Posts tagged #economics

S3E4 - Gifts


Got gift-giving on your mind? You're not the only one to agonize over it! Is exchanging presents a magical practice of reciprocity that leads to stronger human bonds (Team Anthropology!) or is it an inefficient scourge leading to deadweight loss (Team Economics!)? In this episode, we explore these two camps...and in the process get to Japan's extreme gifting culture (Maria’s our in-house expert!), best/worst presents (yay!/ack!), holiday shopping, and registries. Get ready folks, we unwrap gift giving like no one else doeslike nerds!



Links to Stuff We Talk About


Bronisław Malinowski, “Argonauts of the Western Pacific: An account of native enterprise and adventure in the Archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea” (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1922) [N&M note:  Yes, this title is bad, like baaaad.]

Marcel Mauss, “The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies” (Cohen & West Ltd, 1966). [N&M note:  Yes, this one too.]

Joel Waldfogel, “Scroogenomics:  Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays” (Princeton University Press, 2009).



“Why Economists Hate Gifts”. Planet Money. December 11, 2011. NPR

Caitlin Kenney. “The Most Wasteful Time Of Year.” Planet Money. November 25, 2009. NPR

Shankar Vedantam. "New Study Explores Psychology Of Giving Wedding Gifts." All Things Considered. June 24, 2016. NPR



On Japanese gift giving etiquette

On Valentine’s Day & White Day in Japan 


Music this time by 50 Cent, The Isley Brothers, Queen Mariah & Natalie Merchant 

Posted on December 7, 2016 .

S3E1 - Self Help


Lifehacks, Oprah, The Secret…who CAN’T use a little self-help to maximize their personal and professional lives? We kick off Season 3 by diving into self help and celebrity advice culture, exploring both what’s great about them and their darker sides. We pin down the concept “neoliberalism,” and talk about how competition from the boardroom to the bedroom is leaving people feeling more isolated and looking to self-help for ways to survive in an increasingly precarious economy. On the way, Noorain opens up about her love of Oprah and her celebrity book binges, and Maria casts some epic shade on Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Let’s get this In Theory party started! 

Links to Stuff We Talk About


Daniel Nehring, Emmanuel Alvarado, Eric C. Hendriks, and Dylan Kerrigan, Transnational Popular Psychology and the Global Self-Help Industry: The Politics of Contemporary Social Change (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) 

Jennifer M. Silva, Coming up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty (Oxford University Press, 2013) 


Peter Fleming, “The way to a better work-life balance? Unions, not self-help,” The Guardian, October 11, 2016. 

Vanessa Friedman, “How Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Has Become a Role Model for Other Celebrities,” The New York Times, November 14, 2014.

George Monbiot, “Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems,” The Guardian, April 15, 2016.

Joe Pinsker “America Is Even Less Socially Mobile Than Most Economists Thought,” The Atlantic, July 23, 2015. 


William G. Domhoff, “Wealth, Income, and Power” Who Rules America? September 2005; updated February 2013 

Trysh Travis, The Language of the Heart: A Cultural History of the Recovery Movement from Alcoholics Anonymous to Oprah Winfrey (University of North Carolina Press, 2009) 

Janice Peck, Age of Oprah: Cultural Icon for the Neoliberal Era (Routledge, 2008) 

Bonus: Noorain’s celeb list!


Top 10 Oprah moments

Jewel, Never Broken

Janet Mock, Redefining Realness 

Shonda Rimes, Year of Yes

Lindy West, Shrill

Music this time by the Bananaramas, Miike Snow, and Destiny's Child.

Posted on October 19, 2016 .

S2E7 - Do-It-Yourself Theory and the Crafting Comeback

From craft brewing to knitting, when did acting like we’re home on the range get so cool? And why is it so satisfying to can your own jar of jam, hand-build a table, or make a quilt? This week we take on the history, culture, and politics of hipster crafting and DIY. With the help of our trusty friend Marx and a theory of "new domesticity," we dig into what modern-day maker throwbacks can tell us about our work lives and gender identities. Sociologist and beer whisperer Dr. Allison McKim helps us unpack the homebrewing explosion and its gender-troubled history, PLUS we get into Maria's love of Renaissance Faires, Noorain's once-but-no-more work alienation, and high-concept housekeeping. Pour yourself a beer (or a cold brewed coffee if you're Noorain) and come talk crafting! If you can make it, we will talk about it!

Links to Stuff We Talk About


Karl Marx, “Estranged Labour,” in Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844. (Marx's theory of alienation explained in everyday language here and here

Rachel Lee Rubin, Well Met:  Renaissance Faires and the American Counterculture (NYU Press, 2012)

Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) (on division of labor and the rise of capitalism


Krystal Baugher, “Women and Beer: A 4,500-Year History Is Coming Full Circle,” The Atlantic. November 11, 2013. 

Emily Matchar, “The New Domesticity: Fun, Empowering or a Step Back for American Women?” The Washington Post. November 25, 2011.

Bonnie Rochman, “Handmade in America: Crafting's Comeback,” Parade. October 19, 2013. 


“2012 State of the Craft Industry” Craft & Hobby Association Presentation. 2012.

“Indie Craft Inspiration.” Craft & Hobby Association’s Portfolio Magazine. Winter 2009.

Shannon Hayes,  Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture. Left to Write Press. February 1, 2010.


Beer whisperer Allison McKim is also an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Bard College; more on her here

Music this week from Billy Currington, Jewel, Lila Downs, The Cardigans, and Erykah Badu

Posted on May 25, 2016 .

S2E2 - Food for Thought

If you are what you eat...what does that make us as Americans today? In this MEGA-EP we're talking about food: how it gets produced, its impact on people, animals, and the environment, and how to make better decisions in the grocery store. We are super excited to feature an in-depth interview with food activist and all-around legend Kate Galassi. Then Maria and Noorain break open the world of assembly-line chickens, ask some questions about food deserts, and do their best to avoid slave shrimp. Hold on to your jicamas everyone, it's time to chow down on another episode of In Theory!

Links to Stuff We Talk About


On Fordism: Steven Tolliday & Jonathan Zeitlin, The Automobile Industry and its Workers: Between Fordism and Flexibility (New York: St.Martin's Press, 1987)


Lisa Ling takes us inside a slaughterhouse:
The US Department of Agriculture’s official definition of food deserts:     


Roberto A. Ferdman, “The key difference between what poor people and everyone else eat.” The Washington Post. September 17, 2015.

Becky Krystal, “How to find shrimp that’s not produced by slave labor in Thailand.” The Washington Post. December 16, 2015.

Margie Mason, Robin McDowell, Martha Mendoza, and Esther Htusan,“ Global supermarkets selling shrimp peeled by slaves.” The Associated Press. December 14, 2015.  

Margot Sanger-Katz, “Giving the Poor Easy Access to Healthy Food Doesn’t Mean They’ll Buy It.” The New York Times. May 8, 2015.


BIO! The wonderful Kate Galassi started her career in food working on an organic produce farm in southern New Hampshire. She’s worked for a dozen small farms and food manufacturers, most of them involved with the New York City Greenmarket. She first trained as a produce buyer at The Spotted Pig and The Breslin. In 2013 she co-founded Quinciple, a home delivery service for curated farmers’ market boxes. She is now the New York Project Head for Natoora, a London based fruit and veg supplier committed to upending the traditional distribution model by working directly with farms of all sizes.

Check out artist Mishka Henner’s amazing/insane/gorgeous/horrifying aerial photos of the toxic runoff from American feedlots:

Music this week from Judy Collins, the Presidents of the United States of America, Weird Al, and our girl Mariah. Special thanks to Beth Pearson for being a brain trust on this week's ep!

Posted on March 16, 2016 .

Mini-Ep: Have an Unnecessarily Sexy Halloween!


BOO! Need help picking out what to wear for Halloween? We're interrupting our own hiatus to dish on the wide range of awesomely horrific ways companies have sexed up women's and girls' Halloween costumes, from sexy pumpkins to sexy pizza rat (yes that happened). The internet has started cataloging this creepy trend every year now, but WHY is it happening? In this special between-season mini-episode, we get into the pornification of femininity and talk over Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth to understand why constraints on women's appearances don't appear to be going anywhere. Cady and the Mean Girls gang make it into this Halloween gabfest  - don't miss out! 

Links to Stuff We Talk About

Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth (HarperCollins, 1991).

And while we're at it, check out:
Costumes from Legally Blonde and Mean Girls // Maria and Noorain's picks for most absurd sexy Halloween Costumes include pumpkinsSEXY pizza rat (of Pizza Rat fame), and Donald Trump  // Sociological Images does a great annual "Sexy What?!" roundup every year; here's 2015! // other juicy commentary on sexy costumes here (is it slut shaming?), here (sexy doesn't have to be sexist!), and here (anti-pornification of femininity) 

Music from Shakira (Awooooo!).

Posted on October 27, 2015 .

Episode 5: Wedding industrial complex bells are ringing

Going to the chapel of love? Time to talk about the billion-dollar wedding industry! We take you through the stats and checklists of wedding planning, and give the low-down on the capitalist origins of some major Big Day traditions. Get ready to rethink white dresses, diamond engagement rings, celebrity weddings, and where taste comes from. Appearances by Disney princess culture, Scottish kilts, promposals, Eliza Dolittle, and more!

Links to Stuff We Talk About


Pierre Bourdeiu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, translated by Richard Nice (Harvard University Press, 1984) 

Eric J. Hobsbawm, and Terence O. Ranger, eds. The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge U Press, 2010).


Vicki Howard, Brides, Inc.: American Weddings and the Business of Tradition (U of Pennsylvania Press, 2008). 

Rebecca Mead, One Perfect Day the Selling of the American Wedding (New York: Penguin Press, 2007). 

The Knot, The #1 Wedding Site, Releases 2014 Real Weddings Study Statistics.” PR Newswire. March 12, 2015.  

Ultimate Wedding Planning Checklist.”


Maria Sachiko Cecire, “Reality Remixed: Neomedieval Princess Culture in Disney's Enchanted,” in The Disney Middle Ages: A Fairy-Tale and Fantasy Past, ed. Susan Aronstein and Tison Pugh. Palgrave MacMillan, 2012. 

Edward Jay Epstein, “Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond?The Atlantic Magazine. February 1982. Archived online. 

Uri Friedman, “How an Ad Campaign Invented the Diamond Engagement Ring.” The Atlantic Magazine. February 13, 2015.  

Hannah Wallace, “The Marriage Industrial Complex.” May 21, 2007. 


Watch Eliza Dolittle get some linguistic cultural capital in My Fair Lady (1964) and Cher decide to share some of her cool in Clueless (1995). Now go get some of your own modern-day elite taste-making from Gwenyth Paltrow's Goop newsletter! Or just check out Lauren Conrad's Paper Crown bridesmaid dresses, as worn by her real-life bridesmaids. Also: promposals.

This episode, our tunes are interested in going to the chapel, getting to the church on time, and making sure the ladies remember that diamonds are a girl's best friend. Courtesy of the Shirelles, Ol' Blue Eyes, and Nicole Kidman.

Posted on July 22, 2015 .

Episode 1: Yup, there's a Military-Entertainment Complex...

We kick off In Theory by diving into the Military-Entertainment Complex. In this episode, we figure out how ISIS co-opted one of the most successful video games of all time and that gets us to Top Gun, Katniss Everdeen, and theories of nationhood...

Links to stuff we talk about


Stephen Stockwell and Adam Muir, “The Military-Entertainment Complex: A New Facet of Information Warfare” The Fibreculture Journal, Vol. 1 (2003). Web. URL:

Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture. New York University Press, 2006. Print.

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Verso, 2006.

Articles (selection)

On ISIS’s use of gaming in its recruitment video:

Paul Tassi, “ISIS Uses 'GTA 5' In New Teen Recruitment Video,” September 20, 2014. Web. URL:

Jay Caspian Kang, “ISIS’ Call of Duty,” The New Yorker Online. September 18, 2014. Web. URL:

Ted Thornhill, “Isis use top video game Grand Theft Auto 5 to recruit children and radicalise the vulnerable,” Daily Mail Online. 22 September 2014. Web. URL:

On Hunger Games Advertising & Responses:

Brooks Barnes, “How ‘Hunger Games’ Built Up Must-See Fever,” NY Times Online. March 18, 2012. Web. URL:

Jess Denham, "Mockingjay Part 1 pulled from Thai cinemas after students flash three-finger Hunger Games salute at country's prime minister," The Independent Online. November 20, 2014. Web. URL:  

Posted on May 29, 2015 .