The Unshakeable Dogma That Underlies Modern Sociology

Feb. 13 2018

In The Sacred Project of American Sociology, Christian Smith turns the discipline’s tools on its practitioners and arrives at the conclusion that sociologists, as a group, are committed not merely to the pursuit of truth about human societies but to a “visionary project” of human emancipation. Thus, any conclusions not in keeping with this project, which Smith likens to a religious orthodoxy, are dismissed out of hand. Richard Spady writes in his review:

Things wouldn’t be so bad if the sacred project of American sociology were just the sacred project of American sociology. . . . The problem is that all of the human sciences as practiced in our elite universities are in thrall to the sacred project that Christian Smith so clearly articulates. . . .

In one case [described by Smith], a study that finds incredibly large disadvantages for women and correspondingly large advantages for men in divorce settlements wins scholarly awards and is widely cited in the popular press, law reviews, and court decisions (including one from the U.S. Supreme Court), but turns out—after a decade’s worth of dilatory tactics by its author in releasing its government-funded data—to be completely irreproducible. Not much happens.

Another author writes a book on the benefits of marriage to both partners; opprobrium at the meetings of the American Sociological Association (ASA) follows, despite her being an elected officer. That ends her tenure as an officer at the ASA. . . . In 2012 a University of Texas sociologist, Mark Regnerus, publishes a careful study [that points to the salutary effects of traditional marriage]. A firestorm follows: university inquiries, judicial proceedings, email dumps, the lot. A point has been made. No one will want to referee, let alone publish, a paper with similar findings for a very long time. . . .

Smith hopes (but only hopes) that by describing the way in which sociology has become a sacred project, he will restrain the fanaticism of his colleagues. But this is not how the sacred project works. Its logic demands that progressives continue to turn up the heat until all the frogs either jump or die. I’m for jumping.

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More about: Academia, History & Ideas, Marriage, Sociology

 

The Struggle for Iraq, and What It Means for Israel

Oct. 17 2018

Almost immediately after the 2003 invasion, Iraq became a battleground between the U.S. and Iran, as the latter sent troops, money, and arms to foment and support an insurgency. The war on Islamic State, along with the Obama administration’s effort to align itself with the Islamic Republic, led to a temporary truce, but also gave Tehran-backed militias a great deal of power. Iran has also established a major conduit of supplies through Iraq to support its efforts in Syria. Meanwhile, it is hard to say if the recent elections have brought a government to Baghdad that will be pro-American or pro-Iranian. Eldad Shavit and Raz Zimmt comment how these developments might affect Israel:

Although statements by the U.S. administration have addressed Iran’s overall activity in the region, they appear to emphasize the potential for confrontation in Iraq. First and foremost, this [emphasis] stems from the U.S. perception of this arena as posing the greatest danger, in light of the extensive presence of U.S. military and civilian personnel operating throughout the country, and in light of past experience, which saw many American soldiers attacked by Shiite militias under Iranian supervision. The American media have reported that U.S. intelligence possesses information indicating that the Shiite militias and other elements under Iranian auspices intend to carry out attacks against American targets and interests. . . .

In light of Iran’s intensifying confrontation with the United States and its mounting economic crisis, Tehran finds it essential to maintain its influence in Iraq, particularly in the event of a future clash with the United States. The Iranian leadership has striven to send a message of deterrence to the United States regarding the implications of a military clash. . . .

A recently published report also indicates that Iran transferred ballistic missiles to the Shiite militias it supports in Iraq. Although Iran has denied this report, it might indeed attempt to transfer advanced military equipment to the Shiite militias in order to improve their capabilities in the event of a military confrontation between Iran and the United States and/or Israel, or a confrontation between [the militias] and the central government in Baghdad.

From Israel’s perspective, after years when the Iraqi arena received little attention from Israeli decision makers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have mentioned the possibility of Israel’s taking action against Iranian targets in Iraq. In this context, and particularly in light of the possibility that Iraq could become an arena of greater conflict between the United States and Iran, it is critical that there be full coordination between Israel and the United States. This is of particular importance due to [the American estimation of] stability in Iraq as a major element of the the campaign against Islamic State, which, though declared a success, is not yet complete.

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More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Israel & Zionism, U.S. Foreign policy