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American Sociological Review  ASR

February 2009; 74 (1)

2008 Presidential Address

Precarious Work, Insecure Workers: Employment Relations in Transition

Arne L. Kalleberg

Abstract: The growth of precarious work since the 1970s has emerged as a core contemporary concern within politics, in the media, and among researchers. Uncertain and unpredictable work contrasts with the relative security that characterized the three decades following World War II. Precarious work constitutes a global challenge that has a wide range of consequences cutting across many areas of concern to sociologists. Hence, it is increasingly important to understand the new workplace arrangements that generate precarious work and worker insecurity. A focus on employment relations forms the foundation of theories of the institutions and structures that generate precarious work and the cultural and individual factors that influence people's responses to uncertainty. Sociologists are well-positioned to explain, offer insight, and provide input into public policy about such changes and the state of contemporary employment relations.






Groups Reward Individual Sacrifice: The Status Solution to the Collective Action Problem

Robb Willer

Abstract: One of sociology's classic puzzles is how groups motivate their members to set aside self-interest and contribute to collective action. This article presents a solution to the problem based on status as a selective incentive motivating contribution. Contributors to collective action signal their motivation to help the group and consequently earn diverse benefits from group members–in particular, higher status–and these rewards encourage greater giving to the group in the future. In Study 1, high contributors to collective action earned higher status, exercised more interpersonal influence, were cooperated with more, and received gifts of greater value. Studies 2 and 3 replicated these findings while discounting alternative explanations. All three studies show that giving to the group mattered because it signaled an individual's motivation to help the group. Study 4 finds that participants who received status for their contributions subsequently contributed more and viewed the group more positively. These results demonstrate how the allocation of respect to contributors shapes group productivity and solidarity, offering a solution to the collective action problem.




How Easily Does a Social Difference Become a Status Distinction? Gender Matters

Cecilia L. Ridgeway

Kristen Backor

Yan E. Li

Justine E. Tinkler

Kristan G. Erickson

Abstract: Are people quick to adopt status beliefs about a social difference that lead them to treat others unequally? In a test of status construction theory, two experiments show that men and women form equally strong status beliefs from only two encounters with others. Men act powerfully on these new beliefs in their next encounters with others but women do not, possibly because women face greater social risks for acting on ambiguous status advantages. Women are just as likely as men, however, to treat someone unequally on the basis of an established status distinction. This suggests that men are first movers in the emergence of status distinctions, but women eventually adopt the distinctions as well. Our results show that people readily transform social differences into status distinctions-distinctions that act as formidable forces of inequality.




The Discipline of Rankings: Tight Coupling and Organizational Change

Michael Sauder

Wendy Nelson Espeland

Abstract: This article demonstrates the value of Foucault's conception of discipline for understanding organizational responses to rankings. Using a case study of law schools, we explain why rankings have permeated law schools so extensively and why these organizations have been unable to buffer these institutional pressures. Foucault's depiction of two important processes, surveillance and normalization, show how rankings change perceptions of legal education through both coercive and seductive means. This approach advances organizational theory by highlighting conditions that affect the prevalence and effectiveness of buffering. Decoupling is not determined solely by the external enforcement of institutional pressures or the capacity of organizational actors to buffer or hide some activities. Members' tendency to internalize these pressures, to become self-disciplining, is also salient. Internalization is fostered by the anxiety that rankings produce, by their allure for the administrators who try to manipulate them, and by the resistance they provoke. Rankings are just one example of the public measures of performance that are becoming increasingly influential in many institutional environments, and understanding how organizations respond to these measures is a crucial task for scholars.




Privatizing Participation: Civic Change and the Organizational Dynamics of Grassroots Lobbying Firms

Edward T. Walker

Abstract: This article highlights the shifting boundaries between the public and private spheres in advanced capitalist societies through an examination of grassroots lobbying firms. These organizations, which became a fixture in U.S. politics in the 1970s and have grown in number and prominence since, subsidize public participation on behalf of corporations, industry groups, and associations using direct mail, telephoning, and by mobilizing members and stakeholders. I examine the dynamics of this organizational population—whose existence calls attention to broad transformations in civil society—with reference to dramatic growth in the organizational populations of civic and trade associations. Results, derived from a Generalized Estimating Equation panel regression of firm founding events across U.S. regions from 1972 to 2002, suggest that the increasing formal organization of civil society has supported the development of a field of organizations that subsidize participation. These organizations do so, however, in a manner that restricts the development of social capital and civic skills while augmenting the voice of private interests in public and legislative discourse.




From Streets to Suites: How the Anti- Biotech Movement Affected German Pharmaceutical Firms

Klaus Weber

Hayagreeva Rao

L. G. Thomas

Abstract: How do social movements affect decisions within corporations, such as the commercialization of new technologies? We suggest that the effect of movement activism is conditioned by the internal polity and therefore varies across organizations. This article examines how the anti-genetic movement in Germany during the 1980s affected six domestic pharmaceutical firms' commercialization of biotechnology. We develop a process model of how movements penetrate the relatively closed polity of private organizations. External contestation weakened the position of internal champions of biotechnology, precipitated divisions among organizational elites, and undermined collective commitment to the technology. The movement also increased perceptions of investment uncertainty, but the consequences of this uncertainty depended on organizational logics of decision making. As a result, investments in some firms were tilted away from domestic biotechnology projects. The model also explains this variation in organization-level outcomes of movement contestation.




The Global Economy as Instituted Process: The Case of Central and Eastern Europe

Nina Bandelj

Abstract: I argue that economic globalization, indicated by the tremendous rise in world foreign direct investment (FDI) in recent decades, is not driven simply by investor considerations of economic risk and return, but is significantly shaped by the construction of demand for foreign capital by receiving states. States signal this demand through the levels of formal and substantive legitimacy they grant to FDI. They institutionalize globalization in formal rule as a normatively desirable development strategy. States substantiate this commitment by providing domestic and foreign actors with ideational and organizational resources to facilitate FDI. To illustrate this argument, I use the case of Central and Eastern Europe, which was largely closed to global capital before the collapse of Communism. Analyses of quantitative and qualitative data show that substantive legitimacy granted to FDI by host states, more than formal regulations, determined the size of foreign capital flows into postsocialist countries in the first decade of market reform. These findings point to social foundations of macroeconomic trends beyond the instrumental considerations of risk and return privileged in previous research.




Multiple Category Memberships in Markets: An Integrative Theory and Two Empirical Tests

Greta Hsu

Michael T. Hannan

Özgecan Koçak

Abstract: This article examines the effects of market specialization on economic and social outcomes. Integrating two perspectives, we explore why products that span multiple categories suffer social and economic disadvantages. According to the audience-side perspective, audience members refer to established categories to make sense of products. Products that incorporate features from multiple categories are perceived to be poor fits with category expectations and less appealing than category specialists. The producerside view holds that spanning categories reduces one's ability to effectively target each category's audience, which decreases appeal to audience members. Rather than treating these as rival explanations, we propose that both processes matter and offer a systematic, integrated account of how penalties arise as a consequence of audience-side and producer-side processes. We analyze data from two dissimilar contexts, eBay auctions and U.S. feature-film projects, to test the central implications of our theory. Together, these tests provide support for our integrated approach and suggest that both processes contribute to the penalties associated with category spanning.