April 2008 Issue • Volume 36 • Issue 4

asa_conv.gifLooking Forward to the 2008 ASA Annual Meeting in Boston

Three Plenary Sessions at 2008 ASA Meeting Focus on Policy, Globalization, and Immigration

by Arne L. Kalleberg, ASA President

The 2008 ASA Annual Meeting program will feature three exciting plenary sessions that address key questions related to the theme of "Worlds of Work": (1) policies that offer the promise to restore the "American Dream;" (2) the impacts of globalization on work; and (3) immigration between the United States and Mexico. In the previous issue of Footnotes, I described the opening plenary (July 31 at 7:30 pm) on the Future of the American Labor Movement. Below is an overview of the other three plenary sessions that will be featured on the program.

Restoring the American Dream

Globalization, the spread of neo-liberal political ideology, and growing population diversity are three of the major drivers producing change in work and society in the 21st century. Increasing inequality and insecurity have made the attainment of a good job, a comfortable retirement, home ownership, affordable health care, and a better future for one’s children problematic for millions of Americans. The percentage of people living in poverty remains high despite the economic boom of the 1990s, and the middle class has become increasingly vulnerable. The first full day of the 2008 ASA meetings will feature a plenary on "Reinventing the American Dream" (August 1, 12:30 pm) that will discuss the kinds of social and economic policies that may help to restore economic prosperity and fairness. Three prominent social scientists and public intellectuals will present their ideas about these policies:

Christopher Jencks, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy at the Kennedy School, Harvard University, is a well-known sociologist who has written extensively on inequality and its correlates for over three decades. His recent research deals with the costs and benefits of economic inequality and the extent to which economic advantages are inherited.

Robert Kuttner is a co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect magazine, for which he regularly writes on issues related to economic policy. He is also the author of many books and a frequent commentator on economic, social, and political issues. His column, which first appears in The Boston Globe, is distributed to 20 major newspapers nationwide.

Donna Shalala is President of the University of Miami and an accomplished scholar, teacher, and administrator. She served as the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) for eight years under President Clinton, and in that role directed the welfare reform process, made health insurance available to an estimated 3.3 million children, and revitalized the National Institutes of Health. The Washington Post described her as "one of the most successful government managers of modern times."

Globalization and Work

The other two plenary sessions are scheduled for the third day of the meetings. One focuses on "Globalization and Work: Challenges and Responsibilities" (August 3, 12:30 pm). At this plenary, three eminent social scientists will discuss organizational, political, and social challenges raised by the globalization of work:

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, the Ernest L. Arbuckle Professor at Harvard Business School, specializes in strategy, innovation, and leadership for change. Her strategic and practical insights have guided leaders of large and small organizations worldwide for over 25 years. She is the author or co-author of 17 books, which have been translated into 17 languages. 

Erik Olin Wright is a distinguished professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His extensive writings on class analysis extend the Marxian and critical traditions and incorporate recent developments in capitalism, taking into account the organization of jobs and enterprises and characteristics of individuals in the labor force. His Real Utopias project investigates strategies for progressive policy reform.

The discussant, Michael Piore, is the David W. Skinner Professor of Political Economy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the current president of the Society for the Advancement of SocioEconomics. His extensive writings have addressed the broad interplay among economics, politics, and society through the study of topics such as: Low income labor markets; the impact of technology on work; migration; labor market segmentation; and the relationship among the labor market, business strategy, and industrial organization.

Barriers and Bridges

The flow of people across national borders generated by changes in work has produced challenges for social, economic, and political policies seeking to cope with immigration. At the final plenary, "Barriers and Bridges: A Dialogue on U.S.–Mexico Immigration" (August 3, 8:00 pm), panelists will discuss U.S.–Mexico immigration. They will examine this question from both U.S. and Mexican perspectives, and address broader aspects of the debate over immigration currently raging in political circles in the United States and Mexico. The panel will consist of:

Douglas Massey is the Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University and a Past President of the ASA. His recent research focuses on international migration, race and housing, discrimination, education, urban poverty, stratification, and Latin America, especially Mexico. He is the author of numerous books and articles dealing with immigration and related issues.

Jorge Casteñada is the Global Distinguished Professor of Politics and Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University and a renowned public intellectual, political scientist, and prolific writer. He is the former Foreign Minister of Mexico (2000-2003), and in that position he focused on diverse issues in U.S.–Mexican relations, including migration, trade, security, and narcotics control; joint diplomatic initiatives on the part of Latin American nations; and the promotion of Mexican economic and trade relations globally.

The session will be moderated by Julia Preston, a national correspondent for The New York Times. She is a recognized expert on Mexico who has received a number of journalism awards for her work. She was one of the members of The Times staff who won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for reporting on international affairs, which they received for its series that profiled the corrosive effects of drug corruption in Mexico.

These three stimulating plenaries will complement the themes of many of the other sessions on the 2008 ASA program, which also deal extensively with these important issues. I look forward to seeing you there! green_small


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