Sociological Debate on Inequalities in Russia and Beyond

My review Sociological Debate on Inequalities in Russia and Beyond has been published in the Russian Sociological Review.

The review considers the 5th All-Russian Sociological Congress held at the Ural Federal University in Yekaterinburg in October, 2016. The event, entitled “Sociology and Society: Social Inequality and Social Justice,” attracted more than 1000 delegates from Russia and abroad. The Congress took place against a background of increasing social inequality in Russia, following the economic crisis of 2015. The program included 17 sessions, 37 panels, and 35 round tables which covered burning topics such as the unequal distribution of resources in Russian regions, the reduction of social welfare, the low living standards of vulnerable social groups, the growth of ethnic tension, and others. One of the plenary talks was given by the president of the International Sociological Association, Margaret Abraham, who spoke on the humanistic mission of Sociology, and called to coalesce in the struggle against social injustice in the world. The discussions at the Congress have shown that sociologists in Russia follow the global trends in examining urgent social problems, as well as in reflecting methodological issues, e.g., the application of new approaches in inequality studies. The debate on the restriction of academic freedoms in Russia at the closing plenary session made it obvious that the solution to this problem can be found in professional solidarity and is the responsibility of everyone who belongs to the sociological community.

Read more: here.

How do social factors determine which music, fashions, trends, films etc become pop culture phenomena and which don’t?

My answer to the question “How do social factors determine which music, fashions, trends, films etc become pop culture phenomena and which don’t?” on the website TheQuestion UK

According to one sociological approach, music, films, books, clothes, and other cultural goods become popular among mass audiences through the mechanism of competitive struggle between various social groups.

The social groups that are important in the fields of fashion and culture production are those that possess a large amount of capital (in terms of Pierre Bourdieu),e.g.: economic capital, cultural capital, symbolic capital, etc.

These resource groups are made up of:
a) dominating classes (the elite, bourgeoisie),
b) producers of cultural products (designers, couturiers),
c) staff of fashion-papers (editors, journalists), and
d) other collective agents who set the fashionable styles.

Thus, popular culture is the result of the interplay between many agents and conventional consumers who are mostly represented by middle-class buyers, who in turn try to perform upward social mobility with the help of improving the appearance, consuming fashionable goods, reading popular literature, watching new films, etc.

However, through the exercise of these imitative practices, conventional consumers are only engaged in symbolic mobility, while their actual social positions remain the same. This means that in societies with a well-defined class structure, dominating classes, as well as agents with specific competencies from fashion and mass media industries, set the trends that are accepted by the ordinary public.

How can I tell what social class I belong in?

My post on social class for TheQuestion UK.

The answer this question depends on several parameters. Firstly, it depends on the way you define classes or social groups. Secondly, it depends on the social structure of the society you are a part of. Thirdly, it depends on your class consciousness or your subjective class self-identification. I’ll outline four main sociological approaches to social classes here.

1) In Marxist theory, classes are understood as large groups of people differing in their positions regarding the ownership of the means of production and social division of labour. In other words, a class position is determined by the role of an individual in the public organization of labour. Marx divides the capitalist society of the 18th century into three classes:

  • Bourgeoisie, which is a dominant class owning the means of production and feeding on the exploitation of wage-workers;
  • Petite bourgeoisie, which is a class of small owners living on their personal (mostly family) labour (e.g. craftsmen, substantial peasants, etc.);
  • Workers who make up a class of employees without the means of production, who sell their labour power, producing surplus value and being exploited by bourgeoisie in the process.

In Marxism, class position forms class consciousness. But since the 18th century, the concept of class has changed significantly and new social classifications have been invented.

2) In the latter half of the 20th century, French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu built on the Marxist concepts of class and capital. According to Bourdieu, social class should be understood as a collective position in the multi-dimensional space of social distinctions, which is a configuration of various volumes of capitals:

  • Economic capital (money, valuable material objects),
  • Cultural capital (level of education, specific knowledge, diplomas),
  • Social capital (connections, social networks),
  • Symbolic capital (recognition).

In Bourdieu’s approach, social classes look like clusters of points. It means that individuals with the same social characteristics and the same volumes of capitals cluster together in social space and have similar “class habituses.” “Class habitus” refers to an incorporated history and a set of social practices (manners, styles of behavior, etc.) that are determined by both the general of society and the biography of the individual.

To understand Bourdieu’s vision of classes, you can the graph from his book “Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste”:

3) British sociologist John Goldthorpe suggested yet another class model centered on employment status. He distinguishes three main classes differing by type of labour contract:

  • Employers who buy labour forces and control workers;
  • Employees who sell their labour power to employers;
  • Self-employed who are relatively independent and work for themselves (e.g., businessmen, freelancers, etc.).

With R. Erikson and L. Portocarrero, Goldthorpe has elaborated an eleven-class scheme (EGP) containing several service classes, working classes and transitory classes. (See more about EGP here). Today, the EGP class scheme is widely used by sociologists in research on social stratification, social mobility, and social inequality.

4) In recent research on social structure in British society, a group of enthusiastic sociologists under the leadership of Mike Savage constructed a new classification of classes, building on Bourdieu’s approach of capitals. On the basis of vast empirical data Savage and colleagues have defined seven classes in contemporary British society, each involving specific social traits:

  • Elite: very high economic capital (especially savings), high social capital, very high highbrow cultural capital;
  • Established middle class: high economic capital, high status of mean contacts, high highbrow and emerging cultural capital;
  • Technical middle class: high economic capital, very high mean social contacts, but relatively few contacts reported, moderate cultural capital;
  • New affluent workers: moderately good economic capital, moderately poor mean score of social contacts, though high range, moderate highbrow but good emerging cultural capital;
  • Traditional working class: moderately poor economic capital, though with reasonable house price, few social contacts, low highbrow and emerging cultural capital;
  • Emergent service workers: moderately poor economic capital, though with reasonable household income, moderate social contacts, high emerging (but low highbrow) cultural capital;
  • Precariat: poor economic capital, and the lowest scores on every other criterion.

If you would like to know which class you belong in according to the classification developed by Mike Savage and his team, just take the test “The Great British class calculator: What class are you?”

But beware! Do not forget that this test is designed for respondents from Great Britain. Other societies might have other class structures, or the social classes in those societies might involve a different set of social traits 🙂

The SAGE Encyclopedia of War: Social Science Perspectives

51yc7abn0pl-_sx258_bo1204203200_The SAGE Encyclopedia of War: Social Science Perspectives with my entry Fear of War has finally been released.

Fear of War

The humanitarian scientific literature contains various approaches to fear. In social sciences, especially in psychology, fear is considered as an emotional feeling or an affective reaction associated with a real or imaginary threat. It may be caused by past traumatic experience sensed in the present, or projected onto future situations. In sociology, anthropology, and history of emotions, fear is perceived as a social construct that is embedded into a particular context and produced with the help of interpersonal interactions in daily life. Frequently, fear relates to risks and is cultivated through connections with potential threats. To this extent, it ispossible to talk about different human phobias such as fear of death, fear of pain, fear of violence, and fear of war.

Continue reading…

Social Practices of Using War Memorials in Russia: A Comparison between Mamayev Kurgan in Volgograd and Poklonnaya Gora in Moscow

My paper co-authored with Elizaveta Polukhina Social Practices of Using War Memorials in Russia: A Comparison between Mamayev Kurgan in Volgograd and Poklonnaya Gora in Moscow is published in The Russian Sociological Review.

This paper presents the results of research into the social practices of using memorials dedicated to the Second World War in post-soviet Russia. The authors introduce a comparative analysis of two case studies. They examine Poklonnaya Gora, located in Moscow, which is a site of memory (lieux de memoir), according to Pierre Nora, where there was no real fighting during the Battle of Moscow in 1941–1942. This is contrasted with Mamayev Kurgan, located in Volgograd, which is a site of remembrance (lieux de souvenir), according to Aleida Assman, where violent fighting took place during the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942–1943. The authors describe in detail the spatial infrastructure of both memorials and make a classification of the practices in relation to their use, including commemorative, political, leisure, religious, and infrastructure-related social practices exercised by different groups of social agents. The authors conclude that Poklonnaya Gora is a universal memorial relaying a monological heroic discourse, whereas Mamayev Kurgan reproduces the same triumphant discourse, yet twisted through the local context of interaction between the local authorities and the city’s communities.

The Corporeality of Working-Class Men in Labor Regimes and the Private Sphere. Extended Summary

Abstract. The article considers masculine corporeality as enacted in the working spaces of a construction site and a factory and as it is displayed in the private lives of workers through their sexuality and practices of care for the self. I compare the narratives of corporeality of male blue-collar workers from Moscow and Saint Petersburg, which I collected in 2010–2011. How do workers narrate their bodies? How is masculine corporeality related to the differing labor regimes of a Moscow construction site and a Saint Petersburg factory? What sexual strategies do male workers use? And how is masculine subjectivity constituted through practices of care for the self? This article aims to answer these questions. In Russian, extended summary in English.

Keywords: Masculine Body; Blue-Collar Workers; Masculine Sexuality; Masculine Subjectivity; Somatic Culture; Russia

The crisis of masculinity in the contemporary world challenges many traditional tenets of gender theory. In modern Russia, physical labor has always been considered a masculine sphere, and male blue-collar workers are thought to epitomize normative masculinity. However, in the 1990s, when the status of Russian workers was downgraded and their economic standing worsened, the value attributed to masculinity was challenged. Scholars describe a “crisis of masculinity” arising in the post-Soviet transition. Its distinguishing characteristics are the impossibility of conforming to the paradigms of traditional masculinity, defiant physical behavior incompatible with self-preservation instincts, destructive bodily practices, harmful habits, and accidents, leading to the high susceptibility of men to various health disorders. Read more…