Category Archives: Political Sociology

Are Protests Effective?

liuThe University of Toronto Mississauga’s newspaper, The Medium, recently featured two of our faculty members – Professors Sida Liu and David Pettinicchio – addressing the role and effectiveness of political protest. You can read the entire article online. We have posted an excerpt here.

Are protests effective?

A rise in the number of widespread protests has occurred

David PettiniccioAisha Malik and Mahmoud Sarouji.

Feb. 13, 2017


If you have been following the news lately, it’s hard to miss the abundance of protests and demonstrations occurring globally…

…But are protests effective? I contacted sociology professor Sida Liu, whose focus includes sociology of law, globalization, and social theory among others.

Liu explained that protests are an important factor of a democratic society. The protests in the U.S. not only show discontent with the president, but also reflect on larger global concerns, such as discrimination and the rise of xenophobia. Liu stated, “Skeptics would say that these protests are futile when a government is not listening and a president is too busy tweeting, but they at least raise the collective consciousness of people regarding some vital aspects of our social and political life.”

He went on to explain that protests connect over time, and sometimes only manifest after a longer period of time. Protests rarely have an immediate effect, but they are not isolated events either; rather, they need time to become evident.

In regards to solidarity marches for the Quebec City mosque shooting victims, Liu said that they “demonstrate the Canadian society’s openness, diversity, and care for religious and ethnic minority groups.” They also allow communities to come out and condemn violence against innocent and unarmed individuals.

Liu cited Émile Durkheim, a founding father of sociology who argued, “Punishment on crimes is an indicator of the solidarity of a society.” He further explained, “In this sense, solidarity marches also constitute a form of resistance to the symbolic and physical violence of gender and racial discrimination exercised by xenophobic white males.”

Sociology professor David Pettinicchio, whose focuses include political sociology, social policy, and social movements, also spoke of the impact a protest can have.

Pettinicchio explained that protests allow awareness of issues that don’t seem to be focused on by political leaders. Political activism is important especially now. He stated that “protests help galvanize people around important issues and they can indirectly shape policy directions.

“[Protests] alone may not be enough. For mobilization to be successful moving forward, it requires thinking about long-term and short-term goals and objectives, as well as the use of a multi-pronged approach that can include direct action, as well as systematic efforts to monitor policy, contact policymakers, and for regular citizens to remain engaged in the political process in the long run,” he continued. “The effectiveness relies on unity of ‘political elites’ movement and organizational leaders, activists and regular citizens.”

Read the full article here.

Ellen Berrey speaks on Trump and the law on CTV

berrey-thumbnailEllen Berrey is a faculty member in Sociology with teaching responsibilities at the Mississauga campus. Her research focuses on law and society, race and public policy in the U.S. On February 6th, she spoke on CTV about President Trump’s travel ban.

Watch the video of her interview here:

 http://ctv.news/wyN6ueE

David Pettinicchio: History matters for understanding the future of disability rights

David PettiniccioDavid Pettinicchio is a faculty member at the University of Toronto, with undergraduate teaching responsibilities at the Mississauga campus. His research focuses on discrimination based on disability and disability rights. Professor Pettinicchio recently wrote and published an essay in Policy Trajectories, the blog of the American Sociological Association’s Section on Comparative and Historical Sociology. The beginning of the essay is pasted below. You can read the full piece here.

History matters for understanding the future of disability rights

In 2000, Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s pick for Attorney General, argued before the Senate that disability rights in education “created a complex system of federal regulations and laws that have created lawsuit after lawsuit, special treatment for certain children, and that are a big factor in accelerating the decline in civility and discipline in classrooms all over America.”

This is a longstanding view of Sessions, who in the late 1990s and early 2000s focused his efforts in educational policy around school safety and discipline while also proposing an amendment striking activities related to hate crimes from national training and education programs. With so-called “Ed-Flex,” Sessions and other Republicans in 1999 argued that arrogance on the part of the federal government acting as a “super school board” – thinking they know better than local communities about how to educate their children – only creates headaches.

To many critics, an Attorney General Sessions signals an era of rollbacks in civil rights and disability rights policy. Distressingly, his is not an anomalous viewpoint.

Sessions’ comments highlight the kinds of deeply held beliefs among powerful segments of society that federal disability rights policy interferes with local and/or private interests. Detractors have successfully created significant obstacles for effective policy implementation by framing equal rights and antidiscrimination provisions as unnecessary regulation causing unintended harms.

The fight for equal rights in education has been an integral part of the disability rights struggle. Policymakers and activists sought to establish key educational civil rights laws demanding that the government make good on its promise to enforce antidiscrimination and equal rights provisions enacted by Congress in the early 1970s and again in the early 1990s.

Read the full essay.

Congratulations to Kim Pernell, recipient of 2016 Richard J. Hernstein Prize

pernell-5x7portCongratulations to Professor Kim Pernell whose PhD dissertation was recently awarded the Richard J. Herrnstein Prize from Harvard University. Professor Pernell finished her dissertation in the spring of 2016 before joining us at the University of Toronto (St. George) this summer. The Richard J. Herrnstein Prize is awarded annually by the Graduate School of Arts and Science at Harvard to the dissertation produced that year that best exhibits “excellent scholarship, originality and breadth of thought, and a commitment to intellectual independence.” It honours the memory of Richard J. Hernstein and the academic values he espoused.

Professor Pernell’s dissertation is called The Causes of the Divergent Development of Banking Regulation in the U.S., Canada, and Spain. In it, she answers the question, “why did different countries develop different systems of banking regulation in the years leading up to the credit crisis of the late 2000s, despite adhering to a common transnational regulatory agreement (the 1988 Basel Capital Accord)?” American banks suffered massive losses, while Canadian banks emerged relatively unscathed. Spanish banks also experienced major losses, but the outcomes would have been much worse had Spanish regulators not imposed such strict prudential standards. Pernell’s research shows that banking regulators from different countries adopted different policies because they subscribed to fundamentally different conceptions of economic order, which can be traced back many decades. Her work highlights the ways in which cultural/cognitive institutions structure policymaking, even in the modern globalized and transnational era.

In addition to developing this research into a book, Professor Pernell is also currently conducting research that studies the impact of shareholder value management on risk-taking in the financial industry, the unintended consequences of the rise of a new professional (the chief risk officer), and how changes in banking systems have shaped trends in socioeconomic inequality. We are fortunate to have Professor Pernell in the Department and heartily congratulate her on this award.

Does Diversity Work?

UTM Sociology Professor Ellen Berrey was recently profiled on the UTM Research News page. The full story is available on their website. We have pasted the beginning of the piece here:

Does ‘diversity’ work?

Ellen Berrey
Wednesday, December 14, 2016 – 2:31pm

The concept of diversity has been celebrated and supported at major organizations and public institutions since the 1980s. It’s a widely supported ideal in contemporary society, but what if its unintended consequence is to perpetuate social and racial inequality? That’s the thorny question at the centre of UTM sociology professor Ellen Berrey’s research.

“Decision-makers in many social domains endorse diversity with an emphasis on the payoffs for everyone – it’s good for learning and good for business – rather than the goal of equality,” says Berrey, who arrived at UTM this summer from the University of Denver. She examines what she calls “the promises and pitfalls” of promoting diversity in environments such as universities, corporations and courtrooms. “I’m interested in organizational and legal efforts to remedy problems of inequality, and how these efforts actually play out on the ground,” she says.

While the term “diversity” covers many differences – including religion, sexual orientation and ability – Berrey says that race is the default assumption when people talk about diversity. “The language of diversity comes directly out of race issues in the United States, especially the black-white divide.” Most of Berrey’s research focuses on the U.S. context.

There have been some important social reforms implemented in the name of diversity, she says, but they have been small and incremental. “Diversity communicates a shared commitment to the social good across differences that divide us. Yet there’s much more of an appearance of change than actual demonstrable change. The movement for diversity hasn’t undone some of the deeper, institutional conditions that reproduce inequality.”

In her 2015 book The Enigma of Diversity: The Language of Race and the Limits of Racial Justice, Berrey explores some of those entrenched discriminatory conditions in employment, university admissions and housing. Drawing on six years of fieldwork in a Fortune 500 company, a major American university and a Chicago neighbourhood, she argues that the public embrace of diversity hasn’t accomplished the social change required for racial justice.

Continue reading.

Disability and the Trump Administration

David PettiniccioProfessor David Pettinicchio is a faculty member at the University of Toronto, Mississauga with expertise in the area of political sociology and social policy and particular research interests in the area of policy and disability. He currently has a SSHRC-funded research project investigating employer discrimination against persons with disabilities. He recently published an editorial piece in The Hill, a US political newspaper. The full article is available here. We have included the beginning of the piece below.

Disability and the Trump Administration – What’s Next?

In unprecedented fashion, disability-related issues were prominent in this last electoral cycle. During the primaries, Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush and John Kasich promised to address persistent economic inequalities confronting people with disabilities, as well as address the occupational ghettoization of workers with disabilities into dangerous, lower-paying employment.

Clinton, who spent a great part of her adult life helping members of historically disadvantaged groups that include people with disabilities, moved from a narrow focus on expanding social and health services to a broader platform addressing deep-rooted inequalities that keep people with disabilities down.

Had Clinton won the election, we would no doubt demand that her campaign promises about helping people with disabilities be translated into policy. What might we expect from the Trump Administration?

Trump’s plans for the country are anyone’s guess right now. Much of the post-election anxiety is the result of the vague, sometimes conflicting, and often blustering rhetoric by the president-elect across an array of policy areas. To say that Trump’s platform lacked policy specificities is an understatement. In that vein, Trump has made little mention of disability-related social policy.

Rather, Trump’s association with disability in the campaign came by way of his mocking Serge Kovaleski, the New York Times reporter with arthrogryposis.

 

Continue reading.

Congratulations to Ito Peng, CRC in Global Social Policy

ito-peng2016Congratulations to Professor Peng, named Canada Research Chair in Global Social Policy

This honour recognizes Professor Peng’s academic achievements and her contributions to the emerging field of global social policy. The Canada Research Chair program recognizes scholars in Canada who are “outstanding, world-class researchers whose accomplishments have made a major impact in their fields,” who are recognized internationally as leaders in their fields, who have strong track records training students and who are currently planning innovative original research.

Professor Peng merits the honour as a leader in the field of global social policy. This emerging field seeks to understand how changes in globalization and modes of governance impact social and economic policies and individual citizenship rights at local, national and global levels. It draws its knowledge base from welfare state, political economy, public policy and development studies scholarship, and employs comparative and multi-scalar analysis methods in its analyses.

Professor Peng is one of the world authorities in global social policy, specializing in gender and family policies and welfare states in East Asia. Her research has brought conceptual and empirical understanding to social policy developments and change. Her work has been influential not only to comparative social policy and Asian political economy scholarships, but also for key global policy institutions, such as the United Nations Research Institute on Social Development (UNRISD), UN Women, International Labor Organization (ILO), and World Bank. Her research has shown how changes in domestic factors, such as demography, economy, labour market, and family and gender relations interact with global structures and actors in shaping social policy development within countries. Peng is currently the Director of the Centre for Global Social Policy in the Department of Sociology and the Principal Investigator of the SSHRC funded Partnership Research project (2013-2019), Gender, Migration and the Work of Care: an international comparative perspective.

Professor Peng is the fourth faculty member in the Department of Sociology to receive a Canada Research Chair. She is preceded by Professor John Myles who was a Canada Research Chair in the Social Foundations of Public Policy and Professor Monica Boyd who held the Canada Research Chair in Immigration, Integration and Public Policy. Professor Scott Schieman currently holds a Canada Research Chair in the Social Contexts of Health.

Including all voices in political deliberation

schneiderhan-2016-croppedImagine a political discussion that involves in-depth reasoned discussion and has the potential to move people with entrenched positions to considering alternative viewpoints.

In light of the recent US election, such a scenario might seem utopian. Even so, participation in political communication is one of the cornerstones of democracy. Robust democratic involvement asks that citizens deliberate on issues – that they think deeply and engage with each SSHRCother on issues of public importance.

One of Professor Erik Schneiderhan’s new research projects studies the ways in which citizens deliberate, and how ethnicity matters for this deliberation. The project will use funding from a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Grant to convene five assemblies, or Deliberation Days, where Canadians in five different communities come together to deliberate over political issues that impact Canadians of all ethnicities: gun control policy measures, and policy regarding climate change. Professor Schneiderhan’s previous lab-based research has shown that deliberation “shakes things up” and often can change individual positions. This project takes the research out of the lab and into the complexities of our multi-ethnic communities in Canada.

To understand how deliberation “matters” for individual policy preferences and attitudes in the short and long term, Professor Schneiderhan’s team will begin by telephoning 1,000 people sampled from the five communities. The survey will ask baseline opinions about gun control and climate change. The team will then develop a representative sample out of these participants and invite 25 of them from each location to participate in Deliberation Days where they will deliberate in groups with specific experimental inputs from the research team to help the researchers understand the influence of deliberation and the ways that ethnicity interacts with it. The team will also follow up after the Deliberation Day to determine whether the effects of the deliberation endured.

Ultimately, this project promises to bring understanding to one of the biggest challenges facing modern democracies: how to bring in marginalized voices so that their voices can be heard.

BJS Prize for article on social media in the Egyptian Uprising

bjs-certificateCongratulations to Professor Robert Brym and graduate students Melissa Godbout, Andreas Hoffbauer, Gabe Menard and Tony Huiquan Zhang who recently received the British Journal of Sociology 2016 Prize for their co-authored article, Social Media in the 2011 Egyptian Uprising.

Established in 2009, the BJS award is presented bi-annually to the authors of an article published in the past 24 months that “in the opinion of the judges, makes an outstanding contribution to increasing sociological knowledge.” The article by Brym, Godbout, Hoffbauer, Menard and Zhang was published in May 2014. Professor Brym recently attended the BJS Annual Lecture at the London School of Economics and accepted the prize on behalf of the team. While there, he recorded a short podcast about the paper and the experience writing, publishing and receiving the honour. Congratulations to all five authors!

You can access the winning paper here. The following is the citation and abstract:

Brym, R., Godbout, M., Hoffbauer, A., Menard, G. and Zhang, T. H. (2014), Social media in the 2011 Egyptian uprising. The British Journal of Sociology, 65: 266–292. doi:10.1111/1468-4446.12080

This paper uses Gallup poll data to assess two narratives that have crystallized around the 2011 Egyptian uprising: (1) New electronic communications media constituted an important and independent cause of the protests in so far as they enhanced the capacity of demonstrators to extend protest networks, express outrage, organize events, and warn comrades of real-time threats. (2) Net of other factors, new electronic communications media played a relatively minor role in the uprising because they are low-cost, low-risk means of involvement that attract many sympathetic onlookers who are not prepared to engage in high-risk activism. Examining the independent effects of a host of factors associated with high-risk movement activism, the paper concludes that using some new electronic communications media was associated with being a demonstrator. However, grievances, structural availability, and network connections were more important than was the use of new electronic communications media in distinguishing demonstrators from sympathetic onlookers. Thus, although both narratives have some validity, they must both be qualified.

Pettinicchio on Hillary Clinton’s America

David PettiniccioProfessor David Pettinicchio is a faculty member at the University of Toronto, Mississauga with expertise in the area of political sociology and social policy. He, together with Michelle Maroto of the University of Alberta, recently published a piece on the Huffington Post Contributor platform. The entire post can be found online. The following is an excerpt of the longer article.

Hillary Clinton’s America: “The America I Know and Love”

By David Pettinicchio and Michelle Maroto

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have presented two different pictures of the U.S. economy, especially when it comes to unemployment. Not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton has played up many of the economic gains made throughout Barack Obama’s presidency – including the significant decline in the number of long-term unemployed Americans since 2008. But she has also had to contend with inequality and disadvantage that has persisted since her husband, Bill Clinton’s, presidency.

Hillary reminded viewers of the economic prosperity associated with Bill Clinton’s years in office at the second presidential debate: “it’s not just because I watched my husband take a $300 billion deficit and turn it into a $200 billion surplus and 23 million new jobs were created and incomes went up for everybody. Everybody. African-American incomes went up 33 percent.”

The so-called “new economy” of the 1990s saw about ten years of continuous economic growth as well as the largest jobs increase in U.S. history. However, throughout the 1990s, troubling labor market trends also negatively impacted many American workers, including workers from historically marginalized and disadvantaged groups: the rise of less stable and lower paying jobs; the declining influence of labor unions; and persistent labor market segmentation disproportionately affecting women, African Americans, and people with disabilities.

Read the full article.