Having your cake and eating it

Equality 101 tonight: what are the main causes of inequality and can you distinguish between them?

Tonight we considered two different schemes for analysing the causes of equality.  From Fraser the distributive v. recognition dilemma; or political-economic v. value-cultural.  Baker et al posit four sources of inequality: political, cultural, economic and effective.  Both acknowledge the overlaps and interdependencies between these categories.

However given the interconnectedness is it useful to describe the causes of inequality this way, surely everything that is economic is also cultural?

My instinct is that it serves to address the causes of inequality if we have a way of describing them.  One perhaps cannot tackle them in isolation from eachother, but unless these domains are named how can we address them at all?  If you don't know what the ingredients are how can you make a cake?

Which begs the question that Fraser asks, what is the change process we are engaged in?  Do we seek to tweak the cake, make it taste a bit better but fundamentally still the same ingredients, same cake.  Or do we want a whole new cake?  Or maybe something which does not even resemble cake?!

What is the difference between affirmative and transformative action?  Does she (Fraser) mean reform and radical change?  A small amount change or a big amount of change?

It also seems a risk that by naming basic elements there will be other factors which fall between categories: we might describe the ingredients but perhaps not the angle the bowl was held at, or exactly how long the mixture was whipped for.

But does it matter that different people describe the ingredients differently? Some add condensed milk and sugar, others suggest toffee?  The same input but categorized in different forms with different names.

I think it does matter, regardless whether we are trying to tweak Grandma's recipe or invent a hole new culinary experience, unless we share an understanding of what is or is not in the fridge how can we go forward?

Research Question(s)

For someone who does not have a research question, this week's discussions (in research design and measurement) on the criteria of a good question was very interesting, as was the discussion and testing of some of the classes questions.  I found myself jumping in quickly to comment on other people's questions (at one point was conscious of shutting up, but did find that hard!), though it was a bit disappointing there was not more discussion from the group, in particular it would have been great to get more feedback on my own idea.  I think the way I phrased it during the discussion was:
"What is the impact of state funding on NGO advocacy in a democratic context?"
Though I did do an awful lot of um-ing and ah-ing and qualifying it... this was based on 1 of the 4 sentences included in my application proposal.

Possible criteria:

  • One clear, understandable question (specific) 
  • Relate to a number of areas of research (for reference points I guess)
  • Answerable/researchable/feasible
  • Not asked before or answered differently, filling a gap... addresses a puzzle or conundrum
  • Practical/policy/social relevance
  • Not a closed or yes/no question e.g not does it, but how far does it...
  • Wider implications
  • Reflects your school of thought
  • Should be a question

Other factors which were named by the group, but I don't think are core to assessing the question but nonetheless worth thinking about are:

  • International interest
  • Fundable
  • Publishable
Not sure where that leaves my four bullet points, but food for thought...

"To what extent has state funding of NGO advocacy contributed to (participative) democracy in Ireland?"

Phd Week 1, day 4

So I picked up my student card, found the library, experienced deep insecurity and general feeling of awkwardness.  Took two attempts but did eventually remember how to use a university library.  Not that it is so much about remembering, as learning, its not really the same as it was 12 years ago.

First note to self: learn fast how to read on computer screen.

First Phd routable on Tuesday, very interesting to meet the other students.  Mixed feelings of competence and complete incompetence.  I know about the issues (some of), but the language and theories are lost on me.  Also I think I was slipping into work mode, reasonably confident and assertive without necessarily knowing what I am talking about, perhaps I should hold back?  May have accused academics of living in ivory towers, considering the company perhaps not my wisest move.

Second note to self: Watch, listen, learn, this is not a campaign meeting there is something else going on.

So far have managed the reading for this week's lectures, but I think its going to be tough to stay on top of all of this.  Mind you different people seems to have very different approaches to the readings, with some putting them at centre of discussion and others appearing to skirt around them.  Vincent Browne was in the Feminist and Egalitarian research class.

Third note to self: Vincent Browne does not know who you are just because you met him once.

I am excited though, looking forward to this phase, looking forward to figuring out the research topic, and really looking forward to training myself to read and think again.  I now know what the difference is between a census and a survey, and I got to use that information in a professional context!  Felt very informed.

Fourth note to self: Like the idea of a research journal, might try and make this it, though track record of sustaining these things is not amazing!