On The Limits Of Single-Issue Social Science

Max Weber – Illustration by Ingrid Bouws

The state of the art of the social sciences at the end of the sixties of the past century was characterized by a strong mood of optimism.
The rediscovery of the critical roots of social sciences as exemplified by the work of Marx and Weber contributed to the idea that one of the main tasks of social science should be to unravel the dynamics of social inequalities and to demystify ideological legitimatizations of those inequalities. Besides, the development of analytical tools and the recognition of the fast growing capabilities of computer software that could process huge amounts of data offered new opportunities to study the complexities and dynamics of modern societies. The combination of theoretical ambitions and research-technical possibilities seemed to promise new ways for social research inspired by ‘sociological imagination’ (C. Wright Mills, 1967).

A well-known example is the ambitious project of The Club of Rome: a group of interdisciplinary researchers who aspired to develop a model encompassing a variety of social, economical, cultural and environmental factors to study the development and possible futures of the living conditions of societies, social groups within these societies, and mankind in general (Meadows, 1972). The explicit ambition of Dennis Meadows and his colleagues was to combine a holistic approach with a well-founded research strategy using new analytical tools. However, the validity of their research results was rather limited due to the fact that the theoretical focus of their research was biased by a neo-Malthusian political agenda.
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Edutainment Radio Programmes

MalanRadio_ethiopiaThe ways in which journalists frame HIV stories can strongly contribute towards news consumers’ perceptions of the epidemic. This paper discusses the news values of HIV radio programmes in Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa. It argues that the culturally appropriate ‘humanisation’ of HIV stories and the proper use of conflict as adding news value are paramount to the impact of stories.
The skillful application of news values can make almost any HIV-related story newsworthy and therefore part of mainstream news. Moreover, it is maintained that HIV advocacy environments contribute to the newsworthiness of HIV stories in the media.
The AIDS advocacy milieus of South Africa and Kenya are compared and related to the type of HIV stories that are published and broadcast in the respective countries. Journalism training methods are critically discussed in the context of the above. It is argued, that, in developing countries, where journalists often lack basic journalism skills, it is not sufficient to provide reporters with HIV-related information; HIV information sharing should be combined with general journalism training and mentoring.

In December 2007, an excited Bashir Osman – a Somaligna-speaking journalist from Dire Dawa in the east of Ethiopia – broadcast a live call-in show on breastfeeding and HIV to his Somali audience on Dire 106.1 FM. According to the most recent Ethiopian government figures, Dire Dawa has the second highest HIV prevalence rate in the country, and almost doubles the national average. Each year there are almost 1, 000 HIV positive pregnancies with at least 230 children born with the virus. Yet this was the first HIV programme that Bashir had ever produced. AIDS was so stigmatised in the region that Dire 106.1 FM hardly ever discussed it on air. And Osman had no problem following this route. A week before the broadcast, the journalist – like most of his listeners – refused to be in the same room as people with HIV because he “didn’t want to risk breathing the same air” (Osman cited in De Masi, 2008) as them. He would never consider sharing a plate, or hosting an HIV positive person in his home, and thought it a deep insult to be tested for the virus.
But then Osman accessed what turned out to be a precious piece of culturally relevant information: he learned that babies of HIV positive women can get infected with the virus through their mothers’ breast milk (personal communication, December 6, 2007). All mothers with babies in his community breastfed their infants x including his very own wife. His own five-month old baby could be at risk, he perceived with shock, because neither he nor his wife knew their HIV status. The realisation changed Osman’s entire view on AIDS, and HIV was suddenly a virus that had the potential to directly impact his own life and those of everyone else he knew, in ways he had previously vehemently denied (personal communication, December 6, 2007). In short, this piece of information made AIDS newsworthy to Osman, his community and his editors. It became something that was crucial and worthwhile to talk about.

HIV and the News Media
Several communication experts, AIDS activists and journalists (Collins, 2005; Kinsella, 1989; Malan & Gold, 2006; Scalway, 2003; Shilts, 1987) have argued that the news media have the potential to be an immensely powerful tool in the response to HIV. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS Executive Director (UNAIDS), dr. Peter Piot, “journalists can save more lives than doctors in terms of HIV prevention because preventing HIV is about communication and changing norms” (Piot, 2006).
Proving statements like this, however, is very complex; studies have not been able to conclusively show that stories in the news media have resulted in change in HIV-related behaviour on a large scale. Research has, however, strongly suggested that news stories are capable of setting the framework in which citizens discuss public events. McCombs and Shaw (1972) demonstrated that there was a strong relation between the topics that the news media highlighted during an American election campaign and the topics that news consumers identified as important. Another US study illustrated the power of broadcast news to set the policy agenda when it proved that evening news bulletins had the effect of defining the policy areas by which the president should be judged (Iyengar et al., 1984).
McCombs and Ghanem (2001) have argued that “the level degree of emphasis placed on issues in the mass media influences the priority accorded these issues by the public” (cited in Reese, Gandy & Grant, 2001, p. 67). Dearing and Rogers (1996) stated that this proposition had been supported by more than 200 studies. But, I would argue that the regular publishing or airing of stories on a certain subject does necessarily lead to the public taking note of that subject. If such stories do not directly relate to the lives of readers or broadcast audiences, or are not presented in captivating ways with strong news values, they are unlikely to influence news consumers’ opinions – whether negatively or positively. In the case of a highly stigmatised and sensitive subject such as HIV/AIDS, even more so. Read more

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What Will Be The Long-Term Development Of The Population Of The German Reich After The First World War? – Introduction and Abstract


Picture: en.wikipedia.org

General Introduction
The 1920’s and 1930’s are among the most interesting periods in the history of modelling and forecasting. The continuous decline of Western birth rates in the inter-war period set alarm bells ringing. Concerns about the future size and growth of the populations of these nations were heightened by long-term extrapolations of time series, and by population projections and population forecasts. Concerns turned to acute anxiety after it became to appear that the leading Western European nations would not replace their populations. The imminent population decrease threatened to diminish the relative power of what were called in those days the ‘civilized’ nations and ultimaltely to result in ‘race suicide’ (the extinction of populations).
In some countries statisticians, demographers, or economists developed population projection methodology in order to free current debates on the population issue from emotional, subjective argument. In the two leading Fascist countries – but in other countries as well – population numbers were seen as the key to economic, political and military strenght.  Read more

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Wie wird sich die Bevölkerung des Deutschen Reiches langfristig nach dem Erstem Weltkrieg entwickeln?

Die ersten amtlichen Bevölkerungsvorausberechnungen in den 1920er Jahren.
Nach dem Ende des Ersten Weltkriegs rückten die demografischen Veränderungen in den Kriegs- und Nachkriegsjahren in das Zentrum der öffentlichen Debatten. Gegenstand statistischer Analysen bildeten die Geburtenausfälle in den Jahren 1914 bis 1919, die Übersterblichkeit der männlichen Bevölkerung und die Entstehung des Frauenüberschusses, die den Altersaufbau der Reichsbevölkerung nach dem Weltkrieg prägten. Hinzu kamen die Bevölkerungsverluste, die aus der territorialen Neugliederung des Deutschen Reichs in Folge der Umsetzung des Friedensvertrages von Versailles entstanden.1 Das Statistische Reichsamt stellte sich zur Aufgabe, die Verwerfungen in der Alters- und Geschlechtsstruktur als auch die bereits vor dem Weltkrieg eintretenden Veränderungen im Geburtenverhalten zu untersuchen und deren langfristige Auswirkungen auf die Bevölkerungsdynamik zu berechnen. Binnen vier Jahren erstellte das Statistische Reichsamt zwei demografische Vorausberechnungen über die künftige Bevölkerungsentwicklung und -struktur für das Territorium des Deutschen Reiches nach 19192 (Statistik des Deutschen Reichs, 316, 1926 und Statistik des Deutschen Reichs, 401, II, 1930). Die Grundlage für diese ersten zwei amtlichen Vorausberechnungen boten die Ergebnisse der Volkszählungen der Jahre 1910, 1919 und 1925.

Es wurden weitere statistische Erhebungen und Ergebnisse zur natürlichen Bevölkerungsbewegung im Deutschen Reichsterritorium nach dem Erstem Weltkrieg hinzugenommen (Statistik des Deutschen Reichs, 276, 1922; Statistik des Deutschen Reiches, 316, 1926; Statistik des Deutschen Reiches, Sonderhefte zu Wirtschaft + Statistik, 5, 1929, Statistik des Deutschen Reichs, 360, 1930, Statistik des Deutschen Reiches, 401, I +II, 1930).

In der ersten 1926 erschienenen Vorausberechnung wurde die Entwicklung der Bevölkerungsdynamik und -struktur für einen Zeitraum von 50 Jahren (1925 bis 1975) und in der zweiten, 1930 erschienen, für einen Zeitraum von 75 Jahren (1930 bis 2000) und darüber hinaus erstellt.3 Nahe zeitgleich hier zu erarbeitete der Bevölkerungsstatistiker Friedrich Burgdörfer (1890-1967) eine weitere demografische Vorausberechnung.4 Read more

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The Innovation of Population Forecasting Methodology in the Inter-war Period: The Case of the Netherlands

4.1 Introduction
The foundations of the model of population dynamics that was to dominate population forecasting methodology throughout the greater part of the 20th century were laid by the English economist Edwin Cannan (1861-1935). By the end of the 1930s, it had become the new standard model for forecasting national populations. After the Second World War, the model became known as the Cohort-Component Projection Model (CCPM).[i]
However, this does not mean that the introduction and general acceptation of the new methodology was a matter of veni, vidi, vici. On the contrary, almost three decades passed between its emergence in 1895 and its reinvention and general application for national population forecasting purposes in the mid-1920s.
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Attraction and Relationships – The Journey from Initial Attachments to Romantic Love


Hauptbahnhof Berlin

Many years ago two boys were walking home from school. They were seven years old, lived in the same neighborhood, but went to different grade schools. Although living close to each other they had not met before running into each other on this day on the road leading up the hill to their neighborhood. Both seemed quite determined to assert themselves that day, and soon they began pushing each other that gradually turned to wrestling, and attempts to dominate. After what seemed hours, the two little boys were still rolling down the surrounding hills as the sun was going down. Neither succeeded in achieving victory that day. In fact, they never again exchanged blows but became the best of friends. Today it is more than 50 years later, and their friendship has endured time and distance. Friendship is like a rusty coin; all you need to do is polish it at times!

In this essay we shall examine the research on attachment, attraction and relationships. The intrinsic interest in these fields by most people is shared by social psychologists, and attachment, attraction, and love relationships constitute one of the most prolific areas of investigation in social psychology. The early attachment theory advanced by Bowlby (1982) emphasized the importance of the field when he suggested that our attachments to parents to a large extent shape all succeeding relationships in the future. Other research focus on exchange and communal relationships and point to the different ways we have of relating to each other. The importance of relationships cannot be overemphasized since we as humans have a fundamental need to belong. Relationships also contribute to the social self as discussed in the book, and effects social cognition discussed in the same (see: at the end of this article). The variables that determine attraction may be understood theoretically as functions of a reward perspective.

The importance of relationships is demonstrated by findings that show that among all age groups relationships are considered essential to happiness (Berscheid, 1985; Berscheid & Reis, 1998). The absence of close relationships makes the individual feel worthless, powerless, and alienated (Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Stroebe & Stroebe, 1996). Our very humanity is defined by our relationships (Bersheid & Regan, 2005).

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