Principles of Economic Sociology

Principles of Economic Sociology

Principles of Economic Sociology

Principles of Economic Sociology

Excerpt

This book is intended as a general introduction to economic sociology, a field that is relatively new in the social sciences and whose importance is rapidly growing in the United States as well as in Europe. Economic sociology represents a promising type of analysis, and at the rate it has developed over the past ten years it could well become one of the key contenders in the twenty-first century for analyzing economic phenomena—ranking alongside neoclassical economics, game theory, and behavioral economics.

Economic sociology can be defined briefly as the application of the sociological tradition to economic phenomena in an attempt to explain these. Economic sociology shares most of the concerns and goals of economics. On one point, however, it differs sharply from conventional economics; and this is through its direct and strong focus on the role that social relations and social institutions play in the economy. To live in society means to be connected to other people and take part in its institutions—and this deeply affects the economic actions of all economic actors. It affects the way in which such actions turn out individually as well as in aggregate. The patterns of social interaction and the institutions that people create and use in their attempts to make a living and a profit are what constitute the main subject area of economic sociology. As in game theory, there is no isolated homo economicus in sociology—only people who interact with one another in their attempts to realize their interests.

My two main goals in writing this book have been to introduce a new perspective into economic sociology and to present its major concepts, ideas, and findings. The new perspective that I wish to introduce centers on the scope of the field: economic sociology should not be concerned exclusively with the impact of social relations on economic actions (which is currently its main concern), but also take interests into account, and more generally try to situate the analysis at an interest level, along the lines that Weber did in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Indeed, Weber's famous study can be seen as a paradigm and a guide for how to proceed in economic sociology. One starts out by locating people's interests (in Weber's case, religious and economic interests), and then studies the social forces that affect these interests and what consequences this will have. Following the lead of The Protestant Ethic will make the analysis sharper as well as more realistic.

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