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Ross E. Mitchell

The concept of ecological democracy has been employed to illustrate how rapid ecological and environmental change poses significant problems for existing democratic structures. If the term is to prove useful, however, it must be better conceptualized and empirically tested. This article addresses this challenge by first outlining key empirical intersections of environment and democracy, then providing a working definition of ecological democracy. Four plausible research hypotheses are also recommended to guide future analyses of ecological democracy.

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András Bálint Kovács

Narrative understanding supposes the viewer's mental activity of constructing causal links, an activity biased by emotions and other mental or psychological circumstances, making the causal links we construct while watching the film sometimes quite different from those the viewers obtain as a consequence of a thorough logical analysis of a narrative. This article argues that this is not the difference between “misunderstanding” and “adequate understanding,” but rather the fact that the viewers cannot discount emotional bias when talking about narrative causality. Because most films are made to be seen and understood after one viewing, they are meant to be understood through emotionally biased causal inference rather than by the pure analytical mind. In order to understand how emotionally biased causal thinking works, it is necessary to conduct empirical research with real audiences. Theories of narrative understanding can only be corroborated by such empirical research.

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Deliberative Democracy

Taking Stock and Looking Ahead - Selen A. Ercan with André Bächtiger

Selen A. Ercan and André Bächtiger

Deliberative democracy is a growing branch of democratic theory. It suggests understanding and assessing democracy in terms of the quality of communication among citizens, politicians, as well as between citizens and politicians. In this interview, drawing on his extensive research on deliberative practice within and beyond parliaments, André Bächtiger reflects on the development of the field over the last two decades, the relationship between normative theory and empirical research, and the prospects for practicing deliberation in populist times.

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Henning Best

This article aims to empirically test the so called low-cost hypothesis. The hypothesis posits that cost moderates the strength of the relationship between environmental concern and behavior. The effects of the behavioral cost and environmental concern on household waste recycling were evaluated, using empirical data collected from 2,695 respondents in Cologne, Germany. Empirically, a clear effect of both behavioral cost and environmental concern can be identified. Recycling rates are higher when a curbside scheme is implemented or the distance to collection containers is low. In addition, the probability of recycling participation rises when the actor has a pronounced environmental concern. This effect of environmental attitudes does not vary with behavioral cost and opportunities. Therefore, the low-cost hypothesis is not supported by the study.

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Antagonistic Insights

Evolving Soviet Atheist Critiques of Religion and Why They Matter for Anthropology

Sonja Luehrmann

This article offers a critique of the common notion in contemporary anthropology that a positive attitude toward the people under study is a necessary precondition for a sophisticated understanding of their social world. The empirical sociology of religion that evolved during the last decades of the Soviet Union's existence started from the premise that religion was a harmful phenomenon slated for disappearance. Nonetheless, atheist sociologists produced increasingly complex accounts of religious life in modern socialist societies. Their ideological framework simultaneously constrained Soviet scholars and forced them to pay closer attention to religious phenomena that contradicted political expectations. Drawing on this extreme example of militant atheist scholarship, I argue that studying 'repugnant cultural others' always requires some form of affective motivation. Antagonism can be as powerful, and as problematic, a motivating force as empathetic suspension of judgment.

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Jennifer Rebecca Kelly and Stacy Rule

Full-length feature articles in eight popular American hunting magazines were assessed to better understand hunter-prey relationships as depicted in contemporary hunting discourse. Our findings suggest hunters regard prey using two contradictory paradigms-Love and Kill. In the Love category, we find respect for life, admiration for nature and animals, and a sense of kinship between hunter and prey. In contrast, writings consistent with the Kill theme focus on conquest, objectification, hunter physiological responses, and violence. Of the 23 articles reviewed, 61 percent of the sample had multiple representations of Love and Kill in the same article, revealing a multilayered discourse. Many scholars have written about Love and Kill as separate constructs in hunting, suggesting they are mutually exclusive. Our empirical study counters this claim, finding instead that individual hunters often view their prey through a mixed lens that includes both Love and Kill.

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Social Response to Age-Gap Sex Involving Minors

Empirical, Historical, Cross-Cultural, and Cross-Species Considerations

Bruce Rind

Social response to age‐gap sex involving minors has become increasingly severe. In the US, non‐coercive acts that might have been punished with probation 30 years ago often lead to decades in prison today. Punishment also increasingly includes civil commitment up to life, as well as scarlet‐letter‐like public registries and onerous residence restrictions for released offenders. Advocates and the general public approve, believing that age‐gap sex with minors is uniquely injurious, pathological, and criminal. Critics argue that public opinion and policy have been shaped by moral panic, consisting of unfounded assumptions and invalid science being uncritically promoted by ideology, media sensationalism, and political pandering. This talk critically examines the basic assumptions and does so using a multi‐perspective approach (empirical, historical, cross‐cultural, cross‐species) to overcome the biases inherent in traditional clinical‐forensic reports. Non‐clinical empirical reviews of age‐gap sex involving minors show claims of intense, pervasive injuriousness to be highly exaggerated. Historical and cross‐cultural reviews show that adult‐adolescent sexual relations have been common and frequently socially integrated in other times and places, indicating that present‐day Western conceptualizations are socially constructed to reflect current social and economic arrangements rather than expressions of a priori truths. Analogous relations in primates are commonplace, non‐pathological, and not infrequently functional, contradicting implicit assumptions of a biologically‐based “trauma response” in humans. It is concluded that, though age‐gap sex involving minors is a significant mismatch for contemporary culture—and this talk therefore does not endorse it—attitudes and social policy concerning it have been driven by an upward‐spiraling moral panic, which itself is immoral in its excessive adverse consequences for individuals and society.

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Two Worlds of Environmentalism?

Empirical Analyses on the Complex Relationship between Postmaterialism, National Wealth, and Environmental Concern

Jochen Mayerl and Henning Best

This article examines cross-cultural differences in the value cluster of environmentalism and postmaterialism. Based on an extension of Ronald Inglehart’s “objective problems–subjective values” hypothesis, we posit different sources of postmaterialism and environmental concern in wealthy versus poor countries. We test hypotheses on the relationship between national wealth, postmaterialist values, and environmental concern using empirical data from the World Values Survey waves 5 and 6 and the International Social Survey Program 2010. Using multilevel regression models with cross-level interaction terms and country fixed effects, we show that the effect of postmaterialism on environmental concern is indeed moderated by national wealth: whereas there is a weak or even no effect in poorer countries, the relationship is substantial in wealthy countries. Therefore, we argue that individual postmaterialist values and environmental concern do in fact form a coherent structure in wealthy countries, but should be considered as isolated constructs in poorer countries.

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The Other Secular Modern

An Empirical Critique of Asad

Steve Bruce

Talal Asad explains the marginalization of religion in liberal democracies by invoking the modern state's desire to control. This paper argues that, in the Anglophone world, self-conscious secularism played little or no part in the secularization of public life. The expansion of the secular sphere was primarily an unintended consequence of actions by religious impositionists. Far from leading the promotion of the secular, the state had to be pressed by the demands of religious minorities to reduce the powers of established religion. The state provision of secular social services was usually a reaction to the inability of competing religious organizations to continue their provision. As this review of church–state relations in the UK, USA, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand shows, the reduction in the social power of religion owed more to the failure of Christians to agree than to a deliberately secularizing state.

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Stefan Böschen, Jochen Gläser, Martin Meister and Cornelius Schubert

Recent years have seen an increasing interest in materiality in social research. Some might say that materiality is now back on the agenda of social research. The challenges of bringing materiality back have spurred lively debates about material agency, most of which, however, are leveled at the largely dematerialized theories of the social in the social sciences, for example, in material culture studies (Appadurai 1986; Miller 1998) as well as science and technology studies (Latour 1988; Law/Mol 1995). Since the turn of the century, a marked shift towards the material has emerged (cf. Hicks 2010), ranging from questions concerning nature (Grundmann/Stehr 2000) and everyday objects (Molotch 2003; Costall/Dreier 2006; Miller 2010) to issues of cultural theory (Reckwitz 2002), post-phenomenology (Verbeek 2005), ethnography (Henare et al. 2007), distributed cognition (Hutchins 1995), and materiality in general (Dant 2005; Miller 2005; Knappett/Malafouris 2008). A perspective on materiality is now being developed in diverse fields such as archaeology (Meskell 2005), economic sociology (Pinch/Swedberg 2008), political science (Bennett 2010; Coole/Frost 2010), and organization studies (Carlile et al. 2013). Yet the status of the material remains debated in the evolving fields of various “new” materialisms (cf. Lemke 2015).