Download a copy of Accounts, Issue 2 here.
Alicia D. Eads
Department of Sociology Cornell University
Dissertation description: In my dissertation, I delve into the complex case of the policy response to the housing market collapse in the recent financial crisis in the U.S., which provides useful empirical ground to explore a theoretical puzzle: how does culture affect policy action? I examine this theoretical question from three angles in the dissertation. First, how do cultural meaning structures affect the interpretation of economic events and the policies developed in response? I collect unique data – transcribed speeches from officials – and, methodologically, I use computational text analysis techniques and network analysis to address this question. I find that different government agencies constructed the crisis differently, which impacted the policies they advocated. In a second part of the dissertation, I test the extent to which the cultural meaning that economic events take on affect policy independently of other important factors such as economic conditions and political ideology. I analyze the foreclosure prevention policies enacted by some U.S. states, finding that how events are portrayed affect states’ likelihood of passing policy. Finally, I examine how convergence or divergence of cultural meaning affect actors’ ability to coordinate policy actions.
Many members of the Economic Sociology Section of ASA have professional and social ties to the Organization and Management Theory Division of AOM. (http://omtweb.org) So what is the OMT Division all about? The OMT Division aspires to advance robust theoretical understanding of organizations, organizing, and management. We promote and develop the community of researchers, educators, and practitioners who advance organizational scholarship and practice and its application across domains and topics. Please consider joining our OMT community by emailing Ed Carberry at Edward.Carberry@umb.edu, or joining us at our social hours at the EGOS conference (http://www.egosnet.org) in Naples this July and/or the AOM conference in Anaheim this August. (http://aom.org/annualmeeting/theme/) If you are interested in getting more information on OMT, feel free to visit our website, like us on Facebook (https://www.facebook. com/omtdivision/), or follow us on Twitter (https://twitter.com/aom_omt).
The SAGE Encyclopedia of Economics and Society
Frederick F. Wherry – Yale University
Juliet B. Schor, Consulting Editor – Boston College, USA, Harvard University
Economics is the nexus and engine that runs society, affecting societal well-being, raising standards of living when economies prosper or lowering citizens through class structures when economies perform poorly. Our society only has to witness the booms and busts of the past decade to see how economics profoundly affects the cores of societies around the world. From a household budget to international trade, economics ranges from the micro- to the macro-level. It relates to a breadth of social science disciplines that help describe the content of the proposed encyclopedia, which will explicitly approach economics through varied disciplinary lenses. Although there are encyclopedias of covering economics (especially classic economic theory and history), the SAGE Encyclopedia of Economics and Society emphasizes the contemporary world, contemporary issues, and society.
Is there life after economic sociology? We had the opportunity to talk about non-academic career tracks with three outstanding interviewees, each of whom has taken their sociological trainings in different and exciting directions. We speak to Peter Levin, who after experience in academia has switched onto a non-academic track; Karina Kloos, a more recent PhD who went straight to a non-academic career; and Charlie Gomez, a PhD student with recent experience in the private sector. Their contact information is provided at the end of the interview.
Tell us about how you landed on a non-academic career track. Were you always interested in working outside of academia or was this something you decided while working towards your PhD?
Peter Levin: I went for my PhD because I wanted to be a professor, and I had been an assistant professor for a long time before looking for a non-academic job. I had a great job at a great institution. My decision to leave academia was gradual, and it came mid-career. I started becoming restless about teaching, and I was increasingly disaffected by the disciplinary part of sociology. Of course, once I “decided” I wanted out, it took me another 3-4 years before I had the courage to jump.
I landed at Intel mostly by accident – I heard they had a lab, and I contacted the director out of the blue. What started as a conversation became a collaborative engagement and ended up becoming a permanent position at Intel Labs, in the user experience research lab (UXR). So we joined the long trail of hipster migration from Brooklyn, New York to Portland, Oregon…
Karina Kloos: When I decided to apply to PhD programs, I had already been working with nonprofit/ non-governmental organizations for a few years. At the time, I had been exposed to enough international development work to have a sense of how much I didn’t know and how much I needed to learn. For me, the PhD was an opportunity to put a ‘pause’ on my work and see what I could figure out: explore issues in depth, learn about different theories for understanding social change, and develop research skills to critically analyze and understand what is — and isn’t — effective.
I learned that I had been accepted to the PhD program at Stanford while I was living and working for a small educational non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Cambodia—one of the countries with the highest NGO densities in the world. When I started the program, my cohort teased me with phrases like “I heart NGOs” because I came in with such a keen interest in dissecting the NGO world… This turned out to be way too big for a PhD dissertation!
In my fourth year of the PhD, I found my way back to working directly with NGOs. I took on a consulting project for the Global Fund for Women. My job was to assess their work and impact over their twenty-five year history, which included funding more than 4,600 grassroots women’s organizational across 175 countries (!). Bringing in my academic social movements background, I also worked with my advisor to frame a movement building strategy for the organization. That work really connected me and my academic experiences and knowledge back into the ‘NGO world.’ A year and a half later, just as I was finishing my PhD, I started working for Landesa, a global land rights NGO based in Seattle. In hindsight, I was really lucky. The kinds of jobs there are now, including the one I have today, weren’t there six years ago when I started the PhD and had these kinds of quixotic aspirations.
Charlie Gomez: This past summer, I interned as a quantitative user experience researcher at Facebook. Going to graduate school in Silicon Valley affords many unique opportunities that you don’t really have anywhere else. I’m still committed to a career in academia, but many graduate students in engineering and in computer science frequently leave to join companies in the Valley. It was only recently that colleagues of mine in the social sciences followed suit and joined start-ups and established tech giants – first as research interns and then as full-time employees. The academic job market is stereotyped as unpredictable and bleak. So, from my point of view, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to do academic research in-house at a company in the area. I wanted to see if I could have an equally fulfilling career doing industry research.
Read More »
Read any good books lately? That’s the question we asked a handful of scholars this summer, with the nudge that thoughtprovoking books can come from beyond sociology. Here’s what they had to say.
ELIZABETH POPP BERMAN (UNIVERSITY AT ALBANY, SUNY)
The Fires: How a Computer Formula Burned Down New York City—and Determined the Future of American Cities
By: Joe Flood Riverhead Books, 2011, 368 pages
I knew New York City was a much grittier place in the 1970s, but I didn’t know it was this gritty. In The Fires, journalist Joe Flood describes New York in which the backdrop to the World Series was the Bronx on fire. Block after block of the city burned during these years of fiscal crisis and urban decline.
The blame, in Flood’s book, lies at the feet of the experts: in this case, the RAND Corporation, which brought in its cool-headed modelers to tell the struggling city how it could cut fire department budgets without endangering the city. But rationalist faith ran up against the usual problems: politicos who made sure wealthy neighborhoods didn’t lose their firehouses, firemen who provided bad numbers that served their own interests, analysts who were overconfident in their ability to predict. The best of intentions had catastrophic results for the city. It’s a complex, deeply reported story with a sharp sociological edge. And the most gripping book about systems analysis you’re likely to read. BOOKSHELF
EMILY ERIKSON (YALE UNIVERSITY) Magazines and the Making of America: Modernization, Community, and Print Culture, 1741-1860
By: Heather Haveman Princeton University Press, 2015, 432 pages
I am greatly enjoying this book, which provides a rich history of the magazine industry in North America, analyzes the impact of magazines on religious fragmentation, social reform, and economic development and serves up fascinating details about ante-bellum entrepreneurship, the dynamics of religious markets, and Sabbatarianism (among others) along the way. It is the result of a heroic archival effort and makes a significant contribution to understanding the material underpinnings of the transition to modernity, particularly the means through which early-modern relational patterns were reconfigured into translocal communities of interest (and the role of organizations in this process). It also has a much better title than another book I am currently reading on early-modern print culture, Not Dead Things: The Dissemination of Popular Print in England and Wales, Italy, and the Low Countries, 1500-1820.
Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State and Society The mission of Social Politics is to provide “incisive analyses of gender, politics and policy across the globe”. It seeks to bring gender, in all its diversity, to the forefront of research on states, polities, economies and societies and to situate these analyses within international and comparative contexts. The journal’s vision is to engage with concerns of gender, both as they are articulated by self-identified feminist activities and expressed in other arenas in which feminists work, such as challenging capitalist practices and logics, environmental politics and human rights activism. Social Politics’ intellectual roots are broadly located in the explosion of theorizing of states and politics sparked by social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, and carried through to the present in the form of critical, feminist work that bridges theory and empirical research. These are all vibrant and exciting fields of scholarship in which Social Politics has already made a mark. The contributors to the journal over the years have investigated the underpinnings of social policies as they crisscross public and private, interrogated politics that deepen inequality and institutionalize hierarchies and shown the gendered elements of modern state power and social politics to be multiple and to vary by time and place. The journal has also played a leading role in bringing gender into mainstream scholarship – especially on the welfare state – while pioneering new concepts and approaches for the comparative study of power, policy, and politics from a feminist perspective.
Social Politics aspires to be a trailblazer in the areas core to its mission and a vehicle for scholarship of the highest standard, both theoretical and methodological. It seeks to air a wide range of debates and highlight differences as a productive and fruitful route to critical scholarship. The recently-appointed new editors – Kate Bedford, Mary Daly, Margarita Estévez Abe and Aleksandra Kanjuo-Mrčela – intend the journal to be even bolder in its emphasis on comparison and ‘talking across differences’. They are are actively planning for the journal to have a wider geographical reach so that it can facilitate dialogue among an even broader range of scholars. In sum, the aim is that Social Politics will continue to be a leading light in debates and new research agendas around gender, class, sexuality, race/ethnicity and nation, the politics of global markets and economies, transnational governance, and the gendered contexts and contests around care practices and policies as these play out in diverse parts of the world.
With three years under its belt and rapidly growing attendance, the annual Economic Sociology Conference provides an opportunity for members of our subfield, particularly graduate students on the market, to present their work and reflect on the state of the field. We spoke with past organizers of the conference to learn more about the intellectual history and planned trajectory of this important event.
The first conference, organized by Jason Greenberg in collaboration with Gino Cattani and Delia Baldassarri, took place at New York University in 2013. As Greenberg explains, his motivation for creating the conference was to establish a more robust community of economic sociologists in the New York area:
As a graduate student in economic sociology at MIT, I benefited greatly from the community of scholars working in economic sociology in the Cambridge area (not to mention the classes offered)…When I moved to NYU I realized how valuable the community I experienced in Cambridge was, how much I benefited from it, and, ultimately, how much I missed it. Notwithstanding a cluster of excellent universities and scholars, there simply was no robust community of economic or organizational sociologists in the greater NYC area. Gino [Cattanti] and I discussed organizing a workshop in economic sociology that would help foster and maintain a community of scholars interested in economic sociology in the greater NY area. When Delia Baldassarri joined NYU, I asked her if she would be interested in helping to organize such a workshop. She answered in the affirmative. The rest is history.
Subsequent organizers at Yale in 2014 (Olav Sorenson, Jim Baron, and Marissa King) and MIT in 2015 (Kate Kellogg, Ezra Zuckerman, Emilio J. Castilla, and Roberto Fernandez) shared Greenberg’s goals of promoting greater community among economic sociologists, bringing greater coherence to the subfield, and providing an opportunity for job market candidates to showcase their research. Although the conference’s format has changed over the years, it has always included presentations on the “state of the field” from eminent scholars. The most recent conference featured, among other expert presenters, Devah Pager speaking on employer discrimination, Shelley Correll on gender and organizations, and Mark Mizruchi on the political sociology of corporate action. As Sorenson notes, the organizers felt it particularly important for scholars to take stock of broad fields like economic sociology, in which members publish in a variety of venues and work in a range of institutional settings:
[What I found most useful about the conference was] hearing summaries of what has been happening recently in research areas of interest to me but which are not directly related to the research that I have been doing personally. Because economic and organizational sociology gets published across a wide range of outlets these days — everything from AJS, ASR, and Sociological Science to ASQ and Organization Science to field journals in sociology and management — it’s hard to stay abreast of the field simply by scanning journal tables of contents.
In addition to lending coherence to a larger research agenda, the conference also brings together economic sociologists housed within both sociology and management departments, an important feat in a subfield as frequently fragmented as our own. As Kellogg, Zuckerman, Castilla, and Fernandez explain:
This [conference] is perhaps especially valuable for students (and faculty) who are not in sociology departments. A conference like this, which is hosted by a business school but which includes many participants from sociology departments, helps to reinforce their (our) identity as sociologists. It also promotes awareness of economic sociology among non-sociologists.
The conference offers particularly meaningful benefits for young scholars. Conference attendees are asked to nominate one outstanding economic sociology student from their doctoral program who is on the job market that year to present in a poster session during lunch. This is a favorite aspect of the conference for both organizers and participants. Job market candidates who presented at the poster session noted that the format had many benefits. The poster presentations helped to raise candidates’ profiles within the subfield, allowed them to get feedback on their work at a critical time, and gave them a valuable opportunity to practice and refine their “elevator speeches” in preparation for campus visits.
Thus far, participation has been largely limited to the invited conference presenters, presenters’ doctoral candidates on the job market, and students, affiliates, or graduates of the host institutions. The 2016 event will be held at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. We admire and applaud the work of these economic sociologists, and extend our gratitude to Jason Greenberg, Olav Sorenson, Marissa King, Kate Kellogg, Ezra Zuckerman, Emilio J. Castilla, and Roberto Fernandez for their prompt and insightful responses.
Anthropologists on household in times of finance
How does the growing significance of finance in the global political economy reshape the contours of everyday economic life of one our most fundamental units of analysis, the household? How might we observe financialization in ethnographic fieldwork? These and other questions organized the conversation in the panel “Rethinking the Household for the Age of Finance” in the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Denver this past November.
The session, sponsored by the Association for Political and Legal Anthropology and by the the Society for Economic Anthropology, featured five papers by graduate student and early career researchers and two sets of comments from distinguished discussants. The goal of the panel (organized and co-chaired by two PhD candidates, Ainur Begim from Yale and Mateusz Halawa from The New School for Social Research) started from the premise that more conceptual work is needed to understand how these kinds of households become embedded in global financial flows and networks through consumer loans, mortgages, investment instruments, and individual retirement accounts. As these financial forms and practices spread well beyond the Anglo-American context and as global financial crises and neoliberal policies create new conditions of uncertainty and precarity, the household as a financial unit becomes critical for the study of everyday life post-2008.
Mateusz Halawa’s paper, Making a Living: How Young Couples in Warsaw Start and Practice a Household was co-authored by Marta Olcoń-Kubicka, with whom Halawa studies the economic lives of young family households in Warsaw, Poland. They explored practices of handling money and financial instruments among the emerging middle-class in the first postsocialist generation. Many notions of the household reify it as a functional, bounded, and stable unit. In contrast, their paper treated the household as an ongoing process, not a ready-made thing, and attended to the practices of running a household in which individual desires and deeds converge and diverge, some resources are pooled while other are kept separate, and the very virtues and futures of living together are negotiated and, at times, questioned. The paper tracked the domestic uses of money and finance in order to argue that these intimate transactions not so much happen in the household, as they are constitutive of it.Read More »
Alya Guseva caught up with Zsuzsanna Vargha, the current editor of the economic sociology_the european newsletter who is spending her sabbatical semester at MIT http://econsoc.mpifg.de/newsletter_current.asp
Zsuzsanna, many of our readers may not be familiar with the newsletter. Can you briefly tell us about its history, scope, distribution and goals.
“Newsletter” is actually a little misleading of a name for a journal of research papers, but the name is a remnant from the past. The Economic Sociology Newsletter is published by the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Germany. Every year it has a different Editor, who is invited to design the issues and invite contributions. The Newsletter was founded by the Max Planck in 1999, to foster the development of the then-novel field of economic sociology in Europe. The scope is broad-ranging from political economy to historical, cultural and social-technical approaches. It was designed to be distributed electronically, which at the time was an avant-garde thing to do. Today the subscribers, I have been told, number around 2,000.
What sorts of papers are published in the newsletter? Are they commissioned or do you also publish unsolicited pieces? Who are your typical authors?
Each issue of the Newsletter typically features a set of research papers. These are shorter in length than a regular journal article and either present original research or an original discussion of the author’s research projects (see some of the papers in “Working the market” issue by Sophie Dubuisson-Quellier and Pierre Francois). The authors are often located at European institutions and they are mostly sociologists, but neither are requisite attributes. As you may know, economic sociology in Europe is found in much broader berths—in management schools, geography departments, and engineering schools—so affiliations can be diverse. The authors come from all career stages, from very junior to very established scholars.
The Newsletter publishes pieces by invitation. Under my leadership these are mostly presenting new research, very often ideas that are shared publicly for the first time. Most Newsletter issues have been thematic, and I continue this tradition. I think this is a good venue for showcasing interesting problematics and emerging sub-fields – similarly to the previous Editor Asaf Darr’s approach. Some of the previous Newsletter issues have also featured position pieces on the state of an emerging field, for example on the sociology of finance, and many have featured interviews. This time I wanted to present readers with a wide range of empirical cases and theoretical approaches, and provide space for a variety of authors pushing the boundaries of our discipline, among them established authors engaging in new fields and early career authors introducing their projects to a wider public. The great advantage of the original format of the Newsletter, for both authors and readers, is that it allows and even welcomes a certain intellectual freshness.