on the fetish character of theory and the regression of reading

The seductive power of sensual charm survives only where the forces of denial are strongest. If asceticism once reacted against the sensuous aesthetic, asceticism has today become the sign of advanced art. All “light” and pleasant art has become illusory and false. What makes its appearance esthetically in the pleasure categories can no longer give pleasure. The musical consciousness of the masses today is “displeasure in pleasure” — the unconscious recognition of “false happiness.”

–Adorno, “On the Fetish-Character in Music and the Regression of Listening,” 1938

Jeff Guhin innocently posted to Facebook that “doing a lecture on Habermas is ridiculous.” He may well be right, for many different kinds of reasons. But in the (lengthy!) conversation that followed, two critiques were raised that I think deserve separate treatment. They are:

  1. That much theory, including Habermas and, all the more so, his Frankfurt predecessors, is too difficult to read to make it worthwhile; and
  2. Reading theorists like Habermas is really mostly about the history of social thought and has no payoff for empirical or analytical sociology.

I think both of these are wrong.

Continue reading “on the fetish character of theory and the regression of reading”

grad skool rulz

Truly: if you are a graduate student and feel this way about it, quit. Now. Also, if you have a blog about exposing classism and have no more perspective than this on the privilege of being in the academy versus the bottom of the labor market, quit. Now.

(Well, except for #1. #1 is a good point. And #14.)

UPDATE: The question arose in the comments of whether this is satire. I think, sure, it’s satire in the sense of “this person is trying to be funny and is likely not claiming that, as a factual matter, working at McDonald’s is a fully superior job than being a grad student.” It would have worked better, though, as a satire-parody of that small proportion of graduate students who take the real difficulties of student life and transform them into delusional levels of self-pity.

asa ballots

American Sociological Association ballots are now out. I’ve posted my ballots some times in the past, but will refrain from doing so this year. The blogging community may wish to note, however, the presence of Kieran Healy on the ballot for committee on publications. Rumor is that our generous pals over at orgtheory are promising drinks for everyone–literally, multiple drinks, for every single member of ASA, including compulsory drinking for teetotalers–if he wins.

goodbye, dad

I am out at my parents’ house in California this week, working through some tough times again. My father’s battle with Alzheimer’s came to an end, and as usual, Alzheimer’s won. Memorial services for my dad will be tomorrow. I am so thankful that I arrived in time to see my dad one last time, and to tell him stories about his grandson and tell him how much I love him. He was only awake for about half an hour, and he couldn’t talk at all, even though he had so much to say. He clapped his hands to show me he was happy to see me and the rest of the family. Then, he fell asleep, and his embattled brain continued turning off the light switches and shutting the blinds until he passed away last Saturday night.

Continue reading “goodbye, dad”

dong redux


I received my dental bill from Dr. Dong today. It was handwritten. Should I think this is weird? And, if weird, is it weird in a hipster-down-home-indie-dentist way, or just weird in a bad way?

Also: Dial Idol and the prediction markets still think that Scatterplot’s own David Cook is going to win American Idol despite the best efforts of the judges to crown his competitor, the sounds-great-until-you-realize-he-does-not-actually-have-a-soul and you-would-die-if-you-had-to-listen-to-an-entire-album-of-his David Archuleta. If they are right, my faith in democracy continues to swell. (Although I’m suspicious that the Dial Idol results are just a ruse intended to keep the outcome in suspense instead of Archuleta being the obvious winner.)

orgtheory turns two

BTW, orgtheory celebrated its second anniversary yesterday, so wish them a belated happy biennium if you haven’t.  Even better, rumor is that they are working on a charity “Boys of Orgtheory” pin-up calendar.

We may be younger, but we are feistier and will still kick their bothers in the Wii tournament at ASA.   Although we may need to add some more athletic guest bloggers if we want to also win the Capture the Flag match to be held on the Boston common.

BTW-BTW, one of the things I did at PAA was go bowling at this place that played live zydeco while you bowled.  I haven’t bowled since grad school, and even then only a few times, but still got a 139, including a strike-strike-spare-strike run before the cocktails kicked in.  A woman in our group who hadn’t bowled before and had a delivery like one of those sidearm baseball pitchers got a 29.  It made me wonder about how on earth Barack Obama, even if he hadn’t bowled since he was eight, could only get a 37.

orgtheory.net is scared of us


I recently attended a research talk by one of our good friends from orgtheory.net. I was introducing the speaker and therefore got close enough to the powerpoint to read the fine print on the opening slide. (Apologies for the two-piece picture, but the cell phone camera has its limitations). In case you can’t make it out, it says “Warning: You may only blog about this talk if you are going to say nice things about it.”* Since I wasn’t aware of any bloggers in the audience other than me and one other scatterbrain, I had to conclude that the speaker was referring to us and was afraid of what we might say about his talk on scatterplot!


* To fulfill the implicitly agreed-upon contract implied by this warning, I will say that the talk was excellent, even outstanding, as we have come to expect from those org heads.

happy birthday, jeremy!


you rock!


your blog

(Note from Jeremy: Sara is renowned for wanting to do birthdays up big. However, I resized the photo and put it in just as a thumbnail so that it would not be so big as to crash anyone’s browser. The photo is from last year, when we were at the Eastern Sociological Society meetings in Philadelphia on my birthday, and Sara indulged my desire to run up the steps to the Art Museum like in Rocky and to have my photo taken in front of his statue.)

i had an idea today

As long as we’re having name tag ribbons, I think we should also make a sash. The sash should be given as a great honor, worn by a different person each day. We can decide who gets it through a series of competitions. One of the competitions should be at the scatterplot party, and the sash will be given as a door prize based on some criteria. I suggest the criteria be, “that person who clearly least wants the sash.” But that’s negotiable. There’s no way org theory will have a sash. Take that, org theory!


I’ve not been feeling very bloggariffic, for whatever reason. I have been angry at the Confederacy lately. No Confederacy, no Civil War. If not for Civil War and its aftermath, the major city of the Midwest would be St. Louis rather than Chicago. Which means that the structural equivalent of Northwestern would be located there instead of here. And I would have the same job with all the same splendid people, only winter would be shorter. Curse you, Dixie.

Anyway, while I’ve been at a blogging ebb, a new WordPress venture has begun whose raison d’blog is “preserving the wit and wisdom of sociology bloggers.” The posts are 1-2 sentences with links to us and other sociology bloggers. I’ve no idea what the point of it is. I don’t know if this is yet another incarnation of those people who’ve been obsessed with Scatterplot. Looks like it maybe. Crazy. Mere boldface and italics are insufficient to express how I am so not in the mood for that. In any case, presumably there’s some proto-noxious intent, and so following company policy I’m not going to link to it. Good to know that our sociology celebrity continues, however, even in spells of lower posting.


In a thread on orgtheory, the moribund blog “left2right” was brought up, which was apparently an effort by Rock Stars of the Academic Left to have a blog about reaching out to the right. In general, blogs fail when they are premised on the idea of writing for people who’ve adamantly no interest in reading what you have to say, especially when posed in unidirectional “myWisdom2yourIgnorance” terms.

Anyway, Omar then likens it to the idea of a blog called “soc2econ,” which may be the Single Most Hilarous Joke Academic Blog Concept Ever. soc2econ: The blog by sociologists who want to reach out and impart their wisdom to economists eager for enlightenment. I literally had to hold the sides of my head to keep it from exploding as all these possible jokes rushed into my brain. If I had time and graphic design wherewithal, I would be putting this together for April Fool’s Day. If I do sometime, y’all have to play along. Everybody has to pretend to be extremely earnest.

I still believe that nothing points to a difference between the disciplines of sociology and economics quite as incisively as Continue reading “soc2econ!”

sweet chariot

Remember that OtherBlog that was obsessed with us? The one that, when I pointed out that there was a blog obsessed with us, abruptly vanished? The one that came back with a declaration that it would be about culture and music and whatever else other than being obsessed with us? The one that within a month became completely obsessed with us again? The one that, after I mentioned its being obsessed with us again, deleted itself again? The one that then decided that it would divide itself into a private blog that would be unconflictedly obsessed with us and a public one that would not talk about us at all? The one about which we all thought: how are they possibly going to manage to keep a public blog going without it being about us? Continue reading “sweet chariot”