The publishing house Transaction has been a mainstay of unusual academic scrutiny and exploration for decades — one that the self-righteous priests of political certainty who run the field sought to exile from the arena of thought. It was the intellectual banquet served up for years by the prickly but brilliant Irving Louis Horowitz and after his passing by his formidable widow Mary Curtis and her associates in the firm.
As a publishing adventure, Transaction was immune to the forces of sentimental fashion. It sought out and worked to sharpen and polish promising material. It ran the outstanding social science journal, Society, and other magazines edited elsewhere, including some of the most arcane publications from often unexpected and neglected neighborhoods of universities.
Almost single-handedly among commercial publishers, it kept alive the healthy tradition of intelligent sociology pioneered by powerful analysts and synthesizers such as Max Weber and Georg Simmel. This was at a time when the discipline was overrun by fuzzy neo-theatrical concepts such as “role models” and “status seekers” and endless (some would say pointless) studies of the mating habits of college sophomores, all which could be done without leaving one’s office and without risking contamination by deeper notions of human hierarchy and brutal personal struggle.
Transaction kept itself apart from the melioristic view of sociological insight as a substitute for skilled political action. And it created an intellectual home for informed and sometimes oddball and cranky skepticism. How it managed its finances so that it could publish a respectable dossier of books each year and support a devoted and experienced staff was a mystery that often baffled scholars perusing its intriguing and catholic catalogs. These same scholars then turned around to submit their manuscripts with some confidence that they had a shot at reaching the wider world.
Meeting that agreeable if overwhelming challenge has now proved to be too much for Team Transaction and it has elected to be purchased by the Routledge publishing group. Scholars will wish them well while quietly humming “Adieu Transactors – and Thank You.”
Almost everyone is aware of the
statistics-based morality on race and ethnicity: if any admired group does not
contain the correct proportion of African-Americans and Hispanics, bias can
reasonably be inferred.
The same bag of statistical assertions which
animated much appropriate (and some inappropriate) legal and social change has,
of course, migrated over to discussions of sex. The problem here is that there
are no real interesting biosocial differences between the races but there are
major discernible and definable differences between the sexes. So we have
incubated a new, prosperous and irritated industry of people scouring the
community looking for any departure from the 51% number of females in the
population to the workplace of, say, CEOs, professional hockey players, or lumberjacks.
Everyone from the President on down recites the mantra that women earn only 77
cents to the male dollar. However, a Dept of Labor report in 2010 concluded
unambiguously that the principal reason for economic difference was personal
choice – perhaps not a free choice but one made by persons in the economy. One
huge example: some 85% of women have children and the average mother tends to
leave the labor force for 5-8 years and is much more likely than a male to work
part-time. Both lead to reduced income. Add that males take the higher-paying
jobs such as commercial fishing, which are dangerous and lead to much higher
fatality and injury rates, and we begin to derive a picture different from the conventional
statistician’s view that if there’s a discrepancy it must be imposed not
Now the statistical moralists have a problem
they are eager not to see: the perception that males are not doing well in the
system of education. Allie Grasgreen in Inside Higher Education reviews a book
published by the Russell Sage Foundation, certifying that women outpace men in
college action in a ratio of 1.4 to 1. Grasgreen delineates the conclusion of
the authors (Thomas diPrete and Claudia Buchmann) that there is inadequate
gender integration in higher ed and that males are unrealistic about what they
need do to become effective men. But there is also a cultural problem here: the
now conventional anti-male attitude on campus. I know from my own teaching
experience that the pervasiveness of this attitude, launched on the first day
of class with a stark rape seminar, causes males, especially of blue-collar
origin, to flee a community they quickly come to see as suffused with the gender-studies
rebuke of men now built into college life.
A consistent failure
of the school system is reflected in its failure to educate males and females
equally effectively. If the problem category were race or religion it would be
politically intolerable. But boys and men–no problem. Where, for example, is
the White House Council on Boys and Men, still non-existent years after the
nifty one on girls and women was proudly brandished? Presumably lost somewhere
in electoral politics and some dingy acceptance of payback for that vaunted
5000 years of patriarchy. We can do better.
Lionel Tiger is Darwin professor of
anthropology emeritus at Rutgers University and author of The Decline of Males and The Pursuit of Pleasure.
Irving Louis Horowitz, who died last week at 82, was a force of nature–a brilliant, cantankerous, sociologist of astonishing range; a forceful and important publisher (Transaction Books, Society magazine); and a radical acolyte of C. Wright Mills who moved to the right as he saw the crippling effect doctrinaire Marxists were having on social science and on American universities in general.
He was indescribable in life, and now that he has passed, description is yet more difficult. How to explain the way this relentless American captured the very core of European academic publishing and did so with an elan, capaciousness, and certainty which put to shame the coyly careful deliberation of competing publishers. He was on his own and was beholden to no suits, and may not even have owned a suit himself, except perhaps one he rented from himself for the state occasions even civilians must endure. How he managed the finances of his operation was a question which provoked many who threw up their ink-stained hands and finally simply decided: this was how ILH did things and the luckier we were for it.
Continue reading A Social Scientist Who Made a Difference
Governor Scott of Florida has decided to save taxpayers’ money by developing a way to ensure that people who study under state auspices in Florida do so in programs that will secure jobs. The way to do this, he says, is to stop training students to get degrees in subjects such as psychology and anthropology–especially anthropology, a subject I’ve taught at Rutgers for many years.
We never know with complete confidence what will work to support and dignify a society and how what we do now will affect the future. If the past is prologue, then studying anthropology can help build a thriving society. And studying behavior and how the brain responds to different stimuli is an important cog in the wheel of the social contract. Even so, a plague on both their houses – the anthropologist’s thatched one and the Governor’s marble one.
Continue reading College Budget Cuts: How Course Corrections Can Undermine Students
Has something finally changed in the sexual politics of academia? For more than a generation the verities of feminist theory and female interests have dominated administration policy, including who gets accepted to college and who graduates.
Anyone who has taken part in academic life for the last thirty years is well aware of the organizational power of women’s studies departments. That power has yielded a tacit veto on initiatives they feel are neither philosophically nor practically in sync with their views. Efforts to study the behavior of men have tended to be smoothly integrated into “men’s studies” which can be harshly but fairly described as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the established women’s industry. For a common example, a review of the current course offerings of the University of Toronto reveals some 40 courses explicitly focused on women and their activities. There are two concerned with men specializing in homosexual and transgendered men.
This is clearly a reason for the growing disenchantment and ineffectiveness of male students which has led to a disproportionate ratio of female to male graduates is at least 40% male to 60% female. From their first day of school, males are less successful than females. Even in nursery school, four of five students expelled are boys (how does anyone get expelled from nursery school?) and the overwhelming number of victims of Ritalin are boys.
Continue reading Male Market Share and the Distortions of Women’s Studies
Those who have been operating the managerial levers of the financial system have failed embarassingly and massively to comprehend the processes for which they are responsible. They have loaned money avidly and recklessly to people who couldn’t pay it back. They fudged data to get loans approved and recalculated . Then they sausaged fragile figments of moneyreality into new “products” which could be sold around the world to investors eager to enjoy the surprising returns which often accompany theft, managerial incompetence, and fraud.
One result is that our hard-nurtured national assets are being sold to foreign governments, our dollar which represents a share in our whole economy is at a portentous low while shrewd investors make bets on its continued decline. Houses and cars are being repossessed, pension funds shrink like bad shirts, people even hold off buying cheeseburgers it’s that bad.
When it comes to responsibility for all this, there appears to be no one here but us spring chickens. Not only that but the overseers of the bitter debacle may lose their jobs for a month but nonetheless fill their wheelbarrows with company money and “severance” when they leave to tide them over until the next corner office becomes available. Surrealists appear to write the scripts for the drama. Stanley O’Neal was the lavishly – paid king of Merrill Lynch who – oops – mislaid about 22 billion dollars before he was shoved out the door. Sad. Shattered dreams. But he was speedily named to the Board of Directors of Alcoa! So you don’t have to worry about yet another incompetent member of an increasingly overpaid and underskilled financial ruling class.
Continue reading Down With Math
Karl Marx did everyone a huge favor when he announced that all history was the history of class struggle because then it was simple to analyze anything and everything confidently and crisply. But in Anthropology a new holy explanatory trinity has emerged to replace the good old simple one: Race/Class/Gender. You can barely refer to the weather without taking into firm account the now-triply-coercive impact of these factors. There are some immediate things to note about how these relatively reasonable independent variables are influenced by the prevailing ethos of the academic institutions which have affirmed their necessary role in peering at any social behavior. The first and in a way most dramatic feature is that the trinity is essentially composed of factors which are viewed as centrally negative. The use of Race (which is scientifically a hopeless, preposterous and dumb concept which should be embargoed from serious discussion) implies not that race is a positive matter but rather a source of inequity, loss of face, and the origin of variegated segments of oppression.
Another negative vitamin of the RCG Trinity is its unthinking association with the industrial way of life or of industry. Most folks in most of nature’s constituency don’t think in terms of class, unless they’ve been to the London School of Economics or any more expensive US college. Instead, kinship is all. Family, Uncle Dirk, Cousin Frank in Wichita – that’s the organizing principle of human as well as chimp and even bat society. You may be a big-city alderman or the owner of a Chevrolet dealership but you’re always a son or daughter or dim-bulb cousin first. Class as a construct was useful in trying to figure out how to deal with the conniptions of Europe when farmers had to leave the land either because of the Enclosure Acts or bad potato prices and moved to cities where they were obligated through the need for breakfast to work hard, usually for people who got to wear velvet. But as a cosmic imprimatur of how human life gets lived, sorry, class is rather particular as a tool and of course that’s why the gaseous term “middle class” serves countless suave commentators as a method of avoiding any punctilious analysis of the matter, as compared for example with folks who have tetanus and those who don’t.
Continue reading Anthropology’s Holy Trinity