Saturday, 19 September 2009

Sociologists need their lab rats

Barbara Ehrenreich is best known as the author of Nickel And Dimed, where she went under cover to expose the travails of the American working class. The book, in my view, did some great analysis but came to the wrong conclusions on key issues.

Now she has an article in last Tuesday’s International Herald Tribune (which I get here in Stockholm) entitled ‘The recession’s racial divide’. You can see what’s coming, of course.

Blacks are ‘taking the brunt of the recession’ apparently. Quelle surprise? as the French would say. They’re suffering job losses and pay reductions, which in turn are leading to foreclosures on their homes. Could this be due to the millions of illegal Latino immigrants taking their jobs and working at dirt-level pay?

Apparently not. These possible factors are not mentioned at all, in fact.

Could it be due to the well-documented failings of the black community, poor work ethic, low IQ, high predisposition to criminality, unstable family environment?

No, these are not mentioned either. So what’s the cause. It’s simple. Racism (on the part of whites, I need hardly add)

Ok, that's cleared that one up then.

Then she moves on to the sub-prime bust. She explains how, for generations, and ‘thanks to a legacy of discrimination’, ‘solid black citizens’ were denied house loans by mortgage lenders. Studies have shown (and she's correct here) that lenders were reluctant to lend to blacks

Why? Could it have been their well-documented lousy credit ratings? No. This factor was not mentioned.

The real explanation then? More racism.

Ok, we can see a consistent pattern emerging here. And I for one am convinced.

But as I read on, I must confess, I get hopelessly confused. Because, just before the sub-prime bust, it seems that those same mortgage lenders, by some mysterious and unexplained mechanism, have turned around 180 degrees. Not only has their racism totally disappeared, they’re now actually seeking out those very same ‘solid black citizens’ to offer them all the money they want to buy houses!

Isn't that remarkable? And isn't it wonderful? Barbara must have been thrilled.

But no – apparently not. It seems that these lenders were greedy unscrupulous capitalist pigs, ‘forcing’ loans on confused and vulnerable people, after which they ran cackling all the way to the bank. But here’s the confusing bit. If the greedy capitalists are only interested in grabbing all the money they can (and I agree with her on that one) why did they pass up all those wonderful opportunities with the ‘solid black citizens’ over all these years?

Alas, she doesn’t explain.

Ok, the foregoing has been facetious, so let’s get serious for a minute. In the name of Jesus, how can we expect to solve what is a serious problem if we resolutely avert our gaze from the real causes? You would think that a sociology professor (which Ehrenreich is) would have had enough exposure to empirical research-based methodologies to at least get somewhere close to reality.

Maybe you would, but I wouldn’t. I've spend many years in the university academic field, in several countries, and I can tell you that professors, especially those in the soft ‘sciences’, are the most useless collection of wasters you’ll find on the planet. They represent the polar opposite of what a university should be. I mean that, instead of honestly seeking out true explanations, they have their preconceived views and they use their (usually pitiful) abilities to retrofit the facts to support those views.

It’s little wonder that William F. Buckley said of his colleagues at Harvard ‘I’d rather select the first 600 names in the phone book to run the country than the faculty at Harvard’.

The ultimate irony of course is that, by failing to identify the real causes of the problems they purport to address, they’re actually perpetuating them. But just as in Sweden where the ‘leaders’ promote mass immigration to bolster their own self-esteem, a similar pathology is at play here.

And where would sociology professors be without their lab rats?


Anonymous said...

MIT has put 1800 courses on line, free. The traditional Uni is finished.
Bradley Smith has had dealings with these people. Mainly cowards. I can only think of four or five in U.S.A who aren't. Butz at MIT is one. When the chips are down the professoriate always sides with the state.

Dr. Wassel said...

Some of the smaller universities are better - and freer. But basically you're right. Ivory tower pricks who don't have to live with the consequences of their actions.

Anonymous said...

That's a great point Savant - lab rats. Yes, they really are cynical bastards.

kulak said...

'What about a bit of parental authority and discipline?', suggested Sir Humphrey. I told him not to be silly.

'If you could make her listen to reason...' volunteered Bernard.

I explained to him that she is a Sociology student.

'Oh I see,' he said sadly.

-- Yes Minister: The Diaries of a Cabinet Minister

Anonymous said...

"AND", people keep encouraging there siblings to attend these cesspools of misinformation which breeds more of the same.

Anonymous said...

I cant even begin to describe my disgust at the current educational environment. There is no honest discourse anymore, if you offend somebody the "righteously indignant" judge that you are wrong irrespective of your point.

The world has real problems that need real solutions. Not intellectual manifestations of jaded, elitist's in tenured ivory towers. The only way to get the solutions is explore the truth as ugly as it is and get your conclusions from it.

I wonder if race were explored HONESTLY, like they study any other phenomenah, if may be able to come up with a solution that works in regard to racial relations.

mr brisbane said...

The irony is that if sociologists did their job, in the spirit of open-minded inquiry, they could create more good than all of the other 'real' scientists.

mr brisbane said...

anon 2.48. Yes in fact. That is exactly my point.

Anonymous said...

If you read the full report you'll see that one of these 'solid black citizens' borrwed $600 to buy a top of the range cutlery set! Who can gthey blame for that, I wonder?

Anonymous said...

"In the name of Jesus, how can we expect to solve what is a serious problem if we resolutely avert our gaze from the real causes?" .... So, so true. We've got to start looking at the real causes, verbalizing them, and only then start addressing them with solutions. (And don't forget the Father and the Holy Ghost.)

Anonymous said...

The problem is that the "soft sciences" aren't really sciences at all. They are attempts to take philosophy and scientize it by applying quantitative techniques.

There are countless reasons why somebody or a group of people might do something - all of them seemingly irrational to a different group of people but perfectly rational to those doing it based on their culture.

We have had enough damage to society by listening to economists and sociologists so far that anybody who would give any credence to these people would have to be an idiot.

hector said...

maybe in time those so-called 'sciences' will be shown up for what they are. Even economics is now under the microscope. But the damage will have been done by then.

Zngr said...

@ Anon 02:48

[There is no honest discourse anymore, if you offend somebody the "righteously indignant" judge that you are wrong irrespective of your point.]

This is the major fault of modern thought, analysis and discourse, regarding problematic issues, in a nutshell.

So well said I'll re-use that.

Especially because of the culture of victimhood, or the victim industry or whatever it should be called, any discourse that includes any people that are minorities in Western countries, or the third world, basically brown, yellow or black people must be carried with dishonesty. Political correctness amongst other things dictates so.

But if you must only engage in discourse in such a manner it will not offend, in a time where almost anything real is offensive to someone, how can you have a honest discourse at all? Which is what Savant laments constantly.

But why can't the sociologists and intellectuals of our time see it? Or if they do as they often must, why do they so fervently reject it? A common interpretation is an attempt to show off their broad mindedness and tolerance, basically one-upping each other in their guilt or rather they guilt they heap on others or "quality of character" but that can't solely explain it.

hector said...

zngr is correct here. If you cannot offend you cannot, by definition, have an open debate. hence the problem.

Anonymous said...

"I wonder if race were explored HONESTLY, like they study any other phenomenah, if may be able to come up with a solution that works in regard to racial relations."

Yes - it's called APARTHEID.

Anonymous said...

Maybe, but apartheid cannot work where blacks are in a huge majority. But I guess it could work here in the west. For the moment at least!

hank_satter said...

In fact there are some social scientists who are in fact challenging the received wisdom. Not sure who they are but I read somewhere that a 'new breed' was makiing itslef felt. Maybe there's hope?