Message from the Chair

By Michael Sauder

Dear OOW Members,

Greetings!  As I begin my term as section chair, I would like to give one last thank you to Emily Barman, the OOW Council—Nina Bandelj, Tim Bartley, Beth Popp Berman, Michael McQuarrie, Giacomo Negro (Secretary-Treasurer), David Pedulla, Melissa Wooten—and all of the people who worked on our section’s program for a very successful meeting in New York City. I want to give a special thank you to the Program Committee (Laura Doering, Ryan Finnigan, Adilia James, Tania Jenkins, Ken-Hou Lin, and Steven Vallas) and Roundtable organizers (Carla Ilten, Sarah Mosseri, and Jennifer Nelson) for their hard work. Finally, please join me in welcoming our two new council members, Sarah Thebaud and LaTonya Trotter, as well as Alexandra Kalev, OOW’s chair-elect.

OOW remains a vibrant and stimulating community of scholars, and I am excited to work to continue this tradition as we prepare for next year’s conference in San Francisco. Here are a few things to keep in mind as we move into the new academic year.

1) Be on the lookout for potential members of OOW. The larger our section, the more panels we have at ASA. While OOW remains one of the larger ASA sections, we have lost a few members in recent years because the annual Academy of Management meetings have been held at the same time as ASA’s meetings. One effective strategy (aside from proselytizing in the hallways) is to sponsor students who might be interested in the section. This is inexpensive — only $5 if they are already members of ASA — and a good way to promote future membership.

2) News and announcements for the section are published in two places: the OOW blog (https://oowsection.org) and our monthly newsletter. Let me take this opportunity to thank Annika Wilcox and Laura Adler for their excellent work on these outlets. If you have news or an announcement to share with the section, please send the item to me (michael-sauder@uiowa.edu) and/or Annika (amwilcox@ncsu.edu). I will also send out occasional updates and announcements on our section’s listserv, but—to limit the strain on everyone’s inboxes—most news will be posted on the blog and newsletter.

I look forward to working with everyone this year. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions or concerns about the section.

Book Review: The Mindful Elite

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Max Coleman

As part of our July newsletter, Max Coleman contributes a review of a recently published book: The Mindful Elite by Jaime Kucinskas.

Max Coleman is a PhD student in sociology at Indiana University. His research lies at the intersection of mental health, culture, and social stratification. You can reach him at maxcole@iu.edu.

Sources of stress and anxiety are everywhere: in our jobs, in our intimate relationships, and even in our political climate. As Americans face disturbing rates of psychological distress, they have become eager for novel coping strategies. Enter meditation, a centuries-old practice that has spread rapidly in the last few decades. Yet meditation is not just a form of stress-relief: at its core, meditation offers an antidote to capitalist self-interest. By teaching individuals to detach from desire and focus instead on the neutral sensations of the body and breath, regular meditators find that they are not only calmer, but that they have more empathy, patience, and selflessness than non-meditators.

Why, then, has meditation—along with its Americanized cousin, “mindfulness”—faced such a backlash in recent years? Consider an article by Robert Purser, which recently appeared in the Guardian under the title “The Mindfulness Conspiracy.” While Buddhist meditation may have laudable goals, Purser wrote, it has been coöpted by a neoliberal system designed to reduce social issues to personal problems that can—and therefore must—be mastered with self-discipline. Building on the neuroscientific finding that “you can change your brain,” mindfulness has become a panacea for all social and emotional challenges. In this formulation, the source of one’s suffering is never in society itself; rather, suffering is based on our own maladaptive thinking, our neuroses, our clinging, our desire—and by liberating ourselves through meditation, we can not only cure these problems but render irrelevant their social foundations. Mindfulness, becomes a tool not of transformation, but of quiescence.

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Invited Essay: Teaching the Organizational Imagination

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Nicholas Membrez-Weiler

As part of our February newsletter, Nicholas Membrez-Weiler contributes a piece on teaching the sociology of organizations to undergraduate students. Nicholas is a PhD student at North Carolina State University. His work examines the social dynamics of organizational wrongdoing and corporate crime, with current projects focused on the problem of wage theft. He is involved in several projects with topics ranging from transnational mobilization and contested illness, franchise organizations and the fissured workplace, and shifting work relations in the platform/gig-economy.

When I started teaching the sociology of organizations, I noticed that students seemed particularly resistant to letting go of their implicit assumptions about organizations. Most students come into the sociology of organizations with some prior experience in sociology, usually an introductory or social problems course, where they learned to question many of their taken-for-granted assumptions about social life. Students learn early on about the socially constructed nature of race, gender, and class. We drill Mills’ (1959) Sociological Imagination into their heads and teach the importance of connecting biography and history, the macro and the micro, in order to better understand both.

But what of the meso? Formal organizations have come to dominate society, yet organizational dynamics remain invisible within most introductory sociology courses. As I quickly realized in my first go at teaching organizations, my students come with a great grounding in sociology and an understanding of important sociological concepts, yet certain images of organizations seem persistent and immovable in their minds. Especially entrenched are ideas about efficiency as an organizational goal rather than the means to reach that goal and the belief that productive organizations’ primary goal is (and should be) profit. In attempting to address these misconceptions, and in order to present a more complete introduction to the scholarship on organizations, I employ two strategies: semester-long observations of the same organization, and constant experiential immersion in the classroom.

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Meet Your Council: Michael McQuarrie

Michael McQuarrie is currently serving on the OOW Council. Michael is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at the London School of Economics.  His research is primarily concerned with the transformation of urban politics, governance, michael-mcquarrie-cropped-200x200and civil society since 1973. He demonstrates this both by showing how the meaningful content of political values and practices, such as community and participation, have been transformed, but also how these changes are linked to the changing nature of governance, changing organizational populations, and the outcome of political conflicts.  He has authored numerous articles and co-edited two volumes on related themes: Remaking Urban Citizenship: Organizations, Institutions, and the Right to the City (with Michael Peter Smith), and Democratizing Inequalities: The Promise and Pitfalls of the New Public Participation (with Caroline Lee and Edward Walker, 2014).  Currently, he is preparing a book manuscript entitled The Community Builders which summarizes his research on the trajectory of community-based organizations in urban authority and governance over the last forty years. Below, Michael discusses his key influences, the challenges that he sees OOW scholars facing, and what he looks forward to at ASA 2019.

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Invited Essay: Corruption, Gender, And The Violation Of Public-Private Boundaries

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Fauzia Husain

As part of our January newsletter, Fauzia Husain contributes a piece on what corruption studies can teach us about the flow of power in organizations, informed by her research in Pakistan. Fauzia Husain is a PhD candidate at the University of Virginia. Her work explores the local and global dynamics of gender, agency and power through a focus on state security. She is also one of the organizers of JTS 2019. 

Over the years several studies have shown gender and corruption to be related, with rates of corruption falling as women’s participation in government rises. Some scholars assume that this relationship is based on gendered traits. Corruption, they argue, is gendered because women are more prone to honesty and good civic sense. Others suggest that not essential gender traits but systemic factors explain the relationship between gender and corruption—it is liberal democracy that explains both, gender integration as well as honest government. In the course of fieldwork with women police in Pakistan, however, I found that the gendered character of corruption might be the outcome not of quantity or propensity but of opportunity and quality. In other words, both men and women do corruption, they just do it differently.

Continue reading “Invited Essay: Corruption, Gender, And The Violation Of Public-Private Boundaries”