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Theory and Research in Comparative Social Analysis

Located in Los Angeles, the city that the world watches to detect the shape of the future, UCLA Sociology sets the discipline's pace. Our internationally-renowned faculty spans the entire disciplinary gamut, from conversation analysis and ethnomethodology on one end, to mathematical sociology on the other, and with virtually every other major specialty represented. We study any number of topics, from the past (18th century China) to the future (the internet); from here (Los Angeles) to there (Eastern and Western Europe; southeast Asia; Latin America); from the smallest-scale (two people in conversation) to the largest (world empires). Committed to methodological diversity, we boast the largest contingent of ethnographers of any department, working in friendly co-existence with a very sophisticated group of quantitative researchers. We conduct sociological research in a myriad of ways, whether through direct observation, archival work, recording of naturally occurring data, large-scale sample surveys, experiments, or secondary data analysis.

Cover page of The Political Economy of Presumed Consent

The Political Economy of Presumed Consent

(2005)

The legal procurement of cadaveric human organs in Western countries is institutionalized in different ways, and donation rates vary widely. In particular, law in some countries allows for the consent of the donor to be presumed, and thus — in principle — the wishes of the next-of-kin to be overridden. I investigate the sources of variation in procurement rates using time-series data from seventeen OECD countries. Countries with presumed consent laws are found to have higher procurement rates, but the effect is relatively weak. Evidence from two presumed-consent countries where procurement rates have grown rapidly (Spain and Italy) suggests that the legal regime is a marker for other organizational practices rather than a causal mechanism in itself. More broadly, donor procurement takes place within societies that have institutionalized different relationships between the individual, the market and the state. The social organization of organ procurement may reflect aspects of these broader features of society: states with corporatist or conservative welfare regimes are likely to have adopted presumed consent laws, while liberal regimes always have informed consent rules.

Cover page of From “Native Policy” to Exterminationism: German Southwest Africa, 1904, in Comparative Perspective

From “Native Policy” to Exterminationism: German Southwest Africa, 1904, in Comparative Perspective

(2005)

This paper examines the transition from colonial “native policy” to a program of genocide in German Southwest Africa (Namibia) in 1904. I explore the reasons for the Germans’ murderous assault on the Ovaherero during the 1904 war and in the concentration camps between 1904 and 1908. Although colonial atrocities were not unusual at the time, the German attack on the Ovaherero is rightly described as the first genocide of the 20th century. Indeed, it is one a small number of deliberate attempts to exterminate an entire population within modern colonial settings. The fact that this was a German crime also points insistently back to the “Sonderweg” thesis, forcing us to ask whether German colonialism was not, after all, exceptional—exceptionally exterminationist, that is, as the British argued after WWI.

Cover page of Investigating the Hybridity of ‘Wellness’ Practices

Investigating the Hybridity of ‘Wellness’ Practices

(2005)

Theoretically significant relationships between different categories of phenomena remain undetected because of the division of disciplinary labor. The research domains of particular subdisciplines are often bounded by common sense notions of societal sectors. In this paper, I discuss how sector-specific studies of a wide range of ‘wellness’ practices fail to recognize and address a phenomenon that cuts across sectors despite ample evidence of its existence: the hybridity of ‘wellness’ practices. Hybrid practices and establishments emerge as practitioners combine ideas and techniques from diverse sectors such as medicine and healing; counselling and psychotherapy; management, personal development and motivation; exercise and fitness; beauty and personal care services; and religion and spirituality.

I map out a program for investigating ‘hybridity’ and discuss the theoretical significance of such a project. Because ‘hybridity’ is not a property inherent in the practices themselves, but a relational concept that requires comparison between practices, I locate these practices by mapping out their structural positions within the complex multi-sectored institutional landscape. Two theoretical contributions follow from the findings of this investigative strategy: 1) It adjudicates the contrasts between theories that assert increasing homogeneity, de-differentiation, or institutional isomorphism against those that suggest greater fragmentation and differentiation; 2) It provides a corrective to the professionalization literature.