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granovetter book forum, part 1: review

Gran book

There are three books that economic sociologists have been expecting for decades and all three of them are finally here. First, Padgett and Powell published The Emergence of Organizations and Markets in 2012. This book brought Padgett’s network perspective on the creation of roles and positions in markets to the broader sociological audience. Second, at about the same time, Fligstein and McAdam published a Theory of Fields, which was their attempt to synthesize scholarly writing on conflict in organizations and states. Finally, we have the third book, the long awaited Society and Economy, by Mark Granovetter. This book summarizes Granovetter’s celebrated career and introduces the reader to the field of economic sociology.

What is this book about? I want to be clear up front about what you’ll read. This is not an academic monograph that reports on some research project. Nor does it present new arguments. Rather, it is a collection and synthesis of Granovetters major works and the most noted work in economic sociology written by others. It is the book I wish I had in 1997 when I started graduate school and I wanted to understand the difference between economics and economic sociology. It collects in one handy text the various theoretical strands of main stream economic sociology, such as institutionalism and network theory.

The book itself is directly written and confidently goes through various topics in a point by point fashion. It starts with a discussion of what economic sociology is all about and how its all about the impact of mental or cognitive processes on economic decisions. Thus, in Granovetter’s telling, economic sociology is about how social processes processes seep into economic behavior and how economic processes feedback into society.

In the next two installments of the book forum, I will discuss the book’s strengths and weaknesses. But here, I want to answer the question – “who is this book for?” If you are a practicing economic sociologist or organizational scholar, it probably has limited mileage. That is because you’ve probably read most of Granovetter’s major articles and you already know most of the material. That’s what I felt when I read it. Not a bad feeling, but as I said earlier, this is a much better book for people who are new to the area.

Instead, I think the ideal audience for this book is the first year graduate student in sociology, management, and economics. I also think that a lot of post-PhD economists might enjoy reading this book to see how “economic sociology” matches, or does not match, up with their attempts to account for social processes, like behavioral economics or game theory.

Finally, let me end with some good news for Granovetter’s fans. Near the end of the book, he mentions a sequel multiple times. He suggests that it will be about the empirical applications of the book to topics such as corruption and job search. So let’s hope that Society and Economy Part II comes out soon.

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Written by fabiorojas

May 23, 2017 at 12:08 am

4 Responses

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  1. Society and Economy is a work of synthesis breathtaking in scope and insights. It provides a structure and organization to the agenda of economic sociology hereto missing. Even for my own work on institutional logics it draws connections that I hadn’t considered. Its disarmingly simple, which makes it quite readable for advanced undergraduates and first-year students. But, in my judgment, it’s a mistake to think it’s a mere textbook fo newcomers. I see insead a book that everyone mildly interested in econiomic sociology should not only buy for their collection, but read and reflect upon.

    Liked by 1 person

    Willie Ocasio

    May 23, 2017 at 11:36 pm

  2. Thanks, Fabio–I’m an economist who wanted to know more about economic sociology, but didn’t know where to start. It seems like this book is the right place. Would you recommend the Padgett-Powell and Fligstein-McAdam books to someone in the same position, as well? Or are they less accessible?

    Liked by 1 person

    ZC

    May 25, 2017 at 7:47 pm

  3. Granovetter is the place to start, especially if you enjoyed his 2005 Journal of Economic Perspectives piece. Then, McAdam and Fligstein. Less economic, more political science/political economy but very easy to understand (social life is built around “fields,” each field has its own form of “captial” etc.) Powell and Padgett is not a casual read at all. It is a long edited volume that throws at the reader a number of models that sociologists and economists are not accustomed to such as his “social chemistry”/complexity view.

    Thanks for reading.

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    fabiorojas

    May 25, 2017 at 7:51 pm

  4. […] Summary statement […]

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