American Sociologists’ Problem is that they’re small-time Dem Party hacks

I distinctly remember thinking Jeff Manza had his shit together. I thought that in grad school. Then I read a review he wrote in 2015 “Reconnecting the political and the economic in the New Gilded Age.” Did something happen to him–or to me–in the intervening years?

A Review of a Review: Upshots, with my corrections for reality.

  1. Once upon a time, Sociology reduced inequality to “social stratification,” an anti-Marxist concept that helped Sociologists ignore increasing X-treme class inequality, until a French economist forced them to tapdance.
  2. U Chicago-brand Monica Prasad wrote a book on how finance is defs not politically- organized. I think this is the same book as the one where she thought, based on not looking for disconfirming data, that the flood of global capital to the US from Nixon on was just lucky and in no way the result of prior elite organizing and the way capitalism works. According to Manza, Prasad’s 2012 thesis is that financialization happened from below, when Midwestern farmers (AKA the German Populist Enemy Within) demanded and got cheap credit.
    1. I hope (but doubt) that what Prasad is doing is clearing a place in the hearts of elites for Sociology as a court philosophy. I will look away while she does that, and I am not going to be worrying about whether she will be rewarded for such work.
    2. What is particularly disturbing is the degree to which the sociological hierarchy falls all over itself praising Prasad’s various “historical” narratives about how finance is defs not politically organized. Only one causal chain can explain that protection racket as far as I can tell, and it is the facts that Dems take their money from finance (Manza 2015: 456, citing political scientist Nolan McCarty’s work), and sociologists fall in line as small-time Dem Party hacks. This loyalty (I can’t believe it’s patronage.) is fast turning Sociology into that academic discipline that uses a flimsy, transparent moralistic claim that it is so concerned with the Little People that it is now explaining the rise of social, political, and economic inequality as the micro work of the Little People. Sociology, the discipline thats sine qua non is societal expansion, goes from denying inequality in the 20th century to, in the 21st century, explaining that the irrational Little People made inequality. Just shut the whole shitshow down.
  3. The sociologists try to argue that finance, the organizing force of capitalism, had no agency in anti-inflationary policy, capital flooding, and by extension inequality. In the bat-shit crazy Dem Party view forwarded by Prasad, Krippner, and Manza, Volcker’s wage-suppressing anti-inflationary policy was just serendipitously followed by an influx of global capital. No, that doesn’t make sense from anything anyone has ever known about financial capitalism ever.
    1. In defense of this indefensible Crazy Coincidence thesis, Manza mumbles something about how Greenspan was “natural”…and in no way a GIANT POLITICAL MACHINE of the 20th Century as has been shown over and over again.
  4. So Manza struggles throughout this 2015 review to establish “the popular foundations of a high-inequality regime” (457). It is really painful to watch. The Little People caused post-Trente Glorieuses epic inequality. Ahhhggggghh. That’s the sound of my eyeballs rolling. How, uh, counter-intuitive.  How contrarian. Wow. Much agency. So capillary. Amazeballs. With that kind of theory fueling them, no wonder the Dems are so hapless.
  5. On p. 450, Manza confuses Institutionalism with Power Resources Theory, by erasing the part of PRT that identifies labor movement and labor movement repression as causal factors.
  6. Usefully, Krippner 2011 (Capitalizing on crisis: The political origins of the rise of finance) shows that the role of finance grew throughout the US capitalist economy. In 1950, 10% of US corporate profits were financial; by 2000, 40% were financial. This is good data to use in building an argument that increasingly, economic growth is about claims on past and future wealth.
    1. While Manza likes Krippner because Krippner, like Prasad, is saying that the American working class was paid off and supported financialization and inequality, it seems that somewhere in Krippner there is also an allowance for the fact that financialization may have been in the interest of capital. Weird. HELP US, GHOST OF BOURDIEU!
  7. Apparently it is not enough to finger Midwestern farmers as the cause of financialization and inequality. Manza goes insane attempting to report on Krippner’s theorization of the causal relation between the American working class, qua consumers, and anti-inflationary policy (Manza 2015: 454).
    1. Supporting evidence for all this American worker-fingering insanity is information from Streek (2013) that American “consumers” benefitted from anti-inflationary policy. Holy shit, liberals (I don’t mean Streek, who got plucked here). Consumers have always been the intermediate beneficiary of imperialism, colonialism, slavery–cheap goods.
      1. But beyond that Triangle Trade capitalist jump-start moment in the industrializing cities of England, in their worker/reserve army form, that is, most of their lives, the people who are occasionally consumers are not necessarily the beneficiaries of anti-inflationary policy, commodity cheapening, diminished state accountability to the working class and reduced working-class supportive public infrastructure, junk jobs and underemployment.
      2. American “consumers” are still the primary global consumer beneficiaries of capitalism. Nonetheless, that does not mean that these people caused anything. They are among the most powerless people in the world. It is illegal for them to organize. They have no political representation. Working Americans are famously indebted to the teeth. They are under continuous, massive surveillance. They are infamously incarcerated en masse. They are global capitalism’s worker prisoners, and the cage is usually not gilded. If they’re agents, they’re not sovereign agents, their agency is delegated–Meaning, to understand causation, we need to identify the sovereign agents whose interests are delegated to the non-sovereign agents.
      3. There may be symbolic domination going on, but it doesn’t mean the interest is American consumers’ own interest, which the Sociologist Dems are leaning on to try to build their causal argument. The American working class has been consuming, not on income, but on debt. Individual debtors benefit from inflation, not anti-inflation.
      4. American working class debtors are massively different from the exceptional American capitalist class and state, in that American working class debtors’ terms of credit are far, far worse.
      5. Bereft of the means of production at the expensive center of global capitalism, consumption is required; this consumption is not unambiguously in working peoples’ interest.
      6. Do you know what is unambiguous? Anti-inflationary policy is the unambiguous interest of finance. If we’re interested in causal arguments–we have the motive. Now all we need to do is look to see if financial capital used its power for political organization.
    2. Manza tries to claim he is using a Gramscian framework. If that’s a Gramscian framework, then let’s just kill it off before we add any more insult to the injury of Gramsci’s death in Turi di Bari.
  8. Also on 454, Manza seems to think that Power Elite/Power Structure research was defeated by Institutionalism in the 1980s-90s. Wut? Skocpol and Domhoff fruitfully argued throughout their careers (Kind of a model career-long debate, really.), until ultimately, Skocpol admitted she was wrong with her thesis that middle class state workers make US policy. …Because state-centrism was a bat-shit crazy thesis that only survived because capitalism works through misdirection and lying.
  9. Manza gives a nod to a non-crazy theory. Mark Mizruchi (Michigan, 2013) associates the rise of inequality with the decline of politically-organized capital’s willingness to compromise, eg. when the CED (Committee on Economic Development, from 1942) converted into the fascist Business Roundtable in the 1970s. Mizruchi thinks that business went fascist because rivalristic payments to shareholders became the focus of business management. That begs the empirical question of how finance was deregulated to make shareholders’ financial interests the governing interest.
  10. On p. 455, Manza reveals his “own view” on what caused “the extraordinary shifts in distribution and life chances inaugurated by the high inequality regime”: When the Little People elected Reagan, that forced a “rational” CEO reaction “to support policy agendas that may prove destructive in the long run.”  Groaaaaannnn. Oh, Dems. What happened to you, Jeff Manza? Were you always a putz?
  11. Jeff Manza sweetly believes that the US is a “democratic polity where the interests of the 99 percent have ample opportunity to demand” democratic policy (455). Now he’s just trolling. He is baffled by why the 99 failed. How has pluralist theory even survived into the 21st century?!!??? It’s not pluralism. It’s frustrated, ad-hoc Dem Party efforts at electoral strategization without acknowledging the political-economic structure that they have contributed to building. At first, I thought Manza was willfully ignoring the work of Gilens and Page, but then toward the end it seems like he might know of its existence?
  12. Manza has to resort to some political scientist dudes (McCarty et al) to figure out how the Little Peoples messed up Camelot. The idea he gets from Polisci McCarty, and proposes to import into Dem Party Sociology, is that the US has “polarized” politics. “Polarization” refers to the fact that immigrants have reduced citizenship, where capitalists have super-citizenship, were one to obliquely admit of class. No, it’s not clear what this has to do with Manza’s agenda. But as we have since seen, what the Dem Party did with that “polarization” insight was to endorse the Chamber of Commerce’s Open Borders (Decimated Citizenship) platform…permitting the continuance of polarized citizenship and inequality. They must have decided, against the empirical evidence, that the citizenship polarization was not between immigrants and capitalists, but, more fancifully, between immigrants and working-class Americans. It’s difficult to say how Dems construe the decimation of social citizenship rights and the epic growth in criminalization as enhanced working-class citizenship. We are forced into the hypothesis that political and ideological liberals have been conservatized by their dependent relationship with finance.
  13. In a flat-ontology approach to surveyed attitudes data that should leave Dem Party wonks creaming their pants, Leslie McCall discovers that “Americans do not support programs of redistribution that reward people who are not working” (Manza 2015: 458).
    1. To me, in all this mess, what is really interesting, and for further exploration, about this manufactured consensus and sine qua non of living in the US, is that owners are considered to be part of the working people, per conservative economic theory. So liberal Anglo-American policy provides public subsidies to business owners, regardless of the business’ function and functionality, in direct opposite to the social democratic policies forcing/incentivizing profitable business and quality jobs. With increasing productivity, and technological unemployment and underemployment, the liberal state that follows existing attitudes is forced to endlessly, irrationally subsidize business owners and withhold resources from workers, or imprison workers. That is the social contract in the US: If you own a business, you will be socially subsidized. If not, you may get lucky, or you may be made into a prison slave.
  14. Manza thinks that McCall, Newman, and Jacobs’ survey findings indicate that “egalitarian politics are crippled by public preferences. What I am especially attracted to…is the simple possibility that since the origins of the American welfare state, in the broadest possible sense Americans have more or less gotten a version of what they want”…including CRIPPLING INEQUALITY!!! It’s so hard to tell if Manza is a minor Dem Party hack or a Canadian. Manza considers Little Man individual preferences to be “the most parsimonious and elegant solution to the puzzle of the comparative weakness and limited generosity of the American welfare state” (and here he cites himself, from a time in which I didn’t find him loathesome). We have conservative economists. Why do we need sociologists? Why does anyone need a junior economist who can’t do math? Fold up the shop.
    1. From economic and other historians, far more sociological hypotheses about what is conditioning attitudes for surveys: The persistence of inegalitarian slavery institutions; capitalist-funded instruments of right-wing organization, including, inter alia, religious organizations.
  15. Then, bizzarely, far, far too late in this game, Manza acknowledges Gilens (2012): “the rich (those at the ninetieth income percentile) get what they want (their average policy preference) far more often than the poor (respondents at the tenth percentile).” Manza learns nothing from Gilens, because unlike the Dream Jeff Manza that I have carried in my head all these years, the actual Jeff Manza is stone-cold class blind and utterly unconcerned with face validity.
    1. That sick fuck Manza goes on to cite a fanciful discussion of oligarchy by a fellow named Winters (2011) in which the US–despite all empirical evidence–is not a “warring oligarchy” but a “civil” oligarchy. WHAT ABOUT THE FUCKING BIGGEST FUCKING MILITARY, MULTI-TIERED POLICE SYSTEM, AND CARCERAL SYSTEM THE PLANET HAS EVER KNOWN?????!!!!! Fuck. Put the fucking Dem Party sociologists out to pasture.
    2. I will be far less exercised if someone can tell me that Manza wrote that whole review sitting on his hands and trying earnestly to suck the cocks that need to be sucked for Sociology not to die.
  16. Suzanne Mettler (2011) calls the tax expenditure system “the submerged state.” Manza coins the term “tax avoidance industry” (or something like that. I can’t find it now and am leaving. Might try to find it later. Might have a life instead).
  17. In the end, Manza recommends researchers find out how former public servants get rich serving capital and then prancing through the revolving door into capital’s waiting opium den. Such Elite Theory interest dissection would probably contribute to providing knowledge for a future society that didn’t want to devolve into a giant stinking pile of shit. I have no idea what the fuck Dems are going to do with that knowledge that they’re not already doing, which is parlaying a sclerotic, capitalist-elitist political system into personal family fortunes.
  18. I am just going to underscore that never once in that entire Manza lit review article did anyone ever feel the need to justify with clear scientific data or theory the elitist assumption that the American hoi poloi want to be raped. Liberalism has been captured by conservatism.

After the Civil War Democrats almost never won in the Midwest, and the Democratic Party was controlled by business conservatives who were happy enough to lose. They saw their role as freezing out the Progressives and the Populists.

It didn’t always work. In 1915 the North Dakota Republican Party was taken over by a Socialist splinter group called the Nonpartisan League, which was a major factor in ND politics for 30 years and controlled the state for some of that time.

–from HS Merrill. Bourbon democracy of the American Middle West, 1865-1896.

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