Beyond the Market
The Social Foundations of Economic Efficiency
Translated by Barbara Harshav
Beyond the Market launches a sociological investigation into economic efficiency. Prevailing economic theory, which explains efficiency using formalized rational choice models, often simplifies human behavior to the point of distortion. Jens Beckert finds such theory to be particularly weak in explaining such crucial forms of economic behavior as cooperation, innovation, and action under conditions of uncertainty--phenomena he identifies as the proper starting point for a sociology of economic action.
Beckert levels an enlightened critique at neoclassical economics, arguing that understanding efficiency requires looking well beyond the market to the social, cultural, political, and cognitive factors that influence the coordination of economic action. Beckert searches social theory for the components of an alternative theory of action, one that accounts for the social embedding of economic behavior. In Durkheim and Parsons he finds especially useful approaches to cooperation; in Luhmann, a way to understand how people act under highly contingent conditions; and in Giddens, an understanding of creative action and innovation. Together, these provide building blocks for a research program that will yield a theoretically sophisticated understanding of how economic processes are coordinated and the ways that markets are embedded in social, cultural, and cognitive structures.
Containing one of the most fully informed critiques of the neoclassical analysis of economic efficiency--as well as one of the most thoughtful blueprints for economic sociology--this book reclaims for sociology the study of one of the most important arenas of human action.
Jens Beckert is Associate Professor of Sociology at the International University Bremen.