A Summary of My Research on Public Receptivity to Climate Change

SmallerA strangely metaphorical photo of an oil tank that blew over during an extreme weather event: when ‘Storm Darwin’ hit Ireland at the start of 2014.

Somehow I have whittled down my doctoral thesis of over 300 pages on public receptivity to climate change  into a two-page summary which can be found by clicking here on the following link: Executive summary of a study of Irish public climate change receptivity.

As this is just a two-page summary it but touches on the substance of the thesis. For example I had to leave out the work on how broad societal power relations manifested within the focus group discussions, which was too complex to reduce to one or two sentences. For a more in-depth reading of the research an online copy of the thesis itself can be found by clicking here. For a quicker route through the thesis I would recommend reading the findings chapters 5 to 8. I would argue that chapter 4 is also an essential chapter while sections 2.3 to 2.3.5 provide my interpretation of Bourdieu’s main concepts which are used throughout. Chapter 1 may have to be read if you find yourself getting lost.

Class, Breastfeeding and Parenting Practices: Social Drivers of Childhood Development

Here is another study which supports the position that we are not just automatons of nucleic acid, proteins and chemicals but instead are part of a complex social system, which ultimately has a large effect on our behaviours, capacities and perceptions. Being breastfed has been linked to higher IQ and better school performance; however, scientists have as yet been unable to discover any biologically deterministic reasons as to why. But now through analysing a data set that followed 7,500 mothers and their children from birth to five years of age sociologists at Brigham Young University uncovered social patterns (as good sociologists are wont to do) surrounding mothers who breastfed and those who didn’t. The practice of breastfeeding tended to be accompanied by a series of parental behaviours: breastfeeding mothers were more responsive to their children’s emotional cues. They were also more likely to read to their children at an earlier age. Reading to an infant everyday from an age as early as 9 months, along with the sensitivity to a child’s social interactions are “significant predictors of reading readiness at age 4 years”.

Whether these parental practices were being applied or not turned out to be influenced by class, that great social divider. Being a single mother Continue reading

Cultural Taste, Power and Social Difference

Donald Clarke writing in the Irish Times this Saturday pieces together some spontaneous musings on the workings of popular taste in Irish society. His article pretends to examine the massive draw of Irish audiences to Garth Brooks who recently sold-out 240,000 tickets in 90 minutes. Such pseudo-analysis I always find irritating, especially when there exists a mass of research on the issue of public taste within the discipline of sociology ready for the day critical journalism emerges within the culture section of Irish broadsheets. Much of this work is founded on that of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu  and his tome Distinction which analyses political and cultural tastes based on surveys carried out in 60s France (although typical of the overly-reflexive and pernickety struggles amongst sociologists, not all of this research is complementary of Bourdieu’s). Although his findings are for a period and society where socio-cultural differences were possibly more acute than they are in Ireland now, they offer potential pathways of investigation as to the distinctions in taste currently operating in Irish society.

Bourdieu recognises the dispositional nature of human behaviour and the social unconscious that is absorbed into those dispositions. It is through this premise and the development of his comparative method of research and analysis that Bourdieu has Continue reading