Spring 2023: From the Editors
“It’s the economy, stupid,” quipped former President Bill Clinton in what was and still remains an evergreen assessment. In our second issue, Money Matters, the tangible yet also insidiously invisible ways in which the economy weaves its way into every nook and cranny of modern life reveals itself to you, our readers. Of course, this theme reverberates far beyond the pages of Contexts, echoing year after year, decade after decade. Since Clinton first made that pithy remark, two recessions, a pandemic, and a destabilized economy have dramatically changed the organization of work and work practices. More recently, a stubborn period of rampant inflation, rising interest rates, and hot-hot housing markets have pushed the American Dream further out of reach, leaving all kinds of tumult in its wake: domestic life, consumption habits, work and play, and our aspirations for the future. Money matters, you see—or perhaps we should say, matters of money are on our minds.
In our first feature, you’ll see how universities are equalizing machines—not because they create meritocracies, as you might think—but because they filter students into a slot machine-like social system that distributes outcomes by luck. But even this “luckocracy” manages to level the playing field, ensuring that students earn about the same as they come out of college. Our authors also tackle the allure of cryptocurrency. Crypto investments have less to do with financial goals—surprise!—and more with the desire among young men, who are its primary consumers, to assert their masculinity.
Page after riveting page, the remaining features ask what it means to be retired, take lessons from our microbiome on equity in food costs and consumption, and consider how DEI practices have both succeeded and failed at achieving occupational and economic parity.
The specter of money looms large in our two photo essays as well. The first asks how people come to value art in relationship to the status of the artist. An Indigenous artist and Mexican sociologist collaborate to explore the spaces where their disciplines converge. In the second photo essay, we travel to the white cliffs of Dover in the U.K., where a “border crisis” is unfolding as refugees—described in dehumanizing ways as “economic migrants”—seek asylum in the aftermath of Brexit. The photos in this essay present the perils and challenges of exclusionary nationalism as we imagine an alternative future.
While our tenure as editors has been brief (just look at us, still taking delight in our first issue), it has already been a rigorous ride! You might recall that one of our major goals is to grow our international community of readers, to globalize the public face of our discipline. We keep that spirit alive in this issue. A prolific British journalist tells us how she ensures that queerness, feminism, and human rights remain relevant in the media, while a culture essay explores climate protests in European museums. Our long-form, eminently readable book review draws on developments in China and the U.K. to create a conversation about nationalism, knowledge production, and state policy, while our in-briefs take us to South Korea, Canada, and Ukraine, among other places. In the span of just one issue, Contexts will take you around the world!
As we continue to develop our vision of a global, public sociology, we cannot stress enough how inspired we have been by all the great stuff you send us. And we want even more of your rad writings. To paraphrase Nick Kristof, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist we interviewed in our last issue: Sociologists, We Need You!!
Seth Abrutyn and Amin Ghaziani
University of British Columbia