The Best Book in Economic Sociology and Political Economy for 2020: ‘American Bonds’ by Sarah Quinn

The ES/PE global academic community is pleased to announce the granting of the Best Book in Economic Sociology and Political Economy Award for 2020 to Sarah Quinn‘s superb, enlightening, thoroughly researched and engagingly written American Bonds: How Credit Markets Shaped a Nation. Congratulations!!
The year of 2020 marks an exceptional achievement for Professor Quinn (University of Washington). Her outstanding, insightful, and interdisciplinary  treatise won three additional major prizes: the Zelizer Book Award given by the American Sociological Association’s Economic Sociology section, the Alice Amsden Book Award presented by the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics, and Honorable Mention for the Theory Prize by the American Sociological Association’s Theory section. 
Professor Quinn once noted that “part of [her] desire to write the book was always to try to be able to use the tools of sociology to demystify finance.” While reading this excellent scholarly work, one can easily see that this mission was brilliantly accomplished.
Drawing from a mix of original archival research and secondary sources, American Bonds examines the evolution of securitization and federal credit programs in the US from the early post-Revolutionary years to the 1960s, concurrently looking  at the macro and micro levels. The book shows in compelling detail that since the Westward expansion, the US government has used financial markets to manage America’s complex social divides, and  lawmakers and bureaucrats have turned to land sales, home ownership, and credit to provide economic opportunity without the appearance of market intervention or direct redistribution of wealth. Over time, government officials embraced credit as a political tool that allowed them to navigate an increasingly complex and fractured political system, affirming the government’s role as a consequential and creative market participant. Neither intermittent nor marginal, credit programs spurred the growth of powerful industries, have been used for foreign policy and and military efforts, and were promoters of venture capital investment and mortgage securitization. Quinn’s American Bonds astutely demonstrates the intricate ways in which credit has been a powerful tool of the American statecraft and how the state has been intrinsically involved in marketcraft.
At the end of this must-read book (published by Princeton University Press in 2019) Quinn leaves us with important reflections derived from her historic research, which are essentially relevant to our immediate present and upcoming future: 

“With each crisis, Americans face anew the question of how to organize finance. With each crisis, choices are guided by long-esteblished institutions. And with each crisis, there nevertheless exists the potential for something new to emerge. Whatever lies ahead, the organization of credit – and the social bonds that it entails – will be decided on two levels: the specific exchanges we allow and how we delimit the role of finance in the political economy. A cleared-eyed look at both means that in considering any credit policy we must ask: Should this issue be resolved through finance? And if it is resolved through finance, what divisions of profit and risks, and what divisions of opportunities and obligations, should be built into these structures?” (Quinn 2019: 212)


The past Alice Amsden Book Award recipients:

2019: Ching Kwan Lee, The Specter of Global China: Politics, Labor, and Foreign Investment in Africa. University of Chicago Press, 2018

The past Zelizer Best Book Award recipients:

2019: Monica Prasad, Starving the Beast: Ronald Reagan and the Tax Cut Revolution. Russell Sage, 2018

2018: Yuen Yuen Ang, How China Escaped the Poverty Trap. Cornell University Press, 2016

2017: Marc Steinberg, England’s Great Transformation: Law, Labor, and the Industrial Revolution. University of Chicago Press, 2016

2016Gabriel Abend, The Moral Background: An Inquiry into the History of Business Ethics. Princeton University Press, 2014

2016: Debbie Becher, Private Property and Public Power for Eminent Domain in Philadelphia. Oxford University Press, 2014

2015: Martin Reuf, Between Slavery and Capitalism: The Legacy of Emancipation in the American South. Princeton University Press, 2014

2014: Ofer Sharone, Flawed System, Flawed Self: Job Searching and Unemployment Experiences. University of Chicago Press, 2013

2013: Lyn Spillman, Solidarity in Strategy: Making Business Meaningful in American Trade Associations. University of Chicago Press, 2012

2013: Monica Prasad, The Land of Too Much: American Abundance and the Paradox of Poverty. Harvard University Press, 2012

2012: Greta R. Krippner, Capitalizing on Crisis: The Political Origins of the Rise of Finance. Harvard University Press, 2012

2010: Terence G. Halliday and Bruce G. Carruthers, Bankrupt: Global Lawmaking and Systemic Financial Crisis. Stanford University Press, 2009

2008: Donald MacKenzie, An Engine, Not a Camera: How Financial Models Shape Markets. MIT Press, 2006

2006: Olav Velthuis, Talking Prizes: Symbolic Meaning of Prices on the Market for Contemporary Art. Princeton University Press, 2005

2006: James R. Lincoln and Michael L. Gerlach, Japan’s Network Economy: Structure, Presistence and Change. Cambridge University Press, 2004

2004: Harrison White, Markets from Networks Networks: Socioeconomic Models of Production. Princeton University Press, 2002

2004: Sarah Babb, Managing Mexico: Economists from Nationalism to Neoliberalism. Princeton University Press, 2001

2003: Neil Fligstein, The Architecture of Markets: An Economic Sociology of Twenty-First-Century Capitalist Societies. Princeton University Press, 2002

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