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

By Milan Zafirovski | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
The Political Structuration
of Economic Exchange

POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS AND ECONOMIC EXCHANGE

The influence of political factors on economic exchange goes beyond the formal monetary function of state institutions. Such influence is more substantial than the regulation of money or monetary policy and expresses what Weber (1968:193) calls the “non-monetary significance of political bodies for the economic order.” And monetary policy itself can be driven not only by economic considerations but also by political ones. Recently, this has been indicated by the proposed creation of the European Monetary Union (EMU), since the decision “will not depend on economic advantages “but” will reflect deeply held political views” (Feldstein 1997:23). Still, the EMU started on January 1, 1999, with the launching of the new currency Euro. No wonder some economists (Fox 1996:55) suggest that their colleagues “need to lose their self-absorption and get into the world of noneconomists.”

In Weber's framework, the economic significance of political institutions consists of various ways or channels by which the state and polity overall affect economic exchange. One of these ways is political institutions' preference of their own economic subjects as sources of a supply for resources or utilities. Another way lies in their tendency to encourage, restrain, or regulate exchange transactions across its boundaries (i.e., trade policy). Still another way includes various types of formal and substantive regulation of economic activity by political institutions. A next instance consists of the important consequences on economic exchange of the differences in the structure of authority, of political power, and relatedly of administration and social classes, as well as of different attitudes toward earning and profit

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