Member Publication: The Behavioral Economics of Pierre Bourdieu

Please check out the recent publication by OOW member Adam Hayes. 2020. The Behavioral Economics of Pierre Bourdieu. Sociological Theory 38: 16-35.


This article builds the argument that Bourdieu’s dispositional theory of practice can help integrate the sociological tradition with three prominent strands of behavioral economics: bounded rationality, prospect theory, and time inconsistency. I make the case that the habitus provides an alternative framework to show how social and mental structure constitute one another, where cognitive tendencies toward irrationality can be either curtailed or amplified based on one’s position in the economic field and a person’s corresponding set of dispositions, ranging from more rational doxic dispositions to irrational allodoxic tendencies. Bridging economic sociology and behavioral economics, this work also bears on issues of persistent financial inequality reproduced through self-defeating patterns of economic behavior inculcated into individuals who occupy dominated positions in the social structure. Bourdieu’s thought, and in particular his conception of field+habitus, can usefully be applied to the empirical findings of behavioral economics to understand deviations from rational action as not only cognitive but also socially structured.

Member Publications

Please check out the recent publications by OOW member Jonathan Jan Benjamin Mijs:

2020. “Earning Rent with Your Talent: Modern-Day Inequality Rests on the Power to Define, Transfer and Institutionalize Talent” Educational Philosophy and Theory (Special issue: Talents and Distributive Justice). Online First.


In this article, I develop the point that whereas talent is the basis for desert, talent itself is not meritocratically deserved. It is produced by three processes, none of which are meritocratic: (1) talent is unequally distributed by the rigged lottery of birth, (2) talent is defined in ways that favor some traits over others, and (3) the market for talent is manipulated to maximally extract advantages by those who have more of it. To see how, we require a sociological perspective on economic rent. I argue that talent is a major means through which people seek rent in modern-day capitalism. Talent today is what inherited land was to feudal societies; an unchallenged source of symbolic and economic rewards. Whereas God sanctified the aristocracy’s wealth, contemporary privilege is legitimated by meritocracy. Drawing on the work of Gary Becker, Pierre Bourdieu, and Jerome Karabel, I show how rent-seeking in modern societies has come to rely principally on rent-definition and creation. Inequality is produced by the ways in which talent is defined, institutionalized, and sustained by the moral deservingness we attribute to the accomplishments of talents. Consequently, today’s inequalities are as striking as ever, yet harder to challenge than ever before.

2020. “The paradox of inequality: income inequality and belief in meritocracy go hand in hand.” Socio-Economic Review (in press).


Inequality is on the rise: gains have been concentrated with a small elite, while most have seen their fortunes stagnate or fall. Despite what scholars and journalists consider a worrying trend, there is no evidence of growing popular concern about inequality. In fact, research suggests that citizens in unequal societies are less concerned than those in more egalitarian societies. How to make sense of this paradox? I argue that citizens’ consent to inequality is explained by their growing conviction that societal success is reflective of a meritocratic process. Drawing on 25 years of International Social Survey Program data, I show that rising inequality is legitimated by the popular belief that the income gap is meritocratically deserved: the more unequal a society, the more likely its citizens are to explain success in meritocratic terms, and the less important they deem nonmeritocratic factors such as a person’s family wealth and connections.

This research was cited in an article in the New Statesman: “research by Jonathan Mijs of the London School of Economics (LSE) shows that despite rising income inequality, this has not been accompanied by a rise in concern over inequality – this ‘inequality paradox’ is also seen in internationally comparative data that shows meritocratic beliefs are stronger in more unequal countries.”

New Publication: Special Issue of Work and Occupations: The Emotional Experience of Caregiving Work in a Changing Health Care Landscape

Please check out the new Special Issue of Work and Occupations:

The Emotional Experience of Caregiving Work in a Changing Health Care Landscape
Guest Editors: Timothy J. Vogus, Allison S. Gabriel, Laura E. McClelland

Caregiving work is cognitively, emotionally, and physically demanding. These demands become amplified in the health care sector with the highstakes consequences of the work associated with the work being done with increasing complex, elderly, and fragile patients in a system simultaneously demanding high quality, low cost care. The result has been an epidemic of burnout among caregivers with conservative estimates suggesting it affects at least half of physicians and nurses and such aversive conditions may augur a future shortage of caregivers. Using this context as backdrop, the special issue focuses explicitly on the emotional experience of caregiving work with an emphasis on helping better understand the factors that contribute to emotional exhaustion and well-being at work. In doing so, the articles in the special issue push the frontiers of leading perspectives on emotional experience in service and caregiving work including emotional labor, job demands-resources, and the service triangle.

The articles comprising the special issue advance and challenge these leading perspectives and often do so in tandem with considering the changing reality and increasing complexity and pressures of health-care work. In a study of nurses, Chang and colleagues demonstrate how nurses’ differential experiences of job demands and resources (e.g., the balance of their social support exchanges) can trigger anger that produces physical (musculoskeletal) injuries. In a rich audio diary study of nurses Cottingham and Erickson develop a more contextualized, socially embedded emotional practice approach. For instance, they capture both the complex, embodied emotional experiences of care providers and powerfully depicting how shared social position affects how and for whom emotional resources are provided. Amid the growing burnout and dissatisfaction among caregivers, Lee and colleagues counterintuitively find that job dissatisfaction may itself be a job resource that is positively associated with generating quality improvement ideas in 12 clinics. The positive effects of dissatisfaction are stronger for individuals with shorter tenure, in central (caregiving) roles, and when engaged in more boundary spanning. Finally, Kossek et al. examine the work of an underappreciated set of workers in care delivery—job schedulers. In doing so, they push the frontier of the service triangle by illustrating how the scheduler adjudicates disputes among employees, administrators and patients through various forms of patching (i.e., ongoing adjustments to address holes in scheduling) that takes the unique needs of employers, employees, and patients into consideration. Exploratory analysis also show that how the schedulers address these issues may have patient consequences in fewer pressure ulcers.

The Social Context of Caregiving Work in Health Care: Pushing Conceptual and Methodological Frontiers
Vogus, T., Gabriel, A., and McClelland, L.

Social Support Exchange and Nurses’ Musculoskeletal Injuries in a Team Context: Anger as a Mediator
Chang, C.-H., Yang, L.-Q., & Lauricella, T. K.

The Promise of Emotion Practice: At the Bedside and Beyond
Cottingham, M. & Erickson, R.

Dissatisfied Creators: Generating Creative Ideas Amid Negative Emotion in Health Care
Lee, Y. S. H., Nembhard, I. M., & Cleary, P. D.

Work Schedule Patching in Health Care: Exploring Implementation Approaches
Kossek, E. E., Rosokha, L. M., & Leana, C.

Call for Papers: Special Issue of Contexts Magazine on the Global Impact of the Coronavirus

Contexts Magazine: Sociology for the Public
Call for Papers for a Special Issue: The Global Impact of the Coronavirus

In early 2020, it became very clear that a new contagion had entered the human population and was spreading across the globe. The novel coronavirus, first appearing in China, has now spread throughout the world and threatens to kill thousands, possibly millions, of people. Consistent with our mission of bringing sociology to the public, Contexts Magazine: Sociology for the Public is issuing a call for papers that address the spread of this disease from a social science perspective. We are particularly interested in hearing from scholars across the world facing nuanced challenges in their own countries at the local, state, and national level.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • How public agencies discover and monitor epidemics like the coronavirus.
  • How specific organizations, such as hospitals and departments of health, are coping with the epidemic.
  • The economic implications of the coronavirus epidemic.
  • How popular culture and news organizations discuss and frame the virus.
  • The politics of how health services are funded and provide services during epidemics.
  • Innovations in how businesses, non-profits, and educational organizations are positioned to solve unique problems related to COVID-19.
  • The impact of coronavirus on specific cities and neighborhoods.
  • The social impact of “social distancing” and other methods of reducing transmission.
  • Public attitudes on outbreaks and health crises like coronavirus.
  • How social networks facilitate or reduce transmission of the coronavirus.
  • Inequalities in the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.
  • Global comparisons of how different nations responded to the epidemic.

We ask that authors send the editors an opinion piece of 500-1000 words by March 20, 2020 at 5pm to We have a preference for pieces that employ empirical data and/or policy approaches to illustrate how the rise of coronavirus impacts society and how social behaviors change the spread of the virus.

Member Publication: The Death of Idealism: Development and Anti-Politics in the Peace Corps

Please check out the recent publication by OOW member Meghan E Kallman. 2020. The Death of Idealism: Development and Anti-Politics in the Peace Corps. Columbia University Press.

Here is a short description of the book:

Peace Corps volunteers seem to exemplify the desire to make the world a better place. Yet despite being one of history’s clearest cases of organized idealism, the Peace Corps has, in practice, ended up cultivating very different outcomes among its volunteers. By the time they return from the Peace Corps, volunteers exhibit surprising shifts in their political and professional consciousness. Rather than developing a systemic perspective on development and poverty, they tend instead to focus on individual behavior; they see professions as the only legitimate source of political and social power. They have lost their idealism, and their convictions and beliefs have been reshaped along the way.

The Death of Idealism uses the case of the Peace Corps to explain why and how participation in a bureaucratic organization changes people’s ideals and politics. Meghan Elizabeth Kallman offers an innovative institutional analysis of the role of idealism in development organizations. She details the combination of social forces and organizational pressures that depoliticizes Peace Corps volunteers, channels their idealism toward professionalization, and leads to cynicism or disengagement. Kallman sheds light on the structural reasons for the persistent failure of development organizations and the consequences for the people involved. Based on interviews with over 140 current and returned Peace Corps volunteers, field observations, and a large-scale survey, this deeply researched, theoretically rigorous book offers a novel perspective on how people lose their idealism, and why that matters.

For further information and to purchase the book, visit Columbia University Press’ website or Amazon.

Call for Papers: Special Issue of Poetics

Catastrophes, Meanings, and Politics in a Global World: Toward a Cultural Sociology of Disasters
Special Issue of Poetics

Poetics, a leading journal of sociology of culture, media, and the arts, is issuing a call for papers for a special issue in 2021. Dedicated to “Catastrophes, Meanings, and Politics in a Global World: Toward a Cultural Sociology of Disasters,” this special issue will be guest edited by Bin Xu, Associate Professor of Sociology at Emory University and Ming-Cheng M. Lo, Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Davis.

Natural and technological disasters not only cause chaos and casualties but also compel individual and collective actors to engage in making sense of profound life, death, and suffering. Such meaning-making processes inevitably involve clashes of multiple symbolic systems. While mainstream sociology of disaster has produced abundant and rigorous studies of social aspects of disasters, it has yet to develop a systematic research agenda centered on the cultural aspect of disasters. The overarching goal of this special issue is to explore and established how disasters are fundamentally cultural.

This special issue attempts to advance this agenda by making some new moves. First, this special issue seeks to address multiple dimensions of culture, including public discourses, symbolic practices, institutional cognitive schemata, individual interpretations, and so on. Second, this issue aims to enhance reflexive self-positioning by denaturalizing the lingering Euro-America-centric biases in our discipline. Finally, this issue aims to provide fecund grounds for the cross-fertilization of the sociology of disaster and cultural sociology.

We are looking for papers that advance this agenda through theoretically illuminating and empirically rigorous research. While we welcome various regional foci, topics, and perspectives, we are particularly interested in papers that address the following issues:

  • Disasters or related processes with global impacts
  • Disasters in the global South, especially Africa and Latin America
  • Long-term disasters such as climate change
  • Recent and historical pandemics such as the SARS, Ebola, and the ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks

Interested authors need to submit an abstract of about 500 words to the guest editors (Xu and Lo) by May 15, 2020. The guest editors will notify the authors with their decisions by June 1, 2020. The authors whose abstracts are accepted will need to submit the full papers to the guest editors first for internal reviews by September 1, 2020. After addressing the guest editors’ feedback, these authors will submit their revised papers to Poetics through its on-line submission system by December 1, 2020.  These submissions will then be subject to the journal’s anonymous review process for additional revisions and the final editorial decisions.

Please feel free to circulate this call for papers. We are looking forward to reading your submission. Should you have any questions, feel free to email the guest editors Bin Xu ( and Ming-Cheng M. Lo ( 

Job Posting: TT Assistant Professor Position at California State University-San Marcos

The California State University-San Marcos is seeking a tenure-track assistant professor position who has content area expertise in domestic and/or transnational immigration or “crimmigration” with a focus on US-Mexico-Central America and youth and families.

More information can be found here: