Saturday, October 6, 2007

Future Plans

I am unsure if I will be going on for my PhD directly after my MA. This is because at some level I have become disillusioned with a large part of academia. I feel that many of the debates that are carried out between the smartest people in the world are more semantic than substantive. While two researchers may, for the most part, agree on some fundamental issue, they are split on something like the "level of analysis" or whether a particular hypothesis adequately takes into account context. Though the differences may seem huge to the individual researchers, the policy prescriptions that would come out of them often seem rather similar.

Currently I plan to work within the field of public policy. For me public policy or possibly an activist oriented NGO would be a good place for me. I am interested in working on what I see as issues of substance. I really enjoy studying issues of inequality and neo-liberalism. I think that neo-liberalism is an overarching hegemonic social structure that affects our daily lives in a myriad of ways. These include things as distant as the rise and fall in the value of the American dollar and as close as the price of food and gas. Most interesting for me is that it represents a fundamental shift in the way governments think about legislation and their role in public policy.

Through my graduate work I have come to focus specifically on health and health policy as an important area of legislation. For me health policy represents a fundamental social good that the state must play a role in for it to function adequately. The pitfalls of health for profit can be seen through the structural inadequacies and inequalities that are experienced throughout the U.S. system. The argument goes that the market can provide goods and services at a lower cost and more efficiently than with government "interference." In the empirical literature on health we see no support for this notion. The U.S. has some of the least efficient health distribution and the highest per capita costs for health in the world. While this post is not about health policy per se, I do see myself as working towards fundamental changes in health in the U.S. I appreciate and plan to use a wide range of empirical and qualitative academic literature to inform the policies that I eventually will work toward. I feel confident enough in my training to be able to interpret the literature and create informed and relevant measures that could be implemented at a wide range of levels of government. Though I still think that it is important for my work to face the scrutiny of peer review. For that I plan to still look at trying to publish in academic journals. Simply the creation of "gray" papers doesn't sufficiently fulfill my ideas about the role of a sociological researcher, even in the realm of public policy.

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