Five minutes with…Georgina Murray

Associate Professor Georgina Murray

Inspired by Martin Nicolaus’ 1968 Fat-cat-sociology speech — ‘…the professional eyes of the sociologist are on the down people, and the professional palm of the sociologist is stretched toward the up people…’ — Sociologist, Associate Professor Georgina Murray, has since her activist youth written on issues of gender inequality, class and issues associated with the polarisation of rich and poor in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. We spent five minutes with Georgina to learn a little more about her research…

In what area/s does your current research interests lie?

I began early on writing about gender inequality. This early feminist work subsequently led me to research women in and around Australian coalmines. This interest continues, having published a book with [WOW colleague] David Peetz (Women of the Coal Rushes (2010)) following interviews with over one hundred men and women, and a subsequent Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage grant which conducted the two phase Australian Coal and Energy Survey (ACES). The questionnaire was sent to 9 000 Australian miners and their partners to see what was happening to them and their families in the turbulent times of the 2008 financial crisis and immediately after.

The study of class and transnational networks of power also led me to question the idea of citizenship – What is it? Is it construed differently now to what it was? If yes, are there different issues of social justice now that I’ve neglected to focus on in my earlier research? These questions, and their tentative answers, led to academic articles and most recently a book – Financial Elites and Transnational Business: Who Rules the World? (Murray and Scott 2012).

Are there ongoing or emerging trends in your field/s of research?

The most recent focus of my writing is a central ongoing topic in sociology looking at globalisation. Particularly, I am a part of a group of international scholars called the – Network for Critical Studies of Global Capitalism — who research the question of transnational capitalism. We are looking at whether a transnational capitalist class (TCC) is emerging, and if so, are they using – or capable of using – their power to do anything positive about global warming and environmental sustainability? Other key findings about the TCC have been largely theoretical, but empirical evidence exists to suggest that the economic crisis (2008-2010) – though difficult for the majority of people – made the very rich, very much richer, and polarised the income/ wealth gap between rich and poor.

What (else then) are you working on at the moment?

Longitudinal analysis of the ACES is underway with David Peetz and Olav Muurlink. David Peetz and I are in Germany working on methodological aspects of the wave two Survey that Professor Werner Nienhüser (University of Duisburg-Essen) has contributed to.

David and I are co-editing a book with Palgrave Macmillian entitled Women at Work: Labor Segmentation and Regulation. And I have a second contract with Palgrave for the coedited book (with Mexican colleague, Professor Alejandra Salas-Porras), Think Tanks – key spaces within global structures of power. I am also writing up from a project in conjunction with the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Organising Centre, Ms Jenny Evans, Ms Jane Clarke and Professor Peetz called Networks and support for delegates.

Finally, David and I are involved with a project on Corporate ownership and sustainability, having recently conducted interviews with appropriate corporate sources in London, Paris, San Francisco and Toronto. We have based our sample on data sets in the Bureau van Dijk and are working toward submitting an ARC Linkage Project from this research.