Monday, 20 February 2006

Plane reading

On the plane trip back from Washington to Durham today, I started reading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point (in my haste to pack for the trip, I forgot to bring any reading material for the return trip, so I had to make an excursion to Barnes and Noble in Washington to pick up something to read yesterday afternoon), and about 20 pages in felt tempted to exclaim out loud that this sounded a lot like Mark Granovetter’s American Journal of Sociology article on the strength of weak ties—a theory that is surprisingly underdiscussed in the public opinion literature, at least by political scientists. I only came across it in my graduate “classic texts in American politics” seminar taught by Bob Albritton, which I affectionately refer to as the Magical Mystery Tour.

Incidentally, Friday afternoon in my southern politics seminar I brought up another Gladwell theme by talking briefly about Tom Schelling’s work on how patterns of segregation spontaneously emerge from individual actions that aren’t strongly discriminatory on their face.