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Showing posts from April, 2018

Interaction and Social Structure

Some of the most powerful approaches in sociology are those that analyse the interactions of individuals. These are often seen as in opposition to more abstract views of social structure. I want to argue that this is not the case and that the two approaches are complementary and imply each other. I will develop this argument in this post and will take the argument further in a later post.

Interaction is the result of ongoing mutual constructions of the situation and of the attitudes and actions of its participants. Each participant constructs a representation and account and so negotiates a shared understanding that is sufficient to justify their actions as appropriate and so to ensure that the actions of the participants mesh or coordinate. Participants mutually—simultaneously and interdependently, but always imperfectly—legitimate their own actions and shape the actions of others by attempting to define limits to the options open to them. Each participant holds to an understanding of…

What are ‘British Values’?

Politicians and commentators often talk about the importance of British values and the need for migrants and refugees to respect British values. Such arguments have emerged strongly in debates over terrorism. Claims of this kind often, perhaps typically, mask a more or less deep-rooted prejudice towards outsiders and an assumption of the inherent superiority of Britons. Proponents of these views look back to an imperial past when Britannia ruled not only the waves but also much of the land and when it seemed natural to divide the people of the world into distinct ‘races’.
We are rightly sceptical of such arguments, but is any meaning to be found in the argument that a society such as Britain is indeed marked by values that are subscribed to by a majority of its members and that help to define a shared sense of identity? Under what conditions can we talk about any kinds of national values?

These ideas are best understood through the arguments that I have developed on social consciousness…

Reflections on the 2017 Election

So, the results are in (originally posted June 2017): a huge surge in Labour support—almost 40 per cent of the vote—destroyed the slim Conservative majority and the authority of the Prime Minister. What light can sociology throw on the results?

Sociological debate on British politics over the last 40 years has traced a process of ‘dealignment’ in which class-based voting decayed to be replaced by issue-voting politics and increased volatility in electoral outcomes. Class-based Labour voting had been rooted in the traditional solidarities of ethnically homogeneous working class communities, and a strong occupationally grounded and gendered trade union movement. Social change had swept away many of these communities and the forms of association linked to them. The growing importance of television and other media as means of socialisation and sources of information weakened traditional identities and commitments.

These social changes were the basis for the rise of Thatcherite Conservativis…