November 14, 2003

Economic Sociology Gets a Text

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Prof. Richard Swedberg, sociology, has published a new introductory text, The Principles of Economic Sociology, encompassing the foundations of classic sociology principles in conjunction with theories about economics in social relationships.

For the past two years, Swedberg has worked on this text “pulling together the research that exists” in the field of economic sociology. The textbook integrates the classic perspectives of economic sociology that have been researched by pioneers in the field along with Swedberg’s own theories on the subject.

Swedberg has been teaching courses in economic sociology at Cornell for the past year. He previously spent one year at the Center for Advanced Studies in Palo Alto, Calif., solely working on the introductory text.

In his text, Swedberg attempts to answer the question of how humans behave and succeed in their daily lives by combining the interests of economics and sociology.

“The book summarizes what economic sociology has achieved over the ages,” Swedberg said.

The book is intended to help students and researchers in the field to learn about the numerous theories in economic sociology and its implications for the future.

It also provides information about the interests and social relations within the world of economics in our society.

“People need to negotiate their everyday occurrences through networks,” Swedberg stated. “People such as students here at Cornell can hear about jobs through communicating in networks and as a result help the economy.”

The text also includes numerous cartoons — a “revolutionary” feature of economic sociology texts, he said.

“When a field is new, such as the field of economic sociology, it is very exciting and fun to create a text full of different possibilities and choices that give fair accounts of theories in the field,” Swedberg said.

He stated that the new revival of study in the economic sociology field “has been quite successful because the best colleges have courses and professors recently … focusing on economic sociology.”

“I’ve read the text with great joy,” said Prof. Stephen Morgan, sociology, the acting chair of the department. “[Swedberg] is the world authority on the connections between economics and sociology. The book will make a major statement on the history of literature in economic sociology in the future.”

He explained that there are few textbooks on the foundations of economics and sociology that discuss the past, history and future of the field. “Swedberg’s book is unique in the fact that it was written by only one person and goes into depth about the implications of economic sociology,” Morgan said.

Morgan, who focuses on sociology and education, racism and labor markets, will also be publishing a new book in the fall of next year.

Through reading Swedberg’s text, Morgan explained how one can envision a greater knowledge of how economic transitions will occur in the real world.

“Some universities separate economics from sociology, but Cornell offers powerful insights into the depth of classical and contemporary economic sociology,” he said.

Upcoming events for the Department of Sociology include a mini-conference discussing the effects of wealth on the poor and affluent portions of society. The conference, entitled “New Directions in the Study of Wealth,” will be held in the A.D. White House on Nov. 21 with a lecture from two distinguished researchers.

Swedberg recognizes the need for new research in the field of economic sociology, suggesting the study of the effects of gender, politics and the law on the constantly changing economy.

“Different interests should work together to make advancements in the field,” Swedberg said, “because the sudden revival of interest will prove to have large impacts on the way our society works in the future.”

Archived article by Allison Markowitz