BiographyMy work on social inequality began with two longer research periods in East and West Africa, one to study unemployment in Kenya, the other leading to my PhD thesis on an indigenous slave-holding society in Benin. The fact that slavery originated in one of those accidents of history which often stand at the beginning of social change, and the counterintuitive stability of this society in the absence of coercion, made me for the first time aware how complex the causes of inequality and the processes that stabilize and maintain it over time can be. My featured book does not investigate a particular form of inequality. Instead it pulls together different strands of evidence into a general theoretical explanation of how inequality structures begin, consolidate and change. This involves topics not often discussed in sociological writing: the role of chance and intent in the growth of social structures, the limits of rational action and foresight in an uncertain world, and options for social policy and social change. Social inequality is the subject of much current debate. I hope that my book can clarify some of the issues involved.
Areas of Research / Professional Expertise
“The Study of Power: Suggestions for an Alternative." Canadian Journal of Sociology 1 (1975) 2: 179 - 201.
“Responses to Dependence in a Servile Group: The Machube of Northern Benin”. In Miers and Kopytoff (Eds.). Slavery in Africa. Historical and Anthropological Perspectives. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1977.
"The Development of Perceptions and Evaluations of Social Inequality among Public School Children." (with Verna Tribe). Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology 15 (1978) 1: 50-60.
"Positivism's Twilight?" Canadian Journal of Sociology 15 (1990) 2: 149-163.
“Make Me Truthful, Good and Mild: Values in 19th Century Ontario Schoolbooks.”(with Meenaz Kassam). Canadian Journal of Sociology 21 (1996) 3: 327-358.
“Darwin und die Soziologie. Kontingenz, Aktion und Struktur im menschlichen Sozialverhalten.” Zeitschrift für Soziologie 31 (2002) 4: 316-331.
“Contingency, Novelty and Choice. Cultural Evolution as Internal Selection.” Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 45 (2015) 2: 214-237.
"Escaping the Iron Cage of Environmental Rationalizations: Microsocial Decision-Making in Environmental Conflicts." (with Filip Alexandrescu). In Brewster and Puddephatt (Eds.) Microsociological Perspectives for Environmental Sociology. Routledge. Forthcoming,
Environmental projects such as the restoration of the Garrison Creek ravine, a remnant of one of Toronto's lost rivers, and volunteering for the Bruce Trail, a hiking path stretching from Niagara Falls to Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula.