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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.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street 

Written by fabiorojas

May 23, 2017 at 12:08 am

a giving mood, a meaningful relationship: a guest post by nina bandelj, fred wherry, and viviana zelizer

Money Month guest blogging continues with UC Irvine’s Nina Bandelj, Yale’s Fred Wherry and Princeton’s Viviana Zelizer

Although it will come as no surprise that women are more generous than men when asked if they would like to donate to charity, what may be surprising, however, is that men can be as charitable as women when the cause reminds them of their close social ties. In Money Talks, the second chapter (authored by Nina Bandelj and colleagues) presents the results of an experiment that brings insights from behavioral economics and relational sociology (or Zelizerian relational work) together. The researchers gave students 100 tokens worth $3 and asked them how much they would donate to one of four charities, while they could also decide to keep (some of) the money for themselves. Their options were Amnesty International, the United Nations Children’s Fund, Doctors Without Borders, and the American Cancer Society, which are the top most recognized charities among the college population.

Not surprisingly, and as much existing research shows, the women were more generous than the men overall, donating more of their dollars, and most female students who donated picked the United Nations Children’s Fund. However, this generosity evened out for the American Cancer Society.

Why? Researchers actually asked students to write in the reasons for their charity decisions. Those responses revealed that having close relatives or dear friends who have been affected by cancer motivated students’ choices. And both men and women have such experiences. When relationships were considered, empathy crossed gender boundaries. In other words, while it is easy to use gender (or race, or class, for that matter) as a predictor for who is more likely to give to charity, it is important to attend to the social relationships that inform the giving mood.

Relational work goes beyond emphasis on categorical differences because of gender, race or class. Rather, how are these social positions implicated in the kinds of interpersonal relationships that people form and negotiate? How do these dynamics inform charitable giving or other economic decisions to save, to invest, to spend, or to borrow? And how can different theoretical perspectives be brought into the arena of empirical investigations so that more robust explanations can be generated?

These are the money talks we hope to inspire.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

May 22, 2017 at 3:28 am

galway, irlandaise

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

May 21, 2017 at 12:29 am

student protest photos at maryland-college park

Last week, I was visiting the University of Marlyand to meet with the current Contexts editors, Syed Ali and Phillip Cohen, and my editorial partner, Rashawn Ray. While I was taking a stroll with Syed, I saw a student protest. Over the weekend, a noose was found at a fraternity house and it triggered a backlash. I took these photos of the students who were arguing with administrators.  The photo series begins with me being across the street, then moving into the crowd, then the administrator and the administration’s photographer and a final shot of the students.

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Written by fabiorojas

May 19, 2017 at 3:22 am

hackers demand ransom in bitcoin: a guest post by nina bandelj, fred wherry, and viviana zelizer

Money Month guest blogging continues with UC Irvine’s Nina Bandelj, Yale’s Fred Wherry and Princeton’s Viviana Zelizer

Imagine getting this message at a hospital or a bank. ““Oops, your files have been encrypted!” and [we] demand $300 in Bitcoin.” That is exactly what just happened to the National Health Service in Britain. (Last February, it happened to a hospital in Los Angeles as well.)

Not only has money multiplied, but so too its surprising effects. Chapters by Nigel Dodd and Bill Maurer in Money Talks, respectively, help us sort through the surprising social life of alternative currencies and new payment systems.

We reached out to Bill Maurer about the ongoing ransom demands, and he had this to say.

Bill Maurer:  “Well, they certainly picked a good time for this ransomware attack. Bitcoin is currently trading at over $1800–the highest it’s ever been, and it’s just been going higher. I can’t help but think that this was part of the underlying motivation to launch these attacks now. Why has there been such a rush to bitcoin? It’s complicated. Different versions of the underlying database behind bitcoin–a distributed ledger or blockchain–are being used by a number of startups as well as large financial consortia to power new infrastructure for everything from title registry to securities clearance. This is part of the general trend of increasing diversification in payment technologies. But in order for these specific blockchain systems to work, they need their own cryptographic token. This in turn has expanded the market for all cryptocurrencies, including the most well known, bitcoin. In addition, the “hard fork” in the bitcoin blockchain that some feared–don’t ask!–never came to pass, bolstering confidence in bitcoin. Politics plays a role, too—and not just regulatory decisions, like Japan’s recent decision to allow payment in bitcoin–but political instability (Trump here, Brexit there, and an uncertain future for the EU) stoking goldbug-like skepticism of the future value of fiat currencies. Zelizer was right: money multiplies!”

Check out also Bill Maurer’s new book (with Lana Swartz), Paid: Tales of Dongles, Checks, and Other Money Stuff (MIT Press 2017).

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street 

Written by fabiorojas

May 18, 2017 at 3:48 am

grad students can join the asa theory section for free!!!

From the home office in Toronto, Daniel Silver sends me the following announcement:

ASA Theory Section Offering Free Student Memberships

The ASA Theory Section is looking to reach out to graduate students who may have theoretical interests but have not joined the section.  To this end, we have secured a number of graduate student memberships, which we can offer to any graduate student who is currently a member of ASA but not Theory.  The section is large, vibrant, and open to any and all forms of sociological theory.

Graduate students who are interested – or faculty who know graduate students that might be interested – can contact Dan Silver, at dsilver@utsc.utoronto.ca.  Act fast while supplies last!

This is an amazing offer. Dan told me that when grad students sign up, they get a free AGIL key chain, their choice of three intersecting social identities, a framed picture of Ann Swidler and a free pass to “Ritual Chains,” the Theory Section’s secret “after hours” dance party.*

And you know what? I’m feeling generous today. I will give a free copy of Theory for the Working Sociologist to the first three grad students who email Dan and take up this offer. Just send proof that you signed up and your snail mail address.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

* Ok, none of that is true but the book give away is 100% the truth.

Written by fabiorojas

May 17, 2017 at 12:01 am

recent randall collins

One of sociology’s best kept secrets is Rand Collins’ blog. Occasional but high quality posts. Recent topics:

Each is a novella, but worth the read.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street 

Written by fabiorojas

May 16, 2017 at 12:45 am

Posted in blogs, fabio, uncategorized