Dr. Stephen McNamee - I am currently working on three projects. The first is a summary article on the third edition of the book, The Meritocracy Myth that I coauthored with Robert K. Miller, Jr.. This article summarizes the main themes in the book and provides an update and analysis of changes in inequality in the U.S. since the publication of the first edition in 2004. A second paper is a theory project that compares theoretical issues in sociology with theoretical issues in physics. Both disciplines have macro-micro theories and both are involved in cutting edge debates about how these levels of analyses can be theoretically resolved. Although August Comte first referred to what he was doing as "social physics," sociological theory relied heavily on biological metaphors in its early stages of development, I maintain that this early reliance on biological metaphors contributed to the early dominance of structural functional theory in sociology.
Conflict theory, which has only more recently gained currency in the field, is much more amenable to a physics metaphor. I explore possible theoretical parallels between physics and sociology, especially with regard to the micro-macro integration and centripetal and centrifugal forces.
A third project is a comparison of American and British economic elites. Historically, Great Britain has had a more rigid class system than the United States, partly the result of the vestiges of a feudal aristocracy. The United States, by comparison, has historically been perceived as having a much more open system with greater access to upward social mobility. Over time, however, the United States system of inequality has become more rigid and less open while Great Britain has become somewhat less rigid and more open with both societies converging at high levels of wealth concentration and inequality compared to other advanced industrial societies. Using the "Forbes 400" list of wealthiest Americans and the London Times "Rich List" of the wealthiest British and cross coding these data with supplemental information of other sources, this research examines the social and economic origins of each and compares the levels of wealth concentration and prospects for mobility over time.