Unusually big news! My much-delayed book is finally coming out… next month. Free Traders: Elites, Democracy, and the Rise of Globalization will soon be available from Oxford University Press USA, and later in the autumn from OUP UK.
I’ve been up north (even further north!), attending the 14th Nordic Environmental Social Science Conference in Luleå. Sverker Jagers and I organized two days of discussions about papers on the theme of “Public support for environmental policies”. And the local organizers did a great job—I really enjoyed my first visit to Luleå.
Swedish speakers are welcome to check out “Klimatpolitik som funkar – var, när, hur och varför”, a text largely adapted from my TED talk last year, about the massive underutilization of the amazing world-saving technology called “environmental policy”.
It’s still a few months away, but I can happily announce that my first book is coming out later this year. Oxford University Press are publishing Free Traders: Elites, Democracy, and the Rise of Globalization. More details to come, but suffice to say the book is about everything you ever wanted to know about globalization, NAFTA, and where they came from... Plus some surprising connections to today's world, including the current backlash against globalization.
Early in the month, I gave one of four honorary lectures at the 9th International Workshop of the Laboratory for Comparative Social Research at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. This was my first ever trip to Russia, and I found Moscow to be a fascinating place. It was also a pleasure to meet so many researchers and students doing interesting work at the HSE, and to hear from world-leading scholars Ronald Inglehart, Hanspeter Kriesi, and Christian Welzel.
Later in the month, at the Institute for Futures Studies, we were fortunate to hear from Canadian economist (and a leading authority on climate policy) Mark Jaccard. I strongly recommend anyone with a concern about climate change and especially climate policy to read up on Mark’s views—even just one of his occasional newspaper columns.
At the end of the month, it was off to India for the annual meeting of the International Social Survey Programme. Hosted in Delhi and Jaipur by the wonderfully conscientious Team CVOTER, we had several days of very productive meetings. Most importantly, from my perspective, we finalized the questionnaire for the world survey of environmental attitudes that will run in 2020, building on similar previous modules in 1993, 2000, and 2010. The Drafting Group was ably chaired by Markus Hadler of the University of Graz. At the end of the trip we even got to meet the Speaker of the Indian parliament!
I am one of two co-coordinators of the research seminar series in my department. In that role, not only do I get to attend the talks, I also get to spend time with many interesting visitors to Umeå! This month I felt particularly lucky to host Dorit Geva, who is currently head of the sociology department at the Central European University. Her presentation, about the “ordonationalist” political parties of France and Hungary, was especially fascinating given that Dorit’s university has been directly caught up in Hungary’s sad political meltdown. The CEU is literally leaving Hungary due to political persecution by the nationalist government of Viktor Orbán.
As part of the climate ethics project I’m involved with at the Institute for Futures Studies, I hosted a two-day workshop in Stockholm on public values, attitudes, and preferences about climate policy. This was a bit experimental, as the participants came from four different disciplines: sociology, political science, economics, and psychology. Despite this diversity, the conversations were very fruitful (if, at times, rather frank). We all agreed on the challenges we face in getting governments to enact policies capable of dealing with the unfolding climate change crisis.
Academic life can be hard, and supportive colleagues are vital to getting you through the rough patches. For me, one of the people who supported me a lot at some crucial stages was Jeff Henderson, at Bristol. Jeff recently retired, after several decades of distinguished scholarship in development studies, and his wife Ying organized a surprise party for him in Leeds. The party was a lot of fun, and I felt lucky to be there both to celebrate Jeff’s career and to wish him well for subsequent projects. Among other things, we got in a little reunion with Nick Jepson, a PhD student that Jeff and I co-supervised at Bristol. Nick won the Faculty’s thesis prize, recognizing his excellent work on the politics of commodity-exporting developing countries.
I wrote a blog post about the current state of the NAFTA renegotiations.
Andy Bell, Kelvyn Jones, and I just had a methods paper come out in the journal Quality and Quantity. We explain why analyzing clustered data using fixed effects models is (almost) never a good idea, while group mean centring one's covariates is essential in multilevel models.
I attended an excellent workshop in Uppsala as part of the Three Worlds of Trust (TWT) project I'm involved in. After the workshop, which had about 20 attendees, the five of us who are core members of TWT stayed behind for a couple days of project meetings.
I taught my usual two-day short course on Analyzing Comparative Longitudinal Survey Data at the RECSM summer school.
I acted as the external examiner ("Opponent") for a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Gothenburg. The discussion, which as per usual in Sweden was a public event with an audience of something like 100 people, was interesting and fun. The candidate, Marina Povitkina, has done some great cross-national work showing that democracy and the "quality of government" interact to produce better environmental outcomes. For example, see this paper on climate change.
I attended the Annual Meeting of the International Social Survey Programme in Guadalajara, Mexico. I was largely there in order to help revise and write the new module on environmental attitudes that will run in 2020. And as part of the same trip I spent time in Mexico City working on a paper with Gerardo Maldonado, from CIDE.
I gave a seminar to the Spatial Modelling Group in my old department at Bristol, the School of Geographical Sciences, on Correcting for Measurement Error in Multilevel Models. (This is ongoing joint work with Diana Zavala-Rojas, of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona).
I gave a seminar to Umeå's Centre for Environmental and Resource Economics (CERE), on Trust and Public Support for Environmental Protection: Evidence from International Surveys and Survey Experiments.
I gave a seminar to the Institut für Soziologie at the University of Graz (Austria), on Recent Developments in Multilevel Modelling.
While in Graz, I did some work with Markus Hadler on the Environment module planned to run in 2020, as part of the International Social Survey Programme. I'm very excited about the new module, which we'll be talking about more later this spring at the ISSP annual meeting in Guadalajara.
I attended a small conference in Köln about a likely journal special issue on "International Comparative Social Research." I was the invited discussant on a paper by my previous collaborator Alex Schmidt-Catran, who recently became a professor at the University of Mannheim.
I attended the third workshop of the Robert A. Pastor North American Research Initiative, held this time at the University of Ottawa.
As part of the annual meeting of the Social Science History Association, in Montreal, I was on an author-meets-critics panel about Carl-Henry Geschwind's wonderfully titled new book A Comparative History of Motor Fuels Taxation, 1909–2009: Why Gasoline Is Cheap and Petrol Is Dear.
I participated in a workshop in London, which has now led to a funding call from the UK's Economic and Social Research Council on Trust and Global Governance.
A short commentary paper written with Andy Bell at Sheffield and my old colleague at Bristol, Kelvyn Jones, came out in the journal Quality & Quantity. Kelvyn was a major -- maybe the biggest -- reason I learned so much about multilevel modeling while I was at Bristol. Andy was a PhD student there, under Kelvyn's supervision, and I examined his dissertation
I was formally installed as a professor at Umeå University as part of the institution's annual ceremony, or Årshögtiden. As part of that, I was featured in the local newspaper (paywall), particularly as regards how I ended up in Umeå. At the ceremony, there was a video presentation of each new professor, and you can see the one about me (in Swedish) here. To translate for non-Swedish speakers, the voiceover says: "Malcolm Fairbrother, like most sociologists, spends most of his working hours thinking ahead to the evening's grocery shop, and drinking coffee."
The middle of this month saw me formally begin my career as a professor at Umeå University.
I also started as a consulting editor for the American Journal of Sociology.
And I was one of three international examiners for a PhD completed at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, by Pablo Christmann. I first became aware of (and very enthusiastic about) Pablo's project when I was a visiting researcher at UPF in 2015.