Exchange, Action, and Social Structure: Elements of Economic Sociology

By Milan Zafirovski | Go to book overview

Introduction

This work focuses on the effects of social action and social structure on economic exchange. It is a theoretical-empirical analysis of exchange processes, which situates and constitutes them within their social (including institutional, political, and cultural) framework. As such, it represents a contribution to a neo-Weberian economic sociology as an exploration into what Max Weber called the sociological categories of economic action in light of the presence and salience of social influences in the economy. The work particularly contributes to building a neo-Weberian sociology of the market, combining Weber's classical insights with recent theoretical developments and empirical findings in the new economic sociology.

Thereby, the present work performs an essential revision and inversion (“creative destruction”) of current social exchange theory in sociology, and secondarily of pure exchange theory in economics. Modern exchange theory in sociology tends to conceptualize social action as (an extension of) economic exchange by reducing all social relations and processes to marketstyle transactions. In contrast, a neo-Weberian approach conceptualizes market-economic exchange as a particular form of social action. The same can be said of other concrete forms of economic behavior, since these too are types of social action. Rather than reducing social relations to exchange transactions, a neo-Weberian approach identifies and analyzes the social factors of these transactions. The social constitution and construction of exchange transactions constitutes the realm of the sociology of the market (Weber 1968:81).

The neo-Weberian approach originates from the framework of a theoretical-empirical economic sociology, the subject matter of which is the social constitution of economic action generally and of exchange particu-

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