Instead of “differentiated by gender, race and class,” why not more about heterogeneity and complexity? 15 examples and the So What question

I First, the examples.

Microfinance initiatives

“The detailed review of the evidence above uncovered an even more nuanced picture, reflecting large variations across the effects of different interventions (credit only, savings only, community-based finance, mixed microfinance) and for different people in different contexts. Findings across the meta-studies were heterogeneous and often inconsistent, both within and across meta-studies, and many did not find evidence of expected or presumed impacts.”

https://opendocs.ids.ac.uk/opendocs/handle/20.500.12413/14269

Criminal justice

Further complicating matters is the fact that the U.S. doesn’t have one “criminal justice system;” instead, we have thousands of federal, state, local, and tribal systems. Together, these systems hold almost 2 million people in 1,566 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 2,850 local jails, 1,510 juvenile correctional facilities, 186 immigration detention facilities, and 82 Indian country jails, as well as in military prisons, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories.

https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2022.html

Structural racism

This is the case, for instance, with broad-brush rhetorical attacks on ‘structural racism in criminal justice’ that confuse the different scales of the American penal state (federal, state, county and city), overlook the hyperlocalism and administrative fragmentation of a criminal justice system that is not a system, and amalgamate the different practices of legislating, policing, pretrial detention, prosecution, public defence, plea negotiation and litigation, sentencing, supervising, court-mandated programming, incarceration, and sentence administration, each of which has layers of internal complexity, and may or may not produce looping ethnoracial disparities. . . .[“Structural racism”] replaces meticulous study with facile sloganeering, and pinpoint remedial action with vague calls for systemic changes that are unlikely to come about or to produce their expected results. In so doing, this vogue word betrays its ostensive purpose: to excavate the social conditions of possibility of ethnoracial justice.

Loic Wacquant, sociologist, a https://newleftreview.org/issues/ii133/articles/loic-wacquant-resolving-the-trouble-with-race

Digital sovereignty

The analysis identifies seven different but overlapping narratives of digital sovereignty in the German discourse that serve to promote partly contradictory political agendas. We argue that this diversity is not a bug, but a feature. Specifically, it supports rich internarrative linkages which benefit the broader resonance of each individual narrative. It also enables a broad set of political actors to enlist digital sovereignty for their specific priorities.

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/gove.12690

The Dasqupta Review on the economics of biodiversity

Dasgupta talks of “the economy” (a phrase used 91 times) in the singular, as if only his chosen economic system could exist – an idealized market capitalism. All variety in actual social provisioning systems and alternatives across time and space are conveniently ignored.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/14747731.2021.1929007

State capitalism

The heterogeneous literature on the ‘new state capitalism’ has provoked considerable academic and popular interest in recent years, but also critique regarding how to analytically bolster the concept and enhance empirical understanding.

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/epub/10.1177/0308518X221083986

Contemporary time

Infrastructural time, Appel (2018b) argues, partakes of a similar temporal structure, wrapping futurity and deferral together in a bewildering, purgatorial admixture. This is how Ko Tun and many other villagers relate to developmental time: through the tense of the not-yet. While developmental time signals the mythic, utopian time-space of modernity, forged in liberal empire, the not-yet points to its manifest social worlds. Those worlds are building and crumbling, on the threshold of figuration, and fraught with uncertainty. They are heterogeneous in a way that blends modernist promises and non-linear time. In Dawei, heterogeneous time is not about premodern exceptions, but rather the differential worlds of postcolonial capitalism—in all its multiple, dissonant, contradictory actuality.

https://academiccommons.columbia.edu/doi/10.7916/4b7c-1h54

Gig economy

More specifically, I argue that the combination of the technological structure of gig work (nearly automatic, open-access employment, algorithm-driven work process) plus workers’ ability to choose schedules and hours yields an unusually heterogeneous labor force on a range of dimensions, especially patterns of work in other jobs and portfolios of household incomes. As a result, worker experiences are also more heterogeneous than in conventional workplaces. One implication is that the nexus of management control cannot be reduced to algorithmic control, as some accounts have it, but rests in significant part on the role that market discipline plays. For workers who are highly dependent on platform earnings, the fear of job loss (Bowles 1985; Schor and Bowles 1987), is an important disciplinary device that enhances technological control. By contrast, for those workers who have other jobs, pensions, and family incomes, algorithmic control and fear of deactivation are less powerful. They are able to carve out more autonomy and satisfaction in platform work. This helps to distinguish platform-based gig labor from other forms of labor relations, and clarify its novelty

https://digitalage.berlin/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Brief-3_Schor_final.pdf

Scaling climate change and response

Why don’t some things scale easily? Scaling up our collective response to climate change has been notoriously difficult because people neither agree on problem definitions nor solutions; because the effects of climate change and mitigation efforts translate into different real-world experiments depending on location; and because different constituencies in the global political economy don’t agree on how to value what. Any site where scaling is made to look easy should thus raise red flags about a likely lack of comprehension or inclusiveness of perspectives.

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/03063127211048945

COVID-19 preparedness and response

However, these general trends mask significant heterogeneity in responses as countries neither entered nor went through the crisis alike. . . .Overall, the pre-pandemic global outlook was heterogeneous across different geographies. . .

https://www.esm.europa.eu/publications/regional-responses-covid-19-crisis-comparative-study-economic-policy-and-institutional

Cybersecurity breaches

These results nonetheless highlight the ways that data breaches can have a heterogeneous effect on brand. . . .Although data breaches have become more common according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, there is little evidence that companies have drastically improved their cybersecurity infrastructure.

https://academic.oup.com/cybersecurity/article/7/1/tyab021/6362163

Tax havens

The use of tax havens varies considerably from bank to bank. The mean percentage of profits booked in tax havens is about 20% and ranges from 0% for nine banks to a maximum of 58%. The mean effective tax rate paid by the banks in our sample is 20%, with a minimum of 10% and a maximum of 30%. Seven banks exhibit a particularly low effective tax rate, below or equal to 15%. To better understand this heterogeneity, we analyse the use of tax havens by three banks with a relatively high presence in tax havens: HSBC, Deutsche Bank, and Société Générale. We observe a diversity of situations. . .

https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-03350725/document

Municipal housing

Taken together, the analysis of the four cities paints a complex picture of the role of public control in the field of housing . Clearly, the degree and form of this type of government intervention differs considerably, reflecting established institutional settings, historical path-dependencies and power relations . On a general level, the level of public control differs in regard to the main driver of governing (top down vs . bottom up), in their relationship to urban social movements, as well as whether their efforts reflect historical continuities or newer developments . Whereas Vienna (as well as Amsterdam to some extent) represents a case of strong continuity, a distant relation to social movements, and a top-down approach, this contrasts starkly to Barcelona and Berlin, where recent years have seen profound changes with regard to public control in housing, strongly pushed forward by social movement activities . All four cases, meanwhile, in different areas, provide innovative policy approaches to promote such activities . They are developed to different degrees, however, and subject to structural constraints and power struggles

https://www.rosalux.de/fileadmin/user_upload/RLS_Study_Municipalism_in_Practice.pdf

Labor protests during the COVID-19 pandemic

Finally, the dataset reveals significant variation between countries and regions. Political, economic, and institutional contexts clearly matter in shaping patterns of protest. Nevertheless, over-generalisation about the role of national institutional factors should be resisted, given the huge differences we found within countries. For example, a comparatively large volume of protest were identified in healthcare in India but very little in retail, and the same can be said of Nigeria; we therefore examine reports from these country cases in more detail below. Moreover, among the handful of countries reporting no protests, there is no consistent economic or institutional profile. Hence, we suggest that spikes in protest in particular sectors and countries are likely to reflect not only the national institutional context, but also contingent factors and strategic decisions made by the actors involved. To illustrate this point, we examine in more detail reports from the five countries with the highest levels of protest in the two sectors: France, India and Nigeria for healthcare, and the United States and Argentina for retail.

https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—inst/documents/publication/wcms_860587.pdf

Class structure

The structural primacy of class is not due to it alone governing people’s material wellbeing, since other social structures do as well, but is based instead on it being endogenously dynamic such that it generates differentiation of interests within and between class and non-class groups. . . .

[T]he structural primacy of class does not necessarily entail its political primacy, in the sense of making the abstract category of “worker” the immediate and exclusive subjective basis for class formation specifically and socialist politics more broadly. On the contrary, under certain conditions ratcheting up class struggle on the vertical dimension, i.e., scaling up class struggle beyond a segment of the working class in a single workplace to the level of politics, may require the mobilization of people on the basis of non- class subjectivities if those subjectivities are most salient conjuncturally. Building cultures of solidarity is indeed essential to class formation. But given a working class that is already highly differentiated, it is forms of solidarity that cut across differentiations within the working class on both the vertical and horizontal levels that are the building blocks for class formation that can move from the economic to the political.

https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/fy5xu

II So what?

In a world where gender, race and class are the first-round differentiators, it is far too easy to conclude: Structural problems require structural solutions. That proposition is grotesquely premature and lethal to any first-round respect for heterogeneity, variation and complexity.

Why? Because the proposition willfully ignores, if not outright dismisses, concrete approaches for concrete problems, locally. Such an approach could care less about canvassing cases of what is actually working here or there so as to be usefully modified for elsewhere.

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