September 18, 2019
Posted by Jay Livingston

This blog is turning thirteen this month. It was originally supposed to be a group blog. That didn’t quite work out.

At our first department meeting in September 2006, we were thinking of ways to get more majors and to keep the ones we had. “How about a department blog?” I said. “We can post about things we see in our everyday lives but that we can relate to sociological ideas. That way, students will see that we’re just people with ordinary lives, and maybe they’ll see how sociological ideas can be useful.”

Everyone thought this was a good idea. So I set up the blog with posting privileges for all department members. After eleven or twelve years, I began to notice that with maybe three or four exceptions, all the posts were by me. So I changed the settings to make it my blog, though I kept the Montclair name just for the sake of continuity. I didn’t even change the name now that my connection to Montclair has become the thin thread of emeritus status.
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In the past year, the post that has gotten the most attention is one from the previous year — the one about language anachronisms in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (here).In his Times review the show last December, James Poniewozik mentioned these anachronisms in passing but with a link to my post. That brought a slew of visits, and the hits just keep on coming. A week or so ago, the page views for that post passed the 12,000 mark, an extraordinary number for this blog.

Besides that, here are some posts from the past year that I thought were worth revisiting.

1. Two posts about “Nostalgia and the Myth of Social Decline” (here and here) got me twenty minutes of air time on the Sociology Annex Podcast. That was fun, though in retrospect I quickly realized that I could have stated my ideas much more clearly.

2. Along similar lines, “The Past Is Never Uncertain” looks at the idea of that things today are more “uncertain” than things in the past. But the past is more certain only because now we know what happened.

3. People had different reactions to Brett Kavanagh at his confirmation hearings. But all of these reactions, for and against, seemed to share the same assumptions about “character” and about what a person is. This post (“A Different Person” ) tries to show the limitations of those assumptions.

4.  Aside from Mrs. Maisel, the post that got more views than any other in the past year was “Suicide and Well-Being. SOC 101, Week 1”). Were Soc 101 instructors assigning it?

It used current data but the same Durkheimian idea (and one of the same jokes) I’ve been using since I started teaching this stuff. The main point: rates are a property a group or society, not of individuals. Variables that explain individual cases (happiness, well-being) don’t seem to work so well at explaining rates.


Aaron Silverman said...

Maisel Tov!

Jay Livingston said...

Thanks much. That pun never occurred to me. I laughed out loud.