Monday, 7 July 2008

Journal Watch: Sociology

Forgive the relatively glamourous title for what is likely to be a decidedly un-hip post (edit: this post was initially published as 'Tales from the Cutting Edge'). All will become clear in due course. Since last week's exchange with Matt Wardman I've been thinking about what other niches AVPS could occupy among the great blogging ecology, and then it came to me. A little bit inspired by Liam Murray's regular Think Tank round up at Liberal Conspiracy, I thought it might be a useful idea if I occasionally dipped into the interesting but seldom-read area of sociology journals. After all, this is still a blog ostensibly about sociological things and there is good cutting edge research that deserves a wider, non-sociological audience. However, someone has beaten me to it. Journal Flood does pretty much what I wanted to do, and has been at it for a few weeks. But anyway, I'm still going to give it a go. I just hope I don't tread on JF's toes too much.

So my first journal preview in this semi-regular round up is the June edition of Sociology, one of three peer-reviewed journals run by the British Sociological Association. Here are a few pieces from Vol 42, No. 3 that caught my eye.

First is Teela Sanders' article, 'Male Sexual Scripts: Intimacy, Sexuality and Pleasure in the Purchase of Commercial Sex'. This is an interesting piece that compares the 'scripts' (i.e. styles of interaction, in this case around sexual relations) of men who regularly pay for sex or some kind of sexual "service" with those of heterosexual men who do not. Sanders' argument is that where clients' behaviours are concerned, one cannot infer much beyond the commercial/non-commercial division. The patterns found in straight men's sexual relationships - romance, courtship, mutual satisfaction, etc. are mirrored in client/sex worker relations too, at least on the buyer's side. Controversially, she concludes "the relationships between sex workers and clients can be nurturing, respectful and meaningful" and suggests that a strategy can be developed that make men more aware of their responsibilities to sex workers. I'm not completely convinced, but at least Sanders has helped bring out the complexity of why some men pay for sex.

My second selection is 'Performing the Hidden Injuries of Class in Coal-Mining Heritage' by Bella Dicks. This article looks at the experiences of former miners re-employed as heritage guides and teases out the central contradiction of this experience; "a continual equivocation between foregrounding dignity and autonomy on the one hand, and acknowledging subjugation and defeat on the other". What heritage demands is an evocation of a collective class identity simply as spectacle, it is an evocation that disappears almost immediately after it has manifested. Except this is part of the life experience of the miners themselves - its original meanings and functions remain alive 'backstage'. Their post-industrial work in a colliery turned tourist attraction is the embodiment of class subjugation and the environment demands this subjugation takes place on a day to day basis.

The final piece, 'Does Class Matter Equally for Men and Women? A Study of the Impact of Class on Wage Growth in Sweden 1999-2003' comes from Erik Bihagen. His argument is fairly simple. He suggests the received sociological wisdom holds that class analysis is better suited to investigating men than women because of discrimination and the heavy gendering of women's roles in the division of labour. Despite this Bihagen's data set demonstrates (uncontroversially, for Marxists) that not only is there a clear class dimension where wage growth is concerned, but these patterns operate fairly equally across the genders. Against post-industrial theorists who suggest class is a property of the bygone age of manufacturing, Bihagen argues it is just as relevant for understanding the contemporary world of work.

The full contents of this edition of Sociology can be found here.


Matt Wardman said...

Like it!

I'd be interested in what sociology can say to inform our understanding of how trends/events change opinions/practice - more modern versions of how the 2nd World War helped make the "housewife" history by giving them experience of something different. Sure there's interesting stuff out there somewhere.

On Journal Flood, if it is out there for a different audience it probably still needs interpreting for the political niche. Journal Flood the "Nugget Mine"?




Phil BC said...

There's loads of stuff on that particular example, Matt, though mainly on how the traditional housewife/mother role was reinforced in the post-war period. Housewife by Ann Oakley is the seminal (but old) sociological study of the British case, and for the broader historical sweep (again dated) Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique is a good introductory text.

Btw our exchange on blogging has given me all kinds of weird and wonderful idea i hope to explore pretty soon ...

Anonymous said...

Have you read "Race and Class" published by Sage (I think)