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Charity and the Symbolic Power of Doing Good
Author: Jon Dean

We praise those people who do things for others. But the symbolic power of giving means individuals can take advantage of the glow of ‘goodness’ that charity provides.

This book analyses the reality of how charity operates in the social world; how the personal benefits of giving and volunteering are vital for getting charitable acts to happen; how the altruism associated with gifts isn’t always what it seems; how charity misbehaviour or bad management gets overlooked; and how charity symbols are weaponised against those who don’t participate.

Drawing on original data and a novel application of the sociology of Bourdieu, this book examines a wide range of examples from culture, politics and society to provide an entertaining critique of how contemporary charity works.

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An introduction
Author: Jon Dean

Reflexivity is vital in social research projects, but there remains relatively little advice on how to execute it in practice. This book provides social science researchers with both a strong rationale for the importance of thinking reflexively and a practical guide to doing reflexivity within their research. The first book on the subject to build primarily on the theoretical and empirical contributions of Pierre Bourdieu’s reflexive work, it combines academic analysis with practical examples and case studies, drawing both on recent reflexive research projects and original empirical data from new projects conducted by the author. Written in an engaging and accessible style, the book will be of interest to researchers from all career stages and disciplinary backgrounds, but especially early-career researchers and students who are struggling with subjectivity, positionality, and the realities of being reflexive.

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Innovations and Challenges
Editors: Jon Dean and Eddy Hogg

The first book of its kind, this volume brings together a range of experts to review key methodological issues in the study of voluntary action, charitable behaviour and participation in voluntary organisations.

Using case studies from around the world – from ethnography to media analysis and surveys to peer research – chapters illustrate the challenges of researching altruistic actions and our conceptualisations of them. Across different fields and methods, authors unpick the methodological innovations and challenges in their own research to help guide future study.

Demystifying research and deepening our ability to understand the role of the third sector, this accessible book is suitable for social researchers at all levels.

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Author: Jon Dean

This article presents a structural, multi-level analysis, showing how volunteering policy, specific volunteering programmes and operational practices in volunteer brokerage organisations promote instrumental motivations in young volunteers. Through evidence drawn from a qualitative study of youth volunteering brokerage workers and volunteering policy-practitioners, it is shown how young people are increasingly pressured into volunteering, and into seeing volunteering as primarily a route into employment. Volunteer recruiters do not challenge these structural factors; instead, employability and easing the transition to work and university form a large part of ‘selling’ volunteering, with young people encouraged to trade their time for experience. It is concluded that these findings fit into a wider theoretical narrative about the changing nature of volunteering, and have the potential to create significant problems for volunteer-involving organisations.

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Author: Jon Dean

Recent reports have cautioned that charities are behind the curve in taking advantage of the potential benefits of digital technologies and social media, a problem that particularly affects their engagement with young people. This article assesses the data from a series of focus groups, including a participatory digital element, with students and recent graduates (aged 18–25), examining participants’ current engagement with charity online. The focus groups show that while the right celebrity or organisational backing helps charity messages cut through, overall it is those causes and requests for donations that come through family and friends that are still the main drivers of young people’s engagement with charity on social media. Supporting findings from similar studies, this shows that, despite the global connectivity digital offers, we should think carefully about what can be expected from the charity–digital relationship, and the continued importance of existing offline relationships for students and new graduates.

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Author: Jon Dean

I know a scrupulous adherence to rules of method will not lead to objective truth. Surely this is in part because being a social scientist does not preclude having strong opinions, values, or feelings. But here it demands a willingness to be public about the way they affect one’s standards and the claims one makes. One of the great barriers to maintaining standards is the strong attachment one develops with one’s subjects, which can lead to emotions that make the idea of social science less than realistic. Riding downtown on the subway with Ovie that morning, I was full of passion for the vendors and their sidewalk life. But I tried, with both success and failure during my ride, to remain detached. (Duneier, 1999: 79)

Social research requires us to account for our humanness. Indeed, as Steven Deutsch (1971) wrote nearly half a century ago, social research is too often the work of humans who have failed to account for their humanness while attempting to objectify other humans for study (Gouldner, 1970). Reflexivity offers us a route out. This book aims to help social science researchers to plot a course when operationalising (doing) reflexivity within their research. Building primarily on the theoretical and empirical contributions of Pierre Bourdieu, it addresses an issue all researchers face. While it has been the qualitative methods literature in which the importance of reflexivity has figured most strongly, through using a broad range of examples from eclectic disciplines and fields of study, I hope to show how vital reflexivity can be to all areas of (social) scientific enquiry.

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Author: Jon Dean

In a recent study from fivethirtyeight.com, the analytical news website founded by the American statistician and election pollster Nate Silver (who famously correctly predicted the winner in 50 out of 50 states in the US Presidential election of 2012), the major discrepancies which can be found in quantitative research are made apparent. The study was part of a concerted effort by the science writer Christie Aschwanden (2015) to show how difficult science can be, but also to defend the choices of rational yet subjective actors against accusations of scientific fraud.

In the study, website users are given the opportunity to explore whether the US economy does better under Republican or Democratic leadership. The site first unpicks the two obvious problems with such a research question: how is ‘better’ measured, and what counts as ‘leadership’? An online tool gives users the opportunity to play around with the statistics. By ticking various boxes on economic measurement – GDP growth, level of employment, levels of inflation, or stock market success – and choosing whether leadership should be measured through holding the presidency, or being in control of the Senate, the House of Representatives, or a majority of state governorships, or a combination of all four, users are able to input a huge variety of data, and draw a wide variety of conclusions. To put it simply, you can get whatever result you want. It is possible to propose through statistical probability, with the common probability measure of p<0.05 (i.e. that there is less than a 1 in 20 chance of this variable relationship being a coincidence or of your hypothesis being wrong),1 that the US economy does ‘better’ under Republican leadership and badly under Democratic leadership and vice versa.

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Author: Jon Dean

The goal of sociology is to uncover the most profoundly buried structures of the various social worlds which constitute the social universe, as well as the ‘mechanisms’ which tend to ensure their reproduction or their transformation. (Bourdieu, 1996: 1)

This chapter serves to provide an overview of Pierre Bourdieu’s sociological project: his focus on social and cultural inequality, his development of habitus as an explanation for the logic of practice, and his personal biography, and examine how these elements entwined throughout his sociological career. It will give the reader an account of Bourdieu’s theoretical and empirical work, and, in order to underscore the main methodological message of the book, provide a clear case study example to the reader of the relationship between research and personal experience. While overviews of Bourdieu’s work are legion and varying in their approach and focus (see Harker et al., 1990; Jenkins, 1992; Fowler, 2000; Everett, 2002; Grenfell, 2004, 2008; Calhoun, 2010, Thatcher et al., 2016, among many others) the following section will briefly introduce several of Bourdieu’s key concepts, specifically those that will aid us in understanding the development of his reflexive sociology. What this chapter and the next aim to add is a focus on the ways in which Bourdieu’s academic work mirrored his personal experiences, a notion always slightly below the surface (for exceptions, see Jenkins, 2006; Frangie, 2009).

Bourdieu’s studies of the Algerian war (in which he was a soldier), the social and family practices of rural France (in which he grew up and was socialised), the French elite (which he entered), the French university system (in which he came to dominate), the media (in which he came to be a frequent presence), and in other areas serve to foreground the often deep relationship between a researcher and their research.

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