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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.

2019. Vol. 20. No. 5

Full text of the journal

Editor’s Foreword (Vadim Radaev)
P. 7–10


Joseph Vogl
Interview with Joseph Vogl. Intellectual History and Political Economy of Modern Capitalism (interviewed by Ivan Boldyrev)
P. 11–27

The contemporary positions of economic theory and the modern development of the capitalist system were the main topics of discussion with Prof. Joseph Vogl. Several questions were discussed regarding aesthetics, historical and political contexts, the temporality of economic knowledge, and its reflexivity. Prof. Vogl spoke about his studies aimed at the investigation of aesthetic representation and the poetics of economic models and abstractions in different genres, such as literature, theatre, and poetry. During the conversation, Prof. Vogl problematized the objectivity of conclusions in economic disciplines, while economics has not been considered in a historical context that forms an agenda. The author problematized the objectivity of conclusions that pretend to be in the economic discipline, although economics has not been considered as a historical context that forms its agenda. Prof. Vogl claimed that modern economic theory, like early political economy, is historically rooted in its agenda determined by the structure of power interests. Furthermore, the expansion process of financial markets represents the development of new forms of governmentality and institutional order. Through these forms, financial capital becomes the lender of last resort, which is not subordinate to central banks and federal governments.
A special discussion in the interview was related to trust in economic models that persisted after the financial crash of 2008, despite the inability to forecast it. The author claimed the imposition of economic discourse was a criterion for estimating the objectivity of other scientific disciplines and the economic theory itself. The capitalist economy’s limitations were discussed in this context as a result of operating under the models of economic theory. Capitalist attempts to construct special temporality and redistribute risks to an uncertain future was described as not considering the empirical reality of finite periods for debt repayment. Reality destroys modeled forecasts and leads to new financial crises. Questions related to Prof. Vogl’s vision of neoliberalism and modern economics were also discussed, and the history of the author’s professional development was illuminated.

New Texts

Anna Ozhiganova
Official (Biomedical) Obstetrics and Alternative (Home) Midwifery: Formalized and Informal Interaction Practices
P. 28–52

The article discusses the interaction practices between the formal system of obstetric aid and alternative (home) midwifery, which together constitute a continuum of formal and informal in the sphere of medical services. For the analysis of these practices, I turn to critical medical anthropology and such important concepts for this research area as resistance to medicalization and medical pluralism. I also rely on the social studies of public health that regard it as an organizational field in which different types of institutional logics compete and come into the conflict: professional, state (or bureaucratic), and managerial.
In the first part of the article, I show that the care in a home birth can be provided by both amateur midwives and certified medical specialists, such as obstetrician-gynecologists and midwives of the maternity hospitals, although in Russia, this activity qualifies as illegal.
In the second part of the article, I discuss how, as a result of the conflict of institutional logics reinforced by several waves of health care reforms, various options have emerged for the formalized interaction of home midwives with maternity hospitals. At present, the most common practice is the part-time employment of midwives in the commercial departments of state maternity hospitals.
The third part of the article is devoted to the analysis of the informal interaction of domestic midwives with maternity hospitals. I show that these practices arise in place of serious institutional gaps in the system and represent attempts to organize natural childbirth within the framework of the free-of-charge state medicine. In general, it can be argued that the dominant biomedical models of obstetric care and alternative midwifery do not exist in isolation from each other, but instead create complex and contradictory relationships of cooperation, confrontation, and competition.
The study is based on in-depth interviews with home midwives, obstetrician-gynecologists and midwives working in maternity hospitals, as well as with women with home birth experience..

Dmitriy Timoshkin
Trust vs. Disorientation: Economy of the Russian-Speaking ‘Migrant’ Groups in Social Media (The Case of VKontakte)
P. 53–73

The article discusses the economic practices presented in the “migrant” groups in the social network VKontakte. “Migrant” groups refer to groups positioned as communication platforms for migrants, which is reflected either in the name of the group (for example, “migrant bulletin”) or mentioned in its description. “Migrant” groups are quite a common phenomenon; almost every major Russian city has digital communities that position themselves as platforms for discussing migration issues. Social media plays an important role in migration processes, acting as a tool to minimize the information deficit as one of the effective mechanisms of integration. One of the key functions of “migrant” social media is seen as partial compensation for the deficit of social capital in the host country, therefore-minimizing the costs and risks associated with a particular stage of the migration process. At the same time, Russian-speaking “migrant” digital communities rarely come into the research field. In this regard, the question arises: do “migrant” sites in Russian social networks perform the same functions? Is it possible to talk about the existence of a “migrant” economy in the Russian-speaking digital media, and what does it represent? Is it possible, in principle, to expect to extract from Russian-language “migrant” sites any valuable information about the economic activity of migrants, given all the difficulties associated with qualitative research of digital communities? The search for answers to these questions was the purpose of this study. Forty Russian-speaking groups in the social network VKontakte were selected and positioned as “migrant” and at the same time, “live,” containing user dialogues in open access. Next, the search and analysis of messages containing mentions of purchase and sale, exchange, rent, donations of various types, services, and information were carried out. As a result, it was possible to construct several summaries. In particular, the “migrant” economy in VKontakte can be divided into two categories: the economy for migrants, and the economy on migrants. Both are linked to a lack of information and social capital. In the first group, we attributed the practice of freely providing their information and services that allow us to eliminate this deficit or partially reduce its cost. The second group included practices that exploit the lack of social capital of migrants, such as paid legal services, trade in documents, involvement in alternative integration, and — often associated with illegal activities — integration trajectories.

New Translations

Michael C. Munger
Tomorrow 3.0: Transaction Costs and the Sharing Economy (an excerpt)
P. 74–97

According to Michael Munger, there is some evidence of the Third Great Economic Revolution, which can be traced within two dimensions: the sharing economy and the brokerage economy. Although in many industries, these two dimensions are far from each other, in some spheres where they interact, their intersection results in extending the new economy. In his book, Prof. Munger describes the features of the sharing economy; entrepreneurship is oriented toward cuts of transactional expenses rather than production expenses, use of new basic program tools, a business running with the help of mobile intellectual equipment, and an internet connection. In turn, the emergence of a brokerage economy results from skills used to sell cuts of transactional costs, opening new opportunities for mutually gained exchanges that have not yet been perceived as commercial.
The Journal of Economic Sociology publishes the first chapter, “The World of Tomorrow 3.0,” where the author describes key features of the new economy resulting from the Third Great Economic Revolution. It means that innovations with the usage of digital technologies come to the fore, allowing more intensive usage of durable goods and reducing the total number of circulated goods. As a result, the human experience turns out to be more important than the obtained things, thus changing the idea of private property dramatically.

Beyond Borders

Alexander Rubinstein
The Theatre, the Audience and the State: Twelve Economist’s Comments
P. 98–149

Rubinstein’s article presents the results of the “First All-Russian Sociological Survey of Theater Audience,” which covered all Federal Districts and constituent entities of the Russian Federation (about 200 cities), in which more than 90% of all professional theaters are registered. More than 12,000 respondents expressed their opinions by answering a special questionnaire posted on the sites of the regional branches of the Union of Theater Workers, special theatrical tickets, and their own theatre sites, as well as several higher educational institutions. For the first time, this work reveals the preferences of the public, from their attitudes toward the repertoire posters of Russian theaters and traditional and innovative productions to the creative composition of theaters and their functions, including performances in movie theaters. A fundamentally new result is a measured audience assessment of the creative potential of Russian theaters, which made it possible to find the reasons that impede its full implementation. The obtained sociological information characterizes the assessments and behavior of the theatrical audience. The results of economic analysis, using official statistics, made it possible to view the whole process of creating performances comprehensively look at the whole process of creating performances and their public demonstration as well as the production and consumption of theater goods, including the relationship between state and municipal theaters. Their founders, who are fulfilling their budgetary obligations, finance theatrical activities. It is known that due to budgetary underfunding of theaters and the commercialization of their activities, which caused an inflationary increase in ticket prices, about 30% of the audience experience financial difficulties in attending performances. Students and pensioners “suffer” most of all, which not only worsens the quality of their life but also harms the growth of the theater’s audience. Based on the construction of the econometric model, recommendations were formulated, aimed at creating conditions for the complete realization of theatrical potential and an increase in attendance.

Vladimir Molodykh
Are Russian Students Ready to be Law-Abiding Taxpayers? Tax Morality Issues
P. 150–173

Tax morality is formed by the influence of social and psychology factors on society and has a great impact on the choice of deviating model behaviors by taxpayers. In this regard, tax evasion would be preferable to use in the behavioral economy instrumentarium, as it provides an opportunity to evaluate the effects of norms and behavior stereotypes formed in an individual choice. A survey among students from districts in the North-Caucasus Federal Region was held to estimate the level of tax morale. The results were analyzed using the z-test and the model formation of binary logistic regression. The research results have shown that interviewees are ready to evade tax legislation, even though most express a strong reluctance to attempt tax evasion. The main reasons for this are a low level of confidence in the legal system, the perception of the tax system as unfair, and the social norm distortions and the existence of entrenched behavioral stereotypes. With these stereotypes, tax evasion is not perceived as a grave violation. The existence of an unfair tax system, with a focus on retributive justice, leads to the violation of a psychological party to the agreement between the state and taxpayers as the appearance of “moral reasons” for the excuses of strategy choice for the tax evasion. In this regard, the integration of social norms, which regulate the interaction of the tax payers and the state, as well as a stimulating mechanism of loyalty enhancement on base of expanding frontiers in collaboration, into the system of tax administration will enable to create an alternative way of the rational choice for the tax players which will be not only morally praiseworthy but also economically justified.

New Books

Yuliya Belova
Paradoxes Legality—Illegality—Legitimacy Intersections in the Architecture of Markets
Book Review: Beckert, J, Dewey M. (eds) (2017) The Architecture of Illegal Markets. Towards an Economic Sociology of Illegality in the Economy, Oxford: Oxford University Press. 304 p.
P. 174–188

Boundaries of illegality in markets for goods and services are blurring. These boundaries are associated with the development of capitalist relations. The illegality becomes pervasive and gains increasingly sophisticated links with formal legality and social legitimacy. At the same time, the role of the state in the illegal market exchanges is intensified by preserving the institutional gap between formal and informal rules. In this respect, the book The Architecture of Illegal Markets. Towards an Economic Sociology of Illegality in the Economy develops a non-trivial research task for the modern economic-sociological paradigm. Its authors contest the existence of boundaries between the phenomena of legality and legitimacy, including mechanisms for compliance with informal rules within formal institutions that regulate illegal markets. The purpose of this review is to demonstrate the paradoxical interdiction of legality and legitimacy that the book’s authors describe, using the metaphor of interfaces that build the essence of illegal market architectures. The review reference points are the most important topics that the authors of the conference proceedings mention, such as the types and components of illegality in the markets of goods and services; the question of the boundaries between legality, illegality, and legitimacy; and the role of the state in the development of illegality in the markets. This text concludes that the book draws the landscape of illegality, which is viewed in close association with the phenomena of legality and legitimacy. The authors’ research goes beyond the phenomenon of illegality and expands the understanding of the informal economy constituents.

Stanislav Pashkov
“When a Failed Contract is Better than Doable”: How a “New” Understanding of Financial Obligations in the Mortgage Market Led to the Financial Crisis in the United States and Around the World
Book Review: Appadurai A. (2015) Banking on Words: The Failure of Language in the Age of Derivative Finance. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. 176 p.
P. 188–201

A book from an American anthropologist of Indian origin, Arjun Appadurai, was written much later than the World Financial Crisis of 2007–2008 (WFC). The book introduces the origins of the crisis not from a purely economic position, but from a “substantive” perspective through the prism of economic anthropology and sociology. In this book, Appadurai seeks answers to the question of how the financial systems of some countries began to rely on a large set of “special” arrangements via working with derivatives, thus being tied to great risks and serious uncertainty. Appadurai introduces the principle of “failure of the language,” meaning the communication between financial participants and their intermediaries, emphasizing that the “risks” of non-fulfillment have been “forced” to be more important and mostly more profitable than the direct fulfillment of obligations. The resulting economic collapse was possible to clarify and “foresee” by considering the nature of long-term financial obligations (particularly derivatives), placing them into the analytical frameworks of M. Weber, compared to the logic of E. Durkheim and K. Marx, F. Knight, and E. Ayash.
The value of the book is in the understanding of modern financial ideology, where “flirting” with uncertainty and working with “air” are considered as working practices. In a series of chapters, Appadurai indicates the hidden “spiritual” power of contractual obligations, which to some extent, fits into the logic of the Western capitalist system. At the same time, it casts a shadow on the nature of contracts, in particular the capitalist one — their assimilation into “scoring,” “promise,” speculation and excitement, which benefit more than the actual activity of people. The central empirical object of the book is that CDS is in the mortgage lending market, in which “overheating” was provoked (in many respects) by the WFC. The review attempts to disentangle the logic of the presentation of all nine non-standardly written chapters of the work, with subsequent analysis and reasoning over the aspects left over from the framework of the author's argumentation system. We believe that the review complements these theses.


Elena Nazarbaeva
Dynamics of Middle Classes: Between Expansion and Uncertainty Russian-French Scientific Conference, NRU HSE, Moscow, October 3rd, 2019
P. 202–209

The conference “Dynamics of Middle Classes: Between Expansion and Uncertainty” was conducted at NRU HSE. The conference was devoted to stratification issues in general and the middle class in particular. The conference was organized by the Institute for Social Policy NRU HSE and the French Embassy in Russia.
The topic of the middle class has been popular for a long time, but there is still no unique definition for this notion. The participants in the conference managed to touch upon three levels of work in terms of “the middle class”: theory, methodology, and empirical studies. Regarding the theory of the middle class, the presenters mentioned that economic and sociological theories exist and are described in their main theoretical models. The analysis of different papers devoted to the middle class provides the ability to show diversity at a methodological level, including the diversity of criteria used for middle class identification. Nevertheless, the common idea for most of the approaches is the idea of object complexity and the necessity to combine several characteristics to identify the middle class. Appealing to empirical studies of the middle class in Russia and France showed that in both countries, the middle class is not homogenous, and it is better to use the term “middle classes.” In Russia, the middle class has relatively high levels of well-being but is not autonomous from the state. However, it does not feel that social protection is critical due to existing inequalities and a lack of stability in society.

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