Economic Sociology Reformulated: The Interface between Economics and Sociology

By Zafirovski, Milan; Levine, Barry B. | The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, July 1997 | Go to article overview

Economic Sociology Reformulated: The Interface between Economics and Sociology


Zafirovski, Milan, Levine, Barry B., The American Journal of Economics and Sociology


I

The Social Framework of Economic Processes

The realm of economic sociology is rarely well defined. Confusions abound, as exemplified by the sketchy boundaries between economic sociology and economics, sociology, and rational choice theory (Coleman 1994; Davern and Eitzen 1995; Smelser and Swedberg 1994; Swedberg 1987). Spurious distinctions such as that between economic sociology and sociological economics or socioeconomics can also be found (Etzioni 1991; Smelser & Swedberg 1994; Swedberg 1987; 1991). A reformulation of the field of economic sociology is in order.

The subject matter of economic sociology can be defined as encompassing economic actions, relations, and processes within their social setting. Thus, economic sociology differs from economics, which deals with economic behavior per se (though some economists use the concept of "social framework" often too narrowly, in the sense of the economic system and policy, c.f., Hicks 1959). Economic sociology also differs from general sociology in Weber's (1968) sense where sociology deals with all four types of social action (aim-rational, value-rational, traditional and emotional). And, economic sociology differs from rational choice theory, which focuses on the economic variables of social life. By contrast, economic sociology examines the sociological categories of economic life. Whereas, rational choice theory proposes the economic determination of society, economic sociology posits the social construction of the economy. Too often, conceptual relations between the disciplines have been confused or overlooked, not just by rational choice theorists but even by many economic sociologists themselves. One prominent example of this is the Handbook of Economic Sociology in which the perspective of economic sociology and that of rational choice theory (including the "new institutional economics") are juxtaposed to each other without providing any criteria for what belongs to economic sociology proper and what does not (for a general critique, cf. Piore 1996).

As defined, economic sociology tends to consider economic phenomena as "only particular cases of the general states of the sociological system" (Pareto 1932: 13135). Within neoclassical economics the economic system is defined by the relations between economic goals ("tastes") and the "obstacles" to attaining these goals (Pareto 1927), or between demand or utility and supply or scarcity (Walras 1952; Wicksell 1951), or between aggregate production and aggregate consumption (Keynes 1960; Samuelson 1983). However, as Pareto observed, the "social system is more complicated" for it includes not only such rational actions but nonrational ones as well. In other words, the social system incorporates the economic system as a constituent part. This conception prefigures modern systems theory in sociology (Luhmann 1995; Munch 1990; Parsons and Smelser 1965) and the embeddedness principle of economic behavior (Granovetter 1985, 1990; Polanyi 1968; also Baum & Oliver 1992; Fligstein and Brantley 1992; Montgomery 1994; for a critique cf. Barber 1993).

Not just the social system but the economic system can also be viewed holistically and characterized as a "whole of which all the parts are connected and react to each other" (Cournot 1960: 127). To the extent that this economic whole is seen as a self-sufficient or self-referential system (Luhmann 1995), this definition demonstrates the familiar tendency of most economists to reduce the total social system to its economic subsystem. (There are also exceptions, such as Pareto, Schumpeter, Myrdal, Boulding, Wieser, von Mises.)

The realm of economic sociology is equivalent to that of socioeconomics (sometimes called social economics or sociological economics), only if the latter is understood in the properly narrow sense of a study of the sociological categories of the economy. Socioeconomics, however, is oftentimes defined more broadly in the sense of all of economic analysis, thus swallowing economic sociology (Schumpeter 1955). …

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 ...
Default project is now your active project.
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

Economic Sociology Reformulated: The Interface between Economics and Sociology
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
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.