Dobbin, Frank. 2007. “Economic Sociology”. P. 319-331 in Twenty-First Century Sociology: A Reference Handbook, Clifton D. Bryant and Peck, Dennis L. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
46 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2013
Date Written: 2007
Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Émile Durkheim sought to understand modernity by comparing precapitalist societies with capitalism. Marx explored the transition from feudalism to capitalism; Weber the capitalist impulse that arose with Protestantism; and Durkheim the rise of capitalism’s division of labor. As capitalism was in its infancy, none was certain that modern industrial capitalism would take widely different forms, although Weber described a number of different forms — booty, political, imperialist, colonial, adventure, and fiscal capitalism (Weber 1978:164–67; see also Swedberg 1998:47). I review the growing field of economic sociology, and within it studies that follow on the work of Marx, Weber, and Durkheim to explain the substantial variation found in economic behavior, even in modern settings. While the classic studies of economic sociology sought to understand how emerging capitalism would be different from the system of feudalism, economic sociologists increasingly came to see that modern capitalism could take many different forms, and sought to explain those forms by looking at different social processes. Economic sociologists have been looking at how power relations, institutions and social conventions, and social networks and roles interact at the societal level to create different sorts of economic systems; how these forces shape change within economic systems; and how they shape individual behavior.
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