Green Transition? Just Transition?

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Photo: Asian Development Bank, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

What is the role of workers and unions in the green transition? Over the last few years Nora Rathzell and David Uzell have brought together activists and analysts from around the world demonstrating that the question is both relevant and timely. Projects in various countries, such as Austria and Canada, explicitly seek to understand the agency of workers in this process. As one looks at these efforts it becomes apparent that there are lineages of thought and practice that we need to reclaim and that the role of workers and unions in the green transition is as pressing as it is contested.

Looking into the past may reflect a certain degree of nostalgia for a period of time when emancipatory futures seemed more possible. But there are also practical reasons for doing so. In immediate terms, we can learn that the issue of work and the environment has been with us far longer than we may think, albeit without using those terms. By the 1970s the relationship between the two was on the agenda of some unions and some environmentalists in terms that we all now recognize and during the 1990s sociotechnical systems served as the core analytic of a US project on work and the environment, green jobs were an important issue in Australia, and greening industrial relations was the subject of an international project in the European Union.

But we can also learn a great deal by examining labor’s record with respect to transitions involving gender, ethnicity and race. Continue reading

Care and Caring. Can There Be a Theory and Research Agenda?

I’ve just returned from the University of Vienna, where some of the leading European researchers and postgraduate students from a variety of disciplines participated in a fascinating three day ‘ethnographic laboratory’, or research workshop, on ‘Practices of Care’. The workshop was an initiative of Prof Tatjana Thelen and a number of her Vienna colleagues. It was an exciting experience and a great honour to be invited as one of the international experts, along with Professor Joan Tronto from the USA, clearly one of the landmark thinkers in this field.

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Photo: Syrian Refugees in Vienna, Josh Zakary. CC BY-NC 2.0

The presentations and discussions included a number of papers on aged care – but extended well beyond that to consider care in its various manifestations: from care of young children and people with disabilities, to care as a communal concern in the villages of Eastern Europe, on the streets of Paris and in the refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border. Continue reading

Labor-Environment Relations: An Enduring Conflict or Transformative Alliance?

The relationship between workers and environmentalists is often described as an “enduring conflict” in which workers’ jobs are pitted against the ecological concerns of environmental activists. The presumed trade-off between economic growth and environmental protection contributes to a jobs versus the environment rhetoric that is dominant in media and political debates over environmental regulations.

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Photo: M H, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Divisions between unions and environmentalists are related to differences in economic interests and social class as well as cultural, social and generational dynamics of the different groups. Unions have often prioritized jobs and economic growth, particularly in heavily polluting industries, while the mainstream environmental movement has historically neglected working class and economic issues. In the U.S. these conflicts have played out around logging versus protection of endangered species, and air pollution regulations on power plants. Workers have pushed against conservation and pollution-reduction when these policies are perceived as threatening their livelihoods. Continue reading

Care, Gender, Justice: Alternative Care Arrangements in Formal and Informal Sectors

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Photo: Vinoth Chandar, CC BY 2.0

The majority of welfare regimes in EU-Countries are organized in such a way that most care-work is managed unpaid in families, mainly by women within the traditional housewife arrangement or, if it´s affordable, outside of the family in nursing homes. However, nursing homes, as an alternative, are often rejected by families because the care often has the reputation of being unbearable and ´unemotional´ care and working conditions. The organization of welfare systems in EU-Countries relies on traditional divisions of labor between the genders and relieves the public sector of demands for care. This kind of care arrangement is increasingly unsustainable because of fundamental societal changes, such as: the decline of family networks and the transformation of the traditional nuclear family, as well as the demographic changes and the emergence of new social risks. These profound societal transformations are increasing the pressure on welfare states to develop viable policies for the regulation of care and care work. Continue reading

Masculinities Research and Gender Justice

It is proverbial that gender is universal and never changes. “Boys will be boys”, we mutter, when our boy gets into a fight at school. There is a famous opera – premiered in Vienna, as it happens – entitled Così fan tutte, which is equivalent to saying “Women are all like that”.Book Cover Connell

This traditional common sense about gender, we can now see, had social consequences. It pre-empted questioning about exactly why little Johnny was in a fight, or whether Dorabella really is like that, i.e. faithless and stupid. That lack of questioning preserved – as Mozart’s opera does in its finale – the patriarchal order, with all its exclusions and violences that the opera does not mention.

Patriarchal ideologies in different societies confronted feminist activism, when claims for gender justice emerged a century or more ago around the colonial world – from thinkers like Kartini, He-Yin Zhen, Huda Sharawi – as well as in the imperial powers. One of the major requirements for gender justice, therefore, was an intellectual challenge to the concept of gender hierarchy as fixed, natural and universal. Continue reading

“The Futures We Want” From A Family Studies Perspective

The Committee on Family Research (RC06) – one of the largest and oldest ISA committees ­– brings together scholars who wish to pursue family research in a critical and interdisciplinary perspective and within comparative and transnational approaches. We seek to understand the complex intersections of family life, social contexts and individual experience, including how family life interfaces with social class, gender, race, ethnicity, and generation. As such, RC06 is well placed to respond creatively to the ISA Forum Call for better futures.

We invited our RC06 young and/or early-career scholars to address the theme of the ISA Forum: “The Futures We Want: Global Sociology and the Struggles for a Better World”. In a brief text (up to 200 words), they were asked to consider it while focusing on their own research. Here are four thought-provoking contributions from Australia, Portugal, Japan, and Taiwan.

– Secretary and treasurer Barbara Barbosa Neves, on behalf of the RC06 board.

Luke Gahan, the picture is a link to his websiteLuke Gahan:Separating Same-Sex Parents

Just like other parents, same-sex parents separate and are required to navigate family law courts, post-separation parenting, family counselling, single parenting and/or the creation of blended or reconstituted families.

However, the law has not always recognized same-sex relationships or their families and as a consequence non-biological parents have lost all contact with their children. Similarly, separating same-sex parents have often felt alienated by what they perceive as heteronormative service providers, such as lawyers, counsellors, therapist, and government service providers. Continue reading

Global Dialogue

The ISA is coming to Vienna for its Third Forum. We can expect anything from 4,000 to 6,000 participants from over 100 countries with up to 1,000 sessions. The theme: “The Futures We Want: Global Sociology and the Struggle for a Better World.” The irony is that most sociologists will not be able to afford to travel to Austria and partake in this exciting global dialogue. With this in mind and with the simple desire to intensify communication, in 2010 the ISA embarked on an online The Cover of Global Dialogue Volume 5, Number 1, March 2015, the picture links to the online issue.venture that would bring sociological worlds to people’s computers without making expensive trips. This endeavor into digital worlds involved interviews with well-known sociologists; global seminars engaging major social scientists from all corners of the planet; a blog on Universities in Crisis; PhD abstract submissions; a social justice and democratization space; streaming of plenary sessions at the world congress, not to mention facebook and twitter.

The most ambitious venture of all was the creation of a magazine, Global Dialogue, designed to meet the challenge of global sociology—produced by global actors for a global audience. Global Dialogue began in 2010 as an eight-page newsletter published in three languages, and it quickly morphed into a 40-page online open access magazine that appears four times a year in 16 languages. Articles are short and accessible and in the first four years it published 334 articles from 63 countries, written by 310 different authors. Continue reading

The United Nations in Vienna – a Sociologist´s Treasure

Rudolf Richter and Rosemary Barberet at the 20th Session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in 2011.

The United Nations Office in Vienna (UNOV), established in 1980, is one of the four major UN office sites where various UN agencies have a joint presence: International Atomic Energy Agency, International Money Laundering Information Network, International Narcotics Control Board, Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). This year, Vienna has been in the news because of the IAEA and the negotiation of the nuclear arms treaty with Iran. After two years of negotiation, Iran and six world powers reached a nuclear deal on July 14 2015 in Vienna. Normally, the UN Office at Vienna does not make headlines. However, to me as an international criminologist, it is the global meeting place for decision making on crime and criminal justice issues.

I have been traveling to Vienna annually since 2002 to observe meetings at the United Nations in Vienna, and I started doing so as an ISA representative to the United Nations in 2007. As a criminologist, I am most interested in the work of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, which meets for a week or longer every spring, usually in April. There are always cutting edge topics on the agenda, such as the trafficking of flora and fauna; the rights of victims of terrorism; maritime piracy; and this past year, the discussion of modernized standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners, successfully adopted as the Mandela Rules. The sessions always culminate with the adoption of a dozen or more resolutions, designed to influence national and international criminal justice policy. Continue reading

The Challenges of Being an ISA Editor

Sage Studies in International Sociology is an old publication of the International Sociological Association (ISA). In 1978 at the Uppsala World Congress, it was decided that ISA should publish papers presented at the Congress plenaries. Sage which has been handling ISA publications (it started publishing ISA’s first and one of the oldest peer reviewed journal, Current Sociology, in 1952) was contracted to bring out the books in a new series titled: Sage Studies in International Sociology. Since then, ISA and Sage have been publishing at least one to two books a year in the SSIS Series.

Three of SSIS' most current publicationsThe first book was published in 1985 and till today we have 27 publications. Over time various editors have transformed the format and style of the series taking into account changes occurring in intellectual interests, readers’ needs and publishing technologies. In the 90s, SSIS introduced handbooks and later monographs. However, like other books on the market, SSIS books were first published as hardback copies (only when hardbacks were sold out, were they published as paperbacks) and these over time became very costly-each book cost pounds 80 to 90. These became unaffordable even to ISA members in the global North and could be bought only by the libraries of North America, UK and the antipodes; its reading public had shrunk.

When I joined in January 2010, I was told by SSIS’s retiring editor Julia Evetts that SSIS books needs to be reinvented for the series to sustain itself as ISA’s flagship in the book market and I had to plan a policy and program for its revival. Continue reading