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New Economic Sociology, The

New Economic Sociology, The: Developments in an Emerging Field

Mauro F. Guillén
Randall Collins
Paula England
Marshall Meyer
Copyright Date: 2002
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    New Economic Sociology, The
    Book Description:

    As the American economy surged in the 1990s, economic sociology made great strides as well. Economists and sociologists worked across disciplinary boundaries to study the booming market as both a product and a producer of culture, tracing the correlations they saw between economic and social phenomena. In the process, they debated the methodological issues that arose from their interdisciplinary perspectives.The New Economic Sociologyprovides an overview of these debates and assesses the state of the burgeoning discipline. The contributors summarize economic sociology's accomplishments to date, identifying key theoretical problems and opportunities, and formulating strategies for future research in the field.

    The book opens with an introduction to the main debates and conceptual approaches in economic sociology. Contributor Neil Fligstein suggests that the current resurgence of interest in economic sociology is due to the way it brings together many sociological subdisciplines including the study of markets, households, labor markets, stratification, networks, and culture. Other contributors examine the role of economic phenomena from a network perspective. Ron Burt, for example, demonstrates how social relationships affect competitive dynamics in the marketplace. A third set of chapters addresses the role of gender in economic sociology. In her chapter, Barbara Reskin rethinks conventional notions about discrimination and points out that the law only covers one type of discrimination, while in recent years social scientists have uncovered other forms of hidden discrimination, which must be addressed as well.The New Economic Sociologyalso addresses the problem of economic development and change from a sociological perspective. Alejandro Portes and Margarita Mooney elaborate on one of the key emerging concepts in economic sociology, arguing that social capital-as an attribute of communities and regions-can contribute to economic and social well-being by fostering collaboration and entrepreneurship.

    The contributors concur that economic action must be interpreted through the cultural understandings that lend it stability and meaning. By rendering these often complex debates accessible,The New Economic Sociologymakes a significant contribution to this still rapidly developing field, and provides a useful guide for future avenues of research.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-260-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Economics

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Chapter 1 The Revival of Economic Sociology
    (pp. 1-32)
    Mauro F. Guillén, Randall Collins, Paula England and Marshall Meyer

    Economic sociology is staging a comeback after decades of relative obscurity. Many of the issues explored by scholars today mirror the original concerns of the discipline: sociology emerged in the first place as a science geared toward providing an institutionally informed and culturally rich understanding of economic life. Confronted with the profound social transformations of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the founders of sociological thought—Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Georg Simmel—explored the relationship between the economy and the larger society (Swedberg and Granovetter 1992). They examined the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services...


    • Chapter 2 A Theoretical Agenda for Economic Sociology
      (pp. 35-60)
      Mark Granovetter

      Economic sociology is no longer a novelty. Born in the late nineteenth century and reborn in the 1970s, it has produced a long run of exciting studies and promising leads. (For a more detailed historical account, see Granovetter 1990.) As the century turns, it is timely to look beyond our accumulation of important empirical studies and reassess the theoretical agenda that a structural economic sociology might pursue, and where this agenda fits within the main concerns of sociology and economics.

      In doing so, we should keep in mind that the production and distribution of goods and services is just one...

    • Chapter 3 Agreements, Disagreements, and Opportunities in the “New Sociology of Markets”
      (pp. 61-78)
      Neil Fligstein

      There are signs everywhere that economic sociology is being constituted as a field. In 1994 Neil Smelser and Richard Swedberg edited theHandbook of Economic Sociology. It is nearly impossible to pick up a copy of one of the main sociology journals without finding a paper that claims to be a contribution to the new economic sociology. Conferences are being held in the United States and around the world on the topic. In the spring of 2000, the American Sociological Association officially formed a section called “Economic Sociology.”

      There are three purposes for this chapter. First, I want to consider...

    • Chapter 4 Endogenizing “Animal Spirits”: Toward a Sociology of Collective Response to Uncertainty and Risk
      (pp. 79-100)
      Paul DiMaggio

      In hisGeneral Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money,John Maynard Keynes (1936) described “animal spirits” as the emotional feeling-states that shape economic behavior above and beyond what a purely cognitive, rational model might lead one to expect. When consumers borrow more than they should to buy more than they need, animal spirits are working their magic. When investors display “irrational exuberance” (Shiller 2000) and push price-earning ratios to historic highs, animal spirits render them confident. And when corporations borrow, and banks lend, more money than is wise, animal spirits make them reckless.

      Keynes believed that the role of animal...

    • Chapter 5 Enter Culture
      (pp. 101-126)
      Viviana A. Zelizer

      In July 1999, Hewlett-Packard surprised the corporate world by appointing a woman, Carleton Fiorina, as its president and CEO. Fiorina, the third woman to lead a Fortune 500 company, was hired away from AT&T and Lucent Technologies, the equipment and research division of the Bell system. At Lucent, Fiorina, dubbed the most powerful U.S. businesswoman byFortunein 1998, had become famous for connecting innovative technologies to new markets. Commenting on her appointment, Mark Anderson, president of Technology Alliance Partners, a consulting firm, explained: “Hewlett-Packard has an engineering culture, and it tends to be slow. Carly has seen the dark...


    • Chapter 6 Markets and Firms: Notes Toward the Future of Economic Sociology
      (pp. 129-147)
      Harrison C. White

      Persistent directionality in continuing flows is the most striking characteristic of the present economy, which has evolved around repetitive production by organizations that are each invested in some considerable specialization, in a layered system of intermediate goods or services, with a recognizable upstream and downstream. Within each market each producing organization learns to seek a distinctive niche for its output commitments among a nest of peers able to establish themselves jointly as an industry or market that has become taken for granted in the perceptions of other markets and firms up-and downstream of them. The market interface shields the firms...

    • Chapter 7 The Social Capital of Structural Holes
      (pp. 148-190)
      Ronald S. Burt

      This chapter, drawn in large part from a lengthy review elsewhere (Burt 2000) of the arguments and evidence on social capital, is about current work on the social capital of structural holes. I begin broadly with social capital in metaphor, get more specific with four network mechanisms that define social capital in theory (contagion, prominence, closure, and brokerage across structural holes), then focus on three categories of empirical evidence on the fourth mechanism: evidence of the rewards and achievement associated with brokerage, evidence of the creativity and learning associated with brokerage, and evidence on the process of bridging structural holes....


    • Chapter 8 Telling Stories About Gender and Effort: Social Science Narratives About Who Works Hard for the Money
      (pp. 193-217)
      William T. Bielby and Denise D. Bielby

      Who works hard, and are there differences by gender? Is part of the earnings gap between men and women attributable to gender differences in the allocation of effort to work and family roles? What kind of theories do social scientists offer about whether and why men work harder than women (or vice versa)?

      The review presented here was motivated by our plan to replicate and extend our research published in 1988 testing the theory of gender differences in the allocation of effort offered by the Nobel Prize–winning economist Gary Becker (Bielby and Bielby 1988). In returning to this line...

    • Chapter 9 Rethinking Employment Discrimination and Its Remedies
      (pp. 218-244)
      Barbara F. Reskin

      Discrimination in market transactions falls squarely within the rubric of economic sociology. Yet economic sociology has given scant attention to employment discrimination (see, for examples, Smelser and Swedberg 1994, and most of the chapters in this volume). Having borrowed from economics a preference for explaining phenomena in terms of individuals’ rational choices within constraints (see Zelizer, ch. 5, this volume), economic sociology has available only two theoretical approaches to discrimination by individuals (whether acting on their own behalf or as agents): intentional discrimination and statistical discrimination. Each of these approaches attributes discrimination to individuals’ economic calculations—decisions to pay to...

    • Chapter 10 Gender and the Organization-Building Process in Young High-Tech Firms
      (pp. 245-273)
      James N. Baron, Michael T. Hannan, Greta Hsu and Ozgecan Kocak

      In highlighting the social foundations of economic life, economic sociologists tend to emphasize social and cultural influences in firms’ environments that affect economic exchange. Yet social forces impinge on economic activity in a manner that is arguably even more fundamental: by shaping the very way in which economic organizations are structured from their inception. This chapter examines one manifestation of that process, namely, how gender shapes the initial structure and early evolution of firms. Drawing on a rich archive of data describing the evolution of emerging technology companies in Silicon Valley, this chapter examines the determinants and consequences of gender...

    • Chapter 11 Intimate Transactions
      (pp. 274-300)
      Viviana A. Zelizer

      Transfers of money, far from occurring in an impersonal world, regularly depend on and define intimate social relations. Consider the 1971 precedent-setting tax case ofPascarelli v. Commissioner(55 T.C. 1082). Lillian Pascarelli, the petitioner, had lived with Anthony DeAngelis for many years, but they had never married. During their time together DeAngelis transferred substantial sums of money to Pascarelli. She, meanwhile, “did his washing and cleaning, bought clothing for him, and performed wifely duties.” Pascarelli’s collaboration went further: she actively entertained DeAngelis’s business associates at their shared home and took their wives out dining and shopping.

      The Internal Revenue...


    • Chapter 12 Social Capital and Community Development
      (pp. 303-329)
      Alejandro Portes and Margarita Mooney

      The purpose of this chapter is threefold: to review the origins and definitions of the concept of social capital as it has developed in the recent literature; to examine the limitations of the concept as a causal force able to transform communities and nations; and to present several relevant examples from the empirical literature on regional and community development. These examples point to the significance of social networks and community solidarity in the viability of grassroots economic initiatives and the simultaneous difficulty of institutionalizing such forces.

      Current interest in the concept of social capital in the field of development stems...

    • Chapter 13 Globalization and Mobilization: Resistance to Neoliberalism in Latin America
      (pp. 330-368)
      Susan Eckstein

      Neoliberal restructuring, designed to privilege market forces and diminish the state’s economic role, has taken the Third World by storm since the mid-1980s. Third World governments have had little choice in the matter. The new economic model has been imposed by multilateral lending institutions and by the U.S. government, which are committed to restructuring the world in their image. Packaged as a model that maximizes efficiency, the discourse conceals measures designed to benefit capital over labor—and big multinational capital above all—through the removal of fetters that previously obstructed the global mobility of capital.

      Third World countries differ, however,...

  10. Index
    (pp. 369-381)