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Who is “the people”? Is it you, me or the right-winger drinking at the next table in the pub? All of us? Do we even like each other? Is it the taxi driver or the client who is (occasionally) cheated? The nurse? The doctor? The male chauvinist who wants to keep his privileges or the feminist who shows her body to protest against sexism? Will they unite just because a discourse says that they all belong to one people? What do they have in common? How can differences be overcome?
One of the buzzwords you could not miss if you were, like me, at the International Communication Association’s 2018 Conference held between 24-28 May in Prague was ‘mediatization’. Other equally popular words or terms included ‘datafication’, ‘algorithm’, ‘fake news’, ‘big data’ and, of course, ‘AI’. In this short essay, I want to focus on ‘meditization’, and talk about why, in my view, the field’s ‘new favourite’ is not enough to understand this ‘mediated’ world.
Should we employ neo-Marxist theory, neo-Webarian or functionalist theory to conceptualise and position people in a hierarchy reflecting their relative advantage and material circumstances? Should a measure of occupational stratification be continuous, or should it be based on relational categories? These are some of the questions that have been fiercely debated within the sociology of class and stratification for decades. This debate has been described as raging, but bypassing other areas. More recently proponents of the cultural turn in sociology, citing the theory of Bourdieu, posited the basis for class resided in aspects such as cultural, economic and social capital. This approach informed the Great British Class Survey (GBCS) which also triggered an intense discussion, which might aptly be described as savage. Whether the influence of these years of empirical research and theoretical debate can be discerned beyond the sociology of class and stratification is an interesting question which speaks to the influence of empirical sociology. This blog considers the limited influence that the sociology of class and stratification has had beyond its own boundaries in the fields of medical sociology and public health.
In an atypically high-spirited opening panel at Undisciplining, panellists and audience members latched onto a catchy phrase from The Sociological Review’s manifesto: ‘demonstrably alive’. It became the unofficial slogan of the conference, closely followed by Michaela Benson’s remark that ‘sociology doesn’t have a monopoly on the sociological’. Delegates and presenters kept returning to these two ideas, and they funnelled our thinking as we weaved through cognitive, emotional, and corporeal experiences over a strikingly immersive three days. A sense of political urgency resonated amongst participants as we continued to ask how the ‘demonstrably alive’ sociological imagination links Card Carrying Sociologists with the broader world of sociological minds, a concern which raised a still more fundamental question: What is sociology for?
In Tocqueville and Beaumont: Aristocratic Liberalism in Democratic Times, Andreas Hess provides a fluid, concise, and engaging intellectual history of the lives and thought of modern democracy’s most famous early observers. Given their personal roots in the vanishing Ancien Régime, it is perhaps odd that Tocqueville and Beaumont would fill this role, but Hess argues that it was precisely their status of being caught between new and old worlds (both geographically and historically) that allowed them to extol the promises of emerging democracy, whilst simultaneously diagnosing some of the more worrying contradictions it displayed.