My intention in collecting these readings is to add a dimension of depth to my The Sociology of Economic Life, published as part of the Prentice-Hall Foundations of Modern Sociology Series. In that essay I attempted to cover the issues of economic sociology as comprehensively as possible. Comprehensiveness, however, necessarily limits any detailed analysis of research. By presenting several dozen original studies now, I intend to compensate for this limitation.
The starting point of analysis in the original essay was the belief that economic behavior--though subject to the specialized discipline of economics--is always embedded in a social context. Economic behavior is empirically understood only by reference to other social variables--familial, political, religious, and so forth. My purpose was to illustrate connections between the economic and noneconomic aspects of social life and to interpret research relevant to these connections, such as how the family, politics, and religion influence economic activity, and vice versa. Now, however, in collecting these more specialized readings, I am able to present some of the original research, rather than pure summary.
Usually a companion volume of readings is subdivided according to the subdivision of the chapters of the text, with several selections for each chapter. I have followed this parallelism to a limited extent. The two Parts of this volume parallel Chapters Three and Four--the two major substantive chapters--of The Sociology of Economic Life. Part I begins with the view that the links between the economic and noneconomic aspects of social life are definite and traceable. The headings related to the cultural, political, integrative, and stratificational boundaries of economic life correspond--though in somewhat different sequence --to the subheadings of Chapter Three. "The Economy and Other Social Sub- Systems." In addition, a few selections in Part I illustrate the relations between personality and economic activity. Part II approaches economic sociology from the economic processes themselves--production, exchange, and consumption. This Part contains articles that illustrate how social variables impinge on these economic processes, and vice versa. The headings in this Part exactly parallel the subheadings of Chapter Four, "Sociological Analysis of Economic Processes."
There are no selections that exactly parallel Chapters One, Two, and Five of the essay. Chapter One is entitled "Historical Developments in Economic Sociology." The obvious companion readings would be selections from Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and others, but these would have carried me well beyond the permitted space; and to present a few skimpy excerpts would have added little to the summaries in the text. Therefore I have not included any . . .