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On the web since fall 2000

Journal of Economic Sociology is indexed by Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI) from Web of Science™ Core Collection

Funded by the National Research University Higher School of Economics since 2007.

2014. Vol. 15. No. 5

Full text of the journal

Vadim Radaev
Editor’s Foreword
P. 7–8

New Texts

Elena Berdysheva
Social Construction of Quality in Moscow Dental Market
P. 9–44

The acts of purchase and sale cannot be realized without product quality evaluation and price “reasonableness” analysis. In this respect, the processes of definition, stabilization and institutionalization of categories and revealing the contents of market commodities turn out to be of key importance in the framework of contemporary markets. This article reconstructs categories that operationalize the content and quality of Moscow dental market health services in an attempt to reveal the effective social order. The article is to depict clinics’ marketing efforts directed at their services’ qualifications and to represent ideas about quality and its determinants, as used by different actors (doctors, clinic managers and patients). Special attention is given to the way patients evaluate medical service quality when choosing a clinic. With data from clinic websites and in-depth interviews with market participants, it can be concluded that there is no quality criteria consensus in the studied market. According to respondents with different backgrounds, the success of any given dental treatment depends on the professionalism of the doctor. The latter is interpreted as the motivation of the doctor towards professionalism rather than his or her skill and experience level. As far as doctors are concerned, the quality of dental services requires an integrated approach to treatment contributing to a person’s general health. Conversely, patients will often only visit a clinic when their dental problems can no longer be ignored, and they want a quick solution, permanently and in line with modern ideas about how healthy teeth should look. No matter how much effort clinics make to explain their competitive advantages, customers tend to base their qualitative judgments on the opinions of members of their reference group, people who had already experienced the quality of dental services through their body and wallet. Although, the investments clinics make in the qualification of quality in the market are not in vain. Patients use cognitive categories obtained from this discourse when asking for details about the clinic from friends and if they doubt how reasonable the cost of the treatment is. Thus, the conventional lexicon of Moscow’s dental market is defined by parameters that comprise dental services and constitute their quality.

New Translations

Arjo Klamer
Speaking of Economics: How to Get in the Conversation (an excerpt)
P. 45–53

In his book “Speaking of Economics: How to Get in the Conversation” Arjo Klamer continues the conversation about economics, initiated in his previous influential books, including “Conversations with Economists” [Klamer 1983]. “Speaking of Economics” aims to explain who economists are and what they do. Klamer claims that economists are not inclined to get into interaction. That is explained by a number of reasons. For instance, economists often hold different views on the same issues. In addition, economists apparently prefer to talk mathematics and statistics to real-world topics.
Economists’ fragmentation and disinclination to exchanges slows down the development of economics. Thus, the author proposes to consider economics, or the world of economists, as a conversation or a bunch of conversations. His approach to economics is aimed at shedding light on the necessity for interaction between different economists and bridging the gap between economists and other external worlds, including politics.
The Journal of Economic Sociology publishes the book’s conclusion “Peroratio: Why the Science of Economics Is Not All That Strange”, where Klamer summarizes the main ideas. He demonstrates that the metaphor helps to see the four gaps: epistemological; rhetorical; in everyday economics and in the world of politics.

Beyond Borders

Natalia Bogatyr
Citizens’ Guide to the Budget: Find a Receiver
P. 54–84

The changing nature of citizenship and the development of neoliberal theories and practices are not just issues for theoretical social science debate but also questions of concern for governments and public bodies in many nations.
This article reports on the early findings of the author’s study of open government practices in the Russian Federation and analyzes the development of the “Citizens’ Guide to the Federal Budget” (the CB); a digital document produced annually by the Ministry of Finance (the MoF), in addition to executive budget proposals. It uses plain language to explain policy objectives to help the general public (“people”) make sense of the budget. There are no clear rules or “recipes” governing how to select, simplify, present and disseminate that kind of information to the “people", and so it has become the subject of fierce debate unfolding between developers.
Drawing on 1.5 years of participant observation in 2013–2014, the article explores the debate between members of the Ministry of Finance’s working group as they attempt to define target-groups of “active citizens”, prospective CB receivers, consumers and users.
It addresses three questions: “What is the working group’s vision for the CB?”; “How does the ministry define or constitute 'citizens' it thinks could be in those target-groups?” and, “How does the ministry see active citizens’ contributing, or helping to disseminate budget information to ‘passive citizens’ and raise the level of 'budget literacy'”?’
It argues that the task of “making the budget simple” is much more difficult for the MoF than just carrying out “open data”digital projects, so it seeks partner groups of citizens who might become “translators” from finance language to everyday language. But that search is far from easy, because the MoF has no direct contact with citizens at all, only with other public bodies. Consequently the ministry chose young people (senior pupils and students), who are likely to have established links with other citizens; families consisting of older and less digitally aware people in their households, and might serve as allies, translators and defenders of budget interests for such “passive citizens”. The article concludes by distilling core themes for future work.

Professional Reviews

Zoya Kotelnikova
An Economic Sociological Look at Relationship Marketing
P. 85–103

The paper reviews the state-of-the-art in relationship marketing and new economic sociology. The author pays attention to the closeness of both perspectives which have common roots (Durkheimian sociology, economic anthropology, sociology of law, social exchange theory) and common research interests (trust, commitment, interdependency, shared values, power asymmetry, adaptation, and mutual contentment). Despite the intersections, relationship marketing and new economic sociology appear to have been developing in parallel worlds, implying that these disciplines remain disconnected and persistently ignore each other’s accomplishments.This is conditioned by several reasons. Firstly, economic sociologists are inspired by the investigation of peculiar and peripheral types of markets, while marketing scholars usually study the“standard markets”. Secondly, relationship marketing defines its subject matter as exchange relationships per se. In contrast with relationship marketing, new economic sociology has a much wider scope of interests. Thirdly, relationship marketing focuses on ongoing relationships while new economic sociology concentrates on relations that are beyond the market exchange per se. Finally, marketing scholars typically prioritize formal contractual relationships, whereas economic sociologists devote more attention to informal, interpersonal relationships. The author comes to the conclusion that, if specialists in relationship marketing and new economic sociologists could overcome the divide, their perspectives would benefit greatly, specifically in developing their market theories.

New Books

Svetlana Barsukova
Empirical Encyclopedia of Informal Workers
Book Review: In the Shadow of Regulation: Informality in the Russian Labor Market (eds. V. Gimpelson, R. Kapeliushnikov) (2014), Moscow: HSE (in Russian)
P. 104–112

The author presents a review of “In the Shadow of Regulation: Informality in the Russian Labor Market” edited by V. Gimpelson and R. Kapeliushnikov (HSE Publishing House, 2014). This book is designed as a collection of texts devoted to various aspects of informal employment in the Russian labor market. The book review attempts to explore whether informal employment can be treated as a result of imperfections in the formal employment system or a special sector that helps to overcome those shortcomings. To answer this question, the author turns to basic definitions in order to understand who can be described as "informally employed". Different approaches to defining informality are given. Then, based on empirical results, it’s demonstrated that the position of "informally employed" сan be better as well as worse, compared to "formal employment". The lack of social guarantees can be considered the most evident shortcoming of being informally employed, while saving money due to the absence of taxation can be seen as a key advantage. There are though countries with both higher and lower incomes among the informally employed in world markets. Turning to Russian realities one should pay attention to the heterogeneity of informal employment: in general, informally employed workers have lower incomes, but some groups, such as freelancers, earn more money. The self-estimation of informally employed people does not prove the idea of informal employment as a problem to the employed themselves as they do not assess their status as lower than being formally employed. Taking into account the variety of aspects of informality, it’s hard to assess it either positively or negatively, but it’s rather evident that the struggle against informality itself would be erroneous while the best way to reduce the informal sector is to correct the formal sector to make it more attractive.

Tamara Kusimova
Price in the Eye of the Beholder
Book Review: Mears A. (2011) Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model. Berkeley: University of California Press.
P. 113–122

This article presents a review of Ashley Mears' book “Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model”. The book is devoted to sociological inquiry into the fashion model business. Modeling is a specific kind of market, where careers depend on judgments about individual appearance. Making aesthetic decisions usually seems intuitive: in distinguishing the “beautiful” from the “unattractive”, people commonly rely on subjective opinions. How is it possible to define the value of how a human looks in market terms? The author considers the fashion model business as an example of how culturally determined beliefs about “femininity”, “masculinity” and “beauty” build up market price and the value of a model’s “look”. Referring to Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of field, power and practice, Mears describes the model market as being structured by a “hierarchy of the taste” which leads to market segmentation on commercial and editorial fashion grounds. Model agency staff and their clients assign model's appearance either to one segment or another, merely by relying on their beliefs about the model’s look, which will embody their vision of the product. The model's success also depends on her “emotional labor” skills, an ability to create her personality. Being delightful for the benefit of an important client under the stress of potential rejection and staying in good relationships with her (or his) model agent becomes the basis for social networking and gathering symbolic capital. This can be formed by working with “high-status” market players. Fashion is a market of status identity, where symbolic capital is explicitly connected to opportunities for successful career building. The following review criticizes some debatable statements and highlights the main aspects of the model business: market architecture, construction of value of “look” and the problems of narrow beauty standards.


Sarah Ashwin
The Small World of Russian Studies in Gender Relations: An Interview with Sarah Ashwin
P. 123–127

Sarah Ashwin was interviewed by Tatiana Karabchuk, Associate Professor at the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow. The conversation took place during the international conference “Embeddedness and Beyond: Do Sociological Theories Meet Economic Realities?” (Moscow, 25–28 October 2012), at which Prof. Ashwin co-chaired the mini-conference “Gender and Work Transformation” (with Prof. Roberto Fernandez of MIT). Prof. Ashwin described her background and professional trajectory, and explained how her research interest in Russia, specifically in Russian workers’ movements, developed. Prof. Ashwin shared her early impressions of Russia during the 1990’s and described her time working in Kemerovo, the administrative center of Kemerovo Oblast located in the major coal mining region of the Kuznetsk Basin in Russia. It was there she collected empirical data for her PhD dissertation on mineworkers and trade unions during the economic transition under Boris Yeltsin. Additionally, Prof. Ashwin devoted several comments to her current research interests which cover feminist movements and gender relations in Russia. Finally, Prof. Ashwin referred to several scholars working on gender relations, within and outside of the Russian context, and made some helpful reading recommendations for newcomers to this field of study.


Marina Spirina
Global Financial Crises in Post-Socialist Countries:
Consumption, Economic Life and Consumer Cultures
P. 128–136

The research workshop “Consumption and Economic Crises: Post-Socialist Experiences” was held on October 9−10, 2014 at the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow. Organized by Sandy Ross (Senior Lecturer, Leeds Beckett University) and Christopher S. Swader (Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, HSE), the workshop explored experiences of global financial crisis in post-socialist countries with an emphasis on the everyday urban consumption culture in the first decade of the 21st century. The workshop focused on four aspects of post-socialist consumer culture: housing and credit practices; gift-giving, hospitality and reciprocity practices; consumption practices and consumption ethics; and aesthetics. One of the goals of this conference was also to explore the disjunctions and continuities between consumer cultures and experiences of “crisis” within and between post-socialist countries and other countries.
Each day of the conference began with a keynote presentation followed by two moderated panel sessions in which relevant and on-going research was presented by invited speakers. At the conclusion of each panel session, the floor was opened for discussion and debate among all workshop participants.
The keynote speakers of the workshop were Alya Guseva (Boston University, USA) and Olga Shevchenko (Williams College, USA). The invited speakers were Marta Olcoń-Kubicka (Polish Academy of Science, Warsaw), Ferenc Hammer (ELTE-BTK, Institute for Art Theory and Media Studies, Hungary), Mateusz Halawa (The New School for Social Research, Poland), Elizaveta Polukhina and Anna Strelnikova (HSE, Russia), Costanza Curro’ (University College London, UK), Natalia Khalina and Alina Pishniak (HSE, Russia), Natalia Firsova (HSE, Russia), Vadim Radaev (HSE, Russia), Zoya Kotelnikova (HSE, Russia), Eileen Yuk-ha Tsang (City University of Hong Kong) and Radostina Schivatcheva (King’s College London, UK). Sandy Ross acted as lead moderator. The conference attracted a wide audience, including students and researchers from various different countries.

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