Upcoming PRC Brown Bag Highlight: Javier Auyero – “Disconnected (and Ethnographic) Thoughts on Violence and its Concatenations”

Fri, Nov 1, 2013 • 12:00 PM • CLA 1.302B

Based on 30 months of collaborative fieldwork in a poor neighborhood in Buenos Aires, and emphasizing more the ethnographic showing than the telling, this presentation scrutinizes the multiple uses of violence in the area and the concatenations between private and public forms of physical aggression. Much of the violence reported here resembles that which has been dissected by students of street violence in the United States, i.e. it is the product of interpersonal retaliation and remains encapsulated in dyadic exchanges. However, upon casting a wider net to include other forms of aggression (not only public but also sexual, domestic, and intimate) that take place inside and outside the home, and that intensely shape the course of residents’ daily lives, Auyero argues that diverse forms of violence among the urban poor: a) serve more than just retaliatory purposes, b) link with one another beyond only dyadic relationships, and c) become a repertoire of action.

Dr Javier Auyero
Dr Javier Auyero

Javier Auyero – auyero@austin.utexas.edu
Department of Sociology, The University of Texas at Austin

Sponsored by the Population Research Center (PRC).

Upcoming PRC Brown Bag Highlight: Jacqueline Angel – “The Policy Implications of the Extension of Morbidity”

Fri, Oct 4, 2013 • 12 PM • CLA 1.302B

This lecture examines the policy consequences of increased longevity and extended disability among Mexican-American elders. The work is informed by a study that employs growth mixture models and life table techniques to analyze patterns of decline in functional capacity measured by objective Performance Oriented Mobility Assessments (POMAs) in a cohort of 3,050 Mexican-origin elders who were initially interviewed in 1993-1994 and followed up at six points over the subsequent seventeen years. The main objectives of the study were:  (1) to characterize the functional capacity trajectories and mortality experiences of the original cohort, (2) to identify those factors accounting for differences in trajectories, and (3) to determine the proportion of life after age sixty-five in which an individual suffers from serious functional impairment.  Results reveal three general patterns of decline (1) high initial functioning followed by decline (48% of the sample); (3) moderate initial functioning followed by decline (37.5% of the sample) and (3) poor initial functioning followed by continuing poor functioning or slight improvement (14.5% of the sample).  On average, members of this cohort spent more than half of the period after sixty-five and before death or censoring with significant limitations in physical functioning.  Significant gender and nativity differences emerge.  In general, the data show that although Mexican-origin individuals live long lives much of the period after age sixty-five is characterized by serious functional impairment.  Implications of the lack of substantial compression of morbidity for the health and economic well-being of older Mexican Americans and their families, as well as for health and long-term care policy, are considered.

Angel, Jacqui
Dr Jacqueline Angel

Jacqueline Angel – jangel@austin.utexas.edu
Population Research Center, Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs and Department of Sociology, The University of Texas at Austin

Sponsored by the Population Research Center (PRC).


Better Know a Sociologist : 10 Questions with Harel Shapira


Here at the UT Sociology Blog, we strive to find new and interesting ways to highlight the people and research in our department.  To that end, we present to you “Better Know A Sociologist,” where we ask 10 general questions to one of our illustrious faculty members.  Today we spoke to one of our newest faculty members, Dr. Harel Shapira.  

What first attracted you to sociology?

I remember being in high school and reading this book by Randall Collins.  I believe it was called Sociological Insight or Thinking about Sociology, it’s one of those basic introductory books.  Not a textbook so much as a collection of essays, each one dealing with a topic and showing how sociologists think about it.  For example, one was on love, one was on religion, another was the economy.  I think I was always drawn towards the historical, political science world of thinking.  And I remember reading this and it was just…it was incredibly counter-intuitive, but there’s also this sort of obviousness about it, right?  And I think that’s so wonderful about sociology.  On the one hand, it’s obvious: you read it and you say, “OK, that sort of makes sense.”  But at the same time, you have this reaction of “Oh, I didn’t think about it that way,” you know?  And I just remember reading this book and each one of these essays made me have that reaction towards the topic, like “Oh, so religion is actually about that?  That’s what we’re doing when we’re sitting around the table during Thanksgiving, that’s its significance?”  And the same for love, for the economy, and all those things.  So I think that that book just got me very excited about this thing called sociology that I’d never heard of and it also helped that Randall Collins is a beautiful writer and that the book was wonderfully written, and that it was short.  I just thought, “Wow, there are these people that do these things , this is what they do” and I was really drawn to it and took a few more sociology classes.  I should say that I was lucky enough that in my high school, there were actual sociology classes.

Yeah, that’s surprising.

Yeah, it was very cool.  We had these set of classes – this was in upstate New York – where the classes were actually connected to Syracuse University, so you took half of the class in high school and then half of the class at the actual university.  So it was really amazing and fortunate that they did actually have a proper sociology class.

So you got your Bachelor’s degree in sociology then?

I got my Bachelor’s in sociology from the University of Chicago.  I should say that over there, as much as my “concentration,” as they call it there, was sociology, there is a very serious core curriculum and many classes are cross listed, so I took a number of classes in very different fields.  As much of my education was in philosophy and history and even biology as it was in proper sociology.

But that’s another great thing about sociology, it’s that all of those different backgrounds contribute to the strength of your own sociological perspective.

Absolutely.  Yeah, that’s definitely another wonderful thing about sociology.

What did you do your dissertation on?

I wrote my dissertation about the border militia group called the Minutemen, who I assume you’ve heard of.  They’re this volunteer group that patrols the border between the US and Mexico trying to stop immigrants from coming across.  I was drawn to it for a couple of reasons.  One is a purely biographical reason: immigration and borders have played a really prominent role in my own life.  My grandparents immigrated to Israel from Europe and my parents immigrated to the United States. And of course in Israel, borders and security and militarization are incredibly prominent.  So in a sense, borders have been what my life has been about and I wanted to write and learn about it.  But there’s this other dimension, which is that we – and by we, I mean the social sciences, sociology – we don’t put enough energy into writing about and researching the right wing.  There was a movement in the 1950s with folks like Daniel Bell who wrote about conservative, right wing politics and then there was this amazing pause for almost 50 years.  There’s Kathleen Blee now at the University of Pittsburgh who has done some great work. But over all we know very little, and what we do know comes from the archives.  So there was also this motivation to just try and fill in this gap that exists.  So I was drawn to it for those two reasons and really, I guess there’s a  third one that’s very basic, and that’s that a lot of stuff I’m interested in has to do with how people tick in ways that I find very different than myself.  How people go about and do something that I don’t do and that I would never do and trying to figure out how it is that they do this and I don’t do it, what’s different about us.  But at the same time, also trying figure out what is actually similar about us yet leads us in different pathways and different directions.

At the same time, I’ve heard you speak about Waiting for Jose, the book that came out of your dissertation, and one of the most interesting things you discussed was the how a loss of community and the sense of anomie that comes out of it is partly why these men band together along the border, which links to some of what people like Robert Putnam have said about contemporary society.  But it sounds like that wasn’t really what you thought you were going to find or what you were originally interested in when you went to the field.

Yeah, I know!  I think I had the good fortune of having a few professors around me at Columbia where I did my dissertation who for the most part let me just go out and get my hands dirty without very much pregiven analytical or even theoretical frames.  Just to sort of go there and see what I find, see what’s interesting, see what strikes me, and it was in the process of going down there and then coming back and looking through field notes, talking with friends and professors that I came to figure out what the sort of story I want to tell about them is, what kind of story is the one that captures who these folks are. And what came out is that they have this diagnosis about America that is very far away from downloadwhat we think about when we think about right wing, conservative extremist politics.  I mean, there’s certainly things that they say that fit that mold, the mold people like Bell and Hofstadter talk about, but they also say so many things that don’t fit that mold that in fact fit – and here’s where Putnam comes up – that fit things that Robert Putnam says and talks about.  Not just Putnam, but Putnam is a great example because so many of us embrace Putnam in terms of giving a diagnosis of what is happening in America, what is wrong with America, what we might need to do to make it better.  So that was sort of this moment where I needed to pause, and really think, “wait a minute, what is going on here?  This is not what I expected.  How do I make sense of it?”  And from there it became about actually trying to figure out not just these people’s beliefs, their diagnosis of America, but trying to comprehend how even though they think things that are not so different from “the rest of us”, how come they arrive at such a different place.  It’s very easy to say “Oh, people believe these things that are very different from me and that’s why they do different things,” but it becomes much more difficult and I think actually much more accurate to say “Oh, they think things that are not that different but yet they get to a different place.“ And from there, not just thinking about their beliefs about immigration or America but thinking about their life experiences, their pasts, and seeing how much their experience of being soldiers – these are almost all military veterans and people who served for 25, 30, 35 years, essentially their whole lives as soldiers and are now aging veterans – seeing how these past experiences make this activity of patrolling the Border a really meaningful in a way that can not be reduced to simply an expression of ideology.

Why did you decide to work here at the University of Texas?

Well, it helped that they offered me a job. [laughs] Well, OK, first, it’s a serious research institution.  People are doing serious work here, I got that feeling from the beginning.  People are dedicated to doing really serious research. Not just in the sociology department, I felt that was true across campus.  So it was great to feel like you’re coming to a place where it’s not just your department where you can find people doing interesting things.  You know, the history department here is extremely strong, American Studies, the law school, the business school, the economics department.  There’s so many powerful, important institutions here, the Harry Ransom Center, the LBJ and Benson Libraries.  It’s just very exciting to be at a place where there are so many resources and so many interesting things happening.  It was also important for me to come to a place where I like the city and so the fact that it was in Austin was very important to me.

What’s been your overall experience of Austin?  Do you have any likes or dislikes?

Um, it’s incredibly hot.  I still don’t get what they mean by “dry heat.”  I’ve spent a lot of time in Tel Aviv, and it’s funny because there are ways in which Austin reminds me of Tel Aviv, by which I mean it’s very hot and it’s kind of a utilitarian, plain looking city in terms of architecture and the highways with all these big concrete buildings.  But you know, you see these ramshackle little bungalows but then you go inside them and the houses are beautiful.  You see these restaurants that look dilapidated and then you go inside and it’s amazing inside: the architecture, the food, the people, everything.  So it reminds me of Tel Aviv in the sense that externally, it’s kind of ugly but internally, there’s a lot of character and quality and beauty.  I’ve also been struck by how young this city is.  I find myself every now and then driving and trying to see if I can spot anyone who is 60 or over and I swear, I don’t think I’ve found one old person in this city yet.  And that’s – no offense to old people – kind of exciting to always be around young people who bring all this energy.  For example, people are always biking around everywhere, which I really like.  It’s just got this sort of flavor to it and I don’t think there’s that many cities in America that have flavor, you know?  It’s got character.  You come to Austin and you go, “Ah, OK, this place is different than most places, it’s got something going on” and I think that is just a really, really exciting thing to be around.

If you could teach one sociological concept to the world, what would it be?

I don’t know if this is a sociological concept; more like a way of thinking about the world.  But I would just say…I’m teaching Introductory Sociology this semester and if I can get one thing across to the students – and this applies not just to the students but to anyone – it’s just to recognize how powerful society is.  To recognize as social these things in the world that are social. Let’s take the example of the institution of the University.  The University is something that we’ve created, right?  People got together and they said “we need education, let’s have these criteria for education, let’s produce this thing called the University,” which sort of came from religious training and so forth, “let’s have these criteria for admission, what are the criteria for admission, etc.”  There’s so much that gets rolled up in these things.  And you know, you can go all the way down.  Then you get the sports team, the paraphernalia around the sports team, you get burnt orange, which comes to signify so much.  And that flows into all these sorts of political questions.  Affirmative action was a big issue here recently, for example.  These are all profoundly social things that we have created.  They weren’t always there and I think it’s so important to step back and recognize the existence of these things and how powerful they are in shaping our lives.  Obviously, we could go on and on down the list: gender, race, etc.  Just to recognize that these are social things.  We’ve produced them, they change over time, and look how they influence our lives.  And I think so often – and this kind of goes back to my experiences with the Randall Collins book and its counter-intuitiveness – we go through our everyday lives living with these things without recognizing that we’ve created them or that these things have a history and that these things are impacting us in ways that we kind of take for granted and don’t even reflect on.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Getting paid to think.  I mean that honestly.  I think getting paid to think and do research is such an amazing luxury.  Our conversation right now, I’m getting a paycheck for this conversation.  That is just amazing.  And it’s an incredible luxury and I think we are so fortunate to be in this position.  So many people would love to be doing this, but they don’t have the luxury to do it.  Getting paid to do this wonderful thing is remarkable.  I think about my parents and how much they paid for my education, or how much anyone or anyone’s parents pays to go to school.  But right now, we’re getting paid to go to school, right?  It’s actually mind blowing and I think it’s such an amazing thing.  And related to that I guess is being around all these remarkable people who are smart, interesting, and you like too.  Certainly there are some jerks in academia, but at least they’re interesting jerks. [laughs]  I think being surrounded by people who are so interesting and smart and have committed their lives to thinking and doing research is incredibly rewarding in itself.

Who is one person in the department besides yourself that is doing really interesting work and what is it?

Actually, I want to give two people, and these are my fellow members of the “new faculty cohort,” as we like to refer to ourselves.  I think both Ken and Dani are doing really amazing work.  In a  way, I think their work is kind of connected to each other.  Dani does this beautiful ethnographic work where, you know, we tend to think of the economy as a thing that naturally exists, right?  There’s this economy, it’s out there in the world and we’re economic actors.  Everyone is born trying to maximize their profits and to minimize their costs and we, by our so called nature, know how to be economic people.  It’s in our blood, it’s who we are.  You know that you’re supposed to get more money and lose less money.  And Dani does this amazing things where he says “actually, no, this is something we’re socialized into doing.  One becomes an economic actor.  One learns how to act economically in an economic society.”  And he has this great ethnographic project which looks at how people participated in these “Get Rich” clubs where they’re taught about how to invest their money.  I think it’s wonderful because again, it’s counter-intuitive: we take for granted the idea that everybody knows how to be an economic actor but actually we don’t.  And I love his research because when I first read it, it made me recall how my grandfather’s brother in Israel would always keep his money in his mattress.  He was afraid to give money to the bank.  What do you do with your money?  You put it under your mattress.  And I remember my father having this conversation and saying “Look, if you put the money in the bank you can get interest.”  But he didn’t trust the bank and he didn’t understand the concept of interest.  However, as a result of these conversations he finally put the money in the bank.  So in a sense, he’s kind of became this new economic actor.  But for the last twenty years of his life, the guy would wake up every morning at 6am, take a hour-long bus ride to the head office of the bank, ask to see the manager, and ask for a detailed receipt showing that his money was there.  He wanted to “see” the money.  It was hard for him to grasp this ethereal thing of his money being stored in the bank.  So that’s just a long way of saying I also like Dani’s work because I can make connections between it and some of the things I’ve thought about in my own life, which I think is a hallmark of all good sociology.  And then with Ken, I think he does something in a way that’s similar which is to talk about how the new economy today is so driven by finance.  First of all, finance is this thing where no one even knows what it is.  My friend says he’s an investment banker: I have no idea what that is.  So I think part of what Ken does is give some substance to it, and he does that by talking about the consequences of finance to the way our society is organized.  For example, one of the interesting things that he shows is how the increased emphasis on finance, the way the economy is driven by finance has consequences for say, labor unions, for people’s sense of themselves as workers and for what kind of work we value.  That “traditional” work, in a sense, has been really devalued as a consequence of this new finance-driven economy.

What are you current research interests?  What are you looking at these days?

I’m doing an ethnographic project right now on gun owners, focusing primarily in Texas.  At a basic level, I want to know why folks own guns.  I’m not a gun owner myself, but there’s an incredibly large population in America and especially in Texas that are gun owners.  I want to try and make sense of that.  When I was doing my dissertation, I had the chance to experience being around people who were all gun owners, and I remember sleeping in this tent at one point.  There were four people in the tent, and there were a whole bunch of guns around us.  We slept around guns and I couldn’t sleep the entire night.  I was terrified.  There were these guns around me and I was terrified.  And I remember thinking “for these folks, having the gun gives them a good night’s sleep.”  And again, I find that really amazing: how is it that for me, if I had a gun in my house today, I would be completely ill at ease, but for other people, it’s the precise opposite?  Trying to make sense of that is part of what I’m interested in and also I’m sort of interested in that following George Zimmerman, we have this discourse of self-defense in America.  We talk about self-defense so much and of course, in the trial what the jury was asked to decide was whether he was acting in self-defense or not, and I wonder the extent to which, when we talk about self-defense, we’re missing out on the fact that it’s not just about the individual.  When we think of self-defense, we often think of the individual who is defending themselves but actually a lot of times, when people act out of “self-defense,” they’re thinking about a larger group, right?  Often a group that has historical and collective memories, in other words, it’s not just about some crime or encounter happening at the moment, but something that happened a long time ago.  So they’re not owning the gun just to protect themselves but to protect something much bigger.

What’s one book you’ve read over the past year that you’ve really enjoyed and why?

Katherine Boo has this book called “Beyond the Beautiful Forevers” and it’s about slum dwellers in Bombay, India near the airport which is a relatively new slum as far as slums go.  I think it’s about 10-15 years old.  It emerged because of the fact that Bombay built this new airport and all these slum dwellers from other slums moved there because they do a lot of scavenging and could find a lot of construction materials from the builders and things that they could take and then sell.  Lo and behold, fast forward 10-15 years and now 3,000 are living in this slum.  And Katherine Boo – a journalist that’s written a lot for the New Yorker – goes and lives for a few years in the slum.  And she tells this story about the people living in the slum.  First of all, the book is beautifully written.  But also, even though she’s a journalist, it’s some of the best sociology that I’ve read in the past year.  The thing that I think she does really well beyond the amazing writing is it’s a book that on the one hand, is a story about suffering.  Incredible, incredible suffering.  But you can’t help but see at the same time this amazing resiliency.  And you leave with both those feelings, right?  You feel “this is awful, I can’t believe this exists” and without a doubt you leave thinking “wow, this is such an awful situation for these people and their lives within this slum” but you also leave with this – and I don’t want to sound too Oprah Winfrey – this renewed sense of hope or renewed sense of the power of humans to exist and love.

And that kind of overlaps with your own work, too.  For the Minutemen, they had these feeling of profound disaffection, alienation, and loss of structure and therefore were fashioning meaning and connection in the ways that they could.  And there’s a certain heroism in that as well.

Definitely, good point!

What do you like to do in your free time?

Netflix and fly fishing.

Netflix and fly fishing?

Yeah.  I’m still looking for places to go fly fishing in Texas.  In the northeast, I would go to upstate New York, the Catskills, or Pennsylvania.  I’ve heard rumors that there are some places in Texas to go fly fishing…

What exactly is required for fly fishing?  Do you need a fast moving river?  A deep river?  Just a river period?

There are different things, but yeah, you need a steam that is relatively fast moving and most importantly you need fish in it…..

Yeah, I imagine that’s important.

Mostly I went trout fishing, and yeah, I just love it because it’s….first of all, it’s an activity that I prefer doing by myself as opposed to other people, and that might be the only activity where that’s the case for me.  Also, it’s incredibly calming and frustrating at the same time.  And just sitting in the amazing scenery it’s a great way to see things.  I love just driving around with your fly rod in the car and you see a stream and you just stop and go in there for an hour or so and then you keep going to the next spot.  And I also just like it because Hemingway liked it, and he’s my favorite writer.


UT’s Gender and Sexuality Center, and Tips for LGBTQ Allies in the Classroom

By Shane Michael Gordon

gscThe Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC) on the UT campus provides opportunities for any UT student and any member of the Austin community to explore, organize and promote the learning of gender and sexuality issues. The GSC has in the ten years of its existence made strong efforts to provide resources for anyone willing to learn and become informed of LGBTQ and women’s issues while offering outreach, education and advocacy throughout campus.

History of the GSC is rooted primarily in two organizations, the Women’s Research Center and the GLBTA Agency, formed in 1997 and 2001 respectively through the student government and headed by student directors. As the organizations’ services overlapped an agreement was formed to establish a joint center with a permanent office and full-time director. With help from the student government the Gender and Sexuality Center officially opened its doors in August 2004.

As one of its missions is to promote the understanding of the LGBTQ community, the GSC hopes to help instructors improve the classroom setting for LGBTQ students. Here are some tips for promoting a diverse, inclusive and respectful learning environment:

  • Do not immediately assume everyone in the classroom is heterosexual or traditionally gendered, as this assumption can segue into students making anti-LGBTQ remarks just because of an alleged “absence” of LBGTQ students.
  • Do use inclusive language in your syllabi, presentations and whenever possible, such as discussing civil unions as well as marriage and using the term “parent” in lieu of mother and father.
  • Do not make negative remarks or jokes aimed toward LGBTQ people.
  • Do work to set an example of proper conduct for students, especially if you encounter a biased remark, as this can be an important opportunity to set the facts straight about the LGBTQ community, along with promoting understanding while actively dialoguing with students to create an accepting and non-judgmental classroom environment.

The GSC is currently headed by its director Ixchel Rosal (rosal@austin.utexas.edu) with education coordinator Shane Whalley (swhalley@austin.utexas.edu) and program coordinator Liz Elsen (liz.elsen@austin.utexas.edu). As the Center prepares to celebrate its tenth anniversary it plans to continue the work it has been doing while expanding its programs throughout both the campus and the community.

Bureaucracies & Backpacks in the Big City

By Dan Jaster

Bureaucracies surround us every day. They help make things smoother, or irritate us to no end with their meticulous demand for control over even the finest details. As Max Weber noted in his famous essay “Bureaucracy,” it is this duality that makes bureaucratic systems so interesting: in their quest for control they help put social processes on autopilot, but this is not without consequence. Often we become dependent on them, and disrupting their rationalistic logics makes life more difficult. We reify bureaucracies (and they reify themselves) through our very dependence on the system once it is in place.

While this view may be frightening, we should also take solace in the very irrationalities that these hyper-rational systems produce, particularly when faced with real-world complexities outside of their influence. I was recently in New York for a Rural Sociology conference. I don’t want the multi-faceted irony of this conference to slip by the reader: we met to discuss rural people in one of the most urban areas of the country; the theme was also focused on “land-grabs” by corporations against small-scale farmers, and these outraged sociologists discussed how to help farmers resist such actions mere blocks away from the heart of the financial sector that was fueling these land-grabs. Of course, that assumes that large-scale financing even has a heart; I like to imagine big-bankers’ lives resembling Edward Hopper’s depictions. During my off-hours, I played the tourist; it was during one of these trips that I experienced the difference between an institutional rationality and an everyday rationality.

“Land is such a good investment opportunity. I can’t believe people want to live and work on it.” Office in a Small City, Edward Hopper
“Land is such a good investment opportunity. I can’t believe people want to live and work on it.” Office in a Small City, Edward Hopper

One must-see during my stay in New York was the Metropolitan Museum of Art (i.e., the Met). As I presented that morning, I had my backpack and laptop with me. While in line, I ran into my first bureaucratic jeu. The Met has a $25 suggested admission price, but you can go lower if you like; it also has a $12 student price. Being a grad student, I asked for a student ticket. Bureaucracies like to track and record as many things as possible, so I figured I should help them accurately understand who was visiting the museum. The teller dolefully told me that the price was $12, but I could pay less if I liked. He probably thought I was being cheap: I looked sharp for my presentation, and I was staying in Queens, meaning I didn’t have time to change before arriving at the Met. Knowing that the admission price is suggested, I suggested $0; New York is expensive, and grad students don’t make a lot of money. The teller then informed me that $0 was not an option. I ran into the first built-in contradiction in the system: the price of admission was suggested, but suggestible doesn’t mean you can suggest anything.

A reasonable depiction of how I looked that day.
A reasonable depiction of how I looked that day.

With my ticket in hand (I opted for $10), I started towards the galleries. As I entered, I was informed that my backpack was too large. I had to check it in at the coat-check. Once I got to the coat check, I was informed that they would not check in my bag if it had my laptop in it. I was struck by the irony. The only reason I had my backpack was to carry my laptop (which I needed for my presentation). However, they wouldn’t let me enter the gallery with my backpack, and they wouldn’t check in my bag with my laptop inside it; I thus had to carry the laptop in my hands, which was the circumstance I had hoped to avoid by bringing my backpack in the first place.

By themselves, these rules make sense: big backpacks take up space and are a source of potential thievery within the museum, and keeping electronics out of the coat-check area not only keeps the museum from dealing with possible theft but also helps them avoid the potential for damaged personal property complaints. However, the beauty and bane of bureaucracies is that each rational rule does not exist independent of the others in the system: sometimes they interact and contradict or problematize each other, particularly when confronted with the complexities of the world outside the system. These interactions are the sources of our hassles (or amusing anecdotes) with bureaucracies. I laughed, and told the coat-check clerk about the irony. He didn’t laugh. Those on the lower levels of the hierarchy have less power and agency, so they can only follow the rules; he likely has heard that complaint before from people who failed to see the humor. With my laptop in my hands, and backpack in the coat-check, I toured the Met. But, hey, at least the bureaucracy was able to maintain its rationality at the expense of my own.

Sources Cited:

Weber, Max. 1946. “Bureaucracy.” In From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, edited by H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills. New York: Oxford University Press.

For the moral implications of bureaucracies, see:

Sjoberg, Gideon, Ted R. Vaughan, and Norma Williams. 1984. “Bureaucracy as a Moral Issue.” Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 20:441-453.