What is Economic Sociology?

What is Economic Sociology? How are economies created and where do markets come from? What is embeddedness? How do politics, networks and culture matter? What are the institutions of political economy? Why does capitalism differ among countries?
The Economic Sociology and Political Economy community was established to tackle these fundamental and fascinating questions, and we daily illuminate their particular angles and specific perspectives, benefiting from the cutting edge of scholarly knowledge in economic sociology and political economy. But sometimes bird’s eye view and comprehensive survey are needed.
This section will present State of the Art papers and review articles on basics and trends in (new) economic sociology in chronological order. Therefore it could easily be an intellectual point of departure to delve into the socio-political studies of the economy while our community will competently accompany you in this reflective journey.


  1. I’ll place here what I posted on the parallel LinkedIn discussion:

    The normative order, in my viewpoint, is that the economy is embedded into a society. Yet, this has become increasingly difficult to discern here in the U.S., where society has been subsumed to the economy, and thus individuals have become commodities, holding no greater or lesser priority than any other good or service.

    Thus it becomes difficult to consider the role of economic sociology when such distortions exist. The Parsonian paradigm – leaving the study of the economy to economics – could have proved useful had not economics fell into the trap of pursuing Newtonian mechanics, believing that society is made up of atomistic individuals who could, if studied, reveal mechanistic operations not unlike the cosmos. This, then, led economics down a path of applied mathematics that, while elegant, informs us of very little in terms of real-world functions between individuals, between individuals and institutions, and between institutions.

    In light of this, the arrival of economic sociology was inevitable, in that it pursues what neoclassical economic theory left behind: research into the previously mentioned triumvirate of interfaces as they occur within a society. The larger paradigms of Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Granovetter, etc., are certainly necessary points of reference against which we can react, but we must be careful of our desire to establish grand theories too quickly. Premature attempts to legitimize grand theories could lead economic sociology down an precarious path of reifying, a priori, schools of thought that ultimately prove hollow, the same fate classical economics has suffered.

    Rather, I see the strength of economic sociology in its freedom to explore the trenches, how economic life is lived out in the streets, communities, regions, workplaces, factories, boardrooms, the offices of investment firms, and the externalities our economic system creates as a result of these interactions.

    Equally as important, we need to study how assumptions and ideologies influence these interactions.

    Our theories should be created a posteriori, one brick at a time, as the empirical evidence comes in. Otherwise, we run the risk of following neoclassical economics’ approach that has failed to consider how individuals truly interact within functioning economic systems, and how the larger social order comes to bear on those interactions. Hence, we should should not fear the lack of a “unified approach to contextualize economic actions within society.”

    I think academics are too willing to rush towards a grand, unified theory so that it places some level of legitimation upon economic sociology as a science. In effect, this simply creates a copious amount of research chasing theories that may or may not hold any legitimation. In the process, we waste a lot of time and intellectual power, severely crippling the nascent discipline of economic sociology, the very outcome that we feared at the beginning.

    A science is legitimated by the presence of empirical research. Whether or not this activity has yet to lead us to a grand theory is a secondary, perhaps a tertiary, concern.

    Behavioral economics, the discipline of psychology’s answer to the dearth of useful empirical evidence emanating from classical economics, showed great promise at its genesis in the late ’70s and early ’80s, from the likes of Tversky, Kahneman and Diener. But it has since lost its way, becoming an after-the-fact attempt to empirically legitimize neoclassical economic theory. I have no interest in seeing the same fate for economic sociology or – for that matter – economic anthropology. While signs of this are emerging, these latter two disciplines largely continue to challenge classical economic assumptions… so far.

    And that is where we need to be, discovering the real world of economics, rather than attempting to legitimize ideologies.

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