Elliott, Michael

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    The rationalization of craft beer from medieval monks to modern microbrewers: A Weberian analysis
    (West Virginia University Press, 2017) Elliott, Michael A.; Towson University. Department of Anthropology, Sociology & Criminal Justice
    [From chapter Introduction]: In this chapter, I explore how the production of craft beer is thoroughly rationalized and involves a surprising amount of technical expertise and scientific standardization that have become hallmarks of the industry. Borrowing Weber’s insights, I argue that the widespread application of sophisticated brewing techniques is not merely about selling a commodity and making money, per se, but rather reflects an abiding desire to systematically perfect this “craft” and signal to others that one is a legitimate brewer with the necessary expertise. At the same time, I highlight how the rational organization of craft brewing can also have some irrational consequences, such as consumer confusion and intimidation, as well as disenchantment among professionalized taste testers. Finally, building on The Protestant Ethic, I describe how, in small but significant ways, the rationalization of modern brewing can be traced all the way back to the Middle Ages and the religious organization of monastic communities, qualifying medieval monks as the first “revolutionaries” of modern beer brewing.
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    Monastic asceticism and the rationalization of beer-making in the Middle Ages
    (Association Villard de Honnecourt for Interdisciplinary Study of Medieval Technology, Science and Art, 2011) Elliott, Michael A.
    [From Introduction] [...] what appears to be unique about the relation-ship between the Church and beer is both the scale and skill that were applied to its production by monks in the Middle Ages. As Unger (2004, 26) reports, the first large-scale produc-tion of beer in medieval Europe took place in the monasteries of the eighth and ninth centuries: “Large monasteries were institutions typical of the Carolingian Empire, and they were nearly always centers of brewing.” Likewise, Horn and Born (1979, Vol. II, 261) surmise that “[b]efore the twelfth and thir-teenth centuries when brewing first emerged as a commercial venture, the monastery was probably the only institution where beer was manufactured on anything like a commercial scale.” Their famous study of the ideal Benedictine commu-nity in the Plan of St. Gall strongly suggests that monks of this era not only produced beer on a large scale but seem to have done so with considerable technique and organizational skill. [...] Prominent historical sociologist Max Weber offers helpful clues to this mystery, particularly with his concept of “ascetic rationalism” that he used to explain the transformation of economic behavior during the Reformation and the rise of modern capitalism. Following the lead of contemporary Weberian scholars (Adair-Toteff 2010; Collins 1986a, 1986b, 1997; Kaelber 1996), a similar transformation was fostered by monastic communities centuries before the Reformation and can help explain why monks displayed a kind of mastery over productive endeavors like beer brewing.
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    Fandom as religion: a social-scientific assessment
    (Intellect (Firm), 2021-06) Elliott, Michael A.; Towson University. Department of Anthropology, Sociology & Criminal Justice
    My objective in this article is to outline both a conceptual and a methodological reframing of the ‘fandom as religion’ comparison from a social-scientific perspective. This comparison is familiar territory by now. It has survived the decades because there are, in fact, some striking similarities between fan devotion and religious devotion. However, there are some lingering issues that continue to hamper this field. As a result, I begin by discussing these issues in more detail and highlight how they can be problematic. Next, I discuss how fan devotion is better conceptualized as a sacred rather than a religious experience. Finally, I suggest suitable methods for gathering first-hand data from fans to test this association. On the whole, I believe this reframing will lead to a more accurate understanding of fandoms and chart a clearer path forward for scholars in this field.
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    The globalization of comic-con and the sacralization of popular culture
    (Palgrave Macmillan (Firm), 2018) Elliott, Michael A.; Towson University. Department of Anthropology, Sociology & Criminal Justice
    In 1970, the Golden State Comic-Con was held in San Diego, California, with about 300 people in attendance. At the time, it was a relatively small convention of writers, artists and enthusiasts of comic books as well as science fiction and fantasy. Today, Comic-Con International: San Diego (as it is now called) is attended by over 130,000 people every July and is widely known as the premiere convention for fans celebrating comics and related popular arts. This chapter seeks to explore why Comic-Con has become such a popular event, particularly for fans, and why it has globalized in recent years. The chapter proposes a Durkheimian hypothesis: Comic-Con is a sacred ritual for devout fans, and it has globalized because key aspects of this event (e.g., the superhero) represent mythical archetypes that transcend national boundaries.
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    Human rights and the triumph of the individual in world culture
    (Sage Publications, 2007-11-01) Elliott, Michael A.; Towson University. Department of Anthropology, Sociology & Criminal Justice
    Despite ongoing attention to the subject, cultural accounts of the globalization of human rights are surprisingly scarce. Most accounts describe this phenomenon either as a function of evolutionary progress or the rational/strategic action of states and social movement organizations. As a result, they have difficulty explaining both the moral impulse to act on behalf of human rights and the tremendous expansion of the ideology itself. Borrowing insights from global cultural analysis, I argue that the increasing concern for, and elaboration of, human rights points to a world-cultural environment where the individual is increasingly regarded as sacred and inviolable. To demonstrate this, I explore how human rights have developed historically as a ‘cult of the individual’ and present new data on their recent worldwide expansion.
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    Façade diversity: the individualization of cultural difference
    (Sage Publications, 2008-07-01) Elliott, Michael A.; Boli, John, 1948-; Towson University. Department of Anthropology, Sociology & Criminal Justice
    Diversity and multiculturalism are widely embraced principles, championed by many social movements and promoted through the programs and policies of states, businesses, schools and other organizations throughout the world. Purportedly celebrating and protecting group differences, these principles translate concretely into differences that operate as facades masking the underlying individualization of world society. Fundamental to this process is a dualistic globalization of the individual – both cultural and organizational – that impels the conscious construction of personal identities as both authentic and unique. Individuals therefore activate collective identity elements as sources of personal difference and distinctiveness. The nature of these collective identities is undergoing rapid change, however. The very forces impelling the championing of difference – rising individualism, egalitarianism, identity construction and uniqueness – diminish the degree of difference carried by collective identities, transforming corporate collectivities (once rooted firmly in geographic, ethnic, linguistic or ancestral ties) into categorical groups that pro- vide identity not as a transcendent group property but as a volitional characteristic of categories of individuals. Corporate identities may not disappear, but as they are transformed into categorical identities they become facades behind which the depth of differences among the world’s cultures and subcultures is diminishing rapidly.
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    The institutional expansion of human rights, 1863–2003: A comprehensive dataset of international instruments
    (Sage Publications, 2011-07-28) Elliott, Michael A.; Towson University. Department of Anthropology, Sociology & Criminal Justice
    This article summarizes the results of a recently completed, comprehensive coding of 779 human rights instruments from 1863 to 2003. As such, it offers an extensive portrayal of how, and to what degree, this powerful doctrine has been formally institutionalized over time. Following a brief overview of the data collection process, selected results from this study are presented that highlight how many human rights instruments have been drafted, what kind of violations have been most prominent, the number of rights that have been specified over time, and the ultimate aspirations that are linked to the realization of human rights. Next, potential applications of this dataset are discussed regarding both human rights and peace research scholarship. Specifically, the results shed new light on the historical development of human rights by highlighting key periods of instrument growth in the late 19th century, the interwar years, and the post-World War II period. In addition, the data can effectively augment recent quantitative studies that measure the effect of treaty ratification on internal state violence by helping to generate more extensive ratification information, develop better measures of state compliance, and construct new measures that assess how human rights principles get translated into national practice and potentially mitigate state violence over time.
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    World heritage: constructing a universal cultural order
    (Elsevier, 2012-06) Elliott, Michael A.; Schmutz, Vaughn; Towson University. Department of Anthropology, Sociology & Criminal Justice
    Since the late 1970s, the formal designation of world heritage sites has grown exponentially. Today, there are over 900 such designations bestowed upon national treasures from every corner of the globe, which are believed to have ‘‘outstanding universal value’’ for humanity. At the heart of this world heritage movement is the belief that certain natural and cultural wonders are the collective property and responsibility of all humanity, despite having vastly different historical and geographical origins. What is more, this movement has helped foster a unique feature of contemporary globalization—the recognition of a common, universal heritage to which all societies contribute. But, how did this notion of a ‘‘world’’ heritage come about? Overall, these developments have received little attention from global sociologists. To address this lacuna, we chart the rise of this phenomenon over the past century and a half utilizing a variety of empirical information and explain how key patterns of development reflect fundamental globalization processes— such as the expansion of an interconnected world polity, the diffusion of highly universalistic conceptions of humanity, and the valorization of rationalized techniques as the primary means of human progress. We conclude with suggestions for future research from a global, sociological perspective.
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    The institutionalization of human rights and its discontents: A world cultural perspective
    (Sage Publications, 2014-07-16) Elliott, Michael A.; Towson University. Department of Anthropology, Sociology & Criminal Justice
    A recurring theme in the sociology of human rights is the vast decoupling that exists between the formal codification of these rights in principle and their implementation in practice, fueling much debate about the effectiveness of international law. Yet, despite this disjuncture, a deeper question remains: given all the barriers that have impeded the realization of human rights, why have they become so widely institutionalized? Revisiting previous work in this journal, I argue that one important component of the expansion of human rights is the rise of the universal, egalitarian individual as the primary entity of social organization in world society. Additionally, I explore how the nature of human rights law itself promotes widespread decoupling that, in turn, fuels ongoing efforts to close the gap between principle and practice. Indeed, while human rights law envisions an ideal world that is practically unrealizable, it inspires a never-ending, global crusade to bring about that vision.
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    Diffusion and decoupling in the world heritage movement: exploring global/local tensions in Africa
    (Taylor & Francis, 2016-06-16) Elliott, Michael A.; Schmutz, Vaughn; Towson University. Department of Anthropology, Sociology & Criminal Justice
    A common critique of world society theory is that it overemphasises processes of institutional expansion and isomorphism, and underemphasises instances of decoupling and local variation. We address this concern head-on through an analysis of the world heritage movement. On the one hand, we detail how this movement has expanded into a global institution with highly standardised procedures for evaluating the ‘outstanding universal value’ of cultural and natural sites around the world. On the other hand, we detail how these procedures involve rational-scientific assumptions about evaluation that lead to regional inequality, hindering the ability of less developed countries to successfully nominate, inscribe and manage world heritage sites. With a specific focus on African countries, we identify how decoupling occurs in two distinct ways that hamper their participation in the world heritage movement: (1) a lack of scientific and technical expertise and (2) a cultural mismatch between local and global conceptions of universal value.
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    Tourism and sustainability in the evaluation of World Heritage sites, 1980-2010
    (Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 2016-03-10) Elliott, Michael A.; Schmutz, Vaughn; Towson University. Department of Anthropology, Sociology & Criminal Justice
    At present, there are myriad concerns about tourism and sustainability at cultural and natural world heritage sites. Based on an analysis of 811 evaluations written between 1980 and 2010 by two official advisory bodies to the World Heritage Committee, this paper charts the timing and extent to which such concerns have become central to assessing the value of heritage sites. We find that, over time, issues related to tourism and sustainability expanded considerably in quantity and variety, and recommendations for managing and developing sustainable tourism became a routine feature of site evaluations. Despite the growing prevalence of such concerns, the conceptualization of sustainable tourism and related recommendations provided by the advisory experts remain somewhat ambiguous. Furthermore, our findings reveal regional disparities in the degree to which tourism is seen as a threat to the sustainability of heritage sites and in the likelihood that a state is considered a model of sustainable tourism.
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    World heritage and the scientific consecration of ‘outstanding universal value’
    (Sage Publications, 2017-04-25) Elliott, Michael A.; Schmutz, Vaughn; Towson University. Department of Anthropology, Sociology & Criminal Justice
    Since World War II, the world heritage movement generated widespread support for preserving various sites of natural and cultural significance deemed to have outstanding universal value (OUV) for humanity. While the designation and evaluation of OUV were initially ambiguous, this process underwent expansive rationalization over time. Building on world society scholarship, we argue that specialized international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) played a particularly prominent role in defining OUV, formalizing the process of evaluation, and reinforcing the legitimacy of world heritage by promoting scientific standards and techniques. To support these claims, we systematically examine 811 ‘advisory body’ evaluations produced by associated INGOs from 1980 to 2010 to illustrate (a) the expansive rationalization of evaluative procedures related to world heritage and (b) the increasing reliance on scientific legitimacy to define and validate OUV, particularly for cultural sites. Overall, our findings lend support to institutional theories of globalization.
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    Rationalized authenticity and the transnational spread of intangible cultural heritage
    (Elsevier, 2019-08) Elliott, Michael A.; DeSoucey, Michaela; Schmutz, Vaughn; Towson University. Department of Anthropology, Sociology & Criminal Justice
    The 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was adopted by UNESCO to enshrine and preserve exemplars of the intangible heritage of humanity – practices, traditions, and cultural expressions – on a global register. In our view, this convention highlights a tension between the valorization of cultural diversity on one hand and the universal relevance and value of masterpieces of intangible heritage to all humankind on the other. We introduce the term rationalized authenticity to refer to processes by which this tension is mitigated through simultaneous 1) fostering of a diversity of ways that heritage may be expressed or understood and 2) translation into rationalized forms that demonstrate the transnational relevance of cultural heritage. Based on a comparative analysis of three diverse examples of heritage on UNESCO’s list from outside the core of the cultural world system – tango from Argentina and Uruguay, acupuncture and moxibustion from China, and the Kodály concept from Hungary – we show how rationalized authenticity encourages the adoption of alternative definitions of cultural heritage and also facilitates the transnational spread and transformation of select masterpieces of intangible heritage.