300 episodes

New research on how society works

Thinking Allowed BBC Radio 4

    • Science
    • 5.0 • 2 Ratings

New research on how society works

    Museums

    Museums

    Museums - Laurie Taylor talks to Adam Kuper, most recently Centennial Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economic, about their history and future. Originally created as colonial enterprises, what is the purpose of these places now? How do we regard the ways in which foreign and prehistoric peoples were represented in museums of anthropology? What should be done with the artefacts and human remains in their custodianship and how can they help us to understand and appreciate other cultures?

    Kerry Wilson, Reader in Cultural Policy at Liverpool John Moores University, discusses House of Memories, a multiple award-winning dementia awareness programme, led by National Museums Liverpool. The programme promotes the use of social history collections and museum objects to inspire communication and connection between carers and people with dementia, via dedicated museum-based events. Is this an example of how museums can offer social value to local communities today?

    Producer: Jayne Egerton

    • 27 min
    Religion of Work and Welfare

    Religion of Work and Welfare

    The religion of work and welfare: Laurie Taylor explores the way in which our understanding of jobs and joblessness has become entangled with religious ideologies. He's joined by Tom Boland, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at University College, Cork, who argues that Western culture has ‘faith’ in the labour market as a test of the worth of each individual. For those who are out of work, welfare is now less a means of support than a means of purification and redemption where job seeking becomes a form of pilgrimage.

    Also, Carolyn Chen, Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, explores how the restructuring of work is transforming religious and spiritual experience in late capitalism. She spent five years conducting an ethnographic study in Silicon Valley and found that tech companies have brought religion into the workplace, in ways that replace churches, temples, and synagogues in workers’ lives and satisfy needs for belonging, identity, purpose, and transcendence. What happens when work replaces religion and are there wider lessons for workers beyond the niche world of high tech?

    Producer: Jayne Egerton

    • 29 min
    Parenting

    Parenting

    Parenting - Laurie Taylor explores its cultural history and the shift towards intensive parenting. Andrew Bomback, Associate Professor of Medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, investigates the emergence of an immersive, all-in approach to raising children that has made parenting a competitive sport. Drawing on “how-to” parenting books and historical accounts of parental duties he charts the way in which being a parent became a skill to be mastered.

    They're joined by Benedetta Cappellini, who considers the impact of these social transformations on Grandmothers.

    Producer: Jayne Egerton

    • 28 min
    Dirty Work

    Dirty Work

    Dirty work - Laurie Taylor explores the invisible labour we choose not to see.

    The writer and sociologist, Eyal Press, considers the morally dubious, even dangerous jobs, which sustain modern society but which are concealed from view, from the prison guards who patrol the wards of America's most violent and abusive prisons to the migrants who work in industrial slaughterhouses. What are the ethical, as well as physical costs of doing this kind of labour? Why do those individuals carry the stigma and shame of doing 'dirty work', rather than the society which condones it?

    Ellie Johnson, Research Fellow in the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol, discusses the treatment of older people in two English residential care homes, sketching out the workers' attitudes and practices concerning hygiene and bodily waste and the ways in which they do, or don't, offer dignity and respect to those receiving care. Is the mistreatment of older people simply an outcome of a deeply inequitable market for care provision or can it also tell us something about the way in which marginalised groups, such as elderly and disabled people, can be dehumanised?

    Producer: Jayne Egerton

    • 28 min
    Self-improvement

    Self-improvement

    SELF IMPROVEMENT: Laurie Taylor explores the 'wellness' and 'confidence' cultures that injunct us to be better versions of ourselves. He talks to Shani Orgad, a Professor in the Department of Media and Communications at the LSE and co-author of a new study arguing that imperatives directed at women to “love your body” and “believe in yourself” imply that psychological blocks rather than entrenched social injustices hold women back. Why is there now such an emphasis on confidence in contemporary discourse about body image, workplace, relationships, motherhood, and even international development? They’re joined by Stephanie Alice Baker, a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at City, University of London, whose latest work traces the emergence of 'wellness culture' from a fringe countercultural pursuit to a trillion-dollar industry. Wellness has become synonymous with yoga, meditation, and other forms of self-care and is no longer simply an alternative to mainstream medicine. As it's coalesced with consumer culture, it's become synonymous with an industry of exclusive products and services. In addition, in the Covid moment, it's become associated with harmful conspiracy theories. So is 'wellness' culture delivering on its myriad promises, or does it have a darker side?

    Producer: Jayne Egerton

    • 29 min
    The football pools - mass investment

    The football pools - mass investment

    Betting and Investment: Laurie Taylor explores the connections and the differences between two apparently very different phenomena - the football pools and the stock market.

    He's joined by Keith Laybourn, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Huddersfield, who charts the rise and fall of the football pools over the 20th century. In its heyday, millions of working class people hoped for a life-changing jackpot cheque presented by a sporting personality and stories of big wins punctuated the news. So what led to a flutter on the pools falling out of favour?

    And Amy Edwards, lecturer of Modern British History at the University of Bristol, asks ‘are we rich yet?’ in a study which considers the way in which a growing number of British people engaged in stock market investment as financial markets became part of daily life from the 1980s following the privatisation of British Telecom. Did this development take investment away from the oak-panelled world of the City and give the wider public a genuine stake in popular capitalism?

    Producer: Jayne Egerton

    • 28 min

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