Fables and Troubles

Aesop’s Fables
Aesop, trans. by V.S. Vernon Jones

As I grow older, I wonder if conservative thinkers aren’t on to something when they talk about how people are more alike than not. Although I’m the first to advise ignoring anecdote in favor of seeking more robust evidence, I don’t think I’m alone, as a parent, in Continue reading


Don’t Go There

Purity and Danger: An Analysis  of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo
Mary Douglas

purity_DangerI have anthropology envy.

Spend any time around here and you’ll quickly realize that while I jump all over the map my foundation lies in the social sciences. So much so that I have a couple of cross-disciplinary degrees. The discipline I gave short shrift to was anthropology and yet it’s the one most relevant to my professional life.

And so I keep reading, wondering why I avoided a subject area with such a great vocabulary. Oh, sure, the sexy maths are used Continue reading

What’s the matter with social science?

Missing Persons: A Critique of Personhood in the Social Sciences
Mary Doulas and Steven Ney 

Here’s a good way to irk sociologists: suggest that the science has been wrung out of social science. Durkheim came to teach us that social facts are things, subject to examination and experimentation. Sometimes it’s hard to believe social scientists believe that. The most minimal scientific rigor often seems to be missing from a lot of contemporary social science.

Mary Douglas and Steven Ney, the authors of  Missing Persons, think what’s gone missing is the social. More specifically, what they think has gone missing is the discrete unit of society, the person. Continue reading