Order this book
The book's introductory chapter offers basic definitions (that of Polanyi and of contemporary economics) and discusses sociological methodology. The rest of the book is divided into two parts. The first introduces as classics the following authors: Durkheim, Polanyi, Schumpeter, Simmel, Sombart, Veblen and Weber. This part makes for enjoyable reading, because Trigilia matches scholars into pairs not thought of as companions in other ways to carve out the unique value of each in the history of the sub-discipline. In the second part, on contemporary scholarship, Trigilia switches the form of his narrative of economic sociology: leaving aside systematic discussion of individual scholarship he engages with broadly familiar themes of modernization, dependency and world systems theory, political economy research, Keynesianism and the welfare state, Fordism and flexible specialization, and globalization and varieties of capitalism. Throughout the book, the reader profits from the contextual and often extended discussion of economics scholarship and the disciplinary development of economics. Structural functionalism and historical sociology, as relevant in the formation of economic sociology, are also discussed. Overall, the texts pertaining to individual authors and research programmes vary greatly in depth and breadth, which leaves room for readers' interpretations of the importance and impact of the works.
The author tackles the difficulty of bounding an area that did not exist in the post-war sociology of the West in concrete institutional form (nor as an organizational movement) until the late 1990s and which-with reference to its institutionalization-still needs to be understood as a renaissance intellectual and professional project. It is, therefore, somewhat surprising that Trigilia does not offer a sociological account of the active organization of the new economic sociology as a recognized sub- discipline integrated into the American Sociological Association (an effort started in the 1980s and finalized in 2000, and yet to be replicated elsewhere as a national undertaking) and through the (interdisciplinary) Society for Advancement of Socio-Economics, founded in 1989. The book concentrates on the weaving of an intellectual project, but it is clear that much of the field's development is also linked to specific, larger and changing research funding structures and emergent citation networks that give identity to scholarly communities. The inclusion of these factors may help scholars and their students understand why the US and European variants of economic sociology have such different outlooks despite agreeing on the classics.
Selecting works to summarize this boundary-spanning field was always going to be tough, and the reader may at times wonder about Trigilia's choices. While the book includes many authors key to the American economic sociology canon, it also misses out some prominent ones, e.g. Wayne Baker, Nicole Biggart, Fred Block, Frank Dobbin, Joseph Galaskiewicz, Mauro Guillén, Arthur Stinchcombe, Brian Uzzi, and John Meyer. Neither the role of rational choice theory as an explicit project in sociology nor Weberian analysis are discussed as the relatively well-bounded research programs and important players in US economic sociology that they are. Among the European scholars, such noteworthy authors as Bob Jessop, Christel Lane, and Richard Whitley (and with him the concept of business systems) are missing. Where the book discusses the field's weak embracing of a sociology of consumption it focuses mainly on anthropologists not commonly identified with the economic sociology project (e.g. Marshall Sahlins and Mary Douglas) and leaves out prominent students of consumption in British sociology. In the light of such omissions, it may seem peculiar to active economic sociologists that-to give one example-the individual contribution of Baudrillard is noted while that of Marx is not (apart from a contextual discussion of his work), and they may wonder why economic geography is not discussed if anthropology is. Thematically, this review author believes that the commodity-chain approach (Gereffi and Korzeniewicz 1994) and the emergent non-profit sector research deserved attention. Last but not least, any narrative on economic sociology at the end of the 20th century which lacks investigation into the role of the management and business studies as academic competitors to both sociology and economics points to an incomplete rendering of the disciplinary struggles from which economic sociology re-emerged.
These shortcomings aside, this is a highly recommendable textbook that should be used as a well- rounded primer on the world of economic sociology, and which will inspire students to read original works and to engage in argument over this sub-discipline's methodologies and theoretical contributions.
University of Cambridge
GEREFFI, G.; KORZENIEWICZ, M. ed. (1994). Commodity chains and global capitalism. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.
GRANOVETTER, M. S.; SWEDBERG, R., eds. (2001). The sociology of economic life. Boulder: Westview Press.