2013 Featured Abstracts

The Membership and Outreach Committee identified five paper presentation abstracts and two critical dialogue abstracts from the 2013 Annual Meeting and one abstract from a SSSP co-sponsored mini-conference as exemplars of the types of research activities/social action-oriented work that our members participate in. See below for these exceptional abstracts.

2013 Annual Meeting Paper Sessions Featured Abstracts

Trevor Hoppe, Sociology and Women's Studies, University of Michigan

trevor hoppe

From Sickness to Badness: The Criminalization of HIV in Michigan

Sociological approaches to the social control of sickness have tended to focus on medicalization or the process through which social phenomena come to be regulated by medicine. Much less is known about how social problems historically understood as medical come to be governed by the criminal law, or what I term the "criminalization of sickness." 33 US states have enacted criminal statutes that require all HIV-positive individuals to disclose their infection before engaging in a wide range of sexual practices. Drawing on evidence from 58 felony nondisclosure convictions in Michigan (95% of all convictions between 1992-2010), I argue that the enforcement of the state's HIV disclosure law is not driven by medical concerns or public health considerations. Rather, it reflects pervasive moralizing narratives that frame HIV as a moral infection requiring interdiction and punishment.

For more information, contact Trevor at thoppe@umich.edu.

Megan R. Klein, Department of Sociology, Loyola University Chicago

Integrated Schools Without Integrated Neighborhoods: A Look at the Balkanization of Evanston, Illinois' Fifth Ward (1967-2012)

megan kleinEven in statistically integrated cities with racially balanced schools, school integration comes at a cost to Black residents that is not shared by White residents. Social scientists have demonstrated that residential segregation is linked to school segregation. Yet how does residential segregation shape the process of school integration within a statistically diverse city? As the first Northern city to voluntarily integrate its public school system, Evanston offers a laboratory for analyzing the process of integration and its uneven effects on local neighborhoods. Using archival data and in-depth interviews with residents of Evanston's historically Black neighborhood, I show that despite achieving the desired outcome of racially balanced neighborhood elementary schools, Evanston's integration plan, which ultimately closed the elementary school in the historically Black neighborhood and strengthened schools in the surrounding White neighborhoods, reproduces existing inequality in the city.

For more information, contact Megan at mrigsbyklein@luc.edu.

Randy Martin, New York University

randy martin

Debts and Derivatives: Toward A Critical Social Logic

In the aftermath of the great bailout of capital in 2008 (and still ongoing) finance has often been seen as external and parasitical to the real economy. Instead, finance and other forms of capital have become more closely articulated and interwoven. A critical social logic of the derivative is offered here, following on Marx’s analysis of the commodity, to consider what is meant by dominance of finance, what difference finance makes and the politics of debt. The derivative provides key insights into the apparently detached process by which money seems to beget more money, and at the same time discloses the internal socialization and interdependence that is at the root of a politically generative mutual indebtedness.

For more information, contact Randy at randy.martin@nyu.edu.

Abigail C. Saguy, UCLA Department of Sociology, UCLA Department of Gender Studies; Henri Bergeron, Center for Sociology of Organizations - CNRS, Sciences Po; and Patrick Castel, Center for Sociology of Organizations - CNRS, Sciences Po

Do Frames Matter? A Longitudinal and Ecological Analysis of the Relationship between Ideas and Policy

patrick castelhenri bergeronabigail c. saguy

Political struggle over how to define, or frame, social phenomenon is an important feature of contemporary politics and is assumed to inform subsequent policy.  Yet, the relationship between framing and policymaking remains understudied and undertheorized. This article begins to remedy this deficit by arguing that synthesizing three broad sociological and political science literatures that rarely speak to each other provides important insights and significant theoretical leverage for addressing this question. Through a review of the literature on social movements and framing, social problem construction, and political theory (on agenda setting, ideas-driven policy, and policy instruments), this article argues that the relationship between social problem framing and policy making needs to be problematized, even when the two appear to be consistent with each other. This article presents a general framework of theoretical propositions, for understanding the relative consistency between dominant social problem frames and subsequent public policy, to animate and guide subsequent research.

For more information, contact Abigail at saguy@soc.ucla.edu.

Lori Sexton, Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, University of Missouri, Kansas City, and Valerie Jenness, Department of Criminology, Law and Society, University of Califonia, Irvine

Competition, cooperation, and community in prison: An empirical examination of collective identity and collective efficacy among transgender prisoners

lori sexton

Over the past half a century, a considerable body of social science research has revealed the social organization of prison life as well as social processes that undergird the daily lives of those who inhabit prisons—inmates and correctional personnel alike. It is beyond dispute that prisons provide a particularly vivid empirical window through which to examine basic features of group living and social structures, especially in environments easily characterized as harsh and predatory as well as routine and mundane. Prisons serve as a sociologically rich site in which core social processes, such as competition, cooperation, and social control, result in structured empirical realities. As Clemmer (1940) persuasively demonstrated in his classic work on The Prison Community, the prison is a microcosm of society. Over thirty years later, The New York State Special Commission on Attica (1972: 82) summed this up poignantly: “While it is a microcosm reflecting the forces and emotions of the larger society, the prison actually magnifies and intensifies these forces, because it is so enclosed.”

In the foundational works of Clemmer (1940), Sykes (1956; 1958), and others, prison life has been described in rich detail and utilized to understand a host of sociological concerns, most notably adaptations to conditions of confinement, the parameters of inmate culture, and the stratification order that structures prison life. This literature yields a paradoxical picture of prisons. On the one hand, prisons are generally understood to be harsh environments, full of potential problems and conflicts born of the deprivations inherent to prison life. In one of the most famous accounts of prison life, Dostoevsky commented, simply, that prison “sucks the living sap out of a man.” More recently, Bonta and Gendreau (1990: 347) succinctly described prisons as “barren landscapes devoid of even the most basic elements of humanity.” In the modern era, prison sociologists point to the state-sanctioned loss of freedom and deprivation in environments that are replete with intergroup conflict, abuses of authority, violence, and other threats to health and well-being (Carrabine, 2005; Crewe, 2009, 2011; Rhodes, 2004; Sparks, 1994; Sparks and Bottoms, 1995; Simon, 2000; Sexton, 2013). As Carrabine (2005: 897-98) describes, prison “generates intrinsic and fundamental conflicts, not least since prisoners are confined against their will, with people they would normally not choose to be with, in circumstances they can do little to change and are governed by custodians who police practically every aspect of their daily lives.”

val jenness

Complicating this picture of prisons as uniformly harsh, the prison literature also reveals the myriad ways carceral environments are characterized by cooperation and collaboration based on institutionally recognized shared identities and subjectivities. Despite—or perhaps as a result of—being confined in institutions characterized by harshness and laden with conflict and coercion, inmates operate in a highly structured social environment with mutual expectations of loyalty and allegiance. Whether inmate culture is understood to be the product of the carceral environment itself or a variant of a more general criminal subculture, it is commonly accepted that, within prison walls, there is a cohesive inmate culture characterized by group-shared norms (Clemmer 1940; Hayner and Ash 1940; Sykes 1958; Sykes and Messinger 1960), including norms that define a stratification order particular to prison life. Historically, these norms have take the form of an inmate code that emphasizes strict loyalty to other inmates—epitomized by Hayner and Ash’s (1940) “right guys”—and unabating opposition to prison staff.

This choice between solidarity and affiliation on the one hand, and self-interest and conflict on the other, reveals a complicated picture of prisons as environments paradoxically characterized by harshness, deprivation, and distrust as well as inter- and intragroup loyalties and commitments that integrate and bond prisoners. As such, prisons provide a unique setting in which to examine the tension between conflict and cooperation born of self-interest and collective allegiance in a closed social system with finite resources for surviving and managing a particularly harsh, degrading, and disempowering social environment. Likewise, transgender women in prisons for men—a group of prisoners who are uniquely situated as “the girls among men” and therefore face unique challenges in men's prisons (Sexton, Jenness and Sumner 2009; Jenness 2010 a, 2010b; Jenness and Fenstermaker 2013)—constitute a population of prisoners who provide an empirical window through which to examine the extent to which collective allegiance and cooperation exist against a well-established backdrop of self-interest and competition among a stigmatized group of prisoners. To understand transgender prisoners' identities and allegiances, we utilize a unique data set and employ two well-known sociological concepts—collective identity (used here a measure of allegiance) and collective efficacy (employed as a measure of cooperation)—to anchor our analysis.

Our findings reveal that transgender inmates affiliate strongly with the transgender inmate community, but that this identification does not preclude affiliation with the inmate community writ large. The extent to which transgender inmates feel a sense of a belonging with the transgender community is predicted by the presence of transgender friends more so than shared personal characteristics or characteristics of the physical environments in which they find themselves in prisons. Transgender inmates who are friends with similarly situated others affiliate more strongly (i.e., express a stronger sense of collective identity) with the transgender inmate community. Moving beyond identification with the transgender inmate community and into the realm of affective commitment to members of the community takes us from collective identity to collective efficacy. The extent to which transgender inmates express a sense of social cohesion and trust with the transgender inmate community, and an expectation of protection action on their behalf, is predicted not by the presence of friends within this community, but by the nature of these friendships. Specifically, a sense of belonging to the transgender inmate community is translated into affective commitment to community members and an expectation of common agency when the relationships among community members are stronger, marked by trust and mutual caring, something often in short supply.

When considered in light of the existing literature on conflict and strife in carceral settings as well as the very recently produced findings on the pervasive atmosphere of competition in the transgender community (Jenness and Fenstermaker 2013), the findings presented in this article throw into stark relief the tension between competition and cooperation. The social allocation of allegiance among transgender inmates is quite telling in this regard. Two specific findings—that transgender inmates’ sense of collective identity and collective efficacy is higher with the transgender inmate community than with the larger prison community, and that their affiliation and allegiance are predicted by the presence and strength of friendships that transgender inmates have with others in their community—reveals that significant competition among this group does not preempt demonstrable allegiance and (presumably) cooperation. The “friendly competition among ladies” that Jenness and Fenstermaker (2013) report is aptly described: despite being engaged in a very real competition for a host of desirable winnings— the achievement of femininity, the attention and affection of men, increased social status—our findings reveal that transgender inmates engage in these contests in ways that acknowledge commonality of experience and identity and ultimately reaffirm their place in the transgender community.

This sense of belonging to the transgender inmate community grows over time. Our findings reveal that transgender inmates’ collective identity gains strength over time, while collective efficacy with these same communities wanes. Thus, transgender inmates’ affiliation with the transgender inmate community becomes stronger even as they come to understand that this affiliation will do little for them in terms of improving their plight in prison. This acknowledgement of common identity and embrace of a community rooted in this identity, coupled with an apparent disregard for the practical or instrumental benefits of allegiance to such a community, speaks to the powerful appeal of a sense of belonging to something larger than oneself. In an environment rife with conflict and coercion, in the company of similarly situated others who will compete to the bitter end for the few desirable resources available, transgender inmates continue to embrace commonality, identity, and community even in the absence of perceived collective efficacy.

More than half a century ago, Sykes ([1958] 2007: 82) described the fundamental tension of the prisoner community as a choice between “bind[ing] himself to his fellow captives with ties of mutual aid, loyalty, affection, and respect, firmly standing in opposition to the officials…. [or] enter[ing] into a war of all against all in which he seeks his own advantage without reference to the claims or needs of other prisoners.” Despite this pervasive and persistent tension—one that is only heightened for transgender inmates—these choices are not mutually exclusive for transgender prisoners. Cooperation exists alongside competition, and amidst difference and division, community prevails.

For more information, contact Lori at  .

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2013 Critical Dialogues Featured Abstracts

Wendy L. Chapkis, Department of Sociology and Women & Gender Studies, University of Southern Maine

wendy chapkis

"Popular Culture and Stoner Stereotyping: Collisions of Race, Class and Gender"

As the very name "Mary Juana" suggests, cannabis politics and popular culture have always been heavily marked by racial, gender, and class politics.  In the contemporary period in the United States, representations of marijuana use continue to be divided along identity lines as do efforts at marijuana policy reform. While the medical marijuana movement is highly feminized, the marijuana legalization movement remains largely a boys' club.  Women's role in commercial cannabis culture still too often seems confined to "hot pot babes" marketing buds and bongs.  And race/ethnicity has been a constant feature of popular culture stoner comedies from Cheech and Chong to Harold and Kumar to the Judd Apatow oeuvre featuring slacker stoner white guys.  This paper explore some of those highly charged intersections of identity in contemporary cannabis culture and politics.

Joyce Bialik, Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College

How Do you Make Claims for Social Welfare in the Era of Neoliberalism New Public Management in the Field of Workforce Development

joyce bialik

How do you make claims for social welfare in the era of neoliberalism?

How do you argue for the need to prepare the low skilled workforce for good jobs in a way that will appeal to the broadest spectrum of Americans?

Said from a conflict point of view, how do you advocate for upgrading the skills, income, and occupational benefits of and for low income workers even if this objective may conflict with the interests of the business elite?

Social welfare policies today may have contributed to the creation of an army of impoverished low skilled poorly educated workers ready to compete for the lowest paying jobs. At job fairs for recipients of TANF assistance in the USA I have seen the longest lines for those jobs that did not require a high school diploma, and paid minimum wage, lacked benefits, were temporary, were for night work at the airports, and required lifting heavy objects. Better jobs with shorter lines required high school credentials. Schiller (2008) tells us that the number of workers paid less than the minimum wage in 2005 was 1.4 million, and 26 million workers were paid less than the $10 an hour needed in that year to keep a four-person family out of poverty.

Let’s look at three federal policies that affect workforce development of low income individuals. One, TANF under the 1996 welfare reform policy discourages workforce development with its work first dogma. If you are receiving TANF public assistance you must take the first job you are offered even if it will not sustain you economically. Such low paid workers may obtain some economic assistance from another policy, Earned Income Tax Credits, but such credits do not guarantee that households receiving this aid will move out of poverty. Moreover, the extent of occupational skills training available for TANF participants is very limited, again designed to get you out into the workforce and off the assistance rolls as quickly as possible.

Training under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), the third US policy, has more potential for assisting low paid workers to obtain good jobs, and we will get to this program shortly.

My presentation is called New Public Management in the field of Workforce Development. New Public Management (NPM) pertains to management of public sector programs that attempt to mimic the management of for-profit businesses in the market economy. With its idealization of the private sector and the market, NPM clearly shows its affinity to neoliberalism (Alexander, 1999).

I will give you examples of how these programs adhere to NPM principles from my experience evaluating employment and training programs for New York City government. Since the 1980s with the Job Training Partnership Act, which preceded WIA, these programs tend to emphasize efficiency over comprehensive employment services for needy populations. As administered by government, training vendors are selected in part according to the lowest unit costs. The resulting contracts often feature lower salaries for staff with minimum credentials and little relevant experience.  Also since receiving the funds often depends on securing a certain number of jobs for their participants these vendors tend to enroll the most job ready participants, those who most likely would have obtained a job even without their intervention; in other words, creaming. I also observed that better jobs for training graduates went to similarly qualified Whites even though people of color made up the vast majority of participants overall. Preferences for hiring Whites over people of color describe the private sector more than the public sector.  

From the standpoint of good social welfare these NPM attributes are all negatives; however, there is one way that affinity with the private sector is beneficial, and that is developing close ties with employers to ensure that their hiring needs are met. Weigensberg et al’s study of WIA programs found that working with employers as customers as well as partners is a critical part of good practice (2012).

Returning to the question:  How do you argue for the need to prepare the low skilled workforce for good jobs in a way that will appeal to the broadest spectrum of Americans, I begin by noting that low income workers have the same work ethic and values as do higher income workers.  I emphasize that many who receive cash and in-kind assistance are also working but not earning enough. If we help them to improve financially through skill improvement and access to decent jobs their reliance on means tested relief will decrease. We will have more people paying taxes and less receiving government assistance.

I also argue for improvements in our workforce development system. Holzer (2012) suggests that the problem of low paid work is that employers are less likely than in the past to hire workers who lack some kind of post-secondary educational credential or training. Such workers usually are from low income backgrounds. His solution is linking the education and workforce development systems.  We need not only a stronger educational system, but also one in which higher education and workforce development are more effectively integrated and responsive to trends in the labor market, especially sectors where good jobs are being created. He cites several examples of programs that were shown through randomized control trials to be very effective. Such ideas are consistent with the Obama administration’s community college initiative, which aims to build partnerships among colleges, businesses, and the workforce development system.

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2013 Mini-Conference Featured Abstract

SSSP encourages its members to propose events before and after the Annual Meeting to energize the membership around specific areas of contemporary and historical social problems.  To this end we are featuring an abstract from the thematic mini-conference on Labor and Global Solidarity - The US, China, and Beyond, which preceded this year's Annual Meeting.

Michael W. Toffel, Harvard Business School; Jodi L. Short, UC Hastings College of Law; Melissa Ouellet, Harvard Business School

Reinforcing Regulatory Regimes: How State, Civil Society, and Codes of Conduct Promote Adherence to Global Labor Standards

melissa ouelletjodi shortmichael w. toffel

In response to pressure from various stakeholders, many transnational businesses have developed codes of conduct and monitoring systems to ensure that working conditions in their supply chain factories meet global labor standards.  Many observers have questioned whether these codes of conduct have any impact on working conditions or are merely a marketing tool to deflect criticism of valuable global brands.  Using a proprietary dataset from one of the world’s largest social auditors, containing audit-level data for 31,915 audits of 14,922 establishments in 43 countries on behalf of 689 clients in 33 countries, we conduct the among first large-scale comparative studies of compliance with codes of labor conduct to determine what combination of institutional conditions promotes adherence to the global labor standards embodied in codes.  We find that these private transnational governance tools are most effective when they are embedded in states that have made binding domestic and international legal commitments to protect workers’ rights and that have high levels of press freedom and nongovernmental organization activity.  Taken together, these findings suggest the importance of multiple, robust, overlapping, and reinforcing governance regimes to meaningful transnational regulation.

For more information, contact Michael at mtoffel@hbs.edu.