The New Economic Sociology
A Reader
Edited by Frank Dobbin


Economic sociology is a rapidly expanding field, applying sociology's core insight--that individuals behave according to scripts that are tied to social roles--to economic behavior. It places homo economicus (that tried-and-true fictive actor who is completely rational, acts only out of self-interest, and has perfect information) in context. In this way, it places a construct into a framework that more closely approximates the world in which we live. But, as an academic field, economic sociology has lost focus. The New Economic Sociology remedies this.

The book comprises twenty of the most representative and widely read articles in the field's history--its classics--and organizes them according to four themes at the heart of sociology: institutions, networks, power, and cognition. Dobbin's substantial and engagingly written introduction (including his rich comparison of Yanomamo chest-beaters and Wall Street bond-traders) sets a clear framework for what follows. Gathering force throughout is Dobbin's argument that economic practices emerge through distinctly social processes, in which social networks and power resources play roles in the social construction of certain behaviors as rational or optimal. Not only does Dobbin provide a consummate introduction to the field and its history to students approaching the subject for the first time, but he also establishes a schema for interpreting the field based on an understanding of what economic sociology aims to achieve.

Frank Dobbin is Professor of Sociology at Harvard University. His previous book, Forging Industrial Policy: The United States, Britain, and France in the Railway Age, won the American Sociological Association's 1996 Max Weber Award.