International Sociology Seminar Focuses on Social Movements
On October 19, the HSE School of Sociology hosted Dr. Kerstin Jacobsson, Professor of Sociology at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden), for a seminar entitled ‘Emotions and Morality in a neo-Durkheimian Perspective on Social Movements’. Held as part of the International Sociology Seminar Series, Dr. Jacobsson’s talk was based on the book Animal Rights Activism: A Moral-Sociological Perspective on Social Movements (co-authored with Jonas Lindblom), which develops a novel theoretical perspective on social movements. Following her lecture, she spoke with the HSE News Service about some of the key findings in her research on social movements, including as they relate to the post-Soviet space.
— What are the main characteristics of social movements in the modern world?
— This is a huge question, which I can only address in brief here. I would point to the combination of local action and transnational inspiration, that is trans-local forms of activism. Also, the role of social media needs to be stressed, reinforcing what Bennett and Segerberg have phrased the 'logic of connective action' as a contrast to the classical logic of collective action. We also see, not least in Central and Eastern Europe, but also in post-Soviet space, a polarization of social movements, and how the neo-liberalization of our economies and societies are contested from both the left and the right end of the political spectrum.
— Which social movements in the post-Soviet space have you researched? What do you find unique about them?
— The research I have followed as well as researched myself is urban movements and activism. Some of them would be of a more reactive kind, i.e., neighbourhood mobilizations against unwanted developments in the close vicinity. Others would be more proactive, attempts to make cities a more hospitable place to live, including more flourishing local communities and neighbourhoods and a more beautiful and better living city environment. I find urban activism of particular interest and importance in post-Soviet space as they typically serve as a bridge between everyday life and political action, conducive to what Elzbieta Korolczuk and I have conceptualized as 'political becoming', that is agency-formation by which citizens come to see themselves as agents of change rather than victims or passive objects of change. Also, Carine Clement has studied the process by which ordinary Russians with no experience of activism gradually get engaged and may even become protest leaders.
— You have recently studied housing activism in some countries, including Lithuania. What have been some of your main findings?
— In Lithuania, housing and urban activism typically take the form of community-organizations (in contrast to, for instance, Russia, where non-institutionalized action is predominant). In Lithuania, political and economic opportunity structures favour institutionalization, as both the European Union and local policymakers provide incentives for formation of community organization. On the one hand, forming community organizations, as well as city-wide and national umbrella structures for community organizations have increased their leverage in relation to local and national policymakers. On the other hand, there is a risk of cooptation stemming from these close relationships and mutual dependencies.
However, we see little of the type of cross-class alliances in Lithuania which are more prevalent among urban and housing movements in other Central and Eastern European countries, such as Hungary, Poland and Romania. Examples are alliances between middle class activists and the poor or marginalized groups. In Hungary, we also see (in one of my projects) how both new left activists and right-wing, nationalist groups mobilize on issues related to affordability of housing. Again, that polarization is something I find to be important research currently taking place.
— Can you share with us some of your ideas about the role of emotion in social movements?
— Emotions are critical in social movements in a number of ways. For instance, in explaining mobilization, as often moral emotions, such as righteous anger or indignation, are what drive people to take action. Shared moral emotions are a key component of collective identity in social movements. Moreover, some movements, such as the gay rights movement, seek emotional liberation, converting shame into pride. Emotion work is also important to sustain commitment over time, as activism typically entails both emotional costs and emotional rewards. In my own research of the animal rights movement, I have shown how activists pursue collective and reflexive emotion work in order to sustain commitment over time and to cope with the effects of norm transgressing activities and the public's reaction to their work.
— How did your cooperation with HSE begin? Are you planning to continue such joint seminars or other activities?
— My cooperation with HSE started by the research collaboration with Christian Fröhlich, within our common research project on urban social movements in Moscow and Vilnius. I look forward to meeting more of the HSE researchers and learning about important research directions at HSE, and find possible synergies.
Anna Chernyakhovskaya, specially for HSE News service
Factors Affecting Alcohol Consumption Are Shaped in Childhood
Economists and sociologists who study alcohol consumption patterns often link them to people's living conditions and human capital such as education, work experience, and knowledge. Researchers of the HSE Laboratory for Labour Market Studies and the HSE Laboratory for Studies in Economic Sociology have found that non-cognitive skills developed in childhood and adolescence can have a major effect on the likelihood of alcohol abuse later in life and can diminish the role of education in this respect. The paper has been published in the Journal of Comparative Economics.
Capabilities as an Indicator of Poverty
Using a multidimensional approach, sociologists from HSE University have identified some vulnerable categories of the population that have rarely been the focus of research on poverty. According to their calculations, pensioners and people with disabilities also fall into the ‘poor’ category. The study was published in the Russian Journal of Economics.
People Spend 1/6th of their Lifetime on Enhancing Their Appearance
An international team including HSE researchers has conducted the largest ever cross-cultural study of appearance-enhancing behaviours. They have found that people worldwide spend an average of four hours a day on enhancing their beauty. Caring for one's appearance does not depend on gender, and older people worry as much about looking their best as the young do. The strongest predictor of attractiveness-enhancing behaviours appears to be social media usage. The study findings have been published in Evolution and Human Behaviour.
Alcohol Consumption by Young Russians Drops by Half, Study Says
Sociologist Valeria Kondratenko used data from the Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey-HSE (RLMS-HSE) to demonstrate that the percentage of young Russians aged 14 to 22 who consume alcohol decreased by 2.3 times from 62.1% to 26.9% between 2006 and 2019. This paper also explores the correlation between the alcohol consumption habits of children and those of their parents. A paper with the findings of this study has been published in the Bulletin of RLMS–HSE.
Obesity in Men Associated with Individualism, Study Finds
Researchers of the HSE Laboratory for Comparative Social Research (LCSR), jointly with colleagues from research centres in Germany, Australia and China, examined the relationship between national variations in obesity rates and cultural dimensions. The associations they found were tested empirically through analyses conducted across 51 countries worldwide. Individualism appears to be associated with a higher prevalence of obesity, but only in the male population. The study findings have been published in Social Science & Medicine.
Helping Others Improves the Lives and Psychological Well-being of Russians
HSE Researcher Ekaterina Nastina has found that the more often Russians help others (whether loved ones or strangers), the more satisfied they are with their lives. However, if a person is over 50 years of age or if values of social justice are important to him or her, helping family and friends has no significant influence on his or her psychological well-being. On the other hand, pro-social, altruistic behaviour towards strangers is equally beneficial to people of all ages and beliefs. A total of 757 respondents took part in the study. An article containing the results was published in the Sociological Journal.
Incompatible Alternatives: HSE Researchers on the Ambivalence of Power in the Twenty-first Century Economy
Ambivalence and a combination of contradictory principles are vividly manifested in the actions of government, its individual agents and institutions, as well as the everyday practices of economic subjects and citizens. The participants of the HSE Laboratory for Studies in Economic Sociology seminar discussed the book The Ambivalence of Power in the Twenty-First Century Economy: Cases from Russia and Beyond, recently published in the UK. Prepared by researchers from HSE University and foreign universities, the book focuses on the study of ambivalence in Russia and beyond.
People Are Reluctant to See Anthropomorphic Robot Assistants
Researchers from HSE University studied the perception of social robots (robots that are able to communicate with people and assist them with various needs) in everyday situations. They studied the perception of such factors as the robots’ appearance, speech, interaction situations, as well as the respondents’ characteristics. The scholars found that androids are more desirable in various situations than humanoids (robots that only vaguely resemble humans).
Satanism, According to Science: How Sociology Explains the Worship of Dark Forces
The concept of Satanism originating from Roman Catholic sources continues to lack a rigorous social science interpretation. Satanism is sometimes believed to be a reflection of real-life problems faced by society and is sometimes considered a phenomenon in its own right that merits serious study. HSE doctoral student Oxana Mikhailova provides an overview of how the concept of Satanism is treated by different sociological theories and offers her commentary.
HSE Researcher Reveals Work Values Held by New Generation of Undergraduates
A large-scale study carried out by Anita Poplavskaya, postgraduate student at the HSE Faculty of Social Sciences’ Department of Economic Sociology, on a sample of 5,000 undergraduates at eight regional universities in Russia reveals the students' prevalent work values. The top five include high pay, interest in one's work, job security, skills match, and career prospects.