Economic Sociology, Homo Economicus, and Performativity of Economics

It is never too late, nor too early, to reread and contemplate a good theory.
The Laws of the Markets Michel CallonFor example, to mull over Michel Callon’s programmatic statement about the performativity of economics, presented two decades ago in the introduction to The Laws of the Markets:

“Underscoring the complexity of economic phenomena, a complexity to which economic theory with its cold and disincarnated view of homo economicus cannot do justice, sociology strives to give this abstract agent a bit more soul — the life and warmth he lacks — by mobilizing notions such as those of value, culture, rules or passions. Pareto dreamed it, economic sociology makes it. Yet, as we suggested, economic agents do not need be enriched. If they manage to become richer it is because, on the contrary, they were cooled, reduced and framed, particularly by economics! What we expect from sociology is not a more complex homo economicus but the comprehension of his simplicity and poverty. […]
Yes, homo economicus really does exist. Of course, he exists in the form of many species and his lineage is multiple and ramified. But if he exists he is obviously not be found in a natural state — this expression has little meaning. He is formatted, framed and equipped with prostheses which help him in his calculations and which are, for the most part, produced by economics. […] It is not a matter of giving a soul back to a dehumanized agent, nor of rejecting the very idea of his existence. The objective may be to explore the diversity of calculative agencies forms and distributions, and hence of organized markets. The market is no longer that cold, implacable and impersonal monster which imposes its laws and procedures while extending them ever further. It is a many-sided, diversified, evolving device which the social sciences as well as the actors themselves contribute to reconfigure.” (Callon 1998: 50-1)

Callon, Michel. 1998. “Introduction: The embeddedness of economic markets in economics.” Pp. 1-57 in The Laws of the Markets, edited by Michel Callon. Oxford: Blackwell. (Open access)

Join Economic Sociology and Political Economy community via
Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / Google+ / Instagram / Tumblr / Reddit / Telegram


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s