SOC121 Economy and Society Winter 2007
M-W or by appointment
Economics provides us with a valuable, powerful but highly stylized understanding of our material lives. It maintains that society is a collection of independent individuals each acting in a rational manner to pursue his or her own self-interests. This fiction is encapsulated in the idea of the market where selfish individuals are in constant competition with each other. This vision is deeply soaked into our everyday understanding of the world of money, business, work and consumption.
This course offers a different perspective on economic action. It will emphasize that when we work, buy, sell or calculate, we still act within the social context around us. We do not act alone but often in concert with other people, we rarely calculate but often act on impulse, on trust or out of habit, we do not arrive at our goals independently but negotiate them with others, our motivation is not always selfish but often considerate of others. We also must make sense of our environment and our own wishes and here we often act as a product of our own culture.
There is a class project for this course. You will have to write a research paper based on interviewing four individuals about their labor-market experiences. The interview will have two parts: you will conduct a guided but unstructured interview with your respondents, and you will also fill out a short job history questionnaire for them. You have to complete your interviews by Feb 23. You will write your paper based on your case studies incorporating the conceptual material covered in class. This paper is due in two installments. Your first draft is due on March 7 and your final paper is due on the last day of the final exam. Papers should be typed or printed, and the final paper should run between 10-15 double spaced pages. Click here to get more detailed guidelines.
There will be also two exams on the readings and the lectures.
Late work (but not the final paper) is accepted for half credit for a week passed the due date. After that, it is not credited.
The readings are on electronic reserve.
For each reading there are a couple of questions that are designed to guide you through. The two exams will be a random selection among these questions. Click on each reading to find the questions.
First exam 15%
Second exam 15%
First Draft 10%
Final Paper 40%
Class participation: 10%
Introduction to the Economic Approach
Jan 8 Introduction to the Course
Jan 10 The Economic Approach I
Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations,
Jan 12 The Economic Approach II
Blaug, Mark. 1982. The methodology of economics, or, How economists
Hausman, Daniel M. 1992. The inexact and separate science of
Samuelson, Paul A. and William D. Nordhaus. 1998. Economics. 16th
Jan 15 Martin Luther King Holiday
Basic Conceptual Tools
Karen Schweers Cook and Margaret Levi.
Elster, Jon. 1979. Ulysses and the Sirens : studies in rationality
Simon, Herbert A. 1986. Rationality in Psychology and Economics. Journal of Business 59/4
Dawes, Robyn. 1988. Rational Choice in an
Green, Donald P. and Ian Shapiro. 1994. Pathologies of rational
theory : a critique of applications in political science.
Jan 19 Interest I.
Weber, Max. 1991(1902). The Protestant ethic and the spirit of
Translated by Talcott Parsons, introduction by Anthony Giddens.
Hirschman, Albert O. 1977. The Passions and the Interests: Political
Arguments for Capitalism before Its Triumph. Princeton:
Jan 22 Interest II.
Simon, Herbert A. 1999. Altruism and Economics. American Economic Review 83/2
Sen, Amartya. 1977. Rational Fools: A Critique of the Behavioral Foundations of Economic Theory. Philosophy and Public Affairs 6:317-44
Jan 26 Selfishness and Economics
Elster, Jon. 1985. "Sadder but Wiser? Rationality and the Emotions." Social Science Information
Jan 29 Embeddedness I.
Polanyi, Karl. 1957/1992. The Economy as Instituted Process. Pp. 29-52 in The Sociology of Economic Life
Jan 31 Embeddedness II.
Uzzi, Brian. 1996. The Sources and Consequences of Embeddedness for the Economic Performance of Organizations - The Network Effect. American Sociological Review, AUG, V61(N4):674-698.
Feb 2 First examination
Feb 5 Social Capital I
Burt, Ronald S. 1992. Structural Holes.
Feb 9 History and Path Dependence
Arthur, Brian. 1994. "Positive Feedbacks in the Economy." In
Increasing Returns and Path Dependence in the Economy.
McGuire, Patrick, Mark Granovetter and Michael Schwartz. 1993. Thomas Edison and the Social Construction of the Early Electricity Industry. Pp.213-246 in Explorations in Economic Sociology
Feb 12 Path Dependence
Feb 14 Labor Markets I
Discussion of the class project
Feb 16 Labor Markets II.
Feb 21 Labor Markets III.
Levinson, Richard M. 1982. "Sex Discrimination and Employment Practices: An Experiment with Unconventional Job Inquiries." In Women and Work, R. Kahn-Hut , A Kaplan Daniels and R. Colvard eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Feb 23 Discussion
Feb 26 Organizations I.
Simon, Herbert A. 1991. Organizations and Markets. The Journal of Economic Perspectives 5/2
Feb 28 Organizations II.
Hamilton, Gary G. and Nicole Woolsey Biggart. 1988/1992. Market, Culture, and Authority: A Comparative Analysis of Management and Organization in the Far East. Pp.181-221 in The Sociology of Economic Life
March 2 Organizations III.
March 5 Second Midterm Examination
March 7 Culture I
DiMaggio, Paul. 1990. Cultural Aspects of Economic Action and Organization. Pp.113-136 in Roger Friedland and A.F. Robertson, Beyond the Marketplace. Rethinking Economy and Society, Aldine de Gruyter, New York
FIRST DRAFT DUE
March 9 Culture II
Zelizer, Viviana. 1978/1992. Human Values and the Market: The Case of Life Insurance and Death in 19th Century America. Pp. 285-304 in The Sociology of Economic Life
FINAL PAPER DUE AT THE TIME THE FINAL EXAM IS SCHEDULED