Research Findings

Debt, Discipline, and the Future of Strike Activity

March 30, 2023

In recent years, studies on the financialisation of society – the rising impact of financial institutions and motives over the decisions and strategies of individuals and non-financial corporations – have been increasing.

Sociologists of work have been particularly concerned about the shareholder value orientation-labour process nexus. The main argument here is that shareholder pressures have been inducing the managers of non-financial firms to borrow and buy back their own company’s shares to maximise dividends. Then these rising financial payments lead to direct reductions in wages and the extensive use of casualised workers to improve the firm’s balance sheets. Yet, the relationship between the financialisation of households in the form of personal indebtedness and their behaviour at the workplace has been a largely unexplored area.

Continue Reading…
New book

Resisting racializing surveillance through art

March 23, 2023

Surveillance is everywhere these days, but its punitive impacts are experienced unevenly. Police patrol minoritized communities, algorithms discriminate against people of color, borders screen out migrants and refugees, and identification systems mislabel gender nonconforming individuals.

Growing concern over surveillance has spawned many colorful forms of resistance. In my recent book, Crisis Vision: Race and the Cultural Production of Surveillance, I analyze dozens of resistance artworks that seek to interrupt surveillance abuses.

By paying attention to the work of artists, I argue that we can learn about the deeper logics of surveillance and become more reflexive about our responses.

Continue Reading…
Research Findings

“It’s the value that we bring.” how top income earners view inequality

March 16, 2023

The “one percent” are increasingly seen as an important point of debate in discussions on rising inequalities. But how do top income earners themselves perceive their income? Do they view top incomes as fair?

To answer this question, I conducted a study where I interviewed people in the United Kingdom with incomes that place them within the top one percent of the distribution. Most of the 30 top income earners I talked to were men, lived in London and worked in the financial industry. They worked in firms such as investment banks, hedge funds, and barristers’ chambers.

I found that the cultural process of performance pay is important for how top income earners perceive inequality.

Continue Reading…
New book

Is our economic system fixable? What could be an alternative?

March 9, 2023

The flaws of the modern economic system in the Western world have become pervasive with the dominance of the Big Tech firms, while antitrust regulation and enforcement struggle to restrain these firms. We cannot blame the Big Tech firms for mastering the rules of an economic system that allows profit maximization to override societal values such as sustainability and well-being.

What is the root cause of these challenges, and how can we cope with them?

In my recent book, I examine several grand challenges and identify one underlying cause: our economic system reinforces opportunistic behavior by prioritizing profit and utility maximization. Despite heterogeneity in individuals’ inclinations to behave opportunistically, this system rewards the opportunists while penalizing those who seek to benefit others. To remedy this, I propose an alternative economic system – the cooperative economy, which is instituted on prosocial behavior.

Continue Reading…
Research Findings

Are female leaders key to tackling society’s grand challenges?

March 2, 2023

The world is facing several grand challenges. One only need look at the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals to see that, in our global society, critical barriers stand in the way of important global advancement. Climate change, societal aging, natural resource management, gender inequality, and health and well-being are some of the most important grand challenges of our time. The COVID-19 pandemic is perhaps the most salient, since it remains a “seemingly intractable” puzzle that does not offer straightforward solutions.

Addressing grand challenges requires coordinated and collaborative action toward a clearly articulated problem and goal, each calling for its own specific approach. Societal leaders need to be able to mobilize a variety of stakeholders and coordinate their efforts to secure a common goal that none could obtain without the efforts of one another. But are certain types of leaders naturally better positioned than others to successfully resolve these complex crises?

Continue Reading…
Research Findings

Some heroes push shopping carts: how the pandemic changed gig workers

, and
February 23, 2023

During the crushing first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was hardly a store window or a street corner in America without a homemade sign thanking frontline workers. But these tributes weren’t just for the doctors, nurses, firefighters, and paramedics who risked their very lives to care for patients – occupations we typically think of as noble and sacrificial.

Suddenly, service workers who had long been invisible in the eyes of many consumers were being hailed as heroes for doing everyday tasks at a time when merely stepping outside of the house carried a risk of contracting the virus. Grocery store workers, surrogate shoppers, food deliverers, and other customer service employees who typically earn among the lowest wages found themselves held in the highest regard.

We believe the most interesting qualitative research is out there if you know where to look, and we didn’t have to look far beyond our neighborhoods to see that all the (literal!) signs of gratitude were pointing us in the direction of our next research topic. What happens when jobs are suddenly and unexpectedly moralized? How do workers react to their own jobs when the public narrative shifts in their favor? Do they see themselves as heroes worthy of such admiration, or do they reject the label and go on about their day?

Continue Reading…
New book

The consequences of being measured

February 16, 2023

What happens when we systematically measure the quality of knowledge in academic settings? For thousands of scientists across the United Kingdom, the answer is dishearteningly close to their hearts: measured and quantified knowledge becomes more similar and homogeneous, eroding the organizational and epistemic diversity of their fields over time.

This is what I find in my recently published book The Quantified Scholar: How Research Evaluations Transformed the British Social Sciences. Focusing on the evolution of four disciplines (anthropology, economics, political science, and sociology) I find that a specific way of measuring the quality of knowledge—periodic country-wide assessments of Britain’s public universities—has resulted in more homogeneous disciplines, both in terms of their organization and their content.

Continue Reading…
New book

How did China’s supplemental education sector grow to be the world’s largest for-profit education industry?

February 9, 2023

Supplemental education, such as test-preparation coaching and after-school tutoring, has become increasingly influential in determining educational outcome and social inequality. To date, most studies on supplemental education have focused on its impact on students and glossed over the supply-side story: how do supplemental education organizations (SEOs) operate and how do they transform in the context of major socioeconomic transitions?

In a recently published book, I examine the expansion and transformation of the world’s largest and most vibrant for-profit education industry—China’s supplemental education industry (the Industry) during the last four decades’ market transition. In the 1980s, all leading Chinese SEOs were nonprivate state-affiliated schools or small mom-and-pop ones stuck in dilapidated classrooms and informal practices.

How and why did they evolve into private and globally financed for-profit corporations, despite systematic restrictions by the Chinese state?

Continue Reading…
Research Findings

What is precarious work, and what happened to precarious workers during the COVID-19 pandemic?

February 2, 2023

It is highly likely that your parents, or grandparents, depending on your age, worked full-time for the same employer for many years, even a lifetime. They accumulated job tenure, had regular working schedules, and their employer directed the work they did at the place of business.

This standard employment relationship (SER) model is defined by stability and continuity. Yet, recent decades have witnessed gradual transformations in work arrangements and employment contracts due to economic, technological, and globalization changes.

One of the most notable transformations is the proliferation of precarious work, a departure from the model of stable and secure employment with benefits. Precarious workers lack employment stability, they change jobs, and move in and out of the labor market. When they work, it is likely in part-time and temporary jobs that do not provide social benefits and statutory protections.

Continue Reading…
Research Findings

Long Covid sufferers decry gaslighting

, , and
January 26, 2023

According to a nationally representative survey conducted in June 2022 by the Census Bureau and analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control, some 19% of adults in the United States who have contracted Covid-19 experience some form of Long Covid, equivalent to some 7.5% of the U.S. adult population.

Yet in spite of mounting scientific, epidemiological, and clinical evidence of Long Covid’s effect, and the recognition of Long Covid by the World Health Organization and the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), Long Covid patients continue to face various forms of denialism and accusations that Long Covid does not exit. Patients have worked hard to translate their experiences into types of knowledge that are legible to scientists and policymakers, such as studies from the Patient-Led Research Collaborative.

For the past two years, our research team at the Covid-19 and Trust in Science Project (CATS) at the Trust Collaboratory at Columbia University have studied the experiences of Long Covid sufferers. In a recent study published in SSM-Qualitative Research in Health, we report findings from our Fall 2021 survey of social media users who self-identify as individuals with Long Covid in the United States.

Continue Reading…