the hollow state: economism and the evacuation of the public

A common concern raised lately about the incoming Obama administration is that the past eight years have vastly reduced the capacity of the US federal state to do anything. This is principally a function of the incredibly reckless economic behavior of the Bush administration, but it’s also because the rhetoric of “Homeland Security” and “War on Terror” have, IMHO, been used to erect an artificial barrier between state-as-police (which has been ascendant, both domestically and overseas) and state-as-ally (which has been on the decline). The outcome: a radically constrained notion of publicness; the evacuation of the public. Continue reading “the hollow state: economism and the evacuation of the public”

“paging mike godwin, mike godwin to the news desk please…”

Many of you, given that you hang out on the internet, are probably aware of Godwin’s Law. For those who are unaware, and don’t want to click my elegant and well-crafted link, Godwin’s Law simply states that “As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” While referring specifically to Usenet discussions, it has often taken on a wider meaning referring to the propensity for debates to, sooner or later, involve one side likening the other to Nazis or Hitler in an example of the beautifully named reductio ad Hitlerum* logical fallacy.

I bring this up because, never at a loss for words, the Republicans have wasted no time whatsoever in providing more support for the empirical validity of Godwin’s Law. And you can guess who they mean.

Continue reading ““paging mike godwin, mike godwin to the news desk please…””

public sociology at the border

I am in South Bend, Indiana today to give a talk on a recent paper. I was expecting an easy go at the make-shift border that consists of a dimly lit room in the Toronto airport where American Homeland Security officers check passports. After all, I have a U.S. passport and I wasn’t traveling with my Canadian Husband–that often gets us extra questions.

So, for whatever reason, I was not expecting to be grilled, and came up rather unprepared for the officer to ask me the topic of my talk. For a fraction of a second, I froze up and forgot what it was–I will be giving two talks and they scrambled in my brain–and then I was so glad when the title popped into my head that I blurted out

Economic Inequality and Attitudes toward Homosexuality!!!

And then I saw the look on his face, which lasted only a split second until he went back to a total deadpan, and he handed me back my passport and sent me on my way.

ask a scatterbrain: recommendations (saying no)

It’s getting to that point in my career where lots of people are asking me for recommendations. For grad school, for studying abroad, for law school, to a shelter for adopting a kitten (seriously), and for jobs. So I have a question for the wise world of scatterplot readers: anyone out there have a good policy on when to write letters of recommendation, and when it is alright to say no? They take me a lot of time. I understand they’re my responsibility as a faculty member. I just don’t know when it’s perfectly reasonable to say, “sorry, I can’t do this.” And also, HOW to say that without it being read as, “I don’t want to because you suck.” We’ve come full circle. I asked about saying no almost a year ago!

magical and rational

It is a strange, fascinating oxymoron of American politics that magic and rationality coexist, no less than in our politics. Political scientists have been trying to capture this with reference to emotion; others with reference to religion in politics. None of this has seemed particularly convincing to me; this morning, though, I read Arjun Appadurai’s post on the Immanent Frame, which captures at least the magic side very nicely.

That said, this post too doesn’t seem to grasp the oxymoronic character of it — oxymoronic in the techical sense, as a contradiction that is meaningful, not just wrong. Both campaigns, both candidates, all ideological approaches combine a kind of transcendence and a kind of paean to rationality here.

the finest news, and in which i confess to being not that happy about the election

The best coverage of the Obama win comes from the Onion. And I quote their story.

Nation Finally Shitty Enough To Make Social Progress
“Today Americans have grudgingly taken a giant leap forward,” Williams continued. “And all it took was severe economic downturn, a bloody and unjust war in Iraq, terrorist attacks on lower Manhattan, nearly 2,000 deaths in New Orleans, and more than three centuries of frequently violent racial turmoil.”

I have to say I’ve come off my high of the Obama win. Today it’s turned into something more bitter-sweet. I might even say I’ve become quite conflicted. It’s all because of California’s Proposition 8. To quote an email from my friend, an organizer, and someone who moved to Ohio for six weeks to register and organize voters: Continue reading “the finest news, and in which i confess to being not that happy about the election”


All that not being able to focus on work because of the election? It has resulted in an accumulation of work that needs to be done NOW. Worse, I’m tired because I was up very late hoping for resolution of the Coleman-Franken race. Worser, I was up even later because of my extremely odd decision that the day in which a Democrat takes back the White House should be the day that I embark on crossing The Fountainhead off my list of famous novels I’ve never read. Worsest, the sleep that I did get was disturbed by the trauma inflicted by CNN correspondent Dana Bash. I don’t know if it is the pointy chin or the gigantic eyes or what else about her face, but whenever she’s on camera it’s like she is actually coming out of the screen, a floating menacing head in my living room. Stop corrupting my sleep, Dana Bash.

BTW: Obama’s speech was splendid except for how Michelle’s dress was straight out of Dexter. McCain’s speech was great, but Palin not speaking at all was even better.

i’m pink, therefore i’m spam

In case you were wondering how the October of Pink turned out, I want to report that thanks to many good souls including some of our scatterfriends, I raised slightly over $2800 by wearing pink all month!  This culminated on the final day when I wore ALL pink and rode a pink bike all over campus collecting a few extra donations along the way.  For your amusement, I give you me and my partner in crime, Mo, all gussied up for our campus tour: