Clouds, Sun, Sea


This week has seen policymakers, scholars, and the public debate the meaning of collective violence. While political and media discourse often fails to examine the long-term effects of social unrest, a vast literature grapples with the mechanisms that link protests and uprisings with institutional change.

A 1978 book by JAMES W. BUTTON integrates a vast amount of interviews, archival sources, and statistical data to analyze the public response to the US urban uprisings of the 1960s. Focusing the analysis on three federal agencies—the (now-dismantled) Office of Economic Opportunity, HUD, and the DOJ—the book suggests that the 1960s riots were understood by policymakers as political demands.

From the introduction:

“Although domestic collective violence has played a prominent role in American history, few other episodes of urban violence in this country’s history have been as dramatic as the black riots of the 1960s. As a result, the causes, precipitating events, and participants of the outbursts have been thoroughly studied over the past several years. Yet what is remarkable about this extensive analysis is the almost complete neglect of the political effects or consequences of these pervasive disorders. By concentrating instead on the factors that may have caused the riots, most investigators have implicitly reflected a normative bias concerning the disutility of domestic violence for affecting social and political change.

The fundamental purpose of this study is to evaluate some of the political consequences of the urban black riots of the 1960s and early 1970s, focusing on responses of the executive branch of the federal government. In fulfilling such a task, it asks: did the riots affect executive officials’ decisions and ultimately federal public policy? Did the federal executive branch respond differently to the initial, less intense riots (1963-1966) than it did to the later, more severe disorders (1967-1968) and, if so, why? how have national executive responses to urban rioting been affected by the local political and environmental context and by local reactions to such violence? And how do public officials tend to view the role of violence in American society?”

Link to the book page.

  • A new article by Omar Wasow examines the relationship between violent and nonviolent protests, media, public opinion, and policy alignment from the Civil Rights Era, and in particular on Nixon’s election in 1968. Link. And a 2018 paper by Shom Mazumder looks at the persistent effects of Civil Rights protects on political attitudes. Link.
  • A 1978 paper by sociologist Charles Tilly on collective violence: “Historically, collective violence has flowed regularly out of the central political processes of western countries. People seeking to seize, hold, or realign the levers of power have continually engaged in collective violence as part of their struggles.” Link.
  • In a 2007 article, historian Michael Kazin asks: “Many of the conditions thought to have precipitated the eruption of civil violence in the 1960s either persist or have grown worse. What accounts for the absence of civil violence on American streets?” Link. And a new book by Mike Davis and Jon Wiener looks at the 1960s in Los Angeles. Link.


Household registration and migrant stratification

YIMING DONG is a post-doctoral research associate at King’s College London. In a 2019 paper co-authored with Charlotte Goodburn, Dong analyzes the consequences of the Chinese government’s 2014 hukou reforms, which eliminated the distinction between rural and urban citizens in the country’s household registration system.
From the paper:

“The household registration (hukou) system has been a fundamental feature of social organization in China since the 1950s. Deep into the post-Mao era of Reform and Opening, it remained a contentious policy, dividing all citizens at birth into rural or urban classes and binding them to their place of origin administratively, even as huge waves of rural-urban migration challenged this legacy. In July 2014, China’s State Council issued what were widely regarded as a series of ground-breaking reform policies. The reform’s provisions that the ‘residence permit’ (juzhuzheng) system for migrants should be applied nationwide and its ‘points system’ for migrants have gone overlooked. Far from their stated aims of equalizing migrant services with locals, the policies introduce new forms of educational and social stratification, aimed at increasing control over migrant selectivity, with far-reaching consequences for Chinese social development.”

Link to the paper, link to Dong’s website.

Each week we highlight great work from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Have you read any excellent research recently that you’d like to see shared here? Send it our way:

+ + +

  • On Thursday, we were thrilled to host Michael Pettis, Matthew Klein, and Adam Tooze for a discussion on Trade Wars Are Class Wars, Pettis and Klein’s new book. Link to a recording of the discussion, link to the book’s publisher page (and email us for a discount code to purchase the book in the US and UK).
  • “A bias towards effort extraction rather than automation would look something like the current pattern—modest rather than surging productivity growth.” At Phenomenal World, Brian Callaci on the relationship between automation and labor effort. Link.
  • JFI senior fellow Max Kasy gave a session on experimental design last week, covering many papers of his on the topic: “What do we want? And when do we want it? Alternative objectives and their implications for experimental design.” Link to the recording.
  • The Association for Promotion of Political Economy and Law, INET, and International University College of Turin have issued a call for participants in a comparative study of legal-economic responses to COVID19. Rapporteurs will be asked to respond to a series of survey questions, with the option to contribute to a country based policy report in August. Graduate students throughout North America are especially encouraged to apply. Preferred deadline is June 1. More details and contact information in this document. h/t reader Kendall S.
  • Barthélémy Bonadio, Zhen Huo, Andrei A. Levchenko, and Nitya Pandalai-Nayar analyze “Global Supply Chains in the Pandemic.” Link.
  • Larry Katz and William Spriggs on the history of the unemployment insurance system in the US. Link.
  • An excellent new issue of the Cambridge Financial History Review (much of it open access). Inside: multi-currency regimes in early 19th century Finland, a history of Singapore’s dollar market since the 1960s, the role of economic advisers in shaping early 20th century German central banking. Link.
  • New research by Adam D. Reich and Seth J. Prins finds “a negative relationship between
    exposure to the criminal justice system and involvement in labor organizations.” Link.
  • “We find that European immigrants brought with them their preferences for the welfare state and influenced American political ideology during one of the largest episodes of redistribution in US history, the New Deal.” Paola Giuliano and Marco Tabellini on immigration and ideology. Link.
  • Karl Gauffin examines trends in precarious employment in Sweden. Link. And Lorenzo Feltrin argues against institutional analyses of Moroccan industrial relations. Link.
  • Using data on annual state budgets from 2006 to 2015, Thomas T. Holyoke and Jeff Cummins study the relationship between interest group lobbying, electoral competition, state spending, and debt. Link.
  • “We rigorously test the historicity of indigenous Tsimshian oral records (adawx) using an extended simulation-based method. Our methodology is able to detect short-duration (1–2 centuries) demographic events. First, we successfully test the methodology against a simulated radiocarbon dataset for the catastrophic European Black Death/bubonic plague (Yersinia pestis). Second, we test the Tsimshian adawx accounts of an occupational hiatus in their territorial heartland ca. 1,500–1,000 years ago. We are unable to disconfirm the oral accounts. This represents the first formal test of indigenous oral traditions using modern radiocarbon modeling techniques.” By Kevan Edinborough et al. Link.

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations:

Subscribe to Phenomenal World Sources, a weekly digest of recommended readings across the social sciences. See the full Sources archive.