Economics and Sociology: A Review Essay

By Pressman, Steven; Montecinos, Veronica | Journal of Economic Issues, September 1996 | Go to article overview

Economics and Sociology: A Review Essay


Pressman, Steven, Montecinos, Veronica, Journal of Economic Issues


For many decades, the disciplines of economics and sociology have been at odds with each other. Economists have looked down on sociology for lacking mathematical rigor; on the other hand, sociologists have criticized economics for being too abstract and formal and for making arbitrary and unrealistic assumptions about human behavior. As a result of this divisiveness, economists have missed important insights from the field of sociology, while sociologists have ignored the significant advances and insights provided by economics. The Handbook of Economic Sociology [Smelser and Swedberg 1994], a collection of essays written by both sociologists and economists, marks an important turning point in the efforts to enhance cooperation between these fields. It also marks an advance in the search for a broad theoretical synthesis of economics and sociology.

The introduction traces the origins of the New Economic Sociology, which began to flourish during the past decade. This tradition began with Marx; then extends through Weber, Durkheim, Schumpeter, and Polanyi; and more recently has moved on to Parsons and Smelser. The purpose of economic sociology, at present and in the past, has been to understand culture, social forces, and economic phenomena-not as separate domains, but rather as elements that deeply interpenetrate each other, forming a complex reality.

Unlike the methodological individualism that dominates mainstream economics, economic sociology conceptualizes economic actors as being "socially constructed" shaped and constrained by the groups to which they belong. Mathematical models are but one of a variety of methods through which the interactions of economic and non-economic phenomena can be studied; economic sociology also recognizes the validity of surveys, ethnography, and historical and comparative analyses.

In economic sociology, theoretical pluralism is as important as methodological eclecticism. History and anthropology are welcome partners in the fight against imperialistic approaches to the study of human behavior. Rationality is taken not as an assumption, but is viewed as a phenomenon whose variance can be explained by studying cultural and historical contexts. The operation of market transactions is seen not as the result of self-regulating mechanisms, but rather as something embedded in institutions, which in turn depend on cultural and social relations.

In its most recent version, economic sociology has paid special attention to the impact of social networks, ethnic and gender identities, and the international context on economic life. Underlying economic outcomes are state regulations, bureaucratic inertia, family and friendship ties, normative restrictions, and symbolic meanings. To understand variations in efficiency, labor force participation, consumption, investment, organizational survival and profitability, economic sociologists say it is necessary to look at how non-economic arrangements impinge upon these variables.

Perhaps the shortest and simplest way to describe this massive 840-page tome is to say that it is a set of 30 literature reviews, similar to the surveys regularly found on the pages of the Journal of Economic Literature. In fact, one chapter in the Handbook-Richard Nelson on evolutionary theory and economic change - has already appeared in the Journal of Economic Literature in a slightly revised form. Each chapter surveys one specific issue; it discusses how economics and sociology can learn from each other, summarizes the relevant literature on the topic, and provides some guidance on fruitful lines for future research.

Economic sociology has generally focused on three main ways that economics and sociology can connect: (1) a sociological analysis of economic processes and systems, (2) an analysis of the relationships between the economy and the rest of society, and (3) a study of how changing institutional and cultural patterns affect the economy.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Economics and Sociology: A Review Essay
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.