However, this book also embarks upon a much more ambitious, but also far more problematical project. The basis of this project lies, admirably, in reconciling intradisciplinary conflict. This is no small task in IR, as this subject has long been characterised by deep-seated theoretical differences. From the Idealist: Realist debate of yesteryear to the Neo-Liberals and Neo-Realists of today, the history of IR theory is a history of theoretical controversies.
This book is, therefore, unusual in a subject not known for its willingness to combine theoretical perspectives, because it attempts to synthesise two analytical traditions into a single approach. This is even more surprising because the approaches concerned represent the very epistemological limits of the discipline: positivist mathematical empiricism and post-modernist interpretative relativism.
Alker rightly sees these as opposed branches of IR theory, but unlike most IR theorists he does not see them as theoretically irreconcilable. Thus, the basic argument of this work is that these contrasting perspectives can be synthesised into a sort of postmodern empirical approach.
This, it is claimed, supersedes the shortcomings of each theoretical stance, so producing a new methodology for the study of world politics. In order to attempt this work of synthesis, Alker conducts both a theoretical discussion and analyses a series of case-studies. His analysis is very wide-ranging, drawing on a wide range of what he sees as classic theoretical studies.
The overall approach is certainly novel, and the analysis ranges across fields as diverse as structuralist literary theory and behaviouralist social science. Even without further examining these case studies here, it can be seen to be fundamentally flawed on two grounds. First, reconciling post-modernist contextualism and empiricist validation is rendered impossible by the irreconcilable epistemological positions underlying these opposing theoretical positions. It is simply not possible, for example, to mathematicise structuralist literary theory in the way attempted here, while retaining the epistemological critique upon which it is founded.
Other theoretical positions in IR are mentioned, but the depth of their theoretical and methodological bases which lie between these two extremes is inadequately explored. Consequently, one would gain scant impression from this book of the multi-disciplinary eclecticism, which might be considered to characterise IR theory and methodology. Notable in this respect, is the absence of extended discussion of what is probably the most widely employed methodology used in IR.
From this book, however, we do not get an adequate impression of the historical methodologies frequently employed by IR scholars. Yet such debates, and these theoretical schools, are not marginal within the discipline. There are both formalists and post-modernists in IR, and some of these are major scholars in the field. However, the prevalence of historical and sociological, rather than formalist or post-modernist, methodologies is largely neglected here. The consequences of this characterisation for the argument presented are serious.
By creating such a false dichotomy, an equally false methodological problem is manufactured. Bureaucracy and Public Economics , William A. Niskanen Jr. Bureaucracy in the Modern State , Jon Pierre ed.
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At first sight, these three books appear to have a common ancestry in the work of Max Weber. According to the author of his Forward, Niskanen corrects earlier conceptions of modern bureaucrats as the selfless servants of democratic government, which emanated from "naive sociological scribbling by Max Weber". The same author suggests that the falseness of these theories has been demonstrated theoretically by Niskanen and empirically "by the collapse in of the evil empire of the USSR.
Overall, he advances a powerful anti-state polemic of the Thatcher-Regan type and times, of potential interest to all types of social scientist and their students. However, judgements on its accessibility and validity will have to be addressed more generally to the style of formal economic analysis which Niskanen applies to the problem.
The essays edited by Jon Pierre also tend to take Weber as little more than a point of departure, this time for an introduction to the modern field of Comparative Public Administration. The collection is offered by political scientists and is directed primarily towards their colleagues and students. He occupies the extensive and often barren territory of "Weber and his Critics" on the economic ethics of ascetic Protestantism in the 16 th and 17 th centuries. A focal point is a detailed analysis of the eighth commandment of the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster assembly, in relation to no less than similar catechisms consulted by the author.
This analysis is typical of an engaging and worthwhile contribution. Lessnoff brings to his task of evaluating the Weber thesis a terminological precision, and an awareness of the Scottish dimension, that one might expect from a philosopher of social science at the University of Glasgow. He suggests that Weber and his critics have all failed to distinguish precisely between a work ethic, a profit ethic, and a profit-seeking ethic.
The former is grounded in the Protestant calling to worldly activity. The second is a claim that worldly success can be seen as a sign of salvation. The third is an injunction to accumulate more and more wealth as a religiously valuable end-in-itself. He seems to conclude that with the benefit of these distinctions Weber is probably more correct on more points than most of his critics have allowed. This is why, in the last analysis, it might be argued that Lessnoff adds more to an understanding of the inadequacies of earlier exegesis than he does to Weberian scholarship and analysis in modern sociology.
Weber himself asked for no more than that! In broad terms, the sociology of consumption takes inspiration from two sources. First, much of it draws on figures like Bourdieu Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste , Routledge, and Veblen Theory of the Leisure Class , Dover  , following their writings on such matters as emulation and status display as a means of gaining social distinction.
Second, there is also recall to the argument that a focus on consumption rather than production provides sociologists with a key to the intelligibility of the present. This latter argument being associated with postmodern social theory. My view is that both of these sources have been influential. After reading the book, however, my motivation for doing this review has changed.
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In many ways, these, I feel, are the major plusses of the text for sociologists. It has two major strengths. First, because it is not written by sociologists, it is not biased towards current fashions and fads, particularly the emphasis on food at the level of consumption.
Second, and in a related vein, it makes a refreshing alternative because of the very strong emphasis given to the mutually constitutive relationship between food production and consumption. For those who still dispute the Baudrillardian claim that symbolic exchange has replaced commodity exchange as the core motor of the social order, this is a book which provides valuable ammunition for such a counter argument. The downside is that it is predominantly written in a language which a non-economist may find hard going.
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However, the positives far outweigh the negatives. The analytical thrust of the book sets production in the context of political economy which, in turn, is linked in with underlying social and economic processes and institutions; these are linked together in a relational chain that brings the reader right up to the point of consumption.
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In a practical context, Consumption in the Age of Affluence provides clear evidence to support the argument that health policy on diet and agricultural policy should not be addressed as distinct and separate areas. However, massive amounts of sugar are still produced and consumed as an additive to other foodstuffs. UK sugar production has increased by 1 million tonnes from the early part of this century to 2. Towards the end of the s sugar entering the food supply peaked at a massive In sugar entering the food supply is a staggering Why is this, then?
How come so much is produced and consumed when there is clear evidence to link sugar with illness and disease? Put simply, Fine et al offer four main explanations. All are grounded in political economy. First, sugar production developed in the UK initially from the exploitation of colonial sources of raw sugar.
As a consequence, UK refining and production capacity developed considerably. Second, this massive industrial capacity which arose from the exploitation of colonial power has been increasingly subjected to a concentration of ownership and control. Third, official policies from the UK state and more recently from the EU have represented the interests of sugar producers rather than health education. Fourth, because of the organic properties of sugar as a food additive it improves palatability and can also increase shelf life , its main use is now as a food additive rather than a separate product.
By , of the sugar being produced which was equivalent to In overall terms, Fine et al use four analytical themes throughout the book which, I feel, are employed in a rigorous and innovative fashion in their discussion. First, the consumption of food is determined by a complex set of activities. Second, the impact of any determinant depends on its interaction with others.
Third, there is a need to distinguish between different food systems because each have unique characteristics. Fourth, because of its organic nature, food systems are different from other systems of production. In terms of structure, the book is divided into 5 parts. I found this section to be a little hard going because of its abstract nature.
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Part 3 comes to the rescue with some excellent applied analysis in chapters 5 and 6 on the UK sugar system and the increasing input of sweetness generally into the food supply. In my view, these are the strongest chapters in the book and should be read first. Part 4 applies the methodology to an analysis of the consumption of other foodstuffs, including meat and dairy products. Finally, part 5 contains a succinct summary of the arguments and ideas that run through the book. First it sticks to its guns. It does exactly what it says it is going to do; that is, it makes the link with production and consumption.
Second, it is inclusive, in that it draws on ideas and arguments which take on board the political economy of food and it gives recognition to the value of sociological and anthropological approaches. Third, it makes a good number of incisive and useful points. Production and consumption are mutually constitutive. The organic nature of food makes it unique as a product for consumption. Its organic nature influences production and consumption patterns and processes. Healthy eating and the regulation and control of food should not be thought of as distinct policy making areas.
Fourth, very sophisticated theoretical discussion and analysis are applied to substantive examples including sugar and data from the National Food Survey.