Sociologist asks why people of Westeros haven’t had an Industrial Revolution

Westeros is consumed by the Game of Thrones but may be missing something else: an Industrial Revolution.

For Dr Peter Antonioni, from University College London, the key puzzle posed by the return to screens this week of the phenomenally popular fantasy series is quite why the people of Westeros have not had an industrial revolution.

Alas, the rest of the story is behind a subscriber wall. Perhaps they are too often stuck in battles that drain their limited resources. Once you get past the first few books, everyone is struggling: the kingdoms can’t raise much more money for troops, the countryside isn’t providing much food, and the average people are scrounging for food. And since these major skirmishes take place every generation or two, there isn’t much time to stockpile needed goods.

Older adults like bigger things, like McMansions; younger adults like smaller things, like skinny jeans

Here is an example of tying consumption of things like McMansions or skinny jeans to certain generations:

If there’s one thing today’s young people know it’s this: size doesn’t matter.

From watching movies on cell phone screens to driving micro-cars like the Honda Fit, less is more with this generation.

Known as millennials, people born in the years just before and after 2000, believe in small carbon footprints and short attention spans. They don’t watch television episodes, they watch YouTube clips. Even email is too cumbersome for them. Millennials prefer to communicate with more instantaneous social media like Facebook chat and text-messages.

Compare this with people from Gen X and older and you see how wide the size-gap has become.

We Gen X’ers wore baggy jeans, flannel shirts and puffy hair. Many (too many) of us have oversized televisions and drive Hummers as big as tanks. We live in McMansions and super-size our lunches while today’s younger people wear skinny jeans, live in small apartments, and eat more salad.

We had record and compact disc collections with gigantic stereo speakers. They have iPod Nanos and ear buds.

The conclusion of the argument is that doing more with less is probably better on a crowded planet. Comparing the consumption of a McMansion to a tiny house (a comparison made a few paragraphs later) is one way to measure things: one house is bigger than the other and requires more resources. But, how do you compare a McMansion to an iPhone? The McMansion might require more resources (though all that goes into making an iPhone is more hidden) but can’t the consumption of an iPhone still be a problem (if younger adults are spending hours and hours with the device – and at least some are)? Plus, if you consume smaller objects, theoretically you might do it more often and collect a lot of stuff in the long run, even if it is more in the form of digital files. And then skinny jeans versus baggy clothes? Is this more about aesthetics rather than the size of consumption objects?

All that said, making sweeping claims about consumption patterns across generations can be difficult. We might be on safer ground by arguing that younger generations today are buying different kinds of products (digital, in particular) and may not be valuing “traditional” American consumption (cars, bigger houses).

Explaining a short-term dip in chronic homelessness

A sociologist provides an explanation for the short-term dip in chronic homelessness in the United States:

Amid increases in poverty and unemployment, [the United States and Japan] have seen continuing decreases in street homelessness. The most recent Homeless Assessment Report to the U.S. Congress states that the chronically homeless, or those who have been on the streets or in shelters long-term and have disabilities, decreased by 10 percent from 2008 to 2009. The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has reported a national decrease of street homelessness of 16 percent between 2009 and 2010…
While the provision of subsidized housing is crucial to get people off the streets, a lesser-known component in both nations has been the flexible, holistic and trust-building work of frontline staff persons at organizations linking people to and keeping them in housing.
This argument suggests that it is not just about providing resources (such as housing) to help reduce chronic homelessness but having staff help point them to and keep them using such resources.
I wonder how much data there is to back up this argument. Additionally, do governments see/acknowledge the value of these staff positions, particularly in lean economic times?