Erik Olin Wright has contributed to making utopias real

Gramsci once described the struggle for social justice as requiring ‘pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.’ I believe in the world today we need an optimism of the intellect as well: an optimism grounded in our understanding of the real potentials for emancipatory alternatives which can inform our practical strategies for social transformation.” (Erik Olin Wright)

Erik Olin WrightErik Olin Wright, an eminent sociologist and one of the great public intellectuals of our time, has died at 71 from myeloid leukemia. Wright, a brilliant scholar and Marxist thinker, has not just taught us so much about class, exploitation, and power, but he has also envisioned way to democratic and egalitarian alternatives to the capitalist system. Erik Olin Wright was passionately and equally earnest about intellectual rigour and political relevance.
In a deeply moving and sincere blog post “Clarifying my final weeks”, he wrote:

Sometime in my late teens to early twenties, I decided… not to live a life of self-indulgence but to create meaning for myself and others by trying to make the world a better place. The particular way in which I did this of course is historically bounded by the intellectual currents and turmoil of the late 60s and early 70s. I don’t think that means it should be thought of as merely an effect of that historical moment. I think my dogged attempt to revitalize the Marxist tradition and make it more deeply relevant to social justice and social transformation today is grounded in a scientifically valid understanding of how the world actually works. But without being embedded in a social milieu where those ideas were debated and linked in both sensible and misguided ways to social movements, I would never have been able to pursue this particular set of ideas. But I was enabled, and it’s made for an incredibly meaningful and intellectually exciting personal life. So no complaints. I will die in a few weeks, fulfilled. Not happy that I’m dying, but deeply happy with the life I’ve lived, and the life I’ve been able to share with all of you. (

published more than a hundred research papers, and wrote and edited about 20 books. Many of them are free to download from his personal website.
Wright’s quote at the beginning of this post is from the overview of the tremendous Real Utopias Project, which culminated in his

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Top 10 Most-read Economic Sociology and Political Economy Posts of 2018

As 2018 (already) comes to an end, I rounded up the top 10 most-read posts of the year on the Economic Sociology and Political Economy community blog. Six of these interesting, enlightening and thought-provoking posts were published in 2018 and the rest in previous years. You are welcome to (re)read and share them. 
I would like to use this opportunity and genuinely thank everyone for being here and for making this community what it really is! Thank you for every ‘like’, ‘share’ and comment! Thanks for spreading the word and recommending the ES/PE your colleagues, students and friends. Thanks for posting online, referring and sending me links and reads. About 10,000 new members joined us this year, and the ES/PE community proudly counts almost 60,000 members, followers, and readers from about 140 countries — researchers, students, practitioners, journalists, policy makers, and activists who constantly generate more than 150,000 monthly page views on our sites and social media (FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagramTelegram, Reddit, and Tumblr)Achieving the main goal of our community — that is to disseminate the insights of socio-political research on the economy — would be impossible without your support, participation and enthusiasm. Together we maintain this intellectual and public campfire — and I am grateful to you all!
As we all conclude this (turbulent) year and look forward (with hope) to the next one, what can be said with certainty is that economic sociology and political economy perspectives and insights will be essentially needed to keep on mulling over, debunking, realizing and, of course, changing. More work ahead…

> Michel Foucault: Neoliberalism is not laissez-faire, but permanent vigilance, activity, and intervention

> Ulrich Beck has died. His powerful concept of ‘Risk Society’ is relevant as never before

> Nobel winner Paul Romer on the backwardness of economics and economists’ misleading use of math

> Karl Marx on Free Time – Time for the Full Development of the Individual

> Albert Einstein on the Power of Ideas and Imagination in Science

> Karl Polanyi on the Rise of Fascism and Market Economy

> The Sociology of Quantification: Seeing like Numbers

top10> What is Economics? Read Keynes’ definition

> Robert Solow’s sarcastic economics

> R.I.P. James March — “Success”

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Great academic opportunities: 13 calls for papers, 4 jobs, 2 postdocs, visiting grant, PhD stipend, summer school

Dear ES/PE community member, see below a list of great call for papersacademic opportunities: 13 calls for papers for conferences and workshops (some are partially or fully funded), 4 job openings, 2 post-doc positions, a seminar, a visiting grant, and a doctoral fellowship — in various areas of economic sociology, political economy, and related fields, with December 10 – January 10 deadlinesShare this post with your colleagues and students. Good luck!

Calls for Papers:

> CfP: “Economy & the Possible: Alternative, Missed and Reified Futures in Contemporary Society”, The Polish Sociological Association’s Economic Sociology section workshop, University of Warsaw (Poland), 20-21 May 2019. The keynoters: Gary Herrigel and Marcin Serafin. The fee covers lunch breaks and conference dinner. DL: December 10

> CfP: “Social Justice: A Mirage or Reality in Plural Societies” international conference, Department of Politics and Governance, Central University of Kashmir (India), 13-14 June, 2019. No registration fee. The travel allowance depends upon the availability of funding agencies. DL: December 10

> CfP: “Economic Policy-making Institutions at the State / Market Frontier“,  the Political Studies Association British and Comparative Political Economy specialist group workshop, University of Warwick (UK), 18-19 March 2019.  Funding to enable reasonable travel expenses and overnight accommodation is available. DL: December 14

> CfP: “Monetary and Financial History” workshop, Federal Reserve Board, Washington, D.C. (USA), May 6-8, 2019. Domestic travel and accommodations expenses will be covered. DL: December 14

> CfP: “Time is Money, and Beyond: The Temporality of Action and Consequences”, the 7th Workshop on Unintended Consequences, University of Warsaw (Poland), 6-7 May 2019. The keynoter: John Preston. The conference fee covers lunch breaks and dinner. DL: December 15

> CfP: “Social and Solidarity Economy: Moving Towards a New Economic System“, the 7th CIRIEC International Research Conference on Social Economy, University of Bucharest (Romania), June 6-9, 2019. The keynoters: Marie J. Bouchard, Ulla Engelmann, Juan Antonio Pedreño, Jorge de Sá. DL: December 15

> CfP: “The Great Transformation: The Future of Modern Societies”, a Final Conference of the DFG Research Group “Landnahme, Acceleration, Activation: Dynamics and (De-)stabilization of Modern Growth Societies” and the 2nd Regional Conference of the German Sociological Association, Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Jena, Germany), September 23- 27, 2019. DL: December 16

> CfP: “Sharing Society. The Impact of Collaborative Collective Actions in the Transformation of Contemporary Societies“ conference, University of the Basque Country, Bilbao (Spain), May 23-24, 2019. The fee includes lunches. DL: December 16

> CfP: “Universal Capitalism in Decline?“, The International Karl Polanyi Society conference, Austrian Foundation for Development Research (Vienna, Austria), 3-5 May, 2019. DL:  December 30

> CfP: “Community, Work and Family in Diverse Contexts and Changing Times“, the 8th International Community, Work and Family Conference, Centre for Labour Studies, University of Malta (Malta), 23-25 May 2019. A pre-conference Doctoral Workshop will be conducted on 22 May. DL: December 31

> CfP:  The 2nd Vienna Conference on Pluralism in Economics, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (Vienna, Austria), 15-16 April 2019. DL: January 3

> CfP: “Working on the Land: Actors, Societies and Environments“, the 55th International Conference of Labour and Social History Conference, Linz (Austria), 5-7 September, 2019. DL: January 6

> CfP: “Socialism in Our Time“, Historical Materialism conference, New York City (USA), April 13-14, 2019. DL: January 8


> University Assistant in Economic Sociology or Sociology of Money (without doctorate, fixed-term until 4 years), Universität Graz (Austria). DL: December 19

> Reader/Professor in the area of Business and Management (2 permanent, full-time positions), University of Hertfordshire (England, UK). The appointee will undertake enquiry to disseminate new knowledge and/or advances in practice which lead to positive impact in the economy and society. Researchers across the social sciences such as Sociology and Political Economy are welcome to apply. DL: January 5

> Assistant Professor (tenure-track) in the Political Economy of Development, School of Global and Public Affairs, International University (Madrid, Spain). DL: January 7

Postdoctoral Positions: 

> Postdoctoral Research Associate to join the FinWork Futures Research Centre at King’s Business School (London, UK). FinWork Futures is an interdisciplinary centre that draws on social science perspectives to explore how technology is reshaping financial work. DL: December 16

> A two-year postdoctoral fellowship at The Clayman Institute for Gender Research (Stanford, CA, USA). The fellowship is relevant to researchers studying gender in the economy and labor market. DL: January 10

PhD Scholarship:

>  PhD scholarship in comparative political economy, employment relations and/or the labour process, The Institute for International Management at Loughborough University London. DL: December 14   

Summer School: 

> CfA: The Hyman Minsky Summer Seminar for junior scholars and graduate students, Levy Economics Institute of Bard College (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, USA), June 16–22, 2019. The fee includes provision of room and board. DL: January 1

Visiting grant:

> Inclusive Growth Infrastructure Diffusion (InGRID) visiting grants to  data centres within the field of inclusive growth, poverty, living  and working conditions, social policy and more across EU and UK. DL: December 16

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Galbraith vs. Friedman — “The emancipation of belief is the most formidable of the tasks of reform, the one on which all else depends”

John Kenneth Galbraith was one of the most famous and influential American economists and public intellectual of the post-WWII era. Galbraith, who leaned toward post-Keynesian economics embracing an institutionalist perspective, was a very prolific writer and his books (The Great Crash 1929The Affluent Society, The New Industrial State, Economics and the Public Purpose, The Anatomy of Powerwere academic and popular bestsellers from the 1950s through the 1980s. Thereafter, the Chicago School and Neoliberal Economics conquests dimmed and muted Galbraith’s policy proposals and intellectual contribution.
One of Galbraith’s assignments in Harvard economics department in the early 1950s was to set up a visiting lecture series. Believing that good academic discussion needs diversity of views, he invited, among others, Paul Sweezy – a Marxian economist who was a co-founder of Monthly Review and Milton Friedman – the future primary leader of the Chicago School of Economics.
Here is the letter Galbraith wrote to Friedman to thank him for his visit; it is not only a typical example for Galbraith’s eloquence, but underlines his ability to combine conceptual open-mindedness with a sincere standpoint of his own:

March 27, 1951
Dear Milton:

You will know in many ways how much we enjoyed your visit here last week. This is just by way of adding a personal word of thanks. I hope it won’t be too long before we see you here again.
So far as I can tell, also, the students seem to have suffered no permanent damage. I hope your colleagues perceive no disconcerting changes in you.
On second thought, I hope they do.

My thanks and kindest regards,
Sincerely yours,
J.K. Galbraith

 (The Selected Letters of John Kenneth Galbraith, edited by Richard Holt, 2017, p. 95)

In his eulogy to Galbraith, his friend Professor Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote:
“Ken used the whiplash phrase and the sardonic thrust for several purposes: to reconnect academic economics, walled off in mathematical equations, with human and social reality; to rebuke the apostles of selfishness and greed; and to give the neglected, the abused and the insulted of our world a better break in life. […] Salvation, Galbraith argued, lies in the subversion of the conventional wisdom by the gradual encroachment of disquieting thought. “The emancipation of belief,” he writes, “is the most formidable of the tasks of reform, the one on which all else depends.”
(“J.K. Galbraith’s Towering Spirit”, by Arthur Schlesinger Jr., May 3, 2006)

The emancipation of belief is the most formidable of the tasks of reform, the one on which all else depends John Kenneth Galbraith

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B&B: Tech companies love dogs not unions // How US conservative elite persists // Male-dominated central banks // India’s demonetisation // The making of Tourist Capitalism

dogs nor unions> Tech companies have promoted their self-image as the antithesis of old “evil” corporations by opening their offices to dogs, but not to unions — by Jonny Bunning

> “Big Money Rules” – Diane Ravitch reviews three must-read books on how the wealthy and conservative elites engineer and execute strategies to preserve their hold on American state and society: Gordon Lafer’s The One Percent Solution, Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains, Jane Mayer’s Dark Money 

> Women remain underrepresented in the economics profession. But exactly how male-dominated are Central Banks around the world? Cristina Bodea and Tara Iseneker present their findings

> What is Intellectual Humility? and how might Intellectual Humility lead to scientific insight? — a thought-provoking essay by a philosopher W. Jay Wood

India’s demonetisation: the social consequences, the meanings of the transition to formal economy, and the relation of finance to a political anthropology — 15 critical and concise analyses

> Business and managerial decisions may be the product of corporate culture; but corporate culture is the product of decisions — by Jerry Useem

> The making of Tourist Capitalism: violent entrepreneurship, Airbnbfication, and a monetization of urban geography — by Pablo Cussac

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Elite Men and Inequality in the Hedge Fund Industry

by Megan Tobias Neely*

“I’m sorry, but so and so’s brother needed to get hired. Shit happens,” Karen recounted, with resignation, a time her boss denied her a promotion. Karen is a white woman who works at a hedge fund, a private financial firm. She continued, “When there’s big money, greed, power, people protect their own. And sometimes it’s the guy in the parish, the guy in the corner , the guy in the whatever.”
Karen’s account provides insight into why firms run by white men manage 97 percent of hedge fund assets­—a $3.55 trillion industry. Moreover, she sheds light on why these elite men have amassed riches.
Indeed, I find that gender and racial inequality provide a key to explaining why hedge funds drive the divide between the rich and the rest. Since 1980, U.S. income inequality has skyrocketed, in part due to mushrooming pay in financial services. Hedge fund managers are well represented among the “1 percent” with average pay of $2.4 million. Even entry-level positions earn on average $372,000. ($390,000 is the threshold for the top 1 percent of families.)
Yet, the “winners” of widening inequality—at hedge funds and among top earners overall—are mostly white men. Why is this lucrative industry a bastion of white-male power and privilege?
From 2013 until 2017, I interviewed and observed people who worked at hedge funds. I find the answers lie in a system of patronage organizing the industry. In a recent article “Fit to Be King: How Patrimonialism on Wall Street Leads to Inequality“, I show how patronage allows a select group of men to groom and transfer capital to one another.

Patronage on Wall Street
In the 1900s, Max Weber defined a
 patrimonial system of authority as based on trust, loyalty, and tradition. He observed as a new capitalist elite replaced patriarchal monarchies during the Industrial Revolution. Weber predicted that bureaucracy would replace patrimonialism as the organizing fabric of capitalism. Julia Adams later specified how a patrimonial leader rules “paternally” as a symbolic father. This patriarchal system legitimizes the monopoly of power and resources among men.
Does patronage exist on Wall Street today? I find that patronage entrenches inequality at hedge funds. Men identify, groom, and seed future generations of financial elites—usually other men. Gender, race, and class status shape whom they deem to be trustworthy and loyal.

hedge fund manager

Screencap of Google Image search for “hedge fund manager”

Like tiger, like cub
The people I encountered often called hedge fund managers “chiefs” or “kings.” One man said, “kings,” then clarified, “I intentionally said king because it’s always a man.” The terms “chiefs” and “kings” are both gendered and racialized, connoting dominant categories of race, ethnicity, and nationality. Insiders referred to firms as tribes or fraternities, implying racial homogeneity.
I first met Jay, a Hispanic man in his 30s, at an industry social hour. Jay stood out in a room brimming with white men’s faces. Younger men of color surrounded him. As we all mingled, he stopped to introduce them to important contacts.
Later, I asked Jay how he trained to work at hedge funds. He said: “One thing I learned immediately is there is a very strong mentorship environment. It’s very patrilineal… One generation teaches the next generation who teaches the next generation. There’s a strong sense of loyalty, there’s a strong sense of kinship and family. It really does feel like a family.”
Jay recognized family-like mentorship as the way to gain the know-how of the industry. “As you get older, wiser, more experienced, you seek somebody who reminds you of you, who has that same ambition, that same passion, that same drive.” Jay said, “And you teach them all that you know.”
I realized the younger men I observed with Jay were his mentees. When I asked, he said, “Yes!

How did you build these relationships?” I asked.
As you start climbing the totem pole, if you will, you start looking for people like yourself.” Jay said, “It’s this organic process whereby you see people that have the same mentality, the same passion. It’s very tough to explain from a data perspective; quantitatively, how do you quantify that? You just see it. You kind of feel it. It’s organic.
Jay took the tradition for granted: It felt natural. The tradition makes the patrimonial system invisible to its members.
At events, I observed networks segregated along gender, racial, ethnic, and national lines. As men of color, Jay and his mentees highlight the underlying structure of the industry. They counter the norm for white, male-dominated networks, making whiteness and masculinity more visible.
Jay said, “People always try to place me.” His ethnicity was a focal point of his professional interactions. Race is a primary status marker informing how people form relationships and networks.
Relationships based on “familiarity” build the loyalty and trust underpinning the patrimonial structure. This often prevents women and minority men from accessing opportunities and rewards.
And the stakes are high. When an investor selects a mentor to groom, he or she may transfer large sums of money. Julian Robertson of Tiger Management started a family of firms called his “Tiger Cubs” and “Grand Cubs.” The Tiger lineage has over $250 billion in total assets.
This patrimonial system of white male privilege is not only self-sustaining. It speeds up over time, as the beneficiaries concentrate their power and resources by investing in protégés.

A revolving door
Patrimonialism has widespread impacts that extend beyond Wall Street and into Washington. First, hedge funds have collapsed markets and currencies. George Soros
broke the Bank of Englandby short-selling the British pound. The Hollywood hit “The Big Short” exposed how hedge funds profited from the greatest stock market crash in recent history.
Second, a “revolving door” exists between Wall Street and Washington. Former male politicians with ties to Goldman Sachs alone, include Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Head of the Securities and Exchange Commission Arthur Levitt, House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt, and White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon.
This trend extends to hedge funds. After Ben Bernanke completed his term as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Citadel—a $25 billion hedge fund—appointed him senior advisor. Bernanke’s predecessor, Alan Greenspan, has also consulted several hedge funds.
Robert Mercer, of $65 billion hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, invested millions in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and in Breitbart News, of which Stephen Bannon is a founding member. Hedge funder Anthony Scaramucci briefly served as Trump’s White House Communications Director.
Finally, hedge funds have become intertwined in international affairs. Hedge funds lost $100 billion in bonds in the 2001 Argentine default. To retaliate, billionaire Paul Singer and others targeted Argentine government assets, foreign exchange reserves, and politicians’ personal holdings. Singer even seized an Argentine naval vessel as collateral. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the creditors’ behalf prompting a second Argentine default in 2014. Former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner accused Singer of extortion.
The theory of patrimonialism provides deeper insight into how elite men protect their interests. This has alarming implications. Several people I met said these networks lead to information sharing and may veer into illegal practices. One even claimed that “illegality is rampant,” citing insider trading.
Patrimonialism warrants closer examination. Elite networks—whether in finance, technology, or government—impact public policy and generate systemic inequality on a broad scale. We need to better understand what can be done to change this system of inequality, and what is at stake if we don’t.
* Megan Tobias Neely is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University. This post originally appeared on the Work in Progress blog.

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Great academic opportunities: 10 calls for papers, 4 jobs, 3 postdoc and visiting positions, 2 PhD stipends

Dear ES/PE community member, see below a list of great call for papersacademic opportunities: 10 calls for papers for conferences and workshops, 3 job openings, 3 post-doc and visiting positions, and 2 doctoral fellowships — in various areas of economic sociology, political economy, and related fields, with October 31 – December 3 deadlinesShare this post with your colleagues and students. Good luck!

Calls for Papers:

> CfP: “Fragmentations and Solidarities“, The 37th International Labour Process Conference, University of Vienna (Vienna, Austria), 24-26 April, 2019. There are a number of special streams and a pre-Conference PhD workshop. DL: October 31

> CfP: “Decline and Rise: Asia since the Industrial Revolution“, the Asia Pacific Economic Business History Conference, California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, California, USA), 8-9 February 2019. DL: October 31

> CfP: The 15th New Institutionalism Workshop in Organizational Theory, Uppsala University (Sweden), 14 – 16 March, 2019. DL: November 15

> CfP: “Continuing the Struggle: The International Labor Organization Centenary and the Future of Global Worker Rights“, Georgetown University (Washington, DC, USA), October 24-26, 2019. DL: November 15

> CfP: “The Economics, Politics and Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data“, the 5h Witten Conference on Institutional Change, Witten/Herdecke University (Germany), 14-15 March 2019. DL: November 30

> CfP: Race in the Marketplace Research Forum, Paris (France), June 25 – 27, 2019. DL: November 30

> CfP: “Universal Capitalism in Decline?“, The International Karl Polanyi Society conference, Austrian Foundation for Development Research (Vienna, Austria), 3-5 May, 2019. DL: November 30

> CfP: “Rethinking crisis, resistance and strategy“, Historical Materialism Athens Conference, Panteion University (Greece), 2-5 May, 2019. DL: Nov 30

> CfP: “Our Economy! Economic Democracy and System Change” conference, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, New Yourk (USA), April 12, 2019. DL: Dec 1

> CfP: “Materiality, Imaginaries and Subjectivities: Economy and Culture in Sociological Research“, a research workshop for early career scholars co-sponsored by the “Culture and Consumption” and “Sociology of the Economy” sections of the Israeli Sociological Society, The Open University (Raanana, Israel), February 28, 2019. The Keynoter: Jens Beckert. DL: December 1 


Senior Researcher in Political Economy (3-year period with an option), The Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies (Cologne, Germany). DL: October 31

Assistant Professor in Work and Organisation (full-time, tenure-track), The Artificial Intelligence in Management Research Center for Work and Organization, Emlyon Business School (Lyon, France). DL: November 1

Lecturer in Gender and Global Political Economy (3 years term),  School of Global Studies, University of Sussex (UK). DL: November 2

Early Career Academic Fellowship in Urban Living (permanent, tenure-track post), Faculty of Business and Law, De Montfort University (Leicester, UK). DL: December 3 

Postdoctoral and Visiting Positions:

> Economy and Society“, 2019-2020 Visiting Fellowships, the program led by Marion Fourcade, School of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, NJ, USA). Scholars are expected only to pursue their own research and participate in the seminars. DL: November 1

Postdoctoral Position in Work, Organization, and Governance in the Age of  Artificial Intelligence , Emlyon Business School (Lyon, France). DL: November 1

> Harvard ‘Inequality in America Initiative’ Postdoctoral Fellowship, Harvard University (Cambridge MA, USA). DL: December 3

PhD Scholarship:

> Three PhD Scholarships in “Monetary Orders in Capitalist Modernity“, The Hamburg Institute for Social Research (Germany). This call for proposals responds to developments in economic sociology, the history of capitalist cultures, political economy, and the anthropology of economic practices. DL: November 18

> Four PhD Fellowships to study conflicts over eviction and property, the Department of Conflict and Development Studies, Ghent University (Belgium). DL: November 19

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Nobel winner Paul Romer on the backwardness of economics and economists’ misleading use of math

A fresh Nobel Prize laureate in economic sciences Paul Romer published three years ago an interesting short paper “Mathiness in the Theory of Economic Growth”. His main assertion (which granted him with colleagues’ reactions such as “don’t make waves“) was that economists tend to deliberately use math in misleading ways:

“The style that I am calling mathiness lets [economics’] academic politics masquerade as science. Like mathematical theory, mathiness uses a mixture of words and symbols, but instead of making tight links, it leaves ample room for slippage between statements in natural versus formal language and between statements with theoretical as opposed to empirical content. (p. 89)
Mathiness could do permanent damage because it takes costly effort to distinguish mathiness from mathematical theory… The market for mathematical theory will collapse. Only mathiness will be left. It will be worth little, but cheap to produce, so it might survive as entertainment. Economists have a collective stake in flushing mathiness out into the open.” (Romer 2015: 90)

This reminded me three beautifully clever and witty quotes by Joan RobinsonRobert Heilbroner and Paul Samuelson.
Romer, however, went on to “make waves” and air his discontent with economics. In 2016 he gave a lecture titled “The Trouble with Macroeconomics“, whose abstract states that: 

“For more than three decades, macroeconomics has gone backwards. The treatment of identification now is no more credible than in the early 1970s but escapes challenge because it is so much more opaque. Macroeconomic theorists dismiss mere facts by feigning an obtuse ignorance about such simple assertions as “tight monetary policy can cause a recession.” Their models attribute fluctuations in aggregate variables to imaginary causal forces that are not influenced by the action that any person takes. A parallel with string theory from physics hints at a general failure mode of science that is triggered when respect for highly regarded leaders evolves into a deference to authority that displaces objective fact from its position as the ultimate determinant of scientific truth.”

Romer concludes his lecture, stressing that:

“The trouble is not so much that macroeconomists say things that are inconsistent with the facts. The real trouble is that other economists do not care that the macroeconomists do not care about the facts. An indifferent tolerance of obvious error is even more corrosive to science than committed advocacy of error.”

Mathiness in the Theory of Economic Growth - Paul Romer

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R.I.P. James March — “Success”

James G. March

James G. March (1928-2018)

James G. March — a distinguished social scientist, great master of organisational and institutional theory, inspiring and towering intellectual, wonderful man, has passed away. 
His voluminous, cross-generational, multi-topical, interdisciplinary, exceptionally influential scholarship does not need presentation — which is certainly the best presentation one could deserve.
But only a few know that beside his tremendous academic career (by the way, he continued to publish insightful and illuminating papers until his last days), March was also an accomplished poet. Josef Chytry has an interesting essay on March’s poetic work that offers a glance and insights into his personal world and social life. 
March has occasionally written about poetry in academic journals. In “In praise of beauty” (2013) he relied on several poems, including his own, to reflect on the importance of ideas in scientific thinking:

“Beauty is as elusive as truth. Many enormously thoughtful people have tried to provide an understanding of the architecture and appreciation of beauty, and anyone who has read Aristotle is conscious of the complications of aesthetics. Appreciating the elegance and evocativeness of ideas demands a nuanced and sensitive ability to impose standards while constructing them. It is essential to experiment with new components of beauty, even while embracing old ones. Imagining, identifying, reconstructing, and celebrating an aesthetic of ideas about organizations is an unending project… The scholar who seeks beauty in ideas, despite the unbearable lightness of the search—or perhaps because of it—affirms an essential element of humanity.”

In “Poetry and the Rhetoric of Management: Easter 1916” (2006) he mulled over the role of rhetoric in framing views of reality: “The rhetoric of management is a rhetoric of decisiveness, certainty, and clarity.” Poetry, in contrast, is “an exploration of ambivalence and paradox, of the possibility of feeling simultaneous sentiments that seem contradictory, of living in multiple worlds and experiencing multiple feelings, and of recognizing the role of ugliness in the creation of beauty.”

“Success” by James G. March

No one needs him
after he’s gone.
No one who stays
depends on him,
if he has done it right;
No one asks
why flowers grow, 
or how a summer ends,
or notices long
that he has gone, quietly
into the dark.

March, James G. 1980. Pleasures of the Process. London: Poets’ & Painters’ Press. (p. 98)

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Central Banks, Technocratic Power, and the Fear of Democracy

Photo Shape Editor: Best has an interesting new article that starts with catchy and provocative analogy and then presents thought-provoking discussion and arguments:

What do border guards and central bankers have in common? Both operate, on a day-to-day basis, in political spaces exempt from many of the norms of liberal democratic politics and yet have the power to define and constrain them. In order to understand the role of such routine suspensions in the norms of liberal politics, we need to move beyond analyses that focus narrowly on security exceptionalism or emergency-management and pay attention to the practices of technocratic exceptionalism. Drawing on Foucault’s lectures on biopolitics, I examine the ways in which economic theory and practice has sought to resolve some of the central tensions in liberalism by protecting the market from too much democracy—a kind of exceptionalism exemplified by the doctrine of central bank independence.”

In the course of the paper Best infers that:

“[Ordoliberal and neoliberal economists’] theories retain a rather conservative skepticism about the democratic process… Through their efforts, pockets of technocratic exceptionalism have been integrated into the rhythm of everyday political-economic life, suspending democratic oversight over certain economic decisions.”

Open access to this worth-reading paper: Best, Jacqueline. 2018. “Technocratic Exceptionalism: Monetary Policy and the Fear of Democracy.” International Political Sociology 12(4): 328–345.

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B&B: Herbert Marcuse // The Adjunct Crisis // Against Capitalist Orthodoxy // Gender and finance // History of taxing the rich // (Im)mobility in the rural America // Inventing Thanksgiving

This time, especially worth reading  and sharing articles:

> Herbert Marcuse on how the Frankfurt School reevaluated Marxism following the failure of crises to destroy capitalism, the philosophical roots of the student rebellions of the 1960s, and more — in a 1977 interesting video interview with Bryan Magee

> The adjunctification of the Professorial Class. The biggest problem with organizing around labor issues in academia is that academics are loath to see themselves as labourers; but intellectual work and teaching are labour — by Nair Yasmin

> The fundamental problems of capitalism are: weak and unstable growth; stagnant living standards and rising inequality; and environmental risk. Which economic ideas can successfully tackle these challenges today? — by Michael Jacobs and Mariana Mazzucato 

> Gender power relations and financial governance: reflections on the position of women within broader class struggles regarding finance and money in the history of the modern state — Adrienne Roberts elaborates on Samuel Knafo’s The Making of Modern Finance

> Analyzing two centuries’ history of progressive taxation in the US, Canada and Europe. Christopher May reviews Taxing the Rich: A History of Fiscal Fairness in the United States and Europe, by Kenneth Scheve and David Stasavag

> Moving no longer means social mobility; staying no longer means immobility. As America’s rural communities stagnate, what can we learn from one that hasn’t? — by Larissa MacFarquar

> Commercial invention of tradition: How businesses and advertising shaped Thanksgiving as we know it — by Samantha N. N. Cross

economic sociology

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Economics as Religion


(Photo courtesy of  Jodi Beggs – Everglades, Florida, USA, 2013)

I rest my case 😉 

Or, at least, Max Weber could be assigned to teach it… 🙂  

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The Melodramatic Side of Political Economy

Oscar Wilde

Miss Prism: “Cecily, you will read your Political Economy in my absence. The chapter on the fall of the Rupee you may omit. It is somewhat too sensational. Even these metallic problems have their melodramatic side.
Cecily [Picks up books and throws them back on table]: 
Horrid Political Economy!…


(The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde, 1895)

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Sociology Journals and Network Proprieties of the Matthew Effect

by Luca Carbone*

Science is a political field. As Bourdieu peremptorily said “the scientific field is the locus of a competitive struggle, in which the specific issue at stake is the monopoly of scientific authority (1975: 19).
Shifting a little the focus, sociologist Robert Merton tackled in his seminal Science article (1968) the issue of how this authority is acquired looking at the “ways in which certain psychosocial processes affect the allocation of rewards to scientists for their contributions” (p 56). These processes are not only crucial for the ways ideas and findings spread in the scientific community, but are also the product of individual and structural characteristics of the system in which scientific practices are embedded in. The main point in Merton’s article was showing that a basic mechanism through which scientists acquire credits for their work depends on the class system “based on differential life-chances which locates scientists in differing positions within the opportunity structure of science” (p. 57). This is the Matthew effect, for which “eminent scientists get disproportionately great credit for their contributions” (p. 57).
Using bibliometrics data, I have explored one of the possible ways in which this phenomenon unfolds, looking at the citation patterns that sociological journals followed in 2017.
Table 1 shows the 26 journals, selected among those common in three web archives (Scimago, Scopus and Incites), that constitute the nodes in the network. The edges could be conceptualized as the number of times in 2017 journal A has cited an article published in journal B in all the possible years in which journal B could have published an article. Nodes have different weights, computed as linear sum of the indicators used to quantify the impact of a journal (this choice is due to the intrinsic limits of the Impact Factor (IF), as presented by Larivière and Sugimoto (2018)but also due to the consideration that these metrics measure different aspects of a journal), and edges have different sizes (according to the number of times each journal cites the others).
Journal in the network
Looking at the characteristics of this network at the nodes level, three concepts are particularly important: degree, betweenness, and eigen centrality. Overall, most of the nodes have a degree centrality above 20 (on a scale up to 35), which means that journals often have links with many other journals; secondly, those in the very center of the graph, with a higher degree centrality and hence more connected with the overall network, are in general those journals with a higher impact.
Another important nodes’ feature is betweenness centrality, which indicates on how many paths between other nodes each node is positioned (measuring how much information they are able to gather). One journal in particular, Social Science Research, places itself in between a great variety of patterns. This means that publishing in that journal allows the authors to be in between other journals’ patterns, both in terms of citing, they cite more often other journals, and in terms of being cited, this journal is cited by a more diverse set of journals. The rest of the network is consistently at the edge, indicating a low overall level of betweenness centrality. Figure 1 shows the distribution of journals in terms of betweenness centrality.


Betweenness Centrality

Figure 1: Betweenness Centrality. The more yellow the node, the higher the weight; the closer the node to the center, the higher its betweenness centrality (i.e. advantage in acquiring information).

To have an idea about the journals’ prestige also in terms of citations (and not only weights), the concept of eigencentrality is particularly helpful. It describes the degree of centrality of each node, taking into account the centrality of their neighbors. In this network, the most important journals in terms of weight have also a better position in terms of visibility. In fact, the nodes at the center of the graph are mostly light and closer to the yellow part (indicating a higher weight). This is shown in Figure 2.


Figure 2: Eigencentrality. The more yellow the node, the higher the weight; the closer the node to the center, the higher its eigenvector centrality (i.e. the more central neighbors that node has).

Because this is a direct network, it is important to evaluate which ties are better able to spread the information around the network, for which two measures are particularly explicative, authority and hub. An authority is a node with many other nodes linking to it, and Figure 3 shows the distribution of authorities in this graph as nodes’ size. As shown for the nodes, most of the authorities are high-ranking journals.


Figure 3: Authorities. The bigger the node, the higher the authority (i.e. the higher the number of incoming links by good hubs); the thicker the link, the higher the n° of citations

The second concept, that of hub, refers to the ability of one node to pointing to many authorities, allowing in this way a trustworthy selection of the information it transmits. Translating this concept from the information theory to citation patterns, good hubs are journals that cite other journals considered as good authorities due to the impact of their works. Figure 4 shows that good authorities are also good hubs. American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, American Behavioral Scientist, Social Science Research are among the most impactful journals, and always among the top authorities and top hubs.


Figure 4: Hubs. The bigger the node, the larger the number of citations to authorities; the thicker the link, the higher the n° of citations

An interesting fact emerges when the authority and hub graphs are compared. One journal, in particular, pays a high wage in being in this network, namely European Sociological Reiview. In 2017 it has received 0 citations from the other journals (indeed it is at the outskirt of the authorities’ network), but it figures among the strongest hubs. This means that not only high-ranking journals constitute an impermeable clique, but they are also supported by other journals which do not gain nothing in exchange.
Borrowing from recent works on web dynamics on social networks such as Facebookthese results could suggest the existence of an echo-chamber effect, where certain kind of information continuously circulate within close circles. And this effect could be conceived as one instance in which the Matthew Effect continuously reproduce itself.
Additional hints in this direction are provided looking at the whole network. Figure 4 shows the cliques in the network. This concept indicates particular subgroups in the network in which nodes cite each other more often than with other nodes. Three major cliques for this network are detected, mostly overlapping except for two nodes in each clique. To have a view of which journals belong to which cliques, Figure 5 shows two of the three major cliques. From this plot, it could be assessed that most of the high ranked journals (American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, American Behavioral Scientist, Social Network, Sociology of Education) belong to both the cliques, indicating once more some evidence of an echo-chamber effect.


Figure 5: Cliques. The bigger the node, the higher the weight; the thicker the link, the higher the n° of citations.

These analyses have depicted a fairly well connected network of journals in the field of sociology, with some evidence that more impactful journals maintain their weight also because information resonate within circles of mutual reinforcement (echo-chamber effect). This study, though, addresses the topic of the rewarding system using a single year of reference. Dynamic networks should be employed to further deepen the struggles intrinsic to the political field of science.
Luca Carbone is Research Master student in Sociology at Tilburg University, NL. His research interests lie at the intersection between historical and cultural sociology, employing social network analysis, archival research, and scientometrics tools to study the many facets with which science and society bicker.

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B&B: Gendered economics // Social drinking // Competition amok // Neoliberal beliefs vs. neoliberal reality // Do protests work? // Business’ counter-mobilization // Pro-poor market

This time, especially worth reading  and sharing articles:

Women economists are forced to conform to research interests and publishing habits of male economists. Gender discrimination in economics has various facets — by Giulia Zacchia

> Social drinking: How one hundred years ago, Britain nationalized hundreds of pubs and invented a better drinking culture — by Phil Mellows

Neoliberalism perceives society-as-a-whole as one big competitive arena. How did competition and competitiveness become justifiable and acceptable — by Will Davies

Neoliberal beliefs vs. neoliberal reality: Inequality is getting worse, but the percent of people across the world who say that their society is a meritocracy is increasing — by Jonathan J.B. Mijs

Do protests work? Is ‘folk politics’ of marches, petitions, and strikes more habit than solution, and a distraction from the structural nature of problems? — by Nathan Heller

Protest culture and business’s counter-mobilization in 1960s–80s: The personal, the political and the profitable — by Benjamin C. Waterhouse

Value chains for development: Pro-poor market interventions and the moral dilemmas they bring up for the the organisations implementing them and for the communities impacted by them — by Dena Freeman

neolibaralism inequality

by Johnny Miller

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