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Milan Zafirovski

The chapter provides an introduction to A Modern Guide to Economic Sociology. The volume offers a modern guide to the basic ideas, principles and results of economic sociology and its elements and implications in economics. The volume includes contributions from both modern economic sociologists and sociologically-minded economists working in this and related fields. The introduction argues and demonstrates that the concepts, premises and stages of economic sociology correspond and converge with its elements or implications in economics. It proposes that the fundamentals of economic sociology are generally compatible with its variations in economics. It infers that there is a correspondence and compatibility between economic sociology and its elements in economics in a shared set of core concepts and principles and a common sequence of phases of development. This includes primarily the concept of a social economy, including institutional, political and cultural, constitution and determination, i.e., embeddedness, of economic actors and actions. It provides instances from the various stages of development of economic sociology and its elements in economics. It concludes that economic sociology primarily makes sociology and economics closely related and allied social sciences.

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Filippo Barbera

Throughout its exciting development, economic sociology has relied on three different influential rhetorical devices to deal with the relationship between society and economy: the rhetoric of extension, the rhetoric of context and the rhetoric of alternative. These three devices cut across the main approaches that populate contemporary economic sociology: the structural approach, the neo-institutional one, the historical sociology of economic processes, the organizational analysis and the comparative political economy. Neither in the model of extension nor in that of context does the intervention of social factors cast radical doubts on the role of parsimonious micro-level models and market exchange processes. On the contrary, in the rhetoric of alternative the introduction of society opens towards the endogenous variability of micro-level models and exchange systems, outlining scenarios in which ‘social molecules’ generate coupling and decoupling patterns where contexts, structures and individual actions interact and change together.

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Geoffrey M. Hodgson

Spanning several academic disciplines, the study of economic institutions is now prominent in the social sciences. But partly because of this multi-disciplinarity, there are disputes over the definitions and understanding of key terms, as well as the deployment of different methods. This chapter examines some of the most important terms, including institution and rule. It also considers possible explanations of rule-following and of the adequacy of the rational choice approach. Particular types of economic institutions, such as firms, markets, property, money and the state are also discussed. A penultimate section reviews work that has established the importance of institutions in economic development. A final section addresses the future of institutional research.

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David Knoke and Anna Bokun

We review recent developments in the social network analysis of economic behavior. After discussing core network concepts and relations, we examine research in three subfields where network methods contribute new knowledge and understanding of economic activities. In healthcare systems, interorganizational networks of health providers, physician-patient referral systems, and medical technology innovation and diffusion affect patient health outcomes. Research on national and international production and trade networks includes input-output models, world systems positions, and gravity models. The global interbank financial network was implicated in 2008-09 Global Financial Crisis and Great Recession, while contagion models and stress tests assess the capacity to avoid future meltdowns. In conclusion, we note other economic subfields where social network analysts are creating a flourishing arena of insights and intellectual innovations.

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Eric Bjorklund and Ronald L. Breiger

The distribution and allocation of resources - the core of any economic system - is inextricably tied to the distribution of power in society. Economic processes cannot therefore be understood without simultaneously understanding systems of stratification. In this chapter we provide a brief introduction to the symbiotic relationship between markets and stratification systems. The first section describes the attainment process. We discuss how sociology and economics have looked at this question over time each through its own highly distinctive lens, and how the two approaches have begun increasingly to align their focus to gain shared insight and to influence each other. In the second section we highlight how the national state creates and reinforces markets and patterns of stratification, such as poverty, inequality, and mobility. We review the concept of ‘welfare regime’ as a potentially productive means for advancing the study of markets and stratification.

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David Weakliem

It is often said that economic policy has taken a sharp turn to the right over the last forty years. This paper argues that this view is inaccurate: economic regulation spending on social welfare programs have both increased. However, there has been a shift from directly government intervention to the use of market mechanisms. In this sense, policy can be said to have moved in a ‘neoliberal’ direction. The chapter examines the economic record of four nations which have moved most strongly in that direction (Australia, Britain, New Zealand, and the United States) and finds that they have improved their performance with respect to economic growth and employment, but also have had rapid growth in inequality. The chapter discusses some reasons that neoliberal policies have facilitated the growth of inequality, and the prospects for reversing this growth.

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Linzi Berkowitz and Harland Prechel

The relationship between law, regulation and the economy has a longstanding history in sociology beginning with the classical theorists. Despite this, their interaction was largely left unstudied by economic sociologists until the late twentieth century. We find that a substantial amount of literature in this area of economic sociology falls within two thematic areas. Much of the literature gives priority to cultural analysis to understand organizational and institutional reactions to external regulation. Other literature focuses on regulation in the neoliberal era with many arguing that despite neoliberal ideology of deregulation, globalization requires more or different forms of regulation. Although some economic sociologists suggest that the “new economic sociology” incorporates politics, we find that insufficient attention is given to social actors, power hierarchies, and how transformation of political-legal arrangements in the neoliberal era benefit corporations and the wealthy.

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Thomas J. Burns, Tom W. Boyd and Carrie M. Leslie

Building upon prior work in the social sciences and philosophy, and more specifically in cultural and economic sociology, we examine the embeddedness of economic processes within modern culture. Over the course of much of the most recent century, social observers have articulated modernization processes that would come to fruition across a wide array of cultural processes, including artistic expression and cultural norms. We identify five distinct aspects of the modernization process, the cultural and institutional modalities most closely associated with them, and the economic systems that they are most likely to support. We then identify social and environmental problems most closely associated with each, and address questions of how possible it would be for the advent of a sustainable value system, sufficiently overarching in scope to balance the weight of the dominance of a late modern economic system that can at the same time maintain a diverse global culture. What would such a value system involve? More generally, what social beliefs and practices undergird the peaceful practice of ecological, economic and cultural balance, and what institutional practices would be necessary for such a system to succeed? In developing a metatheoretical framework for addressing these issues, we articulate five ideal-typical hermeneutic circles, or networks of meaning, situated relative to the trajectory of modernity, and look at the larger social and institutional processes with which they interact.

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Patrick Sachweh and Till Hilmar

This chapter argues that the ‘moral economy’ concept can contribute to our understanding of the relation between morality and economy in economic sociology. The benefits of the concept are twofold: First, it allows scholars to conceptualize the relationship between morality and economic action not only on the level of single markets, as is common in economic sociology, but also with regard to the larger institutional architecture of capitalist societies. Second, while many economic sociology studies tend to focus on the role of morality for the functioning of markets, the moral economy perspective allows for the consideration of the potentially conflictual relationship between morality and economy. We discuss exemplary studies from the moral economy perspective in four substantive areas - transitions to capitalism, welfare regimes and the moral economy of (re)distribution, commodification and taboo markets, and collective agency - in order to flesh out these ideas.

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Christoph Deutschmann

The article outlines an economic sociology approach for understanding the interrelationships between society, production and work. The first section gives an overview over markets, labor markets, organizations, networks and the state as key institutions governing production and work in modern society. Modern society is being identified as a dynamic system based on disembedded markets. The second section turns to the perspectives of individual collective actors, asking for the orientations and motives relevant for participation in production and work. Referring to recent debates in economic sociology, the article emphasizes the importance of fictional future scenarios and of the individual quest for social advance via market innovation for capitalist dynamics. Should the feedback between social structures and individual motives be successful, this will make the economy grow, as the third, concluding section argues. However, successful feedback is everything else but guaranteed.