Prof. Seán Ó Riain
Welcome to my personal web page. This page describes some of my main areas of interest – in teaching, research, postgraduate supervision, public engagement and more. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any interest in finding out more.
"New Deals in the New Economy", European Research Council Starting Grant
Note: proposals are redacted.
Funded by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences
** NOTE NEW DEADLINE! Two Four Year Postgraduate Fellowships Available, Applications Considered from April 30th - Read the Call for Applications
CLOSED: ** Vacancy for Post-Doctoral Researcher - Job Specification
Read an op-ed by Michael O'Sullivan and myself on the need for a state investment bank (Irish Times, 31st October 2011)
Some recent publications here on:
the comparative study of 'human capital formation regimes'
software workers in the service economy
Ireland's growth and crisis
the shifting politics of innovation in Ireland
recent developments in the study of globalisation and regional development.
Copies of some of my older publications are available at http://eprints.nuim.ie/perl/user_eprints?userid=68
Full Information on Specific Projects and Interests Below
I have a number of research interests – all of which come under the broad heading of the politics of economic development and social inequality. I am particularly interested in the kinds of debates, struggles and conflicts that are shaping the emerging ‘knowledge economy’ and have researched this in workplaces, technical communities, industries, government agencies and international corporate networks. My main motivation is to explore the kinds of socio-political possibilities within the contemporary global knowledge economy and investigate the political conditions and strategies under which more social and democratic socio-economic orders can be constructed. Recently, I have been particularly interested in the work of Karl Polanyi in this regard.
I am currently supervising PhD students in the areas of: development practices and ideologies; the politics of economic liberalism in Ireland; and ‘minority’ genders in segregated occupations. In recent years I have been the supervisor of completed PhDs on the developmental state and the politics of tourism policy and (as external board member at UC Davis) on commissions of enquiry into ethnic violence.
I would welcome PhD students interested in any of the areas noted on this page but am particularly interested in: work, employment and inequality; comparative political economy; the state; the politics of globalisation; macro-social change in Ireland; the politics of the knowledge economy. I have used a wide variety of research methods in my own research (ethnographic, interview, survey, documentary, life history) and welcome interested students regardless of methodological approach.
I am a member of the Political Economy and Work and Comparative-Historical clusters within the Department of Sociology and a research associate and Chair of the Board of the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA).Teaching:
I currently teach on the following modules
- The Irish Sociological Imagination (1st year)
- Modern Irish Society (1st year)
- Classical Social Theory (2nd year)
- Gender and Race in the Irish Workplace (3rd year)
- Politics of the Global Workplace (3rd year)
- Political Economy of Development (MA)
- Theories of Society and Space (MA)
- The Craft and Logic of Social Research (PhD students)
- Writing Sociologically (PhD students)
More information on undergraduate and postgraduate courses at NUI Maynooth SociologyCurrent Projects and Research Interests (always being updated....)
I am interested in social change, particularly as it relates to the emergence of a knowledge economy and society. I see social change as a politically contested process and my research explores this in the workplace and labour market and at the level of the state and civil society. Finally, I am committed to a critical, scientific, empirical sociology that examines the politics of grand social changes but is ethnographically grounded and publicly engaged.
1.Life Histories and Social Change in Twentieth Century Ireland (Funded by IRCHSS)
This project is closely tied to the development of the Irish Qualitative Data Archive.
My broadest set of interests are in the study of macro-social change in a way that grounds those changes in the experiences, moral rationalities, solidarities and divisions, and individual and collective practices of social actors. We are currently undertaking fieldwork for an exciting project that enables us to carry out such an analysis.
This project gathers a database of life history interviews, drawn from a nationally representative sample of respondents to a survey of employment, family and living conditions. Our life history interviews will focus particularly on themes related to work and employment, family formation and fertility, institutions of community life, and patterns of social and political participation. This will enable us to connect our research to existing studies in Irish social science, from Arensberg and Kimball in the 1930s, to the ESRI studies of the 1980s and 1990s, that emphasise these classic themes of the intertwining of work, family and community. Our life history approach will, however, allow us to provide new data and interpretations of these classic themes. The aim is not simply to recover the voice of those who lived through social change but also to provide a much richer understanding of the rationalities and vocabularies of social actors’ motives and how these are shaped by specific socio- historical and socio-spatial contexts.
This research is with Jane Gray from NUI Maynooth and Dr. Aileen O’Carroll, postdoctoral researcher. The broader research team includes Prof. Tony Fahey, Dr. Peter Murray, Ann Dalton and Mary Phipps.
2. Globalisation and the Knowledge Economy/Society
I am also exploring processes of social change in the specific area of the emergence and negotiation of a globalising ‘knowledge economy’ and ‘knowledge society’. A series of articles explore:
- the definition of the knowledge society (with Aphra Kerr)
- the organisation of knowledge industries through ‘technology driven commodity chains’
- the role of a variety of forms of state promotion of industry in developing the computer industry (military, bureaucratic and state developmentalisms)
- the reconstitution of time and space in the knowledge economy, leading to ‘time space intensification’
- regions in the global knowledge economy (with Balaji Parthasarathy and Matt Zook)
- Dublin as a ‘global hub city’
- class politics of knowledge regions
- the digital divide and e-inclusion (with Ronan Reilly; Funded by Department of An Taoiseach)
"Dominance and Change in the Global Computer Industry:Military, Bureaucratic and Network State Developmentalisms” Studies in Comparative International Development
3. The Politics of the Workplace
I have an ongoing interest in how these social and economic changes have been negotiated and struggled over within the workplace and labour market. This is reflected in three primary projects. The BBC provided a (slightly skewed) report on this work.
Re-Working Silicon Valley: Politics, Power and the Informational Labor Process: A core feature of an emerging informational labor process, embodied most fully in Silicon Valley but increasingly spreading around the globe, is the combination of socialization of work and individualization of employment. The tensions that emerge from this combination require new forms of regulation of work and employment that are addressed in varying ways in different regional contexts. The effectiveness of these 'solutions' are hindered by the problems of networked labor-space amidst territorial governance institutions. In this book, Chris Benner and I investigate how to overcome this by analyzing the social networks, institutional intermediaries, and political institutions that sustain these systems in Silicon Valley and Ireland. By understanding these social and institutional foundations in a comparative context, out goal is to also recommendations for transforming and strengthening labor market institutions to promote a more secure, egalitarian and sustainable future.
Software Workplace: I continue to explore the transformation of work, class and gender relations and the ‘social contract’ in globalised high tech workplaces. I draw on ethnographic and interview research in software firms in Dublin to investigate the politics of the ‘global workplace’. The research examines how the shift from hierarchical to network organisations, from job-based to project-based organisation of work and from procedural justice to internal markets within the firm have transformed the changing social contract in high tech workplaces. I am also interested in how these new institutional arrangements are reshaping the character of justice in the workplace. The interviews explore how disputes over work performance, hours and promotion are handled in these short-term relationships between workers and employers. What norms emerge to govern these often transitory relationships? How are they contested or changed? How are these norms gendered or racialised?
Life History and Social Change Project (see above for more): One of my main interests in this project is exploring the changes in working life in Ireland, a fascinating of very rapid change with movement from agricultural to post-industrial economy, from high unemployment/ high emigration labour market to a high immigration employment boom, and from a familial system of social reproduction to the crises of childcare, housing and transportation of recent years. Interviews explore how these changes have been experienced and negotiated by workers of all kinds.
4. New State Formations
I have had a long-standing interest in ‘national development strategies’ in an era of globalisation and how the process of globalisation is politically constructed, culminating in a book titled The Politics of High Tech Growth: Developmental Network States in the Global Economy (Cambridge UP, 2004).
The Politics of High Tech Growth (Cambridge University Press, 2004)
Sample text and Table of Contents available at: http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0521830737/ref=sib_dp_pt/103-8459510-9793448#reader-link
The emergence of the strategy of ‘network development’, built around the fostering of local networks of cooperation, learning and innovation within global networks and flows, is one of the most significant of these new forms. In many of the most successful economies in the world a ‘developmental network state’ (DNS) has emerged which promotes local learning within global networks through a decentralised but accountable set of state institutions which maintain close ties to local technical communities and international capital. The DNS is characterised by multiple connections to local and international technical communities and international and domestic capital. The perils of being ‘captured’ by these social groups can be avoided through a constant series of evaluations, assessments and other forms of external accountability. Finally, the state system as a whole is integrated in a ‘loosely coupled’ bureaucratic structure, rather than the tightly coupled, more centralised structure of the classic developmental states of Japan and South Korea. I have also explored changes in governance structures in comparative context (in an article for the Annual Review of Sociology, 2000) and in a recent special issue of the Economic and Social Review on ‘Social Partnership as a Mode of Governance’.
5. Sociological Practice – Ethnography and Public Sociology
I am committed to the development of a vibrant critical and empirical sociology and am interested in what that might look like in Ireland and internationally. Most directly, this has involved a series of articles on ethnography. A collaborative book project, begun in 1996, culminated in the publication in 2000 of a UC Press book on Global Ethnography. I have continued to investigate the more methodological aspects of these issues – including how we can undertake ethnographies of global processes (with Zsuzsa Gille) and the notion of the case method in ethnographic research. These articles explore in detail how we can undertake ethnography, which depends on detailed local knowledge, in a world where locality is contested and shifting and where global processes are increasingly important, and how we can generalise from such ethnographies of complex processes and institutions.
Global Ethnography (University of California Press, 2000)
I have also organised a symposium on ‘public sociology’ at NUI Maynooth and the Department of Sociology at NUIM is committed to a deeper public engagement. I have also investigated the institutional conditions of a sociology (and a university) that is critical, empirical, scientific and publicly engaged, writing a number of articles on current developments in higher education.Other Activities
I am an active member of the Sociological Association of Ireland, the American Sociological Association, and the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics. I am involved in the development of social science nationally and internationally in work with the Scientific Advisory Board of the European Social Survey, NORFACE, the Royal Irish Academy and the Irish Universities Association.
I am interested in music, football, and above all hurling – with split loyalties between Kilmacud Crokes and Celbridge. If you've read this far, reward yourself with this gem from Dublin's recent, long-awaited National Hurling League victory.
I did a BA in Sociology and Political Science at Trinity College Dublin from 1986-1990 and worked as a research assistant at the Economic and Social Research Institute from 1990-1992. I got my PhD in Sociology from the University of California Berkeley in 1999 and worked at the University of California, Davis from 1999-2003. I’ve been at NUI Maynooth Sociology since 2003. I was on sabbatical at the Buffett Centre at Northwestern University in 2008-9.
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