Applying a Sociological
Approach to Economic Exchange
In the following section we outline a distinctive approach to exchange transactions, which is premised upon a sociological theory of economic behavior (Weber 1968:68). For that purpose, first we undertake the analytical reconstruction of market-economic exchange on social factors (i.e., social action and human agency in society) and contrast this with reducing all social action to economic transactions pursued in (rational choice versions of) social exchange theory.
A peculiar characteristic of social exchange and other rational choice theorists is that they “do not always theorize exchange rather than explaining markets and exchange, they employ markets or exchange to explain social and economic life “neglecting that” market theories are not the same as theories of markets” (Lie 1997:343). If these theorists propose grounding social exchange or human action on market principles, a neo-Weberian approach attempts the opposite. This is the conceptual founding marketeconomic exchange on sociological principles as a distinctive feature of a theoretical-empirical economic sociology (Weber 1968:78–79), especially the economic sociology of the market (Boulding 1970:153). Weber's analysis of the sociological categories of economic action or sociological relationships in the economic sphere is a classical attempt to analytically build market-economic exchange on social principles. His analysis involves no efforts to ground social action on exchange principles or economic factors, as shown by Weber's rejection of the economic approach to social action and the materialistic conception of history being one-sided.