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Major Traditions of Economic Sociology

Richard Swedberg
Annual Review of Sociology
Vol. 17 (1991), pp. 251-276
Published by: Annual Reviews
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2083343
Page Count: 26
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Major Traditions of Economic Sociology
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Abstract

Not only sociologists but also economists have made important contributions to economic sociology. Which particular works by economists are relevant in this context is indicated with the help of Schumpeter's History of Economic Analysis, a work unique in that it traces not only the history of economic theory but also that of economic sociology. Three main traditions appear in economic sociology, which are still fairly unexplored: the German tradition of Wirtschaftssoziologie (1890-1930), the French tradition of sociologie economique (1890-1930), and the US tradition of "economy and society" (1950s). Since the 1970s a revival of interest in economic institutions has occurred especially in the United States, and a new economic sociology has come into being. Both economists and sociologists helped to create this new economic sociology. Economists have developed an approach known as New Institutional Economics. The main idea here is to explain the emergence and functioning of economic institutions with the help of microeconomics. Sociologists have developed an approach to economic sociology, sometimes referred to as the "new sociology of economic life." This approach attempts to analyze core economic problems, as opposed to the problems traditionally left over by the economists for the sociologists to solve. Today's sociologists have done important work, particularly on the role of networks in the economy, on the structure of economic organizations, and on the role of culture in economic life. Though some weaknesses hamper both new institutional economics and the new sociology of economic life, they have breathed new life and vigor into economic sociology.

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