Taking a closer look at Singapore’s much lauded response to the pandemic, Sulfikar Amir’s contribution to the “Covid-19 and the…
In his contribution to the “Ways of Water” series, Etienne Benson traces the history and impact of the quantification of water, especially bringing to light the visibility of the “water sciences,” and the invisibility of water’s many other, nonquantifiable, lives. Here, Benson suggests an approach to water that is not solely drawn on a binary, qualitative/quantitative divide, but rather proposes that a multiple and fluid water means that scientists and nonscientists alike may not be able to agree on first principles or a “basic set of facts” that define it, but that does not mean that we cannot understand water in all its many forms and meanings.
As part of the annual “Democratic Erosion” undergraduate series, Justin Kopek traces the complex impact of Evo Morales’ presidency for Bolivian democracy. Morales, Kopek argues, deepened Bolivian democracy through socioeconomic reforms for previously marginalized groups. At the same time, Morales disrupted democratic processes and check and balances by interfering with the judiciary and the media. His dramatic removal as head of state now raises questions about whether Bolivia will be able to maintain progress toward broader social inclusion and whether the constraints on liberal democratic institutions will be reversed or continue.
Recognizing that in the absence of adequate regulations and oversight the most intimate data we share can be used to undermine democratic processes and hurt citizens, Eleonore Pauwels offers suggestions for how UN member states, particularly across Africa, might prevent rising forms of data collection and manipulation that lead to information disorders and electoral disruptions.
The increasing threat to democratic institutions posed by disinformation is a global phenomenon. Yet, as Idayat Hasan and Jamie Hitchen reveal in this case study of Nigeria, the local effects of disinformation are shaped as much by offline conventions and institutions as by online interactions.
In the first essay in the “Ways of Water” series, Hiʻilei Julia Hobart explores the qualities of water that are also representative of diasporic experiences. Shallows and tides, among other forms, in their relationship to lands as well as other bodies of water, offer a significant scope through which to better understand and imagine the present and the future in a time of anthropogenic climate change. Rather than stasis, these water worlds help us re-imagine life as flows, and floes, where humans are not at the center, but one part of a shifting complex whole. These lessons, drawn from Indigenous and decolonial art and thought, suggest pathways forward to promote “praxis of care” that is local-grounded, but can encompass a perspective of planetary well-being.
Based on original research in the SSRC’s archives, Rafael Khachaturian chronicles the rise and influence on its Committee on States and Social Structures (CSSH), including its most prominent publication, Bringing the State Back In. Both a sequel and a rejoinder to the work of the prior Committee on Comparative Politics, CSSH brought together Marxist and Weberian perspectives to examine the state’s relation to, and autonomy from, class structures. Khachaturian concludes by arguing that CSSH’s incorporation of critical New Left perspectives into professional social science had the effect of occluding the more overtly political dimensions of those critiques.
Bringing the State Back In: A Report on Current Comparative Research on the Relationship between States and Social Structuresby Items Editors
In the early 1980s historical and comparative studies began reassessing the importance of “the state.” This 1982 article by Theda Skocpol examines the trajectory of “the state” in social scientific analysis, documenting the shift from society-centered approaches to politics and government research to a focus on the state as both actor and organizational structure. This report would lay the groundwork for the SSRC’s Committee on States and Social Structures (1983–1990), which would further explore the role of the state in different settings and across a range of social, cultural, political, and economic processes.
In their essay for “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences,” Samantha Montano and Amanda Savitt break down the importance of event categorization for applied disaster response, and the need for researchers and science communicators to use these concepts consistently. Hearkening back to E. L. Quarantelli’s seminal work on the subject, Montano and Savitt revisit previous events that have helped define conceptual scales for catastrophic events and ask whether and how we should describe the Covid-19 pandemic as such. Considering the unique harms produced in the pandemic context (including widespread economic impacts, and the limits on resource-sharing that can respond in geographically limited disasters), the authors show how the framing of our research has long-reaching potential effects on policy and practice.