Economics and Sociology: Redefining Their Boundaries : Conversations with Economists and Sociologists

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Princeton University Press, Feb 14, 1990 - Business & Economics - 361 pages

The boundary between economics and sociology is presently being redefined--but how, why, and by whom? Richard Swedberg answers these questions in this thought-provoking book of conversations with well-known economists and sociologists. Among the economists interviewed are Gary Becker, Amartya Sen, Kenneth Arrow, and Albert O. Hirschman; the sociologists include Daniel Bell, Harrison White, James Coleman, and Mark Granovetter. The picture that emerges is that economists and sociologists have paid little attention to each other during most of the twentieth century: social problems have been analyzed as if they had no economic dimension and economic problems as if they had no social dimension. Today, however, there is a dialogue between the two fields, as economists take on social topics and as sociologists become interested in rational choice and "new economic sociology." The interviewees describe how they came to challenge the present separation between economics and sociology, what they think of the various proposals to integrate the fields, and how they envision the future. The author summarizes the results of the conversations in the final chapter. The individual interviews also serve as superb introductions to the work of these scholars.


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Gary S Becker
James S Coleman
George A Akerlof
Harrison C White
Mark Granovetter
Oliver E Williamson
The Pioneers
Kenneth J Arrow
The Commentators
Daniel Bell
Jon Elster
Amartya Sen
Robert M Solow
Arthur L Stinchcombe
Aage R Sorensen
Concluding Discussion

Albert O Hirscbman
Mancur Olson
Thomas C Schelling
Neil J Smelser
Glossary of Names

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Page 3 - It is hardly possible to overrate the value in the present low state of human improvement, of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar . . . Such communication has always been and is peculiarly in the present age, one of the primary sources of progress...
Page 9 - A person is not likely to be a good economist who is nothing else. Social phenomena acting and reacting on one another, they cannot rightly be understood apart...
Page 14 - Science in the twentieth century lies in an enlightened and democratic 'economic imperialism', which invades the territories of its neighbours, not to enslave them or to swallow them up, but to aid and enrich them and promote their autonomous growth in the very process of aiding and enriching itself. This is the first known use of the term 'economic imperialism' to describe an attempt to link up economics with the other social sciences.
Page 12 - There is nothing surprising in the habit of economists to invade the sociological field. A large part of their work — practically the whole of what they have to say on institutions and on the forces that shape economic behavior — inevitably overlaps the sociologist's preserves. In consequence, a no-man's land or everyman's land has developed that might conveniently be called economic sociology. More or less important elements that hail from that land are to be found in practically every economic...
Page 13 - INTRODUCTION ROBERT LYND'S critical diagnosis of the crippling situation of the social sciences in the thirties was echoed later by SCHUMPETER'S statement that the social sciences have steadily grown apart 'until by now the modal economist and the modal sociologist know little and care less about what the other does, each preferring to use, respectively, a primitive sociology and a primitive economics of his own to accepting one anothers' professional results - a state of things that was and is not...
Page 15 - ... countries," which of course it does, but in putting some of them into a strait jacket of "economic" categories which is illsuited to their own conditions.

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