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Session Overview
Session
RN09_01a_H: Theoretical Perspectives in Economic Sociology
Time:
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Sebastian Koos, University of Konstanz
Location: HB.3.18
HAROKOPIO University 70 El. Venizelou Street 17671 Athens, Greece Building: B, Level: 3.

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Presentations

Rationality, Norms, and the Sociological Reconstruction of Economic Theory

Mark Gould

Haverford College, United States of America

This paper characterizes the interface of economic and sociological theory, focusing on Parsons’s analysis of the “problem of order” and on Weber’s and Marx’s analyses of the emergence of machine capitalism. I demonstrate the consistency of both perfect-information, Arrow-Debreu models and models of competitive markets under machine capitalism with the assumptions of neoclassical theory, most especially the contention that all actors always act rationally, maximize against constraints. I also demonstrate that imperfect-information models and models of capitalist production that are not competitive generate anomalies that manifest certain fallacies within neoclassical theory, especially the contention that we can explain social action successfully if we assume that all actors are instrumentally rational all of the time.

Methodologically, I show that my analyses have consequences for an evaluation of Friedman’s contention that the empirical veracity of the assumption of rationality is irrelevant because the predictions that derive from models where rationality is assumed are empirically warranted. These empirical predictions presume other attributes of the “real world,” like competitive constraints, that are not always present, and thus that the predictions are often false. We will conclude that the veracity of the assumptions in our models is often crucial to the model’s empirical warrantability. Even when the assumption of rationality is justified, it should not be taken a priori; it requires explanation. Actors may conform to a variety of normative orientations, and since the conceptualization of these alternative, positively-stated normative orientations is impossible within utilitarian theory, this suggests that neoclassical theory must be reconstructed sociologically.


Global Political Economy and Grounded Theory

Yvonne Franke

Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany

Empirical research in Global Political Economy (GPE) has proved astonishingly resistant to qualitative research methodologies. It resisted the cultural turn marked by a renaissance of qualitative approaches in many disciplines and subfields in political science (see for an overview Blatter et al. 2007). Even in the very core of the discipline, in International Relations, qualitative methods have become more and more popular (see e.g. Klotz/Prakash 2008). Certainly case studies have dominated Global Political Economy over the recent decades (Odell 2001: 171), but methodological designs based on open field research like anthropological methodologies or Grounded Theory are rare.

This results from the positivist ideas at the core of the discipline which are reflected in its terminology, theorems, and concepts of economy and its articulation with society. Certainly, over the last two decades, these structuralist or even positivist concepts have been theoretically challenged by approaches bridging the gap between economic and cultural patterns, such as the varieties of capitalism approach (Hall/Soskice 2004). And yet, there has not been much progress in using qualitative research not only as a mere tool to acquire information, but as a methodological approach. The proposed paper aims to show that Grounded Theory as a methodology and a method is first of all an excellent tool to avoid structuralist pitfalls in GPE. It allows to capture cultural and societal elements that are habitually overlooked by standard economist approaches. Secondly, GT provides a framework for bridging the micro-macro-gap of GPE approaches. And third, it offers to a certain degree the possibility to reflect on analytic tools shaped by (post)colonial respectively western domination.


The Language of Economists: A Quantitative Textual Analysis of Top Italian Economists’ Newspaper Articles in the Crisis Years

Lucio Baccaro, Sinisa Hadziabdic

University of Geneva, Switzerland

This paper focuses on economists as public intellectuals and their contributions to the public sphere. It aims to produce a quantitative textual analysis of the Italian economists’ understanding of the Italian crisis, and their views of what policy makers should do to address it. The corpus is constituted of all newspaper articles written by top 5% Italian economists between 2007 and 2015. The analysis aims to identify dominant themes and axes of discourse. Preliminary findings suggest a remarkable degree of homogeneity in the discourse of Italian top economists. The main culprit of the Italian crisis is the Italian state: bloated, corrupt, and inefficient. The cornerstone of any viable solution is widespread liberalization. Europe is an indispensable external anchor that pushes sluggish domestic actors to shape up. Interestingly, arguments for liberalization often rest not on efficiency but on equity considerations: a market society is the best way to institutionalize a meritocratic distribution of rewards. Liberalization is presented as a left-wing, progressive project, and opposition to it as self-serving resistance by entrenched interests.


Modeling Institutional Anomie Theory on Individual Level as a Causal Mechanism

Jacek Bieliński1, Andreas Hövermann2

1Institute of Sociology, Collegium Civitas, Poland; 2University of Bielefeld, Germany

Institutional anomie theory (IAT) was developed to explain deviant behavior. Steven Messner and Richard Rosenfeld argued that deviant behavior can emerge as a result of domination of economy in institutional balance of power. The domination of economy is expressed through processes of 1) accommodation of non-economic social roles to norms and values typical for the economic social institutions, 2) devaluation of non-economical social roles, 3) penetration of values and norms typical for the economy into other, non-economic social institutions. IAT was successfully employed both at macro and micro level analysis of different forms of deviant behavior and such phenomena as e.g. enmity towards minority groups. Nevertheless, IAT is rarely conceptualized as a casual mechanism.

The goal of this paper is to demonstrate that IAT can be conceptualized and successfully operationalized in terms of causal mechanism. I formulate theoretical model of such causal mechanism, and test it against empirical data with structural equation model.

Empirical analyses are based on data from a survey conducted by TNS in December 2016 on a representative sample of Polish population over 15 years of age. The sample size was 1051 respondents.

The results show that high levels of marketized mentality (acceptance of norms and values typical for economic social institutions: individualism, universalism of rules, achievement orientation and money fetishism) have strong direct effect on accommodation, devaluation of non-economic social roles and normative disorientation (anomic pursuit of success). Simultaneously, accommodation, devaluation and normative disorientation are independent of each other.



 
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