Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
RN09_07b: Theoretical Perspectives in Economic Sociology I
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Philip Balsiger, University of Neuchatel
Location: BS.3.17
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Third Floor, North Atrium Oxford Road

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The Coupling of Money Grids - On The Political Dimensions of Money from a Relationist Perspective

Aaron Sahr

Hamburg Institute for Social Research, Germany

The political dimension of money is commonly identified with a conflict over purchasing power, i.e. the value of money. This position is held by representatives of both commodity theory and credit theory of money. From a sociological perspective, however, this framing does not exhaust the potential of credit theory. This paper attempts to develop the economic credit theory into a sociological research perspective and shows, using the TARGET2 debate as an example, how the conceptualization of the euro as a political institution might be expanded by this. The paper follows a relationist perspective that examines money as a web of interdependent creditor-debtor relationships. In contrast to traditional research on money, a relationist sociology of money is not concerned with the value of money (purchasing power), but with the social, cultural, and political conditions and effects of the continuous creation, maintenance and dissolution of risky and politically integrated credit relationships that form and reproduce the “money grid” (P. Mehrling). The paper hopes to offer least two helpful insights about money as a political institution. Firstly, the European single currency can be described at the social level as an attempt to link national money grids only partially. The concept of ‘coupling’ is proposed for this socio-political connection. Secondly, the political dimension of this coupling isn’t exhausted by making liquid assets exchangeable through exchange rates. Rather, it is the content of the claim that is politically negotiated; i.e. the nature of the relationships that couple the national currencies. In a more explorative concluding section, an attempt will be made to extend the relationist perspective on monetary conflict to other ‘coupling mechanisms’, such as currency swap lines.

The Sociology of Economics Revisited: From Performativity to Utilization Studies

Jan Sparsam

Ludwig Maximilians University Munich, Germany

The sociology of economics has been established as new research field in economic sociology. It mainly comprises two strands: first, the analysis of the institutional and epistemic order of academic economics. Second, the impact of economics on the real-world economy. The second strand is dominated by performativity studies in the vein of Michel Callon and Donald Mackenzie. Performativity studies claim that academic economics (co-)constitutes economic phenomena. But they have also been criticized for insufficient empirical verification of the actual effect of economic knowledge on the real-world economy. Sharp critics find fault with performativity studies presupposing what should be proven in the first place.

The presentation discusses the desiderata of performativity studies and offers methodological propositions for the study of the utilization and impact of economic knowledge. On the one hand, I will argue that the relationship between scientific representation and intervention has to be framed in terms of a theory of action that is mindful of the motivations, interest and backgrounds of the actors utilizing economic knowledge. On the other hand, I claim that the economy has to be understood as more than just a passive area of application for knowledge stemming from economics. I will give examples from the social studies of finance and the sociology of central banks to show that the utilization of economic knowledge is always integrated in a production process of field-specific knowledge. The presentation concludes with providing a general approach for the analysis of the utilization and the impact of economic knowledge.

New Economic Sociology Linked to Mechanism Approach

Andra Maurer

University, Germany

The invention of new economic sociology in the 1980s was inspired by theoretical debates starting in the 1970s in the US and Europe by emphasizing theoretical issues. Central theoretical challenges in the 1970s in sociology came from the dominance of macro theories on the one hand and that of economic theory on the other hand. Both approaches were criticized for their lack of taking ongoing social relations as well as individual’s meanings into account.

The paper reconstructs how sociologists, such as Mark Granovetter, Ronald Burt, Harrison White and James Coleman, started to overcome the shortcomings of standard sociological and economic approaches by inventing the concept of action-based explanations. New economic sociologists as well as theorists from different fields have worked on action-based explanations since then.

Based on this, the developments and tools established in the action-based program in sociology in general and economic sociology in particular are described. Last but not least, mechanism approach, a central newcomer in theoretical debates, will be linked to economic sociology and discussed as a promising way of going further.

Work Alienation: Theoretical Reflections on Hidden Dimension of Current Market Societies

Daniel Gerbery

Comenius University, Faculty of Arts, Slovak Republic

In the last thirty years, economic sociology has produced plausible theoretical diagnoses of the market economy trajectories and their consequences, including financialization of the economy, increasing social inequalities, or rise in the precariousness of paid employment. The paper argues that when trying to understand the nature of market economy and its impact on human conditions, labour and world of work should be at the heart of theoretical thinking, as they represent the fundamental channels through which market economy touches our lives and through which we connect to other human beings. To do so, the paper pays attention to an “intimate” relationship to work and to self as a “labour”, by focusing on the concept of alienation.

Based on critical reading of Marxist and post-Marxist ideas, as well as refusal of managerial and “technical” concepts, the paper identifies conditions under which the concept of alienation can be used for better understanding of contemporary world of work. Alienation is understood as a relational concept, referring to relationships to other human beings as well as to the objects and products of labour. It reveals deeply rooted tensions, processes of breaking of ties, isolation, meaningless that call into question neoliberal understanding of paid work (employment) as a universal solution to all societal and personal problems.

The paper tries to answer the following questions. Why it is useful / necessary to think work in terms of alienation? How we can grasp alienation in contemporary market societies? Can we talk about hidden inequalities or social divisions related to alienation from work? How does this concept relate to other core concepts of critical theory and post-polanyian economic sociology?

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