Sociology the Powerful

February 27, 2013
Posted by Jay Livingston

Sociologists often complain that their ideas have little impact on public policy or on the public.  Think again.  Lee Kwan Yew says otherwise, according to an adulatory book review in the Wall Street Journal. 
Sociologists, he says, have convinced Americans that failure isn’t their fault but the fault of the economic system. Once charity became an entitlement, he observes, the stigma of living on charity disappeared.
Me, I have trouble convincing Americans (the ones in my classes) of very much at all.  And what nefarious indoctrination I do manage has an expiration date of about 4 minutes after the final exam.  So it’s nice to know that sociologists are a kind of shadow government with the power to cloud men’s minds. 

I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know if Mr. Lee has a similarly dim view of European nations and their much more generous entitlements.  The reviewer, Karen Elliott House, does not mention that, though she does note Mr. Lee’s reservations about American individualism.*
Mr. Lee worries about the breakdown of civil society in the U.S.—individual rights (not paired with individual responsibility) run amok. 
I wonder if the same worry applies to corporate rights and responsibilities. 

Presumably the book will give readers something to chew on, though that something will certainly not be Juicy Fruit.

(HT: Matthew E.Kahn at The Reality-Based Community)
* More properly, American voluntarism, as Claude Fischer identifies it.

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