Bryan Caplan  

Sociologists' Self-Criticism

Confusion in Political Theory... Your Zip Code or Yourself...

I've heard a lot of people complain about extreme left-wing bias in sociology, but I had no idea that sociologists themselves were complaining about it. A forthcoming paper by Dan Klein and Charlotta Stern provides the inside scoop. One highlight:

...Satoshi Kanazawa resigned from the ASA [American Sociological Association]... He explained his reasons as follows:
...I have also become progressively more uncomfortable with the politicization of the ASA: The Iraq war resolution, the gay marriage resolution, the Burawoy presidency. However, absolutely the last straw for me was the recent statement, passed unanimously by the ASA Council, on the Larry Summers affair... As an evolutionary psychologist, I cannot afford to be part of a political organization which willingly promotes and spreads such a lie. I have therefore decided to resign from the ASA.

Another insider critic, Mathieu Deflem, has set up the Save Sociology website. Check out his blog entry arguing that "public sociology" is "Neither Public Nor Sociology."

What is particularly striking about this internal criticism is that Klein and Stern document that most of the critics have to be pretty left-wing themselves. They surveyed the policy views of 347 sociologists. On a 1-5 scale, with 1 being most statist:

[O]ver 98 percent of the sample has a score below 3.0, and not a single member has a score above 4.0. It appears that the number of classical liberals belonging to the ASA is approximately zero.

Klein and Stern obviously didn't survey one of my best friends, a libertarian sociologist who will remain nameless until he gets tenure.

But they did say "approximately."

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (15 to date)
Robert Schwartz writes:

Sociology is the invention of intellectuals who thought they had a "science" of society. It was explicitly left-wing in formation and has remained so. Economics evolved out of the "classical" liberal tradition, and has always been more comfortable with liberalism (a/k/a libertarianism).

chuckles writes:

If you want to see extreme left-wing bias in postgraduate education, you don't have to go to sociology departments. Schools of Education are another bastion while English departments and Culture Studies are just as bad.

Luckily, the pervasive bitterness in most of these places seems to indicate that they are slowly collapsing under the cumulative burden of their own idiocy.

Don writes:

But it's not bias. The sociologists have simply come to understand some of the essential truths that all reasonable, bright people agree upon. Like Holocaust deniers, (some of) the economists refuse to acknowledge the truth in order to maintain their ideology.

Timothy writes:

Best thing an econ prof ever said in a class I took:

"Now I'm going to write down some axioms, because without axioms we'd just be sociologists."

T.R. Elliott writes:

So what part of the statement on Summers passed by the ASA did Kanazawa not like? And did you, Bryan Caplan, read it? Are we talking about the February 28, 2005 statement? What part of it do you find offensive? Or leftist?

You guys really are amusing. I'll continue to read what you write, but as I've said in the past, anyone who compares Tolstoy to Ayn Rand is obviously lacking in some basic critical skills. And that original shale oil post was pretty lame as well. Hence my caution. When I know something about a topic, you guys so often are proved wrong. How often are you wrong in general? I'm suspecting pretty often. Maybe why you teach?

David Thomson writes:

I have been arguing for a long time that the Ph.D. is often awarded only to intellectual sluts. Everyone possessing such a degree should be treated like an idiot until proven otherwise. The situation is deteriorating rapidly. But this did not occur overnight. Look at the scandal at Harvard University concerning John Kenneth Galbraith. The guy is an economic moron---but the Harvard intellectual gestapo made sure he became world famous.

Some people may wrongly conclude that my comments are exaggerated and way over the top. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am speaking very calmly---and carefully. Today’s soft science Ph.D. must often whore themselves to the leftist establishment and their comrades in the Democratic Party. This is truly one of the central reasons why so many blue staters despise George W. Bush. They rightfully sense that their elitist and unearned privileges are in jeopardy. The crap is hitting the proverbial fan. Today’s pseudo intellectuals may have to soon perform work more in line with their skill set, like flipping burgers.

T.R. Elliott writes:

David Thomson: Don't you find it amazing that blue states predominate in technology and next-generation economic realities. No. I'm not talking about pontificating economists. I'm talking about actually creating something, whether it be in the blue regions of boston, silicon valley, los angeles.

Mr Thomson: You just don't know what you are talking about. The blue states primarily fear that the promethean anti-darwinian social darwinistic red states will infect the superior performance of the blue states.

Alberich writes:

The statement from the ASA that I believe Kanazawa was refering to can be found here:

TR Elliott

If I were to guess I would say that Kanazawa was frustrated because a) there may be evidence that there are inherent differences between men and women which the ASA purposely left out and b) the reasoning in the statement issued by the ASA is poor.

Someone else can address a) as I am not up on the research, while b) is pretty obvious. For example, the percentage of women going from 4% to 50% in law school student body composition does not in any way contradict what Summers said about men having more outliers than women in terms of core intellectual ability.

Now I am not taking sides in the specific debate. But the ASA certainly has not proven that Summers is wrong, so to act like it is a settled issue is beyond irritating, especially if you are a sociologist.

Also, TR Elliott, quit being a keyboard warrior and drop the ego. You turn off other posters who may agree with you on certain issues. Last time I checked aesthetics was not exactly the most objective field of human inquiry.

spencer writes:

Happy Holidays to all.

Now am I going to be accused of being PC, or something like that?

Marcus writes:

"Don't you find it amazing that blue states predominate in technology and next-generation economic realities"

"Technology" tends to be designed by engineers - a profession that skews Republican.

If by "next-generation economic realities" you mean "states with larger income inequalities", that tends to skew Democratic.

T.R. Elliott writes:

Marcus: I'm not sure what you are talking about. I've worked at two high tech companies, one in Boston, another in San Diego (BBN and QUALCOMM) and--yes there are of course Republican engineers--but a preponderance of progressive minded people. Libertarians as well, of course. But the fact is that blue states are far ahead of red states in almost every measure of economic health.

Simple put: I don't think you know what you are talking about. Do you understand that development of technology in this country? The role of the government in that development? I do, and it's nowhere as simplistic as the authors of this board think. All they do is chase after examples that "prove" their thesis. That's it. It's certainly not science that they are doing. It really is like ambulance chasing. Or the nuts on Fox news who "prove" there is a war on Christmas by sifting through the data to find "proof."

T.R. Elliott writes:

Alberich: I do agree. My attitude stinks and is tedious. I must do a better job of controlling my angst when I visit this blog, which seems to do little more than data mine to prove their personal predilections. It could also be that this is one of the few economic blogs I visit that throw the mugs of the authors into my face. Is that an Ayn Rand thing as well, needing to push the ego--and the face--into the presence of those visiting the blog?

But seriously. One author here compared Tolstoy, I think Anna Karenina, with Atlas Shrugged. Atlas Shrugged, along with all Ayn Rand's works, is a melodramtic poorly written puerile attempt to describe a pathetically silly idea: that the great and powerful are going to go to their rooms and pout. She really is a bad bad writer. I can't believe that someone with any breadth in the reading of literature would not want to throw the book across the room by the time they've finished.

David Thomson writes:

"David Thomson: Don't you find it amazing that blue states predominate in technology and next-generation economic realities."

Yup, blue states really have it over the red ones. See for yourself:

“Saturday, December 24, 2005

Successful Democratic Blogger Can't Afford Blue State
Markos Moulitsas Zúniga the man that runs the most successful political blog in America can't afford the Blue state of California:

'So I'm getting a little frustrated with the Bay Area real estate market, and for the first time in years I'm casting about the rest of the nation to see if there's anywhere else where I could possibly live.'

How ironic,a guy who supports a party that promotes Fannie Mae,Freddie Mac,land-use restrictions,zoning,open space laws,and unions is unable to buy a house in the very Blue area of Northern California.All this from a guy who's got a law degree.What is it about Blue America that hates people that aren't rich??? Attention Markos Moulitsas Zúniga :did it ever occur to many in Blue state America that Houston(that doesn't have zoning) is a lot more affordable than let's say Berkeley,California.Also,Houston residents don't have a state income tax that they are paying.It appears Kos can't afford the very values he promotes,which is regulation of markets which leads to artifically high real estate prices.

# posted by Steve Bartin : 10:06 PM”

Marcus writes:

"I've worked at two high tech companies, one in Boston, another in San Diego (BBN and QUALCOMM) and--yes there are of course Republican engineers--but a preponderance of progressive minded people."

If by "progressive" you mean "people who are more likely to vote for Democrats than Republicans" and by "preponderance" you mean "a minority" then you have a point

"But the fact is that blue states are far ahead of red states in almost every measure of economic health."

... including the greater disparities of wealth more often found in blue states.

"Do you understand that development of technology in this country? The role of the government in that development?"

Sure. People claim that technological advances often stem from public spending on the military - yet an other profession that skews heavily toward Republicans.

bill davis writes:

RE: Sociology. In a eulogy to Frank Knight, the late Wall St Journal columnist Lindley Clark recalled that Knight had started out in Mathematics as a young man but admitted to having fallen. He “fell” (fortunately) to Economics but Knight allowed that ... “I didn’t fall as far as Sociology where there was but one law–--bad talk drives out good!”

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