orgtheory.net

nobel prize prediction

In 36 months, an economic sociologist, maybe Granovetter, will be awarded a Nobel Prize in economics. The committee has already given prizes to political scientists and psychologists. There is a sociologist on the committee , Robert Erikson of Stockholm University, which is interesting. Probably not this year, they probably need to “make up” for giving the award to an outsider last year. But the year after that seems like a ripe time.

Written by fabiorojas

October 5, 2010 at 1:08 am

Posted in economics, fabio

31 Responses

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  1. Is this a not-so-subtle pitch for Brayden King’s consideration?

    Looking through his record, it’s clear that he’s made some big contributions. But a Nobel? That would surprise even me.

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    Harold

    October 5, 2010 at 3:10 pm

  2. Hmmmmmm, some people might consider Gary Becker’s Nobel an award for economic sociology.

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    Peter Klein

    October 5, 2010 at 5:07 pm

  3. Becker is “economics applied to sociological topics.” There is no Nobel award for “sociology applied to econ topics” – a la White, Burt, or Granovetter.

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    fabiorojas

    October 5, 2010 at 6:03 pm

  4. Of course. But Ostrom, despite being a political scientist, is really “economics applied to political topics.” Williamson is “economics applied to organizational and legal topics.” And so on. It has to be “economics applied to” something to have a shot, even for an “outsider” award.

    The best counterexamples might be Simon or Kahneman, but their work was very well known to economists, much more so than any of today’s sociologists working on economic themes.

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    Peter Klein

    October 5, 2010 at 6:09 pm

  5. Fair enough. But let’s be careful. Ostrom was not known among economists. The day her award was announced, I saw many economists scratching their heads. Even leading economists admitted, in public, they simply didn’t know about her. Being known in the field is certainly the strong norm, but not an absolute.

    I agree it’s a long shot, but you never know. Among discussions with economists, Granovetter is the only name that ever comes up. His topic – network analysis – is now the rage and gaining steam in economics.

    Also, his citation count is astronomical. As of today, the economic sociology theory article is mentioned by 14,000 (!) documents in google scholar. His “second best” article has 7,000 hits. Ostrom’s best is 8,000. Granovetter is in the same ball park as Williamson (14,000) and way above recent laureautes like Krugman (5,000), Myerson (2,000), Maskin (1,400), and Hurwicz (600).

    In other words, Granovetter has had a huge impact on the scientific study of economic phenomena that’s on par with other prize winners. If the committee wanted to be exciting, it couldn’t go wrong with the top two or three economic sociologists, who are probably more important than a good-but-not-great game theorist or econometrician.

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    fabiorojas

    October 5, 2010 at 6:24 pm

  6. But Ostrom, despite being a political scientist, is really “economics applied to political topics.”

    We know this is true because she won a Nobel Prize in Economics.

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    Kieran

    October 5, 2010 at 6:42 pm

  7. Um, no, we know it because some of us have read her papers and noticed that her basic analytical framework is that of economics — you know, scarcity, choice, incentives, that sort of thing. Granted she doesn’t use fancy math, or assume “strict rationality” a la Shepsle, Weingast, etc. But she fits broadly within the rational choice tradition, to be sure.

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    Peter Klein

    October 5, 2010 at 6:45 pm

  8. K: I’m siding with the Evil Twin on this one… F Ro

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    fabiorojas

    October 5, 2010 at 6:49 pm

  9. Fabio: You don’t know the power of the Dark Side! Join me, and together we can rule the blogosphere, as blogger and son.

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    Peter Klein

    October 5, 2010 at 6:51 pm

  10. Darth Economicus: Hold on… I thought that sociology was the Dark Side! Fabio

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    fabiorojas

    October 5, 2010 at 6:53 pm

  11. Sigh… Do I have to post another kittens picture?

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    Peter Klein

    October 5, 2010 at 6:55 pm

  12. If working with concepts of “scarcity, choice, incentives, that sort of thing” is sufficient to make one an economist then there’s been significant change in conditions for admission to the discipline within the past 12 months. Ostrom was vociferously shat upon by a range of economists when her prize was announced, precisely for being some political scientist woman no-one had ever heard of.

    In any event, you provided your own counterexamples: Kahneman and Simon are under no plausible construal doing “economics applied to x”. The prize is for contributions to our understanding of economics, not for contributions to our understanding by people trained as economists — even if there’s a strong desire to retrospectively admit winners to the disciplinary cadre in order to reconcile the two categories.

    I’m quite sure that if Granovetter wins the prize we’ll be hearing about how his work laid the foundations for the modern economics of networks, and that his papers on, e.g., threshold models of collective action are broadly within the rational choice tradition and his most-cited paper is a dialog with another Nobelist, Oliver Williamson. Indeed, even his classic strength-of-weak-ties work was given a formal treatment by Boorman in the Bell Journal of Economics as early as 1975.

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    Kieran

    October 5, 2010 at 7:09 pm

  13. At a pre public lecture dinner recently someone made the mistake of introducing Kahneman as an economist. “I’m not an economist. I’m a psychologist”, he said. “I just won a prize.”

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    Eric S

    October 5, 2010 at 7:24 pm

  14. Kieran, there was no shatting that I’m aware of, except by juvenile grad students. Citations, please? There was plenty of public head-scratching by people like Steve Levitt, not (after he found out who she was) because Ostrom wasn’t an economist, but because she wasn’t thought to be an eminent enough economist. You misunderstand the criticism. It was “maybe she’s a big shot in the poli sci community, but she’s just a middle-of-the-pack economist.”

    My sense is the Granovetter’s stuff is way less important and influential among economists than Simon’s or Kahneman’s. They were dealing (rightly or wrongly) with the foundations of choice theory. Granovetter works on a particular application — a useful and interesting one, to be sure, but an application nonetheless, not a contribution to core theory. Apples and oranges.

    Personally, I’d be delighted for Granovetter to win. His work is very important in my own specialty area. But I think it’s highly unlikely. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong.

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    Peter Klein

    October 5, 2010 at 8:28 pm

  15. Sorry, “My sense is that…”

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    Peter Klein

    October 5, 2010 at 8:31 pm

  16. Peter: “Core” is highly subjective. For example, Debreu’s work is easily core – it established a basic theorem that motivates the rest of the discipline. Kahneman likewise – a modification of neo-classical models that most people consider very important.

    But other prizes are awarded for good, outstanding non core work. For example, consider Heckman. Excellent economist? Certainly. But few people would consider selection models to be “core” in the same sense that Nash equilibrium is core. It’s a very important extension of the regression framework. You could easily live your whole life analyzing data that doesn’t have selection problems. Or consider finance. If I understand the history, finance wasn’t even really considered real economics till the 70s. Even now, you don’t need to master financial economics to be considered a good economist.

    Yes, an award to a sociologist is unlikely, but it’s easy to retrospectively go back and act as if it was all natural.

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    fabiorojas

    October 5, 2010 at 8:53 pm

  17. You misunderstand the criticism. It was “maybe she’s a big shot in the poli sci community, but she’s just a middle-of-the-pack economist.” My sense is the Granovetter’s stuff is way less important and influential among economists than Simon’s or Kahneman’s.

    Again, the prize is not a reward for being influential amongst economists — it’s a prize for discoveries of importance to or within a particular field of knowledge. The reaction to Ostrom was indeed as I describe, and not just amongst snot-nosed grad students (though there certainly wast that, mostly likely parroting their wiser advisors). But even the version you give (“just a middle-of-the-pack economist”) takes reputation amongst economists as the key measure of desert — but that can’t be right, as in that case there’d be no need for a prize committee, and no surprises. I’d be interested to see citations to Kahneman within leading economics journals before and after his prize.

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    Kieran

    October 5, 2010 at 8:59 pm

  18. @Fabio: Right, I meant that (non-economist + core) works, (non-economist + application) doesn’t. Obviously most prizes given to economists are for applications.

    @Kieran: Man, you’re being obtuse! Of course mainstream economists take reputation among mainstream economists as the key measure of desert. What other criteria should they use? People who dismissed Ostrom did so (wrongly, IMO) because they thought her work wasn’t good enough, not because they thought it wasn’t economics.

    Surprise? It comes every year. Who, among the set of highly qualified economists (or, to make you happy, contributors to economics), will get the nod this year? Or: Will the committee choose someone only marginally qualified, like Krugman — presumably because the committee wishes to make some kind of social or political statement? All good clean fun.

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    Peter Klein

    October 5, 2010 at 9:11 pm

  19. There is one thing I think we can all agree on: It won’t be an anthropologist.

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    joshmccabe

    October 6, 2010 at 1:49 pm

  20. Kahneman and Tversky published their prospect theory paper in Econometrica. While not a requirement, I do think that helps. Winning the award for work published in main econ journals seems less of a stretch than for some of the other cases discussed. I think this argument could also be used for Simon who published much of his work in AER, QJE etc.
    I am not so sure how well Granovetter’s work would be received by reviewers at Econometrica today. This may just be a reflection on the current state of the journal and econ as a whole, but I doubt he could get anything through the standard peer review at Econometrica.

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    Jim

    October 6, 2010 at 5:13 pm

  21. I hope you’re right! I don’t think the idea of an economic sociologist getting the Nobel Memorial Prize is too far fetched at all.

    Granovetter seems like the obvious candidate but I think it might be a little hard for the committee to give him the prize. I read “Economic action and social structure” (presumably one of the main pieces of evidence that would be in favor of him getting a prize on behalf of economic sociology more broadly) are a little too aggressively critical of economics in a way that I think any committee would find a little hard to swallow.

    Ostrom was definitely not part of the club but has always cited economics widely and almost always constructively. I’ve read her work has much more synthetic and conciliatory and about filling gaps in economic theory than about trying to challenge the validity or usefulness of economic analysis. She’s not one of “them” but she almost never seemed to me to be “against” them either. Some of Granovetter’s most famous work seems to have in it some of the “sociology against economics” posture that many sociologists seem to like (for obvious and I think sometimes very justified reasons) but that I think would be hard for a committee made up mostly of a economists to overlook when deciding to give the prize to someone outside their group.

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    Benjamin Mako Hill

    October 6, 2010 at 5:24 pm

  22. @Benjamin: If Granovetter is too anti-econ, then maybe Harrion White is a good one. He has completely assimilated standard micro-economics and his work, in may ways, can be seen as a bridge between econ and soc. It’s also fairly mathy, why makes it legit in econ.

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    fabiorojas

    October 6, 2010 at 5:43 pm

  23. @fabio, “his citation count is astronomical…”

    I’m just curious. Could this be because sociologists over-cite? I mean, if you adjusted for mean citations per paper, what would it look like in comparison to others?

    If Granovetter wins in the next three years, scatterplot will buy orgtheory a pony.

    Like

    Shamus Khan

    October 6, 2010 at 6:44 pm

  24. @Shamus, some of it is, I’m sure. But Granovetter’s citation patterns spill out into multiple fields. Even adjusting. It would easily be in the same league as other laureates.

    PS. Over citing would inflate lesser known academics, not so much the people who would be cited in any case.

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    fabiorojas

    October 6, 2010 at 6:47 pm

  25. There are other big awards economists can win. Are there any for sociologists?

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    David Hoopes

    October 7, 2010 at 4:51 pm

  26. Along the lines of David’s question, could an economist who studies the family or crime or discrimination or networks potentially win a sociology award? Could Becker or George Akerlof or Larry Iannaccone be named an ASA distinguished fellow or whatever? I don’t see many non-sociologists at http://www.asanet.org/about/awards.cfm.

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    Peter Klein

    October 7, 2010 at 5:09 pm

  27. Peter: I would say yes, economists should be open for awards. That’s the issue with disciplines. We don’t ask “What’s the best work?” We fall back on our disciplines, for better or worse.

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    fabiorojas

    October 7, 2010 at 7:13 pm

  28. Last time I checked, Becker was appointed professor of Sociology in Chicago.

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    Guillermo

    October 8, 2010 at 4:20 pm

  29. I think ASA should do more to promote its major awards. The Nobel prizes have such cachet and are so well known that the announcement brings light to work most people would not otherwise be interested in or know about (I’m speaking very generally—we’re interested in some physicist because he/she won, otherwise its pretty hard to gauge their work).

    I’m not familiar with most of the winners of,say, the W.E.B. Dubois award. Those of us in business schools view a pretty narrow slice of sociology.

    It may seem silly to hire a P.R. firm for sociologists. But, its a huge field that tackles immense problems. You should probably celebrate your successes more publicly in the hope of giving people occasional snapshots of what you’ve accomplished.

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    David Hoopes

    October 8, 2010 at 4:23 pm

  30. Granovetter does not have the requisite rigor for winning the prize on the general issue for which he is known, the economics of networks. Soonish, maybe this year, it will go to someone like Matt Jackson whose contributions are quite important, more numerous, and more rigorous.

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    sherkat

    October 10, 2010 at 1:33 am

  31. I found it! The Nobel Prize in Sociology! (shared with political science, philosophy, essay writing, theology, etc.).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holberg_International_Memorial_Prize

    Note: the page is outdated. The 2012 award went to Manuel Castells.

    Like

    Guillermo

    April 15, 2012 at 4:37 pm


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