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    ABSTRACT: This paper considers a key aspect of the 'risk society' thesis: the belief that we should be able to manage risks and control the world around us. In particular it focuses on the interface between risk and risk events as socially constructed and the insights that 'critical situations' give us into 'the routine and mundane', the otherwise taken for granted assumptions underlying risk regulation. It does this with reference to the events precipitated by the April 2010 volcanic eruption in the Eyjafjallajökull area of Iceland. The resulting cloud of volcanic ash spread across Europe and much of Europe's airspace was closed to civil aviation for six days, with far reaching consequences including huge financial losses for airlines. The social processes of defining and reacting to risk and crisis both reveal and generate dilemmas and challenges in regulation. This paper examines the role of different interest groups in defining risk expectations and thereby redefining the ash crisis as a regulatory crisis.
    British Journal of Sociology 09/2013; 64(3):383-404.
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    ABSTRACT: Where does the nation-state end and globalization begin? In Territory, Authority, Rights , one of the world's leading authorities on globalization shows how the national state made today's global era possible. Saskia Sassen argues that even while globalization is best understood as "denationalization," it continues to be shaped, channeled, and enabled by institutions and networks originally developed with nations in mind, such as the rule of law and respect for private authority. This process of state making produced some of the capabilities enabling the global era. The difference is that these capabilities have become part of new organizing logics: actors other than nation-states deploy them for new purposes. Sassen builds her case by examining how three components of any society in any age--territory, authority, and rights--have changed in themselves and in their interrelationships across three major historical "assemblages": the medieval, the national, and the global. The book consists of three parts. The first, "Assembling the National," traces the emergence of territoriality in the Middle Ages and considers monarchical divinity as a precursor to sovereign secular authority. The second part, "Disassembling the National," analyzes economic, legal, technological, and political conditions and projects that are shaping new organizing logics. The third part, "Assemblages of a Global Digital Age," examines particular intersections of the new digital technologies with territory, authority, and rights. Sweeping in scope, rich in detail, and highly readable, Territory, Authority, Rights is a definitive new statement on globalization that will resonate throughout the social sciences.
    01/2012;
  • Sociological Review 08/2011; 25(1):51 - 72.
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    ABSTRACT: The imprinted brain theory proposes that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) represents a paternal bias in the expression of imprinted genes. This is reflected in a preference for mechanistic cognition and in the corresponding mentalistic deficits symptomatic of ASD. Psychotic spectrum disorder (PSD) would correspondingly result from an imbalance in favor of maternal and/or X-chromosome gene expression. If differences in gene expression were reflected locally in the human brain as mouse models and other evidence suggests they are, ASD would represent not so much an 'extreme male brain' as an extreme paternal one, with PSD correspondingly representing an extreme maternal brain. To the extent that copy number variation resembles imprinting and aneuploidy in nullifying or multiplying the expression of particular genes, it has been found to conform to the diametric model of mental illness peculiar to the imprinted brain theory. The fact that nongenetic factors such as nutrition in pregnancy can mimic and/or interact with imprinted gene expression suggests that the theory might even be able to explain the notable effect of maternal starvation on the risk of PSD - not to mention the 'autism epidemic' of modern affluent societies. Finally, the theory suggests that normality represents balanced cognition, and that genius is an extraordinary extension of cognitive configuration in both mentalistic and mechanistic directions. Were it to be proven correct, the imprinted brain theory would represent one of the biggest single advances in our understanding of the mind and of mental illness that has ever taken place, and would revolutionize psychiatric diagnosis, prevention and treatment - not to mention our understanding of epigenomics.
    Epigenomics 06/2011; 3(3):345-59.
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    ABSTRACT: Based on a recent empirical project on 'the Bengal diaspora', the paper explores the construction and contestation of meanings around the iconic East London street, Brick Lane. Taking the 2006 protests around the film Brick Lane as its starting point, the paper draws on original interviews conducted in 2008 with a range of Bengali community representatives, to examine the narratives of space, community and belonging that emerge around the idea of Brick Lane as the 'cultural heartland' of the British Bangladeshi community. By exploring the representation, production and contestation of 'social space' through everyday practices, the paper engages with and contests the representation of minority ethnic 'communities' in the context of contemporary multicultural London and examines the process of 'claiming' and 'making' space in East London. In so doing, the paper contributes to a critical tradition that challenges essentialising and pathologizing accounts of ethnic communities and racialized spaces, or that places them outside of broader social and historical processes - redolent, for example, in contemporary discussions about 'parallel lives' or 'the clash of civilizations'. By contrast, this paper views social space as made through movement and narration, with a particular emphasis on the social agency of local Bengali inhabitants and the multiple meanings that emerge from within this 'imagined community'. However, rather than simply stressing the unfinished and processual nature of spatial meanings, the paper insists on the historical, embodied and affective dimensions of such meaning making, and a reckoning with the broader social and political landscape within which such meanings take shape. The focus on Brick Lane provides an empirically rich, geographically and historically located lens through which to explore the complex role of ethnicity as a marker of social space and of spatial practices of resistance and identity. By exploring Bengali Brick Lane through its narratives of past, present and future, these stories attest to the symbolic and emotional importance of such spaces, and to their complex imaginings.
    British Journal of Sociology 06/2011; 62(2):201-20.
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    ABSTRACT: This paper explores an essential but neglected aspect of recent discussions of the banking and financial system, namely money itself. Specifically, I take up a distinction drawn by Susan Strange which has never been fully elaborated: between a financial system that is global, and an international monetary system that remains largely territorial. I propose a sociological elaboration of this distinction by examining each category, 'finance' and 'money', in terms of its distinctive orientation to risk and debt. Money is distinguished by its high degree of liquidity and low degree of risk, corresponding to expectations that derive from its status as a 'claim upon society'- a form of socialized debt. But as Strange argued, these features of money are being undermined by the proliferation of sophisticated instruments of financial risk management -'strange money'- that, as monetary substitutes, both weaken states' capacity to manage money, and more broadly, contribute to 'overbanking'. The ultimate danger, according to Strange, is the 'death of money'. The paper concludes by exploring the implications of the distinction for sociological arguments about the changing nature of money.
    British Journal of Sociology 03/2011; 62(1):175-94.
  • British Journal of Sociology 03/2011; 62(1):49-55; discussion 62-8.
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    ABSTRACT: This comment responds to the articles assembled by Beck and Grande (BJS 2010). It argues that their important approach has been extended in novel directions by these contributions and that the goal represented by a cosmopolitan sociology is pending in the expansion of the dialogue these pieces initiate.
    British Journal of Sociology 09/2010; 61(3):620-6.
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    ABSTRACT: Lipset's 'Democracy in Private Government' was a remarkable publication for three reasons. It was his first attempt to challenge Michels' 'iron law of oligarchy' and would lead to a programme of research that that would culminate with the publication of the widely admired classic study Union Democracy. Second, the inspiration for this work came from Lipset's student days when he was a socialist activist trying to understand why leftist governments often failed to carry out substantial programmes of social reform. Third, although it was one of his earliest publications it bears all the hallmarks of the work that would subsequently make Lipset a giant of political sociology: the enthusiasm for classic sociological problems; the appreciation of history; and the ingenious use of the small n comparative approach. Finally, I would argue that Lipset's study of democracy within private government represents a missed opportunity for sociology though there are signs that this is being rectified in recent years.
    British Journal of Sociology 01/2010; 61 Suppl 1:29-42.
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    ABSTRACT: This article argues that a new diagram is emerging in the criminal justice system as it encounters developments in the neurosciences. This does not take the form that concerns many "neuroethicists" -- it does not entail a challenge to doctrines of free will and the notion of the autonomous legal subject -- but is developing around the themes of susceptibility, risk, pre-emption and precaution. I term this diagram "screen and intervene" and in this article I attempt to trace out this new configuration and consider some of the consequences.
    History of the Human Sciences 01/2010; 23(1):79-105.
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