granovetter rejection!

You may think I’m talking about the Nobel. But I’m not. Here is the 1969 rejection letter and reviews of an early version of Granovetter’s “the strength of weak ties” paper. It was rejected by ASR.

I asked Mark if I could share this; he agreed. He also wrote, “I’d note also that this rejection illustrates the importance of framing. I framed the original draft, which I wrote in grad school, as a treatment of “alienation”, more or less in response to the ideas of Louis Wirth and others that the city was an “alienating” place. The editor therefore sent the paper to reviewers who seemed to be European-oriented alienation theorists, who rightly saw that I was not talking about alienation as Marx did, but failed to imagine that there might be any other valid way to talk about it, as you can see from their comments. When I later revised the paper for AJS, I pulled all references to alienation out, and it obviously fared much better.”

I figured many of you would find it interesting — seeing the early reviews of a classic. It’s also slightly heartening. Even our discipline’s most cited papers have been rejected! Perhaps you have a classic in your drawer you should dust off?

dealing with nasty comments

Recently, a student who read my book decided to write in a rather nasty comment on this blog. It wasn’t so much about the entry I’d posted, as an attack on me and my book. This same person posted something roughly equivalent on Amazon. I don’t wish to single out this man, because in fact, I get nasty notes fairly frequently. My immediate response in this case was what it usually is: to dig around and find out who the person is and see where they had read the book. I almost always regret this, as I did in this case, because I usually find it’s a place where I’ve given a lecture, and had a wonderful time with the faculty and students. I want to write the faculty in the department to bring it up – particularly if the attacks are vitriolic. I want to out the person and show their colleagues and boss the kind of person they’re working with. I never do. And I want to write back to the person who has attacked me. I want to say to Mr. Mosser, for example, that it’s an honor to have my book hated by someone who is mean-spirited, angry, and cruel – that I consider it a testament to my work, that I would be more upset if someone with his character actually liked it. But this, of course, is a silly retort to make me feel better, and it plays into the same unhealthy dynamic that upset me in the first place. I’ve learned from the rare occasions where I have tried to productively engage that people simply want to spew more of their rage. Continue reading “dealing with nasty comments”

pressing asa question

Dearest Scatterbrains – I’ve been asked to help construct the ASA restaurant guide this year. I’m rather excited about the chance to write a snarky guide (“Are you sitting at the bar? No? Get up and move to the bar…”*). But in all seriousness, are there any elements you’d like to see in the dining guide? To a degree I think this is less than useful in these days of the interwebs. But I’m still happy to write in a dying medium (hell, I write books too!). I’m thinking of adding a “so you want…” section. As in “so you want a hamburger…” Shake Shack is nearby. It’s like fast food only a little better and much more expensive! “so you want to feel hip…” Go to Brooklyn. Say hi to your grad students at the next table. “so you want to go somewhere without sociologists…” I have four words for you (three places): Queens, Staten Island, Bronx. I will, of course, have vegetarian/vegan options. High end to budget (more of the latter). But any other requests ideas? And I may keep a secret place or two off the guide, for my own enjoyment. I love you all… but… well… sometimes you can overwhelm me.

* paraphrased/stolen from Frank Bruni’s review of Keen’s. Which will be on the guide. Especially if you want scotch. Or have a lot of money to pay for a steak. Don’t get the fish. Or the desserts.

adventures in writing for a larger audience

I’ve recently started writing for places that have larger audiences. Today a piece came out in Time, which will probably be part of something more regular (one a month) that I write on class, inequality, elites, and social science research. And earlier this summer I had an op-ed in the NY Times. It’s been a really interesting experience. Particularly because the editors at these places have a really strong hand in what you end up writing. I’m still very much an amateur at this stuff, so no big lessons yet, but a few things I’ve learned in the process: (1) your point has to be super straightforward. Being subtle, or, caveats, or, embedding your point within a larger argument isn’t really possible. So, for the Time piece part of what I was hoping to write about is “holding elite’s feet to the fire”: basically, that when elites felt constrained to pay taxes, they are likely to affirm their belief in such practices; but when they feel wiggle room to undermine this, they do. You can’t get that in 500 words. Especially if you’re trying to tell a story with some evidence that will appeal to people. So (2) this kind of writing is very different from academic work. Basically, with academic work you try to have a scientific attitude where you critically and skeptically evaluate your own argument. So if I look at the structure of my own book, in most cases when I make a claim the next section seeks to undermine that claim (or critically evaluate it). This isn’t what I’ve ended up doing in either of the pieces. You basically put your head down and bullishly make your argument. It can be kinda hard to do as someone who has been trained not to write like this. But still, it’s a good experience. (3) You have to deal with a huge worry of “what will my colleagues think of this?” Especially because of the second issue, no one will be terribly impressed by what you’ve written. And so it requires a little segmentation in your mind. “This is for a general audience.” (4) There is a certain degree of responsibility to your discipline when writing these things, because they’re not super common (we’re not political science or economics). And that can be heavy, and runs against the third concern. And finally (5) everyone has this line that writing these kinds of things is bad for your career — that you should be an academic first. I don’t have tenure so I can’t quite say what the ultimate effect will be. But so far, I have had no experiences that would support this view. People seem generally glad to see a little sociology in the more popular press.

topical humor?

Sent to me by my old advisor, I got a kick out of this… Happy job market!

One day while walking downtown, a well-known sociologist was hit by a bus and was tragically killed.  Her soul arrived up in heaven where she was met at the Pearly Gates by St. Peter (a social construction) himself.

“Welcome to Heaven,” said St. Peter.  “Before you get settled in, though, it seems we have a problem.  You see, strangely enough, we’ve never once had a sociologist make it this far and we’re not really sure what to do with you.” Continue reading “topical humor?”

putting my class online

So… I’m thinking of putting my Intro class online this year. Two questions: 

1.) Any resources I should look into for doing this? Things you’d recommend and/or avoid? 

2.) Any words of wisdom to push me over the edge one way or the other? Is this the greatest thing I’ll ever do, or the worst? Likely in between, of course. But experiential lessons would be most appreciated. 


ode to my father

I’m off to see my brother in London on Monday. He’s recently become a father. And it’s gotten me thinking about my own dad. He’s a pretty astonishing guy. At least to me.

My dad was born in rural Pakistan. He was born in a village, Futoke, in the Punjab region of Pakistan. You won’t find it on a map. It might have 500 people in it. Probably more like 250. I don’t know. Pretty much all of them are relatives of some kind. He was born in 1946, just before Partition (August 15, 1947). He is a child of Empire. Of course, this meant a lot and a little for his own life. His village had no running water or electricity until I was a kid (I remember when they put in “bathrooms” and got electricity). The most exciting effect of the empire on his family was that his father left back in 1957 as part of the Pakistani delegation for the Queens coronation. He was there to take care of and clean up after the horses that the military officers rode on. During that period, my grandmother had a break from having children.  Continue reading “ode to my father”

verifying results

Lisa Wade recently made me aware that a group of psychologists have decided to try and verify the results of every article written in three journals in 2008. I think this is a great idea. And the likelihood that the results can be replicated look pretty unlikely. As the Chronicle piece I’ve linked to points out,

Recently, a scientist named C. Glenn Begley attempted to replicate 53 cancer studies he deemed landmark publications. He could only replicate six. Six! Last December I interviewed Christopher Chabris about his paper titled “Most Reported Genetic Associations with General Intelligence Are Probably False Positives.” Most!”

If only 6 out of 53 cancer studies can be replicated, I shudder what to think what the social science data will say (in part because there is so much more noise in a lot of our research design).  Continue reading “verifying results”

herb gans interview

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Herb Gans and interviewing him on a forthcoming article, as well as his career in sociology. The interview is now online, alongside his article (which is provokative, and gave me a lot to talk about). I hesitated to post this because I worried that it would seem like shameless self-promotion. But the reason to read it is Gans, who has strong opinions. He also provides a nice overview of his career (a fuller version of this is provided in his Annual Review piece). Herb is someone I admire enormously. At 85 he’s still going strong. He’s even teaching our field research class this fall (as he does every fall)!