Sociology as Martial-Art

Another excellent weblog

Music Break- Ian van Dahl

Posted in Uncategorized on February 14, 2009 by crtiticalcontexts

Trance Music Break!

Posted in Uncategorized on January 28, 2009 by crtiticalcontexts

Not really sure if anyone else has the same trance music tastes like myself ?

Can Sociology be fruitful in researching computer games?

Posted in Environmental Sociology, European Sociology, Inequality, Podcasts, Political Sociology, Post-Modernism, Uncategorized on November 1, 2008 by crtiticalcontexts

First of all , I am a serious gamer and never really thought about applying sociology to video games. There are a number of games that could be researched sociologically to encode the dynamics of larger social forces in the computer games.Hence, the first thing that comes to my mind is the hidden forms of commercialization, militarization, sex-gender wars, stereotypical characters, racist and discriminatory communication, and other things that frequent gamers consume while playing the games with others.Here is a game that I frequently play that has some of these stereotypes. The obvious thing one will notice that NONE of the characters are females and all carry this militaristic message.

Naomi Klein starting to get really famous on Youtube!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 12, 2008 by crtiticalcontexts

Techno/Trance music that will make you think…

Posted in European Sociology, Inequality, Post-Modernism, Risk Sociology, Uncategorized, Visual Sociology with tags on September 28, 2008 by crtiticalcontexts

“Appetite for Consumption” Timbuktu (Swedish Hip Hip) on the Consumer Society

Posted in Inequality, Podcasts on August 8, 2008 by crtiticalcontexts


Posted in Uncategorized on August 2, 2008 by crtiticalcontexts

Mr. Beck, the theme of unconditional basic income, basic financing for everyone, is even discussed in the CDU (centrist party of Helmut Kohl and Angela Merkel). The Thuringian prime minister urges introduction of a “solidarity citizen money.” How would this help the citizen?

Everyone would receive a fixed amount irrespective of his age and social situation assuring his existential security. All worries about the simple basic needs of existence would be gone with one blow.

How high should this amount be?

There are different concepts from 600 to 1500 Euros. I personally think 800 Euros a month would be proper. Until age 18, the parents would manage the basic income of their children as administrators.

Isn’t this idea a utopia?

Yes, a realistic, not an illusory utopia. Full employment about which our society still dreams is illusory. By stimulating the economy, everyone would work again. After an unsuccessful 20-year battle against high unemployment, we must ask again: How can one lead a meaningful life without a job? Looked at closely, unemployment is a victory, not a defeat. Higher productivity allows a maximum in prosperity to be realized with a minimum in human labor. Freedom instead of full employment is the alternative today.

Let’s assume the basic income was introduced. Who would still want to work?

Many will want to work for the first time because they wouldn’t have to accept the wage dictated by the employer but could independently negotiate just compensation. They would risk nothing because they have their basic income.

What about the “cheap” jobs no one wants to do?

They will cost more because they must be done and no one can survive with a starvation wage. That is what is special in the basic income. It makes the employee into an entrepreneur, particularly the one who does hard and unpleasant work.

What about those who don’t want to work any more?

Certainly some will only sit in front of the boob tube and do nothing. They also do this today. There is no causal connection. Whoever wants to work – the majority – will work in a freer and more self-determined way than today.

Some regard Hartz IV as a preliminary form of basic income.

That is wrong. The Hartz concept is backward-oriented. It expands the control of work and evades the key question: How do we create a system in which the enormous possibilities of automation and the creative forces of persons can develop?

Nevertheless people suffer when they have no job.

The problem is not unemployment but lack of money, the coupling of work and income. While paid work offers little meaning and less economic security, there are still many things to do in education, training and environmental work that many people would love to do if they weren’t also forced to secure their existence. Basic income could liberate us in two ways – from work coercion and to meaningful work.

Why hasn’t politics seized this tool?

The gossip about paid work as the only giver of meaning and our existence as an instrument of rule is responsible. Everything for us is oriented in paid work, the rhythm of the times of the day, training, and the transition from puberty to adult existence. The individual defines himself through paid work and therefore forces himself to adjust. If this self-pressure becomes unnecessary, one can on longer control freedom, many fear. When work ends, many of the titans of the work society lose the foundation of their power.

Do politicians fear losing their control?

Unfortunately, it seems so. The large majority of the population is regarded as lazy and weak-willed. The basic income fits capitalism. It could develop an enormous economic mobility, productivity and creativity. Many obstacles greatly slowing down the production process would fall away.

Don’t neoliberal thinkers also want this?

There is a giant coalition of supporters of the basic income. Milton Friedman who died recently, father of neoliberalism, alongside the socialist Andre Gorz, the archliberal Lord Dahrendorf and the East Berlin sociologist Wolfgang Engler are found there. They show how capitalism can be social when work is independent of income and self-determined.

What are the consequences of basic income for the economy?

A new legitimation basis for the economy would be created. Today’s corporations live in a paradoxical situation since acting economically is acting disloyally toward the state and the national workforce – and vice versa. Since insisting on the patriotism of managers hardly helps, managers must be trained who act in a German way.

How should the basic income be financed?

I regard the model of a universal consumer tax as reasonable. Capitalism would be promoted and tamed at once. Taxes are evaded everywhere except where goods are sold. Thus the entrepreneur is relieved and shares in the public interest. Whoever earns much should pay additional direct taxes.

The businessman Gotz Werner sees this differently. The consumer tax would be enough for the financing, he says.

I don’t want to commit myself too early. We are at the beginning of the discussion. In any case, the non-wage labor costs could fall. That would be the first step.

What are the political chances?

I see chances with the Greens and the FDP although the FDP strangely clings to full employment. It is hard with the SPD. Their power position as the party of paid work would be endangered by basic income. In the CDU, there are some divergent thinkers like Kurt Biedenkopf but usually they hold back. If we continue as in the past, we drive the lower third of society into hopelessness, criminality and violence. That will also be uncomfortable for those who own anything.

The hidden social costs of Class and Health-care

Posted in Inequality with tags , on July 31, 2008 by crtiticalcontexts


In a talk entitled “Damaged Care,” population health expert Stephen Bezruchka reports that medical care is a leading cause of death. He also asserts that people in the US die much earlier than we should.

Book Review: Cosmopolitan Vision (Ulrich Beck)

Posted in Environmental Sociology, European Sociology, Political Sociology, Post-Modernism, Risk Sociology, Visual Sociology on July 28, 2008 by crtiticalcontexts


The Cosmopolitan Vision. By Ulrich Beck. (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2006. Pp.201, $24.95 Paper.) Reviewed by Michael Buhl

This is the 18th book written by the German Sociologist Ulrich Beck. Let me also confess at the outset to being a UB follower during my graduate years. I have truly enjoyed his thought-provoking style that remains steadfast to the tradition of European critical sociology. No matter what the topic, or from whatever theoretical constellation, Beck’s writings always seemed to make sense to me. Probably, his most famous works came out of the mid-eighties with the best seller, Risk Society: Towards a new Modernity (London/Sage, 1992). Also another more recent book of his was, The Brave New World of Work (Cambridge/Cambridge University Press, 2000). Ulrich Beck is also well established in Europe by routinely holding dual Professorships; one at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and the other within Germany at the University of Munich.

This newest publication focuses more on the paths towards developing a cosmopolitan vision. To be sure, Professor Beck has written an ambitions book that is filled with many fruitful thoughts on the cosmopolitan possibility. I call it a “possibility”, because ideas definitely have the possibility to change the world around us. The introduction is a great start, “ What is enlightenment? To have the courage to make use of one’s cosmopolitan vision and to acknowledge one’s multiple identities—to combine forms of life founded on language, skin color, nationality or religion with the awareness that, in a radically insecure world, all are equal and everyone is different”(intro).

So what exactly does Professor Beck mean by saying “Cosmopolitan”? Are we do look into those vibrant growing multi-cultural cities and transnational communities? Should we look into national politics (*cough&) ? Definitely not! Should we look inside our social science textbooks? Don’t even get me started! What about looking into the IPODS, which are often filled with international Hip Hop lists and international techno-trance music? Getting a bit closer!! Finally, should we conduct large ethnographic studies on the transnational and cosmopolitan character of social networks sites My-space and facebook? Do national boundaries actually disappear on the Internet, or are national boundaries further enhanced? Okay, now I am seriously getting off track!!!!!

The reader might somewhat become disappointed in the very beginning, because Professor Beck sees the “Cosmopolitan Vision” as a serious bone of contention—putting much of the existing national sociological theory on top of its head. Hence, most of the book is written in a strict academic style that reads more like a book of latent international relations, much of the actual discussion is actually centered on themes like war and terror, cosmopolitan realism, as well as mapping out the problem of ‘methodological nationalism’ for us. For the most part, Beck suggests more ‘methodological cosmopolitan’ outlooks and frequently on new dimensions and more cosmopolitan sociologists.

Essentially, what Professor Beck does throughout the book is that he aims to theoretically put the nation-state and its dominating position, simply on its own head. Much of what he argues is very weary and critical of the nation-state and its influence on science, politics, sociology, etc. To put is simply, the national social scientist is trapped within the nation-state that he or she likes to call home. One very easily becomes part of the nation-state and its ideas without ever really knowing its secrets. Thus, the social scientific outlook is commonly the blurred national outlook. This criticism of the nation-state is perfectly illustrated within this passage:

“The national outlook – or, in technical terms methodological nationalism- opposes the structural transformation. Until now it has been dominant in sociology and in the other social sciences, such as history, political science and economics, which analyzed societies on the assumption that they are nationally structured (…)For the national outlook, the nation-state creates and controls the ‘container’ theory of society, and thereby at the same time prescribes the limits of ‘sociology’” (p.2)

Taken seriously, these latter among Professor Beck’s views imply that the nation-state is out of touch with the cosmopolitan project. Perhaps, the early mistake that he commits – is that he likes to jump to early conclusions. No one seemingly denies that the nation-state is dominating its very own political sphere and that it is a great source for contradiction and so on, so forth. However, people may still sometimes feel connected to their home country and home culture. Take the case of the immigrant movements that occurred in the spring of 2006 in U.S./Mexican-border states. Thousands of young high-school students across California and Texas flew National Mexican flags as a source of cultural recognition in opposition to the U.S. national flag. Any sympathizer watching television could come to the conclusion, that showing of a Mexican flag on American soil was to signal a sense of frustration on behalf of the exploited within the dominating national-glued container. Mostly, the aim was a political move to oppose the stricter migration laws the U.S. Republican-controlled congress had planned to implement as its preferred social policy.  Even though many immigrants no longer had real political ties to their home-country Mexico, many understood that the Mexican flag for starters was an emblem of expression and a sense of self-identification and national pride. To be sure, the movement was very much a pro-cosmopolitan movement that was a struggle for human recognition and social respect. But, since there is no cosmopolitan state, or cosmopolitan flag, the protestors had to identify themselves with the other available national-flag. Later, much political discussions occurred with the usage to use American flags to show more solidarity with the American people. Many far right-wingers bashed many of the protestors by claiming that protests should use American flags in an effort to resonate more with Americans. (&^%$^#%&!!!!!!!!!) ???

Professor Beck states: “ Cosmopolitanization is a non-linear, dialectical process in which the universal and the particular, the similar and the dissimilar, the global and the local are to be conceived, not as cultural polarities, but as interconnected and reciprocally interpenetrating principles” (p.73).

In shorter terms, we have the ability to become one big happy family (or at least we increasingly aim to do so), but nationalism often becomes the first obstacle in this endeavors.

Either way, the cosmopolitan vision is still in its infant stages—it might be wise to first counter the mostly exclusive (oriented) national research focus within most social sciences. Unfortunately, without a strong movement behind it, the cosmopolitan vision will remain exactly what it describes itself to be – a vision. In shorter terms, our attempt as humans is to become one big happy family without any national requirement that fosters becoming a like a wall between us .If sociologists are to find public resonance with such utopian ideas, it must be successfully framed in such a manner that even people from Texas and Kansas could see themselves as cosmopolitan citizens.


Argument 1.

There are contradictions and incompatibilities between national researchers and their theoretical and methodological reliance on NATIONAL frameworks. (e.g., national history, national trends, national problems, national politics, national culture, national social science, national citizens, national economy, national law(s), power in state- state of power, army of national researchers!)

The major assumption here is that the majority of social science was influenced by national social scientists that further influenced the production of knowledge and expertise in the social structure that they happen to occupy. By being very near to the national society (example: regional or public university), there is a serious a possibility that social scientists often blur that national society that they happen to be living in and attempting to compare to others. Thus, in actuality the research design is guided by “methodological nationalism” as a starting and reference point for all social scientific analysis. It is further assumed that specific supportive national cherry picking is done out of the respect of the nation societies that blurs any explanations that might go against the “methodological nationalism” mission. In one of the articles, UB actually titles the article “How not to become a museum piece”, focusing mostly on what he calls the “out-dated” and “museum pieces” referring to the old national terms that no longer fit in the modern world.


UB states:

This is what I call methodological nationalism.

What do I mean by this? I mean that sociology has been historically

concerned with the analysis of societies, with each society being based upon adistinct national state (or nation-state). So there is a system of nation-statesand accompanying sociologies that study their particular society defined innation-state terms. The nation-state constitutes the container of society andthe boundary of ‘sociology’.” (p.338)


Beck, Ulrich. How not to Become a Museum Piece, in: British Journal of Sociology 56(3): 335-343

Argument 2. There are contradictions and incompatibilities between national researchers and the relied usage of NATIONAL frameworks to explain transnational inequalities. (e.g., Rostow Modernization theories, euro-centrism, Washington consensus, new/old imperialism, OECD, nationalist ideologies**)

The major assumption here is that the exclusive focus on the domestic and nation-state proves why there is so little researched that does not focus on the domestic realm and national politics. He goes on to claim that most social social scientists are held prisoner to the nation-state. I guess there is some truth to this when looking at most immigration and migration studies nowadays. There is frequently a political consensus that the implementation of national assimilation will be functional and politically necessary. It is assumed that the immigrants want to become citizens and remain citizens after years of residence and stay. This is not always the case! Immigrants frequently move back to their home countries or re-settle to another country altogether. My example, there are a number of transnational professionals that often carry dual-citizenships (like students) that are not even discussed in most migration and immigration studies. Again, the focus is always the national integration instead of transnational character of immigration and migration


UB Argues:

“However, the sum of these domestic inequalities recorded by each individual nation-state by no means equals the total of large, global inequalities because the logic of the national outlook is not the same as the logic of the cosmopolitan outlook. In particular, nation-state self-ascription and the associated assumption of endogenous causality contradicts the cosmopolitan point of view, which also draws on transnational interdependencies, power relations, decision-making bodies and causalities to explain nation-state domestic inequalities.

The nation-state principle is the analytic key to understanding why the connection between globalization and poverty has been so little researched within sociology, which is still prisoner of the nation-state. As long as the national outlook holds sway in the sphere of political action as well as in social scientific analysis, poverty and wealth will be localized in the national context as a matter of course. The very possibility that the negative consequences of globalization might make themselves felt in different historical contexts – in the form of growing inequalities, erosion of incomes, exploitation of natural resources and the undermining of democracy – is ruled out analytically. As far as social scientific research on inequality is concerned, then, the principle of nation-state fragmentation is linked to a large source of error: the danger of reaching false conclusions from nation-state premises.” (p. 340)


Beck, Ulrich. How not to Become a Museum Piece, in: British Journal of Sociology 56(3): 335-343

Argument 3. We really need more cosmopolitan approachesi and more global -oriented sociology texts , if we are ever going to correct the errors of the current national-glued sociological outlines!

The major assumption here is that sociology nowadays is oriented mostly towards (a quasi) national studies. After reviewing numerous sociology textbooks, I think that this can be confirmed. Frequently, many sociology textbooks offer no global perspective at all and focus on the “U.S. Perspective” in most chapters. I think that this puts a degree of less focus on the social structures that mold societies, and larger emphasis on the national political structures that govern the national society. Thus, what can sometimes evolve out this is a move from sociology to American studies. Global concerns are frequently squeezed into the final chapters. Still, there is one particular sociology textbook written by Joan Ferrante , Sociology: A Global Perspective Edition 6, that attempts to focus on the comparative tradition of sociology. I highly recommend this book for teaching introduction to sociology.


Beck perfectly gives us some more guidance to cosmopolitan thinking:

The Communist Manifesto was published 150 years ago. Today, at the

beginning of a new millennium, it is time for a Cosmopolitan Manifesto

(Beck, 1998) The key idea for a Cosmopolitan Manifesto is: we live in an

age that is at once global, individualistic and more moral than we suppose.

Now we must unite to create an effective cosmopolitan world politics. There

is a new dialectic of global and local questions, which do not fit in to national

politics. These questions are already part of the political agenda – in the

localities and regions, in governments and public spheres both national and

international. But only in a transnational framework can they be properly

posed, debated and resolved. For this there has to be reinvention of politics,

a founding and grounding of the new political subject: that is – cosmopolitan

parties.” (p.41)


Beck, Ulrich. The Cosmopolitan Society and its Enemies, in: Theory, Culture & Society 19(1-2): Special Issue on: Cosmopolis: 17-44

For a cosmopolitan sociology to truly emerge, I first have to confer with Beck, there first needs to be much more dis-recognition and dis-usage of the various forms of “national methodologies” used in the social sciences. Thus, when sociologists say “transnational” we no longer can rely on the just only national “model” that moves and drives our language and limited national discourse. Rather, we take into consideration that modern risks are becoming more and more a concern for all of humanity. To this end, we are after new cosmopolitan methodological approaches that can further critically examine such fruitful themes: transnational class and elites, growing transnational risks, latent transnational inequalities (whether these are manufactured or not), cosmopolitan sociology (to establish a plural and inclusive methodological vision for our field). Finally, the academic anticipation that   social science will face transition towards “state cosmopolitanism”  etc. Held (2005) appears to further go into that direction by offering empirical evidence that internal laws are starting to construct a quasi-legal regime designed to strengthen international institutions.

Honestly, I do not think that we have to completely alter our sociology language altogether. Rather, I think we already have numerous sociological concepts that carried cosmopolitan images with them (e.g. class, risk). We can say that class analysis in the beginning was already designed for any given society that may exist out there. The genius of “class” is that it does not necessarily only apply for one given national social structure, it can also be used in analyzing world-class structures and global elites. “Risk” is another sociological concept that has a cosmopolitan smell to it. Especially, within the mist of many industrial societies, the concept of “risk” is either being directly dealt with or being somewhat avoided and the national expert systems have been running out of potential explanations within their own analysis.

I think that one major obstacle is that cosmopolitan sociology is still in its infancy. Moreover, the so-called ‘second modernity’ of life is simply too unpredictable and uncertain. Aren’t we really just reframing these terms as we go along? Moreover, isn’t the cosmopolitan aim a little too large for just sociologists to tackle? Although, a new critical theory may guide us in the right direction it still. First, I think that national and domestic problems usually always take center stage in the academic realm. Moreover, we need to further invent cosmopolitan sociology to confront this—I really do not know if we even have cosmopolitan sociologists anymore. Second, methodology is our ‘frame of reference’ that we use in order to answer many of these vexing questions. It does not mean that it will be compatible to any given society. One might also consider this to be the “unintended consequences” of nationalization within the social sciences. Hence, we must further put the nation-state on top of its head (once again), since we do not yet have an established cosmopolitan sociology (as of yet).

Music Break: Talla 2xlc

Posted in Uncategorized on July 22, 2008 by crtiticalcontexts

For those that know me personally you should know by now that I have a serious listening fetish for trance music. In particular i listen to AvB, PvD, and the German trance community like Talla 2xlc and Ace da brain which is progressive with high melodies.

Here is the free podcast link: