Business interests and democracy

The central ideal of democracy is the notion that citizens can express their political and policy preferences through political institutions, and that the policies selected will reflect those preferences. We also expect that elected officials will act ethically in support of the best interests of the public. This is their public trust. The anti-democratic possibility …

Scientific misconduct as a principal-agent problem

How does an organization assure that its agents perform their duties truthfully and faithfully? We have ample evidence of the other kind of performance -- theft, misappropriation, lies, fraud, diversion of assets for personal use, and a variety of deceptive accounting schemes. And we have whole professions devoted to detecting and punishing these various forms …

Public versus hidden faces of organizations

Think of a range of complex organizations and institutions -- police departments, zoning boards, corporations, security agencies, and so on indefinitely. These organizations all have missions, personnel, constituencies, and policies and practices. They all do various things -- they affect individuals in society and they bring about significant social effects. And, in each case there …

Trust and corruption

The recent collapse of a major skyscraper crane in New York City last month led to a surprising result: the arrest of the city's chief crane inspector on charges of bribery. (See the New York Times story here.) (The story indicates that the facts surrounding the charges are unrelated to this particular crane collapse.) Several …

Agendas for Chinese sociology

The challenge for Chinese sociology is the challenge of Chinese society. Chinese social sciences are presently in a period of deep uncertainty. Marxist ideas about method and theory are no longer governing, and new paradigms have not yet taken full form. This transition is especially important because of the magnitude and novelty of the social …

Social change in rural China

Contemporary China is a vivid demonstration of the fact that sociology is not a "finished" science. The processes of change that are underway in both rural and urban settings are novel and contingent. Existing sociological theory does not provide a basis for conceptualizing these processes according to a few simple templates -- modernization, urbanization, structural …

Power: corporations

How do large corporations wield power? What are the kinds of outcomes that corporate leaders want to influence? What are the instruments available to them through which they can influence outcomes? And are there impersonal means through which corporations influence society -- i.e., wield power or exert causal influence?Consider first the outcomes. Corporations are businesses …

Is globalization unjust?

Globalization has many aspects. But consider this narrow definition: extension of international economic interdependence through unfettered international trade and investment. This process leads to a shifting of centers of economic activity as investors and entrepreneurs seek out favorable locations for business activity--mining, manufacturing, financial services, transportation and logistics, etc. Businesses will seek out low-cost environments …

What is "power" in the twenty-first century?

Is "power" different in the twenty-first century?Is power the same as "ability to influence behavior"?Do the internet and new forms of communication and social networking create new opportunities for power--for good or bad purposes?Think about the ways power was created and used in the nineteenth or twentieth centuries: the power of the state to regulate …

International social research?

I find it intriguing to imagine the sociological insights that might come from a discussion of a specific social problem that brings together the perspectives of some of the international visitors to this web site. How would observers from Manila, Lagos, Shanghai, and Detroit be able to contribute different perspectives on the issue of rising …

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