The mind of government

We often speak of government as if it has intentions, beliefs, fears, plans, and phobias. This sounds a lot like a mind. But this impression is fundamentally misleading. "Government" is not a conscious entity with a unified apperception of the world and its own intentions. So it is worth teasing out the ways in which …

Low income and wellbeing

source: J. G. Speth, The Bridge at the End of the World A recent post on Rawls's critique of capitalism closed with an intriguing mention of a contrast Rawls draws between economic growth and human wellbeing. He is particularly critical of the consumerism that is enmeshed in the social psychology of a growth-oriented market system. This point …

Food and water

  It seems likely enough that one of the largest global security issues in the next fifty years will be food and water.  There is a brewing food crisis underway already, with prices for staple grains rising world wide, and poor countries are beginning to experience the consequences.  But a crisis in fresh water seems …

Poverty, growth, and sustainability

The extent and depth of poverty in the world today is a crushing and immediate problem. The economies of most countries in the world continue to reproduce life circumstances for the extremely poor that make it all but impossible for them to participate in normal, productive lives. The Millenium development goals that were endorsed by …

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 …

Retreat of the Elephants

Mark Elvin's title, The Retreat of the Elephants: An Environmental History of China, is brilliantly chosen to epitomize his subject: the human causes of longterm environmental change in China over a four-thousand year period of history. How many of us would have guessed that elephants once ranged across almost all of China, as far to …

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 …

Is industrial agriculture sustainable?

The world's food system depends largely on a farming system with post-green-revolution techniques: new seed varieties, substantial use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, large-scale irrigation, machine-based cultivation, production for large markets, and separation of production from consumption by long distances. This system shows the highest productivity the world has ever seen, whether measured in terms …

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 …

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