• Essay

    Are Call Centers Rebranding the Philippines?

    As the Global Economy's Biggest Back Office, the Nation Seeks to Depict Its Workers as Educated, Empathetic, and English Fluent

    By Jan M. Padios

    What changes in a country—and what doesn’t change—when it devotes itself to servicing the businesses of other countries? ...

New at Zócalo

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AMERICAN

What Our Gargantuan Appetite for Meat Says About America

It Symbolizes Affluence and Social Status, Showcases Regional Differences, and Reveals Shifting Attitudes Toward Health

By Wilson J. Warren

    Americans have always been distinguished by their love of meat. Where does that love come from?
    One short answer: our ethnic heritage. Among whites, the English and Germans were two of the greatest meat-eating cultures in Europe.
    But that answer is about as satisfying as an overcooked steak. So there is a longer and tastier explanation: Americans’ relationship to meat production and consumption is long-standing, and built on core beliefs that meat is not only tasty but essential to good health and an indicator of economic well-being. Indeed, Americans and much of the rest of the world by the mid-20th century believed meat eating was a defining characteristic of civilization. Meat, and lots of it, has stayed a constant throughout our history—though our preferences for particular kinds of meat have changed as the country, people, technologies, and health concerns have shifted.
    Today, the United States’ identity is tied up with beef. But the country started out devoted to pork and remained that way for more than half of its history. This originally made sense—pork was the most popular meat among Germans, ...

Essay

The Social Upside of Workplace Gossip 

Dishing Dirt About Colleagues Can Keep Them From Acting Selfishly, and Helps Coworkers Cooperate

By Bianca Beersma

    Gossip has long been popular in the workplace, where employees seem to have a vigorous appetite for informally evaluating coworkers behind their backs. Recently, an increasing number of scientific studies have examined what motivates gossip, and how it affects individuals and groups both inside and outside of organizations.
    Of course, if you ask most people, they are likely to say they deplore gossip, but as a social scientist who studies how organizations work, it’s clear to me that it plays a more positive role in the workplace than we might expect.
    Research suggests that gossip provides groups with important benefits. For example, recent social psychological studies consistently have found that gossip can be motivated by the desire to protect one’s group against those who violate norms. People begin gossiping when they observe someone behaving in ways that are not in line with group mores. A norm violator who, say, doesn’t contribute to group goals while benefitting from group resources is engaging in behavior that economists call “free riding.” Observing a group member behaving like a free rider motivates people to gossip about the norm violator, in an ...

Connecting California Joe Mathews

  • Why California Needs Three Time Zones All Its Own

    By Resetting Its Clocks, the Golden State Could Save Energy, Help Kids Study Better, and Synchronize Its Politics

        Do you know what time it is, California?
        It’s time for new thinking about time, and time zones.
        By putting Proposition 7 on this November’s ballot, the state ...

  • If You Can't Beat the Bay Area, Join It

    Solving Northern California's Toughest Problems Requires a New Megaregion, from San Francisco and Tahoe to the San Joaquin and Salinas Valleys

        Welcome to the Bay Area, Merced!
        Further north, welcome as well to Modesto, Sacramento, Placerville, and Yuba City. And, to the south, you’re invited, too, Santa Cruz, Monterey, ...

  • LeBron, Take Your Ball and Go Home

    California Depends Too Much on Imported Stars Like King James. We Need to Develop More Young Prospects.

        Go back home to Ohio, LeBron James.
        Yes, as a fan, I’m happy to see the world’s greatest basketball player relocate to California and join my favorite team, the Los Angeles ...

  • Video Highlights

    Looking Back at Four Years of “What It Means to Be American”

    The Smithsonian/ASU/Zócalo Project on U.S. History and Identity Is Just Getting Started

    Since its launch on April 14, 2014, the "What It Means to Be American" project has convened 12 events in seven cities and published more than 300 essays on American history and identity. And we're just getting started. Here's a look back at where we've been, and where we're going.