arbeit, Arbeit!

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