Beyond the Market

Beyond the Market: The Social Foundations of Economic Efficiency

Jens Beckert
Translated by Barbara Harshav
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 368
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7s8dr
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  • Book Info
    Beyond the Market
    Book Description:

    Beyond the Marketlaunches a sociological investigation into economic efficiency. Prevailing economic theory, which explains efficiency using formalized rational choice models, often simplifies human behavior to the point of distortion. Jens Beckert finds such theory to be particularly weak in explaining such crucial forms of economic behavior as cooperation, innovation, and action under conditions of uncertainty--phenomena he identifies as the proper starting point for a sociology of economic action.

    Beckert levels an enlightened critique at neoclassical economics, arguing that understanding efficiency requires looking well beyond the market to the social, cultural, political, and cognitive factors that influence the coordination of economic action. Beckert searches social theory for the components of an alternative theory of action, one that accounts for the social embedding of economic behavior. In Durkheim and Parsons he finds especially useful approaches to cooperation; in Luhmann, a way to understand how people act under highly contingent conditions; and in Giddens, an understanding of creative action and innovation. Together, these provide building blocks for a research program that will yield a theoretically sophisticated understanding of how economic processes are coordinated and the ways that markets are embedded in social, cultural, and cognitive structures.

    Containing one of the most fully informed critiques of the neoclassical analysis of economic efficiency--as well as one of the most thoughtful blueprints for economic sociology--this book reclaims for sociology the study of one of the most important arenas of human action.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2544-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-4)

    Although sociology and economics have ignored one another for decades, developments in both disciplines during the past twenty years suggest that cautious rapprochements are beginning to crack the solid lines that have separated them. Catch phrases like those advanced by the American economist James Duesenberry (1960: 233)—that “economics is all about how people make choices; sociology is all about how they don’t have any choices to make,” are no more valid as a description of the relationship between the two fields today than they were when first pronounced.

    Ever since the early 1970s, starting from criticism of the restrictive...

  5. PART ONE: CRITIQUE
    • ONE THE LIMITS OF THE RATIONAL-ACTOR MODEL AS A MICROFOUNDATION OF ECONOMIC EFFICIENCY
      (pp. 7-66)

      When modern economics was founded in the late eighteenth century, two axioms that still constitute the paradigmatic core of the discipline were established: the action-theoretical assumption that actors maximize their utility or their profit in their actions; and the idea that decentralized economic processes exist in, or at least strive for, an equilibrium in which the independently acting economic subjects can achieve an optimal realization of their economic plans. Ever since Adam Smith, the theoretical concept of order expressed in the notion of market equilibrium and the action-theoretical concept of choices of actors as oriented to the optimization of utility...

  6. PART TWO: CONCEPTS
    • TWO ÉMILE DURKHEIM: THE ECONOMY AS MORAL ORDER
      (pp. 69-132)

      Émile durkheim belongs to that generation of sociologists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who found the subject matter of sociological study in the process of social transformation and the conflictual transition from traditional agrarian societies to modern industrial societies that was caused by industrialization. The question of the possible social cohesion of societies that are marked by increasing individual freedom and the concomitant dissolution of relationships based on tradition had concerned political philosophy since the seventeenth century. Both contract theories and the theory of order of political economy sketched an optimistic scenario for the problem of social order...

    • THREE TALCOTT PARSONS: THE ECONOMY AS A SUBSYSTEM OF SOCIETY
      (pp. 133-200)

      Talcott Parsons can be considered the last sociological theorist whose work is formed by the debate with economics. Parsons’s theory shares the central significance of the economy with both Durkheim and Weber. If the two meanings of the economy as a social field and the discipline of economics are distinguished, the development from Durkheim through Weber to Parsons shows that socioeconomic problems tend to lose importance and that there is a stronger emphasis on the institutional and methodological debate with economics. In the chapter on Durkheim, it was noted that the development of his work had to be understood against...

    • FOUR NIKLAS LUHMANN: THE ECONOMY AS AN AUTOPOIETIC SYSTEM
      (pp. 201-240)

      In the debate over the works of Émile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons in the field of economic sociology, it was clear that, in the context to explain the development of stable social structures of order, both authors deal with questions of cooperation, which can be connected with the problems of economic theory discussed in chapter 1. For Durkheim, the paramount issues involved not questions of the efficiency of economic structures but rather considerations about overcoming the contemporary socioeconomic crises and the demand for a just social order. For Parsons, too, the starting question on a metatheoretical level was inherent in...

    • FIVE ANTHONY GIDDENS: ACTOR AND STRUCTURE IN ECONOMIC ACTION
      (pp. 241-282)

      Studying the theories of Durkheim, Parsons, and Luhmann showed that we can infer elements from their sociological concepts of economics which at least partially go beyond the limits of economic theory presented in chapter 1. Yet none of the three theoretical outlines turns out to be sufficiently inclusive to be able to interpret it as a comprehensive solution to the problems cited. The insufficient emphasis of the active and creative role of actors appeared in each of them in a different form as a serious limitation. For the solution of the cooperation problem, Durkheim and Parsons refer to the shared...

  7. PART THREE: CONCLUSIONS
    • SIX PERSPECTIVES FOR ECONOMIC SOCIOLOGY
      (pp. 285-296)

      The critique discussed in chapter 1 referred to the limits of the rational-actor model as a basis for understanding action in economic contexts. It is not the assumption of behavior aiming at utility maximization that is problematic in itself but rather the assumption generally considered valid that actors could make maximizing decisions and would thus achieve optimal allocation. This critique was intended to show the significance of the complexity inherent in the situation, novelty, and the cooperation dilemma as areas of investigation that cannot be understood fully from the perspective of the rational-actor model. The result of this critique is...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 297-326)
  9. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 327-346)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 347-365)