Week 10: Reading Sociology Part 14

Estimated Reading Time 00:05:43

Reading Sociology

Part 14: States and Government

Chapter 55: Counting, Caste, and Confusion during Census Enumeration in Colonial India
by Kevin Walby and Michael Haan

References Ian Hacking (1990):

  • Knowledge practices, such as census taking, have no innate footing but become powerful ways to characterize people
  • ie. Social construction. The way we classify people induces people to classify themselves and behave accordingly. If they preach in schools that girls are less adept at math genetically, chance are, girls would end up doing less well in math. :\
  • I am whatever you say I am. (If I wasn’t, then why would you say I am?)

The first censuses were kind of confusing

  • At first caste categorization in India (by colonialists) was a very confused process.
  • The first censuses were regional and fragmentary, and a national attempt at 1871 failed miserably.
  • There are way too many caste names and so the British WASPs began abstracting and generalizing to suit their own understanding of India.
  • There were 2000 caste names collected in 1881 but that number reduced to 207 in the general report.
  • “It just didn’t map onto Indian reality.”

And then this mad dude comes in and starts measuring people

  • Risley, possibly high on opium, thought that categorizing caste by anthropometry was a good idea. He takes out a ruler and starts measuring people’s skull sizes, etc.
  • Risley had political intentions: he needs statistical information to determine which Indians to include in the colonial government, so that the British rule in India isn’t threatened.
  • But then he gets criticized and there’s still no definitive rule for categorizing caste in India.

Notable quotes:

What we find is that caste data were read with an eye to creating a national social hierarchy, but that this often contradicted the local and regional character of caste.

Kevin Walby and Michael Haan

Yet, for all the energy put into counting and categorizing caste in colonial India, the colonial state produced an administrative space that was neither statistically sound nor foolproof. Confusion was the rule, not the exception.

Kevin Walby and Michael Haan

Chapter 56: Canada’s Rights Revolution: Social Movements and Social Change, 1937-1982
by Dominique Clément

Such confusing prose!

  • Began by talking about The Raging Grannies. They hung up undies to fight against uranium mining.
  • These grannies are an example for a social movement organization (SMO).
  • Different from a movement: movements are defined by the beliefs they propagate and their ability to mobilize collective action around those beliefs.
  • SMO also different from interest group, which assumes a clear distinction between civil society and the state, and focuses its efforts promoting the interests of its members.

And then Clément goes on to talk about his book (Canada’s Rights Revolution):

  • First objective:
    • Explore some of the most controversial human rights violations in Canadian history:
    • eg. “man in the house rule”: before 1987 if a single mother appears to be living with a man then she’s ineligible to receive welfare. And so investigators went to their houses sniffing around, looking for open beer cans and raised toilet seats.
    • Civil liberties organizations fight for access to welfare. Human rights organizations fight for amount of welfare.
  • Second objective:
    • Study professional social movement organizations:
    • Human rights organizations focus a lot on the state. But doesn’t direct their attention to private exploitation by corporations, or male power within the family.
    • Individuals and groups can make right-claims that are morally sound. But such a claim is not in effect until it receives support from the state.
  • Author’s Rants:
    • And then the author complained about freedom of information laws. Gee it’s so hard to do research nowadays.
    • And then the author talks about how great his book was by incorporating both English and French sources. It’s the only such book in historical sociology about Canada!

What’s the author’s point? I don’t really know.

No notable quotes. Basically the author saying how great his book was.

Chapter 57: The Economy and Public Opinion on Welfare Spending in Canada
by Robert Andersen and Josh Curtis

Omigaad it’s ♥♥♥♥ Josh Curtis ♥♥♥♥ dearest TA ♥♥♥♥ with cutest baseball cap ♥♥♥♥

The public votes for politicians they like. Politicians want to be liked by the public in order to have power. How does this positive feedback loop work? From 1980 to 2001, Canadian politics has increasingly shifted to the right, with growing income inequalities — why?

Preliminary Research:

  • National differences in public opinion is negatively related to level of economic development, welfare state involvement, and presence of a Soviet-communist past.
  • Social democratic countries are characterized by strong public support for welfare; countries with liberal economies tend to show very little public support for government redistribution and income distribution.


  • When the economy is performing poorly, people tend to be less likely to support increases in spending on welfare, and vice versa. When people have money they want to spend more on welfare. Possibly due to two reasons:
    1. Those with higher income feel morally obligated;
    2. Those with lower income benefit from welfare.

The fact that public opinion follows the unemployment rate and median income suggests that it reflects changes in the business cycle. In short, when the economy is performing poorly, people tend to be less likely to support increases in spending on welfare. Contrary to the vies of policy-makers, we propose quite a different story for the mechanisms underlying the positive relationship between income inequality and public opinion. Our data suggest that people want to remedy inequality.

Robert Anderson and Josh Curtis

Chapter 58: Social Europe and Eastern Europe: Post-Socialist Scholars Grapple with New Models of Social Policy
by Ivanka Knezevic

On the dichotomy between universalistic and targeted policies, the author argues for universalistic policies.

  • Capitalist economy cannot be maintained without social policy (a point that many neo-liberal commentators neglect).
  • Labour is not strictly a commodity — people need to be healthy to be able to work. Pure capitalism leads to exploitation, which commodifies labour. Which means that you are worthless when you catch a cold or something — nonsense! Social institutions that decommodify labour and provide security for the labour force is quintessential.
  • So yeah, universal social policies should not be abandoned. Global recommodification of labour makes universal social policies necessary.

While targeted policies are a part of ‘hard’ [mandatory] EU decision making, universalistic policies […] are relegated to the ‘soft’ policy-making process called the ‘open coordination method’. This is a sort of international ‘hall of shame’, where member states discuss benchmarks and ‘best practices’, and where laggards are brought into line by peer pressure, without any legal sanctions. This non-binding mechanism allows the EU not to enforce even its supposedly most important piece of social legislation — the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which proclaims a variety of human, civil, and cultural rights.

Ivanka Knezevic


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