Somewhere, there are hundreds of parents who have sent their children to the University of Illinois in order to get an education. They let them choose sociology as their major. Their children now spend their days repeating the most important phrase for sociology graduates: “Do you want fries with that?”
Today, other parents just like them are repeating this decision. It costs them up to $35,000 a year — and rising. It costs them up to $49,000 a year if they are out-of-state. That is if their children graduate in four years. Some won’t.
The University of Illinois (Urbana/Champaign) is the premier campus of the tax-funded university system in Illinois. This means that if any taxpayer in Illinois refuses to pay taxes to operate this school, he will be fined, and if he is really recalcitrant, will be arrested, tried, convicted, and sent to prison.
One of the sociology professors at the University of Illinois, is not a full professor. He is an associate professor. He earned his Ph.D. in 1995. It has taken a long time to get to associate professor. He may never make it. But I think he will. He has mastered the specialized language of sociology.
I respect this. I never could learn how to do it. I had graduate-level courses in sociology, but that was under Robert Nisbet. He never mastered the lingo of sociology, either. He got into the field early, before World War II, when you were still allowed — even encouraged — to write in English.
Let me give you an example of a recent academic paper that our U of I sociologist wrote. He is hoping to become a full professor. He therefore still writes academic papers, hoping for a promotion. In the conclusion to one of these papers, which means the final word in which he is making his most important point, we read the following point. Your challenge, should you decide to accept it, is to determine what the paper’s topic was.
In structural terms, what I presented here is another case of strength of weak ties and structural holes arguments. Yet, in the context of mobilization, its theoretical and substantive implications are made more vivid, showing how networks matter and how the micro-macro Mobilization linkages operate (Burt 2000; Diani 2003; Gould 1991; McAdam, Tarrow, and Tilly 2001; White 1992). In accounting for collective action dynamics from a relational point of view, Granovetter (2002: 53) distinguishes three kinds of configuration of social networks and their corresponding potentials. One, fragmented social structures deficient in bridging ties, are likely to find collective action difficult, failing to mobilize politically. Two, those that are densely connected, though amenable to a high level of cooperation, are even less likely to be effectively coordinated from a center. Lastly, in the structures characterized by cluster-and-bridge configuration, the presence of a limited number of actors towards whom most interactions converge greatly facilitates the transformation of an aggregate of largely isolated groups into a connected and coordinated movement network, as it opens up channels of potential communication and mutual recognition (Diani
2003: 118; Simmel 1955). This is where Granovetter (2002) expects to find the greatest potential efficacy for large-scale social phenomena. Revere and Warren found themselves in precisely such a setting, and they acted to couple the decoupled (Breiger 1995: 126-127; White 1992). In mobilizing for the American Revolution, this was the other–and, as I have argued, far more important–ride.
What was topic? Do you know? Are you sure? (Do you care?)