I wrote a book about austerity policies and the social and economic effects on Europe [The Austerity Trap: Economic and Social Consequences of Fiscal Consolidation in Europe, (Charleston, SC: Create Space Independent Publisher: 2015) http://www.amazon.com/Austerity-Trap-Economic-Consequences-Consolidation/dp/1502868857/], on Hakka Chinese leaders in Asia and South America [Hakkas in Power (Charleston, SC: Create Space Independent Publisher: 2015) http://www.amazon.com/Hakkas-Power-Political-Leadership-Southeast/dp/1505429439], on how to live the life of a bon vivant intellectual from my Oxford experience [The Terminology of Bon Vivant Life and Other Sociological Insights: Collected Essays (Charleston, SC: Create Space Independent Publisher: 2016) https://www.amazon.com/Terminology-Vivant-Other-Sociological-Insights/dp/1537520571/], on the logic of automation that forms a collection of 2 years of blog writing [The Logic of Automation and Writings in Economic and Political Sociology: Collected Essays (Charleston, SC: Create Space Independent Publisher: 2018) https://www.amazon.com/Automation-Writings-Economic-Political-Sociology/dp/1722609311/] and one academic article in Sociology Mind, on rural-urban transformation and the creation of the proletariat in post-reform contemporary China [“Capitalist Reform, the Dismantling of the Iron Rice Bowl and Land Expropriation in China: A Theory of Primitive Accumulation and State Power”, Sociology Mind 5(1)]
For the rest of my life I prefer simple living, frugality, humility, reflection and deep conversations with others.
Here are my other websites:
- Google Scholar
- https://soundcloud.com/user-280580802 (my personal podcast)
My name is Larry Liam Ching Liu and I was born on December 1, 1991 in Vienna, Austria. My ancestors are Hakka Chinese from Meizhou in Guangdong province, China. They left China four generations ago to settle in Calcutta, India, where my paternal grandfather has operated a leather tannery, and my maternal grandfather has operated a shoe repair shop [recommended reading: Ellen Oxfeld, Blood, Sweat and Mahjong (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1994); Zhang Xing and Tansen Sen, “The Chinese in South Asia” In Routledge Handbook of the Chinese Diaspora, edited by Chee-Beng Tan, 205-226 (Oxon: Routledge, 2013)]. Both of my parents were born and raised in India, and to remember that we still eat Indian dishes at home, besides Chinese and Western, and watch Bollywood movies. The 1962 border conflict between India and China, which proved indecisive from a military outcome perspective, was disastrous for the Chinese ethnic community in India, as many were deported to Rajasthan in prison camps. The ethnic Chinese began to migrate out in large numbers, which results in my family having settled down in Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Sweden, Austria, US and Canada.
I think my multinational heritage has allowed me to be immune from nativist and nationalist arguments. The only way how I can credibly survive in a polity is if everyone has a basic and decent standard of living and a sense of dignity. “My ethnicity is the best” is belied by the fact that all humans are blood relatives if we go back far enough, and the increase of interracial and interethnic marriages dilutes any notions of purity.
My father had migrated to Austria in 1983, first as a tourist, then as a dishwasher in a Chinese restaurant in a small village called St. Polten. After marrying my mother back in India, he returned to Vienna, the capital city of Austria, and worked in an ice cream factory and later as a postal worker. My mother raised an older brother and myself, and then went to work herself. First as a hotel maid, of which she had previous job experience in New Delhi, then in a bakery shop, and then she got a patronage position from the postal service through my father. My mother wanted me to live and study in the US, and struggled to get a green card. My maternal aunt has lived in the US for over 30 years, and that allowed her to sponsor us, such that I immigrated to the US in 2008. My mother had attended an Indian school financed by American missionaries, and so she was a devout Christian and devout America fan. The deflation of pro-Americanness came when she arrived in the US, and worked first three jobs (two retail and one travel agency), until one retail store closed shop, and the travel agency laid her off. Life as a working-class person here is not as convenient as in welfare state-oriented Europe, and so that experience profoundly has affected my political orientation.
My brother Nicky has been an important part of my intellectual and social maturation. As elder brother, he always had three more years of education (and thus accumulated more knowledge) than me. He is incredibly musically talented, having played guitar and electric piano since he was little (I can barely even sing), and generates much of his knowledge from playing video games and watching documentaries. We had our occasional fights over silly things (with his body strength being quite superior to mine, which might explain why I hate unjustified use of violence) and shared the same bedroom for 17 years until I departed for the US and he stayed on in Austria to continue his education. He is working on his physics degree. While growing up most of my classmates were watching TV after 8pm and talk about the program the next day in class, my parents imposed an 8pm bedtime, which came to both me and my brother’s resentment as we could never talk about these programs with the other kids. But it turned out for the better, because we would spend two hours every night chatting about ideas and sparring in debates, because my brother has the very adversarial mind of a lawyer. It was sharpening our minds, as opposed to passively entertaining and dulling it (though during daytime I watched my fair share of American sitcoms like King of Queens, Everybody Loves Raymond or Friends, and Japanese anime like Dragonball Z, Digimon and Pokemon).
Once I became a teenager, I sought to reduce my intellectual inferiority to Nicky due to age by devouring one book after another in the local library, and that was the basis for my intellectual habit and academic pursuit. Reading books teaches you to have a patient and contemplative mind, and to always continue to learn about new things and ideas. When is the time to stop learning? When you are dead, but preferably not before that. My favorite pastime growing up aside from reading (first in the local library branch in the 5th district, then the main library branch in the 7th district and also the Thalia bookstore in Mariahilferstrasse) has been to ride the bicycle across Vienna (especially Praterallee and Donauinsel) and to play soccer with friends.
Another important relative in my intellectual nurturing had been my uncle Patrick Huang. He is the youngest brother of my mother, and spent his afternoons reading Hegel, Marx, Feuerbach and Spinoza. We met a few times when I was a little kid, but my mind had been too immature to engage intellectually when I was much younger. When I was still taking courses at the community college, my cousin Sylvia was getting married. That was back in 2011. The whole family naturally gets invited to come, so Patrick also came down to Philadelphia to stay over in my aunt’s basement for about a week. That is when we started to engage in long philosophical discussions, and as he read the German philosophers more closely than me, while I was a regular consumer of the Economist and the Wall Street Journal, i.e. current affairs, he had much deeper insights into the moral quandaries of political economy. It opened my eyes and made me realize I had to read Das Kapital on my own rather than accept the caricature version that is taught in introductory politics and sociology courses (and usually not taught in mainstream economics at all; my macroeconomics textbook reserved one mocking page to a caricature of Marxist economic theory). I took copious notes on sheets of paper, and have thrown these papers away later. I don’t know what I wrote down, but the emotional experience of capturing the relationship between current political and economic affairs and Marxist theory was deeply intriguing to me. By the time I transferred to Penn and had a brief chat with the undergraduate chair in sociology, Jason Schnittker, I told him that I had already read all three volumes of Das Kapital and read both volumes of Max Weber’s Economy and Society. He replied, “You are way ahead even of professors.”
I have attended ten years of schooling in Austria (where my favorite instructors were the strictest: my English teacher Kornelia Mikula and history teacher Michaela Baltzarek), 1 and 1/2 years of high school in the US (chatting philosophy and politics with my teachers Christopher Meile and Jonathan Turk; and being dismayed by the poor educational quality of instruction in “average” classes, which served to warehouse and not educate the young), followed by a brief stint in the Austrian military following a draft.
During basic training it was quite strenuous to stand all day long and exercise from morning to evening. You learned how to stand still for hours on end with your hands resting in the back or on your side, and not scratch your face, even when it became extremely itchy (or scratch quickly and risk rebuke from the officer). The only light were the three scheduled meals that served great Austrian food, though with the upshot that we had to quickly gulp down the meals and immediately resume exercising and standing upon the completion of the meal. The strain clearly was too much for my tender scholarly body, as I caught two cold infections and an ear infection during basic training. At least the ear infection got me off from the march with heavy backpack. When I reported to the military hospital to explain that I heard emptiness when knocking at my head (indicating that fluids clogged up the ear passage), the doctor joked that maybe I had nothing in there.
After basic training, I was assigned to the barrack guard unit, being screamed at two times. Once for letting in a late-coming recruit without reporting him (no one told me I had to do so), and a second time for not checking the papers of an incoming supply truck (not true, the commanding officer just did not see me do it). After standing guard for two months (so boring, I could only survive mentally by bringing in library books and devouring one book per shift; the highlight was Tony Judt’s Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945), I was assigned to “special purposes”, which practically meant to pick up the leaves falling from the trees in autumn. When the snow came in the winter, we were practically unemployed, because the military hired professionals to pick up the snow. There was another hard-working nerd next to me, and another lazy recruit, who could not care less and frequently reported half an hour late for duty, usually with the excuse that the bus came late (never mind that the other recruits always made it on time, probably using the same public transit route). A few weeks in, the guard recruits asked me for taking over their shifts, and I would sell myself for a cheap 15 euros per shift. I sold perhaps six shifts, four of them as commander of the guard shift, which upset some of the junior guards that came in during the same month as me. The junior guards had to stand outside, even in the cold. I had great conversations with Sergeant Major Herbert Kroll. Though he holds quite conservative views, he is extremely warm, talkative and intellectual. We stayed in touch after I decommissioned, visiting him whenever I am back in Vienna.
After returning from military service, I did 2 years of community college getting an associate’s degree in Liberal Arts Honors (A.A.), and 3 years at the University of Pennsylvania with a specialization in sociology and economic policy, from which I received a B.A. in May 2015. My most profound educational experience was in the community college, where an excellent team of honors curriculum professors (esp. Ralph Faris and Martin Spear) lectured and held seminars with the students, where I had the broadest exposure to the liberal arts, history, art history, political theory, culture, religion and literature. My time at honors was made even better by the conversations with Sean-Paul Fisher, Oscar DePaz, Wenhui Xie, Justin Dickinson, Eric Roegner, Peter Currie and Jason Morgan.
Ralph Faris, sociologist by training, nourished me with political debates and intellectual conversations, wrote me the reference letters for Penn and helped me write the Cooke Foundation scholarship essay, which reveals Ralph’s incredible dedication for his students. I would not be anywhere without his mentorship and support. Ralph offered great lectures on Marx’ 18th Brumaire, admiring his social class analysis. The cultural highlight was when art history professor Brian Seymour took us on a tour in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and I made sure to participate in both excursions, one in the fall and one in the spring. I relished the history lectures by Henry Swezey, who had a liking for Niall Ferguson, because he writes with clarity and detail, especially on twentieth century history. Martin Spear had numerous insightful lectures, including his description of Hobbes’ dictum that life without Leviathan is “poor, solitary, nasty, brutish and short”. The English professor Suzanne Lang told us something, which has been burned into my memory, “You guys know that you already have A’s, right? Honors is really about what you want to contribute to academic discourse.” The Honors professors made sure that we don’t just summarize scholar’s arguments, but that we would put them in conversation with each other and insert our own position
At Penn I was able to take courses and collaborate with excellent professors like Randall Collins, Mauro Guillen, Jerry Jacobs, Brendan O’Leary and Peter Cappelli, and chat with brilliant graduate students like the political theorist Juman Kim or the anthropologist Arjun Shankar. Juman came from South Korea, and he was a TA for the ancient political thought course taught by Ellen Kennedy. Kennedy is unforgettable for her profession of her love for Aristotle and his ideas, and her moral exhortation to the professionally-minded students to worry about morality and virtues. I fondly remember Juman and my hourlong conversations after the end of each TA session, and thought that every course should be like that! Juman taught me a lot about Socrates, Plato, and his personal favorite Nietzsche (which was clearly not in the syllabus). Upon learning that I grew up in Vienna, he recommended me Carl Emil Schorske’s Fin-de-Siecle Vienna, which narrated the Jewish intellectual environment toward the end of the nineteenth century. I read the book the same afternoon in the Fisher Fine Art Library. The book has been as pleasurable as Janik and Toulmin’s Wittgenstein’s Vienna.
Arjun Shankar taught another globalization of cities course in the sociology department, and he was unusually open to stimulating discussions with his students. He strongly praised me for my early book publications. What was unique in his course was that he put much emphasis on video production, and so I banded together with the engineer Sahil Shah and the luxury business marketer Junaid Aziz. What happens if a social scientist meets with an engineer and a business marketer? The business marketer convinces the social scientist to write the script and the engineer to cut and paste the footage and script together. The result can be seen here.
I also benefited from great conversations with other undergraduates like the Austrian exchange student Stephan Rihs, the politics (Polybian Society and Government Politics Association) society organizers Dan Colson, Varun Menon and Louis Capozzi. Varun ran a radio podcast in his last two years, and he got me on the show to talk about my interests (podcast, 2/23/2015). Each of them have found success in their own ways. Stephan worked as a consultant and became a ministry official in the Austrian government; Dan became a strategist in a technology firm in the Bay Area; Varun became a US Army hospital doctor and is undergoing Medical School training; Louis continued onto law school, clerked for an appeals court justice and is working in a law firm.
Randy Collins (website here) allowed me to learn about social theory in the broadest sense, and scarcely a day goes by without pondering concepts like emotional energy, the transmission of violence, interaction ritual chains, educational credential inflation and the technological displacement of middle class work. It was the latter concept (in Does Capitalism Have a Future? by Immanuel Wallerstein et al.) that had propelled me with ideas of what to write and focus on when arriving at Princeton. His class on classical social theory was the highlight of my undergraduate studies at Penn, and sitting in his office he would take copious notes of what you say on a yellow notepad. While Randy was a very gifted and incredibly knowledgable lecturer (he is a speed-reader and has devoured tons of history books and encyclopedias when he was a child!), when you come to his office he was an incredibly patient listener and would allow you to goof off on intellectual tangents for an hour (which is how I want to interact with my students). When I departed from our last meeting before I graduated, he told me how grateful he was for the good conversations we had. (Consider that I and been a no-name undergrad!) Randy supervised my undergraduate thesis on technological penetration of the higher education and law profession, and he gave me very generous comments on it. Randy keeps up a blog, where he shares his sociological insights, and his recent novel Civil War 2 applies his sociological theories on a fictitious civil war in the US. He is incredibly creative. I still write him emails using his theories, and he replies very short and spot on.
I took Mauro Guillen’s course on globalization that he co-taught with Brian Spooner and Lee Cassanelli, who are brilliant in their own right, and we continued to stay in touch after the class ended. (It was him that approached me as no-name undergrad!) The most influential insight he taught me was the perennial conflict between economic and political liberalism, the former being globalist and border-transcending and the latter being nationalist and citizenship-based. It was through Mauro that I learned of the works of Albert Hirschman, while Brian Spooner emphasized the importance of Karl Polanyi. When I visited Mauro in his office, he had a foyer that served as a waiting room, where you could peruse the Economist and Wirtschaftsblatt, or the many architecture design books. I could get the economic periodicals anywhere else, but not the architecture books, so I learned about the legacy of German architectural designs in Qingdao, China during their short colonization in the 1890s and 1900s, while waiting to meet Mauro. Mauro is a political economist, but of the worldly and European variety (playing on Robert Heilbronner’s brilliant The Worldly Philosophers), and though he is a business school scholar, he has a doctorate in sociology and has supervised many theses in economic sociology at Penn. The most interesting work he produced was on The Taylorized Beauty of the Mechanical, which studies how architecture has been affected by rational-capitalist management norms, which is why most modern buildings look the same (usually some form of glass building). Randy and Mauro were in the doctoral committee of all the PhD dissertations in Penn’s sociology department that I found interesting to read, including those written by Alexander Jerneck, Doga Kerestecioglu and Simone Polillo. They are unique mixtures of quantitative analysis and comparative-historical sociology of corporate tax laws, global trade networks and financial crisis, and elite bankers respectively.
In spring 2014, I attended a conference that his center organized titled “The Future of the State”, which invited all the big shot political sociologists at the time like Theda Skocpol, Mitchell Orenstein, Evelyne Huber, John Stephens, Fred Block, Peter Evans, Jonas Pontusson and Miguel Centeno, among others (full list see here). I had a brief encounter with Miguel, professor at Princeton, and I think that his vote was crucial in admitting me there, because only him and Adam Goldstein, still a postdoc at Harvard at that time, had me on the visiting day list. Miguel and Mauro were colleagues at Yale, submitting their dissertations only two years removed. Both collaborate on the study of risk project. Both of their acknowledgments in their dissertations list Charles Perrow, Juan Linz and Paul DiMaggio as advisers/ committee members (Miguel A. Centeno-Guiterrez. 1990. The New Cientificos: Technocratic Politics in Mexico 1970-1990; Mauro F. Guillen. 1992. States, professions, and organizational paradigms: A cross-national study of scientific management, human relations, and structural analysis). They are each at the forefront of economic and organizational sociology. I had a personal encounter with Paul DiMaggio, once before he left Princeton in 2015 to be closer to his wife in New York, and a second time in the annual Pig-fest (big dinner with crispy pork) organized by Alejandro Portes and Patricia Fernandez-Kelly. Each time, I encountered him we had a warm intellectual conversation around possible research projects, and he recommended me John O’Connor’s The Fiscal Crisis of the State, which aside from Claus Offe’s Contradictions of the Welfare State had been the most influential writings on social policy that shaped my thinking before studying comparative social policy in Oxford.
Peter Cappelli very fortuitously became my employer in the summer of 2013. I had been contacting Ivar Berg, an emeritus professor in sociology at Penn, not expecting much. He miraculously wrote me an email response, inviting me to visit him in Pittson, PA, about 3 hours north of Philadelphia, which I promptly did and we chatted for two days about sociology. He was 85 at that point with a severe hunchback and passed away barely two years later. The most intense memory was how he spoke favorably of Berle and Means thesis of corporate managers taking over corporations and running it for their own interest. He also shared his experience during his doctorate in Harvard of spending time on the boat of Barrington Moore, the most eminent historical sociologist, who was a friendly and warm aristocratic professor, who was more than sympathetic to the proletarians and peasants he described in his writings. (Peter Cappelli also once took me to his boat house in Maryland, where he invited all of his graduate students, including Shinjae Won and JR Keller. I was the only undergraduate student in attendance, and unforgettably he said to me, “Welcome to the [academic] club.” He knew I could only become an academic.)
Ivar and I also had a phone call before our meeting. In the phone call, he recommended me to ask Peter Cappelli for RA work, because his center “always had money” (it was part of the business school). Around that time, I also saw an interview with Peter in the Wharton magazine promoting his book Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs, but had not thought much of it. I contacted Peter and he got right back to me, and I was hired without much of a fuss.
Peter has been the director of the Center for Human Resources, which is an employer version of the study of industrial relations, which would be the more labor-friendly version of it. During one of the many weekly conversations we had in my time there, he admitted that he would have liked to wear a Karl Marx shirt, and he was an admirer of John Maynard Keynes political economy. Being Peter’s research assistant was the best thing that could happen to me during my undergraduate studies, because I was paid for 20 hours a week, but worked much less than that, and it was entirely in the discretion of Peter what work I should contribute. I ended up learning most of the human resource and management literature, which is mostly focused on performance management, which somewhat bored me. Peter had some very kind words for me when he was interviewed after I got the Cooke-Oxford scholarship (Woodall 2015; Mupparapu 2015), which came about thanks to the then designated executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the Lincoln College, Oxford graduate Harold Levy. (I met Levy twice. He was the former chancellor of the New York public school system. He was trained as a lawyer and found his passion in education mid-career. His passion for low-income students to get into elite colleges is endless. After returning from Oxford, we learned of his ALS diseases and he unfortunately passed two years later.)
Peter’s mentorship has been very instrumental in consolidating my interest in labor relations, and I got to know Arne Kalleberg, the premier labor sociologist (and collaborator with fellow Norwegian Ivar Berg, who together edited the volume on The Sourcebook of Labor Markets, where Peter also has an article), had commented on my papers and encouraged me in the inquiry of institutional analysis of labor relations. We met three more times, once when I visited the University of North Carolina when I was accepted there (he told me to go to Princeton), when he came for a talk to Princeton and coming to New York, where he was a fellow at the Russell Sage Foundation for that year to work on his latest book on Precarious Work.
At the event with Arne Kalleberg, I also got to know Jerry Jacobs, whom I caught questioning Henry Farber (Princeton labor economist) about the potential effects of automation of work. I told Jerry about my paper for Penn Political Review, a student publication, with regard to automation, and we got along very well. Under his supervision, I wrote a paper on retail and finance automation, though I did not publish it anywhere, but it was exciting to have someone share my passion in the field. We had great chats in his office. His main work was on gender and work. When I applied for a PhD to continue studies at Penn, I think he was the crucial vote for my admission.
Because of my interest in European welfare state retrenchment, I proposed an independent study to Julia Lynch, a big name comparative political scientist on the European welfare state, but she had to decline given her busy schedule. I panicked and was concerned that my independent study plan would fall through, but then recalled the Eurozone crisis talk by Brendan O’Leary, Irish political scientist and expert in constitutions and power-sharing agreements among different political, ethnic and religious factions. I promptly wrote to him and after initial misgivings he agreed to take me on for the semester. We had great conversations about European politics. He gave me detailed feedback on my work and encouraged me to not be afraid about the peer review process, even though my paper on comparing the rise of right-wing populism and the decline of the centrist political parties in Austria, Germany and UK was not published. He was also very encouraging in my application to Oxford, where he completed his undergraduate studies in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. The independent study with Brendan was the best academic experience at Penn next to Randy’s graduate course and my thesis with him.
In the past, I have worked as a student ambassador to the community college; a retail clerk at Reebok (where I asked almost every customer what they did for a living and how their work experience has changed over time; I am the perennial sociologist); a research intern at the Think Tank and Civil Society Program (led by James McGann, where I learned about European and Korean think tanks and civil society by reviewing the literature in these field); and research assistant at the Wharton School (for Peter Cappelli). I have completed my degree in Oxford University, studying comparative social policy (MSc) under the supervision of Erzsebet Bukodi. My thesis has been on the comparative politics of early retirement retrenchment in Austria, Germany and Belgium. However, it was not my formal academic experience there that substantially impressed me, though I enjoyed all the great lectures and seminars by Mary Daly, Robert Walker, Paola Mattei and Stuart Gietel-Basten. And I especially enjoyed the conversations with the demographer Chris Wilson, who had a big smile on his face when you chatted with him about demography.
The most influential experience in Oxford was the circle of intellectual bon vivants I hung out with. Foremost, has been my roommate, Mustafa Aydogan, a cell biologist who studied his undergraduate degree in the University of Colorado, Boulder under the supervision of Richard McIntosh. I have no idea what McIntosh studied, but I was sure to memorize his name given that it was one of Mustafa’s great intellectual influences aside from the geologist Celal Sengor and his Oxford adviser Jordan Raff. Sengor is a multilingual Turkish aristocrat, who has a giant home library to benefit other scholars. A true bon vivant. Mustafa strongly believed in intellectual lineages and enjoys the history of science. Mustafa has been an incredibly dedicated natural scientist, who went to the lab for his experiments in the morning and not coming home until midnight, and has already some publications attached to his name (Aydogan, Google Scholar). He is a rising star in cell biology. On the few dinners that he would casually take in at home, we would have lengthy discussions on ideas and the humanities, and we made a vain attempt to write a paper on the importance of the social sciences and humanities for the broader public. When I came to Princeton, I also stayed most of the day in the office and only using the house for food and sleep, taking Mustafa as role model.
Jozef Kosc has been a fellow Lincoln College student, and he had studied for a masters in global development and politics, which turned into a doctorate. He descends from the line of neoconservative thinkers such as Leo Strauss, believing that the average person needed to be embedded in a social community with conservative nationalist, religious and moral norms. His ideology is also consistent with an opposition to political Islam, which in the framework of Samuel Huntington (Clash of Civilizations) is the counterpoint to the Occident. Jozef has been a prolific writer, contributing to Foreign Affairs (Kosc 2017) or First Things (Kosc 2018). The only substantive political agreement we have is that neoliberalism is an inherently destructive economic ideology. For myself it is a force for weakening social solidarity and exacerbating inequality by only making the rich richer, while for Jozef it is an attack on traditional families and social virtues. You could endlessly debate with Jozef, and he provided me with the many terms that delineated the bon vivant experience. Personality-wise we share the same quick judgmental mind, where we both claim that we could whip out essays and papers in a few weeks time.
Lars Gladhaug is an incredibly gifted Norwegian and American law student (he took a degree in American history during my time in Oxford), and during our many Middle Common Room (living room) debates, he was the conservative defender of the status quo, not because it was objectively the best thing in the world, but the least bad considering the other trekked alternatives like authoritarian socialism or fascism. The German economics student Oliver Flaschner provided the liberal-Hayekian counterpoint, and had a similar quality to my brother, which is an adversarial mind with the need to find fault in your reasoning. Unforgettable is our kitchen debate until 5am.
The absolute intellectual highlight during my time in Oxford was Alistair (Ally) Leitch, who aptly described Oxford as a place “where you put incredibly smart people together and let them get on with it”. A true Scotsman (with partially American heritage) he hailed from a working-class family in Edinburgh (his grandpa was a coal miner, who experienced the shutting down of the pits during the miner strike of the 1980s, which accelerated their demise). After finishing high school, he drifted around for a couple of years, working odd jobs, and playing music with his beloved band. He sobered up after a few years and went back to university, taking a dual degree in economic and social history and social policy before beginning his masters with me in Oxford. These were the two programs in Oxford that had appealed to me as well, so it is little wonder that we should get on so well with each other.
Ally had the grand capacity to compartmentalize his social circles, mixing easily with his neighborhood working class friends, who enjoyed getting really drunk and telling silly stories, and with his intellectual friends from Oxford, debating Titmuss and T.H. Marshall. His drive and passion for social policy was informed by Marshall’s concept that every human being deserves a decent standard of living. His knowledge base was incredible, reaching far beyond social policy (where his ability to rattle off one reference after another, relay their content succinctly and place them into a larger discourse frame allowed him to ace the final exam). He admitted himself that even when he was out of school and university, he would devour books on social history and political theory. He had the rare ability for a social scientist to be able to strike up conversations with natural scientists too. The main allure to him has been the intellectual intensity with which he approached life and ideas. We would agree to meet for lunch, and the average person will retreat to other appointments or retreat for relaxation after the lunch, but it was not uncommon for us to continue debating the entire day and departing after midnight. In 2018, I had returned for a visit to Oxford and Edinburgh, because of his Facebook post, where he described in vivid detail how he would enjoy to invite others to a seafood debauchery. I was not a great fan of seafood, but I enjoy great food and intellectual talk, so I bought tickets to go over to the UK and visit him.
After departing from Oxford, I have been working toward a PhD in Princeton University, studying sociology. Life here is enlivened initially by the “salon life”, a similar sentiment to bon vivant, after encountering Scott Moskowitz (China scholar, very quick-witted and knowledgeable), Jean Nava (a methods expert, who enjoys the cultivation of the mind), Parijat Chakrabarti (a Kenya expert with interesting insights), and Vivek Nemana (a journalist by training; an incredible conversationalist and hard to beat on curiosity). Scott and Jean are of the higher years, and drifted out of the program after my first year, and salon life has been deflated. Life has also been enlivened by my New York connections thanks to Siqi Tu (a Chinese foreign student and education expert) from CUNY Graduate Center, which is how I got to know Wenjuan Zheng (a Chinese NGO expert), Nga Than (with whom I work on a project on digital platform laborers), Feng Chen and Xuemeng Li. At Princeton, I have projects with my adviser Adam Goldstein, Alejandro Portes (a big name in immigration and economic sociology) and wrote two articles with Miguel Centeno. Let us hope that my investigations lead me somewhere. As Socrates said in his death trial, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”
I have a great interest in political causes, which is why I keep on writing, reading and thinking about them. I am a self-described democratic socialist, intending to improve the standard of living of all people and demanding a better future and opportunities for all.
Important influences come from Confucius, Aristotle, Martin Luther King, Martin Luther, Mahatma Ghandi, Thomas Jefferson, Karl Marx, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Joseph Schumpeter, Friedrich Hayek, Franklin D. Roosevelt, W.E.B Dubois, Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, John Maynard Keynes, John Rawls, Joseph Stiglitz, Noam Chomsky, Robert Reich, Richard Wilkinson, Tony Judt, Howard Zinn, Eric Hobsbawm, Paul Krugman, Bruno Kreisky, Amy Goodman, Naomi Klein, Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kucinich, Eugene V. Debs, Elizabeth Warren, Barbara Ehrenreich, Dean Baker, Cenk Uygur, Huey Long, David Cay Johnston, Chris Hedges, Lawrence Mishel, Jack Goldstone, Saskia Sassen, Thorstein Veblen, Karl Polanyi, C. Wright Mills, Randall Collins, John E. Roemer, Alasdair MacIntyre, Yanis Varoufakis, Michael Moore, Gar Alperovitz, Richard Wolff, James Galbraith, John Kenneth Galbraith, Jeremy Corbyn.
I have a great interest in the areas of politics, public policy, political philosophy, political economy, political theory, economics, heterodox economics, Marxian economics, labor economics, sociology, political sociology, economic sociology, anthropology, cultural anthropology, social anthropology, economic anthropology, political anthropology, psychology, social psychology, history, political history, social history, economic history, people’s history, philosophy, law, religion, linguistics, social sciences, humanities and other related fields.
My research interests lie in the study of labor market relations, how work is organized, and various changes of labor market institutions resulting from neoliberal deregulation and technological innovation; the social and economic effects of government austerity policies in Europe; the rise of right-wing populism in Europe; the social effects of privatization; social transformation of China since Deng Xiaoping. Research projects examine the determinants of automation, including trade, labor unions and immigration; the online digital platform labor markets; the effect of labor shareholders (pension funds) on worker outcomes; and the politics of universal basic income.