Rational choice and spatial based solidarity problems

“Strategies that are rational at the level of the individual can lead to unintended consequences or suboptimal outcomes at group or society level, thereby creating solidarity and inequality problems”



I would also add, strategies that are rational at local level can lead to unintended consequences at national or international level, thereby creating territorial based solidarity and inequality problems. Well, I am right now thinking in my abstract for the nex midterm conference of the European Sociological Association research network “energy and society”:

Since the oil crisis and continuing until the mid-eighties, many projects to exploit natural resources on a large scale were carried out in the United States and Europe. Due to the demographic and economic boom, the phenomenon became known as energy boomtown, having received the attention of many sociologists up to date, but mainly from the American environmental sociologist William Freudenburg. His legacy is now essential to understand the social impact of large scale energy projects, but also suggests how regional factors play a crucial role in the configuration of energy national strategies. By mean a case study, this paper aims to test and further develop the William Freudenburg theory on the addictive character of the economies that someday harboured a large scale energy project, that is, boomtowns. After having performed seventeen semi-structure interviews, the discourse analysis reveals the existence of both political and trade union forces that struggle to keep the old power plant opened while hoping to live a new boom effect by attracting new large scale projects. The formers know about the electoral benefits and the latter would have more difficult its action in a more dispersed labor market. Results suggest that the implementation of energy transition national strategies is also subjected to the influence power of certain local and regional forces on the central government.

Both solidarity and inequality problems are solved as far as there exist concessions from individuals by mean the creation of norms, a important dimension of social capital.


Reflections on Inequality and large cities

Interesting article on megacities and inequality entitled “Do cities widen the gap between rich and poor?” By Kristian Behrens and Frédéric Robert-Nicoud in World Economic Forum 

Yet one pattern has gone largely unnoticed: inequality is especially strong in large cities. At least one-quarter of the increase in earnings inequality in the US during 1979-2007 is explained by the high growth of earnings inequality in large urban areas (Baum-Snow and Pavan 2013).

According to this research “Large cities are more unequal than the nations that host them

In it, several magnific research questions aroused:

Are big cities merely the locus where income inequality is starkest, or are they host to economic mechanisms that explain (at least partly) that inequality?

How can we then explain the size-inequality nexus? Two main explanations are posed by the authors.

One seems to attribute the variations to the different industrial structure:

First, large cities may differ systematically in their industrial structure and the functions they perform. Large cities host, for example, more business services and the higher-order functions of finance and research and development (R&D), whereas small and medium-size cities host larger shares of lower-order services and manufacturing.

Another to the better access to public transportation:

large cities attract a disproportionate fraction of households at the bottom and at the top of the income distribution (Eeckhout et al 2014). Central cities of US MSAs attract, for example, poor households because they offer better access to public transportation (Glaeser et al. 2008)…

…Actually, Harvard economist Edward Glaeser claims that the large poverty rates of central cities are a testimony of their success, not their failure: they attract poor households by catering better to their needs (Glaeser 2011)

And this is the authors’ theory on this phenomena. They attribute inequality to both greater incentives and risk of failure:

…larger cities provide incentives for the most able to self-select into activities that offer high payoffs to the successful. However, the risk of failure associated with those activities also increases because workers in larger cities compete against more and better rivals.

Disproportionate rewards for the most skilled – and failure for the less skilled – then drives income inequality.

All reasons are truly insightful. However, I’d like to remark two things. First, more attention should be paid to the origin of new-residents. Are such issues as land use conflicts, forced displacement beneath this phenomena? See bellow map.

Secondly, none of them seems to pay special attention to the symbolic and dramaturgical nature of many of the human behaviours (Erving Goffman would agree). To what extent is material success the reason to emigrate to large cities? The place we live is probably the most determinant factor of our individual identity. The prestige of living in a large cities for many rural-side newcomers could be an important factor and that, perhaps, the higher inequality (and all problems around it) is seen as the price to be paid. Furthermore, the opportunities in terms of individual emancipation may be seen as the real incentive beyond economic factors. Specifically, the fact of being seen as urban citizen from the original rural community members could be the emigration underlying reason. One may prefer live anonymously and walking free in the city than keep belonging to rural communities or Gemeinschaft in terms of Ferdinand Tönnies. This is especially important in developing countries. We shouldn’t forget that most of them are eminently rural countries getting rapidly urbanized.

In two word, (and as said in previous posts) we can’t understand such processes as rapid urbanization from an exclusive “economicist” point of view. Those processes “ involve social control”, as Piketty has recently suggested.

My new blog background #manila #philippines

What you can see here is a photo taken in Manila (Philippines). Concretly, the buildings in the background are the so called Makati city, if I remember correctly. Why I’ve chosen this photo for my blog background? Well, for three reasons.

  1. First, it reflects in a single view my research interests, i.e. rapid growth, urban development, inequality, residential segregation, among others, also environment and climate change in the Global South ( the river waters (here isn’t entirely appreciable) are very contaminated)
  2. Second, because it was me who took this picture during my work experience in 2009. I indeed keep very good memories from that trip. I hope one day upload more pictures.
  3. Third, because I’ve noticed a blog hits growth from Philippines, becoming actually the fifth most frequent visitors.

Xaquín S. Pérez-Sindín López @socioloxia


Richard Wolff: Detroit a “Spectacular Failure” of System that Redistributes Pay from Bottom to Top

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Sociology of Development Journal


I find this journal very interesting to publish some of my work.

Coming March 2015!

Sociology of Development is an international journal addressing issues of development, broadly considered. With basic as well as policy-oriented research, topics explored include economic development and well-being, gender, health, inequality, poverty, environment and sustainability, political economy, conflict, social movements, and more.

Sociology of Development promotes and encourages intellectual diversity within the study of development, with articles from all scholars of development sociology, regardless of theoretical orientation, methodological preference, region of investigation, or historical period of study, and from fields not limited to sociology, and including political science, economics, geography, anthropology, and health sciences.