Society and Economy—a work of exceptional ambition by the founder of modern economic sociology—is the first full account of Mark Granovetter’s ideas about the diverse ways in which society and economy are intertwined.
The economy is not a sphere separate from other human activities, Granovetter writes. It is deeply embedded in social relations and subject to the same emotions, ideas, and constraints as religion, science, politics, or law. While some actions can be understood in traditional economic terms as people working rationally toward well-defined ends, much human behavior is harder to fit into that simple framework. Actors sometimes follow social norms with a passionate faith in their appropriateness, and at other times they conform without conscious thought. They also trust others when there is no obvious reason to do so. The power individuals wield over one another can have a major impact on economic outcomes, even when that power arises from noneconomic sources.
Although people depend on social norms, culture, trust, and power to solve problems, the guidance these offer is often murky and complicated. Granovetter explores how problem solvers improvise to assemble pragmatic solutions from this multitude of principles. He draws throughout on arguments from psychology, social network studies, and long-term historical and political analysis and suggests ways to maneuver back and forth among these approaches. Underlying Granovetter’s arguments is an attempt to move beyond such simple dualisms as agency/structure to a more complex and subtle appreciation of the nuances and dynamics that drive social and economic life.
Mark Granovetter is Joan Butler Ford Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences and Professor of Sociology at Stanford University.