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We summarize some of the past year's most important findings within climate change-related research. New research has improved our understanding about the remaining options to achieve the Paris Agreement goals, through overcoming political barriers to carbon pricing, taking into account non-CO2 factors, a well-designed implementation of demand-side and nature-based solutions, resilience building of ecosystems and the recognition that climate change mitigation costs can be justified by benefits to the health of humans and nature alone. We consider new insights about what to expect if we fail to include a new dimension of fire extremes and the prospect of cascading climate tipping elements.
A synthesis is made of 10 topics within climate research, where there have been significant advances since January 2020. The insights are based on input from an international open call with broad disciplinary scope. Findings include: (1) the options to still keep global warming below 1.5 °C; (2) the impact of non-CO2 factors in global warming; (3) a new dimension of fire extremes forced by climate change; (4) the increasing pressure on interconnected climate tipping elements; (5) the dimensions of climate justice; (6) political challenges impeding the effectiveness of carbon pricing; (7) demand-side solutions as vehicles of climate mitigation; (8) the potentials and caveats of nature-based solutions; (9) how building resilience of marine ecosystems is possible; and (10) that the costs of climate change mitigation policies can be more than justified by the benefits to the health of humans and nature.
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How do we limit global warming to 1.5 °C and why is it crucial? See highlights of latest climate science.
Eating less frequently is associated with increased obesity risk in older children but data are potentially confounded by reverse causation, where bigger children eat less often in an effort to control their weight. Longitudinal data, particularly in younger children, are scarce. We aimed to determine whether eating frequency (meals and snacks) at 2 years of age is associated with past, current or subsequent BMI.
Cohort analysis of a randomised controlled trial. Eating frequency at 2 years of age was estimated using 48 h diaries that recorded when each child ate meals and snacks (parent-defined) in five-minute blocks. Body length/height and weight were measured at 1, 2 and 3·5 years of age. Linear regression assessed associations between the number of eating occasions and BMI Z-score, before and after adjustment for potential confounding variables.
Prevention of Overweight in Infancy (POI) study, Dunedin, New Zealand.
Children (n 371) aged 1–3·5 years.
On average, children ate 5·5 (sd 1·2) times/d at 2 years of age, with most children (88–89 %) eating 4–7 times/d. Eating frequency at 2 years was not associated with current (difference in BMI Z-score per additional eating occasion; 95 % CI: −0·02; −0·10, 0·05) or subsequent change (0·02; −0·03, 0·06) in BMI. Similarly, BMI at age 1 year did not predict eating frequency at 2 years of age (difference in eating frequency per additional BMI Z-score unit; 95 % CI: −0·03; −0·19, 0·13).
Number of eating occasions per day was not associated with BMI in young children in the present study.
Government initiatives such as the Troubled Families Programme present a difficult problem for social scientists: how to discuss the policies without accepting and appearing to legitimise the problematic framing of social problems that they embody. The programme is characteristically neoliberal in its silence on structural inequality and in its targeting of certain families as deficient and wholly responsible for their situation. Like so many such programmes, its primary addressee is arguably not merely those targeted by the policies but the wider electorate. The paper discusses the dilemmas of challenging the policy's framing. First it makes some general points about the different characters of political and academic discourses, before examining some key features of the framing of TFP, its conceptualisation of social causes of problems and individual responsibility, and how social scientists might respond. It then draws upon the work of George Lakoff to comment on how the impact of policy and political discourse depends on the kinds of value systems it invokes, before concluding.
Nor is intelligence about universals only. It must also come to know particulars, since it is concerned with action and action is about particulars. Hence … some people who lack knowledge but have experience are better in action than others who have knowledge.
(Aristotle, 1980, The Nicomachean Ethics, 1,141b, 15ff.)
Many of us are all too familiar with the rise of audits and the imposition of standardized procedures on activities which seem to defy standardization. Supposedly, these provide rational systems for organizing and assessing the performance of individuals and institutions. In universities, research and teaching, as well as a host of other activities, are increasingly audited, rated and ranked. Teaching comes to be modelled as a rational process of setting ‘learning objectives’, deciding how these are to be ‘delivered’, designing assessment procedures that test how far students have achieved the specified ‘learning outcomes’, as if courses consisted of separable bits of knowledge or skill that could simply be ‘uploaded’ by students. The whole technology is intended to allow the process to be analysed and evaluated. Teaching is therefore treated much as a production engineer might treat an industrial process – as capable of being broken down into rationally ordered, standardized, measurable units, so that wastage and inefficiency can be identified and eliminated, and quality improved. A general, abstract technology is thus applied to every course, from aesthetics to zoology.
Conventionality is not morality … To attack the first is not to assail the last.
(Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre, 2nd edn, preface)
How are we to understand the ethical or moral dimension of everyday life? That is, the way in which people's actions are influenced by ideas and feelings regarding how they should behave with respect to each other, how they should live together? In the foregoing chapters, we have already introduced some of the building blocks for understanding the ethical dimension of everyday life, such as emotions, virtues, practical reason, commitments and other aspects of human social being. In this chapter I will bring these and other elements together and discuss their interaction.
We are ethical beings, not in the sense that we necessarily always behave ethically, but that as we grow up we come to evaluate behaviour according to some ideas of what is good or acceptable. We compare and admire or deplore particular actions, personal traits, social practices and institutions. How people behave and should behave with respect to one another is undeniably important to us, indeed it is hard to imagine anything more important, yet social science tells us little about our sense of what is good or bad in these matters and why it is so important to us. Its third person descriptions typically drain away the normative force of such considerations, making it appear that we are mere pursuers of self-interest, creatures of habit, followers of conventions and norms or puppets of power (Archer, 2007).
It is not even known at all to us what the human being now is, although consciousness and the senses ought to instruct us in this; how much less will we be able to guess what one day he ought to become. Nevertheless, the human soul's desire for knowledge snaps very desirously at this object, which lies so far from it, and strives, in such obscure knowledge, to shed some light.
(Kant, cited in Allen Wood, Kant and the Problem of Human Nature)
Why do people care about things? Why do things matter to them? In particular, why do they have ethical concerns about how people treat one another, and perhaps other species too, and concerns about how their social world is organized? Or, to put it more formally, what is it about people that makes them both ethical subjects and objects of ethical concern? Some sociologists might be tempted to say that it's norms or discourses that make people do these things, not their human nature, and hence that all these things are socially constructed. But while norms and discourses are important they don't seem to work on non-humans – on lumps of rock or plants – so there must be something about humans that makes them susceptible to such norms and discourses. Some of the answers to these questions are already implicit in the last two chapters; here I shall make them explicit.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(United Nations Declaration of Human Rights)
[C]aste based discrimination affects one's human dignity and casts shadow on his personality. It strangulates confidence and creates inferiority complex in our generations.
(Surendar Valasai, President of Scheduled Castes Federation of Pakistan)
Dignity is a curious, elusive thing, frequently invoked both in high places – in constitutions, political manifestos, declarations of human rights and in moral and political philosophy – and in the protests of the oppressed. It matters to all of us and is yearned for by those to whom it is denied – the oppressed, the dispossessed and the disrespected. Although difficult to define it is something quite ordinary that we sense particularly when it is threatened – when we are treated in a disrespectful, undignified manner, when we do something embarrassing, or when we have to do something we consider to be ‘beneath us’. Maintaining our dignity and being treated in a way which respects our dignity is crucial for our well-being; indeed it is often spoken of as a base-line: ‘at least I left with my dignity intact’; ‘I want to die with dignity’. Our dignity is always at risk – for some more than others, according to their situation; if we fail to maintain it, we are likely to suffer.
What are values? The prime aim of this chapter is to argue that social science's understanding of values is deficient, both with regard to their place in social life in general, and within its own methodology. In particular, I wish to attack the common assumption that values are beyond the scope of reason. Such an assumption implies that the values and valuations held and made by people cannot be assessed as better or worse, or more or less true of anything – as if the arguments over values and valuations that go on in everyday life were merely arbitrary, a matter of assertion and power. As such, while they may be perfectly proper objects of study for social science, they seem not to belong to the arguments of social science itself; indeed their alleged dogmatism and irrationality would render them antithetical to the project of social science. Yet in everyday life we regularly engage in reasoning about how to value things – about how children should be brought up, whether a certain kind of behaviour is acceptable, whether the tax system is fair, or whether people are becoming too selfish, and so on. Evaluation, judgement and reasoning overlap, and, I shall argue, sometimes we have to evaluate behaviour or people in order to be able to understand and describe them adequately – both in everyday life and social science.
First it was nature that was ‘neutralized’ with respect to value, then man himself. Now we shiver in the nakedness of nihilism in which near-omnipotence is paired with near emptiness, greatest capacity with knowing least for what ends to use it.
(Jonas, 1984, p. 23)
By way of conclusion I would like to draw out some implications of the preceding chapters for how we do social science.
(1) Social science – at least apart from philosophy and political theory – needs to overcome its peculiar combination of aversion and indifference towards normativity. Normativity, resulting from neediness, ill-being and desire, and the capacity for reason, understood in the broad sense I have defended, is intrinsic to human being. As we saw in Chapter 4, the very concept of human being is partly normative: its object is always more or less deficient and capable of development or decline.
(2) It is important to complete the deconstruction of the fact–value family of dualisms, not in order to deny any kind of differences among things like fact and value, reason and emotion, or nature and culture, but to acknowledge their internal differences, interactions and overlaps. […]
Andrew Sayer undertakes a fundamental critique of social science's difficulties in acknowledging that people's relation to the world is one of concern. As sentient beings, capable of flourishing and suffering, and particularly vulnerable to how others treat us, our view of the world is substantially evaluative. Yet modernist ways of thinking encourage the common but extraordinary belief that values are beyond reason, and merely subjective or matters of convention, with little or nothing to do with the kind of beings people are, the quality of their social relations, their material circumstances or well-being. The author shows how social theory and philosophy need to change to reflect the complexity of everyday ethical concerns and the importance people attach to dignity. He argues for a robustly critical social science that explains and evaluates social life from the standpoint of human flourishing.
If our relationship to the world in everyday life is one of concern, what is it in social science? Many social scientists would say it is different: it is to describe, understand and explain, and not to evaluate or judge. I have already dealt with the view that values and evaluation are a contaminant in social science and argued that, on the contrary, that they are a necessary, indeed invaluable, part. Although social science is directed to understanding and explanation rather than deciding how to act (practical reason), we have to be evaluative if we are to describe, understand and explain social life adequately (recall the argument about thick ethical concepts). Further, actors' own accounts of their situation face social scientific accounts both as objects and rivals; while social scientists need to describe actors' accounts as fairly as possible, they also frequently have to decide how far they are adequate. Is the racist's explanation of the performance of Afro-Caribbean origin children in British schools correct? Do the actors understand everything about their situation, or are there respects in which they misunderstand and misrepresent them? In seeking the most adequate explanation of ethnic differences in educational performance, a social scientist cannot sit on the fence, and insofar as her accounts differ from those that inform and guide actors' practice, they are inescapably critical of them.
This book is about social science's difficulties in acknowledging that people's relation to the world is one of concern. When we ask a friend how they are, they might reply in any number of ways; for example:
‘I'm OK, thanks: my daughter's enjoying school, things are good at home and we've just had a great holiday.’
‘Not so good: the boss is always in a bad mood and I'm worried about losing my job.’
‘OK myself but I'm really appalled by what's been happening in the war.’
‘I'm a bit depressed: I don't know where my life is going.’
Such responses indicate that things matter to people, and make a difference to ‘how they are’. Their lives can go well or badly, and their sense of well-being depends at least in part on how these other things that they care about – significant others, practices, objects, political causes – are faring, and on how others are treating them. In some respects the answers are very subjective and personal, yet they are not just free-floating ‘values’ or expressions projected onto the world but feelings about various events and circumstances that aren't merely subjective. They reflect the fact that we are social beings – dependent on others and necessarily involved in social practices. They also remind us that we are sentient, evaluative beings: we don't just think and interact but evaluate things, including the past and the future (Archer, 2000a).
The account I have given of lay normativity and ethical life is the product of an engagement with theories of ethics in philosophy, with social scientific, and particularly sociological, approaches to values and morality, and to a lesser extent with moral psychology. Readers may perhaps want to know more about where I stand with respect to philosophical theories. Though my debts to philosophy are large, there are some well-known theories that I reject. Here I will briefly outline the main reasons behind this selection.
Many of the philosophical approaches are too idealized and reductive for the purpose of understanding the ethical dimension of social life as it is rather than as one might hope it would be, though they may have some use precisely where lay morality is deficient. Some ethical theories attempt to derive their conclusions from a single principle, such as ‘utility’ or the categorical imperative. For William James, the pragmatist philosopher, it is as absurd to expect that ethics can be reduced to a single motive or principle as to expect physics to be reducible to a single law (James, 1891). I have some sympathy with Bernard Williams's view that the search for grand ethical theories is misguided, and we would do better to attend to concrete situations and the many different kinds of social relation in which we act (Williams, 1985; see also Geuss, 2008; Putnam, 2002; Walsh, 2003).
Class is something beneath your clothes, under your skin, in your reflexes, in your psyche, at the very core of your being.
(Annette Kuhn, 1995)
As Annette Kuhn's much-cited comment indicates, class is not merely a sociological concept or a location in the social field; it is deeply embodied, permeating our experience and sense of self. Even though we may not be able to articulate our feelings regarding class very well we can ‘see it a mile off’ in other people's appearance and behaviour, as they can in ours. It also affects what we value, including how we value others and ourselves – for example, whether we feel pride or shame, envy or contentment. To understand the subjective experience of class we need to consider the emotional and evaluative aspects of the relations of self to self and self to other. While much of this experience is deeply embodied at the level of unarticulated feelings and emotions, evaluations can also be more considered, frequently featuring in people's ‘internal conversations’ (Archer, 2003).
If we are to understand how class matters to people we therefore need to address how it is embodied and how it colours so much of our behaviour. An obvious starting point for understanding this is the work of Pierre Bourdieu, not only because of his emphasis on the embodied, practical character of action but because of his lifelong interest in class.
There are two types of conclusions and implications that I want to discuss. The first concern theoretical and philosophical matters, particularly about valuation, values and the relationship between positive and normative thought. This is warranted because both the subject matter and the approach that I have taken to it have been somewhat unorthodox. I have sought to understand lay normativity in relation to class, attempting to take it seriously and appreciate its internal force, instead of ignoring it or reducing it to a correlate of social position or discursive construction. While it has been a primarily positive analysis of lay normativity, at times it has itself been more openly normative about that subject matter than is usual in social science, and I will add further normative judgements in this last chapter. In the first part I therefore want both to defend the approach to normativity that I have taken and to suggest how normative evaluations such as those I have made might be justified. This involves challenging common views about the assumed ‘subjective’ nature of valuation, the distinction between positive and normative discourse and the relation between them, and the kinds of grounds that we might appeal to when justifying normative judgements. On all these matters I owe the reader some explanations.
In the second part I address more substantive matters and restate the case for understanding the moral significance of class.