Purpose – This introductory essay to an edited volume proposes possible contributions from economic sociology to the study of work broadly defined. Weber had a vision of economic sociology as a study of not only economic phenomena but also economically relevant and economically conditioned phenomena. Work, in its market and nonmarket variety, falls in all these categories and thus presents a fruitful research arena for economic sociologists who have thus far primarily studied markets and corporations.
Methodology/Approach – The essay provides an analytic review of literature in economic sociology, uses information from the content analysis of recent publications in sociology of work, and provides an overview of chapters included in this edited volume.
Value of paper – Applying economic sociology to work means: (a) investigating its embeddedness in social structures, culture, and politics; and (b) uncovering the socially constructed nature of what constitutes paid market work. This article also proposes that economic sociologists can expand the boundaries of work by examining such activities as care work, work in the informal economy, and prison work.
This chapter responds to Fred Block's article about the weaknesses of the concept of capitalism because of its close association with Marxism, and his proposal for a…
This chapter responds to Fred Block's article about the weaknesses of the concept of capitalism because of its close association with Marxism, and his proposal for a Polanyian analysis of political economy. In this chapter, I interrogate what may be the commonalities as opposed to divergences between Marx and Polanyi, and I question whether the concept of capitalism is really so wedded to Marxism so as to loose its analytic value, and be better replaced by notions such as market society, or political economy, as used by Polanyi. I agree with Block that a Polanyian analysis importantly widens our view beyond economic reductionism to an understanding of economy and society as co-constitutive. However, I see utility in adding the qualifier “capitalist” to “political economy” to differentiate between socialist and capitalist political economies, for instance, and to properly characterize a system based on private property rights, guided by pursuit of material gain, which advantages some strata in society more than others, leading to endemic social inequality. I propose that a Polanyian focus on society and economy as co-constitutive is more effectively coupled with an analysis that considers capitalism not as a self-driven system of surplus extraction and accumulation, but as an institutional order dependent on political choices. Such a perspective would advance a Polanyian analysis of capitalism.
Purpose – The purpose of this research is to investigate whether and to what extent economic transactions are influenced by social structures, power distributions, and…
Purpose – The purpose of this research is to investigate whether and to what extent economic transactions are influenced by social structures, power distributions, and cultural understandings through an analysis of exchange at a scrap metal yard in Chicago.
Methodology/Approach – Between March 2000 and December 2002, 72 interviews were conducted with collectors who bring metal to City Iron. With 16 of these collectors the author had a working relationship, assisting the collector in all aspects of the job. Data were coded and analyzed with the assistance of NVIVO, a qualitative data management program.
Findings – The author finds that market transactions are not impersonal and that moral characterizations matter. In this universally risky business in which some level of in-market cheating is expected, material and moral appraisals become intertwined as participants look to extra-market cues and clues in evaluating with whom to transact and how. While the ascription of ethnicity serves as a proxy for the particularistic judgment of trustworthiness, this sorting is accomplished and legitimated by an ostensibly universal moral discourse. Actors evaluate each other using a moral yardstick, paying as much – if not more – attention to what one believes the other is doing when not working as to when one is.
Originality/Value of paper – By focusing on exchange-in-interaction and articulating how economic transactions are culturally embedded, this research contributes to scholarship in the sociologies of work and economies, and provides a glimpse into an understudied work world.