The sociological study of economic activity has witnessed a significant resurgence. Recent texts have chronicled economic sociology's nineteenth-century origins while pointing to the importance of context and power in economic life, yet the field lacks a clear understanding of the role that concepts at different levels of abstraction play in its organization. Economic Sociology fills this critical gap by surveying the current state of the field while advancing a framework for further theoretical development.
Alejandro Portes examines economic sociology's principal assumptions, key explanatory concepts, and selected research sites. He argues that economic activity is embedded in social and cultural relations, but also that power and the unintended consequences of rational purposive action must be factored in when seeking to explain or predict economic behavior. Drawing upon a wealth of examples, Portes identifies three strategic sites of research--the informal economy, ethnic enclaves, and transnational communities--and he eschews grand narratives in favor of mid-range theories that help us understand specific kinds of social action.
The book shows how the meta-assumptions of economic sociology can be transformed, under certain conditions, into testable propositions, and puts forward a theoretical agenda aimed at moving the field out of its present impasse.
"A pioneer in economic sociology, Portes presents one of the best systematic efforts in the burgeoning attempt to bring sociological inquiry to economic studies. Though economic sociologists are more than likely to be already familiar with Portes's work, the author's emphasis on theory accumulation, or 'usable theory,' as proposed by Dietrich Rueschemeyer, makes this book exceptional. . . . An exemplary combination of theoretical sophistication and methodological rigor, Portes's book is a must read for all economic sociologists."--Choice
"Portes has written a fine book that presents a good case for the sociological perspective of economic processes and outcomes."--Eric Cheney, Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare
"[T]he book can be fruitfully used as student's handbook to teach economic sociology, comparative political economy and sociology of development."--Filippo Barbera, Sociologica
"I would . . . recommend Portesian sociology to anyone needing an intelligent, lucid and thought-provoking vision of what 'middle range' theory might offer economic sociology beyond the preoccupation with 'embeddedness.'"--Patrick McGovern, British Journal of Sociology
"Economic Sociology represents a positive step away from the assumptions about formal rationality and maximizing of subjective utility dominant in certain social science areas influenced by mainstream economics, and widens the scope for future research on the interaction between social forces and economic processes."--Rafael Khachaturian, Science and Society
Table of Contents:
List of Figures and Tables ix
Chapter One: Economic Sociology: Past Achievements and Present Challenges 1
Chapter Two: The Assumptions That Ground the Field 10
Chapter Three: Social Capital 27
Chapter Four: The Concept of Institutions 48
Chapter Five: The Concept of Social Class 71
Chapter Six: Social Class (Continued) 101
Chapter Seven: The Informal Economy 130
Chapter Eight: Ethnic Enclaves and Middleman Minorities 162
Chapter Nine: Transnational Communities 195
Chapter Ten: Markets, Models, and Regulation 220