Abstracts 2003

Sosiologia Volume 40, Number 1, 2003:

Consumerism, modernisation and the colonisation of everyday life - George Ritzer´s thesis of McDonaldisation and its critique

Kaj Ilmonen, Doctor of Social Sciences, University of Jyväskylä

Many social theory views include the tendency to see society as divided into separate macro-level domains, such as the state, the markets and so on. Additionally, the usual assumption is that these domains enmesh the civil society and subordinate it to a hidden agenda. One of the latest sociologists who represents this macro-level thinking is George Ritzer who seems to lean on the famous Habermas' thesis about the "system's" way of colonizing the "life world" without referring to Habermas himself. Ritzer is famous for his so called McDonaldisation thesis. The central idea is that the rational way in which McDonald's has organised consumption has lent itself to colonise the civil society, standardise our consumption and to materialise our experiences of consumption and social relationships. The article begins by presenting the basic ideas of Ritzer's McDonaldisation thesis and the normative critique of consumption that it includes. The problematic aspects of his theory are brought up next. The article concludes by estimating what Ritzer's theory includes that is worth a closer analysis but has so far been bypassed by sociology of consumption. Emphasis is given to the way new forms of distribution and ways of organising services guide the event of shopping. At the same time, giving up the concept "colonisation" is introduced - it is suggested to be replaced by a concept better suited to describe processes, the "compartmentalisation of everyday life", which also takes better into account the segmentation of consumers according to so called super goods (for example a car, a computer, beer etc.)

Keywords: McDonaldisation, consumption, compartmentalisation of everyday life

Households and labour markets in European Union - differences between welfare regimes?

Juho Härkönen, Master of Social Sciences, University of Turku & Pekka Kosonen, Doctor of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki

The article investigates households' labour market participation in the European Union and asks whether the patterns of participation differ between and within welfare regimes. The article starts with an examination of sociological and economic theories dealing with the relationships between households and labour markets and the debate on welfare regimes, including their characteristics. The presupposition is that the labour market participation of members of households depends not only on family and individual reasons, but also on institutional context. Differences in participation patterns should therefore occur between country clusters, regimes, which are grouped according to institutional characteristics. The EU Member States are grouped in four different regimes: Nordic, Continental, Anglo-Saxon and South-European. The empirical questions are examined in light of the data gathered by European Community Household Panel (ECHP). The methods used are crosstabulation and multinomial logistic regression. The analysis shows that differences between regimes can especially be found in single-parent households and in "nuclear" households consisting of two adults and child/ren. The Anglo-Saxon regime seems to be the most consistent. Atypical countries existed within the other regimes.

Keywords: households, labour market participation, welfare regimes, European Union, comparative research, quantitative research

Community photographs

Janne Seppänen, Doctor of Social Sciences, University of Tampere

The article analyses the meaning of pictorial representations in the construction of local identities. Photographs and visual representations in general have an important position in identity work but so far sociologists have rarely analysed them. The data consists of the Two Pictures of My Town project where neighbourhood societies and one school class in Tampere produced with two photographs and short texts a presentation of their own neighbourhoods in the Internet. The following research questions were asked: What kinds of visual orders can be found in the paired photographs? What kind of politics of representation is included in these orders? What kind of identity work is expressed by the photographs' visual orders and politics of representation? The photographs were interpreted through a theoretical researcher reading. Photographs in which the local identity was constructed on the basis of familiar and safe visual orders offered a relatively solid and legitimate basis for local identities. These photographs repeated the visual orders of traditional tourist photographs and nature photography. If the two photographs commented the changes in the look of the neighbourhood, for example the differences between old and new architecture, they offered a more discontinuous basis for local identity construction. In this case the visual order was connected to the social struggle waged around the cityscape.

Keywords: identity, local identity, photography, representation, politics of representation, visual order.

Sosiologia Volume 40, Number 2, 2003:

Clock and the conflict of individualisation

Jorma Pohjanen, Doctor of Social Sciences, University of Oulu

This article combines clock, individualisation and modernisation. The clock can be regarded as an essential tool for individualisation whereby lifestyles become self-controlled. The concepts of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft are important as is "being in the right place at the right time". In old local communities action was organised communally and people were always "in the right place at the right time". Monasteries, medieval towns and factory areas are an intermediate stage between the community and the society. The mechanical clock and timetables were first used in Benedictine monasteries from where their use spread. Bells were tolled in order to organise shared activities. A change occurs when timing starts to happen individually, in a large area and, instead of on voice, is based on the visual (a glance at the clock): every individual becomes their own bell ringer, controller of the self. However, modern societies are characterised by equal pace and the time of the clock as a closed space which both limit individuality and which are a question of mechanic solidarity. Individualisation has remained incomplete and, applying Simmel, it is possible to talk about one of the controversies of modern culture.

Keywords: clock, individualisation, community, monastery, conflict of modern culture

Stories narrated by Aphasic Speakers

Tarja Aaltonen, Doctor of Social Sciences, University of Tampere

Aphasia is a linguistic disorder often caused by a stroke. Every year about 12,000 Finns suffer from and about a third of them get aphasia. Aphasia is a syndrome researched mainly by neurologists, speech therapists, and neuropsychologists. Social scientific research on aphasia is hard to come by. The article discusses whether it is possible to conceive people with aphasia as narrating stories. How do they narrate the stories and what do they narrate? Conversation analysis and the narrative approach are used to analyse data gathered by interviewing people with aphasia and their spouses (five interviews). Practices of interaction, co-operation between the people taking part in the interview and the contents of the stories narrated meanings which build the intersubjective, shared and common social reality, also in cases where interaction through language has become difficult because of illness. In an approach which gives emphasis to the interactive way of producing meanings, aphasic speakers' possibilities to participate in the discussion are more varied than in an approach where emphasis is given to individual performance only. Taking into account the dynamic nature of dialogue and interaction would offer new possibilities for developing care and rehabilitation practices.

Keywords: aphasia, intersubjectivity, discourse analysis, narrative research

Sosiologia Volume 40, Number 3, 2003:

Changing Class Situation in Russian Karelia - the Case of Kontupohja

Harri Melin, Doctor of Social Sciences, University of Turku

Many politicians and researchers dream of a middle-class Russia. The idea is that the middle-class creates prosperity and social stability. Russia today does not have the structural preconditions needed for the growth of the middle-class, however. In the social scientific debate on Russia the contradictions of the changes in class relations have been emphasised. The Republic of Karelia has in Finland been described as the periphery of Russia with persistent deprivation. The article examines the changes in class situations in Russian Karelia by using the case of the wealthy Kontupohja paper industry town. The data consists of interviews conducted in the Academy of Finland research project The Development of Modern Democracy in Russia. In Kontupohja people's class situations are differentiated according to their position in the production. However, the paternalistic policies carried out by the paper mill guarantee a relatively good income for all who work for it. Kontupohja is a homogenous community which can be epitomised with four things: the paper mill, work, the family and the dacha. In many ways the community is very privatised and familistic. The social networks are strong but they all revolve around work and the family. The town is predominated by a communality produced and maintained by the paper mill. The analysis shows that regional diversity is growing in Karelia and that social change in Russia is multidimensional.

Keywords: Russia, social change, class analysis

Burga Pictures in the Internet

Pekka Rantanen, Master of Social Sciences, University of Tampere

The article analyses pictures of burkha and their captions published in the Internet. Burkhas belong to the veiling culture of Islam which has often been interpreted as a practice that subordinates women. The article examines especially whether the pictures reproduce burkha as a symbol of women's oppression and, if they do, how do they do it? The burkha has been politicised in the 1900s as Islam and the social position of women have become political. Pictures of the burkha can be found especially in relation to the defeated Taliban regime of Afghanistan which set strict rules for the way women were able to dress and act in public social life. However, the spectrum of pictures of Burkha in the Internet is wider than this. The article focuses on examining the pictures from three different perspectives: documentation, embodiment and the connections between pictures of burkha and the Barbie doll. The reason for choosing these themes is that whereas the documentary pictures of burkha make the body simultaneously nearly invisible but significant, the embodied pictures of burkha and the Barbie doll - a controversial Western icon - create an inter-textual setting for the pictorial analysis. In the documentary pictures the burkha unambiguously represents oppression. The embodiment in the pictures of burkha can be interpreted within the context of Western gender discourse to which the concealing burkha is in a troubled relationship. The non-documentary pictures also contain traces of exotic orientalism. Connecting the Western icon Barbie to burkha shows how the way women dress and their social position is connected to the political and cultural dichotomy between Islam and the West. Although the pictures of burkha mostly strengthen the categorical conception of Islam their representations in non-documentary pictures are more varied and they also deal with Western politics and culture. The pictures are ambivalent and this makes their absolute interpretation more difficult even though the symbolism of fundamentalism and oppression associated with the burkha remains unchanged.

Keywords: burkha, the Internet, Islam, east-west, representation, gender, embodiment, politics

One Concept, Two Approaches: Putnam´s and Bourdieu´s Social Capital

Martti Siisiäinen, Doctor of Social Sciences, University of Jyväskylä

The article examines the differences between the concepts of social capital developed by Robert D. Putnam and Pierre Bourdieu. The roots of Putnam's concept can be found in the American theoretical traditions of pluralism and integration whereas Bourdieu relies more on the trends within structuralism and conflict theory. Putnam's concept opens up a perspective into the analysis of the rosy circles of social development and the obstacles it encounters. Its three parts - the norms of reciprocity, social networks/associations and trust - describe community level resources. However, his theory does not give many tools for the analysis of the conflictual conditions of the development of societies or of the strained relationships between the state and associations. Bourdieu's social capital is one of the three dimensions in the analysis of the actors' combined capacities and class position. With the help of economic, cultural and social capital Bourdieu examines the actors' possibilities in the struggles fought in different social fields. In the analysis of trust and reciprocity the most central place in Bourdieu's work is taken up by the concept of symbolic capital. According to Putnam associations are both a consequence of generalised trust and a precondition for their expansion. For Bourdieu associations are, on the one hand, a means to realise interests, and on the other, their own battlefield. Ultimately whether the researcher chooses Bourdieu's or Putnam's concept depends on not only the research problem but above all on her or his attitude to the background assumptions, such as the controversy between integration and conflict theories.

Keywords: interest, social capital, trust, symbolic capital

From Secularisation to Liquidity: Changing Religiousity and the Perspective of Sociology of Religion

Teemu Taira, Licentiate of Social Sciences, University of Turku

The secularisation thesis which has dominated the debate in sociology of religion has become challenged in its classical form. In this article I examine the range of its newer version (Steve Bruce) by analysing its interpretational, methodological and conceptual solutions and by juxtaposing it with the challenging perspectives. The secularisation thesis manifests itself on three levels: 1) people's decreased interaction with the church, 2) the weakening sphere of authority and impact of religious institutions and 3) the diminished popularity of religious beliefs and their influence on everyday life. It is defined too narrowly by linking religion either with membership in a religious community or with individual belief and by predicting that the terminal point of secularisation is indifference towards religious questions. Narrowing down the newer version does not mean abandoning the secularisation thesis but pointing out its limits which opens up space to emphasise such forms and ways of experiencing religiosity that do not demand declared belief in the validity of religious dogma or membership in the community of believers. I call this kind of religiosity liquid and propose the framework which examines the liquid modern (Zygmunt Bauman) as a suitable perspective for the description, analysis and interpretation of changing religiosity in sociology of religion.

Keywords: religion, modernisation, secularisation

Sosiologia Volume 40, Number 4, 2003:

Robert K. Merton: Theoretician of Sociological Multiplicity

Erk Allardt, Academian, University of Helsinki

The recently deceased Robert K. Merton (1910-2003), Professor at Columbia University for more than half a century, was one of the most influential scholars in sociology during the post-Second-World-War era. In the development of sociology he was very much in a similar position as Émile Durkheim had been at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Merton's significance and contributions can be summarized in the following three ideas: (1) Like Durkheim half a century earlier Merton emphasized the diversity and variability of social forms and indicated by his research how most explanations of societal forms and changes must be social and refer to the properties of social relations in the social system. (2) Merton emphasized the link between theory and empirical research and the importance of what he labelled theories of the middle range in distinction to general theories aiming at describing everything social. As a rationale for his preference of middle-range theorizing he mostly argued that the time was not ripe for general theories in sociology. However, Merton's own accomplishments tend to support the view according to which general sociological theories would hardly be fruitful due to the enormous diversity and multiplicity of social forms. In his own studies Merton created a great number of still relevant concepts, dichotomies and typologies. Complexity, diversity, and exceptions are typical of social life, and sociological theories should aim to cover these diversities. (3) Merton has been regarded as a representative of functional analysis but it would be more pertinent to classify him as one of its critics, or at least as a reformer of functional analysis. He definitely refuted conventional functional analysis and its basic assumption that there are social arrangements and institutions which are indispensable for the longevity of the society and its social forms. He emphasized empirical functional analysis and the fact that social forms and arrangements do not have completely uniform consequences. He was fond of the expression sociological ambivalence indicating that in all social units there are conflicting norms and roles. Malintegration rather that integration is the normal state of affairs. Most forms of deviant behaviour are produced by the social structure in a similar way as is uniform, adaptive behaviour.

Keywords: theories of the middle range, empirical functional analysis, latent functions, structural constraints, sociological ambivalence

Affordances and Information Technology Research

Ilkka Arminen, Doctor of social sciences, University of Tampere & Sanna Raudaskoski, Master of social sciences, University of Tampere

Our article applies James J. Gibson's concept of affordance to the research of technological applications and more specifically to the research of mobile applications use. The concept of affordance allows us to take into account the position of technical artefacts in the construction of social practices. The analysis opens up and demonstrates problems and possibilities of mobile applications use. Theoretically the article develops a post-constructionist research approach. Affordances make visible both the social formation and material conditions of the uses of technologies and artefacts. Methodologically we propose that the combination of the idea of affordance derived from ecological psychology with the methodology of studies on interaction enables a formation of fine-grained and valid knowledge about the use of technologies. The conversation analytical approach allows a focus on the structure of interaction between people and devices. For their part affordances bind the interaction into its material-textual resources. The analysis reveals that the study on affordances, or their lack, may guide product design in bringing up the users' real expectations of how the devices should work.

Keywords: conversation analysis, affordance, technology studies, mobile applications use

The Social Distribution of Concern for Nature – New Policies or Universal Attitudes?

Antti Kouvo, Master of social sciences, University of Turku

According to several researches on attitudes most Finns feel great concern over the state of the environment. Compared with other social concerns, identifying the citizens who are concerned about the environment is not always unambiguous. The position of unpolluted environment as some kind of a shared good may make it fundamentally difficult for differences to appear in the estimations of different groups of people. Social scientists have also interpreted environmental concerns as a part of a larger value change in the society which has resulted in the fact that it is becoming more difficult to analyse individual values according to socio-economic or demographic factors. Nevertheless both international and Finnish research has shown that environmental concerns are to an extent explained by certain known factors. The article examines the significance of these in the explanation of three dimensions of environmental concern. According to the analysis based on Finnish questionnaire data (N=2327) age, sex, political orientation and education sometimes differentiate groups of people when it comes to environmental concerns. First, it can be established that own reported environmental behaviour and readiness to act are not as much connected to the researched background factors as they are to general attitudes towards the seriousness of environmental problems and their veracity. Second, to an extent political opinions do define environmental concerns - however, this largely happens according to the recent political divisions.

Keywords: environmental concern, demographic and socio-economic factors, political orientation

Does Education Keep its Promise?

Mikko Aro, Master of social sciences, University of Turku

The article deals with educational inflation in Finland in 1970-2000. The term educational inflation means the devaluation of the relative worth of education. The article seeks to answer two questions: First, are there any signs of educational inflation? Second, on what educational level or levels has the change been most pronounced? The empirical data consists of the register-based sample data gathered by Statistics Finland of representative populations in the age group of 30-39 in 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000. The indicators used are socio-economic position and gross salary. On the basis of the empirical analysis it is concluded that the relative worth of education has clearly fallen, especially in the case of intermediate level degrees. In order to achieve a certain socio-economic position each generation has had to educate themselves further than the earlier generations. Does this mean that the expectations formed on the basis of education and working life reality are increasingly growing apart?

Keywords: educational inflation, educational expansion