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Samuel Cohn Wins the American Sociological Association Section on the Sociology of Development Distinguished Career Award

This essay is an exercise in pure bragging.


I live in Texas where bragging is more common than it is in many other places.


But if you can’t brag on your own website, where can you brag?


The American Sociological Association Section on the Sociology of Development announced that they would be awarding me their Distinguished Career Award at the 2023 Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in Philadelphia this August.


This is the fourth award I have won from the American Sociological Association.


My first award was in 1989 when I won the Jessie Barnard Award from the Association as a whole for Best Book on Gender. The book in question was The Process of Occupational Sex-typing: Feminization of Clerical Labor in Great Britain. (Temple 1985). The primary determinant of women’s income relative to that of men is the occupations in which women are allowed to work. Jobs are stereotyped as either male or female – but there had been few good theories as to why particular jobs were given to men or women. The Process of Occupational Sex-typing studied the introduction of women to clerical work in the late nineteenth century. In previous eras, office work had been an all-male occupation. By analyzing which offices switched from male to female and in what order, I was able to identify which employers would choose to discriminate against women. Contemporary data both for America and the Global South show that theory still applies today.


My second award was in 2013, an honorable mention for Best Book on Development from the American Sociological Association Section on Development. The book was Employment and Development Under Globalization: State and Economy in Brazil. (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). This book studied what kind of government policies actually create employment. The innovation of this analysis was to not let governments take credit for creating jobs just because they were located in an area that was already rich, and cutting governments slack if they had to create jobs in places with long histories of struggling economies. Government job creation performance was ranked taking into account how easy or hard a setting that government was working in. The governments that could really create jobs did so by investing heavily in infrastructure and vocational education. Airports had especially dramatic effects in increasing employment. The study was done in contemporary Brazil. However, my findings have been replicated by other scholars in other settings. In the U.S., the economic dominance of Atlanta and Dallas is very much the product of the superior airports that were built in those cities.


The third award was given the next year, in 2014, also by the ASA Section on Development. It was the Samuel Cohn Award for Service to Development Sociology. (Yes, the award is named after me.) I had founded the ASA Section on Development Sociology. I had served as its first President. I was on the team of editors, led by Greg Hooks, that wrote the first Handbook of Development Sociology. I had worked with Andrew Jorgenson and Jeff Kentor to create the journal, I had midwifed or directly organized a number of annual conferences in Development Sociology. I worked with Andrew Dawson and Liam Swiss to start the Development Sociology Section of the Canadian Sociological Association. I also served on the board of RC-09, the Development Sociology section of the International Sociological Association. They added up all that stuff and liked it.


The fourth award is the previously mentioned Distinguished Career Award.


Along the way,  I did a study of underdevelopment in Scotland and Wales, a book on strike strategy in Third Republic France, a study with Mark Fossett of black-white unemployment by neighborhood in American cities, a study of company stores in Victorian British railway construction, a study with Michael Upchurch on egalitarian development in nineteenth century Norway, work on crisis tendencies in modern capitalism with Rae Blumberg and work on gender and development also with Rae Blumberg.


And of course, there is my most recent book All Societies Die: How to Keep Hope Alive (Cornell, 2021) which is the intellectual foundation of this website. Much of my recent teaching and writing, either here on the website or in other settings, has been about identifying long term threats to the viability of American society or to the modern world-system as a whole. Those threats continue to be very real.


This is why I to continue to write.

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