THIS BOOK began in a seminar given by Robert Heilbroner and Ross Thompson at the New School for Social Research in the autumn of 1990. Titled “The Autonomy of Economic Life,” the seminar examined the relationship of the economy and society as well as that of economics and other social sciences. Ever since then, I have been interested in these subjects. I am grateful first to Hans Joas, who supervised the work, encouraging the clarification of conceptual issues. In many respects, my thinking has been deeply influenced by the work of Hans Joas and our many conversations. I would also like to thank Heiner Ganssmann, Wolfgang Knobl, Claus Offe, Harald Wenzel, and Dietrich Winterhager, who read the entire book or individual chapters and made helpful remarks. My thanks to the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes for financial assistance. I wrote most of the dissertation in the academic year 1994–95 as a Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology of Princeton University, where the ideal working conditions were an essential advantage for the progress of the book. For making this stay both possible and intellectually stimulating I should like to thank the department, particularly Paul DiMaggio and Viviana Zelizer. I am grateful to the Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz Foundation for a stipend during my year in Princeton. Volker Bien, Karin Goihl, and Anne-Christin Muth helped with literature and preparation of the final manuscript. Last but not least, thanks to my wife Farzaneh Alizadeh for all her support during the not always easy phases of the writing process. The book is dedicated to the memory of my father.
Berlin, July 1997
Note: For the English translation, the chapter on Durkheim has been slightly abridged, while some new material has been added to the chapter on Giddens and to the conclusions. The other parts of the manuscript remain unchanged, except for some corrections in the interest of legibility. Permission from Kluwer Publishers for using material from my article “What is sociological about economic sociology? Uncertainty and the embeddedness of economic action” (Theory and Society 25: 803–840) is gratefully acknowledged.
Cambridge, Mass., February 2002