In early May, SASE published a set of “think notes” from a recent conference on neoliberalism organized by MaxPo. There are fantastic contributions by a range of scholars, from Stephanie Mudge discussing the problem of progressive parties and progressive experts in the neoliberal era to Donald MacKenzie’s recognition of the “mundane political economy of finance” through the LIBOR scandal. The bit that most caught my eye came from Marion Fourcade’s reflections on Schumpeter and Bourdieu, and the “twofold truths” of labor, capital, and the social sciences. In her conclusion, Fourcade argues that social scientists have to grapple with the fact that capital itself sets many of the terms under which social science research is conducted, that “we are never fully outside of the orbit of capital.” In the current moment, Fourcade argues, this twofold truth takes on new forms:
But the current period is remarkable in another way, in that it is capital that increasingly concentrates the means of intellectual production by way of the big-data economy. It is capital that calls the shots on the shape of data collection, on the use of data, on what is and what isn’t to be known. And it is often capital, too, that shares in or reaps the symbolic rewards, from Microsoft Research to Apple University to Intel Labs. For those of us who cooperate – and the numbers grow every year – the benefits are handsome. That next grant from Google, that PNAS paper, that TED talk may be ours. For the others the threat is one of obsolescence and exclusion from the real intellectual action. So social scientists face their own badfaith problems, too: our historical position as social critics sits quite uncomfortably with our involvement in an academic game whose corporate-controlled institutions we depend upon.
Check out the whole essay, and the whole collection of “think notes”, here.
Last month, there was a fair bit of reporting around a new survey looking at Americans’ knowledge of and opinions about the Holocaust. The survey was conducted on behalf of The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, and is reported (with not too much detail) here (topline results here, methodology brief here). Much of the coverage took what I would call an alarmist tone, emphasizing the seemingly low rate at which Americans (and especially those no-good, ignorant millennials) understand the Holocaust. For example, Newsweek’s sure-to-go-viral headline was “One-Third of American Don’t Believe 6 Millions Jews were Murdered During the Holocaust.” The NYT titled their story about the survey “Holocaust Is Fading From Memory, Survey Finds.”
This coverage is frustrating because the survey itself and the website by the organization that ran the survey offer no over-time comparisons. The survey does not offer data to support the claim that the “Holocaust is Fading From Memory,” at least not in terms of the questions discussed in the news coverage. The Newsweek headline is worse, in that it implies that 1/3 of Americans are Holocaust deniers of some sort; in fact, the survey found that 96% claimed to believe in the Holocaust, 1% claimed not to, and 3% were not sure. Given our current political epistemic nightmares around, e.g. climate change, I’m not super anxious about a 96% agreement on the Holocaust.*
But back to the “fading from memory” question. The NYT puts the data this way: “Thirty-one percent of Americans, and 41 percent of millennials, believe that two million or fewer Jews were killed in the Holocaust; the actual number is around six million.” Here we see the millennial blame game, but other than perhaps the implicit assumption that the 41% figure will not change over time as millennials age, there’s no other data that could back up a “fading from memory” claim. That said, the claim still might be true! If only we had some evidence.
What are your favorite introductions, overviews, and paradigmatic case studies in the sociology of technology? I’m working with a student who is about to start research on a project at the intersection of organizations, medical sociology, and technology, and because the student is already well-versed in the orgs & tech literature (think Tushman and Anderson), I’m trying to provide a short reading list to get the student situated in the more STS (Science, Technology, & Society) part of the sociology of technology literature. As I started to make my list (with a bit of help from Twitter), I realized that most of my references were more than 15 years old and I thought that I must be missing some good new work. So, dear reader, I was wondering if you had any recommendations for more recent review essays, theory pieces, or iconic case studies?
My current list (which emphasizes the intersections likely to be of interest to the particular student) is below the fold, and I welcome any suggestions!