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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Social Sciences

Exactly what is our problem with the political class?

Right now, the British people do not like their politicians. A common target of this dislike is not a singularly unpopular politician but rather the so-called “political class,” a group supposedly led by career politicians who collectively feed from the trough of publicly funded political institutions, who fail to represent the public at large, and who are a noxious mix of self-serving indifference. The overarching narrative surrounding the political class often takes one of three forms: attacks based on who they are (their personal characteristics), attacks based on what they do (their behaviour), or attacks based on what they think (their attitudes).

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Considering the future of US-China diplomacy [excerpt]

Since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Sino-US relations have overcome an intense impasse, adopting a much more intricate relationship driven by interdependent economies constant competition. The following excerpt from The Third Revolution, Elizabeth C. Economy of the Council on Foreign Relations identifies ways that the United States and China might improve their diplomatic relationship.

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Preparing for disasters: a corporate catastrophe checklist

Facebook has been in the hot seat since it came to light that personal data on as many 87 million users, mostly in the U.S., had been improperly acquired by Cambridge Analytica for use in the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump. CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged as well that “malicious” outsiders may have accessed profiles of most of his two billion users. In the wake of Facebook’s enormous cyber-lapse, Congress investigated, users fled, and its stock plummeted, the makings of a genuine company disaster.

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Mexican Women’s Self-Expression through Dress – Episode 43 – The Oxford Comment

Our host for this episode is William Beezley, Professor of History at the University of Arizona and Editor in Chief of the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History. He moderates a roundtable discussion with historians Stephanie Wood and Susie Porter about Mexican women’s self-expression through textiles and dress throughout history to the present day.

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How the intention to share photos can undermine enjoyment

Though people both take and share more photos than ever before, we know very little about how different reasons for taking photos impact people’s actual experiences. For instance, when touring a city, some people take photos to share with others (e.g., to post on Facebook), while others take photos for themselves (e.g., to remember an experience later on). Will those who take photos to share enjoy the experience more or less than those who take photos for themselves? How do people’s goals for taking photos impact their enjoyment of photographed experiences?

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Are we to blame? Academics and the rise of populism

The social and political sciences have for some time defined their role in terms of intellectual critique and questioning. This chimes with the role of the independent scholar in terms of speaking truth to power and puncturing political pomposity wherever it is found. A confident and flourishing intellectual community of social scientists is therefore commonly thought to be a core element of a confident and flourishing democracy.

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Do government officials discriminate?

Suppose you write an email to a school district or a library asking for information about enrolling your child to the school or becoming a library member. Do you expect to receive a reply? And do you expect this reply to be cordial, for instance including some form of salutation? It turns out that the answers to the two questions above depend on what your name is and on what it embodies.

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Professionalizing leadership – training

Leadership is taught as casually and carelessly as ubiquitously. With few exceptions, the leadership industry sends the mistaken, misguided, and misleading message that leadership can be learned quickly and easily in, say, a course or a workshop; in a year or even a term. Which raises this question: What if leadership were conceived a profession instead of an occupation? What constitutes good leadership training?

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Considerations for peacemaking and peacekeeping

Since the end of the Cold War, there has been an increasing amount of attention paid to peacekeeping. Consequently, peace has generated considerable interest in the areas of education, research, and politics. Peacekeeping developed in the 1950s as part of preventive diplomacy. It has since become an essential component of conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Peacebuilding has become embedded in the theory and practice of national governments, nongovernmental organizations, and regional and global intergovernmental organizations. Most regional intergovernmental organizations now have departments for peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding.

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Trust in face-to-face diplomacy

President Donald Trump and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong-un, are due to meet for a historic summit in an as yet undisclosed location to try and resolve the nuclear stand-off on the Korean peninsula. For academics that study the potential of face-to-face diplomacy to de-escalate and transform conflicts, the summit is a fascinating case for testing the validity of their theories and prescriptions.

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Supporting grieving students at school following crisis events

Tragic events such as recent natural disasters and shootings at school affect many children and families. Although these events typically receive immediate media coverage and short-term supports, the long-term implications are often overlooked. The grief among children and adolescents experiencing significant loss generally emerges during the weeks and months following such tragic events. Although there are variations in the expression of grief, bereaved children and adolescents often struggle to meet the cognitive demands of school. Professionals at school, including, school psychologists, school counselors, and other mental health professionals have a tremendous opportunity to help identify and support students in need.

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“The American People”: current and historical meanings

Virtually all US politicians are fond of  “The American People.” Indeed, as the ultimate fallback stance for any candidate or incumbent, no other quaint phrase can seem so purposeful. Interesting too, is this banal reference’s stark contrast to its original meaning. That historic meaning was entirely negative. Unequivocally, America’s political founding expresses general disdain for any truly serious notions of popular rule.

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Resisting doomsday: The American antinuclear movement

An aging TV personality occupies the White House. Representing the Republican Party, he denounces his predecessors for coddling the nation’s enemies. Not long after taking office, he begins rattling nuclear sabers with the country’s most dangerous nuclear rival, threatening complete destruction and promising victory in nuclear war. His rhetoric concerns people at home and abroad. Just as this description applies to Donald Trump in 2017, it also characterizes Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s. A longtime critic of his predecessors’ détente policy, Reagan took a fierce stand toward the Soviet Union.

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Being Church as Christian hardcore punk

What is church? In the social sciences, church is ordinarily conceptualized as a physical gathering place where religious people go for worship and fellowship. Church is sacred; it is not secular. With this idea of church in mind, sociologists find that U.S. Christian youth (particularly young white men) are dropping out of church. Some are dropping out because they have lost faith in God. Others, however, are leaving church because they feel alienated from organized religion, not because they stopped being Christians. This rise in “unchurched believers” raises a question: how are Christian youth creating and expressing church beyond the confines of a religious institution?

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National Volunteer Month: a reading list

On 20 April 1974, President Richard M. Nixon declared National Volunteer Week, to honor those Americans whose unpaid “efforts most frequently touch the lives of the poor, the young, the aged and the sick, but in the process the lives of all men and women are made richer.” This commemoration has since been extended to a full month to recognize those who offer their time, energy, and skills to their communities.

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