Skip navigation

Sociology

Global Inequality, North-South Politics, and Climate Policy

The global debate over who should take action to address climate change is extremely precarious, as diametrically opposed perceptions of climate justice threaten the prospects for any long-term agreement. Poor nations fear limits on their efforts to grow economically and meet the needs of their own people, while powerful industrial nations, including the United States, refuse to curtail their own excesses unless developing countries make similar sacrifices. Meanwhile, although industrialized countries are responsible for 60 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, developing countries suffer the "worst and first" effects of climate-related disasters, including droughts, floods, and storms, because of their geographical locations. In A Climate of Injustice, J. Timmons Roberts and Bradley Parks analyze the role that inequality between rich and poor nations plays in the negotiation of global climate agreements.

Roberts and Parks argue that global inequality dampens cooperative efforts by reinforcing the "structuralist" worldviews and causal beliefs of many poor nations, eroding conditions of generalized trust, and promoting particularistic notions of "fair" solutions. They develop new measures of climate-related inequality, analyzing fatality and homelessness rates from hydrometeorological disasters, patterns of "emissions inequality," and participation in international environmental regimes. Until we recognize that reaching a North-South global climate pact requires addressing larger issues of inequality and striking a global bargain on environment and development, Roberts and Parks argue, the current policy gridlock will remain unresolved.

Principle and Practice in Confronting Environmental Risk

The precautionary principle—which holds that action to address threats of serious or irreversible environmental harm should be taken even in the absence of scientific certainty—has been accepted as a key feature of environmental law throughout the European Union. In the United States, however, it is still widely unknown, and much of what has been written on the topic takes a negative view. Precautionary Politics provides a comprehensive analysis of the precautionary principle—its origins and development, its meaning and rationale, its theoretical context, and its policy implications. Kerry Whiteside looks at the application of the principle (and the controversies it has stirred) and compares European and American attitudes toward it and toward environmental regulation in general.

Too often, Whiteside argues, American critics of the precautionary principle pay insufficient attention to how the principle has been debated, refined, and elaborated elsewhere. Precautionary Politics fills this gap. Whiteside demonstrates the different responses of Europe and the United States, first by describing the controversy over genetically modified crops, and then by using this example throughout the book to illustrate application of the precautionary principle in different contexts. He contrasts the European view that new types of risk require specially adapted modes of regulation with the American method of science-based risk assessment, and argues that despite Bush administration opposition, U.S.-European convergence on precaution is possible. Finally, he looks at the ways in which participatory innovation can help produce environmentally positive results. Whiteside's systematic defense of the precautionary principle will be an important resource for students, scholars, activists, and policymakers and is particularly suitable for classroom use.

The Extensions of Man

with a new introduction by Lewis H. Lapham This reissue of Understanding Media marks the thirtieth anniversary (1964-1994) of Marshall McLuhan's classic expose on the state of the then emerging phenomenon of mass media. Terms and phrases such as "the global village" and "the medium is the message" are now part of the lexicon, and McLuhan's theories continue to challenge our sensibilities and our assumptions about how and what we communicate.There has been a notable resurgence of interest in McLuhan's work in the last few years, fueled by the recent and continuing conjunctions between the cable companies and the regional phone companies, the appearance of magazines such as WiRed, and the development of new media models and information ecologies, many of which were spawned from MIT's Media Lab. In effect, media now begs to be redefined. In a new introduction to this edition of Understanding Media, Harper's editor Lewis Lapham reevaluates McLuhan's work in the light of the technological as well as the political and social changes that have occurred in the last part of this century.

Social Meanings of a New Technology, 1880-1940

How did electricity enter everyday life in America? Using Muncie, Indiana - the Lynds' now iconic Middletown - as a touchstone, David Nye explores how electricity seeped into and redefined American culture. With an eye for telling details from archival sources and a broad understanding of cultural and social history, he creates a thought-provoking panorama of a technology fundamental to modern life. Emphasizing the experiences of ordinary men and women rather than the lives of inventors and entrepreneurs, Nye treats electrification as a set of technical possibilities that were selectively adopted to create the streetcar suburb, the amusement park, the "Great White Way," the assembly line, the electrified home, and the industrialized farm. He shows how electricity touched every part of American life, how it became an extension of political ideologies, how it virtually created the image of the modern city, and how it even pervaded colloquial speech, confirming the values of high energy and speed that have become hallmarks of the twentieth century. He also pursues the social meaning of electrification as expressed in utopian ideas and exhibits at world's fairs, and explores the evocation of electrical landscapes in painting, literature, and photography. Electrifying America combines chronology and topicality to examine the major forms of light and power as they came into general use. It shows that in the city electrification promoted a more varied landscape and made possible new art forms and new consumption environments. In the factory, electricity permitted a complete redesign of the size and scale of operations, shifting power away from the shop floor to managers. Electrical appliances redefined domestic work and transformed the landscape of the home, while on the farm electricity laid the foundation for today's agribusiness.

In this sweeping cultural history, James Flink provides a fascinating account of the creation of the world's first automobile culture. He offers both a critical survey of the development of automotive technology and the automotive industry and an analysis of the social effects of "automobility" on workers and consumers.

James J. Flink is an affiliate of the Institute of Transportation Studies and Professor of Comparative Culture at the University of California, Irvine.

A History of Feminist Designs For American Homes, Neighborhoods, and Cities

Long before Betty Friedan wrote about "the problem that had no name" in The Feminine Mystique, a group of American feminists whose leaders included Melusina Fay Peirce, Mary Livermore, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman campaigned against women's isolation in the home and confinement to domestic life as the basic cause of their unequal position in society.

The Grand Domestic Revolution reveals the innovative plans and visionary strategies of these persistent women, who developed the theory and practice of what Hayden calls "material feminism" in pursuit of economic independence and social equality. The material feminists' ambitious goals of socialized housework and child care meant revolutionizing the American home and creating community services. They raised fundamental questions about the relationship of men, women, and children in industrial society. Hayden analyzes the utopian and pragmatic sources of the feminists' programs for domestic reorganization and the conflicts over class, race, and gender they encountered.

This history of a little-known intellectual tradition challenging patriarchal notions of "women's place" and "women's work" offers a new interpretation of the history of American feminism and a new interpretation of the history of American housing and urban design. Hayden shows how the material feminists' political ideology led them to design physical space to create housewives' cooperatives, kitchenless houses, day-care centers, public kitchens, and community dining halls. In their insistence that women be paid for domestic labor, the material feminists won the support of many suffragists and of novelists such as Edward Bellamy and William Dean Howells, who helped popularize their cause. Ebenezer Howard, Rudolph Schindler, and Lewis Mumford were among the many progressive architects and planners who promoted the reorganization of housing and neighborhoods around the needs of employed women.

In reevaluating these early feminist plans for the environmental and economic transformation of American society and in recording the vigorous and many-sided arguments that evolved around the issues they raised, Hayden brings to light basic economic and spacial contradictions which outdated forms of housing and inadequate community services still create for American women and for their families.

In seeking to explain his opinions on a timeless subject—the relations between the sexes—John Stuart Mill admits that he has undertaken an arduous task. For "there are so many causes tending to make the feelings connected with this subject the most intense and most deeply-rooted of all those which gather round and protect old institutions and customs, that we need not wonder to find them as yet less undermined and loosened than any of the rest by the progress of the great modern spiritual and social transition."

Yet typically in this essay Mill assails a system of inequality which he feels supports and encourages the subjection of one individual by another and raises questions about the nature and relationship of power and liberty. He proposes to tap the existing climate of opinion that would admit to the great injustice of excluding half the human race from decent occupations and public function on the basis of sex. More than a classical theoretical statement of the case for women's suffrage, the book attacks the full range of social and cultural attitudes and customs that transform physical fact (often compared by Mill to slavery in its most extended form) to social sanction and legal decree. The book treats inequities of the marriage contract and property rights as well as the psychological effects (the "positive evil") that personal servitude and exclusion from public affairs have on women. Are marriage and motherhood socially useful and humane goals? Mill contends that these roles are not "natural" and not always desirable, asserting that their narrow definition prevents women from exercising a truly civilizing influence on family and society.

Publication of The Subjection of Women in 1869 drew attention to the fact that despite the implacable opposition of Queen Victoria, a great many women refused to accept the conditions imposed upon them and had recorded their protests. (Had not Queen Victoria inherited the throne, Mill reasons, she would not have been entrusted with the smallest of political duties.) The liberal and enquiring nature of Mill's thesis on one of the great questions of his time easily spans the century and applies, despite legal modifications, to the same issues today.

The Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Jews, Italians, and Irish of New York City

Beyond the Melting Pot was one of the most influential books published during the 1960s. This second edition includes a new 90-page Introduction, "New York City in 1960," in which the authors, with all their previous depth and verve, examine the turn of events since 1963, the date of the first edition. Their concerns are directed to such developments as the rise of militant black demands and the response to these of the city's peoples and political structures; the decline of Catholic power in Lindsay's New York and the rise in power of Jews and WASPs; the growth of a black middle class and the economic and political difficulties of the Puerto Ricans.

The authors note that events and further study have led them to change their views on several matters, and these points are clarified in the Introduction. Nevertheless, most of their perceptions and their central thesis (that "melting pot" assimilation does not happen) remain as valid as ever. In the same way, these appraisals of the first edition remain fully in force:

Richard H. Rovere, The New Yorker: "Beyond the Melting Pot... is perhaps the most perceptive inquiry into American minorities ever made."

Oscar Handlin, New York Times: "They have put together a thoughtful analysis that will help Americans deal with one of the most pressing problems of the great cities. That itself is a substantial accomplishment."

Harpers Magazine: "...sure in its grasp of relations between economic and social fact, cogent, complex, and brightly written."

Time Magazine: "...provocative...Glazer...and Moynihan...write with a refreshing candor on a subject that is usually treated all too delicately.... They write compassionately of the problems minority groups have faced, but they forthrightly point out that many of these problems are compounded by each group's special characteristics."